American Elephants

Thanks for the drinks, we really must do this again sometime… by American Elephant
July 31, 2012, 10:49 pm
Filed under: YouTube | Tags: ,

[h/t AmericanDigest]

The End of Despair: Free Market Capitalism and Individual Liberty. by The Elephant's Child

In his classical study of apocalyptic movements in medieval and postmedieval Europe, The Pursuit of the Millennium, Norman Cohn points out that modern revolutionaries picture the coming society “as a state of total community, a society wholly unanimous in its beliefs and wholly free from inner conflicts.” Robert Conquest adds “To envisage a unanimous social order is to envisage the absence of individuality. Utopia amounts to the inflation of the ‘community’ into an entity in its own right, rather than a coherence of individual social human beings.”

The twentieth century has taught us that utopian ideas are a path to despair. There is no perfection because the very possibility is denied by flawed human nature. People carry signs and march for world peace and unity without realizing that they have trouble getting along with all the members of their own families. Witness the Occupy movement that only wanted the 1% to pay their fair share, and ended up with rape and murder and mayhem.

America’s Founders wisely recognized that politics could never be perfected because of flawed human nature. They designed a system with a minimum of bureaucratic and legal control in which disputes could be settled by political debate. Yet many resent the political debate itself. The two sides in Congress should just compromise. Everybody should just get along. This arises from a lack of understanding about the differences between the parties, which are deep and principled.

Liberals have raised compassion to a political principle. They assume that they can move the poor into the middle class if they just redistribute the nation’s wealth to make everybody more equal. But the attempts to give people who cannot afford the payments for their own houses has resulted in disaster for everyone. Attempts to create housing for the poor has most often resulted in ghettos and slums. Not because they are poor, and not because they are incapable, but because you cannot take enough money away from “the rich” to make the poor not poor. And it’s always someone else’s money they want to redistribute.

Thomas Sowell, several years ago  said:

What do the poor most need? They need to stop being poor.  And how can that be done on a mass scale except by an economy that creates more wealth? Yet the political left has long had a remarkable lack of interest in how wealth is created.  As far as they are concerned, wealth exists”somehow” and the only interesting question is how to re-distribute it.

This is the essence of the problem of the left. Instead of understanding that a rising tide lifts all boats, they want to remove wealth from “the hated rich.” Nevermind that most people don’t hate, or even envy, the rich. Today they are worried about jobs and the economy. Hating the rich isn’t even on the list of concerns.

In America, typically, young people start out poor. Education, hard work, struggle bring them out of the bottom quintile and over time they will move up.  If they save and invest they may do well, even move into the highest quintile. Politicians have even complained about the wealth of some seniors, without understanding that re[resents a lifetime of labor and saving.  If you follow Forbes lists of the richest Americans or richest people in the world, you see that the list, with few exceptions is not the same over time.

Obama’s out again claiming that the government can’t afford not to raise taxes on “the rich.” That the Bush tax cuts for “the rich” are why we are in this depressed economy. The man has no understanding of the most basic economics nor of the most basic history.

Free market capitalism has created more wealth than the world has ever seen before, and raised more people out of poverty than was dreamed of. Milton Friedman, whose birthday today is, famously said:

A society that puts equality — in the sense of equality of outcome — ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests.

The interesting thing about the left, is the extent to which they excuse themselves from the schemes they dream up to help the poor. Obama regales his listeners with the great benefits ho ObamaCare, and promises that you can keep your doctor if you like him (not true) but their own generous health care plan is excepted from any of the unpleasant changes from ObamaCare. Their pensions will remain untouched. Why it’s just like the rulers of all those countries that had revolutions to create more equality for the poor. Even the Mullahs in Iran have their Swiss bank accounts, and their luxurious homes.

When they start talking about progress and “community” and “redistributing income,”  grab your wallet and run for the nearest polling place and vote the bums out. There is no better world just around the corner.

The United States of America Doesn’t Do Imperial Presidencies. by The Elephant's Child

Still smarting from the response to his “you didn’t build that” comment, which was an enormously clarifying view into his far-left thinking, President Obama did it again. This time, according to his mindset, allowing Americans to keep more of their own money is a “giveaway.

Only last Wednesday at a New Orleans campaign event, Obama talked about “another trillion-dollar giveaway for millionaires”  in referring to extending the Bush tax-cuts. Just a day later, press secretary Jay Carney repeated the canard — he called an extension “another $1 trillion giveaway to the wealthiest Americans.”

Let’s clarify. Refusing to extend the Bush tax cuts is, by definition, raising taxes. Government exists at the sufferance of the American people. What the American people earn by their efforts is their money— it is not “government money.” The people are willing to be taxed, and give permission their elected representatives to do so — for the specific purpose of funding necessary government functions, like national defense, enforcing the laws, and providing for the general welfare. If government gets too grasping with their definition of the latter, the people will remove those elected representatives. Is that clear enough?

President Obama has ignored the “enforcing the laws” part when he doesn’t like the law; which is not  optional for a President of the United States. Now he is assuming that government owns all the money and has the authority to manage everyone’s life. He does not recognize business as the lifeblood of America, and assumes that government work— which he regards as far nobler — is “service” to some kind of higher ideal.

