Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rules by which a Great Empire may be Reduced to a Small One

In 1773, Benjamin Franklin had some rather candid thoughts towards ever increasing government power that ring as clear today as they did 237 years ago. His perspective would be well advised reading for any government official who believes in “fundamentally changing America.” While reading Franklin’s words to the British Parliament and King, think about the current political climate, behavior, and governing philosophy of Congress and the President.

Rules by which a Great Empire may be Reduced to a Small One, by Benjamin Franklin, 1773. Old English version edited and condensed by Dean Kalahar

When such governors have crammed their coffers, and made themselves so odious to the people that they can no longer remain among them with safety to their persons, recall and reward them with pensions. . . All will contribute to encourage new governors in the same practices, and make the supreme government detestable.

If . . . your colonies should vie in liberal aids of men and money . . . , upon your simple requisition, and give far beyond their abilities, reflect, that a penny taken from them by your power is more honorable to you than a pound presented by their benevolence. Despise therefore their voluntary grants, and resolve to harass them with novel taxes. They will probably complain to your parliaments that they are taxed by a body in which they have no representative, and that this is contrary to common right. They will petition for redress. Let the Parliaments flout their claims, reject their petitions, refuse even to suffer the reading of them, and treat the petitioners with the utmost contempt. Nothing can have a better effect, in producing the alienation proposed; for though many can forgive injuries, none ever forgave contempt.

In laying these taxes, never regard the heavy burdens those people already undergo, in defending their own (homes), supporting their own provincial governments, making new roads, building bridges, churches and other public edifices, . .which occasion constant calls and demands on the purses of a . . . people. Forget the restraints you lay on their trade for your own benefit, and the advantage a monopoly of this trade gives your exacting merchants. Think nothing of the wealth those merchants and your manufacturers acquire by the colony commerce; their increased ability thereby to pay taxes at home; their accumulating, in the price of their commodities, most of those taxes, and so levying them from their consuming customers: All this, and the employment and support of thousands of your poor . . . you are entirely to forget.

But remember to make your arbitrary tax more grievous to your provinces, by public declarations importing that your power of taxing them has no limits, so that when you take from them without their consent a shilling in the pound, you have a clear right to the other nineteen. This will probably weaken every idea of security in their property, and convince them that under such a government they have nothing they can call their own; which can scarce fail of producing the happiest consequences!

Possibly indeed some of them might still comfort themselves, and say, `though we have no property, we have yet something left that is valuable; we have constitutional liberty both of person and of conscience. This (government) who it seems are too remote from us to know us and feel for us, cannot take from us our habeas corpus right, or our right of trial by a jury of our neighbors: They cannot deprive us of the exercise of our religion, alter our ecclesiastical constitutions, and compel us to be Papists if they please, or Mahometans.' To annihilate this comfort, begin by laws to perplex their commerce with infinite regulations impossible to be remembered and observed; ordain seizures of their property for every failure; take away the trial of such property by jury, and give it to arbitrary judges of your own appointing, and of the lowest characters in the country, whose salaries and emoluments are to arise out of the duties or condemnations, and whose appointments are during pleasure. . .

And lest the people should think you cannot possibly go any farther, pass another solemn declaratory act, that (the federal government) had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the unrepresented provinces IN ALL CASES WHATSOEVER.' This will include spiritual with temporal; and taken together, must operate wonderfully to your purpose, by convincing them, that they are at present under a power something like that spoken of in the scriptures, which can not only kill their bodies, but damn their souls to all eternity, by compelling them, if it pleases, to worship the devil.

To make your taxes more odious, and more likely to procure resistance, send from the capital a board of officers to superintend the collection, composed of the most indiscreet, ill-bred and insolent you can find. Let these have large salaries out of the extorted revenue, and live in open grating luxury upon the sweat and blood of the industrious, whom they are to worry continually with groundless and expensive prosecutions before the above-mentioned arbitrary revenue-judges. . . Let these men by your order be exempted from all the common taxes and burdens of the province, though they and their property are protected by its laws.

Another way to make your tax odious is to misapply the produce of it. If it was originally appropriated for the defense of the provinces and the better support of government, and the administration of justice where it may be necessary, then apply none of it to that defense, but bestow it where it is not necessary, in augmented salaries or pensions to every governor who has distinguished himself by his enmity to the people, and by calumniating them to their sovereign. This will make them pay it more unwillingly, and be more apt to quarrel with those that collect it, and those that imposed it, who will quarrel again with them, and all shall contribute to your main purpose of making them weary of your government.

If you are told of discontents in your colonies, never believe that they are general, or that you have given occasion for them; therefore do not think of applying any remedy, or of changing any offensive measure. Redress no grievance, lest they should be encouraged to demand the redress of some other grievance. Grant no request that is just and reasonable, lest they should make another that is unreasonable. Take all your information’s of the state of the colonies from your governors and officers in enmity with them. Encourage and reward these leasing-makers; secrete their lying accusations lest they should be confuted; but act upon them as the clearest evidence, and believe nothing you hear from the friends of the people. Suppose all their complaints to be invented and promoted by a few factious demagogues, whom if you could catch and hang, all would be quiet. Catch and hang a few of them accordingly; and the blood of the martyrs shall work miracles in favor of your purpose.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Words to guide our nation as we face an unsure future

On 3/21/10 at 10:45 pm American capitalism, liberty, and our republic was attacked. Some much needed history and clear thinking in our nation's time of trial is in order as we proceed.

Excerpts: The American Revolution by John Dalberg Acton, better known as Lord Acton

. . . Among the Whigs, who were a failing and discredited party, there were men who already knew the policy by which since then the empire has been reared — Adam Smith, Dean Tucker, Edmund Burke. But the great mass went with the times, and held that the object of politics is power, and that the more dominion is extended, the more it must be retained by force. The reason why free trade is better than dominion was a secret obscurely buried in the breast of economists

Whilst the expulsion of the French from their transatlantic empire governed the situation, the immediate difficulty was brought on by the new reign. The right of searching houses and ships for contraband was conveyed by certain warrants called writs of assistance, which required no specified designation, no oath or evidence, and enabled the surprise visit to be paid by day or night. . .

