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    Ads sell everything from Apple to Zippo. Why aren’t they used to sell ideas?

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 11th August 2015 (All posts by )

    After two losses to the farthest left president ever, conservatives have been agonizing over how win back the presidency. More importantly, the truly thoughtful among us have been agonizing over how to win back a once freedom-loving culture drifting ever farther leftward.

    On the political front, the debate is over moderates (who might win the middle) and conservatives (who might excite the base). That seems to be the debate that sucks up all the oxygen. I would make the case that if you are focusing on the political front, you are fighting a battle, but have already lost the war.

    I take the position that politics, while important, is merely the manifestation of what is happening to the culture. If you lose the culture, you are going to lose the elections. It’s that simple.

    I think it was post 2012, where Glenn Reynolds, of Instapundit, opined that conservatives should start buying up media, so that they could compete, at least partly, with the progressives’ dominance in the MSM. I think that is a good idea, and would argue that it is far better investment than giving money to another think tank. It isn’t easy, though. First you have to buy the medium, then you have to market it so it is followed. Last, and most important, that medium has to do much more than Fox News and talk radio, both of which do little more than pound the rubble for the already converted – making conservatives angrier and less palatable in the process.

    It’s a great idea, but difficult. What if there is an easier way?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Advertising, Conservatism, Deep Thoughts, Leftism, Media, Political Philosophy, Politics, Rhetoric, USA | 29 Comments »

    How to Win the Debt Ceiling Battle

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 23rd September 2013 (All posts by )

    I don’t have the time nor inclination to argue why the GOP is self-destructing in its idiotic drive to trigger a shutdown of the government. It suffices to say that such shutdown likely costs the GOP the House in 2014 at a juncture where it probably could win the Senate…

    …If the party (or its waxing, aggressive right flank) wasn’t insane.


    The reason for this post is to propose a solution for the upcoming budget crises/debt-ceiling battle. I call it the “Rolling Sequester,” and it is designed to attract independents and fiscally conservative voters, not drive them away in droves.

    Rather than layout the plan on this blog post, I’ve uploaded the 2-page memo that I sent to some folks in DC. I hope it finds its way into the hands of someone who can do something with it. Maybe the readers of this blog can help with that.

    Critiques welcome.

    Rolling Sequester Strategy

    Posted in Big Government, Politics | 14 Comments »

    Election Shocker – McCain out polls Romney!!??

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 7th November 2012 (All posts by )

    As  I was perusing the flotsam and jetsam sloshing around in the swamps after last night’s storm, I came across this surprising (shocking really) bit of information.

    Turnout was way down this election, and McCain may well have gotten more votes than Romney when it’s all over.

    In 2008, Obama won a whopping 69 million votes and poor McCain was just short of 60 million. This year, with a few million votes left to count as things trickle in, Romney is at 57 million, and Obama has yet to break (but likely will) McCain’s 59,934,814.

    Let this sink in…

    Romney/Ryan got fewer (or roughly the same)  votes as McCain/Palin.

    Obama lost around 9 million votes from 2008, and still won re-election.

    What happened?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Christianity, Civil Society, Conservatism, Religion | 39 Comments »

    The Insanity of Federalized Teacher Evaluations

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 22nd February 2012 (All posts by )

    Last Sunday’s New York Times had an article highlighting the implementation of the new teacher evaluation system being put in place in Tennessee. The system is part of the Race-to-the-Top attempt to drive education reform in the states by dangling federal cash for reforms.

    As you read the article, you should begin to realize why “reform” fails and why many people in both the Government Education Complex and Education Transformation* movement find these rules so absurd.

    There simply is no way that a federal bureaucracy (or any bureaucracy, for that matter) can devise a unified system of teacher evaluation. There are too many variables, and teachers are correct to be skeptical of this top-down approach to their craft.

    For example, the first few paragraphs of the article expose the unworkable nature of the evaluation process.

