Saturday, May 27, 2006

I'm starting to feel guilty

I'm a Peaknik and I've been doing OK off my energy related investments.I made a lot of money during the Katrina fiasco for instance.I've been buying stocks like synm,rtk and XTHN at low points and selling after they'd appreciated again.
I'm expecting the deranged president of Iran to create a lot of world tension tension during the next few years.This will be good for my portfolio but he's starting to really worry me.All his talk regarding his preparing the way for the emergence of the hidden SH-ITE IMAM is pretty scary. He thinks he's fulfilling ISLAMIC prophecy.That's why he want's nuclear weapons.He wants to initiate the SH-ITE end times prophesized.
I'm starting to fell guilty as a result.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Bog's plan to reduce illegal immigration

I think that heavy fines on businesses that hire illegals will be more productive than trying to stop illegals at the border.I think that the borders must be protected as well as possible also though and everyone knows this costs money.It also costs a lot of money to warehouse and feed the illegals until we can send them back to wherever they came from.The expense is tremendous and most illegals will find another way to get back over our border eventually if that's their ultimate desire.
Here's my plan ....Lets divide the entire cost of the various programs involved to stem illegal immigration by the number of illegals apprehended on average. When we catch illegals in the future they can work for free until they reimburse the government for their % expenditure and also pay their fine to our government.This way the USA can actually profit off illegal immigration. Nobody likes working for free.This is what I call a market disincentive. The majority of illegals will hopefully soon be breaking our laws with the result being only that they'll work for free in our fields once my remedy is the law of the land.The businesses currently profiting off illegal immigration can pay the government instead of the individual illegals.I think illegal immigration will quickly subside if this policy is enacted.

Friday, April 14, 2006


April 13, 2006, 7:43 a.m.
Dead-end Debates
Critics need to move on.

Currently, there are many retired generals appearing in frenetic fashion on television. Sometimes they hype their recent books, or, as during the three-week war, offer sharp interviews about our supposed strategic and operational blunders in Iraq — imperial hubris, too few troops, wrong war, wrong place, and other assorted lapses.
Apart from the ethical questions involved in promoting a book or showcasing a media appearance during a time of war by offering an "inside" view unknown to others of the supposedly culpable administration of the military, what is striking is the empty nature of these controversies rehashed ad nauseam.
Imagine that, as we crossed the Rhine, retired World War II officers were still harping, in March, 1945, about who was responsible months during Operation Cobra for the accidental B-17 bombing, killing, and wounding of hundreds of American soldiers and the death of Lt. Gen. Leslie McNair; or, in the midst of Matthew Ridgeway's Korean counteroffensives, we were still bickering over MacArthur's disastrous intelligence lapses about Chinese intervention that caused thousands of casualties. Did the opponents of daylight bombing over Europe in 1943 still damn the theories of old Billy Mitchell, or press on to find a way to hit Nazi Germany hard by late 1944?
First of all, whatever one thinks about Iraq, the old question of whether Iraq and al Qaeda enjoyed a beneficial relationship is moot — they did. The only area of post facto disagreement is over to what degree did Iraqi knowledge of, or support for, the first World Trade Center bombing, al Qaedists in Kurdistan, sanctuary for the Afghan jihadists, or, as was recently disclosed by postbellum archives, Saddam's interest in the utility of Islamic terror, enhance operations against the United States.
Second, the old no-blood-for-oil mantra of petroleum conspiracy is over with. Gas skyrocketed after the invasion — just as jittery oil executives warned before the war that it would. Billions of petroleum profits have piled up in the coffers of the Middle East. Secret Baathist oil concessions to Russia and France were voided. Oil-for-Food was exposed. And the Iraqi oil industry came under transparent auspices for the first time. The only area of controversy that could possibly still arise would have to come from the realist right. It would run something like this: "Why, in our zeal for reform, did we upset fragile oil commerce with a dictator that proved so lucrative to the West and international oil companies?"
A third dead-end subject is Iran. The Bush administration is hardly hell-bent on preemption, unilateralism, and imperial grandeur in blocking Iran's rapid ascendance to nuclear status.
Instead, there are, and always were, only three bad choices. First, we could let the multilateral Europeans jawbone, using the cowboy George Bush as the bad-cop foil while drawing in the United Nations, the Russians, and the Chinese, or the Arab League, in hopes of delay. Perhaps as we bought time we could pray that after 26 years either the Iranians would liberalize their regime or the democratic experiment in Iraq would prove destabilizing to the neighboring mullahs.
The second tact was live with a nuclear Iran as if it were a Pakistan — and perhaps hope that something like a nuclear democratic India emerged next door to deter it.
The third choice, of course, was to tarry until the last possible moment and then take out the installations before the missiles were armed. The rationale behind that nightmarish gambit would be that the resulting mess — collateral damage, missed sites, enhanced terrorism, dirty-bomb suicide bombers, Shiite fervor in Iraq, and ostracism by the world community — was worth the price to stop a nuclear theocracy before it blackmailed the West, took de facto control of the Middle East oil nexus, nuked Israel, or spread global jiahdist fundamentalism through intimidation.
All alternatives are bad. All have been discussed. So far neither the retired military brass nor the Democratic opposition has offered anything new — much less which choice they can assure us is best. The result is that Iran is the new soapbox on which talking heads can blather about the dangers of "preemption," but without either responsibility for, or maturity in, advocating a viable alternative.
The old "good" Afghanistan / "bad" Iraq false dichotomy is ending as well, as we experience similar postbellum reconstructions. Whatever one's views three years ago about removing Saddam, by now the jihadists in Afghanistan are not much different from their brethren in Iraq. The Taliban uses suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices just like al-Zarqawi's killers. Their fundamentalist rhetoric is almost the same.
On some days in March as many Americans died in Afghanistan as in Iraq; and indeed, more Iraqis each day are fighting and dying against Islamic jihadism than are Afghans. Nearby Pakistan is almost as unhelpful as Iraq's neighbors Iran and Syria.
Democracy in both places is fragile. In other words, in both places there are real threats to establishing an alternative to the autocracies that once sponsored terrorism and destabilized the region. And the chances that Mr. Karzai can establish a lasting democratic government among the provinces of his warlords are about the same as Shiites, Kurds, and Sunnis coming together to form a government. Such is the Middle East, as we see with Hamas on the West Bank — a dysfunctional region where realists will be blamed for their amoral emphasis on the semblance of order as much as idealists for their democratic fervor and the resulting disruption.
Equally fossilized is the "more troops" debate. Whatever one's views about needing more troops in 2003-5, few Democratic senators or pundits are now calling for an infusion of 100,000 more Americans into Iraq. While everyone blames the present policy, no one ever suggests that current positive trends — a growing Iraqi security force and decreasing American deaths in March — might possibly be related to the moderate size of the American garrison forces.
So, for every argument offered by "experts," there was just as available a convincing counter-argument — something usually lost on those eager to keep up with the 24-hour news cycle.
More troops might have brought a larger footprint that made peacekeeping easier — but also raised a provocative Western profile in an Islamic country. More troops may have facilitated Iraqization — or, in the style of Vietnam, created perpetual dependency. More troops might have shortened the war and occupation — or made monthly dollar costs even higher, raised casualties, and ensured that eventual troop draw-downs would be more difficult. More troops might have bolstered U.S. prestige through a bold show of power — or simply attenuated our forces elsewhere, in Japan, Okinawa, Korea, and Europe, and invited adventurism by our enemies. Too few troops were the fault of the present Administration — or the chickens that came home to roost after the drastic cutbacks in the post-Cold war euphoria of the 1990s.
"Troop transformation" has become equally calcified. We know the script. Pensioned Army and Marine generals appear ever more ubiquitously to assure the public that we have near criminally shorted ground troops. They alone are now speaking for the silenced brave majors and dutiful colonels stuck on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq with too few soldiers — as their four-star Pentagon brass sold out to Mr. Rumsfeld's pie-in-the-skies theorists in Washington.
Maybe — but then again, maybe not. The counterarguments are never offered. If hundreds of billions of dollars were invested in sophisticated smart shells and bombs, drones, and computers, to ensure far greater lethality per combatant, then must traditional troop levels always stay the same? How many artillery pieces is a bomber worth, with ordinance that for the first time in military history doesn't often miss? Has the world become more receptive to large American foreign bases? Or depots to housing tens of thousands of conventional troops and supplies? And did lessons of the Balkans and Afghanistan prove the need for far more ground troops and traditional armor and artillery units?
The point is simple: Somewhere between the impractical ideas that the U.S. military was to become mostly Special Forces on donkeys guiding bombs with laptops, or, instead, a collection of huge divisions with tanks and Crusader artillery platforms, there is a balance that the recent experience of war, from Panama to the Sunni Triangle, alone distills. And it isn't easy finding that center when we had enemies as diverse as Slobodan Milosevic, Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein.
So we know the nature of these weary debates. Both sides offer reasonable arguments. Fine. But let us not fool ourselves any longer that each subsequent "exposé" and leak by some retired general, CIA agent, or State Department official — inevitably right around publication date — offers anything newer, smarter, or much more ethical in this dark era that began on September 11. No need to mention the media's "brave" role in all this, from the flushed-Koran story to the supposedly "deliberate" American military targeting of journalists.
Ridding the world of the Taliban in Afghanistan after the attacks on the United States was as necessary as it was daunting — especially given Afghanistan's primordial past, the rise of Islamic fascism, and that creepy neighborhood that has so plagued past invaders.
After allowing the Kurds and Shiites to be butchered in 1991 (in what turned out to be an inconclusive war), the 12-year no-fly-zones and Oil-for-Food, and the three-week war in 2003, staying on to change the landscape in Iraq was as critical as it was unappealing.
Iran's nuclear ambitions did not start in 2006. Like Pakistan's, they were a decade in the making. Indeed, they are the logical fruition of a radical Islam that hates the West as much as it is parasitic on it — and, in lunatic fashion, screams that past American appeasement was really aggression.
Changing the military to meet more nonconventional challenges was always going to be iffy — given the billions of dollars and decades of traditions at stake — and only more acrimonious when war, as it always does, puts theory into practice.
What we need, then, are not more self-appointed ethicists, but far more humility and recognition that in this war nothing is easy. Choices have been made, and remain to be made, between the not very good and the very, very bad. Most importantly, so far, none of our mistakes has been unprecedented, fatal to our cause, or impossible to correct.
So let us have far less self-serving second-guessing, and far more national confidence that we are winning — and that radical Islamists and their fascist supporters in the Middle East are soon going to lament the day that they ever began this war.
— Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Let's Stop Destroying the Country We Love
November 23, 2005
Let's Stop Destroying the Country We Love
By Ed Koch

