It’s the Party, Stupid, Ctd. : How we deal with the peccadillos is actually pretty important, too

I’d like to take a moment to both double down on my previous post, and at the same time make a fairly impassioned plea to my fellow Republicans.

As I said earlier, I watched the election results on all of the three big cable networks, going back and forth.  I actually thought that FOX succeeded in doing a quality, professional job overall (and in having the evening’s most entertaining spectacle).

But I’d like to focus for a moment on a statement made by Bill O’Reilly that, I have to say, mirrors much of what I’ve heard over the past several months from various right leaning politicians, pundits, contributors and commenters – and is fast becoming cliched post-election fodder, as Conor points out.  And after taking a look at it, I’m going to ask Republicans to submit to a little private, internal thought experiment – one that will focus on politics, not policy.

This is the transcript of what he said:

“It’s a changing country. The demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America any more. And there are 50% of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama. He knows it and he ran on it. And, whereby twenty years ago, President Obama would have been roundly defeated by an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney. The white establishment is now the minority. And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff. You are going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama, overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel that they are entitled to things and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?”

In a development that will come as a surprise to anyone that has lived in a sensory deprivation tank for the past three decades, Democrats are calling O’Reilly’s statement racist and sexist.  And although I do not actually believe that he meant to say that blacks, hispanics and women vote the way they do because they’re parasites and white people vote the way they do because they’re not, I have to say it’s a little too easy to see why so many people are hearing it that way.

But zoom out with me for a moment, because I think that O’Reilly’s actual intention and the subsequent backlash are – for the purposes of this exercise – unimportant.

How Republicans and conservative pundits react to this type of constantly occurring mini-brouhaha, both internally and externally, is a far more interesting question to me –  and it’s one which I believe will ultimately go a long way to showing whether or not a GOP victory in 2016 is feasible amidst the demographic sea change that O’Reilly himself pointed out.

If you are a vocal Republican, I think there are essentially three ways you might realistically react to the criticism that is being levied against O’Reilly.  As you read them, I’d like you to assume that none of the three are either “right” or “wrong,” but to still recognize that each carries its own electoral consequences.  They are as follows:

Response #1: Yes, O’Reilly is exactly right.  Blacks, Latinos and women like sucking at government’s teat; they just want a bunch of free stuff handed to them. It was so much better back when the white establishment ran everything. (Probability of Being Said to Others: Low)

Response #2: [Insert here some argument where you use sentence diagramming to show that O’Reilly never said anything that anyone could possibly find objectionable, regardless of how it sounds.]  Not artfully stated, and not at all saying what Response #1 says, but once you diagram the sentence properly it is entirely true.  Minorities and women should quit their whining.  Those people hear dog whistles everywhere. (Probability of Being Said to Others: High)

Response #3: My goodness, I have to admit that sounded terrible.  I really hope that Bill didn’t mean it the way it sounds, but in either case he needs to walk that back and clarify it – and we conservatives need to push him to do so.  Then we can move on and talk about the general societal issues of entitlement spending, where O’Reilly’s observation is correct. (Probability of Being Said to Others: Low)

[Obviously, the “probabilities” above being my own best Dean Chambers-like guess]

My guess is that although there are certainly other possible responses, the vast majority of Republicans respond to these types of racial/gender peccadillos in one of these three ways.  Again, I am not here to advocate that any of these answers is more or less truthful.  I simply wish to make this political observation:

If high-visibility Republicans and conservative pundits continue to respond predominantly with either Response #1 or Response #2, and if the white male vote continues to shrink as a percentage of the overall vote, then Republicans can kiss 2016 and all of the foreseeable subsequent national elections goodbye.

Unfortunately for the GOP, Response #1 and Response #2 have two things going for them that Response #3 does not:  They are far more fun (and far easier) for conservative pundits to say/write, and they draw far more viewers/listeners/page hits.  Response #3 just isn’t what the media machine is going to reflexively want to do.  But despite what the media machine wants, the only way Republicans continue as a dominant player in this next century is if they embrace Response #3.  That is a very difficult circle that the GOP is going to need to figure out how to square.

Look, eventually, you reach a point where “because it pisses off liberals” ceases to be its own reward – where approaching things with that attitude gets in the way of your being politically relevant.  I believe that yesterday’s results proved that we are now officially past that point.

 

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236 thoughts on “It’s the Party, Stupid, Ctd. : How we deal with the peccadillos is actually pretty important, too

  1. #3. The vast majority of Americans at all levels of the economy “want stuff”. Eg, Larry Ellison wants more America’s Cups wins. And the vast majority of Americans, again at all levels of the economy, want to earn stuff. The Republicans’ problem is that the wealthy among them, the ones that are tagged as job creators, don’t want to be saddled with the social responsibility of helping anyone else earn stuff. Manufacturing jobs went to China? Not my fault. Automation requires that a higher level of training is required for all workers? Not my fault, let them pay for it (or let their parents loan them the money, as Mr. Romney famously said). One of the Republicans’ problems is that they’ve embraced rich folks who don’t see an “us” that includes any except the rest of the wealthy.

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    • This.

      The GoP is looking more and more like a party for the wealthy. And the wealthy are few. If they want to stay relevant on a country where there are only 2 relevant parties, they need to have a broader appeal than ‘the wealthy’

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        • The wealthy don’t form a united constituency. We do know which way Wall Street went: firmly into the Romney camp.

          Forget Karl Rove. The man with his hands on the levers of the really big money is Carl Forti at Crossroads and Restore our Future. And they’re not done yet: they’ll be running anti-Obama anti-Democrat PR campaigns for the next four years. People get this idea PACs are about elections: they’re not. They’re money engines for lobbying and PR of all sorts. We haven’t seen the last of Carl Forti, whatever may be true of Karl Rove.

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            • I’d love to see those numbers.

              But if I were a betting man, I’d wager that votes from the wealthy and the working poor are somewhat split. I’d bet this year that identifiers such as geographic location and industry are a far better indicator about whether someone who is very wealthy or “working poor” voted Romney or Obama.

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            • I said the wealthy vote red. My intention might have been mistaken.

              My intention was to say that the red is starting to only look appealing if you are wealthy. It is a very big difference. Not that all wealthy will vote red – only that it is not appealing to vote red unless you are wealthy.

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        • CNN’s exit polls have 60% of people making under $50,000 going for Obama, and 53% of those making over $50,000 going for Romney. 54% of those making over $100,000 went for Romney, while 54% of those making less than that went for Obama.

          For context, the median income in America is around $50,000. People making over $100,000 constitute the top 20%.

          So, yes, the rich tended to vote for Romney and low-income people and the middle class tended to vote for Obama. And this wasn’t a “break” from the pattern of the last election, where votes had a similar income distribution.

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        • In 2008, 60% of people making under $50,000 went for Obama, while those making over $50,000 were split evenly between Obama and McCain, as were those making over $100,000. So Obama did less well with the rich in 2012, but he’s doing just as well with voters making up the half of the country under median income, and improved his performance with the middle/upper-middle class.

          If that raises questions as to why his margin of victory wasn’t bigger, it’s because the rich turn out at higher rates (e.g: people making over $100,000 are about 20% of the population, but were 26% of the voters in 2008).

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  2. When someone is held up as being a leader, a role model, an exemplar, someone from whom we should take our cues, the instinct of that person, and those around and supporting her (“him” in O’Reilly’s case) is to present the subject as some sort of superhuman avatar of impeccable intelligence and wisdom, in whom absolute and infalliable trust may be placed, and generally who has a variety of other highly desirable qualities as well. Witness the periodic jibes about how conservative women pundits and politicians are physically attractive while liberal women pundits and politicians are not, as if that mattered at all.

    You see it with celebrities too — when they fish up their personal lives, their PR people proffer preposterous proclamations portraying the events in question as totally and completely innocent in every imaginable way and their clients as either utterly reasonable and blameless, or in the grips and throes of Forces Too Large For Anyone To Control and therefore also utterly blameless.

    But the fact is, we’re all falliable human beings. Tap-dancing around a verbal turd like this isn’t going to polish it all that much and even if you could polish it it’ll still stink. And having offered up a turd and called it roast beef is substantially more objectionable than having deposited it in the first place, because now not only did you just shit on my lawn, you lied about it too and you probably also accused me of some sort of horrible behavior just to put me on the defensive.

    Better to call a turd what it is, and dispose of it properly, quickly, and decisively.

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    • When someone is held up as being a leader, a role model, an exemplar, someone from whom we should take our cues, the instinct of that person, and those around and supporting her … is to present the subject as some sort of superhuman avatar of impeccable intelligence and wisdom, in whom absolute and infalliable trust may be placed, and generally who has a variety of other highly desirable qualities as well

      The awesome, talented, and devilishly handsome Burt Likko is exactly right, as always.

