More evidence for the limited-government argument

October 3, 2015

When government doesn’t have the power to "pick winners", it can’t practice cronyism. To use a recent example, how about Solyndra?

Why some billionaires are bad for growth, and others aren’t
Not all inequality is created equal

Over the past few decades, wealth has become more concentrated in the hands of a few global elite. Billionaires like Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helú and investing phenomenon Warren Buffett play an outsized role in the global economy.

But what does that mean for everyone else? Is the concentration of wealth in the hands of a select group a good thing or a bad thing for the rest of us?

You might be used to hearing criticisms of inequality, but economists actually debate this point. Some argue that inequality can propel growth: They say that since the rich are able to save the most, they can actually afford to finance more business activity, or that the kinds of taxes and redistributive programs that are typically used to spread out wealth are inefficient.

Other economists argue that inequality is a drag on growth. They say it prevents the poor from acquiring the collateral necessary to take out loans to start businesses, or get the education and training necessary for a dynamic economy. Others say inequality leads to political instability that can be economically damaging.

A new study that has been accepted by the Journal of Comparative Economics helps resolve this debate. Using an inventive new way to measure billionaire wealth, Sutirtha Bagchi of Villanova University and Jan Svejnar of Columbia University find that it’s not the level of inequality that matters for growth so much as the reason that inequality happened in the first place.

Specifically, when billionaires get their wealth because of political connections, that wealth inequality tends to drag on the broader economy, the study finds. But when billionaires get their wealth through the market — through business activities that are not related to the government — it does not. […]

(My emphasis.)

I think we should to be a lot more jealous of our Constitutional prerogatives. How about enforcing the Tenth Amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

To put perhaps-too-fine a point on it: constitutionally, the US government has no business concerning itself with funding basic scientific research, or with wealth inequality, or with any number of other things it does when those aren’t directly related to its role has protector and defender of the people.

And it shouldn’t matter what the policy wonks or special interests might think the government ought to be doing.

Via the always readable Coyote blog



October 2, 2015

Here’s a little follow-up on the post about the 20 academics who sent a letter to President Obama urging him to use RICO laws to prosecute people who disagreed with them about climate change.

This is an op-ed by Judith Curry, professor and former Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology and President (co-owner) of Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN). RTWT.

A new low in science: criminalizing climate skeptics.

Scientists have many important roles to play in preparations for the upcoming UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris. Some are working hard to clarify uncertainties in the science, others on developing and evaluating alternative climate policies.

One group of climate scientists is trying a different approach. Dismayed by what they see as a lack of progress on the implementation of climate policies that they support, these 20 scientists sent a letter to the White House calling for their political opponents to be investigated by the government. […]

But, wait, there’s more! Anthony Watts has a post about some of the folks leading the #RICO20 group.

Backfire on the #RICO20 and Jagadish Shukla is imminent; wagon circling, climbdown, dissolution begins

This story has legs now, as I predicted in this piece yesterday “The ‘RICO 20 letter’ to Obama asking for prosecution of climate skeptics disappears from Shukla’s IGES website amid financial concerns” the Streisand Effect has been unleashed. Now, instead of explaining why the RICO 20 letter was mysteriously withdrawn from the IGES website after questions began to be asked about the millions of dollars that George Mason’s Jagadish Shukla apparently has received, some of it while apparently “double dipping” against university policy, all the while claiming climate skeptics are the recipients of money that should be prosecuted under the RICO act, we find this curious missive posted in place of the RICO20 letter at the URL where it previously resided: […]

Heh. I love the smell of schadenfreude in the morning.

H.T. Jeff G



September 22, 2015

Here’s the start of an interesting post at Coyote blog. Read the whole thing; it’s brief.

