Thursday, October 28, 2010

John Carmack on Government

Given the inefficiency, why is the federal government called upon to do so many things?  A large part is naked self interest, which is never going to go away -- lots of people play the game to their best advantage, and even take pride in their ability to get more than they give.

However, a lot is done in the name of misplaced idealism.  It isn’t hard to look around the world and find something that you feel needs fixing.  The world gets to be a better place by people taking action to improve things, but it is easy for the thought to occur that if the government can be made to address your issue, it could give results far greater than what you would be able to accomplish with direct action.  Even if you knew that it wasn’t going to be managed especially well, it would make up for it in volume.  This has an obvious appeal.

Every idealistic cry for the government to “Do Something” means raising revenue, which means taking money from people to spend in the name of the new cause instead of letting it be used for whatever purpose the earner would have preferred.

It is unfortunate that income taxes get deducted automatically from most people’s paychecks, before they ever see the money they earned.  A large chunk of the population thinks that tax day is when you get a nice little refund check.  Good trick, that.  If everyone was required to pay taxes like they pay their utilities, attitudes would probably change.  When you get an appallingly high utility bill, you start thinking about turning off some lights and changing the thermostat. When your taxes are higher than all your other bills put together, what do you do?  You can make a bit of a difference by living in Texas instead of California, but you don’t have many options regarding the bulk of it.

Also, it is horribly crass to say it, but taxes are extracted by the threat of force.  I know a man (Walt Anderson), who has been in jail for a decade because the IRS disagreed with how his foundations were set up, so it isn’t an academic statement.  What things do you care strongly enough about to feel morally justified in pointing a gun at me to get me to pay for them?  A few layers of distance by proxy let most people avoid thinking about it, but that is really what it boils down to.  Feeding starving children?  The justice system?  Chemotherapy for the elderly?  Viagra for the indigent?  Corn subsidies?

Helping people directly can be a noble thing.  Forcing other people to do it with great inefficiency?  Not so much.  There isn’t a single thing that I would petition the federal government to add to its task list, and I would ask that it stop doing the majority of the things that it is currently doing.  My vote is going to the candidates that at least vector in that direction.

Posted via email from The Blue Pelican

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Job-Creation Canard - Thomas Sowell

Unemployment never hit double digits in any of the twelve months following the stock-market crash of 1929. But it hit double digits within six months after government intervention — and unemployment stayed in double digits for the entire remainder of the decade, as the government went in for one intervention after another.

The first federal intervention in June 1930 was the passage of the Smoot-Hawley tariffs by a Democratic Congress, a bill signed into law by Republican president Herbert Hoover. It was “bipartisan” — but bipartisan nonsense is still nonsense, and a bipartisan disaster is still a disaster.

Posted via email from The Blue Pelican

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Instapundit on the College Bubble

Instapundit has been covering the "College Bubble" for a while.   I like this comment:

college is the only place where they demand a complete financial statement from you before they tell you what it’s going to cost

There's also an indirect link to this article: "Is College Worth the Investment?"

Posted via email from The Blue Pelican

Monday, October 11, 2010

A McCarthyite Attack from the Stanford Daily

Victor Davis Hanson challenges the Stanford Daily...

So I offer an open challenge to the Stanford Daily: either apologize for the baseless slur of racism and the cheap language (e.g., “trash,” “toxic,”"despicable”), or at least show how I was in error, and that, in fact, there are logical and consistent criteria that qualify some groups for racial preference in admissions and hiring in the university and not others. Second, if race is used as a criterion, what then qualifies one as belonging to a particular targeted race or group? Does one warrant special consideration if he is one-half, she one-fourth, they one-eight of a particular targeted lineage? Or is the distinction merely ad hoc and impressionistic? Does the university employ such percentages? If so, such usage has a nightmarish tradition dating back to the antebellum South. Simply invoking the generic idea of “diversity” does not mean, de facto, that racial profiling should not require some concrete, explicit rationale.

These are not racist inquiries, but genuine concerns, as I wrote, that universities themselves are race-obsessed in an increasingly multiracial society where intermarriage, immigration, and assimilation are making race an obsolete criterion for addressing past collective discrimination.

For the Daily to level charges as “despicable” and “cheap,” then surely it must provide proof that they are so. Note again, the anonymous authors of the editorial did not refute anything I wrote as untrue; they only stooped in McCarthyite fashion to invoke charges of racism and to challenge my institution to silence my views that they found unappealing. All that is beneath the daily newspaper of a great university.

Posted via email from The Blue Pelican

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Hal Lewis: My Resignation From The American Physical Society

For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford's book organizes the facts very well.) I don't believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.

Read the whole thing.

Posted via email from The Blue Pelican

Friday, October 08, 2010

Reps. Rangel, Waters' public ethics trials won't start until after midterm election

The House ethics committee announced Thursday that Rangel’s trial will begin Nov. 15 and Waters’s will start Nov. 29.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who chairs the panel, made the decision unilaterally after Republicans publicly balked last week about the delay in setting the schedule and argued the trials should be held before the November midterms.

There's no doubt that a lame-duck session of Congress will be the fairest way to "drain the swamp".  There's no sense confusing the public with trials before the election, and it certainly would be wrong to wait until January when a Republican majority is expected to take over the House.  The only question remaining is: which comedian will Lofgren appoint as judge for the ethics trials?  I nominate John Stewart.

Posted via email from The Blue Pelican

If You Want To Understand What Makes This Recession Continue

Quotes from the Federalist 62:

In another point of view, great injury results from an unstable government. The want of confidence in the public councils damps every useful undertaking, the success and profit of which may depend on a continuance of existing arrangements. What prudent merchant will hazard his fortunes in any new branch of commerce when he knows not but that his plans may be rendered unlawful before they can be executed?

Read the whole thing.

Posted via email from The Blue Pelican

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Michael Ramirez on Rahm Emanuel

Our Amicus Brief in the Virginia Case Challenging the Constitutionality of the Obama Health Care Plan

The brief signers include VC co-conspirators Jonathan Adler, David Kopel, and Todd Zywicki, along with other well-known constitutional law scholars such as James Ely (Vanderbilt), Kurt Lash (University of Illinois), Gary Lawson (BU), Steven Presser (Northwestern), and others. Also among the signers is Professor Steven Willis of the University of Florida, coauthor of an important article explaining why, even if the mandate is a tax, it is not a tax authorized by the Constitution. Co-blogger Randy Barnett is filing his own amicus briefalong with the Cato Institute and Competitive Enterprise Institute. 

If nothing else, I hope the brief will help dispel the myth that there is an expert consensus to the effect that the mandate is constitutional (see also here). It should by now be obvious that many well-known and highly respected scholars believe otherwise.

Posted via email from The Blue Pelican