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  3. When I first started coaching kids soccer, I ran into a problem. Running up the score. It happened to my teams sometimes, and sometimes my teams did it. When the score gets run up on you, you wonder “How hard is it to refrain from scoring goals when you are up 8-nil already?”

    Then you play a game, where the other team just keeps kicking the ball to your team right in front of their wide open goal, and your question is answered.

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  4. Well, there’s also the possibility of Response #4: “You know, I care about my country, I work hard, I volunteered for Romney and I’m getting sick and tired of overpaid sock-puppets like O’Reilly making my efforts look bad because they get paid to sit in front of a camera and insult people. People who are otherwise known as ‘my fellow Americans’. How much phonebanking for the Republican cause did O’Reilly do? How many doors did he knock on? How come the leaders of my party care what he thinks? And don’t even get me started on that gasbag Limbaugh. My wife and daughters were not happy, let’s just leave it at that, okay? Why do these guys get to claim they’re speaking for my party? Okay, it would help if my party leaders would stop deferring to them as the voice of the people. They might start by listening to me for a change.”

    It got too easy for Republican party leaders to believe that Fox was some kind of portal into America’s living room and forget that ratings don’t mean much outside the studio.

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  5. Door #3.

    But really. Bill, he knows what he’s doing. He doesn’t give a shiz about the Republican Party, about who wins elections, or about who get’s ignored by the parties.

    He cares about who turns in tonight. That’s all. Gotta stir ’em up, gotta make ’em afraid.

    He’s committing acts of terrorism by TV. Mongering fear.

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  6. I don’t know if it was somebody on this site or somewhere else, but someone made the point that forty years ago, Nixon or Eisenhower could shut up the crazies by making a few calls and maybe getting a guy to unplug a Xerox machine. Forty years later, each crazy has a fiefdom that’s keeping them warm and dry in their home and sending their kids to college. That’s the problem the GOP has in the short term.

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    • Indeed. And the fact is, it’s hard to see anything the right did wrong, except not predict the future.

      The plan was obvious…keep stirring up the crazies with the newly invented cable news and talk radio, and keep gutting and criticize the mainstream media so the media doesn’t report on this. Appear moderate to the public, appear far right to the base, and govern as basically moderate plus low taxes, ignoring the deficit, which was just something to yell around the Democrats about.

      This actually seems like a perfect plan. It got them into power in 1994, and while it didn’t get rid of Clinton in 1996, it did manage to get frickin George Bush in office in 2000.

      And they managed to move the Overton window to the right, where suddenly we’ve all realized we need welfare reformed framed how the right says it. So the left moved away from their crazies (And plenty of sane leftish people), and into, functionally, a center-right party _barely_ to the left of the Republicans, which were also center-right.

      But Al Gore had his revenge: The internet.

      Suddenly, the crazy had a platform, and, worse, could _compare notes_. And realized that the Republicans were actually standing pretty close to the center, except for a few things like hurting unions (Which helped them politically) and lower taxes on the rich (Which also help them politically in donations). None of the Republican actually _cared_ about the lunatic issues that the far-right had been feed for two decades. Yes, that was somewhat obvious to everyone, but the far right had a lot of, to be blunt, fucking morons, and more importantly they were able to talk to each other and gin up the outrage.

      Fox news then said ‘Holy shit, right wing outrage, That’s ratings gold!’ (Insert video of a controlled detonation to take down a building.)

      At this point, the right had two ways to jump. One option was to the left (On top of the Democrats) and disavowed their crazies, likes the Democrats did. Except the Democrats did that slowly, with the help of the media, the right had no time at all and the media had picked the other side. So they jumped rightward, a jump which half of them didn’t manage to pull off and got replaced anyway.

      That was _really_ the wrong choice. Well, perhaps the right choice for any individual’s political career, as jumping to the left or even staying in the same place got people primaried out already. But it was _really_ the wrong choice for the party because of one simple fact:

      WE CAN SEE YOU GUYS IN THERE.

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      • The problem for the Right is that the racists/socons hate everyone else, and everyone else hates them.

        That’s the demographic problem — they can’t compromise, and they can’t tiptoe.

        I’m praying for a third party, personally. more fun that way.

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        • Well, yes, the demographics problem is sorta on top of the crazy problem. And, yes, it’s actually the demographics that will kill them.(Or, rather, _have_ killed them.) The crazy problem is just why they are unable to solve the demographics problem.

          In fact, they almost _did_ solve part of the demographics problem, with Bush’s rather reasonable immigration reform…and the first major success of the crazies was to destroy that.

          The crazy problem happened _right_ as Republican party was ready to pivot on immigration, expanding their tent _just_ wide enough to keep a majority. So it is the reason they fell down…but it’s sorta just random, that was the first thing they got caught up on.

          If we look into an alternate universe where the internet was ten years later, we’d see a universe where the Republicans were still in charge, and the crazies were just now taking over in blogs…and in ten years the Republicans would lose because crazies held them steady on the LGBT issue while the rest of the country moved on.

          And an internet (And fox news) ten years earlier than our universe, the 1992 blogs would be full of crazy about flag burning and how Clinton was secretly a Soviet spy or whatever. (The Soviet union’s breakup obviously being some sort of liberal trick.)

          So, basically, whatever issue destroys a party taken over by crazy is whatever issue comes up next that the crazies think crazy things about. Currently, that appears to be racial minorities. Admitted, the Republicans would have had a hard time pivoting on that _anyway_, but probably could have managed it.

          What’s also seriously helped is the Republicans continuing to demonstrate that both parties _aren’t_ the same by having all sorts of crazy local people and laws.

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        • And we really need another party of some sort.

          I’m rather hoping that classic liberals end up in one and the progressives end up in another, and we can run around debating _how_ to accomplish basically the same goals, and whether or not, for example, we should ‘play favorites’ to redress past wrong, or instead come up some other way to help people. And whether restricting people’s ability to do drugs helps society, and even if it does, should we do it? Aka, a ‘freedom’ party vs a ‘making society work’ party, with both sides having to compromise to some exist, and both of them having basically the same goals. That would be an interesting and useful discussion.

          Instead of this idiotic discussion we’re apparently having about the delusional idea that cutting taxes increases revenue, and the delusional idea we should decrease spending during a recession, and the delusional idea that voter impersonation is an issue, and all the other delusional ideas that the Republicans keep coming up with.

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          • +1. What I tend to hate about libertarians is that when I ask, “alright, show me”… they don’t have anything to put down on the table. “End the welfare state!” … alright, show me charities able to pick up the slack (here’s a hint: NOT the united way).

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            • Kim,

              The answer in three words..,

              Complex Adaptive System. When government monopolies crowd out market solutions, then there will be no market solution. A market that tries to solve a problem that it is prohibited from solving or which is already solved via a non market mechanism is illogical.

              The solution is in the process.

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              • All due respect, but this is total bullshit.
                You want a market solution to charities? MAKE ONE. Can’t (mostly) be worse than the 1930’s model we’ve got now.
                You do that, and I’ll give you room to talk about something else.
                Show me the efficiency improvements, show me the adjusted metrics that measure administrative “costs”. And show me where you’ve weeded out the fake charities.

                … I’m giving you an easy problem. a very, very easy problem. One that you might even be able to make money from. You should thank me.

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                • If it is total BS, then I no longer stand by it.

                  I was just answering your question of why we can’t point to a solution for a problem that has already been addressed via a government monopoly. I am not at all convinced that market solutions would be adequate, especially considering the path we have already taken.

                  In other words, I am not convinced the anarchists can get to there from here either. At least not for a long time. I certainly would not gamble with the lives of those depending upon our aid to pursue anarchist visions. I do think it is great that they explore smaller scale tests in this direction though. Cultural progress is always a possibility.

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                  • lolwhut.
                    I figure there’s enough places where government monopoly need not be the only solution, and where folks could carve out new solutions and test them on the small scale.
                    But the important part, at least on my end, is that when libertarians say the market will fix everything, I at least want them to say “and here’s how I made a profit doing Just That!” (example gratis, from my “liberal” friend: The Consumerist)

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            • I tend to hate the implication that _taxes_ have anything to do with _freedom_. The GOP has managed to brainwash a large percentage of the electority, _including Democrats_, that such a thing is true. And, what’s more, that it is the _most important_ freedom.

              How much you pay on your goddamn taxes is actually pretty unimportant to _everyone_. Almost everything the government does is more important than paying 3% more income tax. If you actually _ask_ people this, they will willingly agree. Aka, would you rather have roads than the 2% of money that goes towards roads?

              Incidentally, the few things that people _don’t_ agree they’d rather have more of than a corresponding cut in their taxes are the military, which we can never ever cut. And the rest is entirely made up bullshit. (Yes, I _would_ like to spend $1 a year to fund public television, you assholes.)

              It’s like the entire nation is convinced that the most important thing about a movie is how many times people said ‘the’ in it, or the most important thing about a car is whether the radio antenna is perfectly straight. It’s completely insane.

