EppsNet Archive: Government

Get Rich Making Dumb Decisions

 

The people on the short side of the subprime mortgage market had gambled with the odds in their favor. The people on the other side — the entire financial system, essentially — had gambled with the odds against them. Up to this point, the story of the big short could not be simpler. What’s strange and complicated about it, however, is that pretty much all the important people on both sides of the gamble left the table rich. . . . The CEOs of every major Wall Street firm were also on the wrong end of the gamble. All of them, without exception, either ran their public corporations into bankruptcy or were saved from bankruptcy by the United States government. They all got rich, too. What are the odds that people will make smart decisions about money if they don’t need to make smart decisions — if they can get… Read more →

The kind of man who demands that government enforce his ideas is always the kind whose ideas are idiotic. — H. L. Mencken

Regulating Markets

 

The arguments for regulation of the market for goods and the regulation of the market for ideas are essentially the same, except that they’re perhaps stronger in the area of ideas if you assume consumer ignorance. It’s easier for people to discover that they have a bad can of peaches than it is for them to discover that they have a bad idea. — Ronald Coase Read more →

Japan, Day 3: Atami, Lake Ashi, Owakudani, Mount Fuji, Shinjuku

 

Atami Our hotel in Atami was on the eastern coast. Where we live in California, you can watch the sun set over the ocean every day if you want to, but here the sun rises over the ocean, which is a little bit different. These photos are from the balcony of our room. If you look closely, you can see the United States in the background. It looks very small from this far away. Lake Ashi We started the day on a sightseeing boat at Lake Ashi: Owakudani Owakudani (lit. “Great Boiling Valley”) is a volcanic valley with active sulphur vents and hot springs in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. It is a popular tourist site for its scenic views, volcanic activity, and especially, Kuro-tamago (lit. “black egg”) — a local specialty of eggs hard-boiled in the hot springs. The boiled eggs turn black and smell slightly sulphuric; consuming the eggs… Read more →

Unconstrained Thinkers

 

Unconstrained thinkers either do not recognize, or refuse to come to grips with, the fact that not everything that is good is worth the cost of its achievement — and that not everything that is bad is worth the cost of its obliteration. Unconstrained thinkers are also typically gripped by romantically unrealistic notions of the abilities of people wielding power, as well as of the trustworthiness of such people. Unconstrained thinkers, because they can imagine people with power exercising that power for the greater good and only for the greater good, are unwilling to suffer any imperfections in reality –- for why suffer such imperfections if a Great and Good Leader (or Great and Good Council) can possibly make the world a better place? — Don Boudreaux Read more →

IRS Refunds $4 Billion to Identity Thieves

 

The Internal Revenue Service issued $4 billion in fraudulent tax refunds last year to people using stolen identities, with some of the money going to addresses in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Ireland, according to an inspector general’s report released Thursday. The IRS sent a total of 655 tax refunds to a single address in Lithuania, and 343 refunds went to a lone address in Shanghai. In the U.S., more fraudulent returns went to Miami than any other city. Other top destinations were Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta and Houston. — Associated Press Hmmm . . . aren’t there some sort of sanity checks built into the IRS system? Doesn’t a warning bell go off when 655 tax refunds are sent to a single address in Lithuania? Does this erode your confidence in the federal government’s ability to manage complex systems and gigantic sums of money? I’m sure they’ll do a much better job… Read more →

ObamaCare Winners and Losers

 

Cindy Vinson and Tom Waschura are big believers in the Affordable Care Act. They vote independent and are proud to say they helped elect and re-elect President Barack Obama. Yet, like many other Bay Area residents who pay for their own medical insurance, they were floored last week when they opened their bills: Their policies were being replaced with pricier plans that conform to all the requirements of the new health care law. Vinson, of San Jose, will pay $1,800 more a year for an individual policy, while Waschura, of Portola Valley, will cough up almost $10,000 more for insurance for his family of four. . . . Covered California spokesman Dana Howard maintained that in public presentations the exchange has always made clear that there will be winners and losers under Obamacare. . . . “Of course, I want people to have health care,” Vinson said. “I just didn’t… Read more →

Ronald Coase, 1910-2013

 

To ignore the government’s poor performance of its present duties when deciding on whether it should or should not take on new duties is obviously wrong. — Ronald Coase Read more →

Rearview Cameras in Cars

 

Gov’t delays requiring rearview cameras in cars — Associated Press Rearview cameras in cars seem like a good idea. Who wants to accidentally back over a child or a pet, right? It’s upsetting, not to mention whoever the child or pet belonged to is probably going to hold it against you forever. Let’s make rearview cameras required by law. In fact, let’s make rearview and frontview cameras required, because kids and pets can get under the front of your car too, and running over them is bad, no matter what direction you’re going. I’ve seen TV commercials where cars can detect obstacles in their path and stop automatically to avoid a collision. That’s great. Let’s make that required too. In fact, let’s make so many features required by law that you can’t even buy a car anymore for less than $50,000. You know what else is a good idea? Freedom,… Read more →

You Say Anarchy, Sir, Like It’s a Bad Thing

 

Frankly, one of our political parties is insane, and we all know which one it is. They have descended from the realm of reasonableness that was the mark of conservatism. They dream of anarchy, of ending government. — Bruce Bartlett My fellow Americans — I’ll tell you who’s insane: anyone who’s not dreaming of anarchy at this moment in history is insane. People forget that this great nation was founded by anarchists, born out of an armed revolution against a corrupt government. As I said at the time, “Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.” I assure you, though, that regrettably neither current political party dreams of anarchy. They both dream of exactly the same things: self-aggrandizement and rewarding their most powerful supporters with political spoils. The well-known liberal cartoonist Ted Rall wrote a book a couple… Read more →

