Monday, May 28

Legal Plunder

Frédéric Bastiat, from La Loi:
La chimère du jour est d'enrichir toutes les classes aux dépens les unes des autres; c'est de généraliser la Spoliation sous prétexte de l'organiser. Or, la spoliation légale peut s'exercer d'une multitude infinie de manières; de là une multitude infinie de plans d'organisation: tarifs, protection, primes, subventions, encouragements, impôt progressif, instruction gratuite, Droit au travail, Droit au profit, Droit au salaire, Droit à l'assistance, Droit aux instruments de travail, gratuité du crédit, etc. Et c'est l'ensemble de tous ces plans, en ce qu'ils ont de commun, la spoliation légale, qui prend le nom de Socialisme.

Or le Socialisme, ainsi défini, formant un corps de doctrine, quelle guerre voulez-vous lui faire, si ce n'est une guerre de doctrine? Vous trouvez cette doctrine fausse, absurde, abominable. Réfutez-la. Cela vous sera d'autant plus aisé qu'elle est plus fausse, plus absurde, plus abominable. Surtout, si vous voulez être fort, commencez par extirper de votre législation tout ce qui a pu s'y glisser de Socialisme, — et l'œuvre n'est pas petite.
The English version inexplicably cuts off the first sentence and puts it with a previous segment; I restore it below:
The present-day delusion is an attempt to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else; to make plunder universal under the pretense of organizing it. Now, legal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways. Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor, free credit, and so on, and so on. All these plans as a whole — with their common aim of legal plunder — constitute socialism.

Now, since under this definition socialism is a body of doctrine, what attack can be made against it other than a war of doctrine? If you find this socialistic doctrine to be false, absurd, and evil, then refute it. And the more false, the more absurd, and the more evil it is, the easier it will be to refute. Above all, if you wish to be strong, begin by rooting out every particle of socialism that may have crept into your legislation. This will be no light task.

Thursday, May 24

I guess it's supposed to be funny

Reviewing two books on the English language, Tom Shippey uses the French word "querelle".
One can then agree with Watts’s strictures over the Kingman Report, the Cox Report, the querelle over John Honey’s work in the 1980s and 90s, remarking only (as has been done several times in this journal) that much of the trouble came and comes from the fact that, by “grammar”, far too many educated English-speakers still mean a small set of trivial shibboleths.
Or maybe cute? It comes off as a little snooty to me.

Wednesday, May 23

Monday, May 21

He hasn't taken many Liberal Arts courses

Lowering the Bar says,
...all else being equal, the shorter and simpler something is then the more thought was probably put into it.
I agree, but that's not what postmodernists think.

Friday, May 18

Marriage as the foundation of conservative American culture

Thaddeus Russell wrote,
Back in the days when there was an identifiable counter-cultural movement in the United States, feminists, gay activists, and much of the left identified the institution of marriage as the foundation of conservative American culture and therefore something to oppose, not seek. But now, with more and more gays gaining official permission to marry, the left is celebrating a right that it used to compare with the right to be imprisoned. ...

The idea that the state should promote, sanction, and regulate monogamous relationships gained currency in the 16th century as a reaction to Europe’s first sexual revolution. Public, group, and what we now call homosexual sex were commonplace, prostitution was rampant and generally unpunished, pornographic books and pamphlets were widely popular, and laws against adultery and divorce went unenforced. Martin Luther and other leaders of the Protestant Reformation seized upon marriage as a means though which to curb unchristian freedoms and bring about social order.

Thursday, May 17

Right and left agree: they know what's good for you

Speaking of welfare in the form of cash transfers, Gabriel Rossman notes,
...there is an implicit, pan-ideological consensus that transfers are about society providing the poor with that which we deem it appropriate for them to have and not that which they would purchase themselves if they had the money.

Democrats unanimous for corporate welfare

Sallie James notes,
the U.S. Senate in a 78 to 20 vote elected to follow the House’s lead (330 to 93, in that case) to re-authorize, with a bigger budget, the Export-Import Bank of the United States until 2014.
Even though, as she links to Brian Darling, who reminds us, on September 22, 2008, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)
talked about duplication in government programs and advocated cutting those programs.  The Senator hammered the Export-Import Bank “that’s become little more than a fund for corporate welfare.” 

Wednesday, May 16

Illinois judges

From an editorial in the Chicago Tribune:
[Illinois judges] sued former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the Legislature in 2003 after he stripped their automatic 3 percent cost-of-living pay increases from the budget, saying Illinois taxpayers couldn't afford them.

So the judges went to court, and some of the judges got to rule:

A circuit court ruled in favor of the judges.

And the Illinois Supreme Court, which heard the case on an expedited schedule (of course it did!), ruled in favor of the judges.

Fast-forward to 2012: Illinois judges remain among the top-paid in the nation. They earn generous pension benefits and, thanks to the Jorgensen case, get their guaranteed 3 percent cost-of-living increases every year.

If the judges file suit to preserve free retiree health care for themselves, will they again rule in their own favor?
Man, I'd like to see that guaranteed 3%, not to mention the free health care.

Saturday, May 12

Crony capitalists unite!

Timothy P.Carney writes,
Obama's closeness to subsidized industrial giants General Electric and Boeing (the CEOs of both of these companies are top advisers) and his ties to solar and wind companies (the top investor in Solyndra was an Obama campaign bundler) undermines Obama's anti-special-interest rhetoric and highlights how government intervention ends up benefiting the biggest and most connected companies.

Republicans have hinted that they will run against the collusion of Big Business and Big Government. Romney, after winning the Pennsylvania primary last month, pledged, through restoring free markets, to "stop the unfairness of politicians giving taxpayer money to their friends' businesses."