              Taxes _are not a political issue_. Period. Taxes need to match spending on average, slightly higher in good times and slightly lower in bad. There is no actual ‘politics’ there, besides who should pay what percentage. If the right thinks the government should spend less, they need to MAKE THE GOVERNMENT SPEND LESS.

              There’s a quote going around about how a Democracy is doomed once people learn how to vote themselves free stuff. Well, that’s wrong. A democracy is doomed when people realize they can just _vote themselves no taxes_ and keep getting the stuff that they had been purchasing, but are free now.

              Which is, incidentally, counter-productive to reducing spending. If people are _paying_ for spending, and they are spending too much, and they are _paying_ for it, they might actually cut back on it. But if they aren’t feeling it, why would they cut back?

              The problem for Republicans is that, as I said, taxes _are not actually hurting people_, they were not too high, and wouldn’t be in normal circumstances even if we taxed enough to cover spending. (Doing it now would be a bad idea, though.) People were basically happy with the level of government, so to reduce it, Republicans had to embark reducing taxes to start with, and hope, at some point, the government just falls over.

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              • I agree with much of what you say, David.

                The problem is spending. One caveat, though I am happy having modern infrastructure for two percent of my lifetime earnings, I would be even happier if competition would give me even better infrastructure for even less. government really does solve problems like education and taking care of the poor and elderly. It isn’t always the most efficient solution though.

                Just saying….

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                • And, see, in a sane world, we could sit there and argue about what it actually makes sense for the government to do, secure in the fact that once we agree to that, we would _actually set taxes to allow us to do that_.

                  But we can’t. Because the Republicans have picked as a ‘policy goal’ something that isn’t even a political question to start with, namely, ‘What amount of taxes do we need to take in?

                  The problem is what actually happened is for about two decades the right pretended to care about less spending, while actually only caring about lower taxes. Meanwhile, they brainwashed _everyone_ into caring about both of them (While everyone somehow failed a spot check on who was actually doing the spending. Apparently, it’s only spending if Democrats do it.)

                  This was stupid enough…but then they got overthrown by their own brainwashed base who actually _tried_ to reduce spending down to the idiotic level that would match the idiotic level of taxes. (And everyone else said WTF?)

                  You know those countries that have just been introduced to democracy, and don’t really understand it, and have to have a decade or so learning how it works?

                  Well, thanks to the Republican brainwashing, us Americans need a decade or so to (re)learn how taxes actually work and what the correct level of them is. Hint: It’s roughly the amount we are spending, regardless of whether or not you politically agree with that amount of spending.

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                  • You’re quite right. There is NO reason to hold down spending if you’re just cutting taxes and paying for it with debt.

                    And the Democrats are the sane ones on this — they keep instituting PAYGO, whereas the GOP tosses it. (Bush put two wars and a prescription drug bill with the stupidest limiter — no bargaining for bulk discount s– on the nation’s charge card).

                    Only thing Obama didn’t pay for up front was the stimulus, because that would have rendered it pointless. ACA? Paid for — and assaulted by Republicans for doing it.

                    The GOP has convinced it’s base it can have everything they like about government, and less taxes too. But they can’t. So they bitch and whine about taxes that are at historic lows, and act like rolling back the tax rates to the 90s is gonna kill America and turn us into Soviet Russia.

                    Plain fact of the matter is, when you poll the public on what they want to cut from government? There ain’t much, really, that has broad support to slash.

                    And there’s no reason to force politicans to make hard choices — to cut into things like the military (do we really need to spend as much as the entire world combined?), or agricultural subsidies, much less anything truly difficult. (Cutting the military or agriculture hurts lobbyists more than Americans. Cutting in Social Security or Medicare tends to get the masses involved).

                    The public won’t press them, because the public is either voting for Democrats — who have, by and large, moved to paying for what they spend (even if they spend more than some might like) — or they’re voting for Republicans who tell them “Less taxes means more revenue! Party forever!”

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                    • The GOP has convinced it’s base it can have everything they like about government, and less taxes too. But they can’t. So they bitch and whine about taxes that are at historic lows, and act like rolling back the tax rates to the 90s is gonna kill America and turn us into Soviet Russia.

                      Luckily, that’s going to happen anyway, at the end of this year. Well, partially.

                      Plain fact of the matter is, when you poll the public on what they want to cut from government? There ain’t much, really, that has broad support to slash.

                      Actually, there is stuff that has ‘broad support’ to slash by _completely misinformed_ people. For example, if you poll people, foreign aid has broad support to slash, and people think it should be slashed way down to 5% of the budget or so. The obvious problem there is that foreign aid actually totals 25 billion, or 0.8% of the budget.

                      And, of course, there was Romney’s public television insanity. To fight the dreaded half a billion dollars we’re spending on it. Oh noes! That’s enough money to give everyone a tax reduction enough to buy a single item off the dollar meal at McDonalds! That’s worth giving up PBS and NPR for!

                      Likewise, when you ask people how much different income groups should be taxed…there’d for ‘lowering’ the amount of tax the rich pay to almost Sweden levels! Seriously. They want to ‘lower’ the rich’s taxes to much higher than they _currently are_.

                      The problem is, frankly, people seem to have no idea where money goes, or how much goes where, or where it comes from. Checking other countries, educating people about such things is supposed to be the job of a system called ‘the media’, and someday this country might actually get one.

                      But, yes, there’s nothing with broad support for cutting that actually would _do_ anything, except for the military. Especially the wars. Which is, of course, treasonous to talk about cutting.

                      And there’s no reason to force politicans to make hard choices — to cut into things like the military (do we really need to spend as much as the entire world combined?), or agricultural subsidies, much less anything truly difficult. (Cutting the military or agriculture hurts lobbyists more than Americans. Cutting in Social Security or Medicare tends to get the masses involved).

                      That is the real problem with living on borrowed money. If the spending matched the revenue, and people could see ‘Oh, I’m spending $100 dollars a year on this, is there a way to trim it?’ and ‘Well, that’s $200 a year, but it seems like it’s a big program, so I guess I understand that.’

                      (Not that the revenues should exactly match spending, of course. I’d suggest varying by up to an extra 20% spending in bad times, made up for by an extra 20% revenue in good.)

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                    • (do we really need to spend as much as the entire world combined?)

                      Depends. If conservative rhetoric is to be believed, the world essentially consists of the US and Israel vs. the socialist hellholes of Europe, the Nazi regimes of Africa and the Middle East, and the communist regimes of Asia and South America. We need our military budget to be larger than all of theirs combined to make it a fair fight.

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  7. O’Reilly is just one of the talking heads guarding the inhabitants of Bullsh*t Mountain from rejoining the world of the sane. Fox News is a propaganda machine which dumbs down America by the day through disinformation and their slanted agendas. See their anchors spewing forth feces from their mouths in my visual homage to the network on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-fox-news-scylla-guardian-of-bullsht.html

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  8. It’s good to see O’Reilly directly quoted here. Although we don’t know what he said before or after, for once we have a whole paragraph to consider instead of a sentence fragment or two.

    His point is of course more complex than the unsympathetic listen will yield here. It is not precisely that minorities and women are on the schnorr*, lazily looking for handouts. It’s that the Dem Party and the left-lib establishment has sold a program of resentment,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ressentiment

    if you will—that the deck is stacked against you, and any “handout” you get from the system is not charity, it’s justice. Take it, you deserve it. You are Owed.

    The problem being that then our own country, our own government, our “system,” is the enemy, and should be taken for whatever you can get. This is contrary to a true communitarianism, where we take only what we need from the public store. If you recall, some of us took a look at a BBC special on Sweden, which found not the non-judgmental Santa Claus state atall, but one that although heavily communitarian, is highly judgmental about the slackers on the schnorr.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/programmes/analysis/transcripts/18_06_12..pdf

    ___________
    *schnorrer: goes to the soup buffet with rubber pockets

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  9. Hannity said this way, the ‘Allure And Appeal Of Socialism And Redistribution Of Wealth Has Taken Hold.’ What do you expect when Barry said he viewed welfare recipients and “the working poor” as “a majority coalition” that could be mobilized to help advance progressive policies and elect their champions. Just hand out the Obama phones and they will vote.

    Read more: http://conservativebyte.com/2012/09/flashback-obama-saw-welfare-recipients-as-majority-coalition/#ixzz2Bawkl000

    http://cnsnews.com/blog/gregory-gwyn-williams-jr/hannity-allure-and-appeal-socialism-and-redistribution-wealth-has

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  10. In a development that will come as a surprise to anyone that has lived in a sensory depravation tank for the past three decades, Democrats are calling O’Reilly’s statement racist and sexist. And although I do not actually believe that he meant to say that blacks, hispanics and women vote the way they do because they’re parasites and white people vote the way they do because they’re not, I have to say it’s a little too easy to see why so many people are hearing it that way.

    I agree. O’Reilly didn’t mean to say that.

    What he meant to say was “The Sheriff is near.”

