Archive for the 'Big Government' Category
Posted by Kevin Villani on 14th March 2017 (All posts by Kevin Villani)
2017 marks the 200 year anniversary of David Ricardo’s publication on the theory of comparative advantage that underlies the economic case for free trade. Several years later Frederic Bastiat wrote the satirical Candle Maker’s Petition debunking the arguments in favor of protectionism. This was an ironic choice, as candle makers were politically protected by the Founding Fathers as necessary for the Revolutionary War. These protections lasted several centuries, and in 2016 Senator Chuck Schumer sought it re-instated on grounds of unfair competition from China.
President Trump’s trade representative economist Peter Navarro is making both the political and economic case against free trade with China, which he considers a mercantilist trader with military ambitions hostile to the U.S.
Navarro’s political case is an update of that faced by the Founders regarding candle making. China is viewed as pursuing a trading strategy to accumulate wealth and technical know-how to challenge the U.S. militarily in the South China Sea and globally. China’s mercantilist trade practices result in huge export surpluses with the U.S. He argues that China uses this advantage to weaken America’s industrial base and future defensive capability.
While economists can’t reject this political concern out of hand, it does seem several decades premature given the relative size of the two countries’ navies. At present the US could quickly secure sources of supply for military purposes, and protectionism tends to linger for decades or even centuries.
The second case against free trade with a mercantilist trader relates mostly to the loss of jobs due to “unfair” competition, i.e., not due to inherent comparative economic advantages as much as political subsidies, in China’s case a purportedly cheapened currency and weak labor and environmental protections. The standard argument is that such trade generally benefits consumers at the expense of high cost producers, resulting in a less political more fair distribution of consumption as well as a higher overall level. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Business, China, Economics & Finance, International Affairs, Japan, Markets and Trading, Politics, Public Finance, Trump | 10 Comments »
Posted by Kevin Villani on 6th March 2017 (All posts by Kevin Villani)
The current partisan war over the Dodd-Frank Act is just one dispute in a broader ideological divide about the government’s role in industry. This dispute, which has deep historical roots, includes a similar battle over Obamacare. The common disagreement at issue with both laws — now in the cross hairs of a GOP-controlled Washington — is the extent to which politicians should subsidize their constituents indirectly through regulation of private companies.
The Affordable Care Act governing health insurers was about 1,000 pages, and Dodd-Frank governing most other financial institutions was more than twice that. Both stopped short of nationalizing their respective industry, instead generating more than 10 pages of regulation for every one page of legislation, although many view nationalization as an eventual but inevitable consequence, particularly for health care.
The distinction between public control and public ownership is the primary distinction between the competing mid-20th-century ideologies of fascism and communism. In contemporary terminology, this distinction is between crony capitalism and nationalization, neither of which can be reconciled with competition and freedom of choice.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Business, Capitalism, Crony Capitalism, Economics & Finance, Health Care, Obama, Political Philosophy, Public Finance, Systems Analysis | 10 Comments »
Posted by Kevin Villani on 27th February 2017 (All posts by Kevin Villani)
My first experience with manias was in the 1950’s. As a pre-schooler, I was dragged along to the Filene’s Basement annual designer dress sale. Thousands of women of all types and sizes pressed against the glass doors opening into the subway station. Within minutes of the doors opening, these “maniacs” cleared all the racks and, holding armfuls of dresses, began stripping to their slips. That’s when I panicked.
Looking back, those women acted rationally. There was a limited supply of deeply discounted dresses available on a first come basis. They traded among themselves to get the right size and their most desired dress. Buyer’s remorse was cushioned by Filene’s liberal return policy.
The premise of U.S. financial regulation is that actors within private markets are irrational, but the evidence shows that it’s not maniacal, illogical behavior that sends markets into freefall.
Great Depression and Recession
Now in its seventh edition, Manias, Panics and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises, Charles Kindleberger’s seminal work provides the narrative that underlies virtually all public financial protection and regulation: First, the irrational exuberance of individuals transforms into “mob psychology” and fuels an asset bubble. Then, when the exuberance of a few turns to fear, the mob panics and overreacts, causing a crash that brings down both solvent and insolvent financial institutions.
In his memoir, the former Federal Reserve Bank President and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who was at the epicenter of the last crisis, concluded, “It began with a mania — the widespread belief that devastating financial crises were a thing of the past, that future recessions would be mild, that gravity-defying home prices would never crash to earth.”
Most U.S. federal financial regulation originates from the Great Depression and the subsequent introduction of federal deposit insurance provided by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which was established in 1933 to protect “small” savers. All prior state attempts to provide insurance failed. Because there were no effective, non-politicized regulations that could prevent the moral hazard of insured banks and savings institutions taking on excessive risks, an extensive regulatory infrastructure was put in place.
Now, the U.S. has about 100 financial regulators, including those in the U.S. Treasury and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the FDIC, and the Fed. With near-universal deposit insurance, bank runs have become a rarity, but systemic crises have occurred more frequently. It is incontestable that big bubbles eventually burst, asset prices crash, and financial crises ensue. What causes the bubbles to inflate to systemic proportions, and to ultimately burst, is more contentious.
At the time of Kindleberger’s analysis, individuals were assumed to be rational. The latest edition of his book, written after the 2008 financial crisis, postulates numerous theories about mob psychology (mania) that could lead rational individuals to produce irrational markets, but these ideas are all rather lame.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Business, Capitalism, Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Markets and Trading, Public Finance, Real Estate, Systems Analysis, Tradeoffs | 9 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 24th February 2017 (All posts by Jonathan)
Assistant Village Idiot:
Consequently, the standard for avoiding mistakes is now the same for you as you have been applying to others for your whole career. When accusing Trump of making some inaccurate statement, if you get that wrong once it outweighs nine times that you got it right. And, just between you and me and the lampost, you aren’t close to getting it right 90% of the time just now. so in the minds of the public, you are digging yourself in deeper and deeper. Fresh examples are best. There was a lot of excitement this past weekend about Trump claiming something had gone wrong in Sweden, but there hadn’t been any big incident that anyone could recognise. When I first read it, I thought What the hell is Trump talking about there? I thought the story plausible, because Trump does stuff like this. Then I saw the transcript, and without even knowing the rest of the story, I thought Unh, there’s some window there. It’s a little clumsy in the wording, but he could be talking about events in general in Sweden, maybe an “Every Friday night…” You shouldn’t try to slam dunk these, because they keep hitting off the rim. So when I read the full response, that Trump had watched Tucker Carlson on the news Friday with a story about the increase in rape and violence in Sweden due to immigration, it made entire sense.