    Steve Ball, executive principal at the East Literature Magnet School in Nashville, arrived at an English class unannounced one day this month and spent 60 minutes taking copious notes as he watched the teacher introduce and explain the concept of irony. “It was a good lesson,” Mr. Ball said.

    But under Tennessee’s new teacher-evaluation system, which is similar to systems being adopted around the country, Mr. Ball said he had to give the teacher a one — the lowest rating on a five-point scale — in one of 12 categories: breaking students into groups.** Even though Mr. Ball had seen the same teacher, a successful veteran he declined to identify, group students effectively on other occasions, he felt that he had no choice but to follow the strict guidelines of the state’s complicated rubric.

    “It’s not an accurate reflection of her as a teacher,” Mr. Ball said.

    What a shock. A principal knows his teachers better than the federalized check list. Wonders never cease.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Education, Unions | 18 Comments »

    A must read for every Conservative/Libertarian

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 19th November 2011 (All posts by )

    The linked article is, IMO, an important read for all of us in the think tank/free market movement. I’ve often started feeble attempts to write a nearly exact commentary, and thankfully, some one wrote it for me.

    It encompasses many of the things I’ve attempted to communicate in various debates/discussions with colleagues at Heartland and out on the Free Market Rubber Chicken circuit. It applies to libertarians as much as conservatives.

    MODERNIZING CONSERVATISM cogently lays out exactly why the conservative movement is heading toward rough waters.

    While I don’t agree with every aspect of prescribed remedies, the need for a reformation of the movement is 100% accurate, IMO.

    Some titillating excerpts…

    “Long-term evidence indicates that the starve-the-beast strategy not only fails, but may make the problem of unrestrained spending growth worse, suggesting that a “serve the check” strategy might be a more effective means of curbing the growth of government spending. The simple explanation for this seeming paradox is that the starve-the-beast strategy currently allows Americans to receive a dollar in government services while only having to pay 60 cents for it.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Anglosphere, Civil Society, Elections, Political Philosophy, Taxes | 15 Comments »

    So This Is How Democracy Dies

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 30th September 2011 (All posts by )

    [youtube GNAHjsAnTd4 How Liberty Dies]

    How is this for a headline?

    “Key Democrats call for Ending Democracy”

    Some people subscribe to the idea that politicians are stupid. They shoot from the hip until reined in by their consultants during election season. There is probably a great deal of truth to that. On the other hand, the use of the “trial balloon” is a well-tested technique for gauging public reaction to an idea.

    With that in mind, I submit today’s WSJ’s “Notable and Quotable” into evidence to let the jury decide.

    “Most Americans complain that government is unresponsive to their wishes. But not everyone feels that way. In the space of two days, two prominent Democrats have called for less responsive government that ignores public input.
    One of them, former White House Budget Director Peter Orszag, penned a piece this week in the New Republic arguing, as the title says, “Why we need less democracy.” Orszag wrote that “the country’s political polarization was growing worse—harming Washington’s ability to do the basic, necessary work of governing.” His solution? “[W]e need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.” . . .
    [S]imilar comments by Gov. Bev Perdue, D-N.C., are far more troubling. “I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover,” Perdue told a Rotary Club gathering in suburban Raleigh this week. “I really hope that someone can agree with me on that.”

    Gaffe or Trial Balloon?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Big Government, Elections, Political Philosophy, Politics | 24 Comments »

    Keynes v. Hayek II

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 28th April 2011 (All posts by )

    This is one of the funniest, most creative, accurate, and informative videos I’ve ever seen. It could educate the nation through rap.

    Keynes v. Hayek

    Enjoy, pass it on.

    Posted in Economics & Finance | Comments Off on Keynes v. Hayek II

    Changing minds one interview at a time

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 11th April 2011 (All posts by )

    Check out my recent appearance on WPWR’s (Channel 50) “Perspective” program yesterday (Sunday). The discussion was around a voucher bill, along with other issues confronting education.

