Greetings from Obamaland…Oops, I Mean Greece

March 29, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

It’s easy to mistake the two; Obama has us well down the same road.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

As much as I condemn American politicians for bad policy, things could be worse.

We could be Greek citizens, which would be very depressing. Indeed, you’ll understand why I put Obamaland in the title after you read today’s column.

Simply stated, Greece is a cesspool of statism. The people seem to be wonderful (at least outside of polling booths), but government intervention is pervasive and atrocious.

Here’s an example. As I was coming in a taxi from the airport to the city yesterday, we passed some sort of protest. There were a couple of hundred people at the rally and probably about 50 riot cops.

I naturally wondered about the situation, expecting that it was radical statists or some of the crazies from Golden Dawn. But the cab driver explained that it was pharmacists.

So why are pharmacists protesting? I found out from some of the locals at…

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Time for a Free-Market Postal System

March 25, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Revisiting one of my pet peeves: privatizing our hugely inefficient and money-losing postal service. In this case, Mitchell presents Britain’s success at doing just that.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

It’s not often that I agree with the Washington Post , but a government-run monopoly is not the best way to get mail delivered.

Moreover, it’s not often that I agree with the timid (and sometimes reprehensible) Tory-led government in the United Kingdom, but they just put the Royal Mail into the private sector. And that’s something deserving of loud applause.

Here’s a slice of the big news from the Financial Times.

The goal of privatising Royal Mail had defeated governments for 40 years. …Even prime minister Margaret Thatcher balked at the political risk of selling off a public service that carried the Queen’s head on its stamps. This time, the legislation went through parliament.

My Cato colleague, Chris Edwards, is suitably impressed.

Here’s some of what he wrote for Cato-at-Liberty.

Britain privatized its Royal Mail in 2013, proceeding with an initial public offering of shares that raised about…

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Social Democratic Sweden headed for private health insurance?

January 22, 2014
Wave of the future?

Wave of the future?

The poster-child for European social democracy seems to be learning that government-controlled healthcare just doesn’t work. Via Reason:

According to Sweden’s insurance trade industry organization, Svensk Försäkring:

“The number of private health care insurance policies has increased in recent years. In 2011 about 440,000 people had private health care insurance. Most of these people have their policy paid by their employer.”

The trend continues, with the English-language The Local reporting last week that “One in ten Swedes now has private health insurance.” The site also says, “More than half a million Swedes now have private health insurance,” though that seems to refer to the growth in the number of policies, with many more of the country’s 9.5 million people actually covered by private insurance.

Why the growth? From The Local:

“‘It’s quicker to get a colleague back to work if you have an operation in two weeks’ time rather than having to wait for a year,” privately insured Anna Norlander told Sveriges Radio on Friday. “It’s terrible that I, as a young person, don’t feel I can trust the health care system to take care of me.’”

In a separate article about Sweden’s shrinking welfare state, The Local also noted that “visitors are sometimes surprised to learn about year-long waiting times for cancer patients.”

There’s more about Sweden’s move away from Socialism and toward free-market solutions. I’ve written about this trend myself, with regard to education and prosperity in general.

Like many people living on either coast, I have friends who are downright Europhiliac — anything Europe does is better, wiser, and more fair than what’s done in the United States, and we should move toward their model.

I can’t wait to tell my progressive friends how Sweden proves they’re right.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


A Manifesto for Free Markets in Health Care

December 27, 2013

Phineas Fahrquar:

A radical proposal, but I’m willing to give it a shot.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

Not counting humor-oriented pieces such as this and this, it’s been nearly a month since I’ve written about Obamacare.

To make up for this oversight, today we’re going to look at a way out of the Obamacare mess.

But the goal isn’t simply to repeal the President’s bad policy. That merely gets us back to where we were in 2009. We need to figure out how to restore market forces to healthcare, and that means undoing decades of misguided government intervention.

Fortunately, we have a roadmap thanks to John Cochrane, a Cato adjunct scholar and Professor at the University of Chicago. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, he explains how radical deregulation is the right approach.

He starts with an essential point that “settled law” doesn’t mean unchangeable law.

…proponents call it “settled law,” but as Prohibition taught us, not even a constitutional amendment is settled…

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The Chilean Miracle Shows that Economic Liberty is the Best Way of Helping Ordinary People

June 9, 2013

Phineas Fahrquar:

But try to explain to progressives that privatized Social Security accounts, school choice, and other free market are empirically far better for the average citizen than statist solutions, and they’ll look at you as if you’re at best mad and, more likely, downright evil.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

I’m in Vienna, Austria, for the annual European Resource Bank meeting.