The Republicans are headed for a seismic crash in the congressional election of 2006. Their effort last week to embarrass House Democrats by forcing a contrived vote on a non-binding resolution to end the war in Iraq by immediately withdrawing all American troops didn’t succeed and shouldn’t have occurred. Everyone lost, including the Democrats, most of whom supported the Republican resolution. Most important, our country lost. We look foolish and in disarray in the eyes of the world. We can argue every day about whether the war was a wise choice. With the benefit of hindsight, everyone now agrees that the intelligence provided by our security agencies was just plain wrong. There is no question that while Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in the 1990s and used poison gas against both Iraqi Kurds and Iranian soldiers, somewhere along the line, it disposed of those weapons without establishing when and how to UN inspectors. To date, no WMDs have been found in Iraq.
I supported the war and believe it was the right decision on the basis of the information provided by the CIA, then under director George Tenet. Tenet has since been rewarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his service. “Slam dunk” Tenet and Paul Bremer, the top civilian administrator in post-war Iraq who also received a Presidential Medal of Freedom for his achievements in Iraq, failed in their responsibilities. Tenet’s failure to provide good intelligence and Bremer’s awful decision to demobilize the entire Iraqi army are the main causes of the challenges we now face. Tenet and Bremer deserve censure by the Congress, not honors from the president they misguided. Their medals should be withdrawn.
The many Democrats who initially supported the war would like to explain away their votes by claiming they were misled by the President. That claim is the real lie. Bush relied on Tenet, who was appointed not by him, but by President Clinton.
So here we are, two and a half years after the second Iraqi war was proclaimed to have ended, still mired in Iraq, unable to agree on an exit strategy. Our NATO allies, led by Germany and France, have betrayed us by declining to send their military forces to Iraq; the same is true of our regional allies in the Middle East -- Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
The President’s position is, when the “Iraqi army stands up, the American army will stand down,” and we will leave Iraq. In June of this year, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld estimated how long the insurrection in Iraq will go on. According to The New York Times, he “echoed remarks by his advisers in recent months suggesting that the insurgency could last as long as a dozen years and that Iraq would become more violent before elections later this year [which have been held].” Frank Rich recited in a column this week the more pungent comment of a television reporter: “On the same day the Senate passed the resolution rebuking Mr. Bush on the war, Martha Raddatz of ABC News reported that ‘only about 700 Iraqi troops’ could operate independently of the U.S. military, 27,000 more could take a lead role in combat ‘only with strong support’ from our forces and the rest of the 200,000-odd trainees suffered from a variety of problems, from equipment shortages to an inability ‘to wake up when told’ or follow orders.” General George W. Casey, Jr., the top American commander in Iraq, gave the Congress a similar analysis recently, stating, “only one Iraqi battalion [500 men] at that time was able to fight fully independent of American forces.”
The Congressional brouhaha of last week was precipitated by Jack Murtha, Democrat from Pennsylvania, a ranking Member and former Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense and who earned a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts for his years in combat in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. Murtha, who previously supported the war in Iraq, offered an exit strategy , “I believe before the Iraqi elections, scheduled for mid December, the Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice that the United States will immediately redeploy. All of Iraq must know that Iraq is free. Free from United States occupation. I believe this will send a signal to the Sunnis to join the political process for the good of a ‘free’ Iraq.” He introduced a resolution on November 17, 2005, calling for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq “at the earliest practical date,” and providing for “a quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S. Marines shall be deployed in the region.” Murtha’s resolution was never brought to a vote.
The Republicans excoriated Murtha for what they saw as a betrayal, with Bush spokesman Scott McClellan stating that it is "baffling that [Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha] is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party." In an attempt to subject the Democrats to ridicule, the Republican leadership offered a non-binding resolution on exiting Iraq with the operative words, “get out immediately.” They knew Democrats would vote against such a resolution fearing to be held accountable in the 2006 election as, at best, fools, and, at worst, cowards. Nancy Pelosi, as the Democratic House leader, should have announced that the Democrats would not participate in the farce and would vote “present” in protest. Instead, they foolishly joined the Republicans in debate and voted “no” with the Republicans, except for three Democrats, Jose Serrano of New York, Robert Wexler of Florida and Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, who voted for the resolution.
I believe that Democrats and Republicans who are unhappy with the current state of affairs should rally around my proposal on how to leave Iraq. I propose we put our NATO and regional allies on notice that unless they come to Iraq and place boots on the ground and bear their share of the casualties and costs of the war, the U.S. and its allies in Iraq will leave within six months. In his Sunday column, David Brooks wrote, “If the U.S. leaves, Iraq will descend into a full-scale civil war. The Iranians will come in on the side of the Shiites. The Syrians, Saudis and God knows who else will be tempted to come in on the side of the Sunnis. The Turks will be tempted to come in to take care of the Kurds. We might be looking at the Middle East version of World War I.” If David Brooks prediction comes true, the UN will have to act at that time. The prospect of a civil war might cause NATO, the regional countries and the UN Security Council itself to join us now by providing troops to prevent such a war from occurring, and to head off an American withdrawal.
In the meanwhile, until we reach a consensus, let’s stop destroying the country we all love. The Democrats and their leaders, Senator Harry Reid and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, should stop calling the President a liar. The Republican Party, with the President, joined by Speaker Hastert and Acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt, should apologize to Jack Murtha for their outrageous attack upon him. The recent praise of Murtha by the President and Vice President Cheney is not adequate.
This is the time to understand that we are at war, and young people we sent into harm’s way in defense of our country are dying on the battlefields. The number of American dead since the war in Iraq was declared over on May 1, 2003, now totals 1,939, and casualties total 15,162. In Afghanistan, 203 American military personnel have been killed. We at home, protected by our young military personnel, are suffering no pain or reduction in our lifestyles. Let’s get serious and appropriately tax those who can afford it, make the corporations pay their fair share of the tax burden, and end their escape from taxation by going offshore. We should get serious about promoting alternative fuels, capturing excess profits by the oil industry and so much more.

A word to former President Clinton: there is something to be said for old time virtues, one of which is not to attack the country’s foreign policies or the President while we are speaking in other countries. We should reserve those criticisms for our appearances and statements here at home.
Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.

ACLU is just like the TALIBAN.

I see similarities between the ACLU and the Taliban.The Taliban sought to remove our historical symnbols of Budhism from their country.They also wanted everyone to follow there dictates regarding interpersonal behavior.
The ACLU seems to want to remove all historical religious symbpls of Christianity from our society and they want all citizens to conduct interpersonal relation according to their agenda.
In my opinion the ACLU is just a Leftist version of theTALIBAN. Both organizations believe they know what's best for everyone else in their respective societies....BOG

Monday, April 03, 2006

A plan to replace the welfarestate

The Plan to Replace the Welfare State

By Max Borders : 28 Mar 2006

Max Borders: Joining us today we have Charles Murray, author of the new book, "In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State." Welcome, Charles.

Charles Murray: Good morning.

Borders: You've studied social safety nets for most of your career. What has the welfare entitlement state done to this country?

Murray: Well you have effects on two levels. One involves the effects of social programs intended to help the poor and the disadvantaged. And that was the topic of a book I wrote 20 odd years ago called Losing Ground, which said essentially we made things worse for the very people we were trying to help.

There is, however, another whole set of effects of the welfare state in the form of Social Security and Medicaid and other kinds of programs which take money from one American and give it to another American (whom the government has decided needs the money more). Whether it's taking it from a young person to give to a retiree, or whether it's taking it from a secretary in Alabama to give to a corporation that is getting a special favor from the government, all of these transfers -- and that's what they are: money from individual Americans to other individuals or to corporations -- seem to me to be a classic example of shipping money to Washington, seeing large amounts of it be wasted and go down the drain, and then it gets shipped out of Washington in much reduced form for dubious purposes.