The people who always believe you – the people who will believe any bad thing about Trump (and his minions – don’t forget his minions) will throw up their hands, roll their eyes and say “Aw come on, that’s a ridiculous excuse. You got caught out, you old windbag. Don’t try to bring that crap in here.” Except it’s not ridiculous at all. That’s exactly how Trump talks, and how he thinks. He’s been talking like this for years. His claim is entirely plausible. It not only could be true, so you can’t get your slam dunk, it is actually the most likely thing that happened. Because why the hell else would Sweden suddenly occur to him? The news story was in his stew, it bubbled to the top, and he spooned it.
Net result: Your pals, no change. They still don’t believe Trump but even if he had some sort of definite proof they would just scowl and wait for the next time. (We’ll get him next time.) Trump’s pals, no change. Even if you had proof they’d just shrug it off. People in the middle, that one-third of the population, most will now remember They lied about Trump again, about something really small and pointless like it was a big deal. Maybe a few will think you scored a point, but also notice that it doesn’t much matter. Small potatoes. So now you need to catch him nine times, without a miss, to make up for it. Welcome to the world you made. How does it feel to be on the receiving end?
Remember the first rule of holes.
Worth reading in full.
Posted in Big Government, Elections, Human Behavior, Leftism, Media, Politics, Trump | 11 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 15th February 2017 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Several years ago, I posted an account of what is called ‘The Deep State.”
There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The former is traditional Washington partisan politics: the tip of the iceberg that a public watching C-SPAN sees daily and which is theoretically controllable via elections. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power.
That article was one of several around that time (2014) about the Deep State.
History suggests that this low-intensity conflict within the ruling Elite is generally a healthy characteristic of leadership in good times. As times grow more troubled, however, the unity of the ruling Elite fractures into irreconcilable political disunity, which becomes a proximate cause of the dissolution of the Empire if it continues.
I recently proposed the idea that Wall Street now poses a strategic threat to national security and thus to the Deep State itself: Who Gets Thrown Under the Bus in the Next Financial Crisis? (March 3, 2014)
That didn’t happen but the Deep State is in the news again as an enemy of Trump.
It stands to reason that “the Swamp” he talked about draining is coterminous with “The Deep State.”
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Current Events, Elections, Leftism, Media, National Security | 41 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 9th February 2017 (All posts by Jonathan)
‘Trump makes sense to a grocery store owner’
Economist-mathematician Nassim Nicholas Taleb contends that there is a global riot against pseudo-experts
After predicting the 2008 economic crisis, the Brexit vote, the U.S. presidential election and other events correctly, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the Incerto series on global uncertainties, which includes The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, is seen as something of a maverick and an oracle. Equally, the economist-mathematician has been criticised for advocating a “dumbing down” of the economic system, and his reasoning for U.S. President Donald Trump and global populist movements. In an interview in Jaipur, Taleb explains why he thinks the world is seeing a “global riot against pseudo-experts”.
Taleb has a typically thoughtful and contrary take on Trump’s electoral victory. Worth reading in full.
(Via Peter Saint-Andre.)
Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Society, Politics, Trump, USA | 13 Comments »
Posted by David McFadden on 25th January 2017 (All posts by David McFadden)
Although President Trump is confident of his ability to deal with Vladimir Putin, he should carefully avoid emulating Putin. It would be far better for the president to look to the example of Putin’s predecessor, Mikhail Gorbachev, who transformed the Soviet Union. The first steps in the transformation were glasnost and perestroika. Glasnost, introduced in 1985, roughly means openness and was a step toward open discussion of political and social issues. Perestroika, introduced the following year, roughly means restructuring. Perestroika reduced central economic planning and allowed some private business ownership. These and later reforms resulted in a sharp increase in political freedom (from nil), which peaked in 1991. Sadly, the gains were short lived. Freedom steadily and drastically declined under Yeltsin and Putin for a complex of reasons debated at a recent symposium at the Cato Institute.
The United States as it emerges from the Obama Administration, while not as bad off as the Soviet Union as it emerged from communism, is badly in need of both glasnost and perestroika. They should be the twin priorities of the dawning Trump Administration.
The American left has come to despise freedom of speech as much as it has traditionally despised freedom of contract. It has followed the normal progression of leftist movements toward viewing the protection of its social objectives as more important than human rights. The earliest and still worst manifestation of this trend is on college campuses. Campus speech codes began to appear in the late 1980’s and spread rapidly. Within a few years sixty percent of colleges had them. According to a report of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the percentage has declined over the last nine years to forty percent.
In 1998, Congress declared that it was the sense of Congress that “an institution of higher education should facilitate the free and open exchange of ideas” and that “students should not be intimidated, harassed, discouraged from speaking out, or discriminated against.” 20 U.S.C. § 1011a(a)(2)(C), (D). While the sponsors of this provision may have thought (or wanted to give the impression) that they were doing something, they did not do very much. The provision imposes no consequences on institutions that act contrary to the sense of Congress on this subject. It needs an amendment putting federal funds at stake, as anti-discrimination sections in title 20 do. Although speech codes are less common than they were, universities still do a lot to stifle “the free and open exchange of ideas.” In particular, they fail to prevent students from being intimidated, harassed, and discouraged from speaking out by other students, using increasingly violent methods.
Intolerance of dissent, especially on a fixed dogma like climate change, is not limited to college campuses. A few years ago, a cabal of environmentalists enlisted sympathetic state attorneys general to investigate climate change dissidents. With a vague objective of finding a RICO violation, a group of twenty attorneys general (“AGs United for Clean Power”) have subpoenaed forty years of records from ExxonMobil in a retaliatory effort to find evidence that it has had information on climate change that differs from what it has said publicly. The attorney general of the Virgin Islands subpoenaed documents from academic institutions, scientists, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank. He withdrew that subpoena after getting some pushback from a congressional committee and a lawsuit from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
A venerable weapon is available for the Justice Department to use against oppressive state universities and attorneys general, the Enforcement Act of 1870. The second section of the act, 18 U.S.C. § 242, makes it a crime for anyone under color of state law to deprive a person of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution. The first section of the act, 18 U.S.C. § 241, provides criminal penalties for conspiracy to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in the enjoyment of any right secured to him by the Constitution. State action is not an element of the crime under § 241. Could not the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, under new leadership, go after, for example, a group of students who prevent Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking? That would be fun.
These tools may or may not work, but they should be tried. Assaults on civil liberties should no longer be costless.
In Federalist No. 72, Hamilton said, “To reverse and undo what has been done by a predecessor, is very often considered by a successor as the best proof he can give of his own capacity and desert.” This has to be the best standard now, as everyone in the Trump Administration should understand.
