10 November 2006

After Action Report--don't pronounce the t

It's a busy day today but we didn't want to miss the chance to post a few links.

Leading off is a new website devoted to exploring the special relationship between Britain and America. BritainandAmerica.com seeks to explain each country's politics to the other. Because of the recent elections, the focus of the website has been on American politics. We occasionally attend a seminar on the history of Anglo-American relations. Watch for us to revisit this topic.

Yesterday while pouring over our website information at statcounter.com we came across the blog of an American clinical psychologist who opines and theorizes on American politics. From the conclusion of one of his recent posts:
One of the geniuses of the American system is that it accounts for both our civilized and our primitive natures. In holding national elections every two years, it provides an outlet for primitive anxieties that historically toppled regimes. In other words, it institutionalizes the logic of human sacrifice, which is stage four of the group fantasy cycle. Thus it is no coincidence that President Bush performed a human sacrifice and held up the head of Donald Rumsfeld to the baying MSM fantasists on the morning after the election. If you keep up with the ranting of the infantile left at dailykos or huffingtonpost, nothing less than some form of human sacrifice would have answered their homicidal rage. But one thing we can know with certainty: it won’t work, for magic is a symtom of that which it purports to cure.
We found several of his posts rather insightful but we understand that his writing wont appeal to everyone--for those of you who fancy yourselves intellectuals, enjoy!

Over at townhall.com Michael Medved (one of Raisin's favs) believes that popular assumptions about Red and Blue states are just flat wrong. He writes:
The media emphasis on regional differences always distorted reality but this election should force the permanent abandonment of the meaningless red/blue distinction. Montana, supposedly the reddest-of-red states, may well end up with a Democratic governor and two Democratic Senators. California, theoretically the bluest-of-blue states, not only re-elected its Republican governor in a landslide, but also appears poised to elevate GOP candidates (including some outspoken and cantankerous conservatives) to three or four other statewide offices. In Kansas, which gave Bush 64% in 2004, Democrats enjoyed sweeping victories, and so on. The definitive designation of an entire state as either “red” or “blue,” Republican or Democrat, ignores the impact of circumstances, personalities, and issues.
We're not ready to completely write off Red and Blue state designations, but as Mr. Medved points out, this last election does provide strong evidence supporting the erosion of these traditional political markers.

Lastly, a little humor from a man calling himself Jim Treacher. Those of you who read James Taranto's Best of the Web on a regular basis will have read this in yesterday's edition. Apologies to fans of Nancy Pelosi who take themselves too seriously; you probably wont find this funny.
Questions from a political dilettante

* Does this mean Bush is still Hitler? I'm pretty sure Hitler never let his opponents win an election, did he? Unless... this is all part of Rove's plan.

* A major concern of the last few elections has been that Republicans need to cheat to win, and the problem was going to be even worse with the new Diebold machines. What happened? Did Cheney forget his password again? That darn Cheney, always forgetting his password.

* What happened to Ned? I thought Lieberman was Public Enemy #1. Now Kos must feel like the kid on Christmas morning who's surrounded by toys... except for the one he really wanted.

* Does Nancy Pelosi ever wear a fake flower on her lapel that shoots acid? Because that would really be a surprise for Batman when he's hauling her to Commissioner Gordon's office.

* So the world likes us again, right? No more terrorism? YAY!!!
Hey wait a minute, this last question looks familiar. Didn't we end a recent post in much the same way...?

9 comments:

Gagdad Bob said...

"Italy?" Perhaps you meant "idiocy," a place I know well. But I'm right here in my personal cloud, as always, hovering just above the U.S.

Where the red Raisin grows said...

Thanks for including the holy words of Medved for me. He's been like a father to me- a father that touched me in private places- which is to say, he touched me emotionally in the inner sanctums of my heart.

Anonymous said...

Concerning the red/blue thing, it never entirely anyway if considered as a partisan division. Prior to last week it was littered with contradictions anyway, for example.
-Norm Coleman, the reddest of Senators in MN, supposedly a blue state.
It does bear some value in that those victors in states of color supposedly different to their own, are often appropriately located on the political spectrum. Schwarzenegger is hardly the reddest of reds just as Ben Nelson is hardly the bluest of blues in Nebraska.
A truly virtuous feature is thus the ability of people to transcend partisanship in favour of far worthier qualities than allegiance. Afterall the whole is greater than the half.

raisin said...

Morgan,

When I read this article I thought of the discussion we were having concerning redistribution of wealth and social justice. Let me know what you think.

http://www.slate.com/id/2152830/

Once you are done reading it, please quickly close your browser. I just don't want you being polluted by too much progressive/liberal bias.

-J

Milton Friedman said...

Mr. Nasaw's article is terribly misleading and completely devoid of any understanding of basic economics. He would do well to take even a high-school level econ course and learn *something* about its basic laws. If he did, he'd understand that business is what drives our economy and perhaps he wouldn't be so quick to irrationally criticize its effects. Are there negatives to market economics? Absolutely. Could the government do a better job than the market at efficiently using resources and apportioning wealth? World history says no.

Maybe I should send him a copy of my book, "Free to Choose." That would set him straight

Raisin- wasting to much time on these comments said...

Thanks for joining us Milton. Unfortunately, you didn't really add to the conversation which would lead me to believe this isn't actually Milton Friedman.

Would you care to take another stab and explain your position and maybe make a claim with a direct link or reference to the article? This would be much more helpful than just saying the author doesn't have a high school grasp of economics and then making some generic statements about market economics. Maybe the problem is you ONLY have a high school understanding of economics, and therefore don't have much more to say.

