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(20 posts)

The 15-Year-Old Economist versus Reality

Thursday··2008·07·10 · 1 Comments
This item from CNN Monday almost set me off on a rant. I’ll stop with a very brief economics lesson. ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- One day while driving with her father, Hannah Salwen noticed a Mercedes stopped next to a homeless man sitting on the curb. “I said to my dad, ‘If that guy didn’t have such a nice car, then that guy could have a nice meal,’” the 15-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, recalled. (full article) Here we have another reiteration of old socialist canard that if the rich were less rich, the poor would be less poor—which is complete nonsense. “That guy” #2 is not homeless because “that guy” #1 has a Mercedes. #1 has a Mercedes because he earned the money to buy it. #2 is homeless because he doesn’t earn anything, or at least enough to provide a home for himself. If #1’s earnings ceased entirely, #2’s earnings would remain the same. If you really want to help the homeless man on the curb, help him to increase his earning potential. You know the old maxim: give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish, and really annoy PETA (or something like that).

Government: Limited and Dispersed

As Washington makes mad grabs for power, and as our state and local governments, at the urging of an infantile citizenry, seem increasingly eager to capitulate, consider these words of wisdom from Milton Friedman. First, the scope of government must be limited. Its major function must be to protect our freedom both from the enemies outside our gates and from our fellow-citizens: to preserve law and order, to enforce private contracts, to foster competitive markets. . . . The second broad principle is that government power must be dispersed. If government is to exercise power, better in the county than in the state, better in the state than in Washington. If I do not like what my local community does, be it in sewage disposal, or zoning, or schools, I can move to another local community, and though few may take this step, the mere possibility acts as a check. If I do not like what my state does, I can move to another. If I do not like what Washington imposes, I have few alternatives in this world of jealous nations. é─ţMilton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 2é─ý3.

The Myth of Democratic Socialism

It should be obvious to anyone with the slightest political savvy that, as a people shifts more responsibility onto government, the liberty enjoyed by that people decreases proportionally. Yet a good share of Americans apparently doné─˘t know that, or, I suspect, doné─˘t care. But for those of us who value liberty above the chimera of state-guaranteed provision, these words of Milton Friedman, originally published forty-seven years ago, are a timely reminder today, as increasingly more people are holding out their hands to a nanny state for an increasing list of needs, giving little thought to the economic costs, and no thought at all to the immensely greater cost in personal liberty. It is widely believed that politics and economics are separate and largely unconnected; that individual freedom is a political problem and material welfare an economic problem; and that any kind of political arrangements can be combined with any kind of economic arrangements. The chief contemporary manifestation of this idea is the advocacy of é─˙democratic socialismé─¨ by many who condemn out of hand the restrictions on individual freedom imposed by é─˙totalitarian socialismé─¨ in Russia, and who are persuaded that it is possible for a country to adopt the essential features of Russian economic arrangements and yet to ensure individual freedom through political arrangements. [My] thesis . . . is that such a view is a delusion, that there is an intimate connection between economics and politics, that only certain combinations of political and economic arrangements are possible, and that in particular, a society which is socialist cannot also be democratic, in the sense of guaranteeing individual freedom. Economic arrangements play a dual role in the promotion of a free society. On the one hand, freedom in economic arrangements itself is a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself. In the second place, economic is also an indispensable means toward the achievement of political freedom. é─ţMilton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 7é─ý8.