And what "In Our Hands" is all about, ultimately, is saying: stop that. Just, if you're going to collect all this money, give it back to people as money and let them run their lives as they see fit.

Borders: And at the same time you eliminate the considerable degree of bureaucratic interference and, for that matter, the bureaucracy itself.

Murray: Yes, that's a topic I actually don't even mention in the book. I have not calculated the number of government officials who would be put out of work by my plan, but I'm sure it numbers in the hundreds of thousands.

Now the reason I didn't put it in the book is very simple: that's not the main point. It would be very nice to have these people engaged in productive lives instead of unproductive ones, but it's not the real purpose.

The real purpose could be perhaps summarized like this:

We start with a country that is the richest country in the world, with most of its people having lots of money (compared to any historical standard), ample money to provide for their own retirements, medical care, and the rest of it. On top of this national wealth, we then add more than $1 trillion to help people provide for comfortable retirement and medical care, and so forth. And guess what? We still have millions of people without comfortable retirements, without adequate medical care. And only a government can spend that much money that ineffectually.

The alternative I suggest is give every adult American, age 21 and older, $10,000 a year. And let them run with it.

Borders: So $10,000 for every single American? As soon as you turn 21 you start getting this money?

Murray: That's right. And there are a couple of key points to be made here because some folks will be thinking of past attempts at negative income taxes which provided a floor under income and certain experimental programs. And this is different. This is not a floor. This is not a case of, "if you make less than $10,000 a year we will top up your income to $10,000." This is $10,000 period. And so if you're making $10,000 a year, your net is $20,000. If you're making $20,000 a year, your net is $30,000.

There are some complications down the road, but they aren't very important. I'll just mention them real quickly.

At $25,000 of earned income you start to pay a surtax on the grant, and that reaches a maximum of half the grant. So at $50,000 you only have a net of $5,000 from the grant. The reason for that is pretty simple -- that you want to give upper income people something for all the money they're putting into taxes right now to provide for their own medical care and retirement, and they get that net of $5,000. And I argue it's a better deal than what they're getting now.

But the other main point is that the surtax doesn't kick in until $25,000 of earned income. So the negative work incentives are pretty small.

Borders: Do you know of any other countries that have tried anything like this? Or is this entirely new?

Murray: The idea is a direct descendant of Milton Friedman's proposal for negative income tax. George Stigler sometimes gets the credit for that. But George Stigler himself says it was suggested to him by Milton Friedman back in the early 1940's. So it's a direct descendent of that idea, considerably revised, but on a much bigger scale and doing much more. I'm not using this just to cure poverty. I'm using this money to take the place of Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid and all the rest of those kinds of things.

Borders: I take it that your system, to get the $10,000 per year, we would have essentially to abolish all other entitlements and transfers.

Murray: That's absolutely essential. It's not on top of an existing system of payments; it is instead of.

Perhaps I should tell the listeners and readers how I really start at the very beginning of the book with the ground rules. The ground rule that reminds me of an old joke that involves three people stuck at the bottom of a deep hole, and they are supposed to figure out ways to escape. And I forget who the first two people are, but the third person is an economist, and when it comes his turn to propose his solution to escape he says, "First, we assume a ladder."

The economists say "first, we assume a free market"; "first, we assume frictionless prices," and so forth. And so I will be the first to acknowledge to my readers that I am not under the illusion that Congressmen are going to read this book and say, "by George, this is it and we're going to enact it." I am trying to enter into the debate a radical new way of doing business that is going to take a while to sink in to the political consciousness enough to have a chance to be considered seriously.

But that's one ground rule. My readers have to say, "OK, we understand this is not politically feasible right now." But the ground rule facing me is that I have to be practical about it. I have to say, this would work -- not just in theory. If this were implemented, it would really do all the good things I say it would do in the 21st century United States. So that's one aspect of thinking about what I'm proposing.

In that light, I start out the first chapter by saying there would have to be a constitutional amendment. And I am not confident to frame that in legal language, but I can tell you the sense of it. And the sense of it is that -- hence forth -- no government program shall be used to transfer money directly from individuals or groups to other individuals and groups. You know, the programs that are legitimate for the government are ones that provide authentic public goods -- such as police protection, the court system, and national defense. The one exception to all of this shall be the grant -- the $10,000 -- that starts out at $10,000 a year on the opening of the program. And other than that, no transfers at all. And that includes corporate welfare and agricultural subsidies and all the rest. At the local, state, as well as federal level.

Borders: You don't really mention the cost savings when the bureaucracies would go away, but I think that is an important underlying point.

Murray: Well, I'm saying throughout the book that this plan is revenue neutral. So this is not promising people big tax cuts. What I do is take the current projected costs of the current system, which have been done by the Congressional Budget Office and many others, and in all cases I use very conservative estimates of how much the cost of the current system is going to be in the out years. And then I have very detailed calculations of the cost of "the Plan," as I call it. And it would be that the cost of the plan and the cost of the projected current system cross in 2011.

Right now, the plan I propose is more expensive than the current system. As of 2011, costs would be equal. And let's fact it, there's no chance it's going to be implemented before 2011. And by 2020, the projected costs of the plan are about half a trillion dollars a year less than the projected costs for the current savings. So there are savings in the out years.

Borders: And do your calculations include what we might call "dead weight loss" to the economy -- but could later be money spent in the economy actively?

Murray: No, I don't. It's an absolutely valid point you're making that there would be enormous beneficial side effects in freeing up all the human capital that's presently devoted to these silly systems.

But I decided at the outset -- because I know that any book I write will be attacked unfairly in terms of, "oh, Murray didn't take into account such and such, and therefore his numbers are all wrong" -- so I decided to try to minimize that by using extremely conservative assumptions whenever I'm calculating the costs of the current system, and extremely conservative assumptions in the opposite direction, as it were, when I'm calculating the costs of the plan.

In other words, every time there's a choice between saying something like "look at all the benefits we'll get from capital that will be freed up," I say no, I won't count that. It's there, but I'm not going to count it.

I'll give you another example. When I calculate the accumulations that people would have if they were managing their own retirement funds, I use a compound annual growth rate in their invested assets of four percent a year of real value. That is more conservative than any of the Congressional Budget Office or Presidential Commission estimates. For that matter, four percent is lower than the average compound annual growth rate for any 45-year period, which is sort of the savings period of an adult's career. Any 45-year period in American history. Another example of saying: "Look, everything I'm saying is conservative in terms of what I'm planning for."

Borders: So it's still going to work even with the most conservative estimates?

Murray: Right, and if you have more realistic ones, it's that much better.

Borders: You have elsewhere called yourself a libertarian.

Murray: Absolutely. I wrote a book calling myself a libertarian.

Borders: So do you believe that justice demands we correct the -- as the philosopher John Rawls would put it -- the natural lottery, the inequalities that life hands us? Or is In Our Hands a kind of pragmatic compromise with the egalitarian left?

Murray: More the latter. I want to say to my fellow libertarians out there: I not only still consider myself a libertarian, I don't consider that I've wavered in it.

But here's what I think we have to talk about. You think, if you're a libertarian -- as I think -- that the best solution of all is to leave all of this money in the hands of the people who started with it. And this would energize unimaginably effective, widespread, voluntary means of dealing with the problems we face. You believe that. I believe that. That's fine.

We cannot blink at the fact that there's so much money out there -- and the impulse to use the government to redistribute is widespread. We are not going to change that. For all time to come, governments are going to take in vast sums of money and redistribute it. And then the question for libertarians becomes: if one accepts that it's going to happen, is there a way to do this which leaves people's lives in their own hands?

And that's the source of the title of the book. So there will still be government redistributing a lot of money. The big difference is it's no longer bureaucrats who are going to be doling it out in dribs and drabs under certain conditions if you have demonstrated certain kinds of need. It is going to be giving people sufficient resources to run their own lives.

But let me add, however, one other element.

Whereas I still think that the best solution is the pure libertarian solution, I am more sympathetic – and I think my work on The Bell Curve and IQ sort of pushed this along -- I am more and more sympathetic to the proposition that in the lottery of life some people come up with the short end of the stick on a whole bunch of different dimensions. It's not so bad if you don't have an IQ of 130 if you're beautiful, charming, or industrious. After all, there are all sorts of bundles of qualities that make it very hard to rank people from "high" to "low."

It is also true that there are substantial numbers of people who are not that smart, not that beautiful, not that charming, not that industrious, for reasons that they have no control over -- and they've gotten the short end of the stick. So if I'm talking about using government to redistribute some resources to that person, I'm not going to lie awake nights thinking that I've done some awful thing by helping them out. I'm happy with this compromise.

Borders: And yet I think it's one thing to convince supporters of a larger welfare state of the economic or efficiency gains of this kind of plan, but it's quite another to dislodge the entrenched bureaucracies that surround the current regime. What do you think it would take to overcome that obstacle?

Murray: I have no idea. But we all work in our part of the vineyard. And the first step is to get people to talk about the end-state they want. And so suppose this book strikes a chord with a wide variety of people on the left as well as the right. Because if you're on the left and you're serious about wanting to move resources to people who don't have them now, the plan that I propose does a lot more than the current system does. So suppose you get people talking about that. That's a start.

Then, there are a couple of ineluctable, long-term trends I think make something similar to the plan almost inevitable. There are two of these trends.