Then James Otis spoke, and lifted the question to a different level, in one of the memorable speeches in political history. Assuming, but not admitting, that the Boston customhouse officers were acting legally, and within the statute, then, he said, the statute was wrong. Their action might be authorized by parliament; but if so, parliament had exceeded its authority, . . . There are principles which override precedents. The laws of England may be a very good thing, but there is such a thing as a higher law.

The court decided in favor of the validity of the writs; and John Adams, who heard the judgment, wrote long after that in that hour the child Independence was born. The English view triumphed for the time, and the governor wrote home that the murmurs soon ceased. The states, and ultimately the United States, rejected general warrants; and since 1817 they are in agreement with the law of England. On that point, therefore, the colonies were in the right. . .

(why was the argument over the writs so monumental?)

They [the Americans] demanded that the arrangement should be made for their mutual advantage. They did not go so far as to affirm that it ought to be to their advantage only, irrespective of ours, which is our policy with our colonies at the present time. The claim was not originally excessive. It is the basis of the imputation that the dispute, on both sides, was an affair of sordid interest. We shall find it more just to say that the motive was empire on one side and self-government on the other. It was a question between liberty and authority, government by consent and government by force, the control of the subject by the state and the control of the state by the subject.

The issue had never been so definitely raised. In England it had long been settled. It had been settled that the legislature could, without breach of any ethical or constitutional law, without forfeiting its authority or exposing itself to just revolt, make laws injurious to the subject for the benefit of English religion or English trade. If that principle was abandoned in America it could not well be maintained in Ireland, and the green flag might fly on Dublin Castle.

This was no survival of the dark ages. Both the oppression of Ireland and the oppression of America was the work of the modern school, of men who executed one king and expelled another. It was the work of parliament, of the parliaments of Cromwell and of William III. And the parliament would not consent to renounce its own specific policy, its right of imposing taxes.

The crown, the clergy, the aristocracy were hostile to the Americans; but the real enemy was the House of Commons. The old European securities for good government were found insufficient protection against parliamentary oppression. The nation itself, acting by its representatives, had to be subjected to control. The political problem raised by the New World was more complicated than the simple issues dealt with hitherto in the Old. It had become necessary to turn back the current of the development of politics, to bind and limit and confine the state, which it was the pride of the moderns to exalt.

Then an ingenious plan was devised, which would enforce the right of taxation, but which would not be felt by American pockets, and would, indeed, put money into them, in the shape of a bribe. East Indiamen were allowed to carry tea to American ports without paying toll in England. The Navigation Laws were suspended, that people in New England might drink cheap tea, without smuggling.

. . . If it was a grievance to pay more for a commodity, how could it be a grievance to pay less for the same commodity?

Americans should perceive nothing but the gift, nothing but the welcome fact that their tea was cheaper, and should be spared entirely the taste of the bitterness within. That would have upset the entire scheme. . .

(in short) threepence broke up the British empire.

(and history may show the health care vote broke up the republic)

Twelve years of renewed contention, ever coming up in altered shape under different ministers, made it clear that the mind of the great parent state was made up, and that all variations of party were illusory. The Americans grew more and more obstinate as they purged the sordid question of interest with which they had begun. . .

The dispute had been reduced to its simplest expression, and had become a mere question of principle. The argument from the Charters, the argument from the Constitution, was discarded. The case was fought out on the ground of the law of nature, more properly speaking, of divine right. On that evening of December 16, 1773, it became, for the first time, the reigning force in history. By the rules of right, which had been obeyed till then, England had the better cause. By the principle which was then inaugurated, England was in the wrong, and the future belonged to the colonies.

The revolutionary spirit had been handed down from the 17th-century sects, through the colonial charters. As early as 1638 a Connecticut preacher said, "The choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people, by God's own allowance. They who have the power to appoint officers and magistrates, it is in their power, also, to set the bounds and limitations of the power and place unto which they call them." . . .

"The powers of the federal government were actually enumerated, and thus the states and the union were a check on each other. That principle of division was the most efficacious restraint on democracy that has been devised." . . .

The powers of the states were limited. The powers of the federal government were actually enumerated, and thus the states and the union were a check on each other. That principle of division was the most efficacious restraint on democracy that has been devised; for the temper of the Constitutional Convention was as conservative as the Declaration of Independence was revolutionary.

The Federal Constitution did not deal with the question of religious liberty. The rules for the election of the president and for that of the vice president proved a failure. Slavery was deplored, was denounced, and was retained. The absence of a definition of state rights led to the most sanguinary civil war of modern times. Weighed in the scales of liberalism the instrument, as it stood, was a monstrous fraud. And yet, by the development of the principle of federalism, it has produced a community more powerful, more prosperous, more intelligent, and more free than any other which the world has seen.

Lord Acton , 1834–1902 was a leading 19th-century historian in the classical-liberal tradition. He watched the growth of the United States with great interest, and lamented the decline of states' rights and federalism.

This was from a lecture delivered c. 1900 and published in 1906 in Lectures on Modern History.

Who we were, what have we become, and the choice for our future

A simple and articulate explanation of why the new law of the land, via the health care bill, will forever transform America.

Excerpts and (edits): Representative Paul Ryan, Health Care in a Free Society

(The question we must ask is: what is Progressivism and how is it inconsistent with liberty?)

. . . progressivism, whose goal was to reorder society along lines other than those of the Constitution. The best known (include) Robert LaFollette, a Republican, (and) Theodore Roosevelt. Today we tend to associate progressivism mostly with Democrats, and trace it back to Woodrow Wilson. But it had its roots in both parties.

The social and political programs of the progressives came in on two great waves: the New Deal of the 1930s and the Great Society of the 1960s. Today, President Obama often invokes progressivism . . to generate its third great wave of public policy. In thinking about what this mean(s), we need look no farther than the health care reform program (just passed). . .

Under the terms of our Constitution, every individual has a right to care for their health, just as they have a right to eat. These rights are integral to our natural right to life—and it is government's chief purpose to secure our natural rights. But the right to care for one's health does not imply that government must provide health care, any more than our right to eat, in order to live, requires government to own the farms and raise the crops.

Government's constitutional obligations in regard to protecting such rights are normally met by establishing the conditions for free markets—markets which historically provide an abundance of goods and services, at an affordable cost, for the largest number. When free markets seem to be failing to meet this goal—and I would argue that the delivery of health care today is an example of where this is the case—government, rather than seeking to supply the need itself, should look to see if its own interventions are the root of the problem, and should make adjustments to unleash competition and choice.

