Sunday, February 28, 2010

European Unrest

This is an interest report on some of the nascent labor unrest in Europe. I think the way the debates within the story are framed suggest that until the issue of individualism, specifically the individual's right to his own life, comes to the fore, no meaningful change will be possible. (Don't ask me what the odds are that egoism could ever be seriously considered on the continent, I sense they'd rather go back to the Dark Ages.)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Misplaced Blame

Earlier this week the NY Times ran a feature on the difficulties of cancer patients accessing new combinations of experimental drugs. While the story was relatively informative and the patients’ plight decidedly real, conspicuous by its absence was any discussion of the central role the FDA plays in the whole problem. (Indeed the FDA is only even mentioned once in the entire 5 page article.)

If drug companies had the right to sell and market experimental drugs, and patients the right to take them, all of the (man-made) problems, and many of the costs and delays cited in the article would vanish.

Physicians and other specialists could advise patients of the various treatment possibilities, including their risks (to whatever extent these were known). Then those with the misfortune of having a difficult to treat disease would have the option to do what they deemed best given the particular circumstances of their lives.

As it stands now, the force of government compulsion, channeled through the FDA, is really all that counts. The life-stealing bureaucrats at the FDA decide what risks are “acceptable”, when a drug can be given to patients, etc. (And not incidentally they cost drug companies billions of dollars and years of relatively unproductive work in the process.)

We’ll know we’re making idealogical inroads when mainstream media sees fit to at least present this view along side their typical “big business is evil” storylines.

(I toyed with titling this post “Negligent Reporting” but I think the current worldview (aka philosophy) is so embedded in the culture that the capitalist alternative doesn’t even occur to these reporters, i.e. they don’t even get to the point of purposely neglecting it.)

Friday, February 26, 2010

New Print Edition of The Undercurrent Available

The latest edition of The Undercurrent is now going to print. If you'd like to order or distribute copies, see this post.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Crowding Out

I nice cartoon over at Cafe Hayek (HT Not PC)

Of course in reality it's much worse than this. There's a gun pointed at the head of the private individual, there are a dozens of middlemen siphoning off yarn before it gets to Obama, and more than likely Obama would be knitting some misfit item such as a single sock or glove.

(For more thoughts you can see my editorial: Misconstruing the Cause of Waste)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Putting Deficits in Context

As an indication of how substantial government deficits are at every level of government, consider this sobering Illinois stat:
The head count of state workers is 20 percent smaller than it was a decade ago. If the state payroll was magically purged of every single employee, the annual salary savings would amount to $4 billion, less than one-third of what is needed right now to dig out of the deficit hole.
HT Instapundit

The Government's Private Pension Grab

In a new editorial, Paul Hsieh brings up another topic about which we must be wary. Check it out.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Red Encyclia


Monday, February 22, 2010

Lucidicus Project

The Lucidicus Project is engaged in an interesting form of activism: they provide intellectual self-defense kits to students entering the medical field. Here's a description of the latest recipient, the full list is available here.
The Lucidicus Project is proud to award its fifty-fourth self-defense kit today to Gem M., an honors biology student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Gem is strongly considering in a career in medicine. She has looked into it extensively and even attended the National Youth Leadership Forum on medicine (a 10-day program for students interested in pre-medical studies). She is passionate about the field, but her parents—both of whom are physicians—are discouraging her from going to medical school. In their view, with the politicization and possible government takeover of healthcare, it would be in Gem's best interest to pursue a different career path. Interestingly, it was Gem's mother who suggested that she request a kit from The Lucidicus Project and learn about how physicians need to defend themselves and their profession. Gem is hoping that the materials in the kit will help her better understand what doctors are up against, and that this new perspective will help her make an informed decision about her career.

The Separation of Church and State

For anyone interested in the topic, I think this lecture would be $21 very well spent.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Roots of Lobbying

This is an interesting column on lobbying. Though it doesn't stress (or even mention) the contrast between democracy and individual rights, it points out some very salient facts. E.g.:
As of June, 2009, there were 12,553 registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C, which means: for every federal Senator or Representative, there are 23.47 people standing close by who have, as their sole activity, the job of bribing, manipulating, cajoling, convincing, begging, browbeating, pushing, seducing, scheming, deceiving, deluding or hoodwinking our 535 members of Congress into enacting legislation geared towards their ends instead of what’s in the interests of all American citizens — and all of it perfectly legal, perfectly acceptable and considered to be the normal mode of operations.

And that’s just the “direct” lobbyists, folks, those who must register due to Congressional contact; that figure doesn’t tally the “indirect” lobbyists who spend their time leveraging the executive branch’s bureaucratic decrees.