    You’re letting him off the hook, Mr. Kelly. Don’t.

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  11. Tom, the problem is that O’Reilly is selling a narrative as well, which is describable in its entirety as ressentiment to the class that constitutes his audience. You cannot possibly indict the Democrats for selling a “a program of resentment,” without noting that O’Reilly is doing the same damned thing here. Note that I am not saying that you are wrong.

    Timing is everything. To extend the own goal analogy from a post above, kicking a ball in a soccer game is a laudable act. Kicking the ball to the other team right in front of your own goal is not. O’Reilly saying crap like this to his audience is normally rational; on a night like this, it just makes it harder for minorities, women, and hispanics to join his audience’s team. And those folks need some more teammates, in a big way.

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    • Here I’m just translating Faux Newsish to MSNBCese, Mr. Nevada. ;-)

      I agree with you somewhat, but I’d like us to look at this further sometime, how much of this Inside Baseball ever gets to the general public—and in what manner. It’s to the point that anything can be demagogued, that nuance is impossible these days: I happen to speak Republican and occasionally succeed in slipping in a dispatch before being buried, so I’ll just AAAAAAAAAARGH

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  12. “Poor nonwhites voted for Obama because he promised them government handouts!”
    “That’s racist and anti-poor!”

    “Rich whites voted for Romney because he promised them tax breaks!”
    “That’s exactly right!”

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  13. Response # 4

    “And the voters, many of them, feel that the economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff.”

    Once you change the nature of the game from a positive sum one to a zero sum one (or deceptively portray a positive sum game as a zero sum one), the path to success is to screw others and avoid being screwed oneself.

    The left has convinced certain groups that they are getting screwed. The BS kerfuffle over equal pay for equal work is a perfect example. The right has done the same with low skilled whites. Thus the parties attempt to further their own political interests by convincing people that the game is stacked against them. They respond by stacking it “for our side.” Thus it DOES start getting more and more stacked on both sides. We thus enter an arms race of zero sum politically motivated interactions.

    Thus the decline of nations.

    If you (the reader) have a dog in this fight, may I suggest you are part of the problem and not the solution?

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    • *Yahn* I hope you didn’t just vote for the candidate who “screwed others and avoided being screwed himself.” Once a hedge fund guy, always a hedge fund guy — whaddaya know.

      Mitt Romney, now $50 million richer than before his candidacy, courtesy of betting against himself winning.

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            • Aren’t these trivially easy to find?

              Litterers passing through a neighborhood gain a tiny bit of utility from not having to put trash in a trashcan. The rest of us get a huge amount of disutility from living in a trash-strewn neighborhood. Negative-sum, and a few people benefit.

              So I guess I have to ask, what are you getting at here?

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              • Roger said, and you endorsed, the idea that the “left” takes a positive sum game (which our economy certainly isn’t) and turns it into a zero-sum game (which most certainly don’t believe). He doesn’t admit the possibility that they turn it into something different, or that the world we live in might not be either.

                That’s all I’m getting at: people get screwed. That doesn’t mean it’s a zero-sum game. And pointing out that people get screwed is not the problem. Nor is working to make it harder to screw people.

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                • Chris, our economy is not a positive sum game right now, we’re in a depression. When we come out of it, we can return to a minimally positive sum game.

                  The problem is when positive sum games like FIRE go aft over agley, and become negative sum games for most people — and positive sum games for a few. After all, the richest folk got richer when they crashed the fucking markets (and me. I’m not rich, but I’ve got a house now because of that crash).

                  Is this fixable? Some parts of it, I suspect. The fact that people are greedy sons-of-bitches is probably not fixable (along with the idea that most people persistently misvalue items). [Game theorist is a more polite way of saying “con-man” I sometimes suspect]

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                • If you are asserting that our economy “certainly isn’t” a positive-sum game, then you are also asserting — necessarily and by definition — that we would on the whole be better off if no one performed any economic work at all.

                  I, on the other hand, assert that in general, people gain something by participating in the economy. Not always, but typically, and if you summed the utilities, they would be positive. Call me crazy — call me a “lay economist” even — but I suspect it’s better to have an economy than not to have one at all.

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                  • Jason, do you believe that, in the economy, even in the economy aggregated, it’s possible for someone to win at someone else’s expense? If so, it’s not a positive sum game. This doesn’t imply, to me or I suspect to most people, what you say it does. You’ve essentially said exactly what I said you were saying: it’s either a positive sum or a zero sum game. But it’s neither. Work can improve things, but some people get screwed while other people benefit, and in many cases, some people get screwed precisely because (that is, directly as a result of) other people benefiting.

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                    • Chris, you’re oversimplifying way too much. If someone somewhere can benefit at another’s expense in our economy, that doesn’t make the whole thing a zero sum game. It’s just one exchange within many billions of daily exchanges.

                      Is our economic system on net zero sum or positive sum? If it’s zero sum, then in fact we can’t do worse by simply shutting it down. But if simply shutting it down would make us, collectively, on net, worse off, then the system as a whole must be positive sum. Even if there are elements of it that are negative sum.

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                    • James, I’m not trying to argue that it’s a zero sum game. I’m trying to argue that it’s neither. I don’t think everyone benefits, but I don’t think the sum of all outcomes is negative or zero.

                      I’ll put it this way: like Jason, I think we’re better off now than we were 500 years ago, or even 100 years ago (hell, 20 years ago), at least in most cases, if only because of improvements in medicine. Whatever system we have (and it’s not just the market that has led to better medicine, but the market is part of it) has resulted in that improvement, even if there might have been other ways to get here from there. But that doesn’t make it a positive sum game. And the problem I have is with the binary thinking, which leads to a distortion of what people think.

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                    • To be clear: positive sum game: win-win (or at least possible win-win), in which your benefits do not affect mine.

                      Zero-sum game: whatever benefits you get have to be balanced by an equal deficit for me.

                      Neither is true. In reality, sometimes your benefits aren’t related to mine, sometimes they are, and sometimes yours result in deficits for me, sometimes we both benefit, sometimes we both lose, sometimes we both end up where we started. Sometimes, the amount you benefit lessens the amount I benefit. Sometimes it lessens my deficit. There are a bunch of these possible scenarios, but none of them are strict (or even approximate, really) positive or zero-sum.

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                    • Chris,

                      Your ability to condense 452 posts into such a summary is laudable. Talk about zero sum, by the end of the inequality week I was afraid Kimmy and MA were going to send a hitman to my house to take me out. I still blame JH for the whole affair.

                      “Neither is true…There are a bunch of these possible scenarios, but none of them are strict (or even approximate, really) positive or zero-sum.”

                      When I use the phrase positive sum*, I am implying that all parties directly involved benefited from it. I make no attempt to compare and calculate utilities, because it is pretty much impossible to do so in most cases.

                      Theoretically, it is possible that a win/lose interaction is still positive sum from some godlike utilitarian perspective. Big objective gains for one and insignificant losses for the other. In general though win/lose activities are messy and outrageously subjective. Even worse, the dynamic of win/lose interactions leads to arms races of attack and defense that self amplify into waste and destruction.

                      Therefore, I am a big fan of voluntary interactions where all participants expect to benefit from the activity and are capable of learning from the event. This is a positive sum interaction, and as James mentioned somewhere, the vast majority of free market interactions are of this kind. These create value. Every day we engage in billions of these positive sum actions and interactions. That is the source of most human prosperity.

                      With the advent of free markets about two hundred and fifty years ago**, we went from about a billion people living off the equivalent of two bucks a day living for about 35 years to what we have today. We gained prosperity, health, freedom, opportunity, literacy, and waxed dental floss. This is positive sum process. It is pretty much the most positive sum process in all of history, and is probably the most significant event to affect humanity.

                      * I refuse to ever use the term Pareto in polite company, as doing so makes me no longer sound like a “layperson”
                      ** It is more correct to say partially responsible, as science, cultural progress and institutional learning of various types all contributed.

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            • Yes. Also as mentioned to Kimmi, it is possible to have zero sum dimensions within larger positive sum games. Science, sports and free markets are loaded with zero sum dimensions. However, the rules in all three systems can be set so that the competition is fair and the process is constructive overall.

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              • The simple fact, Roger, is that the market, by its very nature, makes our fortunes connected. Cheaters, of course, make it a non-positive sum game, but even the rules make it such. But no one, that I know of at least, thinks it’s a zero sum game. It’s a straw man, something that I’m coming to see characterizes libertarian thinking as much as it characterizes the critics of libertarian thinking.

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                • I once wrote a guest post suggesting that economics was a positive sum game that many mistakenly view as zero sum. I got three or four comments that this was a straw man argument that nobody really believes and about a hundred comments that I was wrong and it really is zero sum.