The first of them is the secular increase in wealth. At one point in the book, I have a graph showing real GDP per capita over the 20th century. And I have the individual dots for the individual years, but I also have a trend line which is non-linear -- it's an exponential increase.

And the funny thing is how closely the individual dots hew to that trend line throughout the 20th Century. They go down below it during the depression; and they are above it consistently, only -- guess when? -- during the Reagan years. But by and large they're real close.

And what this says is: even when you have administrations that we think are absolutely awful in the past, the economy has tended to improve. And similarly with administrations we like better... and that's going to continue. The amounts of money out there, which are already large, are going to continue to increase. That's one trend.

The second trend is: it is going to become increasingly obvious to a consensus of the electorate -- as it is now obvious to people on the right, (at least) the libertarian right -- the government is really incompetent. But it's not a matter of saying: "Am I generous and want to have expensive social programs?" or "Am I stingy and don't?" Everybody who has any dealings with government just knows that it's hard enough to have a competent police force and military. That can be done, but even that's hard. And once you get to more complex human needs, governments are just completely clueless, all thumbs, and any other metaphor you want to use. That is, I think that understanding is more and more widespread as, increasingly, we have private alternatives that we all prefer. If we had a choice of always using FedEx instead of the U.S. Post Office -- of course we'd use FedEx. That's going to become obvious.

And you put those two things together. Suppose that in the year 2050 we have the current system extended and you look at the amounts of money that are going to be spent then, and we'll still have poor people, and we'll still have people without comfortable retirements, and people are going to say "this is crazy." Just give people the money. Well I'm saying right now that it's already true. We can just say "give people the money" and let them take care of these problems for themselves.

So it's going to be obvious. How that obviousness will play out, I don't know. But on the other hand, when "Losing Ground" came out and I said, "welfare is terrible and doing more harm than good and it ought to be gotten rid of," it's not that the 1996 Welfare Reform Act got rid of it altogether, but it was pretty major reform. As of 1984, nobody was even considering that in the realm of possibility.

Borders: Who are your heroes?

Murray: Well I will just preface it by saying that after I got done writing a book called Human Accomplishment, the people I stood in awe of were the greatest artists of history in music and literature and visual arts. They are the ones that I stand before and say: "how on earth do they do that?"

But putting those aside, In the 20th century, the books I loved the most were Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State and Utopia and Richard Epstein's Takings. Those are two that come to mind. And of course, I mean, Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek are way up there. As intellectual heroes, they're at the top of the list, as well.

Other than that, I consider myself to be very much in the tradition of the Founders. When I call myself a libertarian, I basically think what George Washington and Thomas Jefferson thought. I look upon the role of virtue pretty much the way they did. I am a traditionalist in the sense of the institutions that I believe make up a happy society with the family being central to that. But when it comes to the government's role, I read Thomas Jefferson and his "First Inaugural Address" and I would say what he said -- that the role of government is to protect people from injuring one another. Otherwise leave them free to govern their own pursuits, and how they want to live their lives. It's very simple.

Borders: Charles Murray, thanks so much.

Murray: Thank you. I appreciate it.

Economists seem to think the Right is RIGHT. Economists of Scale

By Tim Worstall : BIO| 03 Apr 2006

Just how right wing are economists? A serious question, not a joke. If you look around at some of the favorite liberal or left wing ideas, or policy proposals, you see that most economists start sucking their teeth, muttering under their breath and generally, well, at best, not supporting the ideas. Even those who share the goals of a more egalitarian society, even economists known to be left wing politically, tend not to support some policies on their economic arguments. Why is this? Why is it that economists, to liberal viewers at least, all seem to be right wing?

Simply to state that the Right is right, while tempting, isn't really enough. Nor is to turn around a favorite trope of the left about the liberal bias of most of the academy: those people bright enough to be professors, well, of course they're going to be left wing, all the clever people are! Our reading of this would be that only right-wing types are so especially intellectually gifted so as to actually understand economics. Again, tempting, but not really a strong enough idea to take all that seriously.

Fortunately, a real economist (rather than I, interested amateur that I am) has actually addressed this problem: Gebhard Kirchgässner on "(Why) Are Economists Different?" He starts by defining what he means by what I have called "right", preferring the word "conservative" and quotes George Gilder:

"I shall mean by a conservative in economic matters a person who wishes most economic activity conducted by private enterprise, and who believes that abuses of private power will usually be checked, and incitements to efficiency and progress usually provided, by the force of competition."

Yes, I understand that to many liberals this would indeed be a description of a conservative position but it strikes me as being rather closer to the Classical Liberal (or as it is known nowadays, libertarian) one. Still, it is one at odds with what we think of as the liberal position in the American sense.

First, of course, we have to try and work out whether economists are in fact more "right" or classically liberal than either the rest of the population or the rest of academia. After a rather neat comparison of the business and economics pages of some European newspapers and their more rightward slant than the general editorial opinion of those very same papers Kirchgässner notes an earlier study:

"On the other hand, academic economists are today with respect to their political identifications – on the average – significantly right of the general public. This also holds for the United States, as R.F. HAMILTON and L.L. HARGENS (1993) show. They report the results of a survey taken in 1984. According to those, only 27.7 percent of economics professors identified themselves as being left or liberal, compared to 39.5 percent of all 4,944 professors asked, 66.1 percent of political scientists and even 78.4 percent of sociologists."

Well, that would be a yes then. That number for the sociologists might also explain quite why so many of us find it very difficult to understand what they are on about. There are also differences between groups of economists:

"It was the conviction of the various authors of these studies that the general public does not have the same strong belief in the working of the market system as the economists. As evidence for this B.S. FREY (1986) pointed to the result that economists working in the government had already less trust in the market system than academic economists; while, for example, 45 percent of the academic economists believed that minimum wages increase unemployment, only 33 percent of the economists working in the government did hold the same belief."

That minimum wage question is exactly one where we see the divergence between what the average liberal believes and what the average economist (even if a liberal at heart) does. (For a longer discussion on this point try here from January.) The essential point being that rises in the minimum wage almost certainly have a detrimental effect on the incomes of those who receive them, for if you raise the price of something then people will buy less of it. Economists, whether liberal or not, are more likely to be able to get their heads around this seeming absurdity, that if you mandate a raise in people's pay their incomes will fall.

So, viewed from Planet Liberal, economists do indeed seem to be right-wing. The above insistence that minimum wages might be a bad idea, the near universal agreement that unrestricted free trade is just fine and dandy, that immigration, while it does have some bad effects (sorry, everything has bad effects, it's the sum of all effects that is important) is on balance similarly a good idea...even the public choice theorist's insistence that government isn't actually a disinterested all-wise and all-knowing arbiter with only our best interests at heart. Actually, it's a collection of people just as self-interested and corruptible as you and I. These aren't tropes and memes that play well with those on the political left although, with the occasional exception, I don't think you'd find an economist who would reject them. Shades of difference in opinion, in how important they are, of course, but a general acceptance of the truth of the propositions.

So having established that economists are indeed right wing, or at least perceived to be in the prescriptions they offer, the interesting question is why?

Kirchgässner looks at two possible answers. That economists are self-selecting, that only those already predisposed to such ideas study the subject in sufficient depth to actually become economists. Looking at some age cohorts of students, among other things, he notes that in the same school, those with more years of economic education are, in the sense that we are using the words, more right or conservative than those with fewer. This points, as he says, to the cause being indoctrination:

"And if we have good reasons and see economics as a social science, the discussion about indoctrination versus self-selection is not very interesting. This holds not only because it is extremely implausible that there is not at least some indoctrination, or, to say it somewhat more friendly, learning in this respect. It should be obvious that the study of economics changes the perception individuals have of the market mechanism; we who are teaching economics would miss our job if this would not be the case."

In other words, if you study a science then it can't really be all that much of a surprise that you learn something of that science. And if economics is indeed a science then there are such things as correct answers, ones that will be recognized by all practitioners of that very same science.

So we do, in the end, come to the answer originally rejected as being tempting but not really enough. Economists are right-wing because, on economics, the Right is right.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The War in IRAQ is basically over?

by: Rex Francis, April 2, 2006
The War in Iraq is Over
You heard it here first; the war in Iraq is over., a website that tracks casualties in Iraq, shows that the daily American military death toll has been steadily dropping for the past six months. March, 2006 had the second lowest KIA rate since the war began. Of course the numbers are misleading. It will come as a surprise to some that the widely proclaimed milestone of two thousand military deaths in the Iraq war included soldiers and marines killed in vehicle accidents, those that died of natural causes, and those that killed themselves. At the time of reporting there has still not been two thousand American troops killed in action in Iraq. Of course, one fallen hero is one too many.
The fact that the mainstream media has spun the numbers in an attempt to paint the Iraq war as a "quagmire" is prima facie evidence of their contempt for the Bush administration. The Sunday talk shows today made little or no mention of the overwhelming progress in Iraq. Iraq has become a boring success. There is little political advantage in the stories coming from the war theatre for Democrats, so it won't be mentioned much in the future.
Watch for a change of subject. Now that Iraq has joined Afghanistan as perhaps the greatest triumph of foreign policy in recent American history, the mainstream media will focus on something else. It may be Iran's belligerency. It may be the broken roadmap for peace in Palestine. It may even be the "racist" elections in Louisiana. One thing is certain, whatever the next Big Topic is that's selected by big media, it will be negative and it will be George W. Bush's fault.
This is a good thing.
Without Big Media focus, there will be less incentive for grand acts of destruction in Iraq. Without publicity, the thugs will have no reason to kill themselves and others. The war is over; the troops have won. The silence of the press will be the final proof.