    The Latest News On School Reform and School Vouchers:

    Of course, with three people defending the existing system, and only one person (me) describing it accurately as failing, it’s not like we don’t have our work cut out for us. You may be interested in the other guests, as they make their conventional case for dumping more money into a failed system. If not, my stint starts at the 11:22 mark.

    As always, constructive critiques are welcome. Being more used to radio, I have to work on my TV persona. Any advice on how to quickly make friends with the first camera shot would be greatly appreciated.

    Posted in Academia, Chicagoania, Education | 3 Comments »

    Imagine no School Districts

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 2nd January 2011 (All posts by )

    I put up a post titled “What If” over at Heartland’s blog site.

    One minute I think we’re going to win this over the next few years, and another minute, I think there’s no hope. But a man can dream.

    Posted in Big Government, Education | 4 Comments »

    Winning debates with the Teacher Union

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 20th December 2010 (All posts by )

    I made my Fox Chicago debut last week, with the interview/segment airing on Sunday Morning. It’s amazing how much coverage you can get by walking through a parking lot, talking to news anchors.

    Since I can’t put the video up here, I linked to Heartland’s new blog, Somewhat Reasonable.

    UPDATE: Video appears below.

    FOX Chicago Sunday: Karen Lewis & Bruno Behrend:

    Posted in Education | 11 Comments »

    The “Government Education Complex” defined

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 15th December 2010 (All posts by )

    I doubt if I was the first person to use the phrase “Government-Education Complex,” but I use it often to describe the current education system. Others have clearly started to pick up on the meme, which is good.

    A friend of mine in Indiana emailed me and asked me to define it for him. So I did.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Education | 7 Comments »

    First School Pulls the Trigger

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 7th December 2010 (All posts by )

    The Heartland Institute is “trigger happy” today.  They’ve been one of the few free-market think tanks really promoting the concept of parent empowerment.  That’s why today’s news is so promising.

    The first school has pulled the trigger, and is working to convert “government/education complex” infrastructure over to independent infrastructure.  This is a good thing.

    For more information on how the Parent Trigger changes the dynamic on education reform, check out these links.

    Heartland’s Parent Trigger page.

    Wall Street Journal op-ed.


    For purposes of full disclosure, yes, I am the director of the Center for School reform at The Heartland Institute.

    Posted in Education | Comments Off on First School Pulls the Trigger

    Michelle Rhee punts on Unions

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 7th December 2010 (All posts by )

    As someone involved in the education reform movement, I hate to criticize Michelle Rhee.  That said, if you want to bring about a better education system, you have to know the source of the problem.  That’s the only way you can develop a solution.

    Rhee’s article is an lesson in problem avoidance.  It makes the point that education reform is a political battle.  So far, so good.  It’s high time that high profile people started talking like this, though I suspect much of that can be attributed to Chris Christie’s surviving the campaign of lies put out by the teachers unions and bloated bureaucracy.

    Where the article fails is her failure to take on the 800 lb. gorilla in the education debate.  After being successfully targeted for destruction by these engines of greed and mediocrity, Rhee turns tail and opines the this is what unions are supposed to do.  This is a travesty.

    What I’ve Learned
    We can’t keep politics out of school reform. Why I’m launching a national movement to transform education.

    The teachers’ unions get the blame for much of this. Elected officials, parents, and administrators implore them to “embrace change” and “accept reform.” But I don’t think the unions can or should change. The purpose of the teachers’ union is to protect the privileges, priorities, and pay of their members. And they’re doing a great job of that.

    What next, Michelle?  “Kim Jong Il’s role is to turn millions of North Koreans into brainwashed, undernourished midgets building bombs to terrorize neighboring nations, and he’s doing a great job of doing that.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Education | 5 Comments »

    How to deal with North Korea

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 29th November 2010 (All posts by )

    While I’ve been purposefully avoiding any news shows or blogs this weekend, the situation in North Korea forces me to post this potential solution to the problem. Let’s start with some premises.