                  To be more nuanced, one game of politics is to exaggerate the zero sum dimension (women are not paid fairly, the wealthy are taking advantage of us, dark skinned people want our jobs) and thus convince people to shift toward zero sum solutions in favor of “our side”. I am not even suggesting that markets are totally fair, any more than there is such a thing as a perfect circle. The moderate libertarian solution is to pursue the path that ensures it is as fair as practically possible. The zero sum path is to put our thumbs on the other side of the scale. The problem with the latter approach, is of course that pretty soon you’ve got thumbs everywhere and no working scales at all.

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              • I think calling it zero-sum rhetoric distorts it. The fact is, people get screwed, often by the government, and by the government’s connection to business in particular. This isn’t a zero-sum thing, but it sure as hell isn’t a positive sum thing either. And I see no reason why the left, or the right, shouldn’t talk about it.

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        • I haven’t noticed that, but then again, I suppose a smart person might contend that a game theorist isn’t exactly a lay economist.

          Fifteen different strategies on the board, some of them zero-sum, some actively negative-sum, and some positive-sum. The super-game is to set the rules so that the positive-sum strategies work out better than the negative-sum or zero-sum strategies.

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            • We get the most positive-sum type games when smart people get rewarded for their efforts. But this is just a fancypants way of saying that “risktakers” ought to get rewards for good bets.

              Our system right now is starting to crowd out those risktakers at the top. (there has always been some drag from the bottom — people who are clever, but have too much trouble amassing the requisite funds to put their money where their mouth is. I think this drag may actually be decreasing, judging by crowdsourcing, etc.)

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        • I don’t find either of us to have asserted that things are necessarily one or the other. Only that going from productive work to welfare is an example of a transition from one to the other.

          Which again, I find is exactly right.

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          • Once you change the nature of the game from a positive sum one to a zero sum one (or deceptively portray a positive sum game as a zero sum one), the path to success is to screw others and avoid being screwed oneself.

            This sentence certainly implies it’s either/or, or at least that’s the way the thinking goes. It skips a lot in between.

            Also, much of the “getting screwed” rhetoric on the Left has nothing to do with welfare. Hell, even Roger lists “equal pay for equal work” as an example.

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            • Just to be real clear. I am condemning the excesses of politics on both sides of the aisle. I am not suggesting that all politics is zero sum, or that one side is zero sum.

              And yes, I skipped a lot of stuff in between.

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          • Sure. And I should preface this by saying that I am making an assumption that you and Jason are against crony capitalism (well, no assumptions for Jason, I know he is); if I’m wrong, than this will certainly fall on deaf ears.

            That being said, what I mean is this:

            What I believe you saying is that when individuals complain that current laws favor those economically well off and disadvantage those on the bottom rungs, you dismiss such complaints because the economy is not really a zero sum game. That, perhaps, even if laws do favor one class over another, a rising tide and so forth.

            But I note that those that argue this on an individual level tend to balk at the same argument on an organizational level. The argument against crony capitalism – using legislation to fix outcomes in favor of well off, established high-donation organizations at the disadvantage of smaller, less established organizations, is the same as the argument above.

            Does that make more sense?

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            • “What I believe you saying is that when individuals complain that current laws favor those economically well off and disadvantage those on the bottom rungs, you dismiss such complaints because the economy is not really a zero sum game. That, perhaps, even if laws do favor one class over another, a rising tide and so forth.”

              I think it is pretty safe to say the libertarians on this site do not knowingly favor institutions and rules that favor some over others (at either an individual or institutional level). Our mantra tends to be for impartial, consistent rules that are not used to favor some over others.

              That said, we could be wrong on just how impartial and fair the basic rules would be. Also it is important to state that I agree the current rules are not impartial enough for us.

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              • I’m pretty sure I could find someone saying that the government shouldn’t tax unearned (non-salary) wealth at the same rate as salaried wealth. I’m pretty sure I could find someone around, who is willing to say that SS should continue to be capped at $100,000 (on the input end… so people making more money than that effectively get a tax break).

                The estate tax is something that Adam Smith would support (Though I do give Tester credit — there ought to be some exemption for family farms! someone making under the poverty line ought not to have their estate taxed at the same rate as billionaires)

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                • Kimmi,

                  I would not put much faith in that Adam Smith guy. They say he was a fan of disco and that German techno rock stuff, so his judgment is suspect.

                  As for things like income caps on social security and tax rates based upon types of income…. These are not free market rules. They are interferences with markets by government entities. Whether they are fair or not runs into Kazzy’s squishy issue.

                  Once you come up with a system to solve a problem based upon a coercive entity saying that “you will pay such and such, and you will pay this and that” and then allow and encourage the such and suches to fight it out with the this and that’s, then you have a zero sum game.

                  I can share the libertarian solution to this dilemma. Basically, it is to, where ever possible, make entering the game a voluntary affair, preferably one with lots of competing alternatives. James referenced it as Tiebout. The other libertarian solution is to keep the extent of political solutions as “thin” as possible.

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            • ” The argument against crony capitalism – using legislation to fix outcomes in favor of well off, established high-donation organizations at the disadvantage of smaller, less established organizations, is the same as the argument above.”

              What? No it isn’t!

              A neutrally-written rule which permits some persons to benefit more than others is not the same thing as knowingly and intentionally giving benefits to a specific person. It’s the difference between a ground-rule double, and a rule that says “if A-Rod hits the ball and he doesn’t fly out then he automatically advances to second base no matter where it goes”.

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      • “Unfair” is a squishy word. Ugh. What I meant is that folks are being screwed in such a way that justifies state intervention. Using extreme examples:

        1.) Legal protections for slave owners is the type of thing that would justify intervention.
        2.) Short people having little future in the NBA would not.

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      • Of course some are screwed. They are not screwed via voluntary and honest interactions between consenting adults without negative externalities though.

        That said, people can still be HARMED by lost opportunity as per above, just as every eligible woman on earth was harmed when Brad decided to marry Angelina ( and just as every eligible male was helped by taking Brad off the market).

        But I think James’ series on economics will get to this issue.

        Let me just say that the art of politics often devolves into convincing people they are being screwed even when they are not, thus enlisting the “victims” patronage in return for justice.

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        • So who’s not being screwed again?
          The average black person with a tenth of the wealth of the average white person?
          (possibly correct answer: “he was screwed way before he was born!”)
          That said, to have an even playing field, every citizen ought to have (or be able to make within a reasonable timeframe — three years? ten years?) enough wealth to be able to take risks and start businesses.

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          • There is nothing in fair rules that ensures equal outcomes. Indeed, guaranteed equal outcomes pretty much defines a staged game.

            There are quite a few possible explanations on why Jewish and Chinese Americans make more than “whites”. Different goals. Different values. Different cultures. Different time horizons or tisk tolerance. Different genetic dispositions. Different backgrounds. Institutional racism against whites, or for Jews and Chinese.

            I would not be too hasty to jump to the institutional racism explanation without at least first considering the others.

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            • Roger. I am not asking for Equal Outcomes. Merely a fair playing field [can I say “at birth”? that’s not exact, but it characterizes (and caricatures) my point]

              Jews make more than whites because they’re more urban. Same reason physicists make more money than doctors.

              I’ve seen the institutional racism research, and it’s at least decent (if a lot of people’s wealth derives from racist policies instituted well over 30 years ago… you’ve still got institutional racism’s residue.)

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        • “They are not screwed via voluntary and honest interactions between consenting adults without negative externalities though.”

          I find this to be either inaccurate or based on really skewed definitions of “voluntary” and “honest”.

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          • Yes, true statements are sometimes pretty much impossible to argue against. I don’t get how people can think that a voluntary and honest exchange without negative externalities could possibly result in someone getting screwed.

            So instead of focusing on how that’s just a tautology or something, if you want to make any fishing headway you need to present a good case for why one of those three conditions (voluntary, honest, no negative externalities) doesn’t hold.

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            • I don’t get how people can think that a voluntary and honest exchange without negative externalities could possibly result in someone getting screwed.

              I think Chris’s point was that there’s a lot of Scotsmen in those weeds.

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              • Yes, that was my point. I’m not sure that it’s possible to define voluntary, honest, and no negative externalities in such a way that it isn’t simply tautological, and in such a way that, with all the cases it excludes, we’re left with only a small portion of the “market.”

                The “negative externalities” part is probably the worst. I assume, for example, that any case in which the two parties are participate in an exchange voluntarily and honestly, but don’t have all the information, would be explained away with that (otherwise, it can never be the case that an exchange could have any risk associated with it, for example).

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                • I’m not sure that it’s possible to define voluntary, honest, and no negative externalities in such a way that it isn’t simply tautological,

                  Of course, but my point is that’s a criticism that wholly misses the point. We’re talking about an ideal type. It’s a basic assumption for the purposes of building a model of how an economy works. And then you relax the assumptions as you further develop it.

                  The fact that most things in the world don’t quite meet the standard of the assumption does not, however, either prove the invalidity or lack of value of the assumption, nor demonstrate that most of those things are so flawed as to not be practically representable by the ideal type.