With good reason, the Constitution left the administration of public health—like that of most public goods—decentralized. If there is any doubt that control of health care services should not have been placed in the federal government, we need only look at the history of Medicare and Medicaid—a history in which fraud has proliferated despite all efforts to stop it and failure to control costs has become a national nightmare. In 1966 the cost of Medicare to the taxpayers was about $3 billion. The House Ways and Means Committee estimated that it would cost $12 billion (adjusted for inflation) by 1990. The actual cost in 1990 was nearly nine times that—$107 billion. By 2009 Medicare costs reached $427 billion, with Medicaid boosting that by an additional $255 billion. And this doesn't take into account the Medicaid expansion in last year's “stimulus.” . . .

The (bad) news is that we (had) a choice. There are three basic models for health care delivery that are available to us: (1) today's business-government partnership or “crony capitalism” model, in which bureaucratized insurance companies monopolize the field in most states; (2) the progressive model (passed) by the Obama administration and congressional leaders, in which federal bureaucrats tell us which services they will allow; and (3) the model consistent with our Constitution, in which health care providers compete in a free and transparent market, and in which individual consumers are in control.

We are (told)—out of compassion— the progressive model (will be implemented); but placing control of health care in the hands of government bureaucrats is not compassionate. Bureaucrats don't make decisions about health care according to personal need or preference; they ration resources according to a dollar-driven social calculus. . .

The idea that the government should make decisions about how long people should live and who should be denied care is something that Americans find repugnant. As is true of the supply of every service or product, the supply of health care is finite. But it is a mistake to conclude that government should ration it, rather than allowing individuals to order their needs and allocate their resources among competing options. Those who are sick, special needs patients, and seniors are the ones who will be most at risk when the government involves itself in these difficult choices—as government must, once it takes upon itself management of American health care. . .

(Now that we are to) go down this path, creating entitlement after entitlement and promising benefits that can never be delivered, America will become like the European Union: a welfare state where most people pay few or no taxes while becoming dependent on government benefits; where tax reduction is impossible because more people have a stake in welfare than in producing wealth; where high unemployment is a way of life and the spirit of risk-taking is smothered by webs of regulation.

America today (has reached) this tipping point. While exact and precise measures cannot be made, there are estimates that in 2004, 20 percent of households in the U.S. were receiving about 75 percent of their income from the federal government, and that another 20 percent were receiving nearly 40 percent of their income from federal programs. All in all, about 60 percent of U.S. households were receiving more government benefits and services, measured in dollars, than they were paying back in taxes. It has also been estimated that President Obama's first budget alone raises this level of “net dependency” to 70 percent. . .

In other words, as many as 110 million Americans could claim this new entitlement within a few years. In addition to the immediate massive increase in dependency this would bring on, the structure of the subsidies—whereby they fade out as income rises—would impose a marginal tax penalty that would act as a disincentive to work, increasing dependency even more. . .

it makes absolutely no difference whether we have 50 state exchanges rather than a federal exchange, as long as the federal government is where the subsidies for consumers will be located (because) if you are eligible and you want a break on your insurance premium, it is the federal government that will provide it while telling you what kind of insurance you have to buy. (in essence we now have single payer nationalized health care)

Americans take pride in self-government, which entails providing for their own well-being and the well-being of their families in a free society. In exchange for this, (they got) government-run health care . . . (which will) make them passive subjects, dependent on handouts and far more concerned about security than liberty. . .

Americans retain the Founders' view that a government that seeks to go beyond its high but limited constitutional role of securing equal rights and establishing free markets is not progressive at all in the literal sense of that word—rather it is reactionary. Such a government seeks to privilege some Americans at the expense of others—which is precisely what the American Revolution was fought to prevent.

(The next question is: what is the next step for those who will defend liberty?)

“Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.”

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Constitution is not a coupon insert in your local paper, brimming with all sorts of giveaways and two-for-one deals

Excerpts: Jonah Goldberg, An American Divide

As serious analysis, [the] bifocal vision of America has always left me cold. The American economy is too dynamic, the American people too optimistic, to talk so glibly about haves and have-nots as permanent classes, the way French aristocrats talked about the peasants. More than half the people in the poorest 20 percent pull themselves out of it within a decade. Moreover, it’s all based on a kind of class envy that has never flourished in the U.S. the way it has elsewhere.

But it’s certainly fair to say that our political leaders believe in two different Americas. They even believe in two different Constitutions. Democrats insist that health care is a “right.” It’s that conviction more than anything else that is driving their push for Obamacare. The notion that health care is a right is an old one with deep roots in socialist and progressive thought. . .

Roosevelt said that opposition to this sweeping transformation of America made you a fascist. If “history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called ‘normalcy’ of the 1920’s, then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.”

Keep in mind that the 1920s was a decade of roaring economic growth. The return to “normalcy” FDR referred to was the return to a more limited form of government . . . Pres. Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge, the poster boy for the ’20s, was once asked what he thought of his achievements in office. He replied: “Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business.” That was the return to normalcy FDR was talking about. A government minding its own business, according to FDR, amounted to the spirit of fascism.

It’s not hard to see why so many liberals today take one look at the vast gatherings of decent, middle-class Americans known as tea parties and instantly think, “Fascists!” Never mind that fascists, properly understood, don’t usually demand less government intervention.

What we have here is a fundamental conflict of visions, to borrow a phrase from Thomas Sowell. One side believes that people are born into their station in life and that it is the government’s job to make their miserable lives a little better. Indeed, it is the natural order of things for the government to provide jobs, health care, and homes to the people. If you object to this concept of government, it must be because you want to “punish” the downtrodden and discriminated. You must be animated by racism, sexism, greed — “fascism!”

The other side says that our rights come from God, not from government. That while the government has an obligation to promote the general welfare, it doesn’t have a holy writ to design the nation as it sees fit. The Constitution is not a coupon insert in your local paper, brimming with all sorts of giveaways and two-for-one deals. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights delineate what the government cannot do, not what it can. What was so fantastic and revolutionary about that is that for the first time in history, a nation was founded on the proposition that the government should mind its own business. Believing that doesn’t make you a fascist, it makes you a patriot.