The only real piece of thought you added was your rhetorical question- Could the government do a better job than the market at efficiently using resources and apportioning wealth? However, your question alone reveals bias, misunderstanding, and ignorance when it comes to the realities of government involvement in markets. Bias because you automatically assume that efficiency should be valued above fairness. Misunderstanding because you frame the discussion as if it's government versus market economics. And ignorance because you ignore the political and societal effects of wealth inequality, which in and of themselves can have an "ineffecient" effect on free markets. Wouldn't it be nice if the world was as simple as you make it out to be? It would make it possible to teach the answers to the world's problems in a high school economics class!

morgan said...

Raisin-

I read Nasaw's piece on philanthropy and I think that he views philanthropy from an interesting perspective. I think he is fundamentally correct in wanting to challenge whether or not the wealth could be redistributed through a better means yet at the same time I think his anti-business bias (this is my opinion based on his word choice, tone, syntax etc.)taints his objectivity just like my pro-business bias pre-disposes me to not agree with his ideas.

My biggest issue is with his burning desire to question "how it came to be that so much money ended up in so few hands." Why is this necessarily a bad thing? I don't understand why it is considered to be dishonorable when a person is successful and takes advantage of their circumstances.

I also don't agree with his take on migratory bird sanctuaries and establishing a safe retreat for the guys babies and wife. I don't think the wealthy should be forced to donate their money after a proscribed fashion. They earned it after all. Why take away the incentive to be successful?

I think that Nasaw does raise a good question when he asks if the philanthropists know how to best distribute the wealth. This is a question I am not sure I know the answer to. My first instinct is to say who would I trust to distribute my money? Myself of course. I was able to accumulate the wealth and I should be able to disperse it as I see fit. I don't know if that is the perfect response but it is what I am leaning towards right now.

A big complaint I have about the article is the criticism of generosity. I don't think philanthropists should be villified. From my conversations with you regarding Warren Buffet, it seems that he is a good and honest man. Why is his generosity being questioned? I think his generosity should be encouraged. Nasaw says he doesn't want to look a gift horse in the mouth but he proceeds to do so when he mockingly applauds with one hand. Does Nasaw think he is more capable than Warren Buffet?

If you have read Les Miserables, Jean Valjean is a very successful businessman who is the ultimate philanthropist. I know that this is a fictional situation but I think that more businessmen should be encouraged to follow the example of Jean Valjean as opposed to being villified and discouraged from being generous. Once again, I do not want to stifle innovation in an effort to make sure everybody is "equal."

Brazen Raisin said...

Morgan,

Thanks for taking the time to share some thoughts. It's pretty remarkable that you managed to take a much more intelligent and thoughtful approach than Milton Friedman himself. You should be proud.

I agree with you that there is a tone to the article that I don't exactly agree with, but I didn't feel that he was necessarily being critical of the philanthropists. Instead, I felt he was questioning the system that created such abundant wealth for a few. You know that I hold Warren in the highest regard, and I wouldn't have ever posted something that was unfairly critical of him. I took his "one hand clapping" comment as one hand clapping for the philanthropist, but one hand abstaining because he questions the system which created such wealth in the first place. From my limited experience with Warren, I think he would partially agree. I guess we read the article a little differently in that you sensed an attack on the ultra wealthy, and I read more of a critique of our system.

I really wrestle with this idea of promoting innovation and keeping incentives in place to be successful. I wonder at what point the incentive argument breaks down. Or in other words, is there a point of diminishing returns on incentive theory? Is there a point at which the societal benefits of redistributing wealth outweigh the loss of incentive for a small percentage of our society? What if we made more incentives available to the broader classes? After a certain level of wealth has been attained, does the accumulation of more wealth really provide the innovative spark we want it to? I don't think anyone is arguing that everyone should be equal. I think there is a valid question in, "Can we do better?"

As was mentioned in the article, Warren believes almost all of his success was a result of luck- I personally heard him say it. Of course that doesn't tell the whole story, but wealth is ultimately created by individuals AND society AND circumstances, and it seems fair to me that we can question the sharing of the bounty.

morgan said...

raisin-

I agree with you that it seems fair to question the sharing of the bounty. Questioning is the key to success in my opinion.

A few days ago I was discussing the idea of redistribution of wealth with some of my co-workers especially with regards to education. One of the people who I thought would definately support the idea of putting everybody on an equal playing field based on previous discussions we have had wa actuallly vehemently against it. His biggest hang up was the idea that you can provide people with all the opportunities in the world but they still have to choose to take advantage of the opportunities. This viewpoint is based on his personal experiences growing up in LA and attending a private catholic school where many students received free tuition etc. to promote diversity in the student body. Many of his friends also attended Dominguez High in Compton. I think what I took away from our discussion is that regardless of how wealth is distributed there will always be the successful and the unsuccessful based on the decisions individuals make. Does that mean that society should turn its back on the unsuccesful and let survival of the fittest rule? I don't think so.

You brought up the idea of diminishing returns. That is an interesting idea. Once a certain level of success is attained does the person lose the desire to continue to succeed? I would say yes, but it varies from person to person. I think professional athletes are a good example of this. What is the point where the marginal benefits of the incentive to innovate no longer exceeds the costs? I don't have the answer to that.

In response to your question of can we do better, I think the answer is always going to be yes. How can we do better? I am not sure. I think a good place to start is identifying the real societal benefits that would come from redistributing the wealth. Then identify the real costs and the real benefits. It is a simplistic approach I know but I think it is a good approach because it would help to make the idea less abstract and less emotion based.

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