Mad Libs

 

President Barack Obama’s speeches have a familiar ring these days — no matter if it’s guns, immigration or the budget. Tout what he’s already done. Say the public’s in his corner. Demand Congress do something. Lament Washington dysfunction. Lay out his own plan. Avoid details. Urge voters to keep up the pressure. Warn it won’t be easy. Bask in the applause. It’s the fill-in-the-blank approach to selling a presidential agenda: same template, just adjusted for the topic. — President Obama’s fill-in-the-blank sales pitch – Carrie Budoff Brown – POLITICO.com Read more →

Thomas Jefferson on Why Your Health Insurance Premium is Going Up

 

Health insurance companies across the country are seeking and winning double-digit increases in premiums for some customers, even though one of the biggest objectives of the Obama administration’s health care law was to stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for consumers. — Despite New Health Law, Some See Sharp Rise in Premiums – NYTimes.com That headline should not read “DESPITE new health law,” it should read “BECAUSE OF new health law.” But we were going to get things for free! We were promised better things at a lower cost! In my day, most of the citizens were farmers or merchants or tradesmen. They lived by their hands and their wits. They had horse sense and they knew when they were being sold a bill of goods. Of course, that was before television. Americans today are unfortunately rather stupid. Most of them don’t know anything about economics, science, history, government… Read more →

Thomas Jefferson Solves the Country’s Obesity Problem

 

A slight minority of Democrats (48%) say the government should be extremely or very involved compared to 13 percent of Republicans. Non-whites (47%) are more likely than whites (25%) to say the government should be very or extremely involved in finding solutions to the country’s obesity problem. — Obesity in the United States: Public Perceptions My fellow Americans — The country doesn’t have an obesity problem. If you’re obese, that’s your problem, not the country’s problem, and you bear the costs of it, financial and otherwise. Some people might argue that obesity causes an increase in public health costs. That is untrue. Think about it. If you die in your 40s because you’re too fat, you have saved us all a lot of money, to the extent that your healthcare costs are borne by the public.  If you’d maintained a normal weight and lived to be 80, you’d still have end-of-life… Read more →

Tax Rate Hike and Increased Unemployment Payments on the Same Day

 

According to this White House press release, the federal government is ringing in the new year by simultaneously raising tax rates (i.e., penalizing people for working) and extending payments to two million people who do not work (i.e., rewarding people for playing Xbox). Has this ever happened before at any time in the history of the U.S. (or anywhere else in the world for that matter)? — Philip Greenspun Read more →

A People That No Longer Trusts Its Rulers is Lost Indeed

 

zu-Kung asked about government. The Master said, sufficient food, sufficient weapons, and the confidence of the common people. Tzu-Kung said, Suppose you had no choice but to dispense with one of these three, which would you forgo? The Master said, Weapons. Tzu-Kung said, Suppose you were forced to dispense with one of the two that were left, which would you forgo? The Master said, Food. For from of old death has been the lot of all men; but a people that no longer trusts its rulers is lost indeed. — The Analects of Confucius Read more →

Thomas Jefferson on the General Welfare Clause

 

[Thomas Jefferson] then considered the general phrase of the Constitution that identified the purpose of the taxing power as “to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.” Congress, he said, was to levy taxes only for these purposes, not for any purpose they pleased. “In like manner they are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose.” To interpret this provision in any other way would reduce the Constitution to “a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the U.S. and as they would be the sole judges of good or evil, it would also be a power to do whatever evil they pleased.” — Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., In Pursuit of Reason: The Life of Thomas Jefferson Read more →

More People I’m Sick Unto Death Of: Paul Krugman

 

America in the 1950s made the rich pay their fair share; it gave workers the power to bargain for decent wages and benefits; yet contrary to right-wing propaganda then and now, it prospered. And we can do that again. — Paul Krugman I hardly know where to begin with this . . . First of all, what is the relevance of the 1950s as opposed to any other period of American history? America prior to 1913 had no permanent income tax and contrary to left-wing propaganda, it prospered. Why can’t we do that again? Of course we’re all in favor of fairness — right? — but why is it only important that “the rich” pay their “fair share”? I don’t remember ever hearing anyone, certainly not Krugman, use the phrase “pay their fair share” in reference to any group except “the rich.” If you’re concerned about fairness, isn’t it also… Read more →

If Everything Goes as Intended . . .

 

If [Affordable Care Act] implementation goes as intended and widespread utilization and automation are achieved, providers could save about $11 billion per year. — Reducing Administrative Costs and Improving the Health Care System — New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) You really can’t dispute something as vague as that but it does raise a number of questions: What does it mean for thousands of pages of legislation affecting the entire healthcare industry as well as every man, woman and child in America to go “as intended”? It’s a circular argument. If it goes as intended, we save $11 billion. If we don’t save $11 billion, it didn’t go as intended. Is “widespread utilization and automation” part of going “as intended” or is that a separate thing? Assuming that implementation does go as intended and widespread utilization and automation are achieved, the best we can say is that providers “could” save… Read more →

The Good Society

 

Though it is disguised by the illusion that a bureaucracy accountable to a majority of voters, and susceptible to the pressure of organized minorities, is not exercising compulsion, it is evident that the more varied and comprehensive the regulation becomes, the more the state becomes a despotic power as against the individual. For the fragment of control over the government which he exercises through his vote is in no effective sense proportionate to the authority exercised over him by the government. — Walter Lippmann, The Good Society Read more →

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