Obama is unimpressed by success in business, possibly because he has never had any, and resents the rewards earned by those who are successful. He thinks they’re all way overpaid, and that excess should be taken away to raise up those who are not successful, for he is sure that they have worked just as hard.

The American people are inclined to get a little testy when their labor is so disrespected, and rise in fury when the money represented by their hard labor is just plain wasted. It remains taxpayer money. It is not government money. It should be treated with care and thrift and conscience.

The President of the United States is a “public servant.” That means that he is subject to the wishes of the American people, not that he has been elected King. We dispensed with that a long time ago. Americans have great respect for the office of the presidency, largely because George Washington set such a restrained and careful example. The current occupant of the office would do well to review our founding father’s restraint.

Remembering Milton Friedman on His 100th Birthday by The Elephant's Child
July 31, 2012, 2:29 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Freedom | Tags: , ,

Milton Friedman was born 100 years ago today, and the world is vastly richer in its understanding of free market principles because of him. Well over 200 million peoples have been liberated from poverty because of the rediscovery of free market principles.

President Obama was a part-time instructor in civil-rights law at the University of Chicago, where Friedman taught for decades, but he famously did not participate in the lunchtime conversations among the faculty. He might have absorbed a little something.

In the 1960s, Milton Friedman explained that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” If the government spends a dollar, that dollar comes from workers in the private economy. Robbing Peter to pay Paul does not create a magical “multiplier effect” by taking from productive Peter and giving to unproductive Paul.

This is the fundamental error central to Obamanomics. No matter how many times Obama waves his magic wand, no multiplier effect appears. We have had ‘true believers’ before, but never one who bet the whole economy on a Keynesian computer program. Obamanomics is the most expensive failed experiment in free-lunch economics in US history.

His was a voice for world-wide economic freedom. His debates, preserved on video, are a delight to watch as he skewers with a gracious smile, all opponents. He had a marvelous talent for communicating the values of the free market to a mass audience.

Friedman was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for 1976 — at a time when most of the prizes had gone to socialists.  It was a marker for the return of free-market economics to the intellectual debate.  His 1971 book , written with Anna Schwartz,  A Monetary History of the United States, changed the way we think about money. His two best-selling books, Capitalism and Freedom (1962) and Free to Choose (1980) belong on everyone’s bookshelves.

Please! Stop Embarrassing Us! by The Elephant's Child

Mitt Romney was just in Israel, and in a speech said he was happy to be in the capital city of Israel, Jerusalem. This is notable because Jay Carney, hapless press secretary, twisted himself into knots recently to avoid admitting that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel. A witless representative of the State Department actually said that it was to be determined by negotiation. Just stop it. You are embarrassing us.

Israel is a sovereign state. Jerusalem is not only its historic capital, Israel says that Jerusalem is its capital.  They are the only ones who get to decide. It’s their country.

The United States does not get to decide what is the capital of Israel. Jay Carney does not get to decide. President Barack Obama does not get to decide. Secretary of State  Hillary Clinton does not get to decide, and the witless State Department woman does not get to decide. And stateless Palestinians don’t get to decide. If they can stop shooting rockets and trying to kill people, they might someday get their own state.

Washington DC is the capital of the United States. If the Congress of the United States should decide, with the approval of the people, that we should move the capital to Plato, Missouri (which is the population center of the country) — then that would be the capital — but for the present, it remains in Washington DC, where Congress decided to put it, back in July, 1790.

It’s all really very simple.  Can we stop being stupid.

Who Is President Barack Obama: The New Books. by The Elephant's Child

As the elections approach to determine whether or not Barack Obama gets a second term; more books about Obama are appearing, and the reviews proliferate. I have not yet read any of the books, but the reviews are interesting, here’s a roundup.

David Maraniss has written a generational story about Obama and his background, called simply Barack Obama: the Story. What appeared in the press about the book, were the not very startling revelations that not all the stories in Obama’s autobiography Dreams From My Father, were exactly true. Obama had taken some remarkable liberties with the facts. Many of his characters were composites or inventions. That doesn’t much bother Mr. Maraniss who is more upset about those who doubt the claims about Obama’s life that Obama finds to be true. His attack on Obama’s doubters does extend however, to those who do not find him a pragmatic liberal politician.

There have been a number of astonishing national security revelations recently, many of which came to light in two new books. The most notable reaction has been from prominent members of Congress demanding investigations into who leaked them.

New York Times reporter David E. Sanger’s Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and surprising Use of American Power describes in remarkable detail the Obama administration’s previously secret cyberwar campaign against Iran, the targeted drone strikes against Al Qaeda and affiliated  fighters, and any number of other covert operations including the one that killed Osama bin Laden. Sanger concludes that the biggest surprise of the Obama presidency is just how aggressive Obama has been with military power. Obama has apparently signed an executive order to give himself the authority to kill whoever is on his list.

