Friday, August 28, 2009

An Update on Government Waste

A quick update on the my editorial on government waste. First off, many thanks to Paul Hsieh (Noodlefood) and Lucy Hugel (The Undercurrent) for linking to it! I really wish I'd thought of the title Lucy used.

Also, a bit of data to support the idea that government has little incentive to contain costs.

Celebrating Oil

Congrats to Alex Epstein for having an excellent editorial published in IBD. The takeaway:
Nearly every item in your life would either not exist or be far more expensive without oil; there is simply no comparable source of practical, portable energy.

Yet today people increasingly label oil a pollutant that damages rather than enhances our lives and, even worse, an addiction — likening our consumption of oil to a junkie's self-destructive heroin habit. This is profoundly ignorant, not to mention unfair to the petroleum industry that tirelessly innovates, year after year, to find more oil and extract it more efficiently.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ted Kennedy

I agree with the general sentiment of this short and well-written article.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Virtual Objectivist Club

Here's an announcement that might be of interest to students:
The Virtual Objectivist Club (VOC) is a weekly phone-based/online discussion group dedicated to the study of Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. The VOC is being offered for the first time this 2009 academic year. It's open to any current students who would like to learn more about Objectivism.

During the Fall 2009 semester, we'll meet online to discuss essays and topics from either the Ayn Rand Reader or from free, online resources. Each meeting will be hosted by a rotating set of moderators, including Greg Perkins, Diana Hsieh, Kyle Haight, Andrew Dalton, and Kurt Colville. We'll meet on Wednesday evenings at 9 p.m. Eastern.

If you're a student who does not have access to a study group at your school, we may just be the group for you. If you're interested, you can get more information and our full schedule at

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Misconstruing the Cause of Waste

I have an editorial out today on the topic. Here's a short excerpt:
The ramifications to waste are threefold. First, by prohibiting certain activities, government eliminates competition. For example, private companies like FedEx are legally barred from competing with the Postal Service — creating that paragon of efficiency, the USPS. Next, because it can confiscate our money to pay its bills, government has little incentive to control costs. Should it overpay for services, salaries, or pensions, government simply takes more from helpless taxpayers. Finally, because the government has usurped their prerogatives, individuals no longer decide what is worthwhile and what isn’t. Government forcibly disconnects the decision of what’s valuable from the people who actually pay for the values.
Comments and links welcome.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Health Care is not a Right

Somehow I've neglected to link to Dr. Peikoff's fantastic essay available on the FIRM site. Sorry for my oversight, it's now rectified.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Effects of a Government Monopoly

This WSJ article analyzing the performance of the postal service is quite interesting, and relevant to an editorial I hope to be posting next week. This section in particular is worth noting:
Here's a secret Washington doesn't want to admit: That 14 cent per letter cost hike after inflation over the past 60 years imposes a $20 billion a year toll on the U.S. economy. The government mail system is essentially a $20 billion annual income transfer from businesses and households to the postal unions.

About 80 cents of every postal dollar pays for employee salaries and benefits (compared to less than 50 cents for Fed Ex and UPS). What that means is that if you want to cut costs at the post office, you have to slash labor expenses. Mr. Potter has reduced Postal Service employment to 650,000 from 800,000 the past four years, largely through attrition. But he still employs 650,000 workers who have among the best wages and benefits in all of American life.

Most employees have no-layoff clauses, the starting salaries are about 25% to 30% higher than for comparably skilled private workers, and the fringe benefits are so expensive that the Government Accountability Office says $500 million a year could be saved merely by bringing health benefits into line with those of other federal workers. Mr. Potter has to set aside $5 billion a year just to pay for health insurance. Postal management now wants to "save" money by not advance-funding those obligations, and Congress is likely to say yes. But that doesn't save a dime; it simply creates even larger unfunded liabilities down the road.

Advocating Slavery

Gus Van Horn noted this terrible LA Times column a few days ago. It was too late to have an LTE published, but I sent one in anyways with the idea that it's always worthwhile to make editors aware of reader's reactions to their stories. Here's my unpublished letter:
After reading D. Lazarus’ Aug 16th column, I quickly ran to my dictionary to see if I’d misunderstood. But no, “mandate” does mean “to force” and “slavery” is still defined as “forced unpaid labor”. So Lazarus’ call for mandated medical labor is indeed a call for slavery. Welcome to liberalism in the 21st century.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Spread the Wealth Until It's Gone

Via the OActivist list comes this amusing site.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lest We've Forgotton, Health Care is not a Right

Another good article on the subject, this one from OActivist Wendy Milling.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"California Disease"

This story, which purports to show how "California Disease" is affecting Oregon, does a good job of summarizing the problems with California. Too bad it doesn't mention the only solution: a renewed respect for individual rights.

From the story:
Some might call this California disease. This refers to a chronic inability to make hard decisions as well as a general disregard for business and economic activity.

California's inability to plan or create new public infrastructure affects every part of the state's economy. California was once a leader in building infrastructure, but that was in Pat Brown's gubernatorial administration in the 1960s when California last planned a major infrastructure project.