                  If you actually began to keep track of all the economic transactions you engage in each week, and then analyzed them for their degree of involuntariness, dishonesty, and externalities, I think you’d find them extremely low on the first, pretty damned low on the second in most cases, and, well, difficult to calculate on the third, but where you’re most likely to get an uncomfortably high score, depending on what product you’re purchasing.

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                  • James, yeah, I get that it’s an ideal gas approach, and I don’t have any problem with it being used as such. Where I take issue is with using it to criticize people who point out that we live in a world with no ideal gases, which is what I take Roger to be doing.

                    Also, I sent you an email yesterday, but I’m afraid it was to an old email address (only one I had was from a few years ago, I think), so I just wanted to make sure it went through.

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                    • I think Roger’s probably seeing it as I’m seeing it. People who are looking at the reality of no ideal gases and seem to be saying, “there’re no gases at all!”

                      That is, it’s not binary, but I get the impression a lot of people are treating it as binary.

                      Re: Email. No, didn’t get it. Try my first initial and last name at adrian.edu. That’s the only email I check daily (and I didn’t find your message at the one I don’t check daily, either).

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                    • Yeah, saying there are no gases are stupid. I’m not sure many people actually say that, though. I mean, even in the ideological circle I run in, which is one that isn’t fond of the very idea of property to begin with, everyone admits that there are gases. They just think that you get closer to an ideal gas if you change things in certain radical ways.

                      Ah, I see what I did… I screwed up the address. I was a bit sleep deprived yesterday.

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                    • Yeah, I think they’re pretty wrong about the effect of those radical changes. I’ve got no problem with truth in advertising laws and the like, but the radicals usually work to hard to create particular outcomes as opposed to ensuring a proper process.

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              • That was my point on a previous thread, that nearly any encounter can be termed voluntary if you trace the line of decisions far enough back:

                Child support payments are voluntary…because 18 years ago you freely chose to have sex;

                Taxes are voluntary….because you chose to live in this city, knowing they might enact a tax.

                So when the definitions get so easily pliable, they start to lose their ability to actually define things.

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                • LWA,

                  I’m sure there is a name for the fallacy of logic you are using, but the name doesn’t spring to mind. What you are arguing is that there are tough cases or shades of gray, therefore the distinction in total isnt useful.

                  There is another cultural institution which evolved alongside relatively free markets. It is called common law, and it is designed to answer these types of tough questions.

                  That said, it is really not too hard to determine whether most interactions are voluntary or not. It is also usually easy to identify the inverse — actions where an individual was prohibited from doing something, or was required to do something against its will.

                  If the rules of the road are that the father of a child is responsible for child support, then the act of fathering a child bears responsibility, just as driving a car entails responsibilities for damages incurred by doing so. The voluntary act of moving into a community entails accepting the responsibilities of paying the taxes that go with it. Furthermore, the existence of alternative tax districts via freedom to enter and compete with the tax district is also a signal of freedom. The problem with freedom isn’t the existence of taxation, it is the act of establishing a monopoly on taxation by prohibiting voluntary cooperation.

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                  • No, I’m going to take LWA’s position and run with it. Ultimately there are no voluntary actions. Whatever may seem like a voluntary action at the time only leads down the road to involuntary actions.

                    So everything, ultimately, is voluntary. Therefore everything is regulable, because we’re only making more things that are involuntary, and everything else is voluntary.

                    Ergo, all government actions are legitimate.

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            • So I come in and ask for a loan. You take note that I’m X Y and Z, and assign me a loan rate based on that. Since I want it, I decide to take it.

              If your X Y and Z are discriminatory, in such a way that the exact same person with say, a different gender/skin color, would get different loan rates… what principle here is being violated?

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              • None. It’s a voluntary transaction. You obviously wanted the loan at that rate. They obviously wanted to lend you the money at that rate. You’re both better off. End of principled discussion.

                If you find out later that a man would have gotten the same loan at two points less, well, so what? You’re no worse off than you would be if he paid the same rate as you. You’re only mad because the liberals have got you so worked up with that gender equality crap.

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              • Kazzy,

                I do not.

                They are called theft, fraud, rape, murder, embezzlement and so on.

                Significant externalities need to be accounted for in the rules or via property rights and courts.

                There is also the issue of imperfect information, aka “making mistakes.”.

                I am in absolutely no way, shape or form suggesting that zero sum or exploitative relationships are rare. They are commonplace. That is why we recommend a “thin” set of consistent, impartial rules which prohibit win/lose interactions and which foster voluntary and honest ones.

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                • No, no. Following LWA again, being defrauded is voluntary because you initially voluntarily agreed to make an exchange with the defrauder.

                  Or theft. You didn’t like it that somebody stole your car? Well you voluntarily chose to have a car that somebody else would like enough to steal.

                  The free market position, as outlined by LWA, is that every exchange that ever happens, in any way whatsoever, is ultimately voluntary and therefore totally legitimate.

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                • Roger,

                  Let’s use a real world example: the folks who would be granted citizenship via the DREAM Act. These are folks who, if deported, people on the left might identify as being “screwed”. Their offer to these folks is legislation like the DREAM Act.

                  It is easy to determine the level of screwing that happens in some situations. But in others, like this, it is much harder.

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                    • It seemed to me that you were saying that everyone “the left” claims is being screwed is not really being screwed.

                      (You also seemed to give the impression that those who “the right” claim are being screwed are also not really being screwed, but you seemed to focus on “the left”.)

                      If I misunderstood this, than I’m not sure we are arguing.

                      I am definitely “of the left”. I think there are a number of people being screwed. I think some of these screwees can and should be supported (not necessarily financially, but with things to minimize/eliminate the screwing) by the government; others would require broader societal shifts that I’m not sure the government can or should be involved in.

                      Personally, I think one of the biggest issues we face is the extent to which the “greed principle” has become a foundational value for our society. The problem is… most any government “solution” to this scares me far more than the status quo.

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                    • Kazzy,

                      To restate my initial comment in different words….

                      Political parties thrive on convincing people to see themselves as victims in a zero sum game. Thus they accentuate and exaggerate the zero sum dimensions of life. They present free enterprise as a zero sum game, they present prosperity as a struggle between classes, they tell women they are paid less than their fair rate and actually get people to think this makes sense.

                      Then they fix all this with top down master plans and rules. We will require equal pay. We will make this group pay more and let this one pay less. We will protect jobs. We will make sure your race gets what the other race has.

                      The net effect of this is to convert greatly positive sum processes between consenting adults an converting it into zero sum, win lose political micromanagement. The process self amplifies. The more they assume control or meddle, the more it does become zero sum.

                      This is the path to long term demise. The way to kill prosperity is to convert positive sum processes into zero or negative sum processes. Both parties are guilty. Though perhaps not equally so.

                      I am not suggesting there are no victims. People are stolen from, lied to, taken advantage of and so forth. This should be prohibited of course.

                      I used the analogy though of fixing outcomes by placing ones thumb on the scales. This contributes more to the problem than it does to the solution. If I was to guess this is where you and I most part ways.

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    • All the discussion about zero sum/ positive sum seems to rest on this assumption:

      IF only we have a level playing field, neutral regulations and laws, equal opportunities and purely voluntary engagements so on and so forth, THEN the outcome- any outcome- would be acceptable.

      That is pretty flawed, both from a utility and moral standpoint.

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      • LWA,

        You knew I would disagree, right?

        The game needs to be a productive one. It is not enough that it be fair.

        Free markets are productive problem solving systems. Insert token Hayek quotes and links here. The point of markets is that they are indeed net positive sum processes that create value such as higher standards of living, longer lives, more freedom and so forth for the participants collectively referred to as consumers. If the system led to massive poverty, illiteracy, death and Internet spam, then there would be no point to supporting it.

        We owe our lives, our existence and our happiness to free markets. All hail free markets, for moral and utilitarian reasons.

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        • I see Americans as headed toward a large elderly population, in deep or extreme poverty (or, alternately, taking all the jobs and never retiring…).
          I can explain to you how markets are aiding and abetting this, and how the fallacy that “good clean decisions” automatically lead to “good results in the future…” plays out.

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      • a level playing field, neutral regulations and laws, equal opportunities and purely voluntary engagements so on and so forth, THEN the outcome- any outcome- would be acceptable.

        Explain why it’s so flawed from a moral or utility standpoint.

        And explain how we can be certain that a system of intervention will enhance the morality/utility of the entire system, rather than diminish it. Because surely no matter how flawed system X is, system Y has to be better than it with some certainty–not just some possibility–before we adopt it.

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  14. Are you upset how he said it, or do you disagree that at least half the nation, or lightly more, expects something in the form of “welfare” from government? This includes Big, Protected Corporations, the defense industry, Banks, receivers of grants, subsidies of all sorts for gree energy, subsidies to media networks, poor people, middle class people, old people. I’m just asking — is it true or false that more and more Americans are becoming dependent on government, and the party that best gives the most Americans what they want will stay in power?