I had the pleasure last night of listening to Jose Pinera speak about economic reform in Chile, particularly the system of personal retirement accounts.

He shared a chart that conclusively shows why good economic policy makes a difference.

Chile Miracle

Wow. Look at how much faster the economy has grown since the communists were ousted in 1975 and replaced by a pro-market government.* And the poverty rate has plummeted from 50 percent to 11 percent!

Simply stated, economic reform has been hugely beneficial to poor and middle-class people in Chile. Something to remember as we try to rein in the welfare state in America.

Let’s look at some more data. A couple of years ago, I shared this chart showing how Chile had out-paced Argentina and Venezuela. In other words, Chile’s performance is ultra-impressive, whether examined in isolation or…

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March 30, 2013

Phineas Fahrquar:

This is a very interesting study. I’m sorry to say my beloved California comes in only at second place in “most un-free” states, behind New York. Come on, Sacramento! I’m sure you can do more to screw this place up! I have faith in you.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

Sometimes I myopically focus on fiscal policy, implying that the key to prosperity is small government.

But I’ll freely admit that growth is maximized when you have small government AND free markets.

That being said, our goal should be to expand freedom, not merely to have the largest possible GDP.

Which is why the Freedom Index is a good complement to Economic Freedom of the World.

It shows, for instance, that Singapore may be ranked #2 for economic freedom, but it is only #39 when you look at all freedoms.

We also have a comprehensive ranking of economic and personal freedom for the 50 states.

Here are the full rankings from the newly released Freedom in the 50 States from the Mercatus Center, showing North Dakota as the state with the most freedom, with South Dakota (#2), Tennessee (#3), New Hampshire (#4), and Oklahoma (#5) also deserving…

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March 9, 2013

Phineas Fahrquar:

Try as I might, I just cannot get some of my liberal friends to understand that punishing productive behavior with higher taxes is just bad policy. They just fall back behind their magic word, “fairness.” Sigh.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

I’ve spent a lot of time debunking class-warfare tax policy, and I’ve certainly explained ’til I’m blue in the face that big government facilitates a pernicious form of corruption that enriches powerful and well-connected insiders.

But I haven’t spent much time addressing the topic of income inequality, which is connected to those two other issues.

U.S. News & World Report just weighed in on this issue, citing a leftist video designed to build support for redistributionist policies.

Occupy is by now forgotten (if not gone), but the top 1 percent came roaring back into view this week with a viral video that has been seemingly inescapable for anyone on Facebook or Twitter. The slick, graph-heavy animation shows the results of a 2011 study that found not only that Americans vastly underestimate wealth inequality in the U.S. but that current inequality is very far from what most Americans see…

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September 29, 2012

Phineas Fahrquar:

Chile is a good model for what we should do; the problem is to get the Left to listen to facts, rather than their ideological fantasies.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

I wrote back in July about the remarkable transformation of Chile into a prosperous market economy.

In that post, I noted that Chile was a pioneer in the shift from unsustainable tax-and-transfer entitlement schemes to savings-based personal retirement accounts. And with good reason. That system, which has been in place for more than three decades, is hugely successful.

We should do the same thing in America, and we should do it yesterday, if not sooner.

But Chile’s success is driven by more than just pension reform. And I want to mention something remarkable about what’s happening with school choice in that country.

Jose Pinera – Freedom Fighter

First, some background. I’m currently at a Cato Institute donor retreat, where I had the chance to talk to Jose Pinera, who is now the Co-chairman of Cato’s Project on Social Security Choice, but who also was the person who implemented…

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July 19, 2012

Phineas Fahrquar:

Good illustration of what actually works to build prosperity, unlike Keynesian nonsense. Also, an interesting note about Sweden and the Netherlands adopting school choice — vouchers.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

One of the reasons why this blog is called International Liberty is that the world is a laboratory, with some nations (such as France) showing why statism is a mistake, other jurisdictions (such as Hong Kong) showing that freedom is a key to prosperity, and other countries (such as Sweden) having good and bad features.

It’s time to include Chile in the list of nations with generally good policies. That nation’s transition from statism and dictatorship to freedom and prosperity must rank as one of the most positive developments over the past 30 years.

Here’s some of what I wrote with Julia Morriss for the Daily Caller. Let’s start with the bad news.

Thirty years ago, Chile was a basket case. A socialist government in the 1970s had crippled the economy and destabilized society, leading to civil unrest and a military coup. Given the dismal situation…

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Relax! You’re not illiterate, you’re a victim with rights!!