There are consequences to California's inability to deal with infrastructure. Its freeways are parking lots. Its water problems are threatening the viability of Central Valley agriculture, one of the key drivers of the state's economy. Its electrical system is so bad that every summer brings the fear of interruptions in the supply of electricity. Its universities are in decline. Its prisons are overcrowded.

Another symptom of California disease is regulation and red tape that increases the uncertainty for any project and raises the cost.

California projects can be in planning for years, and at the end of that planning process they may still be denied. The long delays are expensive. And as many would-be California developers will tell you, the uncertainty is a strong detriment to economic activity and development.

We also see symptoms of California disease in tax policy. California no longer has the United States' highest income tax rate. Big deal. With a top income tax rate of 10.3 percent, sales taxes that can reach 10.25 percent and a 33.9 cents-per-gallon gas tax, its total taxes are among the highest in the country.

California's regulatory climate also reflects the disease. Even as the state endures its most brutal recession in decades, it persists in unilaterally imposing new regulation, making the state less competitive with other states.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

OActivist June 2009 Compilation

It's a bit late, but the OActivist compilation for June is now up.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Well Done Video

For those with a mechanical bent, Paul Hsieh has posted a really good video explaining how a differential works.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Town Hall Meetings

I thought this was a good story on town hall meetings. It seems worthwhile to attend if you the time and are willing to speak up.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Fishy Behavior

There have been many good letters written, some posted as comments to Diana's post, others posted to the OActivist email list. I particularly liked Hannah Krening's from the latter list, which I reprint with her permission.
Subject: fishy behavior

Good morning!

You asked for reporting of "fishy" behavior. I see fishy people everywhere (and they don't even know they're fishy!).

I have seen actual videos on YouTube of people protesting your plan to provide health care for all. They all seem to think that you will not run this program well. They ignore the astounding success of Medicare and military health care, which any senior citizen or member of the armed forces knows is the best in the universe.

I've seen seniors who fear that they will be shelved, and people with medical conditions who believe that pursuing the options of their choosing is actually something they should reasonably be able to do as free citizens. Imagine the nerve of these mobs of undesirables in our country! Perhaps you will move them to the bottom of the waiting list when your wonderful plan goes through. It will serve them right!

I know of a soldier who is actually concerned because the Army dentist told her before she deployed to Afghanistan that all those little tiny cavities in her mouth could wait until after she has been away serving her country for a year. I'm sure you will agree that this soldier is simply expecting too much from her government-supplied health care.

And you need to add some Canadians to your list of suspected dissidents. They actually have the nerve to go to the US and pay out of pocket for care when they are told their heart problems and cancers will need to continue to progress in their bodies while they work their way up the waiting list (and slip down a bit sometimes when More Important Government People are moved to the top of the list). How unreasonable and just plain impatient of them!

I certainly hope you will budget for gulags and re-education camps for all these terribly unreasonable people. After all, the government can always get more funds -- from somewhere....

A Fan of Slavery

Friday, August 07, 2009

The Myth Of Free Market Health Care In America

This Forbes article is wealth worth reading. As Ms. Dalmia rightly notes and then debunks:
...both ObamaCare's supporters and opponents believe that--unlike Europe--America has something called a free market health care system. So long as this myth holds sway, it will be exceedingly difficult to prescribe free market fixes to America's health care woes--or, conversely, end the lure of big government remedies.
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Obama's Thought Police

Diana points out this white house blog page which urges us to turn in neighbors who might hold opinion's different than the administration's. As our new thought police put it:
There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to
I urge everyone to immediately respond to this, because once government takes our freedom of speech, we're doomed (or at least there's nothing left but violent revolution).

Here's my letter:

Dear Mr. President, Mr. Macon and the Whitehouse Team,

I have to hand it to you! Even though I’m extremely contemptuous of your administration’s policies and approach, I thought it would take you a while to come up with something more repulsive and anti-American than your attempts to socialize medicine. You’ve proven me wrong! Setting up a thought police and a Stasi-style informant campaign is much worse.

Ayn Rand once observed: “Intellectual freedom cannot exist without political freedom; political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom; a free mind and a free market are corollaries."

Now granted you’ve chosen coercion and subjugation instead of freedom in each of these key realms, yet the consistency of your policies still serve to substantiate her insight. Indeed it seems that every step and action you take highlight the accuracy of Rand’s analysis and conclusions.

So for what it’s worth, I thank you for doing your part to so dramatically show the nation the life-and-death contrast between your philosophy and Rand’s. It will be the one redeeming part of your awful legacy.

Amit Ghate

Click on the link to Diana's post to see other good examples of people "turning themselves in".

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Gaining Traction

Dr. John Lewis on the OActivist list points to this great endorsement of ARI:
Dodge: Is there any required reading for budding right-of-center types to advise them on how to deal with socialists?

Irving: On reading, I would recommend Madsen Pirie’s book on debating techniques. Young people are attracted by ideology, and I still find Rand to be a good start — novels then non-fiction.

The Ayn Rand Institute has changed direction under Yaron Brook who impressed me greatly when I met him. ARI has moved into outreach and invested heavily in new websites. The commentary — videos, op-eds, press releases — is the best around. It is the main advocate of capitalism around. Cato and Reason are wishy-washy by comparison.