Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The Road To Hell

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

One of the things that people hate the most about orthodox Christianity is its insistence that everyone is deserves the wrath of God. Surly nobody finds this particular belief more objectionable then that class of people we call liberals. Therefore, it is highly ironic that liberals always seem to be pushing for laws and regulations that makes everyone guilty in the eyes of the state.

Granted, liberals have no desire to make everyone guilty. But they do want the world to be perfect place where no one is treated unfairly and everyone can be happy. And the harder they try to achieve this perfection, the more they create a world where everyone is guiltily.

This mindset was on full display in the New York Times article on New York’s juvenile prison system that I blogged about earlier. The would-be reformers profiled by the article seemed gripped by the illusion that the existing system can be fixed with more rules and more money. To my mind, this is self-evidently absurd.

It already costs over 200 grand per kid and how those kids can be treated is already heavily regulated. Even if New York State could afford it, does anyone really believe that spending 400 grand per kid and doubling the amount of regulations would improve outcomes? Anyone who does believe this does not understand how striving for perfection can make things worse.

One of the things that I tried to demonstrate in my follow-up post is that more regulations can make it harder to punish the bad state employees. When everyone is guilty how do you deiced who to punish? You can’t punish them all or you will not have anyone left to do the work.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that most rules and regulations are not based on reality. I talked about absurdities that arise because the State insists on treating men and woman as if they were exactly the same. But the fundamental problem is that policy makers have lots and lots of incentives to base their rules and regulations on lies.

For example, wards of the state can sue the state if they are injured by state employees. But state employee can not sue the state if they are injured by a ward of the state. Thus, the rules and regulations governing how state employees can interact with wards of the state are geared towards protecting the wards of the state no matter what they do. But for political reasons, policy makers have to pretend that this can be done while still keeping the employees perfectly safe. So they pretend that there is no trade offs between those two goals while in practice they sell employee safety up the river.

These are all examples of how striving for perfection can make things worse. And yet it seems that would-be reformers think that can make the system better by pushing more of the same on the system until it becomes perfect.

I do think the system can be improved. But the first requirement for any real improvement is honesty. And the first requirement of honesty is the acknowledgment that there will always be trade offs and we will never have perfection.

So what kind of trade offs do we want to make?

I spend too much time reading

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Today I was discussing with someone why I will never make a really good tradesman. I said that all the really good tradesmen that I know spend a lot of their free time making or fixing things. It’s the thing that they enjoy doing more than anything else. Their idea of variety is to fix or make something that they don’t normally have to fix or make on their day job.

But I am different. When I had the job of putting up steel frame commercial buildings (i.e., I was an iron worker or at least that’s what they hoped that I would turn into), the part I hated the most was not having any time to read (because of all the travel time). And the part that I like best about my present job is the fact that I have plenty of time to read.

Today was a light reading day because I got home late and I have other things that I need to do.

But I still read this report from calculated Risk about FHA is delaying its fiscal report because they don’t like the results they got from their audit. The audit implied that FHA is going to need billions of dollars in taxpayer money.

I also read this account of why the often quoted 36,000 Deaths from Seasonal Flu is wrong. It always did sound awfully high to me.

And to top it all off, I read this essay from a former member of the Marine Force Recon and a former Assistant Secretary of Defense under Regan who argued that US conventional forces in Afghanistan need to change how they conduct firefights. I also watched the video that he made to demonstrate his point.

And those are just the highlights of what caught my attention. It doesn’t even count all the things that I just skimmed and decided I wasn’t interested in.

You have to agree on worth before you can talk about equality

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Today I wrote this in answer to a comment on my post…

To be honest, I do not believe most of the things that I argued in the above post. Truth be told, I would never seriously argue about equality at all. I only wrote the post for the fun of playing devil’s advocate.