January 2, 2012

Just because you failed to get your high school diploma or go back for a GED, don’t worry. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said that employers who require a high-school diploma of applicants may be violating the Americans with Disabilities Act:

Employers are facing more uncertainty in the wake of a letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission warning them that requiring a high school diploma from a job applicant might violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The development also has some wondering whether the agency’s advice will result in an educational backlash by creating less of an incentive for some high school students to graduate.

The “informal discussion letter” from the EEOC said an employer’s requirement of a high school diploma, long a standard criterion for screening potential employees, must be “job-related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity.” The letter was posted on the commission’s website on Dec. 2.

Employers could run afoul of the ADA if their requirement of a high school diploma “‘screens out’ an individual who is unable to graduate because of a learning disability that meets the ADA’s definition of ‘disability,’” the EEOC explained.

The commission’s advice, which does not carry the force of law, is raising alarms among employment-law professionals, who say it could carry far-reaching implications for businesses.

The EEOC of course disputes that this will have any far reaching affect in hiring  practices or discouraging people from  finishing high school. But… we know better. When a government regulatory agency rumbles, the first thing businesses do is try to figure out how to comply so they can avoid being sued. In this case, it would mean reevaluating each position to see if it really, really required a high school diploma to perform. And that costs money that could otherwise be required to expand a business and hire more people.

And I can already imagine the late-night commercials from plaintiff’s lawyers lining up for the inevitable discrimination lawsuits (and settlement fees).

“No job? No diploma? No problem! Call our attorneys at Dewey, Fleesem, and Howe, where we’re fighting for your rights!”

Now some may say I’m being unfair, because the EEOC’s discussion letter is aimed at discrimination against people whose disabilities prevent them from finishing high school. Yeah, well, I think I have a reason to be skeptical of the definition of “disability” when that same EEOC can define alcoholism as a protected disability and sue employers to prevent them from firing drunk truck drivers.

While a high school diploma isn’t worth what it used to be, having become so common, it does still demonstrate a basic level of achievement and education; it doesn’t seem at all unreasonable to require one for most jobs. We’re not talking about discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, or religion, but an assumed minimum set of skills and learning ability.

What does seem unreasonable is the further expansion of government bureaucracy into the everyday workings of the economy, a place where it causes more problems than it ever fixes.

via The Jawa Report

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The Great Norwegian Butter Crisis

December 23, 2011

Apparently there’s a country-wide shortage of butter in Norway, just as Christmas approaches and everyone needs butter for their Christmas cakes. The horror!

Anyway, some insensitive American comics have been making jokes about Norway’s butter trauma, and one brave Norwegian lad has decided to give us a piece of his butter-deprived mind:

So there. Don’t you butter-hogging Americans feel ashamed?

For background, read this article at Canada’s National Post. It seems the Great Norwegian Butter Crisis of 2011is a sterling example of why government monopolies are far inferior to free markets.

Meanwhile, let’s have some pity on the poor, butter-less Norwegians, okay? No fair laughing! 

via exJon

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Video: why the New Deal was a failure

December 13, 2011

Obama’s first term (1) saw a full-throated return to Keynesian economics — massive increases in government spending, debt, and (if they had gotten their way) taxes to try to stimulate the economy. As we all know, it failed miserably.

For the 2012 election, Obama has doubled-down on the Keynesianism to openly advocate policies of higher taxation, more regulation, more government-directed redistribution of income, and, yes, even more flushing tax money down the toilet stimulus spending. Obama and his people claim that this worked before under FDR, so we should do it again.

Wrong. The history of the New Deal (and its predecessor under Hoover) is almost the opposite of what we’ve been taught in school. The biggest misrepresentation of all is that it worked.

It didn’t. The New Deal was a failure that only made the misery worse, as this video from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity argues:

The real lesson we should take from the economic policies of the Hoover and FDR administrations is that big-government, statist interventions don’t work. Instead, they exacerbate the problem by hindering the self-healing properties of a free market.

In 2012, we have a choice between a party that advocates economic policies that are an empirical failure — the Democrats and the their Hoover/FDR interventionism– and one (2) offering those shown to be an empirical success, the policies of Ronald Reagan and, yes, Warren Harding.

For most voters (3), once armed with the facts, the choice becomes clear and easy.