But the leaders of one America don’t see it that way, and probably never will. Which is why, whatever happens in Congress in the coming days and weeks, it will be “two Americas” for a very long time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Article 1, section 7 of the Constitution and the healthcare vote

For every Bill:
"in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively."
Case closed.

Progressive Code Words

Excerpts and edits: John Leo, Code Words

“The campus left (has) learned with its promotion of the concept of ‘diversity’ the advantages of packaging hard-core ideology in bland, feel-good terminology.” Here are other code words:

“social justice” . . . it refers to a controversial package of goals including political redistribution of wealth, gay marriage, and a campaign against “institutional racism,” “classism,” “ableism,” and “heterosexism.”

“dispositions”- In 2002, for example, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) issued new guidelines requiring education departments that listed social justice as a goal to “include some measure of a candidate’s commitment to social justice” when evaluating the “dispositions” of their students. As soon became clear, this provided education schools a back-door method of ensuring ideological conformity among their students.


“cultural competence” - may sound like it would refer to knowledge of different cultures. But it really means the acceptance of multicultural ideology and cultural relativism.

“secure livelihoods”

“strong economies” which seem to refer to redistribution of wealth, not economic development to create new wealth.

“sustainability” - which ties traditional environmentalism to the entire left-wing agenda. . . hundreds of campuses now have sustainability officers, courses that promote the ideology, and most ominously “co-curricular programs run through student life and residence halls to ‘educate’ students about their mistaken ‘worldviews’ and bring them aboard this new ideological ark.” Kathleen Kerr ran an astonishing all-out indoctrination program in the residential halls of the University of Delaware (students were all expected to accuse themselves of racism, for example), admitted in a speech that “the social-justice aspects of sustainability education.”

“environmental racism”

“domestic partnerships”

“gender equity”

The apparently harmless lingo of the Left can’t be taken at face value.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Toyota shakedown continues

Excerpts: Henry Payne on Toyota, from National Review

The Toyota Tort Circus now includes 61-year-old James Sikes, whose alleged runaway Prius last week ran stole the headlines from Toyota engineers’ exposure — just one day earlier — of ABC’s fraudulent report alleging runaway Toyota Avalons. Toyota’s engineers were back at the mike again Monday gamely trying to rationalize irrational tort claims (Sikes lawyer says his client is a victim of “ghosts in the machine”). But behind the clowns, the Sikes circus revealed two truths.

1.) Congress’ brake override “fix” is irrelevant. After two weeks of Congressional hearings, Washington pols had seized on a silver bullet to solve “instant acceleration”: A mandate that all cars come with a “brake-override” system that shuts off the accelerator when the brake is applied. But, though most Toyotas do not have brake-override, the Prius Sikes was driving does. As Automotive News reports: “Toyota said a brake override in the Prius would have cut engine power to the vehicle had the driver applied ‘moderate’ pressure on the brake pedal.” So much for silver bullets. Driver error anyone?

2.) The tort-enabling media has already made up its mind. Despite a history (accelerating Audis, exploding GM trucks, accelerating Jeeps) of false-alarm “ghost in the machine” scares, the tort-friendly media always comes to the same conclusion: The corporation did it. Cue Harry Smith on CBS Early Show, whose guest was Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) trying to explain the inconsistencies — and possible human error — behind Mr. Sikes’s claims.

“Does this giant corporation need your help to defend it?” Smith growled at Issa.

Is the "War on Poverty" over?

Excerpts: Robert Rector , Losing the War Forty-six years ago today, President Johnson vowed to wipe out poverty.

Today marks the 46th anniversary of the War on Poverty. On March 16, 1964, Pres. Lyndon Johnson announced a new government mobilization that he claimed would yield “total victory” against poverty in the United States. Johnson promised his “war” would be an “investment” that would “return its cost manifold to the entire economy.”

The War on Poverty sparked an astonishing growth in what is called “means-tested” welfare — that is, programs targeted exclusively toward poor and low-income Americans. (By contrast, programs such as Social Security and Medicare are not means-tested and provide assistance to the elderly across the entire population.) The means-tested welfare system today comprises more than 70 federal programs, including food stamps, public housing, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Medicaid. . .

Means-tested welfare spending has grown enormously since President Johnson’s day. After adjusting for inflation, welfare spending today is 13 times greater than it was then. Means-tested welfare spending was 1.2 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 1964; by 2008, it had reached 5 percent of GDP.

President Obama plans to sharply accelerate the growth in welfare spending. In FY2007, total government spending on means-tested welfare was a record-high $657 billion. By FY2011, total government spending on means-tested aid will rise to $953 billion, nearly a 50 percent increase in four years. Means-tested aid is targeted largely at the lowest-income third of the population. If $953 billion in annual spending were divided equally within this group, benefits would average more than $8,000 per person, or $32,000 per year for a family of four. . .

Since the beginning of the War on Poverty, government has spent $16.7 trillion (in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars) on means-tested welfare. In comparison, all the military wars in U.S. history have cost a total of $6.4 trillion (also in inflation-adjusted 2008 dollars). What has the U.S. gained from this investment? When Lyndon Johnson launched his war, he declared that it would strike “at the causes, not just the consequences of poverty.” He added, “Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.”

In other words, President Johnson was not proposing a massive system of welfare benefits, doled out to an ever larger population of beneficiaries over time. In fact, Johnson declared that the War on Poverty would enable the nation to make “important reductions” in future welfare spending. Johnson’s goal was an increase in self-sufficiency: to create a new generation of individuals capable of supporting themselves.

On one hand, it is true that, since the beginning of the War on Poverty, the material living conditions of the poor have improved; even the federal government cannot spend $16.7 trillion without having any impact whatsoever. But, in terms of reducing the “causes” rather than the “consequences” of poverty, the War on Poverty has failed utterly. In fact, a significant portion of the population is now less capable of prosperous self-sufficiency than it was before.

A major element in the declining capacity for self-support is the collapse of marriage in low-income communities. As the War on Poverty expanded benefits, welfare began to serve as a substitute for a husband in the home, and low-income marriage began to disappear. When Johnson launched the War on Poverty, 7 percent of American children were born out of wedlock. Today the number is 39 percent. . .