To me it is absurd to talk about equality because equality means different things to different people. You can not determine what is equal to what until you first determine what the value of things are. The thing that bothers me about people who talk about “equality” generally and Charlie Whitaker post in particular is that they don’t even recognizes the assumptions about values that they make in order to determine what is equal and what is not.

For example, people like Charlie Whitaker typically look at income as being the primary measure of how “equal” a country is. By his measure, I am one of the people in America who suffer from its great inequality. I am an uneducated blue collar male who works in the trades. Yet I feel that a lot of people who make double or triple what I make are far worse off then I am.

For example, if I really wanted to, I could almost certainly get a job in New York City that pays double what I am making right now. And I might even be able to do better then that.

But from my perspective, such a move would be huge lowering of my living standards. Here I can buy decent house and some land on what I make. In New York City I could make triple what I make and still only be able to rent a small apartment.

To me, making that trade off is inconceivable. But other people who value whatever it is that people value about New York City might make that trade off in a heart beat.

Given that people have such wildly different choices based on different values how can you use income to measure equality?

What is equal to you is not equal to me. That is what tends to turn all arguments about equality into a farce.

Bits of Hilarity

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Today the news was just full of jokes. My sick sense of humor has been getting a real work out this evening.

Here is a joke that you might not have heard. Here is another one that you probably did hear.

But if you have as sick a sense of humor as I do, the fun is just getting started. Try saying the quote that leads off this post out loud and see if you can keep from laughing. If at first you don’t find it funny, try thinking about the implications of such a statement. Here is some more background info.

While we are on a role, it should be noted that Brant Hansen is always good for a laugh. The only problem with today’s post is that he pulls his punches and goes all PC at the end.

This one from a while back was a lot better. I did not realize at first that he was talking about a real service on offer.

A slightly more obscure source of fun comes from this letter. Hard as it may be to believe, Hertz was actually dumb enough to sue those people in open court. A better way of convincing the world that they are about to go bankrupt could not be found. Especially when their whole argument boils down to saying “6 months ago we were even more likely to go bankrupt then we are now.”

Believe it or not, I did not stay home today to collect all these bits of hilarity. Instead, I went to work even though I still don’t have my voice back and I still am coughing and hacking like a fool. But nobody threw rocks at me so all is well.

Expect for the fact that I am feeling a little crazy.

Never Confuse Power With Peace

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

What is Peace?

To my simple mind, Peace is when I have no conceivable reason to kill you and you have no conceivable reason to kill me. To my mind, if I might want to kill you or you might want to kill me, but we are not currently doing so, that is a cease fire.

By that definition, peace is in relative short supply in this world. After all, many nations and cultures have a number of conceivable reasons for going to war with one another.

By this same definition, peace is rarely achieved through victory in war. That is why the Romans (among others) frequently resorted to genocide or mass enslavement. Those methods are the only way to guarantee that victory equals peace.

Of course, peace does happen sometimes even without genocide or mass enslavement. The Saxons no longer have a deep desire to kill Normans. In fact, they can’t even tell each other apart. In a more modern context, it looks like real peace may be breaking out in Northern Ireland. People there seem to be losing all desire to kill each other. The younger generation in particular does not seem to want to continue their parents’ fight.

But Northern Ireland is the exception to the rule. In most places, peace is nowhere on the horizon. Yet people do not seem to realize that.

For example, take a look at this video that the Belmont Club posted (originally from Blackfive) ….

These people have the right to talk trash. A lot of people on the other side of the argument treated them as fools for believing that victory was possible. But this should not obscure the fact that victory over the insurgency is irrelevant.

For example, in the video clip above, the success of the surge looks a lot like Iraq under the rule of Saddam. After all, Saddam beat all the insurgencies that fought against him (with the exception of the Kurds and we never had to fight them). When he was in charge, there was traffic on the road highlighted in the YouTube clip above. Why is the ability of the US to beat the insurgency supposed to be so impressive? And what is to keep the fighting from flaring up the second American troops leave the country?