RELATED: For more on the truth about Hoover, FDR and the New Deal, let me recommend the following:

  • Ohanian and Cole, “New Deal Policies and the Persistence of the Great Depression: A General Equilibrium Analysis” (Journal of Political Economy, 2004) While behind online subscriber walls, you should be able to find it at any university library.
  • Amity Shlaes, The Forgotten Man
  • Jim Powell, FDR’s Folly

Footnotes:
(1) And, to be fair, the last year of Bush’s second term.
(2) Sure, the Republicans have been far from perfect, and the eventual nominee himself may be tempted by big-government “solutions,” but they’re still a far sight better than the (Social) Demcorats.
(3) Other than a certain core that, for whatever reason, prefers to cling bitterly to their cherished myths and bad ideas and be infantilized wards of the state.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


The forgotten lesson of Thanksgiving

November 24, 2011

Happy Turkey Day, everyone.

I remember in grammar school we used to be taught the “lessons of Thanksgiving,” including such wonderful things as sharing and gratitude. It seems one lesson never gets taught, though, and so reporter John Stossel wrote to remind us of it in this 2010 article:

Had today’s political class been in power in 1623, tomorrow’s holiday would have been called “Starvation Day” instead of Thanksgiving. Of course, most of us wouldn’t be alive to celebrate it.

Every year around this time, schoolchildren are taught about that wonderful day when Pilgrims and Native Americans shared the fruits of the harvest. But the first Thanksgiving in 1623 almost didn’t happen.

Long before the failure of modern socialism, the earliest European settlers gave us a dramatic demonstration of the fatal flaws of collectivism. Unfortunately, few Americans today know it.

The Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share the work and produce equally.

That’s why they nearly all starved.

They nearly starved because too few people were willing to work hard to make the land productive enough to feed everyone, knowing they could still draw from the communal pot regardless of their (lack of) effort. Hence, not enough food was produced and the Colony nearly died.

But it didn’t. Having seen the failure of communalism and a planned economy, the colony’s leaders decided to divide the land into plots of private property and make each family responsible for their own livelihood. The results, as reported by Governor Bradford were amazing:

“This had very good success,” Bradford wrote, “for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many.”

In other words, private property and a free market made prosperity possible, while Socialism nearly got everyone killed.

Read the rest before you settle down to turkey and football (and the inevitable food coma), and let’s keep this forgotten lesson in mind.

Enjoy the day, folks!

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Video: government spending does not create jobs

September 8, 2011

Most people seem to get this, but this simple fact seems lost on the Democrat leadership, Leftist academics, and the mainstream media. (But I repeat myself.) Via Dan Mitchell, here’s a good video from Caleb Brown of the Cato Institute explaining the basics of real job creation and why government spending and regulation is a hindrance to that:

Seems straightforward enough to me. Maybe they should play it in the House just before Obama’s speech tonight.

PS: While they’re at it, maybe they should show Obama this report from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank comparing the effectiveness of Reaganomics vs. Obamanomics. Hmmm…

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Andrew Klavan: teaching the facts of life to young liberals

July 29, 2011

Remember, if someone from the government touches your wallet in a way you don’t like, run and find your nearest conservative:

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Advice for President Obama: be Warren Harding, not Franklin Roosevelt

July 12, 2011

Never did I think I’d favorably mention President Harding twice in a blog, but here you go. The first was a quote from Harding, while what follows is a quote about Harding:

I know, the thought Obama could be half the president Harding was is too much to ask.

Considering Harding is one of the most reviled 20th-century presidents (among those who even remember him), that statement could be easily taken as an insult to Obama by ironic comparison to (another) president who was truly awful.

Far from it. Historian Steven Hayward looks at the misperceptions regarding Harding that have become commonplace thanks to liberal academia and argues that our 29th president is someone Obama should seek to emulate, at least in economic policy. Faced with a genuine economic depression, runaway inflation, and a huge government debt after World War One, Harding did things that would give statists nightmares:

So what did Harding do?  A “stimulus”?  A jobs program?  “Targeted” tax cuts?  Government bailouts for ailing companies?  Nope—he cut government spending sharply and rapidly (by almost 50 percent), began cutting tax rates across the board, and allowed asset values and wages to adjust freely as fast as possible.  Harding’s administration, Paul Johnson observed, “was the last time a major industrial power treated a recession by classic laissez-faire methods, allowing wages to fall to their natural level . . .  By July 1921 it was all over and the economy was booming again.”  The Cato Institute’s Jim Powell offers a more complete summary of Harding’s soundness on economic policy, but suffice it to say that Harding’s traditional approach prevented the depression of 1920-21 from becoming a Great Depression, and in fact set he stage for the roaring twenties.

Of course, what would give Keynesians and other statists those nightmares is that –The Horror!!– it worked, while the interventionist, centrally directed policies of Hoover and FDR (1) failed miserably.

So, come on Mr. President, I dare you: Be like Warren.

Just don’t let Michelle catch you in the closet.