    1. NK is a buffer state for China. It exists at China’s will.
    2. NK is a clear and present danger to its own people and to the world.
    3. China, belligerent and “ascendant” as she may be, is linked to our currency and to our consumption of her cheap goods.

    While I could add details and subheadings to the above, I think the premises are sound. If not please correct me.

    With that in mind, why shouldn’t America, in the person of its CEO, simply offer China the ultimatum below.

    Dear Hu,

    This nation tires of the dangerous and evil games played by Kim Jong Il. He is a dangerous man who is actively destroying his own people. The United States has played the diplomatic games with this madman long enough, yet fully realizes that we have no optimal military option.

    Given that you have it with in your power as a nation to change the nature of NK, and that you clearly are using NK as a threatening buffer state, I see no reason to remain diplomatically engaged with the buffer state puppet – Kim Jong Il. I think we will deal with your nation alone.

    With that in mind, I offer the following ultimatum. You will immediately begin the process of forcing regime change in NK. The best solution would be for you to begin the process of reunification, but I would be happy to hear other alternatives.

    If you fail to begin this process, I will use all my administrative powers, and lobby Congress to use its powers to shut down all trade with China until such regime change is effected.


    President Obama (or his successor)

    Why shouldn’t we use trade as weapon in this situation? Aside from hurting Walmart’s stock price for a few quarters and losing a few transportation jobs in the interim, why can’t we do this? Discuss.

    Posted in China, International Affairs, Korea, National Security, Terrorism, War and Peace | 22 Comments »

    Bailouts don’t provide ROI

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 18th November 2010 (All posts by )

    News reports are rolling in regarding the TARP paybacks and stock sales on GM.  Some are saying that these bailouts  are “turning a profit” for taxpayers.  Here is one example.

    G.M. Prices Its Shares at $33 in Return to Stock Market

    American taxpayers’ ownership of General Motors was halved on Wednesday, and billions of dollars in bailout money was returned to the federal government, as a result of the nation’s largest initial stock offering ever.

    The offering, which raised $23.1 billion, is bigger and more ambitious than had once seemed possible. But the recently bankrupt automaker will have to build on its revival for the government to recoup its entire $50 billion investment and validate the Obama administration’s decision to keep G.M. from collapsing.

    The idea that these policies were beneficial, simply based upon some of the money being returned through IPOs, needs to be placed into context.

    Let’s start with this. Since 2007,  revenues to the Fed. government have collapsed.  This collapse was precipitated by a dramatic slowdown, which, in turn, was based upon a variety of factors.  The key is that many of these factors could have been addressed prior to the collapse.

    Instead, American governance is a freak show where we have an above the surface gridlock on any good policy, with a below the surface greasing of every stupid policy under the sun.  This culminated in bursting asset bubbles, bailouts of rent-seekers, and a slew of morally hazardous policies that replace self-governance with “Czarism.”

    Into this tragi-comedy of political idiocy, unemployment, and huge deficits, defenders of the bailouts point to a paltry few pennies returned to the treasury as a sign of “success” while ignoring the billions (or trillions, even) in lost revenues based upon bad government policies.

    This is ridiculous. GM’s $33/share price is based upon a czarist edict waiving away taxes on bailed out entities.  What some tout as a “return on investment” reads more like a scene out of Atlas Shrugged, where some people get bailed out based upon the “aristocracy of pull.”

    There are far too many Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians who operate under the false theory that the well of our moral, social, financial and intellectual capital will never run dry. I think they are wrong.

    The GM situation is evidence of deep decline, not of a “bailout” having worked.

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Morality and Philosphy, Public Finance | 7 Comments »

    This is the FRAME that wins 2012

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 5th November 2010 (All posts by )

    “Can you govern yourself, or do you need a Federal Czar to govern your life for you?”

    That question should be asked of every interested person who might vote in the next few elections. Everyone.

    “Can you find a doctor, a light-bulb, or control the flow of your toilet, or should one of our Federal Czars take that decision out of your hands?”

    When framed in this fashion, the answers to these questions probably have a 75-25 pro-freedom response rate, even in today’s electorate.