As I pointed out some time ago, the US goals in Iraq are unachievable. Anyone trying pretend otherwise is simply fooling themselves. But many people choose to do just that because the alternatives are too horrible to contemplate. People do not want to admit that peace is beyond their power to bring about.

This problem is not just limited to the pro-war side. The anti-war side is at least as naïve if not more so. The idea that things would have been better if American had never gotten involved is highly dubious to say the least. Saddam would not have lived forever even if no one had managed to kill him. And then what would have happened?

Yugoslavia had it even worse than Iraq did long before America got involved. A post Saddam Iraq was always going to resemble a post Tito Yugoslavia. And when Iraq started to fall apart, everyone in the whole world would have started screaming for America to restore stability to the Middle East. In the end, America would have gotten involved in Iraq for the same reasons we got involved in Yugoslavia. And who can say that the bloodshed would have been any less?

But the fact that America was fated to become involved in Iraq does not mean that it will achieve its goals any more then America will prove to be successful in Yugoslavia. The fact that we have a kind of enforced stability in Yugoslavia does not mean that the US brought peace to the Balkans. On the contrary, the increased support that far right parties have been experiencing in Serbia shows that people are not ready for peace yet.

Simply put, America has not been successful at bringing about peace. It has only managed to freeze various conflicts around the world to prevent them from spreading. This has created an unprecedented era of stability, but at the cost of building up tension all around the world. It is likely that Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North vs South Korea, China vs Taiwan, Russia vs Georgia, Israel vs its neighbors and many other hot spots around the world will all get nasty at once. This is because they have been prevented from being nasty only by realities of American power.

Without American power all of those things would gotten a lot nastier then they did, but they would have also burned themselves out sequentially. As it is now, they are all being saved for the day when America no longer has the power to rule the roost. Then they shall all flair up at once.

To put it another way: the fate of Iraq when Saddam lost power and the fate Yugoslavia with the death of Tito show us what will happen when America is no longer the strong man of the world. The world is destined to fall apart the second that America loses its grip. And America will lose its grip because the problems facing the world are beyond America’s ability to contain.

Yet just as many people took it for granted that world financial system was secure until a couple of months ago, so too do many people think that stability brought about by American power will be an enduring feature. But all it will take is a temporary break down in American power for all of hell to break loose. And what nation has ever been strong at all times without any temporary break downs?

McCain, Obama, and the Poor White Voter

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

I think the thing that most surprised me about Obama’s win is how small of a margin of victory that he got in the popular vote. It’s kind of hypocritical of me to say that, because only a couple of months ago I thought that the election was going to be close. But that was during the time that the hate-fest against Palin was at its strongest and before the 700 Billion dollar bailout.

I have long been predicting the current economic problems. But the speed at which they occurred took me by surprise. I did not think we would go from government officials saying that there was no problem to having over a trillion dollars of bailouts being promised in the space of a month. I mean, I expect government officials to lie when they move their lips, but that was a pretty big turnaround even by the standards of your typical political flip-flops.

The bailout put great strain on the coalition between poor white rural folk and wealthier suburban white folk that McCain had to maintain in order to have chance at winning the election. The wealthier McCain supporters were getting killed in the markets and they were desperate for the pain to stop. But McCain’s blue collar supporters were mad enough to chew nails. Nobody had bailed them out when the manufacturing jobs they depended on went the way of the dodo, yet here was their tax dollars going to bail out people who made more than they could hope to make in a lifetime. In effect, the bailout neutralized everything that McCain hoped to gain by appointing Palin as his running mate.

The Palin appointment was primarily aimed at those who where rural, white, and poor. These people had reason to feel economically abused by the Bush administration, yet they had reason to fear that they would be even more abused by a democratic president. The media never got this. They all thought that the Palin appointment was aimed at religious conservatives. But that was only a side benefit of the Palin appointment.

