Bank Nationalization

While you were sleeping, the banks were taken over.

Wall Street Journal Headlines

“Pay Slashed at Bailout Firms: Treasury Orders

Average Cut of 50% for 175 Top Earners;

Cash Salary Cap is $500,000”

“Fed Hits Banks With Sweeping Pay Limits:

Thousands of Firms Affected in Plan Meant to

Discourage Risky Bets; Small-Town Institutions

‘Pay for the Sins’ of Big Players”

“AIG Compensation Proposals Fail to Pass Muster:

Feinberg Rejects Chunks of Packages for

Highly Paid Workers; Bonuses Still Possible

for Unit That Nearly Toppled the Firm”

“U.S. Isn’t the Only Nation To Impose Restrictions”

Questions:

Is this what nationalization looks like?

Do we need bankers? Can’t the government do their jobs instead?

Do we even need banks?

Maybe we should just get it over with, expand Barney Frank’s role,

and give him lifetime sinecure, divine right of kings, or some other

form of  veto-proof authority and tenure.

Nazism’s Crimes Obscures Socialism’s

Ask any high school kid: What do you know about communism? They might string together a dozen words. The scale and horror of communism’s reign has not been told them.

Last night, I was conversing with a young man, in his early twenties. He was highly educated, by today’s standards. He was a gifted artist. He has recently discovered the virtue of liberty as opposed to government planning. He is becoming a conservative. I asked what he knew of communism. He couldn’t say. He couldn’t distinguish it from Nazism. He had no grasp of the extent of communism’s crimes. I introduced him to The Black Book of Communism and Wild Swans, among other books. I printed a copy of The Humanitarian With the Guillotine. He read most of it last night. (It does not chronicle their crimes, only the sweet sentiments animating socialists, and how far they go astray, in empirical reality.)

The average kid hears quite a bit about the Nazis. They and Hitler were certifiably bad. Why would leftists heap all the opprobrium  on the German Nazis? It shifts attention away from the blemishes of socialism. Nazism was so bad, surely there could be nothing worse. This is a ruse.

It is time for socialism, in all of its degrees, to face full disclosure. Show the pictures of starved children, burned villages, mass graves, country-wide starvation, the impalings, the processing number safety pinned to the Cambodian boy’s bare chest, the racks with thousands of skulls. Shine the graph of 100 million deaths. View the maps of forced re-locations, of prison camps for dissidents. Let’s get the word out. Communism beats Nazism sixteen-fold.

Dictators are Not Crazy

Glenn Beck says that diabolical leaders of brutal socialist regimes like Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were insane. He pronounces the word with emphasis.

That gives them too much credit, a cover for their cruelty. They were not insane. They were methodical, organized, hard-working, and effective. They were above all, benevolent, or so they thought. They intended a just society, an egalitarian society, a superior society.

We are wise when we view government blandishments suspiciously. Putative generosity leads sometimes to the gas chamber, the gulag, the disapora, to political executions, to purges, to mass starvation, to incalculable loss.

Nobel Prize $ to Medicare

Today’s Wall Street Journal contained an opinion piece by Daniel Henninger: A Decadent Nobel. Many have noted the recent devaluation of a once-noble prize.

How much does Mr. Obama receive for the award? $1.4 million. He will “give it to charity.” One charity he could give it to is Medicare. It certainly is in trouble. It goes through piles of cash. Federal government health care programs cost $747 billion per year. So if Mr. Obama gave his award, it would last 58 seconds. (He’ll have to pay taxes on it first. That will take 30-40%. So his grant will last perhaps 38 seconds.)

Lest $747 billion per year seem a big number, the difference between future promised Medicare and Social Security benefits, and the money expected to come in to pay those benefits is staggering: $56.4 trillion. That’s a “debt” of $483,000 for each household. We had better teach our children to enjoy work. They’ll be working 16 hour days to cover promises our generations have made. Aren’t they lucky.

Solar Revolution

Solar Revolution: The Economic Transformation of the Global Energy Industry

By Travis Bradford

Read October 2009

Mr. Bradford is a cheerleader for solar, especially PV. He persuaded me that some of the costs of electricity in present debates are not taken into account. Electricity to our home is about half generation and half distribution, cost-wise. Solar is great for remote applications, because you don’t have to build a line from the grid to the house and amortize that cost. PV could be really useful in developing nations for this reason.

I’ve known people who lived off-grid for years, Ken and Pam Champion and a couple who now lives near Strobels. Other people who came into my shop told their stories. To live with solar and propane in a house off the grid involved many curtailed conveniences. Run your lights, just a few, for a couple of hours. Have a tiny fridge. Watch an hour of TV. Have a tiny house. Heat with wood. Spend a lot of time fiddling with your energy supply and accommodating its limitations. Of course, that was when panels cost more. If panel cost drops rapidly, many more conveniences could be enjoyed. The ROI was long.