Perestroika in the modern context ought to begin with reversing and undoing the Obama Administration’s impositions on the economy. Amity Shlaes, who, it should be recalled, wrote The Forgotten Man, observed that “smaller firms–the ones unready for the lawsuit, the investigation or the audit–bear the greater share of regulatory costs.” The regulatory burdens in need of repeal extend far beyond the Affordable Care Act and its progeny. Daniel Pérez of George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Center has determined that Obama issued about 33% more “economically significant” regulations than either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush.
It will be a challenge for the political appointees in all the departments of the federal government to sift through the regulations and begin the process of liberating the economy from the worst of them. Fortunately, litigation has already left some of the Department of Labor’s output in ruins. The Persuader Rule, which I warned about in this blog before its adoption, and the Fiduciary Rule are controversial intrusions of the Labor Department into professional relationships. Both the Persuader Rule and an anti-business revision of overtime regulations have been enjoined by federal district courts in Texas. Five different lawsuits challenging the Fiduciary Rule are pending.
Withdrawing appeals of the rulings against the Persuader Rule and the overtime regulations is the simplest way to dispatch those rules. Other recently adopted regulations can by nullified by using the Congressional Review Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 801-808. A joint resolution of disapproval has to be introduced within sixty days of Congress’s receipt of a report of rulemaking. The act provides an expedited procedure for a joint resolution and limits debate in the Senate. In June, President Obama vetoed a joint resolution disapproving the Fiduciary Rule.
For that rule, and so many others, the arduous notice and comment process of the Administrative Procedure Act will be the only method of repeal. The ultimate goal should be that the Code of Federal Regulations will bear no trace that the Obama Administration ever existed and, more generally, that this time glasnost and perestroika will have a more lasting imprint.
Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Education, Law, Obama, Russia, Trump | 5 Comments »
Posted by Ginny on 20th January 2017 (All posts by Ginny)
I’ve never understood people who don’t notice costs. Maybe it was because we didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, maybe it was bicycling around to deliver papers in the snow . . . but I don’t think so. My life wasn’t all that rough. I think it is good old Scottish common sense. It is sensible to assess price in terms of worth. Or as Franklin would see it – is the value of the time I spent earning that money a good exchange for the use or pleasure it provides. From different perspectives, this was what I thought when I set prices in my business and when I wander around a store, touching and thinking about that dress or dish.
I’ve long wondered about D.C.’s ability to spend money. As a Kelly girl, I found state and federal offices squandered time in ways private businesses never did. We know the stories of lottery winners whose money is gone in half a year. I suspect someone who considers the lottery a good investment probably isn’t all that good at assessing worth, though they may be misled by winning.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Current Events, Customer Service, Trump | 12 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th January 2017 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
As the Deity be my witness, I have never – not even since 1968 (which I am sufficiently old enough to remember, being 14 years of age in that cursed year) – seen such a massive and public temper tantrum as that which we have been observing since November, 2015. Let it be said that I am observing all this with appalled and horrified fascination. It used to be that only certain very far-leftish intellectuals and college students were given to briefly melt down in such an over-the-top fashion – but over the last month and a bit this appears to have become the chosen reaction to their side losing an election on the part of most Hollywood A- B- and C-Listers, all the social justice warrior front, most of the establishment media, a good chunk of our public intellectuals, a good few businesses (looking at you, Kellogg) a generous selection of our Democrat Party establishment, and a representative sample of leftish freelance political freaks. (As an aside – good show; displaying your contempt toward at least half of your prospective audience/consumers/& etc is a sure winner, when it comes to the consumer market. This household will never purchase Kellogg brands again. Or go to a movie with Meryl Streep in it.)
So – why the Cat-5 hurricane degree of hysteria, which shows not the slightest degree of diminishing? A number of reasons, I would venture; and for many of the most demonstrative “Never Our President” virtue signalers it may be a combination of several of these.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Politics, Tea Party, The Press, Trump | 21 Comments »
Posted by Kevin Villani on 17th December 2016 (All posts by Kevin Villani)
“The Department of] Housing and Urban Development has done an enormous amount of harm. My god, if you think of the way in which they have destroyed parts of cities under the rubric of eliminating slums … there have been many more dwelling units torn down in the name of public housing than have been built.” ~ Milton Friedman, Interview, Hoover Institution, February 10, 1999
President-elect Trump’s appointment of Dr. Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development is being criticized on the grounds that he lacks the requisite administrative experience. More likely, Carson’s affront was to question why HUD exists.
Republican presidents have been ambivalent. Having bigger fish to fry, President Reagan appointed Sam Pierce HUD Secretary so that he could ignore it. George H.W. Bush repaid Jack Kemp’s political opposition by first making him HUD Secretary and then frustrating his attempts to eliminate the Department. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson, appointed by George W., was allegedly focused on participating in the traditional kickback schemes while his Assistant Secretary for Housing pursued homeownership policies that contributed mightily to the financial crisis of 2008.
Democratic presidents have used it as a platform to pursue other agendas. Jimmy Carter’s HUD Secretary Patricia Harris introduced Fannie Mae housing goals – quotas – as punishment for not appointing a woman to the Board of Directors. Between scandals, Clinton’s HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros promoted the homeownership goals that left both the financial system and the new mortgage borrowers bankrupt.
HUD’s budget is relatively small as compared to other federal departments, but it has always punched far above its budget weight in destructive power. To put HUD’s annual budget of about $50 billion in perspective, the cost of the homeowner mortgage interest tax deduction is two to three times greater, but HUD’s “mission regulation” of financial institutions has given it influence or control over trillions more.
The initial political interest in housing during the Great Depression was entirely Keynesian, i.e., related to the short-term potential to create jobs and relieve cyclical unemployment – the “infrastructure investments” of that era. The Democrat’s approach to construction, management, and allocation of public housing was generally implemented to benefit builders and rife with corruption. FHA and Fannie Mae were chartered mostly as off-balance sheet financial institutions to stimulate housing production on the cheap.
The problem of urban development, as many politicians and urban analysts saw it in the 1960s, stemmed from the 1956 Eisenhower initiative to build highways financed by the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, a byproduct of which was that more affluent people commuted from the suburbs while leaving poorer families behind. The pursuit of the American Dream of homeownership left city administrations accustomed to cross-subsidizing municipal services in fiscal distress, creating a vicious cycle: as services declined, more affluent households moved out.
The Housing and Urban Development Act in 1965 established HUD as a separate cabinet department as part of LBJ’s Great Society to give a greater priority to housing and urban issues. HUD inherited a mishmash of various New Deal federal programs, ranging from public rental housing to urban renewal, as well as financial oversight of FHA and Fannie Mae.