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    • Assuming that your assertion is correct (and I certainly argue that it is), than what I would say would be that how he said it is counterproductive.

      I think if greater fiscal responsibility is to come, it will only come from getting buy in from people across the board – and in order for that to happen, I think something along the lines of what you say here is the winning argument. “Look at all of this people and organizations across the spectrum that are getting “stuff” (to use O’Reilly’s word). It’s nice but we can’t afford it in the long term.”

      I think ignoring huge swaths of those recipients and instead pointing fingers at a single subset will fall on deaf ears to the unconverted – and I think trying to demonize any one group on the other side while rhetorically pretending groups on your side aren’t equally to blame actually makes getting a consensus on fiscal responsibility exponentially more difficult.

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    • It is a stupid thing to say. Full stop.

      There are two possibilities. One possibility, it is true. It still is a stupid thing to say, because it alienates the voters that O’Reilly’s viewers would like to attract to their vision for America, thus making that vision harder to realize.

      The other possibility, what O’Reilly said is false. In which case it is stupid to the second power.

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      • And another thing – my focus on demographics is not cynical. I really believe that democracy works best, especially for liberals, when all demographic groups are well represented. The dumb dead end that O’Reilly et al. are leading their demographic into is isolating them, and will ultimately leave them far too marginalized.

        In other words, I hate O’Reilly not because he helps my political adversaries, but because he wounds my political adversaries.

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    • 1. Whether “the party that best gives the most Americans what they want will stay in power” is a tautological question. By definition, the party that best gives people what they want wins an election in any democracy. The question is what do the people want.

      2. In no small part, the reason the Right is in such deep trouble is that its answer to this question is, in effect, “those people want handouts and nothing else; our people want to keep the fruit of their labor and nothing else.”

      3. We are all dependent on government in at least some respect, and always have been, whether we’re talking about infrastructure or protection of property rights, or whatever. What has perhaps changed or increased over the years is the scope or nature of what we depend on government for. But for most individuals in this country, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or, yes, political affiliation, depending on government for as little as possible is a goal to be striven for. It’s just that, for many, it’s not a realistic goal or is a goal that plays second or third fiddle to more pressing interests and goals. The fact is there aren’t many people on welfare who run around thinking about how awesome their lives are because they can just sit at home and do nothing. Are there some who do? Sure, but not many.

      Of course, the calculus is different for corporate welfare and subsidies – corporations exist to make a profit, and for no other reason (though they too often act as if they exist solely to make short-term profit rather than sustainable long-term profit, but that’s another story); for corporate entities, the party that will best serve them often really does boil down to a question of which party will give them the most free stuff. But corporate entities don’t vote, even if they can try to persuade people to vote in their interests.

      The assumption of so many on the Right that the reason most individuals vote for Democrats is that they just want more free stuff is absurd and condescending, to say the least. The fact is that most folks who vote for Democrats do so because they have interests that go far beyond how much free cash they get from the government, not in spite of those interests. Until the Right understands what those other interests are, they will continue to find the size of their tent shrinking a little bit every year.

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    • I’m really sick of all those senior citizens living on Social Security and not paying income taxes! They make up, what, a third of the 47%? And we all know how well Obama does with those old fogies!

      Also, sick of soldiers. Not paying income taxes because they’re not paid enough! Screw those guys!

      And kids! Where the hell do kids get off, not paying income taxes?

      There you go — well over half the “47%” — old people, soldiers, and kids. Those lazy good for nothings.

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    • People want something for nothing? STOP THE PRESSES!

      Or don’t, because it’s not news. Almost all the railroad builders of the 19th century got subsidies. Every factory that’s near an interstate is effectively getting a subsidy. Every business that’s gotten a special tax break to locate in a community has gotten a tax break. Heck, the American shipping industry in the early 19th century got a subsidy by having the Marines take on the pirates at public expense.

      And I’m pretty sure that MFarmer would agree with all, or at least most, of that. My point is that there’s nothing new here. 2012 (or 2008-2012, or 1994-2012, or any other time period) is not fundamentally different than any time period in the past. All that changes is who manages to have enough political clout to manage to get some o’ the something. Roll back the clock and we don’t eliminate the handouts, we just restrict them to those who got into the game earlier.

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  15. What I find most interesting is the assumption that the chance of response #1 being spoken (or written) to others is low. The truth is, it’s actually something that’s said frequently, in front of cameras and microphones. And Bill O’Reilly is hardly the most high-profile person to say it – newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum both voiced similar views while at the height of popularity in the GOP primaries. Mitt Romney stated it outright in a infamous leaked video, and implied that the audience at his NAACP speech wanted “free stuff”. And of course, it’s a very popular sentiment among the AM radio crowd – Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and the like love it.

    I won’t say that all republicans are racist or sexist, but I also won’t state that such bigotry is uncommon among high-profile republicans.

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  16. “2. In no small part, the reason the Right is in such deep trouble is that its answer to this question is, in effect, “those people want handouts and nothing else; our people want to keep the fruit of their labor and nothing else.” ”

    So, this is what the Right is saying. I was wondering what they were saying.

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    • Yep, I googled “What is the Right saying?” and the search results confirm that they are saying “those people want handouts and nothing else, nothing else at all, not a thing, and our people want to keep the fruit of our labor and nothing else, nothing, nada, zero, squat, just the fruit of our labor and that’s all.”

      It’s reported that they are saying it in the south, nowhere else, nowhere, not anywhere else, with a slang, and nothing else, nothing but a slang.

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      • The key phrase was “in effect.”

        Then again, what distinguished O’Reilly’s comments above, Newt Gingrich’s comments during the debates about the NAACP and Romney’s 47% comments is that they didn’t beat around the bush but instead make this claim pretty explicitly. I could find plenty more examples, including claims made by commenters at this very site, doing the same, so maybe I didn’t need to use the phrase “in effect.”

        Simply put, if you’re dividing the electorate into roughly half of the folks who are deemed “takers” and half who are not while insisting that the “taker” half will always vote for a single party because they are the “taker” half, you’re quite explicitly saying that the only thing they care about is getting handouts.

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        • As self-professed socialist allowed 100 years ago,

          “A government with the policy to rob Peter to pay Paul can be assured of the support of Paul.”

          This is not an opinion or a politics, it’s a law of nature. I don’t even see why we’re litigating it.

          Roger’s argument on the other thread is the only reasonable alternate avenue to Peter v. Paul.

          https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2012/11/its-the-party-stupid-ctd-how-we-deal-with-the-peccadillos-is-actually-pretty-important-too/#comment-404915

          I have nowt to add.

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              • Returning to Clinton era tax rates raises $~70 billion, chicken feed. It’s a cosmetic issue.

                https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2012/11/its-the-party-stupid-ctd-how-we-deal-with-the-peccadillos-is-actually-pretty-important-too/#comment-403881

                The argument is there, should you wish to engage it. Which would be nice, MarkT, because not a single fishing person has.

                Communitarianism cannot work alongside ressentiment. You want to have a principled exchange, we need to get the scalpels out and drop the hammers. As long as there’s a disconnect between giving and taking—and there is—the fiscal cliff awaits, and our disconnect is that “handouts” aren’t seen as charity or fellow-feeling, they’re seen as justice.

                You Are Owed.

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                    • Reread my comment that started this part of the exchange above, no. 196. I get what you’re saying; it just has absolutely nothing to do with what I’m saying, unless it is your position that those on the Right are inherently Peter and those on the Left are inherently Paul, in which case you’re not refuting my point, you’re proving it.

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                    • No, MarkT, many on the left are Robin Hood, and freely give away other people’s money with no thought of keeping more than a modest transaction fee for themselves.

                      ;-)

                      And there have been exit poll splits flying around LoOG today that BHO nailed the under-$50K vote, no? And $40K or below, regardless of the quibbling about paying no income tax but still paying payroll taxes, do such folks really think of themselves as Peter, complaining about their tax burden? I mean really?

                      I guess we’ll settle this on TV, my fellow Republican, unless you have some helpful stats. I’m open to the argument that “Peter” doesn’t real exist, nor “Paul” for that matter. I surely do recognize that there are beaucoup GOP voters on welfare and food stamps and what-have-you. Still, the stats flying around here indicate they’re the minority of the “Paul” vote.

                      So I’m agreeing that there’s not a one-to-one correlation between people on the dole and Democratic voters. That would be too facile. Still, a Dem is not going to win her party’s nomination campaigning on entitlement reform whereas a Republican can’t win his without it.

                      “The era of big government is over.”—President Clinton, STFU SOTU speech 1996

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                    • In my opinion as one of those making less than 30k a year, Obama won among the lower income folks because we can see what he is going to do for us and our descendents to make it possible for us to move up the ladder. looking at the R ticket and their philosophy i could not see how they were going to make it possible. cutting taxes, deregulating everything in sight, and cutting college loans while spending more on DOD does not give me a path. unless I can con the DOD to spend some of that green on my secret anti-terrorist weapon program.