Don't let the door hit you on the way out !!!!

If the U.S. is so inferior, then why are you here?
By Conor Friedersdorf, Staff Writer

(This is a twice weekly column written by Conor Friedersdorf, who is managing the Daily Bulletin's blog, or special Web site, on immigration issues. The blog is designed to provide a forum for opinions and information on immigration. The blog is at can one say about Montebello High School? While rallying against tougher immigration laws, student protesters lowered the American flag, raised the Mexican flag, then flew the Stars and Stripes upside down beneath it.A protest can be chaotic and unpredictable. These students rushed out of class, their adrenaline pumping. Emotions ran high -- some were rallying against laws that directly affect their mothers and fathers.
Special Section Online: Beyond Borders
Blog Site: Beyond Borders Blog Even so, why did they use their protest to make a statement about America versus Mexico? Among Mexicans championing immigrant rights, why is there a faction that insists on denigrating the United States? Why are some people itching for the right to live within the United States displaying symbols that suggest they find our southern neighbor a superior nation?It doesn't make sense --- though you probably understand it as well as I do.Some protesters blame America for the sorry state of their native country. As one immigrant e-mailed me, ‘‘We are here because it's YOU the U.S. who keeps our countries from developing, or seeking any kind of enrichment. It's you who occupy our countries, and build military bases. It's the U.S. that has throughout history supported oppressive governments to keep oppressing their people.''Other protesters -- and they don't speak for all the protesters -- look at America as a flawed country. They see poverty beside rampant materialism. Compared to most Americans, they're more likely to interact with a racist police officer or an unscrupulous contractor or a condescending shopkeeper in their daily lives.They see the hypocrisy in an immigration system that rarely punishes Americans who hire illegal immigrants, while routinely deporting the immigrants themselves.They've got a point: America isn't perfect. Many Americans are as quick to point out our flaws as any of the protesters we've seen this past week. Self-criticism is one of America's strengths. We find flaws; then we try our best to fix them.Even as we criticize this country, however, we know deep down how great it is. We don't need to say it out loud any more than we need to point out how athletic Michael Jordan is when we critique his baseball swing, or how beautiful a Hollywood celebrity is when we gossip about her ugly dress at the Academy Awards. We assume America's greatness even when we lament its politicians, or its social problems or certain parts of its foreign policy.Could it be, however, that America's greatness is no longer something that every immigrant feels? Could it be that we name our strengths so seldom and our weaknesses so frequently that all perspective has been lost?If that's the case, I'd like to address all those immigrant protesters who view America as a nation unworthy of admiration.Let me explain why so many Americans resent your judgment. Let me explain why we think you're wrong. I'll ignore every strength America possesses save those related to immigration, the topic you are protesting. I'll argue that whatever our system's flaws -- and they are many -- it is the best immigration system the world has to offer, which is a pretty good argument against disparaging our citizens and denigrating our flag.America accepts more immigrants than any nation on Earth, even if you don't count the illegal immigrants within our borders. If you think we provide too few opportunities for legal immigrants, as I do, you must still acknowledge that every country on Earth, the country of your ancestry included, provides far fewer opportunities.Once here, immigrants enjoy more economic opportunities than anywhere else on Earth. In America, Latinos aren't even our most successful immigrant group economically, yet Latinos earn more here than they do anywhere else -- their native countries included -- and far more than, say, Algerian immigrants in France or Moroccan immigrants in Spain.Let's take the largest Latino group, Mexicans, who last year earned sufficient funds to support themselves and their families --- and to send an additional $16 billion home to friends and relatives in Mexico. Do you realize how much that means to Mexico? Thirty-thousand dollars is an impressive annual income there. Sixteen billion is equivalent to providing roughly 530,000 Mexicans with $30,000 each. To be sure, Mexican immigrants work hard for that money.It is equally certain, however, that they'd lack the opportunity to earn that money but for America, where the free enterprise system and low levels of corruption allow for the creation of wealth.Do you perceive racism here? It does exist, as abhorrent as that is. Yet America is more welcoming to outsiders than any country on Earth. We protect minorities as effectively as any nation, and far more effectively than most.Of course, you know all this on some level, because you chose to leave your nation and to come to America among all the other nations on Earth, most of which wouldn't even allow anyone from your nation to immigrate legally.So if you are a legal immigrant, participate fully in the immigration debate. As someone who has written column upon column criticizing the current system, I'll admit as quickly as anyone how flawed it is.If you're an illegal immigrant, enjoy the fact that though you can't vote, you can speak your mind here with impunity, a privilege undocumented foreigners enjoy in very few countries. I'll acknowledge all accurate critiques; America is far from perfect.However, don't dare to denigrate this country. It insults us, sure, but that's beside the point, which is this: Given the merits of the American system compared to every alternative on Earth, and the unprecedented success so many Latinos have achieved here, it makes no sense to single us out for reproach.If it made any sense, why would you be here instead of someplace else?


I heard a
story recently about a student named Donald MacDonald from the Isle of Skye who
was admitted into the prestigious Oxford University and was living in the hall
of residence in his first year there.

His clan was so excited that one of their own had made it into the upper
class of education, but they were concerned how he would do in "that strange
land." After the first month, his mother came to visit.

"And how do you find the English students, Donald?" she asked.

"Mother," he replied in his thick brogue, "they're such terrible, noisy
people. The one on that side keeps banging his head against the wall, and he
won't stop. The one on the other side screams and screams and screams away into
the night."

"Oh, Donald! How do you manage to put up with those awful noisy English

"Mother, I do nothing. I just ignore them. I just stay here quietly,
playing my bagpipes..."


A Word to Our Youths
"To the youth of America, as to the youth of all the Britains, I say, 'You cannot stop. It must be world anarchy or world order. You will find in the British Commonwealth good comrades to whom you are united by other ties besides those of State policy and public need. Law, language, literature...common conceptions of what is right and decent, a marked regard for fair play, especially to the weak and poor, a stern sentiment of impartial justice, and above all the love of personal freedom. These are common conceptions on both sides of the ocean among the English-Speaking Peoples." WINSTON S. CHURCHILL Harvard, 6 September 1943

Great post regarding OSAMA and friends

Yes, Osama Does Hate Us 'for Our Freedom'

Stuart K. Hayashi

For the past four years, it has been very common for a number of libertarians to say that the reason al-Qaeda attacked the United States was not "hatred for our freedom." Instead, they maintain, the 9/11 atrocity was retribution against an aggressive U.S. foreign policy that has oppressed the Middle East for decades.

The Libertarian Party's 2000 presidential candidate, Harry Browne, gave an assessment of 9/11 that surprised many of his readers. While, I agree with Browne's opinions on domestic political economy, he confounded me with the remarks he made on September 12, 2001 about the previous day's attacks.

"When will we learn," he asked rhetorically, , "that we can't allow our politicians to bully the world without someone bullying back eventually?"

The terrorists "bullying back"?

A few years after Browne published those thoughts, the Libertarian Party's 2004 presidential candidate, Michael Badnarik, weighed in on this as well. He had very sound views on domestic issues. Yet I felt uncomfortable with his pronouncements about what he perceived to be al-Qaeda's legitimate grievances. "First," he stated,

allow me to dispel a myth. People in the Middle East do not hate us for our freedom. They do not hate us for our lifestyle. They hate us because we have spent many years attempting to force them to emulate our lifestyle.

What does he mean by "[p]eople in the Middle East"? Not everyone in the Middle East "hate[s] us." The United States has a number of supporters in Iraq (though having even more of them would be preferrable).

Aren't Osama bin Laden and al-Qaedea so offended by "our freedom" that they see destroying it as a purpose in their jihad?

Jacob G. Hornberger, who is also usually right on domestic fiscal issues, evidently doubts that. "U.S. officials claim," he commented in October 2001,

that the attacks on New York and Washington were motivated by hatred for freedom, democracy, and Western values. But what if they're mistaken? After all, doesn't Switzerland support those values? Why aren't the Swiss being targeted by terrorists?

I don't know bin Laden's opinion on the Swiss, but, a year after Hornberger's commentary was published -- and over a year before Michael Badnarik began campaigning for U.S. President -- we already had access to something that provides much insight on what reasons Osama bin Laden gives for killing Americans.

I am referring to an "Open Letter to Americans" penned by none other than Osama bin Laden himself, published in the November 24, 2002 London Guardian. This same letter was republished in 2005's Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden -- an anthology of bin Laden's political writings.

In the first half of his letter, the terrorist mastermind does cite the excuse for murdering Americans that some libertarians allude to -- he strongly objects to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, accusing our military of imperialism. Browne said he was "bullying back" the U.S. government for "bullying the world" first, and bin Laden, independent of Browne, concurs.

But the second half of bin Laden's open letter completely contradicts the contention so popular among numerous libertarians and radical leftwingers that al-Qaeda and other Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups would stop attacking America if only it withdrew occupying troops in Saudi Arabia and other countries.