The Stuxnet attack on Iran’s nuclear establishment was rumored to be either from Israel or the US. Actual information was expected to be a military secret no matter who devised it. Obama’s use of drones to kill members of al Qaeda, their associates and families, and the details of just how he goes about it weren’t expected to become public knowledge. Obama is waging unacknowledged and undeclared war, according to Sanger, quite thoroughly. Senator Diane Feinstein was shocked by learning, as she said, more from one of the books than she did in her top oversight post on the intelligence committee. Leaks about the SEAL team, their mission and what they acquired from the Osama compound shocked the committee.

Longtime Newsweek reporter Daniel Klaidman’s new book Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency doesn’t suggest that the authors are particularly concerned, but does paint a disturbing picture of power stretched to new lengths in an environment, as the Huffington Post review states, where politics trumps principle. Public statements are wobbly about collateral deaths from drone strikes, but one investigation has documented the deaths of 482-849 Pakistani civilians including 175 children in drone strikes. Capture and question are seemingly off the table, as is the information that might be gained. And there have been errors in just who was to be eliminated.

Bestselling author Richard Miniter’s new book Leading from Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors Who Decide For Himis available for pre-order, but the Daily Caller got a look at one chapter, which contains the revelation that “at the urging of Valerie Jarrett, President Barack Obama canceled the operation to kill Osama bin Laden on three separate occasions before finally approving the May 2, 2011 Navy SEAL mission.” Obama has been pictured by his team as a decisive leader who took down America’s greatest enemy. Indecisive and reluctant to make any decision is a more apt description, according to Miniter, Valerie Jarrett makes the decisions.

Stanley Kurtz is a serious scholar and his meticulously researched new exposé due out August 2, is available for pre-order: Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities. “Obama,” he says,” has been laying the regulatory groundwork for a profound transformation of American society…. In the eyes of Obama’s community organizing colleagues, America’s suburbs are instruments of bigotry and greed. Moving to a suburb in pursuit of the American dream of an affordable family home and quality, locally controlled schools looks to Obama and his organizing mentors like selfishly refusing to share tax money with the urban poor.”

“Obama means to fix that with regulations designed to force Americans out of their cars and into high-density urban centers, squeezing the population into a collection of new Manhattans.”

Barack Obama has been President of the United States for nearly four years, and we really don’t know much about who he is. The Obama of the 2008 election campaign was a creation for the media by David Axlerod, who wanted a different campaign for a different candidate, that made him seem to be inevitable for a 21st century America. We know by now that wasn’t the real Obama, but we also don’t know just who the real one is. Richard Epstein,professor of law at University of Chicago and  New York University,  who knew him in Chicago, said he imitates an intellectual, his ideas are fixed in concrete — he does not change his mind, and he has no respect for the separation of powers.

David Gelernter, professor of computer science at Yale says of his foreign policy:

Iran disdainfully snubs him, Russia snubs him, Europe ignores him, the Israelis can’t stand him, the world grows more dangerous by the hour. He did indeed take out Osama, and has moved aggressively to kill terrorists. But any other president would be deemed to have turned these victories into defeats by his tone-deaf campaigns afterward to squeeze out maximum political gain–as if he had killed Osama himself, bare-handed. The cost to US intelligence sources or the dignity of the office matters nothing, evidently, as the Obamiacs mash every last drop of juice out of the pulp. In fact this is a man to whom “cost” seems like a foreign concept, a word he has never learned.

If you wander around the web quite a bit, you can find all sorts of serious opinions about just who Barack Obama really is and why he does what he does.  There are of course those who hold wild opinions with no basis in fact, but there are many serious thinkers who have given long thought to their ideas. And they are all over the map. So, here you go. Study up, do your homework, here are the resources from serious, responsible authors.

South Korea is In For a Treat, And Washington State Benefits Too. by The Elephant's Child

The free trade agreement between the United States and South Korea (KORUS), negotiated in 2007, passed at last in October 2011 after years of delays and re-negotiations. That’s good, and now the decision is bearing fruit —literally.

We need all the bits of good news we can find. As of this year, the cherry growers of Washington State have shipped 368,000 boxes of fresh cherries to South Korea. Usually fresh cherries can be found only in upscale supermarkets there at a startling $10 a pound. A real luxury treat. This year’s shipment more than doubles last years export of 171,000 boxes, and the Korean Free Trade agreement eliminated the tariff of 24 percent.

The price of cherries in Korea will go down and more people will be able to enjoy them. South Korea is the fourth largest market for Washington goods and last year represented $1.4 billion of exports. They grow good cherries on the other side of the mountain, and they’re a real treat in season. We can expect cherry exports to South Korea to grow.

Free trade is a huge benefit of economic freedom. Takes more workers here to grow and ship cherries, and South Korea gets great fruit at a more reasonable price. We are so accustomed to the marvelous trade that brings us fruit from the Southern Hemisphere in the Winter, and fruits that we have never known before, that young people don’t know that there was not always this plenitude.

I always remember a novel by MacKinlay Kantor, I think it was Spirit Lake, about early pioneers in the upper Midwest who got through the winter because they had a good crop of pumpkins that stored well, and every day it was pumpkins for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Can’t remember much about the story, but I remember the horror of unending pumpkins. The variety offered by free trade is a blessing. And trade only happens if it is beneficial to both sides.

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