McCain always knew that religious conservatives would never vote for Obama. But he had no such assurances that the poor white rural voters would stay loyal to the Republican Party. If you look at where Palin was sent by the McCain campaign you will see that it was to areas where those types of voters would be found.

It seems to me that much of media coverage missed this distinction. To them, a poor white rural voter was obviously a religious fundamentalist. But demographers know that those people who take their religious doctrine seriously are most often found in the suburban middle class. Those are the type of people who tithe and never swear and that sort of thing.

By contrast the rural poor are socially conservative in only a vague sort of way. They go to church on Sunday but they go to the bar on Friday night. Their motto is “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.” In short, their beliefs rarely affect how they live.

Most media types don’t seem to get this distinction. They take a survey of what people say their beliefs are and assume that everyone who claims the same beliefs are the same.

But Obama seemed to get this distinction. Right from the very beginning he made a strong effort to take some of the rural poor white vote away from the Republicans. Neither Gore nor Kerry worked half as hard at getting poor whites to vote for them as Obama did.

Again and again Obama promised that he would not push gay marriage and he would not take people’s guns. He tried to reassure poor rural whites that he understood their values even if he differed with them on some particulars. And above all else, he promised that he would take care of their economic concerns.

I think that Obama’s strong early move for the poor rural vote is what drove McCain to pick Palin. He had to have known that if he did not do something drastic, poor rural white votes were going to desert him in droves. So he threw a Hail Mary pass, and chose a popular governor of a rural state whose family was the perfect archetype of the rural poor.

At first, McCain’s choice paid off in spades. The media coverage of Palin was some of the most nasty and bigoted stuff I have ever seen. Not only did they subject her personal life to more scrutiny then Obama, they also treated her more harshly then they treated McCain.

After all, McCain was the one who divorced his first wife on her sickbed. McCain was the one who had ties to a savings and loan scandal. But you rarely heard about those things in the national media. On the other hand, every little thing in Palin’s personal life was up for grabs. This double standard made even traditionally democratic voters amongst the rural white poor hopping mad. In few weeks, all Obama’s progress amongst them had been wiped out and then some.

I had to laugh when I read on liberal blogs people talking about how Palin’s out of wedlock pregnant teenage daughter was going to make religious conservatives rethink their support. It might have made some tithe-every-Sunday types a little uncomfortable. But for the bulk of the rural white poor, out of wedlock pregnant teenage daughters are as common as flat tires on their pickup trucks. Simply by making it an issue, the media did more to increase McCain’s support than any ad he could have run.

I think Obama realized this. He tried to distance himself from the attacks on Palin. But the hatred coming from the media and the liberal blogs was just too intense. Even though they were harming their own cause, they just could not tone it down. She drove them out of their minds with fury and Obama could not rein them in. And poor, rural, white support for Obama dropped like a rock.

But then the bailouts came. This had two effects. It helped tone down the coverage of Palin because reporters had other things to talk about and it gave poor rural white voters something else to get mad about. If you look back at the polls, you will see that before the bailout Obama had dropped to neck and neck with McCain in the polls. After the bailout, Obama clearly had the lead.

The bailout made poor rural white voters so mad that I am surprised that Obama did not take a larger share of the poor rural white voter then he did. But as it was, it was enough. Obama took 3% more of the white vote then Kerry did when he was running against George Bush. And the rest is history.

Comparing Vietnam with Iraq

Monday, February 18th, 2008

The difference between the war in Iraq and the Vietnam War is simple: Vietnam was winnable and Iraq is not.

Now I am not casting aspersions on the success of the surge or anything like that. In any kind of military terms the US army has done well. This is especially true if you compare them against the actual performance of other armies in similar situations and not against some pie-in-the-sky ideal. The current incarnation of US armed forces has certainly performed better than the incarnation of the US armed forces that fought in Vietnam.