Over time, the War on Poverty has become divorced from reality. Current political discourse refuses to recognize or even mention the principal cause of poverty: the lack of work and marriage. To acknowledge those issues would be “blaming the victim.” Instead, political correctness insists that the principal cause of poverty is the unwillingness of taxpayers to sufficiently increase welfare and education spending, despite massive increases in government funding in these fields for decades — according to the Left, spending is always inadequate.

The original goal of the War on Poverty — to reduce both poverty and dependence on government — has been abandoned and forgotten.

The current goal in welfare is simply to “spread the wealth” for its own sake. The War on Poverty has become a system of permanent income redistribution, which will only increase over time.

According to President Obama’s budget projections, federal and state welfare spending will total $10.3 trillion over the next ten years. This spending will cost more than $100,000 for each taxpaying household in the U.S. Most of it will be funded by borrowing from future generations and foreign nations.

How they plan to pay for Obamacare

An analogy from Thomas Sowell:

I can say that I can afford to buy a Rolls Royce, without going into debt, by using my inheritance from a rich uncle. But, in the real world, the question would arise immediately whether I in fact have a rich uncle, not to mention whether this hypothetical rich uncle would be likely to leave me enough money to buy a Rolls Royce.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Voting with one's feet, is taxing

From the Wall Street Journal Editors

We reported in May that after passing a millionaire surtax nearly one-third of Maryland's millionaires had gone missing, thus contributing to a decline in state revenues. The politicians in Annapolis had said they'd collect $106 million by raising its income tax rate on millionaire households to 6.25% from 4.75%. In cities like Baltimore and Bethesda, which apply add-on income taxes, the top tax rate with the surcharge now reaches as high as 9.3%—fifth highest in the nation. Liberals said this was based on incomplete data and that rich Marylanders hadn't fled the state.

Well, the state comptroller's office now has the final tax return data for 2008, the first year that the higher tax rates applied. The number of millionaire tax returns fell sharply to 5,529 from 7,898 in 2007, a 30% tumble. The taxes paid by rich filers fell by 22%, and instead of their payments increasing by $106 million, they fell by some $257 million.

Yes, a big part of that decline results from the recession that eroded incomes, especially from capital gains. But there is also little doubt that some rich people moved out or filed their taxes in other states with lower burdens. One-in-eight millionaires who filed a Maryland tax return in 2007 filed no return in 2008. Some died, but the others presumably changed their state of residence.

States like Florida and Texas have no personal income tax, so the savings for a rich person who stops paying taxes in Baltimore or Montgomery County can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. Montgomery County, outside of Washington, D.C., is Maryland's wealthiest and was especially clobbered, losing nearly $4 billion in taxable income in 2008, with some 80% of those lost dollars from high-income returns.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Follow the money

Enough said.

Great Migrations In American History

"The tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots"

Excerpts: The Public Policy Losing Faith in the Feds By Ralph R. Reiland

For the upcoming November elections. . . the majority of Democrats are fundamentally out of step with a country that's increasing sounding like Patrick Henry and Paul Revere.

We know what happened the last time a critical mass of self-reliant and independent people in this part of the world decided that the government was a threat to their right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness: "That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it."

The king, with "a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states," had "erected a multitude of new offices and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance."

What were taxes at the time, in 1776? "English taxes were in the range of 1 percent of income in most colonies, and possibly as high as 2.5 percent in the plantation colonies," writes author Gary North. "For this, they went to war."

Today, reports the Tax Foundation, "Americans pay more in taxes than they spend on food, clothing, and housing combined."

On average, taxes ate up every cent we earned last year from January 1 through April 13, according to the Tax Foundation's analysis: "Tax Freedom Day answers the basic question, 'What price is the nation paying for government?' An official government figure for total tax collections is divided by the nation's total income. The answer last year is that taxes amounted to 28.2 percent of our income, and the stretch of 103 days from January 1 to April 13 is 28.2 percent of the year."

Add last year's unprecedented federal budget deficit to the total taxes collected and the cost of government moves to May 29. That's 41 percent of our total income to pay the price of government. Thomas Jefferson thought it was time to grab the muskets off the wall at 1 percent. . .

"Tea Party favorite for governor of Texas," Debra Medina, "reminded those at a rally that 'the tree of freedom is occasionally watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots.' ". . . Medina was quoting Jefferson, the same Jefferson who said that things work best when it's the government that is afraid: "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty."

Timid hubris

Excerpts: In the Wilsonian Tradition by George Will

Barack Obama has refuted critics who call him a radical. He has shown himself to be a timid progressive. . . His progressivism is an attitude of genteel regret about the persistence of politics. . .

In a scintillating book coming in June ("The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris"), Peter Beinart dissects the progressivism of Woodrow Wilson. . .

Wilson, a professor of political science, said that the Princeton he led as its president was dedicated to unbiased expertise, and he thought government could be "reduced to science." Progressives are forever longing to replace the governance of people by the administration of things. Because they are entirely public-spirited, progressives volunteer to be the administrators, and to be as disinterested as the dickens. How gripped was Wilson by what Beinart calls "the hubris of reason"? Beinart writes:

"He even recommended to his wife that they draft a constitution for their marriage. Let's write down the basic rules, he suggested; 'then we can make bylaws at our leisure as they become necessary.' It was an early warning sign, a hint that perhaps the earnest young rationalizer did not understand that there were spheres where abstract principles didn't get you very far, where reason could never be king."

Professor Obama, who will seek re-election on the 100th anniversary of Wilson's 1912 election, understands, which makes him melancholy. Speaking to Katie Couric on Feb. 7, Obama said:

"I would have loved nothing better than to simply come up with some very elegant, academically approved approach to health care, and didn't have any kinds of legislative fingerprints on it, and just go ahead and have that passed. But that's not how it works in our democracy. Unfortunately, what we end up having to do is to do a lot of negotiations with a lot of different people."

Wilson was the first president to criticize the Founding Fathers. He faulted them for designing a government too susceptible to factions that impede disinterested experts from getting on with government undistracted. Like Princeton's former president, Obama's grievance is with the greatest Princetonian, the "father of the Constitution," James Madison, class of 1771.