Faced with steep “guns and butter” budget deficits, LBJ focused on ways to further encourage off-balance-sheet financing of housing construction through “public-private partnerships.” Republicans, led by Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, convinced by academic studies that the urban riots of the 1960s were the direct result of poor quality housing and the urban environment and by lobbyists for housing producers, supported the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968. The “goal of a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family” was first introduced in the 1949 Housing Act. Title XVI of the 1968 Act “Housing Goals and Annual Housing Report” introduced central planning without specifying the goals, a timetable for implementation, or a budget.
In the late 1960s, the Weyerhaeuser Corporation produced a forecast of single-family housing production in the coming decade to assist with tree planting. Congressional math wizards divided the total forecast by 10 to produce HUD’s annual housing production goals for the nation. For the next decade, HUD Secretaries were annually paraded before their Senate oversight Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs to explain why they did or did not meet these production goals.
Republicans have historically supported rental housing vouchers for existing private rental units for privately built housing to minimize market distortions. Republican HUD Secretary Carla Hills in the Ford Administration pushed HUD’s Section 8 subsidies for existing housing – something arguably better administered as a negative income tax – as a political alternative to the Democrats’ push for a return to public housing construction. But as a further political compromise, the largely autonomous local public housing authorities would administer these vouchers, leading to the same concentration of crime and urban decay as public housing. To borrow a phrase from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, “Republican social engineering” isn’t necessarily better than “Democratic social engineering.”
The economic goals of “affordable” housing have generally been in direct conflict with urban development. When I proposed demolishing the worst public housing projects and redeveloping the land, using the proceeds to fund subsidies for existing private market housing (something partially achieved during the Reagan Administration), Clinton Administration officials scoffed at the idea.
HUD combines socialist goals and fascist methods that seriously distort and undermine markets. There is neither market nor political discipline on the enormous scope of its activities. HUD met unfunded goals through financial coercion, undermining both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and their commercial banking competitors, with the collusion of the Senate Committee responsible for both financial and housing oversight, leading to the sub-prime lending debacle of 2008.
There is no economic rationale for a federal role in housing or urban affairs in a market economy. HUD represents a continuing systemic threat for which there is no cure. May it RIP.
Kevin Villani, chief economist at Freddie Mac from 1982 to 1985, is a principal of University Financial Associates. He has held senior government positions, been affiliated with nine universities, and served as CFO and director of several companies. He recently published Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue on the political origins of the sub-prime lending bubble and aftermath.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.
Posted in Big Government, Economics & Finance, Politics, Public Finance, Real Estate, Urban Issues | 4 Comments »
Posted by Kevin Villani on 13th December 2016 (All posts by Kevin Villani)
Interest rates will eventually rise without an even more devastating policy of financial repression. When they do, rising interest costs will produce a vicious cycle of ever more borrowing. We are already approaching the “event horizon” of spinning into this black hole of an inflationary spiral and economic collapse from which few countries historically have escaped. A substantially higher rate of growth is the only way to break free.
National economic growth is typically measured by the growth of GDP, and citizen well being by the growth of per-capita GDP. The long run trend of GDP growth reflects labor force participation, hours worked and productivity as well as the rate of national saving and the productivity of investments, all of which have been trending down.
The population grows at about 1% annually and actual GDP growth averaged 2% overall for 2010-2016 (using the new World Bank and IMF forecast of US GDP at 1.6% for 2016), hence per capita GDP grew at only 1%. Moreover the income from that 1% growth went primarily to the top one percent while 99% stagnated and minorities fell backwards.
Why we are approaching the Event Horizon
The Obama Administration annually predicted a more historically typical 2.6% per capita growth rate, consistent with the historical growth in non-farm labor productivity. How could their forecasts be so far off?
The Obama Administration pursued the most massive Keynesian fiscal and monetary stimulus ever undertaken. Such a policy generally at least gives the appearance of a rise in well being in the near term, as the government GDP statistic (repetitive, as the word “statistic derives from the Greek word for “state” ) reflects final expenditures, thereby imputing equal value to what governments “spend” as to the discretionary spending of private households and businesses in competitive markets. But labor productivity gains stagnated at only about 1%, most likely reflecting the cost and uncertainty of anti-business regulatory and legislative policies that dampened investment, something the Administration denied, trumping even a short term boost to GDP.
As a result the national debt approximately doubled from $10 trillion to $20 trillion, with contingent liabilities variously estimated from $100 to $200 trillion, putting the economy ever closer to the event horizon. Breaking free will require reversing the highly negative trends by reversing the policies that caused them.
Technology alone isn’t sufficient
Obama Administration apologists argued that stagnation is “the new normal” citing leading productivity experts such as Robert Gordon who dismissed the potential of new technologies. Many disagree, but Gordon’s findings imply even greater reliance on conventional reform.
Fiscal policy won’t be sufficient
Raising taxes may reduce short term deficits but slows growth. Cutting wasteful spending works better but is more difficult.
The list of needed public infrastructure investments has grown since the last one trillion dollar “stimulus” of politically allocated and mostly wasteful pork that contributed to the stagnation of the last eight years. Debt financed public infrastructure investment contributes to growth only if highly productive investments are chosen over political white elephants like California’s bullet train, always problematic.
Major cuts in defense spending are wishful thinking as most geopolitical experts view the world today as a riskier place than at any prior time of the past century, with many parallels to the inter-war period 1919-1939.
The major entitlement programs Social Security and Medicare for the elderly need reform. But for those in or near retirement the potential for savings is slight. Is Medicare really going to be withheld by death squads? Are benefits for those dependent on social security going to be cut significantly, forcing the elderly back into the labor force? Cutting Medicare or SS benefits for those with significant wealth – the equivalent of a wealth tax – won’t affect their consumption, hence offsetting the fall in government deficits with an equal and offsetting liquidation of private wealth. Prospective changes for those 55 years of age or younger should stimulate savings and defer retirement, improving finances only in the long run.
The remaining bureaucracies are in need of major pruning and in numerous cases elimination but they evaded even budget scold David Stockman’s ax during the Reagan Administration.
Americans will have to work more and consume less
That is the typical progressive economic legacy of excessive borrowing from the future.
The first Clinton Administration created the crony capitalist coalition of the political elite and the politically favored, e.g., public sector employees and retirees, subsidy recipients and low income home loan borrowers. The recent Clinton campaign promised to broaden this coalition, which would have accelerated the trip over the event horizon.
Reform that taxes consumption in favor of savings and a return to historical real interest rates could reverse the dramatic decline of the savings rate. Regulations redirecting savings to politically popular housing or environmental causes need to be curtailed in favor of market allocation to productive business investment.
Repeal and replace of Obama Care could reverse the trend to part time employment. Unwinding the approximate doubling of SS Disability payments and temporary unemployment benefits could reverse the decline in labor force participation.