    This “frame” (see Lakoff and Overton Window)  articulates the central message that all Republicans, conservative Democrats, the Tea Parties/Patriots, as well as the think tank types should be shouting from the hilltops.

    Once brought to consciousness in this philosophical context, virtually every “self-government” policy initiative can be promoted on the foundation of “self-government”. Most Americans are hard-wired to agree with the conservative view on this. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Elections, Society | 12 Comments »

    Tea Party Bozo Show II – Bruno responds

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 20th October 2010 (All posts by )

    For background on just how awful a person I am, start with my first installment of the Tea Party Bozo Show.  Read all the slams on my breach of protocol against Senate Candidate Joe Miller.  Once finished, read on.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Crime and Punishment | 12 Comments »

    Tea Party Bozo Show

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 19th October 2010 (All posts by )

    Miller cites Communist East Germany as effective in dealing with border security

    The scuffle between the editor of Alaska Dispatch and Joe Miller’s security guards at a public forum in Anchorage late Sunday is getting much national attention today. Getting lesser but growing attention is Miller’s answer at the forum to a question from the audience about how he would deal with illegal immigration. Anchorage blogger Steve Aufrecht was there and is among those today who are criticizing Miller’s response that Communist East Germany is a good example of a nation achieving border security. He quotes Miller as saying: “The first thing that has to be done is secure the border. … East Germany was very, very able to reduce the flow. Now, obviously, other things were involved. We have the capacity to, as a great nation, secure the border. If East Germany could do it, we could do it.”

    What a blithering idiot!

    These apparently are the only choices for Rs these days.  A class of in-bred crooks who serve the functional equivalent of perverted uncles molesting American principles, or a class of pseudo articulate ass-clowns.

    Oh well, the upside is that I’ll likely get my wish that Rs don’t get the senate. That’s a nice silver lining.

    Posted in Germany, Immigration | 32 Comments »

    A “Somewhat Reasonable” defense of Mitch Daniels

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 19th October 2010 (All posts by )

    The Heartland Institute just opened up their new blog today, I encourage a visit.

    This is where the Heartland staff will post their quick takes and commentary on the rapidly developing stories of the day.

    I just posted a spirited defense of Mitch Daniels there…like he needs my help.

    Posted in Politics, Taxes | 7 Comments »

    Just say it! Teachers Unions are morally illegitimate

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 5th October 2010 (All posts by )

    It’s nice to know that the rhetoric I’ve been using on my website for about 6 years now, which some called “extreme,” has gone mainstream.

    The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page editors are dipping their toes in the water of truth. They ought to dive in head first, and start rescuing children.

    Hating ‘Superman’

    The new film “Waiting for ‘Superman’” is getting good reviews for its portrayal of children seeking alternatives to dreadful public schools, and to judge by the film’s opponents it is having an impact.

    Witness the scene on a recent Friday night in front of a Loews multiplex in New York City, where some 50 protestors blasted the film as propaganda for charter schools. “Klein, Rhee and Duncan better switch us jobs, so we can put an end to those hedge fund hogs,” went one of their anti-charter cheers, referring to school reform chancellors Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The odd complaint is that donors to charter schools include some hedge fund managers.

    Or maybe not so odd. Teachers unions and the public school monopoly have long benefitted from wielding a moral trump card. They claimed to care for children, and caring was defined solely by how much taxpayers spent on schools.

    That moral claim is being turned on its head as more Americans come to understand that teachers unions and the public bureaucracy are the main obstacles to reform. Movies such as “Waiting for ‘Superman’” and “The Lottery” are exposing this to the larger American public, leaving the monopolists to the hapless recourse of suggesting that reformers are merely the tools of hedge fund philanthropists.

    Teacher’s unions are on the moral defensive because people have finally started to question their moral legitimacy. (welcome to the club) Teachers Unions have none, and, as a concept, they have no right to exist.

