Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Taking Thoreau Down a Notch. Or Two.

It has been a long time since I read On Walden Pond, probably since college actually. While I recall the book having some appeal as far as simplifying one's life, there was also something a little disquieting about it. Timothy Sandefur has put it into words. Read it all of course, but here's a key bit:

"I thought I would delight in the eloquent prose of a journey of self-discovery and celebration of life.

Instead, it turns out to be an album of pseudo-sophisticated claptrap; a merciless collection of false profundity and Puritanism. Thoreau’s ignorance of economics is absolute. His hostility to material prosperity and spiritual invocations to “simplify” are nothing more than the old asceticism of Savanarola tranplanted into a quaint country cabin. “Trade curses everything it handles,” for instance. Yeah, right—unless you have a family to provide for. His hostility toward the drive for productivity goes beyond merely
sensible and Epicurean advice to live sparingly and to relish our gifts—which would be true wisdom though unoriginal—and becomes instead a real contempt for people that he doesn’t know and of whose circumstances he is totally ignorant. Not just ignorant, but ignorant in that colossally self-righteous way reserved only for youths. He is, really, a fey, self-absorbed, coddled little brat, like many college students one meets, more concerned with demonstrating their own self-righteousness than with accomplishing anything worthy of praise. "

Sounds like a few "progressives" I know.

(Via Samizdata)

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Potential for TARP Fraud Astronomical

I'll let this post over at Powerline speak for itself, but here's the conclusion.

"What conclusions can we draw? 1) The government's $3 trillion and counting TARP program represents the greatest opportunity for sharp operators to profit at taxpayer expense in history. 2) The Obama administration is either in favor of giving Wall Street sharks this opportunity or, at a minimum, doesn't much mind doing so. (If this seems odd, remember where Obama got the biggest chunk of campaign contributions in 2008.) 3) It may be that the TARP complex of programs is the beginning of a national-socialist type takeover of the financial services industry by the federal government. Thus, 4) we can only hope that this turns out not to be the case, and TARP is only the biggest--and perhaps, by the end of the day, the crookedest--waste of taxpayer money in history. Finally, 5) so far the only person or organization who appears to be looking out for the taxpayers is the Special Inspector General. We will be reading his future reports with great interest."
This is very, very disturbing. Read the whole thing.
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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sedona Getaway Pictures

Last weekend missus and I had a rare opportunity to get away for a couple of days by ourselves so we decided to drive up to Sedona, AZ in the mouth of Oak Creek Canyon, about 2 hours north of Phoenix. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful up there and I took several pictures I thought I'd share.

This (above) was taken from the top of Tabletop Mountain, looking northwest just outside the airport gate, about an hour before sunset.

Same spot, looking north.

One of about half a dozen hawks looking for a last minute meal before nightfall.

After spending the night in Sedona we decided to take the long way home down route 89A through Cottonwood, then Jerome and over the top of Mingus Mountain to Prescott then route 69 back to I-17 and on down the hill to Phoenix.

Jerome is an old copper mining town that has found new life as a sort of artist colony. It is perched precariously on the side of the mountain at about 5,500 feet (I guess that must be the average altitude). It is only 10 miles from Cottonwood, which is at about 3,300 feet, so you can imagine the climb up a narrow road with numerous switchbacks and in some places, no guardrail. The road is like that all the way to the mountain top where you finaly start down again from 7,023 feet. If you are prone to vertigo, better find a diffferent route but the views are too stunning to miss.

This was taken from Jerome, looking back to the north over Cottonwood (near distance) and Sedona (about 30 miles). The mountain in the distance is Humphrey's Peak, on the northern outskirts of Flagstaff, about 60 miles away.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

You Get Less of What You Tax......

.....and if what you happen to tax is productivity (or you're threatening to), this is what you get.

We've seen before that almost no matter where marginal tax rates are set, receipts to the treasury will not deviate significantly from 19.5% of GDP. If you do something to decrease GDP, such as say, suck money out of the productive economy by raising tax rates, you get less tax receipts. What we are going through right now is an entirely predictable result of simply the threat of higher tax rates on our most productive people. Wait until it actually becomes law.