Friedman Friday: é─˙a lack of belief in freedomé─¨

Friday··2009·11·13 · 3 Comments
To help us through the present Marxist siege (Come on, 2012!), I had designated Saturdays for posting readings from Milton Friedmané─˘s Capitalism and Freedom. However, as Friday enables catchy alliteration, Ié─˘ve shifted Friedman to Friday (smooth, eh?). So here is your weekly dose of political postulations from the eminent economist.    So long as effective freedom of exchange is maintained, the central feature of the market organization of economic activity is that it prevents one person from interfering with another in respect of most of his activities. The consumer is protected from coercion by the seller because of the presence of other sellers with whom he can deal. The seller is protected from coercion by the consumer because of the other consumers to whom he can sell. The employee is protected from coercion by the employer because of other employers for whom he can work, and so on. And the market does this impersonally and without centralized authority. Indeed, a major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it does this task so well. It gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. The existence of a free market does not of course eliminate the need for government. On the contrary, government is essential both as a forum for determining the é─˙rules of the gameé─¨ and as an umpire to interpret and enforce the rules decided on. What the market does is to reduce greatly the range of issues that must be through political means, and thereby to minimize the extent to which government need participate directly in the game. The characteristic feature of action through political channels is that it tends to require or enforce substantial conformity. The great advantage of the market, on the other hand, is that it permits wide diversity. It is, in political terms, a system of proportional representation. Each man can vote, as it were, for the color of tie he wants and get it; he does not have to see what color the majority wants and then, if he is in the minority, submit. It is this feature of the market that we refer to when we say that the market provides economic freedom. But this characteristic also has implications that go far beyond the narrowly economic. Political freedom means the absence of coercion of a man by his fellow men. The fundamental threat to freedom is power to coerce, be it in the hands of a monarch, a dictator, an oligarchy, or a momentary majority. The preservation of freedom requires the elimination of such concentration of power to the fullest possible extent and the dispersal and distribution of whatever power that cannot be eliminatedé─ţa system of checks and balances. By removing the organization of economic activity from the control of political authority, the market eliminates this source of coercive power. It enables economic strength to be a check to political power rather than a reinforcement. Economic power can be widely dispersed. There is no law of conservation which forces the growth of new centers of economic strength to be at the expense of existing centers. Political power, on the other hand, is more difficult to decentralize. There can be numerous small independent governments. But it is far more difficult to maintain numerous equipotent centers small centers of political power in a single large government than it is to have numerous centers of economic strength in a single large economy. There can be many millionaires in one large economy. But can there be more than one really outstanding leader, one person on whom all the energies and enthusiasms of his countrymen are centered? If the central government gains power, it is likely to be at the expense of local governments. There seems to be something like a fixed total of political power to be distributed. Consequently, if economic power is joined to political power, concentration seems almost inevitable. On the other hand, if economic power is kept in separate hands from political power, it can serve as a check and a counter to political power. é─ţMilton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 14é─ý16.

Friedman Friday: Unjustified government activities

Our Fridays are dedicated to dishing out capitalist wisdom, to nurse us (U.S. Americans) through the present Marxist captivity of our beloved republic. An incomplete list of é─˙activities currently undertaken by government in the U.S., that cannot, so far as I can see, validly be justifiedé─¨:    1. Parity price support programs for agriculture. 2. Tariffs on imports or restrictions on exports, such as current oil import quotas, sugar quotas, etc. 3. Governmental control of output, such as through the farm program, or through prorationing of oil as is done by the Texas Railroad Commission. 4. Rent control, such as is still practiced in New York, or more general price and wage controls such as were imposed during and just after World War II. 5. Legal minimum wage rates, or legal maximum prices, such as the legal maximum of zero in the rate of interest that can be paid on demands deposits by commercial banks, or the legally fixed maximum rates that can be paid on savings and time deposits. 6. Detailed regulation of industries, such as the regulation of transportation by the Interstate Commerce Commission. This had some justification on technical monopoly grounds when initially introduced for railroads; it has none now for any means if transport. another example is detailed regulation of banking. 7. A similar example, but one which deserves special mention because of implicit censorship and violation of free speech, is the control of radio and television by the Federal Communications Commission. 8. Present social security programs, especially the old-age and retirement program compelling people in effect (a) to spend a specified fraction of their income on the purchase of retirement annuity, (b) to but the annuity from a publicly operated enterprise. 9. Licensure provisions in various cities and states which restrict particular enterprises or occupations of professions to people who have a license, where the license is more than a receipt for a tax which anyone we who wishes to enter the activity may pay. 10. So-called é─˙public housingé─¨ and the host of other subsidy programs directed at fostering residential construction such as F.H.A. and V.A. guarantee of mortgage, and the like. 11. Conscription to man the military services in peacetime. The appropriate free market arrangement is volunteer military forces; which is to say, hiring men to serve. There is no justification for not paying whatever price is necessary to attract the required number of men. Present arrangements are inequitable and arbitrary , seriously interfere with the freedom of young men to shape their lives, and probably even more costly than the market alternative. (Universal military training to provide a reserve for war time is a different problem and may be justified on liberal grounds.) 12. National parks, as noted above. 13. The legal prohibition on the carrying of mail for profit. 14. Publicly owned and operated toll roads, as noted above. é─ţMilton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 35é─ý36. This list was compiled forty-seven years ago, but is certainly still relevant today. While some of the items listed are not in actual practice today (e.g. military conscription), the principle applies and bears reiteration.