    Every dime a teachers union extracts from a tax payer for pay, benefits, pensions, etc., is a dime that can’t be used to better educate a child. It’s so obvious that it’s been staring us in the face for decades.

    Just as Reagan hastened the fall of the USSR by challenging their moral legitimacy (evil empire, ash heap of history), we must openly start telling our neighbors that teachers unions have no right to one iota of say in education. Their interests, and the interests of society are diametrically opposed.

    You don’t negotiate with such an entity, you abolish it. It’s that simple. Get to work.

    You want to teach? Compete in the open field of professionals and processes that can better educate our children.

    Posted in Academia, Education, Entrepreneurship | 9 Comments »

    A Request from my son the Marine

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 3rd October 2010 (All posts by )

    My son made it back from his first tour in Afghanistan two days ago.  He will probably have to go back at least once.  This is from his Facebook posting.

    Lindsay Lohan, 24, is all over the news because she’s a celebrity drug addict. While Justin Allen 23, Brett Linley 29, Matthew Weikert 29, Justus Bartett 27, Dave Santos 21, Chase Stanley 21, Jesse Reed 26, Matthew Johnson 21, Zachary Fisher 24, Brandon King 23, Christopher Goeke 23, Sheldon Tate 27, they are all Marines who gave their lives this week, no media mention. Honor THEM by reposting…”


    Posted in Civil Society | 11 Comments »

    Trashing our culture while trashing DC’s Capital Mall

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 3rd October 2010 (All posts by )

    Watch this video.

    Then watch this one.

    Put it on all your websites, facebook pages, and e-mail lists.

    Posted in Anti-Americanism | 2 Comments »

    Addressing SEIU/AFSCME talking points

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 1st October 2010 (All posts by )

    Public Unions are taking well-deserved heat for their pension greed. If you look at all the pension articles, the comments are full of reasonable sounding folks trotting out the argument that the really bad examples of abusive pensions are “outliers.” They then tell you that the average benefit is “only $20,000/year.” It’s best to address this calmly, reasonably, and accurately. Here’s how. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Taxes | 14 Comments »

    Sweden – the newest Red State

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 30th September 2010 (All posts by )

    America, even with Republicans in the House and possibly Senate, runs the risk of becoming the model sclerotic empire, wasting away while other states move toward more freedom. Canada and Sweden, nations we conservatives and libertarians used to scoff at as silly, are starting to beat the US on measures of freedom and competitiveness.
    Sweden is one country to watch. First, it does socialism about as well as any state could. (of course, this is easier when your nation is small, homogeneous, and free of the burdens of world leadership). Next, unlike the US, Sweden is moving in the right direction, toward that conservative (in the true meaning of the word) ideal of a 3rd way, where the welfare state, to the extent it exists, is individualized.

    Sweden’s Quiet Revolution
    Without much fanfare, the Scandinavian country has been moving away from socialism.

    There is something about Sweden that provokes a mix of envy, horror, and bewilderment among American observers. Liberals have traditionally celebrated its cradle-to-grave safety net, while conservatives have disparaged its high taxes and centralized health-care regime. Yet both groups have generally agreed that Swedish-style socialism is a far cry from rough-and-tumble U.S. capitalism.

    In fact, contemporary Sweden is much less socialist than many Americans realize. Since the early 1990s, when it suffered a painful financial crisis, the Scandinavian country has deregulated key industries (such as airlines, telecommunications, and electricity), lowered its overall tax burden, established universal school vouchers, partially privatized its pension system, abolished certain government monopolies, sold a number of state-owned enterprises (including the parent company of Absolut vodka), and trimmed public spending. Several years ago, it eliminated gift and inheritance taxes. The World Economic Forum now ranks Sweden as the second-most competitive economy on earth, behind only Switzerland. According to the 2010 Index of Economic Freedom (compiled by the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation), Sweden offers greater business freedom, trade freedom, monetary freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom, freedom from corruption, and property-rights protection than does the United States.