Indeed, bin Laden does intend to murder those who do not submit to his interpretation of Islam. He explains,

While seeking Allah's help, we form our reply based on two questions directed at the Americans:

(Q1) Why are we [al-Qaeda members] fighting and opposing you [Americans]?

(Q2) What are we [al-Qaeda members] calling you to, and what do we want from you? [ . . . ]

(1) The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam. [ . . .]

It is to this religion that we call you; the seal of all the previous religions. [ . . . ] It is the religion of Jihad in the way of Allah so that Allah's Word and religion reign Supreme.

Radley Balko, a Cato Institute scholar who has written many excellent commentaries like "Prosperity's Nitpickers," has mocked hawks who attribute the World Trade Center attack to bin Laden's "hatred for our freedom."

"Unfortunately," he propounds,

the 'they hate us for our freedom' reasoning fails the Occam's Razor test. It's difficult to believe that a loathing of strip clubs, rock music, cable TV, and all-you-can-eat buffets would motivate 19 young Arab men would move to the U.S. from thousands of miles away, live and work here for several years, learn to fly airplanes, and then immolate themselves in a mass suicide attack [emphasis added --S.H.].

That sentiment was also voiced by the intelligent and articulate Sheldon Richman, editor of The Freeman, in September 2001:

The Bush administration says incessantly that the terrorism was an attack on civilization: freedom, prosperity, self-government. Government officials, pundits, and cartoonists insist that the terrorists' intent is to bring down American society. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, 'What this war is about is our way of life.'

That view may give some people comfort, but it misses the mark by miles. [ . . . ] If Osama bin Laden was really the instigator or mastermind, we can know precisely what he intended. He's given many interviews to Western journalists. Transcripts are available on the Internet. Never does he say that his motive for a holy war against America is the destruction of capitalism, wealth, freedom, or any other abstraction [emphasis added].
If what Richman said in 2001 -- that bin Laden had not denounced America for its capitalism -- was true at the time, it was no longer true when the Guardian published bin Laden's open letter in 2002.

Recall that Balko dismissed the possibility that al-Qaeda could want to murder Americans for merely having the following institutions:

* Strip clubs

* Rock music

* Cable TV

Actually, bin Laden does want to kill us for alleged sins relating the those three cultural indicators.

He says that for we Americans to spare ourselves from his violent wrath, we must give in to his demand that we "reject the immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling, and trading with interest."

Richman sounded skeptical of "[g]overnment officials, pundits, and cartoonists" for "insist[ing] that the terrorists' intent is to bring down American society." Nor did he appreciate it when "Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, 'What this war is about is our way of life.'"

However, this was one of the few cases in which Rumsfeld was right. Bin Laden does see "our way of life" as something bad enough to kills us over by his own hands. He tells you that his intent is to bring down American society. As bin Laden puts it, "It is saddening to tell you that you are the worst civilization witnessed by the history of mankind."

Al-Qaeda's head honcho provides a list of reasons for wanting to annihilate us Americans so specific that it makes little sense to claim, after reading it, that bin Laden's violent actions are meant only to punish the U.S. for its foreign policy and not for peaceful behaviors its laws allow domestically. Bin Laden's list of grievances for American actions that so enrage him include:

(iii) You are a nation that permits the production, trading and usage of intoxicants. You also permit drugs, and only forbid the trade of them, even though your nation is the largest consumer of them. [ . . . ]

(v) You are a nation that permits gambling in its all forms. The companies practice this as well, resulting in the investments becoming active and the criminals becoming rich.

In this litany of America's supposed sins, sexual freedom is an item:

(iv) You are a nation that permits acts of immorality, and you consider them to be pillars of personal freedom. [ . . . ] Who can forget your President Clinton's immoral acts committed in the official Oval office? After that you did not even bring him to account, other than that he "made a mistake," after which everything passed with no punishment. [ . . . ]

(vi) You are a nation that exploits women like consumer products or advertising tools calling upon customers to purchase them. You use women to serve passengers, visitors, and strangers to increase your profit margins. You then rant that you support the liberation of women. [ . . . ]

The above indicates that bin Laden sees our strip clubs as a sufficient reason to exterminate us. We will put a check mark next to "strip clubs." We can move on to other items Balko listed as bin Laden continues,

(vii) You are a nation that practices the trade of sex in all its forms, directly and indirectly. Giant corporations and establishments are established on this, under the name of art, entertainment, tourism and freedom, and other deceptive names you attribute to it.

Rock music is associated with what bin Laden perceives to be debauchery. The box for "rock music" should probably be checked. What else dose bin Laden carp about?

(x) Your law is the law of the rich and wealthy people, who hold sway in their political parties, and fund their election campaigns with their gifts. Behind them stand the Jews, who control your policies, media and economy.

Does bin Laden see our cable TV stations as grounds for punishing us with violent death? Check! Our cable channels, he believes, are the tool of a Jewish conspiracy he aims to wipe out.

The items on Balko's list check out.

Recall also Sheldon Richman's September 2001 comment that "[n]ever does" bin Laden say in the "[t]ranscripts" of "many interviews available on the Internet" that "his motive for a holy war against America is the destruction of capitalism, wealth, freedom, or any other abstraction."

A year later, bin Laden complains to Americans,

(ii) You are the nation that permits Usury, which has been forbidden by all the religions. Yet you build your economy and investments on Usury. As a result of this, in all its different forms and guises, the Jews have taken control of your economy, through which they have then taken control of your media, and now control all aspects of your life making you their servants and achieving their aims at your expense;[...]"

Is bin Laden hostile to what Richman called capitalism? The answer is yes if the right to charge interest is a part of free enterprise.

If you consider the First Amendment's Establishment Clause to be part of your freedom, then bin Laden explicitly takes offense at your freedom, shrieking,

You are the nation who, rather than ruling by the Shariah of Allah in its Constitution and Laws, choose to invent your own laws as you will and desire. You separate religion from your policies, contradicting the pure nature which affirms Absolute Authority to the Lord and your Creator [emphasis added --S.H.].

Interestingly, the al-Qaeda leader even faults the United States for not curbing fossil fuel emissions:

(xi) You have destroyed nature with your industrial waste and gases more than any other nation in history. Despite this, you refuse to sign the Kyoto agreement so that you can secure the profit of your greedy companies and industries.

By now, it has become much more evident that, for Osama bin Laden, this campaign to extinguish the lives of Americans is not only about U.S. foreign policy. Even if America withdrew its troops from other nations and adopted a more "isolationist" position, bin Laden would still see us as an affront to Allah for our domestic freedoms, for items like those Radley Balko listed: "strip clubs," "rock music," and "cable TV."

Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda do hate your freedom. Accusing the United States of being a bigger bully will not satiate al-Qaeda; withdrawing troops from Saudi Arabia is not an action that would sufficiently stave off assaults from this band of illiberal terrorists.

Bin Laden disapproves of the United States for allowing its citizens to engage in homosexuality, charging usury, and playing Las Vegas slot machines. If he had his way, women would be forcibly banned from employment. It is Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda that have bullied the United States; not the other way around (to put it mildly).

Fortunately, one libertarian -- Ronald Bailey -- remains objective in this regard. In fact, it was this article of his that brought bin Laden's "Open Letter" to my attention. He, too, notices,

Opponents of [laissez-faire, free-market republican, classical] liberalism like bin Laden are fully aware that [laissez-faire] liberal tolerance undercuts the traditional totalitarianisms they fight for by making all such totalitarian systems of belief voluntary. If an individual chooses to change her beliefs and her way of life, she is free to do so, and her religious, political, or cultural community cannot force her to remain. Thus the traditional sources of authority -- families, chieftains, priests -- are undermined as people seek new ways of shaping their lives. [ . . . ]

So would terrorist bombs stop going off in Madrid and London if the United States and its allies withdrew their troops from the Middle East entirely? Perhaps there would be a respite, but a showdown between the world's remaining traditional totalitarianisms and the expanding sphere of [laissez-faire] liberalism is inevitable.

Someone else with good judgment about this, Edward Hudgins, observes that "explaining suicide terrorism by way of purely political calculations is superficial and naive. Most suicide killers, in fact, are religious or ideological fanatics." Al-Qaeda terrorists do not want to only alter U.S. foreign policy, but to coerce us into living in "the kind of society to which their values lead: straight to the chamber of horrors that was Taliban Afghanistan."

Osama bin Laden wasn't "bullying back" on 9/11. He initiated the Terror Wars going on from 2001 to today -- he is the bully who started this ("bully" being too puny a word to describe bin Laden's brand of evil).