Bradford’s justifications for solar were familiar from enthusiasts in the media. Energy independence, so we don’t have to rely on intransigent Middle Eastern regions. The logic seems suspect. People who promote solar, also promote international cooperation and interdependence and a borderless world. Are they saying cooperation is unlikely? One of their dreams crumbles. Energy independence sells, so they use it.

Electric cars thrill him.

I enjoyed learning more about peak power and baseload power, about photons jumping around on a silicon surface, about scalability, knowing how Japan and Germany are adopting solar. It sounds driven by government distortions and subsidies, in some cases. They pay about $.21/KwH. We pay about $.07 per KwH.

His style was non-didactic, though much of the green agenda of the left is thinly masked. Because it was dry, I was able to stomach the arguments. If an advocacy group phrased it, I would have been less amenable.

He is torn between advocacy and chronicling. He says solar will become popular solely due to rising prices for oil, gas, and coal generated electricity. The market will do it. He seems market-reliant. Then he praises national, state and local subsidies and regulatory acts that favor solar development.

I doubt the Peak Oil scenario and the speed with which he claims solar will become competitive.

If solar can cost $.07 per KwH, great! I’m ready. But I know the solar panels being installed around our neighborhood are highly subsidized, a fact which makes me uncomfortable as a taxpayer.

Overall, I’m glad I took the time to read most of this book. I skimmed the last 1/3. I am more friendly to PV solar than before, but still wary of some of his assumptions and costs. He did persuade me that some of the costs of traditional generation may not be fully accounted for, though I think he might be exaggerating somewhat.) I’m wary of some of his projections, and his reliance on tax and regulatory policy to make solar work.

The Moral Ecology of Markets

Book Review

The Moral Ecology of Markets

Read October 2009

By Daniel Finn

Finn points out the arguments for and against a free market and limited government. I can tell he is favorable to a muted market approach, but he also praises the wealth and higher levels of prosperity markets have created since Adam Smith.

Sometimes his jargon was murky. Examples could have helped. Why not include stories?

I especially appreciated his Moral Warrants for Self-Interest and Markets, ten points, and his amplification of them, as well as his Moral Criticisms of Self-Interest and Markets, eight points and his explanation of them.

If I had to simplify this contest, I would simply show that where markets have been most honored, people have many more choices, prosperity, imagination and creativity, rights of religion and expression, and that they and their nations are strong and flourish, but where markets are suppressed, death, despair and penury result. To the extent that markets rule, flourishing is seen. All along the spectrum, from totalitarian utopianism, to Western Europe’s hampered capitalism, to Hong Kong, Singapore and the United States, the evidence resounds.

I can sympathize with the desires of market modifiers, but when they covert their whims into concrete policies, impracticality is the result. Some of their lovely desires are a desire for a greater sense of community, for connectedness to the earth and local merchants, for a clean environment, for respect and dignity for the poor and opportunities for them to better themselves. When abstract gives way to concrete action, though, the best way to accomplish those things is not though bureaucratic, centrally-directed, tax-supported programs but through liberty, economic freedom, competition, enterprise, and individualism.

He quoted Hayek, Friedman, Nozick, Buchanan, Hirschman, Rawls, Bernard Mandeville (The Fable of the Bees), Marx, Mises, Adam Smith, Lindblom, Lomasky, Bellamy, Walzer. Some of these I knew, some I did not. One book he referred to was Alternative Conceptions of Civil Society. That seems like a pre-quel to his book, wherein visions of economic policy from both sides of the spectrum are pitted against each other. I think I’ll get that. Walzer sounds far to the left.

I actually saw a little sense in some of the radical feminist views when he put them so mildly. That’s a first for me. I am not shaken from my belief that strong families, structured in the traditional mold, are the best security for children, women and men, and the indispensable foundation for a strong, prosperous society of happy individuals. Yet, as I say, I did see some merit in their position. Economic advancement was the prime good according to them, and in their view, as given by Anne Phillips, it was inhibited by the expectation of traditional family duties. I do not think that personal economic advancement supercedes all goods. But, if you take money gain as the prime consideration, then their observation that unpaid child rearing is unjust and unprofitable holds. You can’t get worldly-rich while staying home reading to your kid.

At the end he called for a more understanding debate. He opposes firmly entrenched positions. People rarely listen to each other. That’s the fault of politics in democracy. To sway voters, positions cannot be nuanced. They must be presented as either-or, black and white, “isn’t that awful!” statements. Arguments lose their political potency when too finely drawn. Maybe the people that can listen to each other are the theoreticians, at least. Maybe that is Finn’s hope.

This was a challenging book, not typical for me. I hoped it would validate my belief in the essential morality of markets, but it set out to question, in a mild-mannered way, the undeniable good that has arisen from the application of markets.

I bought a personal copy and will re-read it, notating.