    Bolstered by prudent economic stewardship and a relatively conservative financial sector, Sweden entered the global recession on a sound footing. While it endured a nasty spike in unemployment, its export-driven recovery has been so vigorous that the central bank is now concerned about inflation risks. In the second quarter of 2010, Sweden posted a 4.6 percent annual growth rate, prompting the Wall Street Journal to hail it as “the biggest success story in post-recession Europe.” It currently has the lowest deficit-to-GDP ratio in the entire European Union. Before the election, Swedish finance minister Anders Borg announced plans to privatize another $14 billion worth of state assets. “If we get a surplus in place,” Reinfeldt told a Reuters interviewer, “we will deliver on tax cuts for 6.1 million workers and pensioners.” (The total Swedish population is roughly 9.4 million.)

    To be sure, Sweden won’t look like Hong Kong or Singapore anytime soon. It still has a lavish welfare state, and its aggregate tax burden is still quite heavy. The top marginal income-tax rate is 57 percent in Sweden, compared with 35 percent (for now) in America. On the other hand, a 2008 OECD study found that household taxes are substantially more progressive in the U.S. than they are in Sweden, even after we control for America’s higher level of income inequality. Sweden has a much lower average statutory corporate-tax rate than the U.S., and also a much lower effective corporate-tax rate on new capital investments (according to University of Calgary economists Duanjie Chen and Jack Mintz). Its tax structure is made even more regressive by a 25 percent value-added tax on consumption of most goods and services.

    Which brings us to a common misconception about the Swedish system — that it takes from the rich and gives to the poor. Actually, says Lund University economist Andreas Bergh, “the majority of the taxes you pay are given back to you during your life cycle.” Thus, “if you pay more when you work, you will also get more when you retire.” Even upper-class Swedes enjoy bountiful government largesse.

    Another popular myth would have us believe that Sweden’s wealth was somehow created or facilitated by social democracy. In reality, “Sweden’s prosperity is the result of well-functioning capitalist institutions,” says Bergh, author of the new Swedish-language book The Capitalist Welfare State. As Cato Institute scholar Johan Norberg explained in a 2006 National Interest essay, the relative “success” of the country’s social-democratic model “was built on the legacy of an earlier model: the period of economic growth and development preceding the adoption of the socialist system.”

    Posted in Europe, Political Philosophy | 14 Comments »

    When will we stop spending?

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 29th September 2010 (All posts by )

    The graph below compares American spending against other OECD countries. It comes from an article in the left-leaning American Prospect that basically argues that our spending isn’t really a problem.

    OECD Spending

    OECD Spending

    A Million Here, a Million There ?
    Why federal spending never goes down, and why that’s not a problem.

    Politicians can fulminate all they want about the $2 million earmark or the silly sounding $150,000 research project. But the truth is that government spending is going to continue to rise, because neither Democrats nor Republicans really want government to get smaller — at least not badly enough to cut it in a meaningful way. It can rise at a slower or faster rate, depending on the decisions we make (the biggest source of future spending is Medicare and Medicaid, a problem the Affordable Care Act begins to tackle). But no matter who wins the election this year, or in 2012, or in any other year, it’s going to keep growing.

    First, the comment that ObamaCare is going to “tackle” spending is absurd. Its tax and spending structure will move America way up on that graph. Next, the fact is that spending does matter for all kinds of reasons, particularly for a nation that doesn’t want to go down the path of sclerotic Europe.

    No one knows if the Tea Party/Patriot movement is going to succeed in curtailing spending. I get the feeling that they just might. If the Republicans don’t curtail the rate of spending in some meaningful way, the loose network of activists will coalesce into a party.

    For how long, and what level of success such a party has is an open question.

    The answer need not be cutting spending below the previous year, but merely curtailing spending growth to a manageable number. Raise the retirement age, combine and means test Medicaid and Medicare, and outlaw public unionism at the state level.

    Those 3 things alone will cure the spending problems. Get political power, and ram them through.

    Posted in Big Government, Economics & Finance | 8 Comments »