I implore you: The party that must be blamed first for 9/11 is not America or even the foreign policy that libertarians accuse of being too aggressive. The primary culprit we should blame for this war has been Osama bin Laden's own illiberalism all these years.

posted by Stuart K. Hayashi @ 7:50 PM

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


The Secret of Swiss Prosperity

Dean Russell

Here's an approach to securing student participation in class discussions. At the beginning of the very first class (even before the housekeeping chores), I ask a seemingly simple question. "What makes Switzerland prosperous?" Over the years, I've asked that question of hundreds (perhaps thousands) of students in my "international" courses. After first temporarily ruling out participation by "Prior" students, I've never yet gotten an immediate response. Just silence. So after waiting a few moments, I continue. "It is prosperous, you know-one of the most prosperous nations in the world. And before we can realistically approach these international business problems we're studying here in class, we've got to understand why Switzerland is prosperous and why so many other nations aren't prosperous. If we can't figure that out in advance, we have no reliable guidelines to direct our business decisions abroad." Still nothing. But I can almost see some of those sharp minds beginning to come awake. And the "prior" students who remember what comes next, usually are grinning broadly and enjoying the whole charade. Then I make the students an offer they can't refuse. "The first one of you who comes up with an answer - any answer - on the secret of Swiss prosperity gets an A for the next test, and you needn't even take the test." Usually (but not always) that produces a response. At any rate, everybody's now awake, and the answers then begin to come. I always keep my promise to the first one an automatic A for a major test. And if there's an argument concerning who was first (it sometimes happens), I award an A to both. For I learned early in my teaching career that an A and F both require exactly the same amount of time to print, and they use up precisely the same amount of ink from my pen. Since that's true, why not go first class whenever possible! I've never yet gotten an early response that even comes close to what I'm convinced is the basic cause of Swiss prosperity. But at any rate, the discussion is off and running, and it continues (off and on) throughout the semester with a series of nine or ten mini-discussions on the subject.* * If you the reader would like to participate in this serious game, then at this point please give your own appraisal of the basic cause of Swiss prosperity- I can't guarantee that my answer is correct, but I'm confident that your answer and mine will vary in several particulars. So place your bets and come on along. Almost all of us agree quite quickly that we'd rather invest in a prosperous nation than in a non-prosperous one. Sometimes a particularly sharp student will say, "No, the best procedure is to invest in a nation that's not yet prosperous but shows every sign of becoming so." To him (it's frequently a "her," of course), I award another A and say, "Agreed, but what criteria are you going to use to decide which countries are most likely to become prosperous?" It's still the same question. And intelligent businessmen want to understand the basic issue behind it before they expand abroad in any capacity. Otherwise they'll never maximize their long-range profits, and they may even lose their entire investment. Size?

The first obstacle the students (and, I'm convinced, most businessmen) have to overcome is the ingrained conviction that prosperity is somehow determined by size. That's one of the reasons I use Switzerland as an example. Why we even have counties in Texas that are about the size of Switzerland! And Russia and Brazil and China (fairly large nations) aren't exactly noted for prosperity. Finally, the students are willing to admit (albeit reluctantly) that size is no guarantee of prosperity. And obviously, small nations can be prosperous. I don't dare tell them that if a correlation exists between size and prosperity, it's more likely to be negative than positive, e. g., subsistence-level Japan with its empire, and prosperous Japan without it. The possibility of that correlation would be just too much to ask them to consider. But I can quickly think of several small nations that lost their empires after World War II, with a resulting increase in prosperity. For example, tiny Holland without its vast empire is now more prosperous than ever. Resources and People?

After size, resources seems to be the most popular answer as the cause of prosperity; for everybody knows that nations with vast amounts of natural resources are automatically richer and more prosperous than resource-poor nations. That's why those European nations went into the "empire business" in the first place, i.e., to get all those natural resources. I've never yet found a student who immediately said, "The esource-argument is false, totally false." But it is. Just look around. With the temporary exception of a few (not most) of the oil-rich nations, you can't find anything that even looks like a positive correlation between prosperity and resources. While resources may (or may not) be available in prosperous nations, that's not what caused it. Then I take them back to resource-poor Switzerland-which by now, some of the students wish didn't exist. It seems to disprove most everything they've always believed about the cause of prosperity. About the only natural resource Switzerland has is snow for skiers and then it melts into running water that can be used to generate a little electricity, but is really used mostly to fill those lovely lakes you can sail boats on and fish in. No, natural resources in Switzerland are not in any way related to Swiss prosperity. And while we're looking at that conventional resource-argument, don't forget the enormous natural resources in Zaire in Africa. And remember the subsistence-level of living of those one million or so Indians who inhabited our own vast and resource-laden land when Columbus arrived on the scene. Actually, when I look at Venezuela, Colombia, and similar poverty-ridden countries, I'm almost tempted to conclude there's an inverse relationship between resources and prosperity, i.e., the more they've got, the less prosperous they seem to be. At any rate, there's no correlation between prosperity and the natural resources that exist within a nation. Then how about people? It's obvious that if you don't have people, you can't have prosperity. Well, if "people" is the answer, we can know for sure that China and India are the most prosperous nations in the world; for along with a lot of resources, they've also got a lot of people. The entire country of Switzerland doesn't have even as many people as Chicago. No, there's no relationship between the size of the population (be it large, small, or in between) and prosperity. None whatever. China, with its enormous population, could quickly become as prosperous as Switzerland (probably more so) if its leaders only knew what causes prosperity. But since they don't, it won't. Education and Effort?

Well, perhaps it's due to education, e.g., the high literacy rate in Switzerland. But that answer begs the question. How did Switzerland become prosperous enough to be able to take all those people out of the work force and put them in school for so many years? Education (as contrasted with mass training) is the result of prosperity, not its cause. The British laws against child labor didn't take those kids out of the factories and put them in schools. Prosperity did it. And that's why it's so vital to our future (individually and as a nation) that we understand what causes prosperity. Don't forget that Russia is forever bragging that the literacy rate there is higher (much higher) than in the United States. Perhaps so, but that only proves that literacy is not the cause of prosperity. Admittedly, it could be that the Russians have deliberately decided to continue an existence-level standard of living in order to devote resources to more education. Probably not. But even if it's so, their inability to understand what really causes prosperity will only mean they'll continue to be the most literate people the world has ever known with such an unbelievably low level of material existence. But back to the Swiss. Perhaps they just work harder than other people. Maybe that explains their high standard of living. No, they don't work harder, not really. True, one of their national heroes, John Calvin, told them that's what God wanted them to do. And while I lived there for two years, I observed that they do work hard. But they don't work any harder or longer than, for example, the Indians I observed cutting cane in Guatemala. Anyway, the more prosperous the Swiss become, the less they work. That's to be expected. In fact, that's why most of us work in the first place. We want to become prosperous so we can work less and enjoy more. No, hard work doesn't necessarily bring prosperity; there just isn't any positive correlation, individually or collectively. Agriculture?

Well, perhaps it's because the Swiss have big farms with rich soil to grow those delicious vegetables and to provide pastures for cows to be milked to make that famous cheese. Everybody knows that prosperity is based on agriculture. I hear it everywhere, especially in the farming areas here in Wisconsin where I teach. And it's simply not so. That's an old fallacy that came to prominence again when the farming areas of East Germany were separated from West Germany. With the loss of their farmlands, surely the West Germans would starve, and the East Germans would grow fat. The reverse happened. The agricultural capacity of a nation is not necessarily related to its prosperity. As my old professor in Geneva, Wilhelm R6pke, said, "It's simply astounding that almost nobody seems to understand why it worked out the way it did in Germany. The East German leaders are totally baffled when they must go again to the West German leaders and beg for some more food. They simply have no comprehension at all concerning the cause of the abundant supply of food in West Germany." Anyway, there are no big farms in Switzerland. And the few they've got are poor and mostly located on the sides of steep mountains. People have actually fallen out of them and been killed. Literally. So stay out of those Swiss farms, especially the vineyards; they're dangerous, Form of Government?

Eventually, some student is sure to suggest that Switzerland's prosperity is due to its democratic form of government. Close, but no A for the semester-not yet, at any rate. We've first got to understand how the Swiss form of government is totally different from any other form of government in the world today; then perhaps we can see the relationship of government to the basic cause of prosperity. The essential difference between Swiss democracy and the other democracies around the world is well-illustrated by this true story. I asked a Swiss fellow-student, "Who's the president of Switzerland?" He thought awhile and then said, "I don't know. It doesn't make any difference anyway. So we just don't pay much attention. I think," he concluded, "they sort of take turns." Then I discovered a startling fact. The Swiss constitution for its national government is somewhat like the Articles of Confederation of the original 13 American states-except that the Swiss national government doesn't have nearly as much power as did our old Continental Congress. The tiny nation of Switzerland is composed of 25 "federated states" and in many respects, each state operates much like an independent country. Talk about states' rights! The states operate as a unit for the armed forces, communications, foreign relations, tunnels and bridges, and other "common problems." Otherwise they protect their languages and ethnic cantons with a fierceness you wouldn't believe. You are free to move from one canton to another if you wish to do so. And you can conduct unrestricted business in all of them, But don't you dare mess around with the different cultures, languages, religions, and ethnic groupings. They're convinced (rightly, I suspect) that if Switzerland ever becomes an integrated nation with a common language, they would soon lose their prosperity and disappear into a neighboring country. Thus it's true that the Swiss form of government does indeed have something to do with their prosperity. But that's still not the basic reason for their high level of living. Anyway, that restricted (almost nonexistent) Swiss form of national government is not what my students have in mind when they say "democratic." In fact, they're thinking that prosperity comes from a strong central government-that permits lots of voting, of course. Right to Vote?