Friedman Friday: Economics of Medicine

Our Fridays are dedicated to dishing out capitalist wisdom, to nurse us (U.S. Americans) through the present Marxist captivity of our beloved republic. Economics of Medical Care (1978)

Friedman Friday: Bad Laws

Our Fridays are dedicated to dishing out capitalist wisdom, to nurse us (U.S. Americans) through the present Marxist captivity of our beloved republic. Bad Laws

Friedman Friday: Free Trade

Our Fridays are dedicated to dishing out capitalist wisdom, to nurse us (U.S. Americans) through the present Marxist captivity of our beloved republic. In Milton Friedmané─˘s world, free trade agreements would be irrelevant. Friedmané─˘s approach is not only economically expediant, but is, as I see it, the Christiané─ţif I may use the term where it does not strictly applyé─ţway of doing things.    Given that we should move to free trade, how should we do so? The method that we have tried to adopt is reciprocal negotiation of tariff reductions with other countries. This seems to me a wrong procedure. In the first place, it ensures a slow pace. He moves fastest who moves alone. In the second place, it fosters an erroneous view of the basic problem. It makes it appear as if tariffs help the country imposing them but hurt other countries, as if when we reduce a tariff we give up something good and should get something in return in the form of a reduction in tariffs imposed by other countries. In truth, the situation is quite different. Our tariffs hurt us as well as other countries. We would be benefited by dispensing with our tariffs even if other countries would not. We would of course be benefited even more if they reduced theirs but our benefiting does not require that they reduce theirs. Self interests coincide and do not conflict. I believe it would be far benefits from better for us to move to free trade unilaterally, as Britain did in the nineteenth century when it repealed the corn laws. We, as they did, would experience an enormous accession of political and economic power. We are a great nation and it ill behooves us to require reciprocal benefits from Luxembourg before we reduce a tariff on Luxembourg products, or to throw thousands of Chinese refugees suddenly out of work by imposing import quotas on textiles from Hong Kong. Let us live up to our destiny and set the pace not be reluctant followers. é─ţMilton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 73.

é─˙calculated to repel the imaginativeé─¨

Friday··2009·12·18 · 1 Comments
Our Fridays are dedicated to dishing out capitalist wisdom, to nurse us (U.S. Americans) through the present Marxist captivity of our beloved republic. Milton Friedman explains one reason that mediocrity is about the best we can expect from the public school system:    With respect to teachersé─˘ salaries, the major problem is not they are too low on the averageé─ţthey may well be too high on the averageé─ţbut that they are too uniform and rigid. Poor teachers are grossly overpaid and good teachers grossly underpaid. Salary schedules tend to be uniform and determined far more by seniority, degrees received, and teaching certificates acquired than by merit. This, too, is largely a result of the present system of governmental administration of schools and becomes more serious as the unit over which governmental control is exercised becomes larger. Indeed, this very fact is the major reason professional education organizations so strongly favor broadening the unité─ţfrom the local school district to the state, from the state to the federal government. In any bureaucratic, essentially civil-service organization, standard salary scales are almost inevitable; it is next to impossible to simulate competition capable of providing wide differences in salary according to merit. The educators, which means the teachers themselves, come to exercise primary control. The parent or local community comes to exercise little control. In any area, whether it be carpentry or plumbing or teaching, the majority of workers favor standard salary scales and oppose merit differentials, for the obvious reason that the specially talented are always few. This is a special case of the general tendency for people to seek to collude to fix prices, whether through unions or industrial monopolies. But collusive agreements will generally be destroyed by competition unless the government enforces them, or at least renders them considerable support. If one were to seek to deliberately devise a system of recruiting and paying teachers calculated to repel the imaginative and daring and self-confident and to attract the dull and mediocre and uninspiring, he could hardly do better than imitate the system of requiring teaching certificates and enforcing standard salary structures that has developed in the larger city and state-wide systems. It is perhaps surprising that the level of ability in elementary and secondary school teaching is as high as it is under these circumstances. é─ţMilton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 95é─ý96.

