American Elephants


When You Don’t Understand the Economy, You’re Not Apt to Provide Correct Solutions! by The Elephant's Child

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When the economy seems dismal, and nothing seems to be going right, you may have noticed that reasons start appearing why we just have to settle for a less prosperous world. Obama’s answers in his speech to the UN General Assembly are particularly interesting. We have to make the global economy work better for all people, not just those at the top. Open markets and  capitalism have raised standards of living around the globe, but globalization and rapid progress and technology have weakened the position of workers and their ability to secure a decent wage. Unions have been undermined and manufacturing jobs have disappeared. Here’s Obama:

But I do believe there’s another path — one that fuels growth and innovation, and offers the clearest route to individual opportunity and national success.  It does not require succumbing to a soulless capitalism that benefits only the few, but rather recognizes that economies are more successful when we close the gap between rich and poor, and growth is broadly based. And that means respecting the rights of workers so they can organize into independent unions and earn a living wage.  It means investing in our people — their skills, their education, their capacity to take an idea and turn it into a business.  It means strengthening the safety net that protects our people from hardship and allows them to take more risks — to look for a new job, or start a new venture.

Forgive me, but this is pure claptrap. “Soulless Capitalism” indeed. That benefits only a few? Too much time going to Socialist meetings, and a deep ignorance of basic economics. Robert Barro, professor of economics at Harvard and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute corrected the president:

The Obama administration and some economists argue that the recovery since the Great Recession ended in 2009 has been unusually weak because of the recession’s severity and the fact that it was accompanied by a major financial crisis. Yet in a recent study of economic downturns in the U.S. and elsewhere since 1870, economist Tao Jin and I found that historically the opposite has been true. Empirically, the growth rate during a recovery relates positively to the magnitude of decline during the downturn, economist Tao Jin and I found that historically the opposite has been true. …

On average, during a recovery, an economy recoups about half the GDP lost during the downturn. The recovery is typically quick, with an average duration around two years. For example, a 4% decline in per capita GDP during a contraction predicts subsequent recovery of 2%, implying 1% per year higher growth than normal during the recovery. Hence, the growth rate of U.S. per capita GDP from 2009 to 2011 should have been around 3% per year, rather than the 1.5% that materialized.

The Left is burdened with the ideas that things need be done by government, that those in government (themselves) know better how to manage businesses and direct trade, and decide what needs to be done in the future. They are so filled with themselves and their self-admiration that they cannot conceive of letting people be free to pursue their own ideas and ambitions. Yet this is the very way you welcome growth and invention. Economist Dierdre McCloskey points out that:

“two centuries ago, the average world income per human (in present-day prices) was about $3 a day. It had been so since we lived in caves. Now it is $33 a day—which is Brazil’s current level and the level of the U.S. in 1940. Over the past 200 years, the average real income per person—including even such present-day tragedies as Chad and North Korea—has grown by a factor of 10. It is stunning. In countries that adopted trade and economic betterment wholeheartedly, like Japan, Sweden and the U.S., it is more like a factor of 30—even more stunning.”…

Over the past 200 years, the average real income per person—including even such present-day tragedies as Chad and North Korea—has grown by a factor of 10. It is stunning. In countries that adopted trade and economic betterment wholeheartedly, like Japan, Sweden and the U.S., it is more like a factor of 30—even more stunning.

The capital became productive because of ideas for betterment—ideas enacted by a country carpenter or a boy telegrapher or a teenage Seattle computer whiz. As Matt Ridley put it in his book “The Rational Optimist” (2010), what happened over the past two centuries is that “ideas started having sex.” The idea of a railroad was a coupling of high-pressure steam engines with cars running on coal-mining rails. The idea for a lawn mower coupled a miniature gasoline engine with a miniature mechanical reaper. And so on, through every imaginable sort of invention. The coupling of ideas in the heads of the common people yielded an explosion of betterments.