For some unfortunate reason, "democratic" seems to be equated totally with voting in the United States. That's too bad, really; for it pulls us over into the age-old concept that "might (the majority) makes right." At the end of that seductive road is death itself. And you're still dead forever, even if it's the will of the majority. So while sometimes there seems to be a relationship between right-to-vote and high-level-of-living, it's too tenuous to depend on. They vote in India, for example-in truly free elections in every sense of the word, just as in the United States. In fact, I once discussed democracy with the prime minister of India who succeeded Indira Gandhi because his party got more votes than her party. That prime minister truly believed in democracy, and would willingly die for it if necessary. India also has people, resources, and one of the largest educational systems in the world. But they haven't the vaguest idea what causes prosperity. Until they find out, they're doomed to their low (and decreasing) level of living. Making their educational system even more universal, as they are continuing to do, is more likely to decrease prosperity than to increase it. In any case, there's no positive correlation. If you recommend that your company build its factories in India, you surely must be mad at your bosses and are trying to get even. There's voting in Chile, Peru, Argentina, Mexico, and in almost all the new African nations. It's a real popular pastime. Hitler made good use of it. Stalin enjoyed voting, and he insisted that everyone else should vote, too. In at least one country in the democratic Western World, they'll fine you (democratically, of course) if you don't vote. When I was in school in Switzerland in the late 1950s, women couldn't vote. We Americans chided our Swiss fellow-students about that. They (including the women students) simply couldn't understand why that seemed to perturb us. As they said, "The women's vote would not in any way change anything. It's not really an issue. But even so, we'll eventually get around to changing the law to give the vote to women if for no other reason than to prevent any more pointless arguments with our friends." They changed the law. Women now vote. And Switzerland is still precisely what it was. No, if you mean that the right to vote in truly free elections will lead any nation to prosperity, you're in for a shock. There's no fixed correlation between voting and prosperity. In truth, most of the world's people (including us here in the United States) are using our votes to endorse measures that will surely decrease prosperity. In England, the world's oldest democracy, the people voted to nationalize mines, railways, banks, and anything else their leaders called to their attention. That didn't exactly increase prosperity there. Here's an all-important caveat, however-an explanation to prevent any possible misinterpretation. It's absolutely vital that we preserve the right to vote in the United States. While it doesn't cause or preserve prosperity, it definitely does preserve our right to change officials. Thus it's the mainspring of the most precious ideal of all-human freedom; for our own leaders will surely destroy us if we leave them in power long enough. The right to vote "western style" is a sort of insurance against total tyranny. And that's worth a high price, including even a decrease in our standard of material living if necessary. When all is said and done, it's even worth dying for. Capital Formation?

Finally the students arrive at the answer they just know I've been waiting for. "Capital formation!" they shout, and wait for the expected shower of A's. I truly hate to disappoint them again, but I must. Capital is not the answer to prosperity, not really; capital formation is the automatic result of something else, which is the real cause of prosperity. The Russians, for example, have more capital (machines and such) than you can find in Switzerland measure it any way you like. And the Western World keeps sending vast amounts of additional capital to Russia, as we've been doing steadily since the early 1930s. And, of course, the Russians themselves produce vast numbers of machines of various kinds. The fact that their material level of living (prosperity) is actually decreasing is not really the fault of all those machines. It just doesn't seem to be related to it one way or the other. That enormous accumulation of capital throughout the country is of almost no value to the Russian people in raising their level of living. They're in much the same position the Japanese were in 1940. The Russians use that capital mostly to maintain their empire, while the people continue to stand in line for something to eat. That's one of the sights that most impresses our students when they go to Russia under our "Russian Seminar" program-the long lines of people waiting patiently to get some food, or shoes, or any other desirable good. Increasingly we are encountering the same sort of lines here in the United States. And they occur here for precisely the same reason they appear in Russia, i.e., governmental interferences in the market place. For example, the evening TV newscasts are forever featuring long lines of Americans who actually camp out overnight to get first shot at government-subsidized interest rates, government-created jobs, government disbursements of food, and so on. And as these governmental interferences increase "to help the people," the lines will grow longer-and the "stuff' up front will grow shorter. Why Work and Save?

No, we'll never solve the secret of prosperity until we understand why people save their money and devote it to capital formation in the first place. That's the key to prosperity; not capital formation itself but what causes you and me to create it and to use it to produce whatever it is we choose to produce and for whatever reason we choose to do it. No one "works and saves" because the country is large or has resources or votes or because of any of the other half-truthed fallacies we hear everywhere. You and I work and save (form capital) for one simple reason. We expect to gain individually by doing it, to have more later on by using less of what we produce today. And if that expectation is absent for any reason, we cease saving and just consume whatever we've got, a sort of hand-to-mouth existence. Of course, there is one other reason people produce and "save"-and that is because brute force is applied against them by whatever type of government happens to be in power. But while compulsion does indeed produce capital formation, it's not exactly the best way to encourage creative thinking and effort. Anyway, it's seldom the type of capital that's designed to meet consumer demands. Finally the students give up. They claim they've covered every possible cause of prosperity. "So what's the answer?" they ask. There's an excellent reason for their wanting to hear what I think is the cause of Swiss prosperity. They can then hand back the "correct" (i.e., the instructor's) answer on the test they're sure will be coming along shortly. That's known as "student realism," and they've developed it to a fine point over a period of four years or so. But they never get such a test from me. No student is ever held responsible for my particular viewpoints and prejudices. My tests in "policy and opinion courses" consist of research and term papers, plus prepared tests supplied by the authors of the texts themselves. And even on the papers, I'm generally more interested in their grammar, spelling, and composition than anything else. (For good writing will prove valuable, no matter what careers they follow.) You see, when all is said and done, I don't know the answer any more than they do. The best I can do is to tell them what I think, and why I think it. Actually, the students are already familiar with the secret. They're always a bit disappointed when it doesn't turn out to be mysterious and complicated-with a formula to memorize and a model to help them get the answer. The answer (as I see it) is so well known and obvious and simple that no student ever seems to bother to say it and to spell it out a bit. The Cause of Prosperity

The cause of prosperity in Switzerland (or anywhere else) is the competitive free market economy. It always leads to prosperity. Always. All the other supporting causes necessarily flow from it and are caused by it. For example, there can be no free market if the government restricts it with wage and price controls, tariffs against competition, subsidies to various groups, and so on. Thus a government with strictly limited powers is an automatic result of the free market economy. In a free market economy, there's also private ownership of all resources and all means of production and distribution. True, it's possible to have a form of private ownership under a dictator-Hitler, for example. But it's impossible to have a free market economy under dictatorship. When a group of producers are controlled or enslaved (or even exterminated), only a madman could refer to it as an economy wherein all peaceful persons can produce whatever they wish to produce. When the market economy exists, the government automatically assumes the position of "night watchman." The government then becomes merely an organization (a mechanism) we use to preserve the peace, to keep out robbers (both foreign and domestic), and to make sure there's no organized effort to disrupt the workings of a free people, freely trading with each other on mutually acceptable terms. In a competitive market economy, there'll be all the prosperity there can be. Any restrictions imposed upon it, i.e., imposed against peaceful you and me, will automatically result in less prosperity than could be. If the nation happens to be large and to have an abundance of natural resources, fine-but they're not in any way necessary for prosperity. For example, Switzerland is a poor nation when the customary "size and resource" criteria are used. But the Swiss actually have the largest possible market-the entire world with all its natural resources and skills. The exceedingly high standard of living enjoyed by the Swiss is based on trade-not so much in Switzerland as through Switzerland and all over the world. They invite you to send your capital to Switzerland. They'll keep it safe for you; they won't even tell anyone you sent it. And they'll supply you with the world's best managers of capital-for a reasonable fee, of course. They'll invest it for you throughout the world, including a large portion of it right back here in the United States. That's the secret of Swiss prosperity - the free market economy, backed up by the resulting strictly limited government, private ownership, tax and banking laws favorable to capital accumulation, good financial managers, and trade all over the world with anyone (under any form of government) who wants to trade. They learned long ago that prosperity can't really be created; it just seems to show up automatically when and where there's a favorable climate for it.
At the time of the original publication, Dr. Russell was Professor of Management School of Business Administration, University of Wisconsin at La Crosse.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


I went to the wrestling NCAA's in OKC this weekend.They lasted 3 days.The Oklahoma State Cowboys had the Championship locked up by the end of the second day.On the 3rd day all the OSU wrestling fans just showed up to see how big a win was in store for their favorite team. It started raining today. Oklahoma really needs the rain even though it made our Cowboy wrestling fans celebration a bit messy today. LIFE IS GOOD !!!
Folks have been dieing in the widespread brushfires recently due to the horrific drought.Maybe we need more wrestling tournaments? ;-)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Where the heck is OKLAHOMA anyway?

While I traveled around the country in the past I was continually accused of being a TEXAN. I'd tell folks I was from Oklahoma and I get a blank look from quite a few people.The football fanatics were always familiar with the Sooners at least.

When I was a kid we lived in in New Jersey for a year. I remember playing marbles with a bunch of kids on the playground when the topic turned for some reason to "where everyone was from." Everything was more ethnic there and everyone was proudly proclaiming their heritage. We had Irish -Americans,German-Americans,Polish- Americans,Italian- Americans and so on. I didn't know what to say. Eventually some of the kids asked me point blank where I was from. They all knew I talked differently already and they were curious. I answered that my family came to New Jersey from Oklahoma.Another kid exclaimed,"Where's that in Europe?" I replied that Oklahoma was in the United States just like New Jersey. I don't think anyone really believed anything I ever said after that.