According to experts, the number of lobbyists not covered by the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 is probably six to seven times that high, placing the total number of D.C. lobbyists at about 100,000 — not counting support staff. Not counting lobbyists targeting state legislators.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Little Existential Humor

By far my favorite comic of all time is Calvin and Hobbes. Almost every strip is funny, but I was particularly fond of any which involved Calvin sledding, making snowmen or acting as a detective. So when someone posted this collection of "snow art" strips on facebook, it made my day.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Potential Audience

I'm always on the lookout for stories which feature the type of people our message might reach to good effect. I think this item from a story on the tea party movement qualifies:
But all that was before the Great Recession and the bank bailouts, before Barack Obama took the White House by promising sweeping change on multiple fronts, before her son lost his job and his house. Mrs. Stout said she awoke to see Washington as a threat, a place where crisis is manipulated — even manufactured — by both parties to grab power.

She was happily retired, and had never been active politically. But last April, she went to her first Tea Party rally, then to a meeting of the Sandpoint Tea Party Patriots. She did not know a soul, yet when they began electing board members, she stood up, swallowed hard, and nominated herself for president. “I was like, ‘Did I really just do that?’ ” she recalled.
FWIW I don't think the story as a whole captures the essence of the tea party movement but it's interesting to see snapshots of some of the people involved (even if the ones they pick aren't necessarily representative of the majority).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Union Stand-Off

I think, and hope, that we'll see more and more of these types of headlines in the future: Unionized Rhode Island Teachers Refuse To Work 25 Minutes More Per Day, So Town Fires All Of Them

BLC Golden Tang 'Kiilani'


Barbara Boxer -- No Shoe-in

I found this story mildly encouraging. (HT Instapundit)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Positivism in Economics

Doug Reich has a good post up on his blog discussing economic boom and busts, and the influence of positivism on the economics profession. I laughed at his apt paraphrasing of how people view the banking history of the US prior to the establishment of our Central Bank:
Once upon a time, the United States had laissez faire and a totally free banking system based on a gold standard. This "free market" system led to reoccuring panics, runs on banks, and a volatile business cycle throughout the 19th century. Finally, after the 1907 panic, a group of wise businessmen and government officials got together and created the quasi-public Federal Reserve system to act as lender of last resort and to permanently eliminate reliance on the "barbarous relic" (gold) which stood in the way of economic progress by causing continual liquidity crises. With the banking system and money supply in the hands of wise and prescient central planners (like Ben Bernanke), the United States economy would live happily ever after. The End.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New Books

Ten years ago, let alone twenty, who ever would have thought it would be possible to put up this "collage"?

Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History

Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea

Winning the Unwinnable War: America's Self-Crippled Response to Islamic Totalitarianism

The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics

Capitalism Unbound: The Incontestable Moral Case for Individual Rights

Thanks and congrats to the authors specifically, and to ARI and its donors generally!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

BL Morning Glory (B. nodosa x L. purpurata 'Carmencita')


Sunday, February 07, 2010


And somehow it makes it even better that Obama picked the Colts.

CEO Qualities

I found a lot of good ideas and identifications in this NY times article.

HT Crossfit

Quick Follow Up

Gus Van Horn links to a Mark Steyn article that does a much more entertaining job of making the same point as the Noonan column I'd previously posted.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Closer to Bankruptcy

While I disagree with the collectivist approach adopted in this analysis (i.e. to the authors it's just a matter of aggregates, not of individual rights), it's interesting to see how much of future revenues are already committed to mandatory (essentially legacy and past) spending. Indeed the difference between projected revenues and existing commitments is now negative.
Gradually, over decades, Americans have committed almost all government revenues to what policy nerds call "mandatory programs" — those whose funding and funding growth are set by past laws — and to interest on the debt.

For the first time in U.S. history, in 2009 every single dollar of revenue was committed before Congress voted on any spending program. Meanwhile, most of government's basic functions — from justice to education to turning on the lights in the Capitol — are paid for out of swelling, unsustainable deficits.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

FDR's Hypocrisy (and our failure to learn from it)

In doing some background research for a potential editorial, I came across this description of FDR's campaign:
Economist Marriner Eccles observed that "given later developments, the campaign speeches often read like a giant misprint, in which Roosevelt and Hoover speak each other's lines." Roosevelt denounced Hoover's failures to restore prosperity or even halt the downward slide, and he ridiculed Hoover's huge deficits. Roosevelt campaigned on the Democratic platform advocating "immediate and drastic reductions of all public expenditures," "abolishing useless commissions and offices, consolidating bureaus and eliminating extravagances reductions in bureaucracy," and for a "sound currency to be maintained at all hazards." (emphasis added)
Certainly later politicians, including Bush and Obama learned from FDR's example. Hopefully the tea party movement is a sign that the public is becoming less credulous and more informed -- and therefore more civically responsible.

(To see the contrast between word and deed, continue reading the first link to the section on the New Deal, then check out FDR's proposed second bill of rights.)

Monday, February 01, 2010

Government Budget Cuts

Though privatization of illegitimate government functions will have to be done under the principle of individual rights if it is to last, let's hope that privatization by lack of funds helps give us time to get the right ideas out into the culture. And the latter is starting already, see this story on Colorado Springs (the second largest city in CO).