Saturday, November 30, 2013

Does the Pope read Tom Woods?

Pope Francis created a hubbub last week when he decided to weigh in on economic policy.  From page 45 of the Evangelii Gaudium:
Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacra­lized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.
Reactions from the left were predictably rapturous, often trying to use the Pope's moral authority to close the policy debate. The Washington Post has an especially transparent example of this lame tactic:
“There’s no way a Catholic who is a serious intellectual can ever again not address the issue of income inequality, of the structural sins of our economic system. This is so front and center,” said Michael Sean Winters, a fellow at Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies. “This is a pastor’s voice. He’s saying, ‘If we’re serious Christians, we need to be knee-deep in this stuff.’ ”
Well, Mr. Winters, you've certainly made me feel knee-deep in something, but it's not concern about the evils of free markets.

Fantastic video

The bunny has been watching the dog herding; now bunny thinks he can herd too.  Watch.

This is the the best video I've seen since the one with the time traveler at the premiere of a Charlie Chaplin movie.

Monday, November 25, 2013

When economists sell their soul

Harvard economist David Cutler, who ought to be hiding his head in shame at being one of President Obama's health care advisors, has demonstrated how unsound one's analytical skills can become once one's brain has been ravaged by Potomac fever.  In a Washington Post Op-Ed he declared that the president's claim that Obamacare would reduce health care costs by $2,500 per family of four has turned out to be true.  The basis of his argument is that the projected path of future health care spending has been adjusted downward:
Between early 2009 and now, the Office of the Actuaries at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has lowered its forecast of medical spending in 2016 by 1 percentage point of GDP. In dollar terms, this is $2,500 for a family of four.
Unfortunately for Cutler and his reputation, the Office of the Actuaries at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services outlined the sources of the change in its projections, and Obamacare was decidedly not one of them.  Charles Blahaus has a detailed analysis, which includes a summary of the sources of the changes in health spending projections:
1) Medicare/Medicaid/other programs “unrelated to the ACA” (50.7% of improvement).
2) Other factors “unrelated to the ACA” (26.1%).
3) Updated data on historical spending growth (21.8%).
4) Updated macroeconomic assumptions (6.1%).

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hayek in the NY Times

Thomas Edsal is a little late with this observation, but his ability to learn is laudable:
(I)s the federal government capable of managing the provision of a fundamental service through an extraordinarily complex system?
This system requires coordination of over 288 policy options (an average of eight insurers are competing for business in 36 states), each with three or more levels of coverage, while simultaneously calculating beneficiary income, tax credit eligibility, subsidy levels, deductibles, not to mention protecting applicant privacy, insuring web security, and managing a host of other data points. 
A malfunction at any one of these junctures could prove fatal.
I wonder if the NY Times would have allowed this question if they knew how Hayekian it is?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Larry Summers, political hack

When people would ask me who I preferred to be the new Chairman of the Fed, Janet Yellen or Lawrence Summers, my response was that neither would pursue the right policies, but that Summers had become such a political hack that he should not be trusted with the reins of the Fed. He proved my point today in his praise of Obamacare for its positive effects on the economy, and of the great things that have happened to the energy sector under the President's watch. I think we can now place Summers alongside Paul Krugman among the once-distinguished economists who have rendered themselves incapable of serious economic analysis.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Federal government as a criminal organization

Mark Steyn has some comments on the Michigan shop owners who have had $35,000 seized from them by the Federal government, despite not having been convicted of any offence.  The case is yet another in which the Feds act as would any other pack of gangsters and thugs. Extra kudos to Steyn for the title of his piece: "Render unto Seizure"

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Amnesic doomsayers

Bret Stephens has an interesting piece in today's Wall Street Journal reminding environmentalists of their past doom-mongering. Stephens reminds us of "when we were supposed to believe that population growth would outstrip food production. This gave us such titles as 'Famine 1975!', a 1967 best seller by the brothers William and Paul Paddock, along with Paul Ehrlich's vastly influential 'The Population Bomb,' a book that began with the words, 'The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.'"

Kudos to the Post-Dispatch editorial board

The Post-Dispatch editors have a reasonably cogent piece today on the absurdity of $16 million in government subsidies for the renovation of the General American building in downtown St. Louis. The Show-Me Institute has been all over this, so it's good to see that the P-D is coming around. While the editors don't go whole hog for that whole idea that markets are better at allocating resources than governments, they do recognize that these subsidies do not magically create economic growth.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Anatomy of a collectivist disaster

Avik Roy has good rundown of the Obamacare disaster as it was unfolding, almost from the get-go. It was always going to be too complex an operation to work, but the project was made that much more difficult by the fact that it was almost entirely a political operation. The sheer incompetence is mind boggling, but the arrogance of these supposedly all-knowing collectivists has, unfortunately, become all too familiar.

Hmm. It's as if they are so conceited about their abilities to micromanage society that it becomes fatal. Now where have I seen that before?

Update: Glenn Reynolds recommends a book that offers some lessons for those with grand schemes to perfect society.

Obamacare lies are good for you

At least the New York Times editors have come around to the undeniable fact that President Obama lied (sorry, 'misspoke', as if repeated intentional misspeaking is somehow different from bald-faced lying) when he claimed that Obamacare would not take away health insurance that you like. They don't bother trying to twist themselves into pretzels claiming that the president spoke truthfully, so the deserve a bit of credit. On the other hand, they argue that those policies that you liked weren't good enough anyway. They don't explain why people chose those policies that were so bad for them, and, unlike others, they don't say explicitly that people were too stupid to know what's good for them.  Ever the collectivists, their argument is simply that being forced to pay more for coverage that you don't want is just the price that people have to pay to be part of the great progressive project.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Comedy gold

Check out the book that someone gave to Kathleen Sebelius.

Post-Dispatch editors outdo themselves

The editorial page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is renowned for its wacky leftwingedness and willful ignorance of basic economics. But I was not prepared for the editors' jump onto the latest loopy bandwagon claiming that government programs such as food stamps and Medicaid are a form of corporate welfare. I was trying to pen a retort to this nonsense, but I was having a tough time grasping the roots of its sheer stupidity. Fortunately, David Hornburg, of Des Peres, succeeded where I failed. Read the whole thing, but here's the crux of it, especially the first sentence:
The fast-food companies are employers, not parents of minor children. They have no moral or legal obligation to provide these additional goodies to those who happen to work in their restaurants. Like the value of any good or service, wage rates are set by the market. If better jobs were available, the fast-food workers would take them. If the fast-food jobs were to disappear, the workers would likely find jobs that are even worse or be unemployed. This would increase the amount of government transfer payments. So it would be more logical to say that if the fast-food industry did not employ so many marginal workers, that the burden on government would be even higher.
Update: Susan Fiegenbaum has also skewered the P-D editors.