Footnote:
(1) Yes, Hoover has been unfairly slagged by FDR hagiographers who needed a whipping boy to make their guy look good. The fact is, Hoover was a bad president in the early years of the Great Depression, but not for being the anti-FDR. Check out Hayward’s post for a revealing quote from Rex Tugwell, one of FDR key early aides, about how the New Deal was an amplification of Hoover’s policies.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Silent-but-eloquent: the case for economic freedom

July 5, 2011

Here’s a neat video from one of the evil Koch brothers (1) laying out fact after fact arguing that countries with greater levels of economic freedom, defined as small government, the rule of law, free trade, and the protection of property rights, regularly and vastly outperform statist regimes:

No, your computer’s sound isn’t messed up; it’s a silent movie. Scratch that. It turns out the mute had somehow been activated on this computer. This really is a “talkie.”

I think this video cuts to the heart of those policies that create prosperity — and the jobs that go with it.

Remember that in 2012.

via Dan Mitchell, who has another related video on his site

Footnote:

(1) The latest entry in the Left-Liberal demonology. Remember, gentlemanly elderly billionaires who want less government intrusion into our lives so we can all be free to prosper are EVIL!!! because… well, because.

Edit: Fixed some erroneous information and adjusted accordingly.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


But don’t you dare call them “Socialists”

May 6, 2011

Okay, when you have an administration appointee writing about how the greatest danger to labor is the fact that capital is free to move where it can best be used, one wonders if, in the internal memos, they don’t spell it “Kapital.”

In this case, we’re talking about Craig Becker, a recess appointee to the National Labor Relations Board, who was turned down by the Democratic-controlled Senate, and who now sits on the board that is persecuting Boeing for daring to open a plant in South Carolina, a right-to-work state, because of the lost production and revenue due to frequent strikes at their Washington State factories. The Daily Caller has the story:

Old law review articles obtained by The Daily Caller that were authored by Becker further inflame the already heated debate. “The right to engage in concerted activity that is enshrined in the Wagner Act – even when construed in strictly contractual terms – implicitly entails legal restraint of the freedom of capital,” he wrote in the January 1987 edition of the Harvard Law Review. “What threatens to eviscerate labor’s collective legal rights, therefore, is less the common law principle of individual liberty than the mobility of capital, which courts have held immune from popular control.”

“If you cut through all the academic speak here, in effect, what he’s saying is collective bargaining and the Wagner Act doesn’t set up a system of collective bargaining. It sets up a guaranteed outcome,” explained Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson. “What he’s saying here is labor unions can’t possibly succeed unless you guarantee their success. In his reading of the law, any notion of workers who choose to collectively bargain sitting down with their employer and working out a deal is gone.”

Emphasis added.

In other words, Becker wants a Big Government-Big Labor partnership to ensure Labor wins. Shouldn’t this raise serious questions about the impartiality and the politics of the NLRB?

One can argue where on the Leftist scale the Obama administration falls –Social Democrat, Progressive, Corporatist, Fabian Socialist, or Liberal Fascist– but it’s clear they are big-time statists hostile to the free-market capitalism on which this nation was built.

While one roots for Boeing and South Carolina in this fight, perhaps the next administration (assuming, I hope, Obama is not reelected) should consider eliminating the NLRB as an obsolete but dangerous relic of a bygone age.

via Jazz Shaw


Why do they hate the the working class? The war on cheap groceries.

April 30, 2011

Retail giant Walmart has in recent years moved into the grocery business, bringing its famous pricing power to fruits, vegetables and meats. Good for the consumer, right? You betcha, but some people aren’t happy. Smaller grocery retailers are upset, because they feel they can’t compete. Unions are mad because Walmart isn’t unionized. And Democratic politicians are angry because… well, because their union backers told them to.

Reason.tv takes a dispassionate look at the politics and economics surrounding Walmart’s controversial entry into the New York City and Washington, D.C., areas and asks “Why do they hate cheap groceries?”

Walmart’s no angel(1), but, in hard economic times, you’d think politicians and labor leaders would be interested in anything that lowers food prices and creates jobs.

That is, if they truly cared about the average person.

NOTES:

(1) They’ve been caught benefiting from illegal alien labor and supported ObamaCare because they knew they could handle the added expense better than their competition. In other words, they wanted to game the system to rig the free market.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


When famous dead economists rap, round two

April 28, 2011

Keynes and Hayek are back, this time rappin’ before a congressional committee about top-down vs. free-market economics. As you might expect, it becomes a knockdown, drag-out brawl.

And yeah, the fight was rigged:

I want a rematch!

LINKS: Here’s part one.

via Dan Mitchell

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


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