Service sector labor productivity has been falling since 1987, the more politically favored the faster the decline. Legal services are at the bottom, partly reflecting political power of rent-seeking trial lawyers, followed by unionized health and then educational services. Union favoritism through, e.g., Davis Bacon wage requirements and “card check” increases rent seeking, particularly rampant in the unionized public sector.
Competition, of which free but reciprocal trade has historically been a major component, has traditionally provided the largest boost to well being by realizing the benefits of foreign productivity in a lower cost of goods while channeling American labor into employment where their relative productivity is highest. The transition is often painful, but paying people not to work long term is counterproductive. Immigration of both highly skilled and low cost labor (but not dependent family) generally contributes to per capita labor productivity in the same way as free trade.
None of this will be easy. The alternative is Greece without the Mediterranean climate or a sufficiently rich benefactor.
Kevin Villani, chief economist at Freddie Mac from 1982 to 1985, is a principal of University Financial Associates. He has held senior government positions, been affiliated with nine universities, and served as CFO and director of several companies. He recently published Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue on the political origins of the sub-prime lending bubble and aftermath.
Posted in Big Government, Current Events, Economics & Finance, Politics, Predictions, Public Finance, Trump | 13 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th December 2016 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Many of us were pleased to see the surprise results of the November 8 election. Democrats were distraught.
The Democrats seem to be hung up on Kubler Ross’s first stage of mourning.
Anger and disbelief are giving way to what is starting to look like an insurrection.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Big Government, Current Events, Elections, International Affairs, Politics, Trump | 18 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 21st November 2016 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
It has been an education, watching the mass public meltdown on the part of the not-Trump faction over the last week and a half. OK – I get the shock and denial, said to be the first stages of grief. Hillary was supposed to become the first woman elected president of the USA! (Yay, vagina!) It was her turn, per the Ruling Uni-party and a whole lot of people who should have known better. And she was supposed to be qualified – the most qualified woman evah! – although specifics about those qualifications are somewhat thin on the ground and mostly to do with her grabbing in marriage an attractive, promising professional pol on his way up, and sticking with him no matter what personal humiliations that entailed for decades.
I’d interject a personal note here: I once had a security clearance, and handled classified material for a couple of years. If I had been so damned careless with those documents as the Dowager Queen of Chappaqua was as Secretary of State, I’d still be in a cell in Leavenworth, instead of blissfully retired from the Big Blue Machine for two decades. Too, she had the establishment national media in her pocket, slavering to be of obedient service to the Queen, and a whole lineup of celebrities, likewise dropping to their knees and elbowing each other out of the way in their haste to swear fealty. Her campaign spent a bomb on pollsters, advertising, and whatever else presidential campaigns are supposed to spend megabucks on – which until now was always supposed to signal victory. It was in the bag for her, without a doubt! And yet … the dominoes dropped, one after one, after one. And the coronation was off. No wonder the Dowager Queen is reported to have had a particularly horrific tantrum on Election Night, and vanished from the eyes of her adoring public for more than a week, reappearing looking like a side dish of Death indifferently warmed over.
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Posted in Big Government, Current Events, Leftism, Politics, The Press, Trump | 22 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 19th November 2016 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Trump is organizing his administration but he is facing another crisis.
The Wall Street Journal is giving him painful and unwelcome but good advice.
He must liquidate the family business.
One reason 60 million voters elected Donald Trump is because he promised to change Washington’s culture of self-dealing, and if he wants to succeed he’s going to have to make a sacrifice and lead by example. Mr. Trump has so far indicated that he will keep his business empire but turn over management to his children, and therein lies political danger.
Mr. Trump has for decades run the Trump Organization and during the campaign said if he won the Presidency he’d turn over the keys to Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka, all of whom are now serving on the Trump transition. A company spokesperson says the family business is “in the process of vetting various structures” and that the ultimate arrangement “will comply with all applicable rules and regulations.”
Some of Mr. Trump’s lawyers have called the plan a “blind trust,” which past Presidents have used to protect their assets from the appearance of conflicts-of-interest. But that set-up typically involves liquid assets like bonds and stocks, not buildings or a branding empire. Mr. Trump will know how any given decision will affect, say, the old post office property in Washington, D.C. that he’s leasing from the federal government (another conflict). By law blind trusts are overseen by an independent manager, not family members.
The Journal is correct. I don’t know how Trump is going to do this but he has to.
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Posted in Big Government, Capitalism, Current Events, Elections, Taxes, Trump | 23 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 5th November 2016 (All posts by Jonathan)
Some interesting speculations about the Democrats’ motives in the current election:
But once he won, something rather unexpected happened: True to his claim of being a political outsider, Trump broke with an unwritten rule that Republicans and Democrats historically had abided by. Under that understanding, administrations of both parties basically guaranteed implied amnesties for legal breaches to outgoing administrations. The best recent example for this implied agreement was the failure of the Bush Junior administration to pursue any of a number of potential criminal claims against members of the Clinton administration. In other words, any administration that made it through its term without being indicted, was basically assured of no further legal consequences.
The knowledge that one just had to survive till the end of an administration, has been at the core of quantitative and qualitative increases in government corruption this country has witnessed in recent decades, and nobody has been better in “surviving” than the last two Democratic administrations of Presidents Clinton and Obama.
[. . .]
That six days before the election Trump has in national opinion polls pulled even with Clinton, therefore, set off alarm bells among the Democratic elites. The election, suddenly, has become an existential fight for survival, far exceeding the traditional conflict for power and the spoils of power.
We, therefore, can expect Clintonians and Democratic party, in cahoots with a majority of major media, in the last few days before the election to initiate a political bloodbath in attempts to derail Donald Trump. The election no longer is about who gains or retains the privileges of power but, as Trump stated, who goes to jail.
Worth reading in full.
Posted in Big Government, Current Events, Elections, Politics, Trump | 14 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 3rd November 2016 (All posts by Jonathan)
Home Builders Say Federal Loan Limits Shut Out Many Buyers (WSJ):
One of the hallmarks of the housing recovery has been the historically low level of new-home construction, particularly at lower price points attainable for first-time buyers. Although a wide range of factors are at play, from slow wage growth to higher regulatory costs, builders say the FHA limits in many markets are shutting out potential buyers.
The challenge is particularly acute in California, which has the nation’s highest upfront fees for new construction, according to housing-research firm Zelman & Associates. Fees to pay for roads, sewers, schools and other infrastructure in California markets average between $40,000 and $72,000 per home, according to the firm’s research, compared with an average of $2,600 in Houston. [emphasis added]
Posted in Big Government, Business, Economics & Finance, Political Philosophy, Real Estate, Urban Issues | Comments Off on Quote of the Day
Posted by Jonathan on 2nd November 2016 (All posts by Jonathan)
Thomas Sowell notes, again, the failure of leftist policies to achieve their intended results:
If the left chooses to believe that government intervention is the answer to such tragedies, that is their right. But, if they expect the rest of us to share that belief, surely they could subject that belief to some empirical test. But we can, however.
