Social Security Venn Diagram

Nick Baumann has a handy chart explaining patiently to Rick Perry et alia why Social Security is not a ponzi scheme:


As Jonathan Bernstein notes:

Very simple: anyone who says that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme either misunderstands Social Security, misunderstands Ponzi schemes, is deliberately lying, or some combination of those… After all, a Ponzi scheme is a deliberate fraud. Saying that Social Security is financed like a Ponzi scheme is factually wrong, but saying that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme or is like a Ponzi scheme is basically a false accusation of fraud against the US government and the politicians who have supported Social Security over the years.

I’m not sure, honestly, why Social Security gets so much attention. A bit of tinkering with the payroll cap, and voila! The problem is basically fixed.

The real problem facing our long-term fiscal stability is healthcare spending. For more on that you should read this ten-post series by Aaron Carroll. Unfortunately, unlike Social Security, healthcare spending will be really hard to fix, because the factors driving it are complex, and because the combination of private and public spending makes it complicated and difficult to untangle.

They didn’t control for the scientists

Well this is pretty fascinating:

Years ago, before this type of activity was frowned upon, scientists sent 2 groups of 11 and 12 year-old boys to live in separate sections of an Eastern Oklahoma camp. The boys didn’t know about each other at first, and they quickly developed independent social hierarchies and social codes. One group named themselves the Rattlers. The other group didn’t pick a name until after the groups discovered each other. They chose the Eagles, an animal that eats snakes. The scientists ratcheted up the competition between the two groups, eventually losing control of the experiment as the boys were executing violent raids on each others’ camps. The scientists finally separated the camps before someone got killed, but not before documenting some interesting concepts of how groups form social norms and how they react to others they perceive as different.

More here.

Perry the Petty

I’m glad Will Wilkinson lives in Iowa. We are all winning the future because of it. For instance, Will happened to be in a diner with presidential hopeful, Rick Perry, recently, and snapped some video of an exchange between Mr. Perry and an Iowa grad student. You should read the whole thing, because it’s a decent little snapshot of the Texas governor. This passage in particular, describing Perry’s reaction to the question, is quite wonderful:

I enjoyed witnessing this fleeting, close-up moment of flesh-pressing campaign politicking. Mr Perry’s skillful exit from the exchange, his calmly assertive demeanour (note the way his initially attentive eyes narrow into a challenging "kiss off" grin, the way he presses his index finger softly into Mr Hjelm’s chest) and the folksy leavening of his denigrating parting shot, all suggest to me a seriously skilled retail politician whose swagger remains mostly charming even when he’s being an impatient prick. Meanwhile, Mr Hjelm’s question and his follow-up blog post reveal an emerging line of attack on Mr Perry from the most fervently small-government precincts of the tea-party right: Mr Perry is a big-spending, lobbyist-loving, Al Gore-supporting ex-Democrat who is all pork and no tricorne.

Charles Davis on Juan Cole

Charles Davis has a good post up defending anarchy from the pen of fierce Libya-War supporter, Juan Cole:

Nominally about the recent GOP presidential debate, Cole’s attack on anarchy — from "anarcho-syndicalists like [Noam] Chomsky" to the aforementioned Paul — is perhaps a sign that liberals like him are fearful the anti-state position is gaining traction, especially given the conspicuous lack of change since liberal savior Barack Obama moved to the White House. Indeed, that would explain why, instead of addressing the world we live in now, where a Nobel laureate is waging war in at least half a dozen countries with the help of an army of private war-profiteering corporations and their mercenaries, Cole focuses our attention on a scary future where, without the state, "warmongering corporations [could] pursue war all on their own."

"The East India Companies of Britain and the Netherlands behaved that way," Cole writes. "[And] India was not conquered by the British government, but by the East India Company. Likewise what is now Indonesia was a project of the Dutch East India Company."

However, while intended as a critique of anarchism, Cole’s examples only bolster the critique of the state. The East India Companies, after all, were chartered by the British government, granted trade monopolies by the British government, and had their claim to properties, most of which were looted from poor foreigners, protected by the British government. And while I won’t claim to speak for Ron Paul, most anarchists — and it shows Cole’s muddled thinking that he lumps "limited government" advocates like Paul in with Pierre-Joseph Proudhon & Co. — don’t just oppose "the state," they oppose the use of violence and coercion. It just so happens that states with their claims to a "legitimate monopoly on the use of violence" tend to be the greatest purveyors of it.

If in some future anarchotopia a private corporation — let’s not get into the fact that corporations are created by the state — should wage war, then they would be acting like states and would be opposed just as vigorously. Indeed, to an anarchist the distinction between corporation and state is the same as a Christian’s distinction between God and Jesus: though taking different forms, they’re one and the same, the difference academic.

Of course, most corporations are not violent, whereas almost every iteration of government includes some sort of force. Then again, human nature being what it is, I have a hard time fully buying into anarchism. I still can’t quite figure out what would be done with violent criminals or the mentally ill who are a danger to themselves or others. Government rises up out of a need to be able to deal with problems such as these. It often just outgrows these initial, far more limited, uses. Absent the state, anarchists might very well oppose violence on the part of non-state entities. But what’s to be done when it’s not institutional violence, but simply a violent person? Some anarcho-capitalists advocate for a system of courts and nothing more. I simply can’t square how this all plays out. Perhaps I need to read more Proudhon.