Why both parties are broken

The most disturbing part of the ObamaCare debate is not about where Republicans and Democrats disagree, but where they agree.

Take this issue of those with pre-existing illnesses. Many Republicans actually support government action to prevent insurance companies from refusing to insure them. Ignoring the benefits of cost-lowering free market competition and the role of charity, many Republicans believe it acceptable to force an insurance company -- in business to insure against unknown risks -- to "insure" someone currently experiencing a known risk.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., supports legislation to "eliminate pre-existing conditions" as a reason for a carrier to deny coverage. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., says government needs "to take care of things like pre-existing conditions so that that doesn't stop (people) from getting insurance." Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, supports prohibiting "insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions or charging higher premiums to people who are sick."

But this should not surprise anyone who observes the allegedly "fiscally conservative," "pro-free market," "limited government" party in action. From the acceptance of the New Deal to government bailouts of private industry,

Republicans -- sooner or later -- go along.

Here are just a few recent examples. Republican President George W. Bush, for a time, worked with a Republican House and Senate. Bush promised and delivered a prescription benefits bill for seniors. It expanded Medicare, the popular under-funded entitlement program passed -- with Republican support, by the way -- in 1965. We like seniors. Seniors vote. So if they struggle with their drugs bills, why, by all means make someone else help pay them. . .

No Child Left Behind ties federal dollars to local schools' performance. Where is the outrage about taxpayers in one state paying for education in another? What gives educrats in Washington, D.C., the skills, wisdom and competence to run schools in all 50 states? . . .

Republicans ran for the exits when Bush attempted a partial privatization of Social Security. And they should encourage a full-throated deregulation/privatization of the health care industry. . .

In 1900, government at all levels -- federal, state and local -- took about 7 percent of America's income. Today it's almost 40 percent. And that doesn't include an estimated 10 percent cost in federal unfunded mandates imposed on states and private business. President Barack Obama and Democrats want to add more than 30 million people -- those without health insurance -- to the takers, with little or no concern about the effect on the givers.

Government . . . grows at the expense of the productive. This eventually weakens the country by sapping the incentive of risk takers. This makes it harder -- not easier -- to help those we claim to care about.

A collectivist, whether an active or passive one, is still a collectivist. Having an "R" after the name provides no defense.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rights vs. Wishes

Excerpts: Walter Williams, Healthcare rights

Most politicians, and probably most Americans, see health care as a right. Thus, whether a person has the means to pay for medical services or not, he is nonetheless entitled to them. . .

Say a person, let's call him Harry, suffers from diabetes and he has no means to pay a laboratory for blood work, a doctor for treatment and a pharmacy for medication. Does Harry have a right to XYZ lab's and Dr. Jones' services and a prescription from a pharmacist? And, if those services are not provided without charge, should Harry be able to call for criminal sanctions against those persons for violating his rights to health care?

You say, "Williams, that would come very close to slavery if one person had the right to force someone to serve him without pay." You're right. Suppose instead of Harry being able to force a lab, doctor and pharmacy to provide services without pay, Congress uses its taxing power to take a couple of hundred dollars out of the paycheck of some American to give to Harry so that he could pay the lab, doctor and pharmacist. Would there be any difference in principle, namely forcibly using one person to serve the purposes of another? . .

True rights, such as those in our Constitution, or those considered to be natural or human rights, exist simultaneously among people. That means exercise of a right by one person does not diminish those held by another. . .

For Congress to guarantee a right to health care, or any other good or service, whether a person can afford it or not, it must diminish someone else's rights, namely their rights to their earnings. . . The fact that government has no resources of its very own forces one to recognize that in order for government to give one American citizen a dollar, it must first, through intimidation, threats and coercion, confiscate that dollar from some other American. If one person has a right to something he did not earn, of necessity it requires that another person not have a right to something that he did earn.

To argue that people have a right that imposes obligations on another is an absurd concept. A better term for new-fangled rights to health care, decent housing and food is wishes. If we called them wishes, I would be in agreement with most other Americans for I, too, wish that everyone had adequate health care, decent housing and nutritious meals. However, if we called them human wishes, instead of human rights, there would be confusion and cognitive dissonance. The average American would cringe at the thought of government punishing one person because he refused to be pressed into making someone else's wish come true.

Public school ignorance

Excerpts: Artificial Stupidity by Thomas Sowell

People are all born ignorant but they are not born stupid. Much of the stupidity we see today is induced by our educational system, from the elementary schools to the universities. In a high-tech age that has seen the creation of artificial intelligence by computers, we are also seeing the creation of artificial stupidity by people who call themselves educators.

Educational institutions created to pass on to the next generation the knowledge, experience and culture of the generations that went before them have instead been turned into indoctrination centers to promote whatever notions, fashions or ideologies happen to be in vogue among today's intelligentsia. . .

It was once the proud declaration of many educators that "We are here to teach you how to think, not what to think." But far too many of our teachers and professors today are teaching their students what to think, about everything from global warming to the new trinity of "race, class and gender." . .

Many of today's "educators" not only supply students with conclusions, they promote the idea that students should spring into action because of these prepackaged conclusions-- in other words, vent their feelings and go galloping off on crusades, without either a knowledge of what is said by those on the other side or the intellectual discipline to know how to analyze opposing arguments.

When we see children in elementary schools out carrying signs in demonstrations, we are seeing the kind of mindless groupthink that causes adults to sign petitions they don't understand or-- worse yet-- follow leaders they don't understand, whether to the White House, the Kremlin or Jonestown.

A philosopher once said that the most important knowledge is knowledge of one's own ignorance. That is the knowledge that too many of our schools and colleges are failing to teach our young people. . .

Will Rogers once said that it was not ignorance that was so bad but "all the things we know that ain't so." But our classroom indoctrinators are getting students to think that they know after hearing only one side of an issue. It is artificial stupidity.

Do we need licensing laws?

-John Stossel
Some of the most famous lawyers in American history, including Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Supreme Court Justice Benjamin Cardozo, had no license from the state. Their customers decided whether they were worthy of being hired.

Euphemisms and political poker

Excerpts: Thomas Sowell Stimulus or Sedative?

The fact that politicians call something a “stimulus” does not make it a stimulus.