The 1960s were the triumphant decade of those who wanted government intervention to “solve” what they called “social problems.” How did that work out? What were things like before this social vision triumphed? And what were things like afterwards?
The failures of the Left to correlate cause and effect, even to remember how things used to be, in relation to leftist govt policies are legion. Thus leftists advocate War on Poverty-type programs as antidotes to problems that became worse after the original War on Poverty. Similarly and classically, leftists have favored rent control laws as remedies for housing shortages in cities such as NYC where housing shortages did not exist before rent control. And they defend, or at least have a soft spot for, the Castro dictatorship even though pre-Castro Cuba was relatively much more free and prosperous. It’s difficult to hold leftist views if you see govt policies as subject to empirical validation. In that case you ask the right question: Did things get better or worse after X? But it’s easy to hold such views if you see politics as fashion or a means of engaging in virtue-signalling. Then the question becomes: What are the popular opinions among today’s in-crowd?
Being a follower of clothing fashions is harmless. Being a follower of opinion fashions is personally corrupting and harmful to others, especially as government becomes larger and more intrusive.
Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Political Philosophy, Politics | 10 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 25th October 2016 (All posts by Jonathan)
My Former Republican Party
A comment I left in response at The Right Coast:
He wants a party that represents his views better. I want that too but it’s not available. Until it is I’ll settle for the lesser evil.
The country has changed and the political parties have changed with it. Some of the changes are shocking and undesirable. Trump is a kind of crowdsourced response by middle-class, mostly Republican voters to all of this. Despite his bad qualities he gets some big things right that the political mainstream insists on ignoring. He represents the least-bad option at the moment. As Glenn says, if he is rejected the next least-bad alternative will be even less attractive to the people who complain about Trump.
Posted in Big Government, Elections, Politics, Tradeoffs, Trump, USA | 18 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 24th October 2016 (All posts by David Foster)
It seems that one of the next campaigns of the ‘Social Justice Warriors’ will be the elimination of management discretion in hiring:
The next battlefield after high tech is discretion in hiring–which the activists believe must be limited to force employers to hire any candidate “qualified” for a job as soon as they apply. Only a few radicals are proposing this kind of blind hiring now, but continuing successes in getting firms to bow to their diversity demands will result in a list of new demands. We have already seen Seattle pass an ordinance requiring landlords to rent apartments to the first applicant who qualifies. And similar movements in hiring–supposedly to prevent discrimination by eliminating management choice of who to employ–are coming soon.
The SJWs will certainly get around to insisting that promotions, as well as initial hiring, be handled in the same way.
You can be certain that a Hillary Clinton presidency would be far more favorable to this sort of thing than would a Donald Trump presidency.
If your aspiration is to be a robot, with your every action in life controlled by highly-detailed top-down rules, then you should by all means work fervently for a Clinton presidency.
Posted in Big Government, Business, Civil Society, Leftism, Management, USA | 16 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 18th October 2016 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The election news is starting to suggest to me that Trump may well lose the election to Hillary. What would that mean?
Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt person to get this close to the presidency since Aaron Burr.
he blamed Hamilton for besmirching him as a candidate, and, eager to defend his honor, challenged Hamilton to a duel. Hamilton accepted, and the face-off took place on the morning of July 11, 1804; it ended when Burr shot Hamilton to death. Though the public cried murder, Burr was let off, and after laying low for a while, he was able to complete his vice-presidential term.
In 1807, Burr was brought to trial on charges of conspiracy and high misdemeanor, for leading a military charge against Spanish territory and for trying to separate territories from the United States. Chief Justice John Marshall acquitted Burr on the treason charge and eventually revoked his misdemeanor indictment, but the conspiracy scandal left Burr’s political career in ruins.
Burr spent the four years following his trial traveling throughout Europe, attempting unsuccessfully to garner support for revolutionizing Mexico and freeing the Spanish colonies.
Burr was a traitor after having his ambitions thwarted.
We all know Hillary’s story. She was a student radical at Wellesley and her senior thesis was on Saul Alinsky.
The thesis was sympathetic to Alinsky’s critiques of government antipoverty programs, but criticized Alinsky’s methods as largely ineffective, all the while describing Alinsky’s personality as appealing. The thesis sought to fit Alinsky into a line of American social activists, including Eugene V. Debs, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Walt Whitman. Written in formal academic language, the thesis concluded that “[Alinsky’s] power/conflict model is rendered inapplicable by existing social conflicts” and that Alinsky’s model had not expanded nationally due to “the anachronistic nature of small autonomous conflict.”
Her sympathies are clear. What will she be like as president if she wins?
We know she is dishonest by most definitions of the term.
She evaded the law on security when she accepted the position of Secretary of State. Her security detail at State, rebelled at her ignoring security rules, and her personal abusive style. The latter was well known from her time in the White House as First Lady.
During her interview, the agent said Clinton treated agents rudely and with contempt, and was so unpleasant that senior agents typically avoided being on her security detail.
“[Redacted] explained that CLINTON’s treatment of DS agents on her protective detail was so contemptuous that many of them sought reassignment or employment elsewhere,” the interview summary says. “Prior to CLINTON’s tenure, being an agent on the Secretary of State’s protective detail was seen as an honor and privilege reserved for senior agents. However, by the end of CLINTON’s tenure, it was staffed largely with new agents because it was difficult to find senior agents willing to work for her.”
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Posted in Big Government, Elections, Politics, Trump | 22 Comments »
Posted by Kevin Villani on 24th September 2016 (All posts by Kevin Villani)
When testifying in 2010 before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission into the financial crash, then Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke recommended only one reference, Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World (2009), presumably for the narrative that insufficient money printing in the aftermath of the Great War lead to the next one. Right idea, wrong narrative!
The US homeownership rate peaked at a rate well above the current level almost a half century ago mostly funded by a system of private mutual savings banks and savings and loans. The historical justification for federal “secondary market” agencies was political expediency – exemption from now obsolete federal, state and local laws and regulations inhibiting a national banking and mortgage market. Now government-run enterprises account for about 90% of all mortgages, with the Fed their primary funding mechanism, what the Economist recently labeled a de facto nationalization.