These 20 Scientists Want to Make it A Crime to Disagree with Them

I think it is important to publicize these names far and wide:

Jagadish Shukla, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Edward Maibach, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Paul Dirmeyer, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Barry Klinger, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Paul Schopf, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
David Straus, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Edward Sarachik, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Michael Wallace, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Alan Robock, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Eugenia Kalnay, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
William Lau, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Kevin Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO
T.N. Krishnamurti, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Vasu Misra, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Ben Kirtman, University of Miami, Miami, FL
Robert Dickinson, University of Texas, Austin, TX
Michela Biasutti, Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York, NY
Mark Cane, Columbia University, New York, NY
Lisa Goddard, Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York, NY
Alan Betts, Atmospheric Research, Pittsford, VT


How to make a sandwich

September 17, 2015

This is along the lines of “I, Pencil.” But instead of just talking about the principles of division of labor and comparative advantage that are typically involved, Mr. George sets out to actually make himself a sandwich from scratch.

‘From scratch’ in this case means raising or securing all the different foods that will go into his sandwich as directly and as personally as he can. He gets his hands dirty, in other words.

(This is a series of 14 short videos; you’ll need to click to see the next one as each one ends.)

Luckily for him, he’s not a BLT fan like I am.

Via Carpe Diem


Another spoiler

September 16, 2015

I’ve dropped most of this op-ed in the quote below but if you want to know why Donald Trump is a blight on the political scene (for any party) read the whole thing. It’s brief and you don’t need to be a Republican to appreciate his points.

I think Mr. Gabriel puts his finger on the issue in his final line.

The Debate We Were Supposed to Have

The 2016 election was the grand battle conservatives had been hoping for since Ronald Reagan left the Oval Office. The roster of candidates was to be a who’s-who of smart, proven, center-right leadership. […]

It would be obvious to the electorate that Republicans were the only party with the vision, with the heart, and with the intelligence to lead the nation. […]

We aren’t discussing America’s $18.4 trillion national debt and our insolvent social programs. The stagnant economy and an expansionist China, Russia, and Islamic State. Burning cities at home and burning countries abroad.

Instead we’re trading GIFs of a reality show star on “The Tonight Show,” giggling about menstruation, and wondering if the most impressive GOP field in a generation are a bunch of “dummies” or if they’re a bunch of “losers.”

These are serious times. We are not a serious people.

It continues to amaze me how people continue to talk about Trump as though he were worthy of their time and consideration. Pfft!


When things get politicized

September 6, 2015

What a great object lesson on why the government should have as little power as possible.

Because most things it touches get handled the way Tom Harkin handled health care.

The Alternative Medicine Racket: How the Feds Fund Quacks

James Randi, call your office.

H.T. Jeff G


She’s been there and done that

September 2, 2015

Here’s a recent opinion piece in The Washington Post by Mirta Gutierrez.

IMO, a $15 minimum wage is great news for automation companies. But…

A $15 minimum wage would hurt entry-level workers

Living in poverty in Argentina was not easy. Like many Argentinians trapped at the bottom of the economy, I was determined to make something of myself. I pursued a degree in accounting, but I quickly discovered that even with an education in my country, I was on a path to a dead end. […]

After arriving in Washington, I learned at a job fair that an Angelo & Maxie’s restaurant was opening and hiring 300 people. I met the chef, and in very broken English I asked for an opportunity to prove myself. He agreed, reluctantly, to hire me as a dishwasher at $5.50 an hour. It was 2001. I watched everything, took mental notes and looked for every opportunity to try something new in the back of the house. […]

When Angelo & Maxie’s closed, I went to work at District ChopHouse near Verizon Center. In nine years, the general manager and executive chef taught me everything he knew about the restaurant business. Then, in a bittersweet moment, he told me, “It’s time for you to fly.”

I was hired as the executive sous chef at Rosa Mexicano, where I was able to apply the skills that I had learned over the years. Before long, restaurant executive Spike Mendelsohn asked for my help with kitchen management and bookkeeping for one of his restaurant concepts, Good Stuff Eatery, on Capitol Hill. Soon, I was recruited to be executive chef at Tortilla Coast, where I am today.

I am an immigrant who started at the bottom with nothing. I became an executive chef who understands the kitchen and an accountant who understands the numbers of running a business. […]

As a poor immigrant, would a $15 minimum wage have helped me? Absolutely not. No restaurant owner would hire someone without experience, skills or English at such a high wage. I would never have made it to that first rung on the career ladder. […]


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