Abraham Lincoln once asked an audience how many legs a dog has, if you called the tail a leg? When the audience said “five,” Lincoln corrected them, saying that the answer was four. “The fact that you call a tail a leg does not make it a leg.”

That same principle applies today. The fact that politicians call something a “stimulus” does not make it a stimulus. The fact that they call something a “jobs bill” does not mean there will be more jobs. . .

After the Bush administration’s stimulus spending in 2008, business spending on equipment and software fell — not rose— by 28 percent. Spending on durable goods fell 22 percent.

What about the banks? Four months after the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP) poured billions of dollars into the banks, the biggest recipients of that money made 23 percent fewer loans than before. A year later, the credit extended by American banks as a whole was down — not up — by more than $20 billion.

Spending in general was down. The velocity of circulation of money fell faster than it had in half a century.

Just two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal reported, “U.S. banks posted last year their sharpest decline in lending since 1942.” You can call it a stimulus, if you want to, just as you can call a tail a leg. But the actual effect of what is called a “stimulus” has been more like that of a sedative.

Why aren’t the banks lending, with all that money sitting there gathering dust?

You don’t lend when politicians are making it more doubtful whether you are going to get your money back — either on time or at all. From the White House to Capitol Hill, politicians are coming up with all sorts of bright ideas for borrowers not to have to pay back what they borrowed and for lenders not to be able to foreclose on people who are months behind on their mortgage payments. . .

The theory is that, if one thing doesn’t work, it is just a matter of trying another. But, in an atmosphere where nobody knows what the federal government is going to come up with next, people tend to hang on to their money until they have some idea of what the rules of the game are going to be.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The poverty shell game that is about to happen.

Excerpts: Robert Rector, Obama’s New ‘Poverty’ Measurement ; Setting a new national goal: class warfare.

This week, the Obama administration announced it will create a new poverty-measurement system that will eventually displace the current poverty measure. This new measure, which has little or nothing to do with actual poverty, will serve as the propaganda tool in Obama’s endless quest to “spread the wealth.”

Under the new measure, a family will be judged “poor” if its income falls below a certain specified income threshold. Nothing new there, but, unlike the current poverty standards, the new income thresholds will have a built-in escalator clause: They will rise automatically in direct proportion to any rise in the living standards of the average American.

The current poverty measure counts absolute purchasing power — how much steak and potatoes you can buy. The new measure will count comparative purchasing power — how much steak and potatoes you can buy relative to other people. As the nation becomes wealthier, the poverty standards will increase in proportion. In other words, Obama will employ a statistical trick to ensure that “the poor will always be with you,” no matter how much better off they get in absolute terms.

Krugman does not even believe Krugman

Comments from By JAMES TARANTO in National Review, edits by Dean Kahalar

Economist Paul Krugman says this about government involvement in the economy.

Today, Democrats and Republicans live in different universes, both intellectually and morally. "What Democrats believe," he says "is what textbook economics says":

What does textbook economics have to say about the question of expanding governmental influence into the economy and their impact on creating jobs? Here is a passage from a textbook called "Macroeconomics"

Public policy designed to help workers who lose their jobs can lead to structural unemployment as an unintended side effect. . . . In other countries, particularly in Europe, benefits are more generous and last longer. The drawback to this generosity is that it reduces a worker's incentive to quickly find a new job. Generous unemployment benefits in some European countries are widely believed to be one of the main causes of "Eurosclerosis," the persistent high unemployment that affects a number of European countries.

This "textbook" explanation was written by Paul Krugman and Robin Wells. Miss Wells is also known as Mrs. Paul Krugman. So it turns out that what Krugman calls the conservative point of view regarding government "stimulus" is, in fact, textbook economics.

It seems Krugman himself lives in two different universes--the universe of the academic economist and the universe of the bitter partisan columnist.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Graph of the day

Scarcity vs. choices

Source: Carpe Diem blog, Mark Perry

Basic economics in one lesson

The Conundrum Of The Sno Cone Industry

Scarcity vs. utopia

A lesson in choices and costs.

Entrepreneural capitalism or the mediocrity of the welfare state?

Excerpts: Bring Back the Robber Barons By DANIEL HENNINGER

"Robber baron" became a term of derision to generations of American students after many earnest teachers made them read Matthew Josephson's long tome of the same name about the men whose enterprise drove the American industrial age from 1861 to 1901. . .

I say, bring 'em back, and the sooner the better. What we need, a lot more than a $1,000 tax credit, are industries no one has thought of before. We need vision, vitality and commercial moxie. This government is draining it away. . .

there's a difference between entrepreneurs who make a fortune in the free market, and those who gather wealth by manipulating politics. . .

Hillsdale College historian Burton W. Folsom called "The Myth of the Robber Barons: A New Look at the Rise of Big Business in America" (Young America's Foundation). Prof. Folsom's core insight is to divide the men of that age into market entrepreneurs and political entrepreneurs.

Market entrepreneurs like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Hill built businesses on product and price. Hill was the railroad magnate who finished his transcontinental line without a public land grant. Rockefeller took on and beat the world's dominant oil power at the time, Russia. Rockefeller innovated his way to energy primacy for the U.S.

Political entrepreneurs, by contrast, made money back then by gaming the political system. Steamship builder Robert Fulton acquired a 30-year monopoly on Hudson River steamship traffic from, no surprise, the New York legislature. Cornelius Vanderbilt, with the slogan "New Jersey must be free," broke Fulton's government-granted monopoly.

If the Obama model takes hold, we will enter the Golden Age of the Political Entrepreneur. The green jobs industry that sits at the center of the Obama master plan for the American future depends on public subsidies for wind and solar technologies plus taxes on carbon to suppress it as a competitor. Politically connected entrepreneurs will spend their energies running a mad labyrinth of bureaucracies, congressional committees and Beltway door openers. Our best market entrepreneurs, instead of exhausting themselves on their new ideas, will run to ground gaming Barack Obama's ideas.

If the goal is job growth, we need to admit one fact: Political entrepreneurs create fewer jobs than do market entrepreneurs. We need new mass markets, really big markets of the sort Ford, Rockefeller and Carnegie created. Great employment markets are discoverable only by people who create opportunities or see them in the cracks of what already exists—a Federal Express or Wal-Mart. Either you believe that the philosopher kings of the Obama administration can figure out this sort of thing, or you don't. I don't. . .