                      Just wanting gov to provide ladders when the private sector has failed does not make us takers. it makes us human. If we cant help the sections of society that is hurting/disadvantaged through gov, then through what? the fairy dust of privatization has yet to lead us all to paradise.

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                    • Russell,

                      I didn’t vote GOP either, but I pretty much disagree with just about every comment you made.

                      First, and most importantly, it was indeed the “fairy dust” of free markets which blessed you and me with incomes in the $30 k range. These levels of income, which are lowest quintile in America for a family of two or three, are still ten to fifteen times higher than the pre free markets standard of living for the average person. If you knew what life was like for 99.9% of humanity, you would discover that your standard of living is virtual paradise to them. Please do not take this for granted.

                      The left talks a better game than the right, I will grant you that, but it is no better for those of us such as you and I at providing a ladder.

                      College loans and grants seem like a great idea, until we realized that the way they are structured just feeds the administrators and faculty of colleges to extract higher rents. It is a game of pretending to subsidize artificially high prices which were caused by the loans themselves. Some ladder.

                      On education, the left has done nothing for decades at driving net improvement in cost effective education. Scores have frozen in place for over a generation, while costs have doubled as schools became a haven for rent seeking activity under the guise of teachers unions and administrators. This is pathetic exploitation. Reverse robin hood, with inner city kids being the ones robbed of a future.

                      Government workers have designed a similar exploitation scheme by demanding unfunded pensions which taxpayers — especially those of the left– are being snookered with. Two or three trillion in ladder destruction. To pervert Thatcher’s line, “Giggle, giggle, we haven’t run out of other people’s money quite yet!”

                      Income taxes as a share of income were cut more for us than for the wealthy. I no longer pay any income tax at all….nada.

                      As for lower capital gains taxes, these are essential at ensuring capital investment and entrepreneurial activity necessary for creating jobs for us and our kids. The problem with deficits isn’t too low of taxes it is too high of spending, and failure to address the spending side will eventually cut off the wealth producing stream of free enterprise. The left certainly has not been better than the right at curtailing spending, especially at state levels. The Blue states are among the worst in school inefficiency and government worker pension obligations. I live in Illinois, and I have no clue how we are going to pay for these shenanigans.

                      Big government and excessive regulation and us vs. them rhetoric is the source of our stagnation. A vote for the left is every bit as much a vote for the problem as is a vote for the right.

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                    • Rodger,

                      I think i may quibble a bit here with you.

                      the first point on how it is the fairy dust that makes my level of income possible: I think it is the march of tech progress that makes my life better than the finest middle ages king or Arab sultan. and most of the shiny magic boxes i use and enjoy exist because the gov funded the research. most drugs we take? started with gov funding. hell the internets come from darpa.

                      Point 2: the collage loans and such. and the offhand teacher bashing. I agree that the current way we fund college is insane. i much preferred when we funded state university’s just out of the budget so individual cost is low. sure private college can charge whatever they want but for mass education just funding it up front like primary and secondary education makes the most sense, cost wise and good of society wise.

                      As to the backhand swipe at the educators tell me why is it their fault when a kid does not learn. all education reformers ever seem to do is tell us teachers unions are the problem, all we have to do is break their union, make them take lower pay and slash the benefits the have fairly negotiated, and poof! due to the magic of incentive all our schools will be halls of knowledge. I seem to remember that you get what you pay for. how can making the job of educating our children less rewarding possibly attract better talent? how does teaching to the test instead of teaching kids to think make education better? rote memorization in not education.

                      Point the third:Gov Pensions. mostly empty whining on this one i think. the pensions you don’t like used to be the standard in the private sector too, until corporations realized you can clear more profit if you switch to a 401K instead of good old defined benefit pensions. mostly because they figured that because SS was there, why not hose the work force? bigger profits now and the poor suckers who end up paying for it don’t have a seat on the board. the government is just less dickish on their retirement pay than the private sector.

                      Point the Fourth: Cap Gains taxes
                      I really don’t see why using money to make more money deserves extra special tax treatment Vs. Me using my physical body and time to make money. I really don’t. the carried interest loophole is a particularly bad example. A hedge fund manager get paid to do his job but because his job is to pick stocks he deserves special tax treatment? And the notion that having the capital GAINS rate at 30% instead of 15% will cause investment to dry up is hogwash. It did not cause investment to die off in Clinton’s term. it will not now. there is just no evidence that constantly lowering taxes makes the economy grow. the CBO said as much before the Senate Republicans had a sad and forced them to retract the report.

                      As a last point i don’t think big government is a real problem. we have a big a government as we want and need. it sucks but this is a large diverse country and we need a Big government to run this country. I also don’t think that most regulations are excessive. the government does not just pass new regulations for the fun of it. most regulations are in response to a crisis or a massive business failure.

                      us Vs. Them rhetoric being the cause of our problems? i think the problem is that you cant get both sides to work with the same facts on any issues. i know there are people on the left fully convinced that 9-11 was an inside job by President Bush and co. and some on the right that are convinced that President Obama is a keynan marxist islamofascist. I think a great deal of that is the mass public distrust of our own government and a willingness on the part of the public to disbelieve any facts that don’t support their view. it’s sad that most people have no faith in government.

                      And thinks for the response. I think that why i like it here. even when ya disagree with some one you can talk without poking too many sticks in ones anothers eyes.

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                    • Hi Russell,

                      Thanks for the response.

                      I agree that science, technology and markets advanced together to create modern prosperity. Indeed. They self amplified each other. Furthermore all three progress via the same basic and greatly decentralized process.  Experiment to solve problems, then replicate and spread the solutions, then combine, ratchet and build upon them. Lather rinse and repeat.   

                      That said, the question then shifts to how much government funded R&D contributes to the process.  I agree with OECD’s 2003 study SOURCES OF ECONOMIC GROWTH where the data reveals that the net effect of government R&D is negative. It is cost ineffective and actually crowds out the remarkably cost effective private research.  The best narrative on the issue historically and by country can be found in Terrence Kealey’s brilliant book, SEX, SCIENCE and PROFITS.

                      On schools, I have no issue with teachers, just rent seeking government run and coerced monopolists. All the teachers I know are great people. I will blame the institutions.  My issue is simply that unlike private industry in relatively unregulated industries, there has been negative net efficiency gains in education.  This is pretty much expected though in any field that has been captured by special interest groups by cutting out competition.  Despite massive gains in computers and telecommunications, somehow it costs twice as much adjusted for inflation to educate a kid today as thirty years ago. This is wrong in so many ways, and the left is as complicit as any in the crime. 

                      Your comment that the three trillion in underfunded pensions is proof that the government is “less dickish” than private firms is kinda funny in a Scrooge McDuck sort of way.  Longer term profit rates are established via competition between rival firms in the marketplace. I don’t care which version of pension firms offer to their employees (which they compete amongst themselves for), as long as they adequately disclose the liabilities and are reasonably assured of meeting their obligation.  And this is exactly what is wrong with government pensions, indeed it is worse.  Politicians, especially on the left, gave political rewards to workers in exchange for their political support by hiding the cost under bad accounting tricks. Politicians screwed you and me to get votes and sweet retirement packages for those that helped them fleece us.  

                      I agree that constantly lowering taxes is silly, especially when we keep constantly spending more on all the government befuddled health care, schooling, college loans, pensions and military crap. That said, capital gains is totally different than labor. Capital is an investment in productivity. It has to be adjusted for time and inflation and risk. I believe workers would be better if capital gains were taxed at zero than at 30%. Economists are not in total agreement on this though,especially since some believe in using taxes to redistribute income. For the record I do not believe hedge fund managers salaries or stock options should be taxed as capital gains either. 

                      Obviously  I do not agree that “we have as big a government as we want and need.” I do not believe we need to spend twice as much on Education for the same results as thirty years ago. I don’t want to owe three trillion dollars so politicians can hand out the goodies to stay in power. I don’t want or need to enlighten the people of the middle east with representative democracy as delivered at the tip of a bayonet. My son, a medic who just returned from Iraq, feels the same.

                      As for the comment that “most regulations are in response to a crisis or a massive business failure,” this is wishful thinking.  I will agree that some regulation is a result of business failure, but most of that backfires and leads to even more failure. All I can think of is the entire libraries full of stupid ass insurance regulations that we had to negotiate to operate in 50 states.  It was Rube Goldberg device that did nothing but add costs and reduce real competition and efficiency. 

                      By the way, I really like your responses too. You will find that we snipe at each other a bit, but over time we secretly get to like and respect each other. I especially like your arguments on capital gains and government R&D (which is my way of saying these are my arguments which I am least confident of and thus most value push back on). Last week there was a big discussion on voting ID.  Even though I argued with the left the whole time, they were able to extensively educate me on how naive I was on the topic.  

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