Another article by Dierdre McCloskey covering many of the same ideas is available at The New York Times. Both may be behind subscription barriers, but you can find them on Google. It’s worth trying to track them down.  I love Matt Ridley’s brilliant description of  “ideas having sex.” But that’s how it works. You suddenly put two ideas previously unconnected— together and suddenly you have a new and different thing. And it’s how people and nations get rich as well.



Sources For Everything You Need to Know on Constitution Day by The Elephant's Child

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Where can you get a copy of the United States Constitution? The Cato Institute has dandy pocket Constitutions — 3½” x  5″ for $4.95 each, or 10 copies for $10 — including the Bill of Rights and all the amendments. Make sure each of your kids or grandkids have their own copy, and that they read it.

Birthdays or Christmas, get them a copy of An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power by John Steele Gordon. It explains why things happened the way they did, and why a free people, whose freedoms are guaranteed by the world’s greatest constitution, are the envy of the world.

Here’s a list of the 20 questions kids ask most on Constitution Day.

Here’s a list of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention who signed the Constitution into law, and a brief biography of each one, and of the three Delegates who refused to sign.

Here’s a brief 10 question quiz to test your basic knowledge of the Constitution, and if you don’t excel, refer back to where you get a copy.

Don’t forget that the Constitution was preceded by the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. The Library of Congress has an excellent overview of the Articles, and  you can read the Articles of Confederation at Yale’s Avalon project to see why we needed a do-over. And here are copies of The Federalist Papers, in many different editions.

Progressives don’t really like the Constitution, as their aim is a socialist paradise of some kind with themselves in charge. Free people and Free Markets just don’t fit into their vision, and apparently they don’t read enough or keep up with the news enough to grasp the long dismal histories of socialist countries — evidenced by Obama’s efforts to make nice with Cuba, or the current situation in Venezuela where the people are starving. Or North Korea, Russia, China, Vietnam, etc., etc. They always believe that those other people just didn’t do it right. That, in itself is a very basic reason to bone up on the Constitution, if you value being a free person in a free country.

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What Precisely IS Social Justice? by The Elephant's Child

Justice is what is embodied in our Constitution and our body of law, as it is administered by the courts. Calling redistribution of wealth “justice” is a little hard to take. May be a rallying cry for the self-interested (who did you think was going to do the redistributing?)

The people (Progressives) who shout the loudest about “social Justice” are those who want to be in charge, and have no interest or intention in having their wealth redistributed. They want to feel virtuous by taking the wealth of the rich and giving it to the poor. How about a world in which we try to improve conditions for all, which is what we have been doing successfully for several hundred years, or did you think that the world’s dictators had a better idea?



“It’s Because She Lies About It!” by The Elephant's Child

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Roger Simon was asked why Hillary’s health is an issue? He said “It’s because she lies about it.”

She has blamed her inability to remember about the classification of her emails, or whether she had any instructions about the security of emails or much of anything else about her emails. And she told the FBI that she didn’t recall, but I remember Rush’s long ago parody song— “I can’t remember, my mind’s like a blender, it’s jello, jello” Was that about Whitewater, or the cattle futures? I can’t remember.

I’ve always regarded lying as a particularly offensive trait. I had a boss for a while who was a compulsive liar. I caught on before senior management did, but they did discover it, along with some funny business with expense reports, and he was gone.

An excellent book about lying is Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life by Sissela Bok, that covers all the basics and all the excuses.  Recommended. Only 1¢ + shipping for used copies. Might be useful in the current context.

The thing is, if someone lies to you and you believe them, and you act upon that information — it is a pretty big deal.  And it is a big deal in the current political  campaign. The current administration has lied to us extensively, one department after another. The EPA, the IRS, if I had to list them all this post would be far too long. People are noticing, and they don’t like it, they don’t like it at all. Here’s Hillary:

Why? What does she get out of it?



Once Again, Free Markets Work Their Magic by The Elephant's Child

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Let’s turn to some really good news:

This year marks the 25th anniversary of liberal reforms in India that led to the dismantling of many socialist economic policies and the end of the draconian License Raj.  Liberalization has changed life for many in India over the past couple of decades, although much more remains to be done. Just the middle class alone has exploded from 30 million people in 1991 to 300 million in 2014.

