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)


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)


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)


Saving our space program: the Free Frontier

February 9, 2011

I’m a child of the space program. As a kid in the 60s, I lived for those days when the rockets would take off from Cape Canaveral/Cape Kennedy and head for the stars. My parents would even let me stay from school on the day of a launch, figuring I’d learn more watching the lift-off than I would miss by playing hooky for one day. I had the whole launch sequence memorized and knew all the stages of the rockets and all the names of the men riding them. The voice of Mission Control was the Voice of the Future and the Age of Super-Science.

And when you add in movies like Forbidden Planet, The Thing, and The Day the Earth Stood Still, or TV shows like Star Trek, I was convinced back then that I’d one day be taking family vacations at Disneyland-Mars.

Boy, was I wrong.

Soon after that glorious moment when Man –Americans– first walked on an alien world, NASA became a space taxi-cab service and then decayed into a tool of the global-warming scam and a vehicle for bolstering Muslim self-esteem. Now, with the last shuttle flight, we can’t even take ourselves into space, anymore. We have to hitch a ride from… the Russians. How the mighty have fallen.

As you can imagine, that little boy still somewhere inside me was scuffing his toes and pouting.

In recent years, though, I’d become intrigued with the possibilities of space exploration as a private enterprise. The Wright brothers-like exploits of Burt Rutan showed the way, but I hadn’t realized until very recently just how big the private space-flight movement was and how far it had come along, and what hope it held for reviving an American space program.

All of which serves as a long-winded introduction to the following video from Bill Whittle, the Free Frontier:

That little boy is cheering again.

LINKS: More at Hot Air.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Econ 101: the perils of Moral Hazard

August 8, 2010

I’ve occasionally posted videos from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, an ally or affiliate of the libertarian Cato Institute, that touch on aspects of economics and why government intervention in the free market often causes more problems than it solves. In this offering, the speaker discusses “moral hazard,” in which government interventions provide incentives for people to engage in irresponsible behavior:

What I like about this series is that it teaches economics by focusing on human behavior, rather than abstruse formulae and obscure jargon, and I recommend taking the time to watch them all.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Why does President Obama hate poor kids?

June 25, 2010

Get a good education, get a better life. It’s been part of the American dream almost as long as there’s been an America. From the Irish and Italian immigrants in the East to Asian and Hispanic newcomers in the West, parents have worked their butts off so their kids could go to good schools and have what they themselves didn’t.

So why is it that President Obama denies the poor children of the District of Columbia that same path to a better life? Why did he kill a voucher-scholarship program that greatly improved graduation rates? Why did he act in the face of strong evidence to the contrary?

According to an evaluation released yesterday by the US Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) has “significantly improved students’ chances of graduating from high school.”  The same study finds that “parents had higher satisfaction and rated schools as safer if their child was offered or used an OSP scholarship.”

With these dramatic success indicators, it must be no surprise that DC OSP is the only federal education program that the Obama Administration is intent on killing.

Dr. Matt Ladner, vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute reports:

  • “…students who were randomly selected to receive vouchers had an 82% graduation rate.  That’s 12 percentage points higher than the students who didn’t receive vouchers.  Students who actually used their vouchers had graduation rates that were 21% higher.  Even better, the subgroup of students who received vouchers and came from designated Schools in Need of Improvement (SINI schools) had graduation rates that were 13 percentage points higher than the same subgroup of students who weren’t offered vouchers–and the effect was 20 percentage points higher for the SINI students who used their vouchers!”

So, naturally, the Obama administration’s Department of Education killed the program. Why? Part of it is, of course, due to the progressive-statist philosophy that underlies the administration, the Democrats, and their allies in the teachers’ unions: government technocrats are best able to provide educational opportunity that reaches the most people and is “fairest” to all, rich and poor. That made some sense as a theory in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as efforts were being made to broaden the reach of education and improve quality through standardization. But, as the recent post-Great Society history of public education has shown, larger and larger public school systems are not providing uniformly good or even safe schools to our children. Indeed, as DC shows, they’re often miserable failures.

Another reason for Democratic and, in particular, the administration’s hostility to free-market voucher programs is the heavy influence of teacher’s unions as Democratic activists and donors: both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers give the vast majority of their donations to Democrats, as well as contributing workers to local campaign offices. In return they expect the Democrats to protect union fiefdoms, regardless of whether they’re actually providing a good education and preparation for a better future. This is the Chicago Way: groups over individuals, and whoever gives you the most money and support gets the payoff.

Facts and children be damned.

AFTERTHOUGHT: And isn’t it odd that the President’s children attend one of the toniest, most exclusive private schools in DC? One that the poor children of DC no longer have a chance to go to, now that Obama has killed the voucher program? Bet that makes parents in the District happy.


Henry Waxman and the knowledge problem

April 5, 2010

Let’s get past the obvious, first: Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) is a statist thug. He’s upset that corporations have begun reporting the very real costs they’ll incur under ObamaCare, even though they’re required to do so by law, so he’s scheduled show trials hearings at which to chastise them. After all, health-care reform was supposed to bring only good to America, wasn’t it?

Trouble is, as Glenn Reynolds points out, would-be statists like Waxman always run up against a brick wall: there’s too much information for them to process efficiently in order to run a command economy, so they regularly face surprises like the corporate announcements. Call it the knowledge problem:

Economist Friedrich Hayek explained in 1945 why centrally controlled “command economies” were doomed to waste, inefficiency, and collapse: Insufficient knowledge. He won a Nobel Prize. But it turns out he was righter than he knew.

In his “The Use of Knowledge In Society,” Hayek explained that information about supply and demand, scarcity and abundance, wants and needs exists in no single place in any economy. The economy is simply too large and complicated for such information to be gathered together.

Any economic planner who attempts to do so will wind up hopelessly uninformed and behind the times, reacting to economic changes in a clumsy, too-late fashion and then being forced to react again to fix the problems that the previous mistakes created, leading to new problems, and so on.

Market mechanisms, like pricing, do a better job than planners because they incorporate what everyone knows indirectly through signals like price, without central planning.

Thus, no matter how deceptively simple and appealing command economy programs are, they are sure to trip up their operators, because the operators can’t possibly be smart enough to make them work.

In this case, Waxman and his progressive-statist allies didn’t realize that imposing vast new regulations would trip other regulations that forced the revelation of information harmful to their political position – and perhaps their political careers. As Reynolds points out, there’s a silver lining in this: as Waxman, Pelosi, and Obama keep trying to create a command economy, they’ll step on more and more of these mines because they can never have all the information they need. These will serve as regular reminders to the people that government that’s too big simply can’t do the job and should be shrunk down to size.

The dark cloud behind that silver lining, however, is that getting there is likely to be painful.

FURTHERMORE: Dan Riehl discusses the mainstream media’s role in abetting the Waxmans of the world:

When news broke of ATT and others promptly announcing write downs after ObamaCare passed, only the Wall Street Journal shed much light on what was really taking place. And they only did that several graphs down. Most mass media outlets simply let the narrative stand that, government passed a law to help the little guy, now big business Republicans have hit back by citing earnings woes, yadda, yadda. Whether due to rushing, bias, or simple incompetence, as the story played out across America, the mainstream media did less to inform the country, than they did to inflame it, while feeding into whatever one’s preconceived notions might have already been.

It’s going to be hard to expose the knowledge problem unless the major media, on which most of the public depends, starts doing its job and stops being a facilitator.

LINKS: More at Hot Air.


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