Congressional Republicans have launched investigations into the Solyndra deal. "Crony capitalism" has become a common phrase on the GOP campaign trail.

So Ex-Im, a naked example of corporate welfare mostly benefiting one giant corporation, presented a great opportunity for a Republican fight. As President Obama campaigned hard for reauthorization of Ex-Im, free-market institutions in Washington called for abolition....

But the business lobby is almost unanimously agreed in the opposite direction. The Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, Business Roundtable, American Petroleum Institute and most big businesses have lobbied to reauthorize the agency and raise the lending cap to $140 billion.

On Wednesday, House Republicans sided with their business base over their conservative base -- 147 House Republicans, including the entire leadership, voted for reauthorization, compared with 93 nays.
Who says the Republicans never agree with Obama?

Still not done with war

Peter Maass writes,
One of the scariest developments of the post-9/11 era isn’t the challenge to constitutional principles by the Bush administration—though many of these challenges were indeed quite worrisome—but their extension by the Obama administration, when one of Bush’s land wars is already over and the other looks to be wound down relatively soon. The organization that attacked the country, Al Qaeda, has been all but dismantled and its leader killed. If the war that began on 9/11 might have had a surrender-on-the-deck-of-the-Missouri moment, the death of Osama bin Laden should have been it. Yet that moment has passed. The New York Police Department has felt no need to apologize for its recently revealed surveillance of Muslim students during a whitewater rafting trip upstate.

Indeed, how can we explain the wartime-like secrecy about the use of weaponized drones? The government refuses to explain attacks that have been widely reported, even attacks in Yemen that, in a remarkable challenge to constitutional notions of due process, killed three American citizens (Anwar al-Awlaki, AbdulRahman al-Awlaki and Samir Khan). Dudziak provides a clue in her observation that the cold war was perpetuated not only by the activities of the Soviet Union but also by domestic politics. “National security became a tool of partisan politics,” she writes. “Domestic and often partisan political discourse can be more important to public opinion on military conflict than international events themselves.” The Obama administration may believe that there is a genuine national security need to continue Bush-era policies, but there’s also a domestic political benefit to doing so. By perpetuating the wartime of 9/11, Obama cannot be accused of failing to perpetuate it. The only way Republicans can criticize him for being “soft” on Muslim terrorism is to pivot to Iran and urge an attack on its nuclear facilities. The position is so extreme that, though useful in the primaries, it may hurt the Republican nominee in the general election. These days, we prefer that wartime not involve a land war.

What you think you know is wrong

In the absence of publicized regulations like traffic laws, the elevation of shared knowledge to common knowledge can be unpredictable, even chaotic. Outlandish fashions, surprise bestsellers, dark-horse candidates, currency hyperinflations, and asset bubbles and crashes are all cases in which people behave according to the way they expect other people to expect other people to expect other people to behave. The craving for common knowledge can even lead to a false consensus, in which everyone is convinced that everyone believes something, and believes that everyone else believes that they believe it, but in fact no one actually believes it.
From "Usage in The American Heritage Dictionary" by Steven Pinker.

Thursday, May 10

How much will retirees have to pay for insurance? (II)

Why seven tiers?

According to the Illinois State Universities Annuitants Association (SUAA):

As sited [sic] from a memo to Rep. Tom Cross from CMS which is to be a part of the record this
Amendment allows:

  • the Director of CMS to set the premiums that are paid by retirees in the Group Health Insurance Program every year.   
  • the proposed retiree contributions will pay a percentage of their healthcare costs on a sliding scale. The scale is based on (1) length of service, and (2) ability to pay.   
  • the percentage of cost the retiree will pay will also be based on his or her pension level. Pension amounts will be broken up into seven tiers; the higher the tier, the more the retiree will pay.  
  • retirees who are eligible for Medicare (generally 65 years old and above) cost the state substantially less than those who are not on Medicare. Since the contributions will be based on paying a percent of the cost of care for the state, those retirees on Medicare will pay significantly less than those (generally younger and still working) who are not.  
  • those who have already retired when this plan goes into effect will pay based on their ability to pay, but will be given service credit at the highest level. However, regardless of the contribution amount determined under those rules, the new plan contribution will not be less for any retiree than the amount they contribute under the current policy.
Why seven tiers?

Tuesday, May 8

Leviathan

Glenn Greenwald on the American Leviathan:
...like almost all of the most consequential and destructive policies — endless war, the Drug War, the sprawling and barbaric American prison state — the domestic Surveillance State expands with equal fervor under both Democratic and Republicans administrations, and opposing it thus affords no partisan gain and it is therefore entirely off the table of debate. In lieu of any dispute over these types of actually consequential government policies, we instead endure a series of trivial weekly scandals that numb the brain, distract attention, and produce acrimony as virulent and divisive as it is petty.

Monday, May 7

Pew Research Center: the media virtually ignored Ron Paul.

Ron Paul enjoyed the most consistently positive portrayal of any candidate in the race. But that was offset by the fact that the media virtually ignored him.

Wednesday, May 2

How much will retirees have to pay for insurance?

Bill to cut state-subsidized health care advances
A House committee moved today to end a guarantee that the state will subsidize retiree health care.... Instead, Central Management Services would present a premium that retired state employees, university employees, lawmakers and judges would have to pay.
Who know if this will pass. If it does, I hope they use the Illinois Policy Institute's suggestion.

Why Republicans never want to compromise

People always complain about how Republicans never want to compromise and trade tax hikes now for spending cuts in the future. Yet as John Hinderaker writes, Spending cuts? Never today, always tomorrow.