So this is a good occasion to tell the story of perhaps the most unexpected beneficiaries of these reforms: the rising Dalit millionaires. In recent years, many thousands of so-called “untouchables,” or Dalits, members of the lowest group in the Indian caste order, have risen out of poverty to become wealthy business owners, some even millionaires.

Westerners are often unable to grasp just what it has meant to be born into a caste of the poorest of the poor without hope of ever moving out of the caste. Caste was determined by birth, and being born an untouchable meant a lifetime of being trapped in low income “dirty” jobs. Marriage could only be within a caste, and there was no hope of advancement for one’s children. Systematic discrimination locked in place for generations.

The opening up of production processes to market forces created new opportunities never before possible. “Starting small and scraping together resources and capital, many of these Dalits now run business empires that actually provide employment to upper caste members.”

There is Thomas Barnabas who was born into a family of bonded laborers, all eight of whom lived in a one-room house. Thomas recalls being thrown out of an upper caste friend’s home as a child after eating and drinking there because he was “untouchable.” They then proceeded to purify and wash the floor where he sat and threw away the dishes from which he ate.

Thomas saw the unmet demand for the processing of industrial waste that was generated by large corporations like Dell, Samsung and Mercedes that had set up manufacturing plants in India after liberalization. He now owns an industrial waste recycling and disposal business that has an annual sales revenue of $2,3 million, and employs 200 people, including many from upper castes.

Do read the whole thing. Shows what can happen with free markets and free people. Not perfect by any means, but improving.

Meanwhile, back in the Americas, thousands turned out, with their pots and pans, crying “We Are Hungry!” in Venezuela and chased President Nicholas Maduro down the street. Only last week some broke into the zoo and killed a starving horse for the meat. Socialism sometimes sounds good, but it is always a lie.



The Progressive Left’s Ideas on Diversity Are Sheer Bunk by The Elephant's Child


The Progressive Far Left aims to change American culture by changing our language. You’ve heard the buzz-words — over and over and over. One of the big ones is “diversity.” Sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it? The Progressive Left chooses their words carefully to sound good, but what do they mean by “diversity”?

What is meant is skin color and/or race. This includes mostly Blacks, Hispanics or Latinos, occasionally Native Americans, Hawaiians, and seldom Asians. It has mostly been pursued through the education system. The failure of schools in minority districts was attempted to be remedied, not by better teachers and better programs, but by busing.

Awkwardly, Hispanics or Latinos are not a race, but speak either Spanish or Portuguese. Some, descended from South America’s Native Americans do have brown skin, and some are descended from black slaves from Africa imported to work in the cane fields. In any case, we are supposed to divvy everything up to conform to numbers in the total population.

So there are advantages to being “diverse,” and numbers of prominent Lefties have attempted to become “diverse” in order to take advantage of available goodies — Elizabeth Warren, Rachel Dolezal and Ward Churchill.  It’s quite popular to claim Cherokee or Comanche ancestry, other tribes not so much. The fact that Native Americans owned slaves is never ever mentioned.

The American Melting Pot has been marvelously successful in blending in folks from all over the world. The first generation often huddles together with others who speak their language, but they become Americans.  That is the purpose of our Americanization process for those applying for citizenship. Obama has attempted to reduce the requirements significantly, because he isn’t much interested in their becoming Americans, only in whether they vote Democrat.

The importance of buzz-words is indicated by the extent to which Colleges and Universities now emphasize “diversity” of race. Diversity of ideas is not considered either important or necessary. There have even been many instances of professors demanding conformity and urging dissenters to drop the class. Oddly, students inspired by Black Lives Matter are demanding more classes in race, more Black professors, more separate dorms. Diversity indeed. Racially segregated “safe spaces” are fixtures on college campuses. Enormously important in advertising.