Friedman Friday: Capitalism and Discrimination

Friday··2010·01·08 · 1 Comments
Our Fridays are dedicated to dishing out capitalist wisdom, to nurse us (U.S. Americans) through the present Marxist captivity of our beloved republic. Milton Friedman explains how economic liberty works against discrimination: It is a striking historical fact that the development of capitalism has been accompanied by a major reduction in the extent to which popular religious, racial, or social groups have . . . been discriminated against. The substitution of contract arrangements for status arrangements was the first step towards freeing the serfs in the Middle Ages. The preservation of Jews through the Middle Ages was possible because of the existence of a market sector in which they could operate and maintain themselves despite official persecution. Puritans and Quakers were able to migrate to the New World because they could accumulate the funds to do so despite disabilities imposed on them in other aspects of their life. The Southern States after the Civil War took many measures to impose legal restrictions on Negroes*. One measure which was never taken on any scale was the establishment of barriers to the ownership of either real or personal property. The failure to impose such barriers clearly did not reflect any special concern to avoid restrictions on Negroes. It reflected rather, a basic belief in private property which was so strong that it overrode the desire to discriminate against Negroes. The maintenance of the general laws of private property and of capitalism have been a major source of opportunity for Negroes and have permitted them to make greater progress than they otherwise could have made. To take a more general example, the preserves of discrimination in any society are the areas that are most monopolistic in character, whereas discrimination against groups of particular color or religion is least in those areas where there is the greatest freedom of competition. . . . one of the paradoxes of experience is that, in spite of this historical evidence, it is precisely the minority groups that have frequently furnished the most vocal and most numerous advocates of fundamental alterations in a capitalist society. They have tended to attribute to capitalism the residual restrictions they experience rather than to recognize that the free market has been a major factor enabling these restrictions to be as small as they are. . . . a free market separates economic efficiency from irrelevant characteristics. . . . the purchaser of bread does not know whether it was made from wheat grown by a white man or a Negro, a Christian or a Jew. In consequence, the producer of the wheat is in a position to use resources as effectively as he can, regardless of what the attitudes of the community may be against the color, the religion, or other characteristics of the people he hires. Furthermore, and perhaps more important, there is an economic incentive in a free market to separate economic efficiency from other characteristics of the individual. A business man or an entrepreneur who expresses preferences in his business activities that are not related to economic efficiency is at a disadvantage compared to other individuals who do not. Such an individual is in effect imposing higher costs on himself than are other individuals who do not have such preferences. Hence, in a free market they will tend to drive him out. This same phenomenon is of much wider scope. It is often taken for granted that the person who discriminates against others because of their race, religion, color, or whatever, incurs no cost by doing so but simply imposes costs on others. This view is on a par with a very similar fallacy that a country does not hurt itself by imposing tariffs on the products of other countries. Both are equally wrong. The man who objects to buying from or working alongside a Negro, for example, thereby limits his range of choice. He will generally have to pay a higher price for what he buys or receive a lower return for his work. Or, put the other way, those of us who regard color of skin or religion as irrelevant can buy some things more cheaply as a result. As these comments perhaps suggest, there are real problems in defining and interpreting discrimination. The man who exercises discrimination pays a price for doing so. He is, as it were, é─˙buyingé─¨ what he regards as a é─˙producté─¨. It is hard to see that discrimination can have any meaning other than a é─˙tasteé─¨ of others that one does not share. We do not regard it a é─˙discriminationé─¨é─ţ or at least not in the same invidious senseé─ţif an individual is willing to pay a higher price to listen to one singer than another, although we do if he is willing to pay a higher price to have services rendered to him by a person of one color than a person of another. The difference between the two cases is that in the one case we share the taste, and in the other case we do not. Is there any difference in principle between the taste that leads a householder to prefer an attractive servant to an ugly one and the taste that leads another to prefer a Negro to a white or a white to a Negro, except that we sympathize and agree with one taste and may not with the other? I do not mean to say that all tastes are equally good. On the contrary, I believe strongly that the color of a mané─˘s skin or the religion of his parents is, by itself, no reason to treat him differently; that a man should be judged by what he is and what he does and not by any f these external characteristics. I deplore what seem to me a prejudice and narrowness of outlook of those whose tastes differ from mine in this respect and I think the less of them for it. But in a society based on free discussion, the appropriate recourse is for me to seek to persuade them that their tastes are bad and that they should change their views and their behavior, not to use coercive power to enforce my tastes and my attitudes on others. é─ţMilton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 108é─ý111. * I know this word may offend some. Realize, though, that these lectures were given in 1956, when é─˙negroé─¨ was the vernacular term used by black and white alike.

