American Elephants

An Enterprise Society Doesn’t Come From State Control. by The Elephant's Child

In 2006, Baroness Margaret Thatcher contributed this essay to The Reason Foundation’s Annual Privatization Report. In it, she had some things to say that are quite pertinent for today’s American politicians:

All too often the state is tempted into activities to which it is either ill-suited or which are beyond its capabilities.

Perhaps the greatest of these temptations is government’s desire to concentrate economic power in its own hands. It begins to believe that it knows how to manage business. But let me tell you, it doesn’t as we discovered in Britain in the 1970s when nationalisation and prices and incomes policy together deprived management of the ability to manage. And when we came to privatise and deregulate in the 1980s it took some time before these skills returned.

A system of state control can’t be made good merely because it is run by “clever” people who make the arrogant assertion that they “know best” and that they are serving the “public interest,” which of course is determined by them. State control is fundamentally bad because it denies people the power to choose and the opportunity to bear responsibility for their own actions.

Conversely, privatisation shrinks the power of the state and free enterprise enlarges the power of the people.

Click here for the rest of the essay.

Bears Have Rights. Man Faces Charges. by The Elephant's Child


Richard Ahlstrand of Auburn, Massachusetts went out in his back yard to fill up the bird feeders, when a bear about seven feet tall and weighing 300–400 lbs. started chasing him. Mr. Ahlstrand turned around and aimed in the general direction of the bear and fired. He had a shotgun with him because he had heard a noise and thought he’d seen a bear the day before.

Now he faces criminal charges for encountering a bear in his back yard and shooting it to avoid being mauled or eaten. Can’t do that. The bear has rights.

He is charged with “illegally killing a bear, Illegally baiting a bear, illegal possession of a firearm and failure to secure a firearm.” All of these charges seem to require that Ahlstrand make his yard completely inhospitable to animals rarely seen in the area, and then investigated a suspicious noise by looking out the window and calling the police.

Chief Sluckis said the bear is believed to have been attracted to a 50 gallon drum of birdseed Mr. Ahlstrand had in his back yard. Mr. Ahlstrand went back inside, retrieved a shotgun and decided to shoot the bear. “Obviously we believe if Mr. Ahlstrand was truly in fear for his life he would have stayed secured in his home and would have called the police.”

The police chief claimed that bears are “not common in Auburn,” and the last sighting was about a year ago, and Ahlstrand shouldn’t have had birdseed because?  The drum of birdseed seems to have been the basis of the “baiting” charge against him, though birdseed would seem to be bait more for birds than bears. I thought bears were fond of honey?

Always interesting when police officers are more interested in saving the lives of bears than humans. I guess self-defense only counts with armed and certified bad guys, if then.

Learning How to Be an Elephant by The Elephant's Child

When you are very young, there’s all sorts of stuff you have to learn. You humans have noses with which you breathe and smell; ours does that as well as collecting food, touching, grasping and sound production. We can eventually crack a peanut shell without harming the peanut itself, lift up to 770 lbs., reach up to 23 feet, suck up water both to drink and to shower. When we swim, it’s a snorkel. So don’t go laughing when we have to learn how to use our proboscis, it just takes time.

If You Keep Asking the Wrong Questions, You Don’t Get the Right Answers by The Elephant's Child

President Barack Obama does not understand how jobs are created. He believes that jobs are created by wise people in government directing the economy. When government “invests” money in the economy (it doesn’t much matter where) there is, according to Keynesian economics, a multiplier effect as that money passes from hand to hand. Democrats believe that Franklin Roosevelt’s use of Keynesian economics saved the republic from the horrors of the Great Depression, or at least made things better, and the Depression was finally ended by World War II.

In the throes of the Depression, people were encouraged by President Roosevelt’s efforts to “do something.” I just saw someone today urging Obama to reinstitute FDR’s Works Progress Administration (WPA), a make-work project of government that took money out of one pocket of the economy to put it back in another pocket. Economic studies have determined that President Roosevelt’s endless experimentation was not only ineffective, but often made things worse.

The war did not end the Depression, for the endless war materials that were produced were simply destroyed or used up. Recovery began some time after the end of the war, when pent-up demand for all the things needed during the war years were unavailable, and new housing was being developed with the need for new appliances and new cars. Because there was noting to spend money on during the war years, people has built up their savings, and had money to spend, even though  wages were controlled.

Richard Epstein explains the problem today in an essay in The Hoover Institution journal Defining Ideas titled “The Economic Ignorance of Barack Obama.”

President Obama had, of course, no doubts on what should be done. In his view, we should double down on the same policies that he has championed since coming into office. His new proposed budget modestly chips away at the cost-of-living increases in Social Security spending, which has drawn fierce resistance from his party’s incorrigible left-wing.

But his preferred long-term changes all cut in the opposite direction. The President has renewed his call for capping the charitable deduction at 28 percent—a dreadful idea—even as he tries to steepen the level of progressivity of the income tax. In addition, the President unveiled a proposal to slash the amount of money that individuals can keep in their tax-deferred retirement accounts to $3 million per person. Putting aside the transitional problems that dog this proposal, the simple point is that additional taxation is likely to further retard the creation of jobs and wealth, by shrinking the size of the largest pool of private investment funds in the United States. …

More stimulus programs cannot undo the malaise. These programs introduce yet another degree of uncertainty into the overall picture. The lower rates that help businesses hurt consumers, especially retirees living on fixed incomes. No one should buy into the Keynesian delusion that the current malaise stems only from shortfalls on the demand side. No one should think that choosing between austerity and deficits will move the needle much one way or the other. Current uncertainty hurts both the demand and the supply side, thereby driving down economic productivity and increasing the deficit. The losses here really matter.

Redistribution and stimulus will not create jobs. Every regulation imposed by the government whether the EPA, ObamaCare, Energy, Interior or the myriad of federal agencies distorts the competition and the normal functions of the free market. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the unemployment rate for people between 16 and 25 now stands at 16.2 percent, and rises to 22 percent when accounting for the young people who have quit looking or postponed the job search. Historically, the new entrants have always been the most vulnerable in downturns.

In his early careful observation of Barack Obama, who Professor Epstein knew at the University of Chicago, he said that Barack Obama does not change his mind. His ideas are set in concrete. He is sure that he is right.  Do read Epstein’s whole piece.  It explains a lot, even if it isn’t encouraging.  “The great shame of President Obama is that, owing to his incredible intellectual rigidity, he has not developed the economic wisdom or political courage to ditch, even in his second term” his union supporters. He does not ask the right questions, and thus does not get the right answers.

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