How much of this political correctness exists because people fear the disapproval that might descend upon them if they do not follow the correct line? Think about that one.

Here is an excellent column by Victor Davis Hanson titled “History’s Pathway to Chaos.”

Bruce Thornton writes about Progressive “Thought Blockers:”Diversity: The grim antithesis to liberal education.

I believe that human beings are by nature tribal. In the modern age, the old notion of tribes is long gone, except in the Middle East, but we still self-select organizations and clubs to form the modern tribe of people we want to be with and who share our ideas and tastes. Nobody bellyaches when we join bridge clubs, churches, poker clubs, bird-watching clubs. charitable organizations, neighborhood communities, Boy Scouts (well, we have had some objections to the Boy part), same goes for Campfire girls, and these organizations may be extremely diverse or not. So what? The Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations are popular. Just total up some of the organizations that you and your friends have joined. That’s just the modern version of Tribe. Who is more tribal than a bunch of Progressive Democrats, and who is at war with Freedom of Speech?



The Surprising Virtues of Income Inequality by The Elephant's Child

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The Left, as is usual, smells opportunity in statistics  that they can use to win votes and attack the other side. Yahoo chimed in today: “THE ISSUE: The rich keep getting richer while more Americans are getting left behind financially. The average income for the top 1 percent of  households climbed 7.7 percent last  year to $1.36 million, according to tax data tracked by Emmanuel Saez, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley. That privileged sliver of the population saw pay climb at almost twice the rate of income growth for the other 99 percent, whose pay averaged a humble $48,768.

“The  ‘Income Inequality’ critic’s faculty salary puts him in the top 1%. Decrying the iniquities of the American capitalist system pays off. Emmanuel Saez’ total wages in 2014, came to $549,350,” in case you were wondering why tuition at major universities is so high.

Yahoo accompanied the headline “WHY IT MATTERS: Income Inequality” with a picture of a gentleman driving a golf cart from his house to his golf club as a group of landscape workers take a break in Vista, California. “Calif. income inequality has surged near levels last seen before the Great Depression.”  Sounds like it was written by the Occupy Wall Street bunch.  “California Income Inequality” and where is Silicon Valley located?

You might notice that economic growth is the rising tide that floats all boats; except that for 7 years and 7 months, there hasn’t been any growth because the president is trying to regulate growth into existence.

The vague idea of what to do about income inequality seems to involve taking enough money from the 1% so they are not rich enough any more, or at least not richer than anyone else. Because the rich are bad people and there are poor people. Being very rich is sometimes a result of creating a new thing that everyone wants and growing the economy and providing thousands of jobs.

On the other hand, there are rich people who are truly bad people. George Soros funded the protesters in Ferguson. He has funded #Black Lives Matter and urged them on, and  #Black Lives Matter in turn has been responsible for attacks on the police who are trying to protect crime-ridden neighborhoods where blacks are shooting other blacks. Over 60 officers have been killed in line of duty this year.

If everyone has an income equal to everyone else —where is the incentive to create something, work on an idea, or start a business? You cannot take enough money away from the very rich to make the rest of the people equal. Doesn’t work. You have probably noticed that the dictators and rulers and presidents-for-life of the socialist countries of the world don’t exactly live in the same circumstances as the people with whom they share a country.

Economist Tom Sowell in his book Basic Economics wrote:

Although people in the top income brackets  and the  bottom income brackets – ‘the rich’ and ‘the poor,’ as they are often called – may be discussed as if they were different classes of people, often they are in fact the very same people at different stages of their lives.

Sowell points out that many of those who quote statistics as proof of income inequality falsely “proceed as if they are talking about income differences between classes rather than differences in age brackets.

Drudge reported today that the Burning Man festival out in the desert, where Silicon Valley denizens and aging hippies gather to smoke pot, is having trouble now with those who have brought $10K tents and their own chefs to provide meals. Income inequality indeed.

Here’s an article from the Hoover Institution’s Richard A. Epstein on “The Hidden Virtues of Income Inequality.” Worth your time.




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