We live in a world of rising competitors—foreign robber barons—who don't much care about our endless quest for health-care justice. The U.S. on its current path to a stage-managed economy floating in a lake of taxes will keep down the greatest population of intellectual and managerial firepower the world has seen. The rest of the world admits that, with the recent exception of the Chinese, who think we're ready to be taken. We have young people impatient for the chance to do what Carnegie, Rockefeller and Hill did. Let them.

Hopes, wishes, and dreams

I wish we could all just hold hands and get along and share lollipops and unicorns while singing a song of peace and harmony.

Ideals are so warm and fuzzy.

Unfortunately we live in a world of natural laws, including human nature, scarcity, and competition to spread DNA and survive.

Capitalism, limited republican government, the nuclear family, competitive education, and freedom of religion is the only hope of humanity.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Quote of the month

"The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants."-Albert Camus

What freedom means in simple terms

In a free country, we consenting adults should be able to do whatever we want with our bodies as long as we don't hurt anyone else. People who don't like what we do have every right to complain about our behavior, to boycott, to picket, to embarrass us. Bless the critics. They make us better people by getting us to think about what's moral. Let them mock and shame. But shaming is one thing -- government force is another. Prohibition means we empower the state to send out people with guns to force people to do what the majority says is moral. That's not right.- John Stossel

They know what you "need."

Excerpts:Editorial, Wall Street Journal: Abuse of Power 'An undemocratic disservice to our people and to the Senate's institutional role.

A string of electoral defeats and the great unpopularity of ObamaCare can't stop Democrats from their self-appointed rendezvous with liberal destiny—ramming a bill through Congress on a narrow partisan vote. What we are about to witness is an extraordinary abuse of traditional Senate rules to pass a bill merely because they think it's good for the rest of us, and because they fear their chance to build a European welfare state may never come again. . .

"They know that this will take courage," Nancy Pelosi said in an interview over the weekend, speaking of the Members she'll try to strong-arm. "It took courage to pass Social Security. It took courage to pass Medicare," the Speaker continued. "But the American people need it, why are we here? We're not here just to self-perpetuate our service in Congress." . . .

The goal is to permanently expand the American entitlement state with a vast apparatus of subsidies and regulations while the political window is still (barely) open, regardless of the consequences or the overwhelming popular condemnation. As Mr. Obama fatalistically said after his health summit, if voters don't like it, "then that's what elections are for."

In other words, he's volunteering Democrats in Congress to march into the fixed bayonets so he can claim an LBJ-level legacy like the Great Society that will be nearly impossible to repeal. This would be an unprecedented act of partisan arrogance that would further mark Democrats as the party of liberal extremism. If they think political passions are bitter now, wait until they pass ObamaCare.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sowell on real "single payer" healthcare

Back when the “single payer” was the patient, people were more selective in what they spent their money on. You went to a doctor when you had a broken leg but not necessarily every time you had the sniffles or a skin rash. But, when someone else is paying, that is when medical care gets overused — and bureaucratic rationing is then imposed, to replace self-rationing . . .

Politicians who want a government monopoly on health insurance can easily get it, just by making it impossible for private insurance companies to charge enough to cover the costs mandated by politicians. The “public option” will then be the only option — which is to say, we will no longer have any real option. - Thomas Sowell

The free market and earth quake suvival rates

How Milton Friedman Saved Chile By BRET STEPHENS

It's not by chance that Chileans were living in houses of brick—and Haitians in houses of straw—when the wolf arrived to try to blow them down. In 1973, the year the proto-Chavista government of Salvador Allende was overthrown by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Chile was an economic shambles. Inflation topped out at an annual rate of 1000%, foreign-currency reserves were totally depleted, and per capita GDP was roughly that of Peru and well below Argentina's.

What Chile did have was intellectual capital, thanks to an exchange program between its Catholic University and the economics department of the University of Chicago, then Friedman's academic home. Even before the 1973 coup, several of Chile's "Chicago Boys" had drafted a set of policy proposals which amounted to an off-the-shelf recipe for economic liberalization: sharp reductions to government spending and the money supply; privatization of state-owned companies; the elimination of obstacles to free enterprise and foreign investment, and so on. . .

As for Chile, Pinochet appointed a succession of Chicago Boys to senior economic posts. By 1990, the year he ceded power, per capita GDP had risen by 40% (in 2005 dollars) even as Peru and Argentina stagnated. Pinochet's democratic successors—all of them nominally left-of-center—only deepened the liberalization drive. Result: Chileans have become South America's richest people. They have the continent's lowest level of corruption, the lowest infant-mortality rate, and the lowest number of people living below the poverty line.

Chile also has some of the world's strictest building codes. That makes sense for a country that straddles two massive tectonic plates. But having codes is one thing, enforcing them is another. The quality and consistency of enforcement is typically correlated to the wealth of nations. The poorer the country, the likelier people are to scrimp on rebar, or use poor quality concrete, or lie about compliance. In the Sichuan earthquake of 2008, thousands of children were buried under schools also built according to code.

Monday, March 1, 2010

There is no such thing as free beer

Is the Dismal Science Really a Science? Is There Really Such a Thing as Free Beer?
Russ Roberts writing in the Wall Street Journal:

"The defenders of modern macroeconomics argue that if we just study the economy long enough, we'll soon be able to model it accurately and design better policy. Soon. That reminds me of the permanent sign in the bar: Free Beer Tomorrow.

We should face the evidence that we are no better today at predicting tomorrow than we were yesterday. Eighty years after the Great Depression we still argue about what caused it and why it ended.

If economics is a science, it is more like biology than physics. Biologists try to understand the relationships in a complex system. That's hard enough. But they can't tell you what will happen with any precision to the population of a particular species of frog if rainfall goes up this year in a particular rain forest. They might not even be able to count the number of frogs right now with any exactness.

We have the same problems in economics. The economy is a complex system, our data are imperfect and our models inevitably fail to account for all the interactions.

The bottom line is that we should expect less of economists. Economics is a powerful tool, a lens for organizing one's thinking about the complexity of the world around us. That should be enough. We should be honest about what we know, what we don't know and what we may never know. Admitting that publicly is the first step toward respectability."

Source: Mark Perry, Carpe Diem Blog