But this superior performance by the current incarnation of US armed forces has obscured a critical fact. The political goals of the United States were achievable in Vietnam and they are not achievable in Iraq. This is not readily apparent to a lot of people because popular opinion holds that Vietnam was doomed to failure from the very beginning whereas some people still hold out hope for Iraq.

Others might take the opposite tack and argue that in the case of Vietnam, the US was coming to the defense of an already independent nation, whereas Iraq was an invasion of a sovereign nation. Thus, you can’t really compare the two.

But this is really just a matter of political correctness and not a reflection of any kind of reality on the ground.

If a free and fair vote had been held in accordance with the agreement the French made when they withdrew, South Vietnam would never have existed to ask for help from the US. More to the point, there were a lot of people with guns in South Vietnam who were willing and able to fight hard against what they perceived as a US invasion. But if a free and fair vote had been held in Iraq, Saddam would never have been elected. More to the point, there was almost no one in Iraq who was willing to fight for Saddam or to preserve the integrity of Iraq.

All I am trying to say is that American’s intervention in South Vietnam was at least as much as an invasion as the invasion of Iraq. And the goal of the invasion was the same in both cases, to create and sustain a political ally of the US. How then can I say that the political goals of Vietnam War were achievable whereas the invasion of Iraq was not?

What were they smoking?

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

Pakistan is a tribal country that has a lot of guns. You have violent Islamic insurgency in that country that has killed a lot of people and fought the army to a standstill. You have a dictator running the country who has almost been killed several times. Some of those attempts on Musharraf’s life raise questions as to how deeply the Islamic insurgents have infiltrated the government. Other people in America have publicly wondered if Musharraf had the full support of the army.

Into this situation the western elites thought that it would be a good idea to send a woman by the name of Benazir Bhutto. By her own admission, she was hated by the Islamic radicals. By her own admission she was hated by much of the army. Yet well-educated do-gooders the world over thought that Bhutto would make the situation in Pakistan better.

Some well-educated do-gooders thought that she and Musharraf could strike some kind of deal that would lend some of her popularity to Musharraf in exchange for a seat at the political table. Other do-gooders were even stupider. They thought that she could replace Musharraf as a leader and thus Pakistan would be “democratic” again.

Almost the whole western elite, both in America and in Europe, believed that a dictator who was struggling to keep himself alive had the power to insure that Bhutto lived. Some of them even believed that he would keep her alive long enough to take away his own power. Thus, the western elites had two mutually contradictory beliefs. They believed that Musharraf was so weak that he “needed” Bhutto and yet they believed he was strong enough to protect Bhutto. Some of them believed that Musharraf was so bad that he needed to be replaced by Bhutto and yet the believed he was so good that he would allow himself to be replaced by Bhutto.

What were they smoking?

I can understand why Bhutto went back. If you had an arranged marriage and your whole life was politics, I can see why you might not want to live. Especially if your only alternative was exile and life with a thug you had married for political reasons. But the reasons governing a woman in a mid-life crisis should not be governing the political elite of the entire western world. Why did they think that a woman who lost power twice and made lots of enemies in the process could exercise any kind of meaningful power in Pakistan? The idea is especially absurd given the fact that Pakistan is a far more dangerous place now than it was in the past.

The thing that makes western elites so stupid is that they equate popularity with power. I guess this makes sense in their own cultural context. After all, if a western politician wants to be powerful they must be popular. If a western journalist wants to be influential they must have high ratings. If a western businessman wants to get rich, he must have a popular brand. For some reason, the western elites make the mistake of thinking that rest of the world operates on the same principle.

But the rest of the world does not operate on the same principle. In most of the world power is measured by the ability to kill and the willingness to die. To put it another way, in the third world power stems from firepower and morale.

The fact that Bhutto may have had a degree of popularity in Pakistan was irrelevant. Anyone who cannot keep themselves alive without depending on their political opponents has no future in Pakistan. Most of the Bhutto family had already been killed off back when Pakistan was far safer than it is now. Now that Pakistan is far more dangerous it is sheer folly to think that someone can rule Pakistan without a lot of fire power that is personally loyal to themselves.