Wealth envy is no basis for devising a tax system. A progressive income tax is not egalitarian, it's tyrannical

(Via Instapundit)
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

James V. DeLong: The Coming of the Fourth American Republic

Writing in The American, James V. DeLong lays out the thesis that the United States is about to enter what he calls the Fourth American Republic. American Republics last about 70 years. The first lasted from 1787 to the Civil War, the second from the end of the Civil War to the beginning of the New Deal and the third, which he calls the Special Interest State has lasted from then to now. He expects that it will collapse of its own weight in the not too distant future.
"The needs of the Special Interest State have also come to dominate electoral politics. Both parties have become alliances of special interests. The focus of conflict is on the fact that most people belong to more than one group, and so electoral contests focus on emphasizing one or another group identity. Only a small band of sort-of Republicans holds out—lonely free marketers reading the Wall Street Journal by flames kindled from
old issues of The Public Interest—regarded as amusingly quaint by the other players."

A little further on he continues:

"But it is more likely that the Special Interest State has reached a limit.

This may seem a dubious statement, at a time when the ideology of total government is at an acme, but it is not unusual for decadent political arrangements to blaze brightly before their end. Indeed, the total victory of the old arrangements may be crucial to bringing into being the forces that will overthrow it. In some ways, the grip of the aristocracy on 18th-century France tightened in the decades leading up to 1789, and the alliance-of-states idea could have lasted a while longer had the Confederacy not precipitated the crisis. So the utter triumph of the Special Interest State over the past 15 years, and particularly in the recent election, looks like the beginning of its end."

He goes on to make his case as to why the Special Interest State is going to have to give way to the Fourth Republic and though he isn't sure exactly what shape it will take, he is confident that it will be another democratic republic because it is just in our national DNA.

The article is both worrying (major change is always a little worrying because of all the unknowns involved) but also hopeful because he seems to take the view that whatever emerges will be better that what we have now.

Read the whole thing.
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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Bill Whittle on the Cost of Media Bias

I haven't figured out how ot embed video from PJTV, so just go and watch this Bill Whittle piece. Make sure you hang in there for the ending.
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Arizona Tea Party

I headed down to the State Capitol in downtown Phoenix after work today to attend the local tea party event. The crowd was enthusiastic but well behaved, as you might expect of the law-abiding, tax-paying types. Local news reports put the crowd at around 6,000. That feels about right to me. There were several speakers, including local politicians and some local radio personalities. It was kind of difficult to hear them more than 50 feet or so away as the audio equipment was set up with the speakers pointing in one direction, but most people didn't seem to mind. They were all admiring each other's signs.

This was my first protest and I just turned 50. I think it was the first time for a lot more too and I think we were all kind of pleasantly surprised that there were so many others with similar concerns that showed up. If it's true that the people that show up for protests are generally a small percentage of those that care about the issue at hand, the political class had better be paying attention or they'll be getting a nasty shock next election day. Here are a few photos from the event.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Global Warming - A History Lesson.

Via Powerline we have this History lesson on climate change by Matt Patterson. The conclusion:

"Why, then, do otherwise sensible people believe that we are both causing the current warming and that the warmth is a bad thing? To me it seems some grotesque combination of narcissism and self-loathing, a mentality that says at once “I am so important that my behavior is causing this” and “I am so inherently tainted that it must be bad.”

For these self-hating humans who want us to cut our carbs (carbons, not carbohydrates), I say relax and enjoy the warmth while it lasts.

Because it won’t. No matter what we do, the ice and the cold and the dark will come again. That should be our worry."

Read it all, of course.
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Friday, April 10, 2009

Reason TV: Tax Facts to Make Your Head Explode

How long does anyone think "the rich" will go along with this before they start to withdraw their talents?

(via Instapundit)
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Bill Whittle To the Rich: Get Out of Dodge. Please!

I meant to post a link to Bill Whittle's latest post earlier this week but have been too busy. As with all of Bill's writings, it is worth your time to read the whole thing.

So let me now send a personal message to The Rich in America…

As an American and a patriot, I implore you – I go to my knees and beg you – LEAVE NOW.

Leave. Just go away. Retire to the Cayman Islands or Bermuda or wherever, but do it now, please, while you still have some love for this country. Close your companies, fire your employees, shutter your factories and offices, sell your property, and take all of that somewhere else… better yet: somewhere scenic but poverty-stricken. Somewhere that could use some wealth creation. Somewhere that people simply are grateful to have a job in the first place. Somewhere where you will be appreciated.

