Archive for the ‘Waste’ Category

Reason.tv released this short video on marijuana legalization.

My question for pro-legalization liberals:

Can you reconcile legalization with food regulation? My contention is that centrists (of both parties) favor regulations that advance their desired world, without reference to the logical consistencies and assumptions underling their imagined preferences.

That is, their policy preferences are arbitrary bullshit.

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Via Joe Henchman:

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that the Tea Partiers are taking on that bastion of big-government tax-and-spend policy, *record scratch* Dr. Ron Paul.

This doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Haven’t we see this movie before, when the Club for Growth took on incumbents? The results are mixed. While getting rid of big-government “conservatives” like Arlen Specter is good for the brand of fiscal conservatism, wouldn’t it be better if small-government, low-tax politicians got involved in lower profile government roles? Why are three people from Paul’s district challenging an incumbent who is the epitome of small-government?

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At least Matt Yglesias does. Via his twitter feed, he writes:

It’s a bit strange that a majority of Americans approve of Obama’s job performance, seeing as he’s so unpopular and all

He’s referring to this Gallup poll, which shows the President with a slim nine-point advantage in overall job approval. Twitter is certainly the place for snarky one-liners, but Matt’s being disingenuous.

First, as polling goes, this question is pretty ridiculously broad. The sample is “adults”, and the question is whether they “approve or disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing as president.”

Rasmussen gets unfairly slammed as being partisan, but their results are amazingly accurate. Their more detailed Daily Presidential Tracking Poll uses much different method, but asks a similar question. The main differences are that Rasmussen targets only ‘likely voters’ and not the general population, and that Rasmussen only compares those groups with strong feelings either for or against the president. The differences are significant. Rasmussen pegs approval at -7 (as of today), although he’s recently hit a low of -19. The distance between +9 and -7 is vast.

So which view is correct? I think Matt is guilty of seeing what he wants to see. Would he argue that Bush was “popular” in 2005? I doubt it. But that’s the last time he polled a similarly positive number from Gallup, in March.

The most damning criticism from Obama isn’t generalized, it’s specific. CBS has him pulling a -18 on health care. On Cap and Trade, a joint NBC/WSJ poll reported in October that the bill was rapidly losing steam, and the Journal cited other polls from The Atlantic on how confused the public was. I’ve seen nothing to alleviate any of those problems; the old adage is that a confused mind says ‘no’. On safety (which I think is a misguided goal, but certainly one that weighs heavily in the minds of many voters), only 36% believe the country is “safer” than pre-9/11. Finally, and most problematic, only 26% think the nation is “headed in the right direction”.

Some of my liberal acquaintances have argued that polling only likely voters skews the numbers. However, this seems to conflict with the other liberal claim, made often on this blog by frequent commenter Tom, that the majority of the masses are stupid, and we shouldn’t pay attention to them. It seems disingenuous to discount the majority of the public when they disagree with you, and cherry pick popular sentiment when it’s handy.

Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m seeing what I want. I certainly agree that we’re on a bad path, and I agree with most of the policies referenced above are wasteful, arbitrary, prone to corruption and graft, and generally bad ideas. But I’ve examined the methodology of the polls, and looked at my suppositions. My bias is for results, not ideological harmony. I agree we could discount those unlikely to vote, in all cases. As mentioned, I am in the minority on some of these issues.

I don’t know how Rasmussen determines ‘likely voters’, but so far the firm is vindicated by results. It will be interesting to see if they can continue this track record, given that Obama’s supporters in the last election are traditionally apathetic in election cycles (minorities and young people have the lowest turnout rates, and those were two core Obama support groups).

That’s why I think Matt is seeing what he wants to see.

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I’m not going to deny that sometimes private entities screw-up, and cause a lot of harm.  But using the state to try to ‘fix’ social problems does the same thing, and in all likelihood, does it more often.  This kind of amoral self-interest played out through the apparatus of government doesn’t have any of the benefits of private action to offset the harm created.  Indefensible.

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Can you renounce your state citizenship? (more…)

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We all know Michigan’s economy is craptastic; it’s become proverbial, like the Pope crapping in the woods.  (Is that a joke anyone makes besides my dad?)

Michigan’s a poisonous mix of high, progressive taxes, union influence, and “investments” in public money-sinks like education, public works, and corporate subsidies. From the WSJ

Meanwhile, the new business taxes didn’t balance the budget. Instead, thanks to business closures and relocations, tax receipts are running nearly $1 billion below projections and the deficit has climbed back to $2.8 billion. As the Detroit News put it, Michigan businesses are continually asked “to pay more in taxes to erase a budget deficit that, despite their contributions, never goes away.” And this is despite the flood of federal stimulus and auto bailout cash over the last year.

Following her 2007 misadventure, Ms. Granholm promised: “I’m not ever going to raise taxes again.” That pledge lasted about 18 months. Now she wants $600 million more. Among the ideas under consideration: an income tax increase with a higher top rate, a sales tax on services, a freeze on the personal income tax exemption (which would be a stealth inflation tax on all Michigan families), a 3% surtax on doctors, and fees on bottled water and cigarettes. To their credit, Republicans who control the Michigan Senate are holding out for a repeal of the 22% business tax surcharge.

As for Ms. Granholm, she and House speaker Andy Dillon continue to bow to public-sector unions. There are now 637,000 public employees in Michigan compared to fewer than 500,000 workers left in manufacturing. Government is the largest employer in the state, but the number of taxpayers to support these government workers is shrinking. The budget deadline is November 1, and Ms. Granholm is holding out for tax increases rather than paring back state government.

The decline in auto sales has hurt Michigan more than other states, but the state’s economy would have been better equipped to cope without Ms. Granholm’s policy mix of higher taxes in order to spend more money on favored political and corporate interests.

Where’s Harold Meyerson on this blow to manufacturing?  Oh that’s right, he thinks only private industry can screw up this badly.

In related links, check out Forgotten Detroit, for an on-going pictorial study detailing the death of a city.  Sadly fascinating.

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Seth and I would like to welcome our colleague Greg Mitchell to the blog.  Take a gander  at his first post.  Here’s hoping he becomes a regular.

Robin Hanson’s week-old post is mind bending. Read it. His particularly penetrating and concise description of democracy got me thinking.

Hanson characterizes democracy as the political system that is “designed to emphasize the hardly-considered fleeting delusory thoughts of the median voter rather than the considered opinions of our best experts.”


But in the study of institutions, we always place democracy at the positive end of the spectrum, contrasted with dictatorship, always at the negative end.

Why is this inefficient system of political organization considered so desirable?

Because the market for government is really dysfunctional. Transaction costs of “switching providers” are extremely high. To move from one country to another includes a large monetary cost, lots of time in preparing to immigrate (legally or illegally), learning a new language and culture, and leaving all the important people and places one has ever known in favor of the uncertain. People don’t have a lot of choice over which government governs them.


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