It is worth remembering that the very reason that Pakistan is falling apart has to with the fact that they have undertaken actions that the Western elite wanted. The support that Musharraf has given American in its war on Afghanistan is an obvious example. But in reality, the war in Afghanistan has only had a minor impact on instability in Pakistan. The real reason that Pakistan is falling apart is because there is peace with India.

The sad fact of the matter is that Pakistan is a nation that has been kept together by hatred of India. Without a shared hatred of India, the various tribes have no reason not to fight each other as they have been doing for longer than Anglo-Saxons have been a world power. Without a shared hatred of India, there would be no reason for secularist and the Islamic militants to not fight each as they do in almost every Muslim country in the world.

This is why the army is the only functioning institution in Pakistan. A member of one the Baloch tribes and a member of one of the Pashtun tribes might not be able to agree on much. But as long as the Pakistani army was fighting India or about to fight India they could both support it. The same would go for an Islamic radical and a secular nationalist. Hate is a great unifier.

But the army’s role is slowly switching from trying to drive India back to trying to hold Pakistan together. This sounds great and I guess that it is. But what it means in practice is that now everyone in Pakistan has a reason for hating the army. If the army tries to keep that Pashtuns from oppressing the Baloch tribes, the Pashtuns are going to hate the army. If the army tries to keep the Baloch tribes from breaking away from Pakistan, the Baloch tribes are going to hate the army. If the army tries to crack down on corruption, the secular big landowners are going to hate the army. If the army tries to crack down on Islamic radicals they are going to hate the army.

All of the above things need to be done to keep Pakistan from flying apart in the absence of a common hatred of India. Yet is impossible to do all of them and remain popular.

I think that most of the political elite in the west realizes the scale of the task and they are terrified that the Army will not be able to do it. They see how increasingly unpopular the Pakistani army is becoming as a result of trying to hold the country together and it scares them. In their mind, unpopularity is a sign of weakness. So their solution is to try to arrange a marriage between someone who is “popular” and the army in an attempt to keep the country together.

And what happened? Bhutto was killed and the army was blamed. Thus have the do-gooders succeeded in lowering the popularity of the only thing that can possibly keep Pakistan together as a secular state. If popularity mattered, the whole affair would be a great disaster.

But as I have said, popularity does not matter. If the people loyal to the Bhutto clan had any real fire power they would have been shooting a long time ago. Yet most of the Bhuttos have been killed without anything happening other than the odd riot.

I would not be surprised to find out that some elements in the army were behind her death. The army has a long tradition of killing people in the Bhutto family. But I also do not believe that Musharraf wanted her to die. If he had, I think she would have died a lot sooner.

But when you are afraid for your own life, you are going to keep the people you trust the most close to you. In other words, Musharraf could only afford to offer Bhutto the protection of people that he was not 100% sure of.

This illustrates the real problem with Musharaf and the army. Their problem is not their lack of popularity. Their problem is that no one fears them. The army is having a hard time protecting their own, much less other people. The army is having a hard time keeping itself unified, much less the country. As a consequence, various tribes and groups are rushing to form their own armed groups to fill in the gap.

The western political elites cannot face the fact that fear is more important to the survival of Pakistan that popularity. Without a source of authority that everyone in Pakistan fears, the country is going to fall apart. Without facing this fact, the western elites will continue to come up with insane ideas like twisting Musharaf’s arm and making him allow Bhutto into the country.

Of course, it is an open question as to whether the West can do anything to save Pakistan. And I think that it is reasonable argument to be made that the west should not even try.

But let us not kid ourselves. If Pakistan becomes a real nation, it will only come about after a lot of people are killed. They must have their own version of America’s Civil War before there will ever be a national authority that everyone respects and that is capable of laying down the law. Only then, will popularity have anything to do with who holds the power.