The Historical Evolution
How did the private US housing finance system repeatedly go bankrupt? To quote Hemingway: Gradually, then suddenly. The two competing political narratives of the cause of financial market crises remain at the extremes – either a private market or public political failure – with diametrically opposite policy prescriptions. The politician-exonerating market failure narrative has not surprisingly dominated policy, with past compromises contributing to the systemic financial system failure, the global recession of 2008 and subsequent nationalization.
The Great Depression stressed the S&L system, but the industry’s vigorous opposition to both federal deposit insurance and the Fannie Mae secondary market proved prescient as the federally chartered savings and loan industry eventually succumbed by 1980 to the federal deposit insurer’s perverse politically imposed mandate of funding fixed rate mortgages with short term deposits and competition from the government sponsored enterprises.
The S&Ls were largely replaced by the commercial banks. To make banks competitive with Fannie and Freddie, politicians and regulators allowed virtually the same extreme leverage, in return for a comparable low-income lending mandate – CRA requirements leading to a market dominating $4 trillion in commitments to community groups to whom the Clinton Administration had granted virtual veto power over new branch and merger authority.
The Financial Crisis of 2008 and the aftermath
The Big Short by Michael Lewis and more recent movie portrayed not just banker greed but the extreme frustration of those shorting the US mortgage market stymied by a housing price bubble many times greater than any in recorded US history that refused to burst. The reasons: 1. the Fed kept rates low and money plentiful, and 2. whereas banks would have run out of funding capacity, the ability of Fannie and Freddie to continuously borrow at the Treasury’s cost of funds regardless of risk and their HUD Mission Regulator requirement to maintain a 50% market share kept the bubble inflating to systemic proportions.
The Obama Administration fully embraced the alternative private market failure narrative in Fed policy, regulation and legislation:
- To partially ameliorate the effects on the real economy of disruption to the global payments mechanism the Fed had to bail out the banking system. QE1/2/3/4 and ZIRP (zero rates), now NIRP, did this by re-inflating the house price bubble, postponing defaults while allowing banks risk-free profits. The Fed – and taxpayers – would lose more than the entire S&L industry did should rates rise by a comparable amount if it marked its balance sheet to market.
- Regulators had to appear to punish the banks. In response to paying hundreds of billions of dollars in what the Economist labeled “extortion” – some of which ironically went to populist political action groups – and the subsequent oppressive regulatory regime, U.S. commercial banks are exiting the US mortgage market in spite of ongoing profits enabled by extreme leverage.
- One legislative centerpiece, the Dodd Frank Act passed in July 2010 in direct response to the financial crisis, doubled down on political control of financial markets without addressing the future of Fannie and Freddie. The other, Obamacare, enacted four months earlier, was similarly premised on regulating private health insurers to make health insurance simultaneously cheaper and more widely available.
The Long Term Consequences
Bernanke’s focus on choosing the narrative was useful, but the political choice of the market failure narrative appears to reflect convenience rather than conviction. The direct taxpayer costs of implicit or explicit public insurance and guarantees come with both a whimper – tax savings amounting to tens of billions annually due to the deductibility of interest costs – and a bang – future taxpayer bailouts generally delivered off-budget.
Fannie and Freddie conservatorship deftly avoided debt consolidation while dividends reduced reported federal deficits. The student loan market has also been de facto nationalized, with potential unbudgeted losses totaling hundreds of billions. Obamacare was similarly premised on regulating private health insurers to make health insurance simultaneously cheaper and more widely available, but under-budgeted health insurance subsidies predictable caused massive losses and health insurers are now withdrawing from the market.
Monetary policies caused household savings to stagnate as returns to retirement savings evaporated. Defined obligation public pension funds were all rendered technically insolvent when funding is valued at current market returns rather than the assumed rate as much as ten times that. The failure of the economy to grow per capita was explained as the “new normal”. But politicians made no attempt to reflect the implied technically insolvency of public pensions or Social Security and Medicare.
Private firms fail, but private markets rarely do. Public protection and regulation makes firms “too big to fail” until markets fail systemically. The current and projected future public debt bubble is unsustainable, and financial markets will eventually ignore the accounting deceptions and pop it. The relative weakness of other sovereign debt is delaying the inevitably, making The Really Big Short a good title for a Michael Lewis’s sequel. Politicians and central bankers will again say “nobody saw this coming”. What then?
Kevin Villani, chief economist at Freddie Mac from 1982 to 1985, is a principal of University Financial Associates. He has held senior government positions, been affiliated with nine universities, and served as CFO and director of several companies. He recently published Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue on the political origins of the sub-prime lending bubble and aftermath. This article was originally published at FFE.org
Posted in Big Government, Economics & Finance, Markets and Trading, Predictions, Public Finance, Real Estate, Systems Analysis | 21 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 25th August 2016 (All posts by Jonathan)
“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” (Saul Alinsky)
Hillary is clever to go after individual companies. If she attacked the pharma industry as a whole, it could unite politically in response and perhaps gain political support from other industries that would reasonably see themselves as similarly vulnerable. But individual companies have no defenses against this kind of attack. By singling out one victim she discourages other industry players from doing anything in response, because any company or industry group that responds risks being targeted in the future.
She has done this kind of thing before. She will probably keep doing it because it’s politically effective. Her attack on Mylan destroyed a large amount of wealth, and probably not just for Mylan’s shareholders. Today Mylan’s CEO is groveling in the media. As with past political attacks by Hillary and others on vaccine manufacturers, yesterday’s attack on Mylan will discourage pharma companies from introducing valuable new products and will reduce the availability of current products. We will probably see more of this kind of extortionate behavior by the federal govt if she is elected, because that’s how the Clintons operate and because a Hillary administration would appoint more lefty judges and DOJ and regulatory officials who would go along with it.
Posted in Big Government, Crony Capitalism, Economics & Finance, Health Care, Leftism, Markets and Trading, Politics | 42 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 13th August 2016 (All posts by Jonathan)
Thoughts on the nexus between the growth of government and of an elite governing class, and the rise of flagrant, unaccountable, public lying by politicians and other officials who are members of that class:
…This statistical fact is, however, also a good example how radically this new American “aristocracy” has changed America in recent decades. Even President Obama in his first election campaign, only eight years ago, still categorically rejected the label of being a “socialist” for fear of becoming unelectable. Only eight years later, Bernie Sanders, a declared Socialist would, likely, have become the elected Democratic presidential candidate, had the party leadership not undemocratically conspired against his election.
[. . .]
Many, maybe even most presidents before Clinton, of course, also have on occasion been less than truthful; but nobody, except of course Nixon (“I am not a crook”), has in recent history so blatantly lied to the American people as Bill Clinton and, yet, gotten away with it, in the process changing American politics for ever by demonstrating that the modern multimedia world practically always offers the opportunity to relativize the truth of the message (to quote Bill Clinton, “it depends what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”).