You are not welcome in America any more. Take your wealth and prosperity and inventiveness and hard work and vision and insight and bold risk-taking and joy in seeing growth and wealth creation and just go away – right now, before it’s too late. Because if you stay, Joel Berg and Barack Obama and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank and Chris Dodd will continue to come after you for more and more and more and they will not ever stop – not ever – until you are forced to flee. And when that day comes, you will go with not with fond remembrances and a desire to return home, but rather a black heart and hard and bitter memories.

So on behalf of those few of us who still believe in the Land of Opportunity, I beg you and implore you, in the name of our common patriot ancestors who worked so hard and sacrificed so much so that we could become so spoiled and ungrateful: take your 60% of the total income taxes and just go away.
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Chodorov on Economics vs. Politics

A friend just passed to me an excerpt from the book "The Rise & Fall of Society" by Frank Chodorov (1887-1966), who wrote it in 1959. The part of the excerpt that leapt out at me is as follows:

And so it has come to pass that those who write about economics begin with the assumption that it is a branch of political science. Our current textbooks, almost without exception, approach the subject from a legal standpoint: how do men make a living under the prevailing laws? It follows, and some of the books admit it, that if the laws change, economics must follow suit. It is for that reason that our college curricula are loaded down with a number of courses in economics, each paying homage to the laws governing different human activities; thus we have the economics of merchandising, the economics of real-estate operations, the economics of banking, agricultural economics, and so on.

That there is a science of economics which covers basic principles that operate in all our occupations, and have nothing to do with legislation, is hardly considered. From this point of view it would be appropriate, if the law sanctioned the practice, for the curricula to include a course on the economics of slavery.

Economics is not politics. One is a science, concerned with the immutable and constant laws of nature that determine the production and distribution of wealth; the other is the art of ruling. One is amoral, the other is moral. Economic laws are self-operating and carry their own sanctions, as do all natural laws, while politics deals with man-made and man-manipulated conventions. As a science, economics seeks understanding of invariable principles; politics is ephemeral, its subject matter being the day-to-day relations of associated men. Economics, like chemistry, has nothing
to do with politics.

The intrusion of politics into the field of economics is simply an evidence of human ignorance or arrogance, and is as fatuous as an attempt to control the rise and fall of tides. Since the beginning of political institutions, there have been attempts to fix wages, control prices, and create capital, all resulting in failure. Such undertakings must fail because the only competence of politics is in compelling men to do what they do not want to do or to refrain from doing what they are inclined to do, [my emphasis] and the laws of economics do not come within that scope. They are impervious to coercion. Wages and prices and capital accumulations have laws of their own, laws which are beyond the purview of the policeman

Chodorv's thesis echoes Ayn Rand in many respects and certainly supports my own view that most of the economic problems we are suffering from today are the direct result of political interfence in free markets.

Read it all.

(thanks Frank!)
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Friday, April 03, 2009

Government Motors - They're Here to Help. No, Really

The government is now going to guarantee your automobile warranty. You know what that means:

(via Instapundit)
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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Tea Party Manifesto - One Possible Plank

Will Collier asks: "What is the Tea Party Manifesto?" He rightly points out that to date most of the Tea Party protests have been just about venting. There is no coherent message and no real proposals for what we should be doing differently. There's no agenda.

Well I have a suggestion. I've pointed out before that quibbling about what is the correct marginal tax rate under our current income tax system misses the fundamental point that the tax code is both inherently unfair and immoral to boot. If the Tea Party movement needs a rallying point, let it be the demand for a fundamental change in our tax system, one that transfers power back to where it belongs; with the people. Yes, I'm talking about the FairTax.

We need to start educating ourselves about the FairTax and then spreading the word about it as far and wide as possible. The politicians are scared to death of it. Why? because it would represent the largest shift in power from government (them) to the people (us) since 1776. Everyone would become a taxpayer, a true stakeholder because they would be taxed on what they consume, not on what they earn. As it is now, we are almost at, if not beyond the tipping point where more than 50% of the population pays no income tax yet is in the position of voting itself benefits to be paid by the rest of us. If the rallying cry of the participants in the original Tea Party was "no taxation without representation," it should be "no representation without taxation" today.
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