And if Pakistan fails to become a real country it will mean that America will loses its war in Afghanistan. It means that its atomic weapons will be floating around in a failed state. It means it will be even easier for terrorists to establish bases in failed states.

There is no easy answer to the problem.

An Unrepentant Rant

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Genocide and hard work made this country what it is. Sloth and wealth are making this country into something else. Some people think that this change is a good thing. I don’t.

I know that the ghosts of the dead Native Americans haunt our historical consciousness. I can still hear the echoes of the slavers’ chains and the weeping of the families that were torn asunder. But I think that such ghostly apparitions lend an unwarranted appearance of morality to those who condemn hard work, discipline, and a strict moral code.

I am speaking of those who use the word Puritan as a word of contempt. It seems to be a new fad now. If you are worried about the moral hazard people will call you a Puritan. If you are against bailouts you will be called a Puritan. If you think people deserve to suffer the consequences of fiscally irresponsible behavior, you are a Puritan.

I must admit that this is a neat way of conjuring up a vision of all of America’s crimes so as to damn all of America’s virtues. The Scarlet Letter has fixed in everyone’s mind who are the real sinners and who are the real saints. If you smell of the past, you must be one of the sinners.

But if that be the case, I will proudly take the only scarlet letter that society still has to offer. I will proudly proclaim myself to be a judgmental prick.

The way I see it, there are two basic viewpoints underlying the debate over what to do about the subprime mess. One view says we must do whatever is best for the majority of Americans. The other says we must do whatever is best for those people in America who managed their money responsibly and have not treated debt like it was free money. I wholeheartedly subscribe to the latter view.

To put it another way, if you could prove to me that a policy would cost all the irresponsible people in America trillions of dollars and it would only benefit the responsible people in America with a few billion dollars worth of benefits, I would say that was a fair trade. It’s not that I want to go out of my way to hurt the irresponsible, but I think that benefits to the responsible are the only things that should count in the minds of policy makers.

The fact that the irresponsible might be in the majority should have no bearing on policy makers. If there were only one responsible person in America, policy should be formulated for the benefit of that person. The only proper path for a nation is to make life as hard as possible for the irresponsible and as easy as possible for the responsible.

Now I understand that in the real world the line between the responsible and the irresponsible is not always clearly drawn. And I fully accept that reasonable people might disagree on what would best benefit the responsible. But I will not give the time of day to people who argue that we must help irresponsible people simply because there are so many of them. I will not grant that irresponsible people have any particular right to help so that they might avoid suffering loss.

A nation that will not be judgmental will soon cease to exist.

Unions need responsibility if they are to have power

Monday, October 8th, 2007

This from the Brussels Journal….

In Belgium, unlike anywhere else in the world, the three official trade unions, not the state, pay unemployment benefits. Each year the government gives them the necessary funds and also pays them a fee for every unemployed person they cater for. The perverse result is that it is in the unions’ interest to have high unemployment: the more people without a job, the richer the trade unions become.

Actually, the whole problem with unions is that they have every incentive to increase the benefits of currently employed members and no incentive to look out for the people who don’t have jobs. The situation in Belgium is just an extreme example of a common problem.

This problem is the reason that high rates of union membership in society tend to go hand in hand with high rates of unemployment. The fact that unions exclusively pursue the interests of the currently employed raises the price of labor relative to price of capital (like robots, or other means of automation). Thus, unionization naturally produces capital heavy industries that employ as few people as possible.

If capital and labor need to be in competing camps and if we have to have things like unemployment insurance; let us require that every company that has over 100 employees to employee only union members. And let us require the Unions to pay the unemployment benefits for everyone, even those people who do not belong to a Union. But let us make them raise the money to do this from their members, not from the government.

This would give the Unions a lot of power but it would also give them some responsibility. They would have to temper their demands for the presently employed workers with needs of those who are looking for work. Maybe then unions would serve a useful function in society.