The political “aristocracy” learned this lesson very quickly and, of course, nobody better than Hillary Clinton. She would never have dared to follow through with the absolute insane idea of establishing her own Internet server while serving as Secretary of State, had she not been convinced that she could manipulate the truth, should it be discovered. Piercing her words, as her husband had done so well during the Lewinsky Affair, she, indeed, has successfully avoided indictment by the Justice Department, even though a majority of Americans, likely, believe that she escaped because of special considerations by Obama’s Justice Department. Completely exposed in her deception by the FBI investigation, she, remarkably, still continues to lie in her statements to the public.
Read the whole thing.
Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Media, Obama, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, USA | 21 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 11th August 2016 (All posts by David Foster)
Free speech…free expression generally…is under attack in America and throughout the Western world to a degree not seen in a long time. I think there are seven specific phenomena, incarnated in seven (partially-overlapping) categories of people, which are largely driving this attack, to wit:
The Thugs. As I pointed out in my recent post The United States of Weimar?, illegal actions against political opponents–ranging from theft of newspapers to direct assault and battery–have in recent decades become increasingly common on university campuses, and now are well on track to being normalized as aspects of national political campaigns.
The Assassins. These individuals go beyond the level of violence practiced by the Thugs, and make credible death threats…which they attempt to carry out…against those whose actions or believe they view as unacceptable. The majority of threats and attacks falling in this category have certainly been the doing of radical Muslims; however, some of the more extreme ‘environmentalist’ and ‘animal rights’ groups have also demonstrated Assassin tendencies. At present, however, it is those Assassins who are radical Muslims who have been most successful in inhibiting free expression. Four years in hiding for an American cartoonist.
The Wimps. It seems that among the younger generations in America, there are a disproportionate number of people whose ‘self-esteem’ has been raised to such lofty but brittle levels that they cannot stand any challenge to their belief systems. Hence they are eager to sacrifice their own freedom of speech, as well as that of others, on the altar of ‘safety’ from disturbing words and thoughts.
The Bureaucrats. Bureaucrats, especially in the universities but also increasingly in the private sector, are eager to provide the altars for the sacrifice of free speech, with Star Chamber proceedings and various forms of witch-burnings.
The Regulatory State. The vast expansion of Federal regulatory activities and authority enables a wide range of adverse actions to be taken against individuals without the checks and balances of normal judicial proceedings. Witness, for example, the IRS persecution of conservative-leaning organizations (possibly extended to pro-Israel organizations as well.) And the Bureaucrats in nominally-independent organizations are really often acting as agents and front men for the Regulatory State. (Consider the 2011 ‘Dear Colleague’ letter sent from the Department of Education to colleges and universities, regarding the handling of sexual assault allegations–which has had, the linked article argues, serious negative impact on free speech and due process.)
The Theoreticians. Various academics have developed the concept of ‘oppressive speech’ and have developed models which attempt to break down the distinction between speech and action. Since everyone agrees that actions must be regulated to some degree, this tends to pave the way for tightened regulation of speech. (I think the conflation of speech with action is particularly sellable to those who in their professional lives are Word People and/or Image People. To a farmer or a machinist or even an electrical engineer, the distinction between speech and action is pretty crisp. To a lawyer or an advertising person or to a professor (outside the hard sciences), maybe not so much. And the percentage of Word People and Image People in the overall population has grown greatly.)
The Fragility Feminists. Actually, the word ‘Feminists’ should probably be in quotes, because the argument these people are making is in many ways the direct opposite of that made by the original feminists. There is a significant movement, again especially on college campuses, asserting that women are such fragile flowers that they must be endlessly protected from words that might upset them. See the controversy over the name of the athletic center at the Colorado School of Mines…here I think we have the Bureaucrats and the Fragility Feminists making common cause, as they so often do. For another (and particularly bizarre) case, read about professor Laura Kipnis, whose essay decrying ‘sexual paranoia on campus’ resulted in a Title IX inquisition against her. In a particularly disturbing note, when Kipnis brought a ‘support person’ to her hearing, a Title IX complaint was filed against that person.
Posted in Academia, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Law, USA | 30 Comments »
Posted by Trent Telenko on 1st August 2016 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
When FBI Director Comey publicly took a dive and sold out the rule of law in refusing to prosecute Hillary Clinton’s Cyber-security crimes. He began a new chapter in providing evidence of the validity of “Broken Window Policing” in the field of cyber-security. For which, see the following definition:
The broken windows model of policing…focuses on the importance of disorder (e.g., broken windows) in generating and sustaining more serious crime. Disorder is not directly linked to serious crime; instead, disorder leads to increased fear and withdrawal from residents, which then allows more serious crime to move in because of decreased levels of informal social control.
Hillary and the FBI Director Comey have advertised both outrageous cyber-security weakness and more importantly the breakdown of social mores of “the rule of law” in Federal Government cyber-security. If you advertise you are weak, stupid and capricious in enforcing cyber-security, it is blood in the water for cyber-criminals of all sorts.
Consider this not exhaustive list busted e-mail security associated with Hillary Clinton and her Democratic Party surrogates.
1) Hillary’s email system on Bill Clinton’s server.
2) The Hillary Controlled Democrat National Committee email server.
3) The Democrat Congressional Candidates Committee server.
4) Hillary’s election campaign server.
5) Hillary’s several different illicit off-site email servers when she was Secretary of State.
This is a very small fraction of the “Broken Window theory” as applied to cyber-crime. What we see related to Hillary. The problem here is that this sort of political corruption cannot be centralized. If Hillary can do it and get away with it. Exactly how many other illicit off-site e-mail accounts filled with Federal secrets are there now? And how many more will there be between now and Jan 2017?
Lois Lerner at IRS and the EPA director are both known to be using non-Federal government secured public e-mail systems as early as 2010.
Exactly how many other officials at the State Department, Defense Department, Interior Department (Can you say Secret Service?), other non-departmental American intelligence bureaucracies, and the Federal Reserves are there?
That is the real cyber-security “broken window” Hillary and FBI Director Comey have opened. And this is the cyber-security nightmare that will be with America for decades, barring a massive and systematic purge of everyone high and low associated with such behavior by a new President or after another — likely nuclear — Pearl Harbor.
I’ll close with the following Sept 12, 2008 Obama campaign statement that applies in 2016:
“Our economy wouldn’t survive without the Internet, and cyber-security continues to represent one our most serious national security threats,” “It’s extraordinary that someone who wants to be our president and our commander in chief doesn’t know how to send an e-mail.”
— Obama for President 2008 campaign spokesman Dan Pfeiffer.
Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Elections, Human Behavior, USA, War and Peace | 8 Comments »