Friedman Friday: Labor Unions

Our Fridays are dedicated to dishing out capitalist wisdom, to nurse us (U.S. Americans) through the present Marxist captivity of our beloved republic. In a chapter on monopolies, Milton Friedman devotes a section to labor unions and their attempt to monopolize labor. The following excerpt discusses the actual effect of unions on wages: There is a . . . tendency to overestimate the importance of monopoly on the side of labor. Labor unions include roughly a quarter of the working population and this greatly overestimates the importance of unions in the structure of wages. Many unions are utterly ineffective. Even the strong and powerful unions have only a limited effect on the wage structure. It is even clearer for labor than for industry why there is a strong tendency to overestimate the importance of monopoly. Given a labor union, any wage increase will come through the union, even though it may not be a consequence of the union organization. The wages of domestic servants have risen very greatly in recent years.* Had there been a union of domestic servants, the increase would have come through the union and would have been attributed to it. This is not to say that unions are unimportant. Like enterprise monopoly, they play a significant and meaningful role making many wage rates different from what the market alone would establish. It would be as much a mistake to underestimate as to overestimate their importance. I once made a rough estimate that because of unions something like 10 to 15 per cent of the working population has had its wage rates raised by something like 10 to 15 per cent. This means that something like 85 or 90 per cent of the working population has had its wage rates reduced by some 4 per cent. Since I made these estimates, much more detailed studies have been made by others. My impression is that they yield results of much the same order of magnitude. If unions raise wage rates in a particular occupation or industry, they necessarily make the amount of employment available in that occupation or industry less than it otherwise would beé─ţjust as any higher price cuts down the amount purchased. The effect is an increased number of persons seeking other jobs, which force down wages in other occupations. Since unions have generally strongest among groups that would have been high-paid anyway, their effect has been to make high paid workers higher paid at the expense of lower-paid workers. Unions have therefore not only harmed the public at large and workers as a whole by distorting the use of labor; they have also made the incomes of the working class more unequal by reducing the opportunities available to the most disadvantaged workers. é─ţMilton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 123é─ý124. * é─˙Recenté─¨ relative to 1956.

Friedman Friday: Marxist Irony

Our Fridays are dedicated to dishing out capitalist wisdom, to nurse us (U.S. Americans) through the present Marxist captivity of our beloved republic. I love irony, especially when it proves the inconsistency of aberrant philosophies. For example: Marx argued that labour was exploited. Why? Because labour produced the whole of the product but got only part of it; the rest is Marxé─˘s é─˙surplus valueé─¨. Even if the statements of fact implicit in this assertion were accepted, the value judgment follows only if one accepts the capitalist ethic. Labour is é─˙exploitedé─¨ only if labour is entitled to what it produces. If one accepts instead the socialist premise, é─˙to each according to his own need, from each according to his ability.é─¨é─ţwhatever that may meané─ţit is necessary to compare what labour produces, not what it gets but with its é─˙abilityé─¨, and to compare what labour gets, not with what it produces but with its é─˙need.é─¨ é─ţMilton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 167.

Friedman Friday: Minimum Wage

Our Fridays are dedicated to dishing out capitalist wisdom, to nurse us (U.S. Americans) through the present Marxist captivity of our beloved republic. In the socialist ethic, the end justifies the means. But in reality, the socialist means are unable to bring about the intended end. For example: Minimum wage laws are about as clear a case as one can find of a measure the effects of which are precisely the opposite of those intended by the men of good will who support it. Many proponents of minimum wage laws quite properly deplore extremely low rates; they regard them as a sign of poverty; and they hope, by outlawing wage rates below some specified level, to reduce poverty. In fact, insofar as minimum wage laws have any effect at all, their effect is clearly to increase poverty. The state can legislate a minimum wage rate. It can hardly require employers to hire at that minimum all who were former employed at wages below the minimum. It is clearly not in the interest of the employers to do so. The effect of the minimum wage is therefore to make unemployment higher than it otherwise would be. Insofar as the low wage rates are in fact a sign of poverty, the people who are rendered unemployed are precisely those who can least afford to give up the income they had been receiving, small as it may appear to those voting for the minimum wage. This case is in one respect very much like public housing. In both, the people who are helped are visibleé─ţthe people whose wages are raised; the people who occupy the publicly built units. The people who are hurt are anonymous and their problem is not clearly connected to its cause: the people who join the ranks of the unemployed or, more likely, are never employed in particular activities because of the existence of minimum wage and are driven to even less remunerative activities or the relief rolls; the people who are pressed ever closer together in the spreading slums that seem to be rather a sign of the need for more public housing than a consequence of the existing public housing. é─ţMilton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 180é─ý181.

Friedman Friday: Threats External and Internal

Our Fridays are dedicated to dishing out capitalist wisdom, to nurse us (U.S. Americans) through the present Marxist captivity of our beloved republic. Milton Friedman concluded his lectures on Capitalism and Freedom with a summary of the dual threats against a free society. While the external threats have changed, the principle applies just the same. The internal threat has not changed at all. It has only become more obvious.    The preservation and expansion of freedom are today threatened from two directions. The one threat is obvious and clear. It is the external threat coming from the evil men in Kremlin who promise to bury us. The other threat is far more subtle. It is the internal threat from men of good intentions and good will who wish to reform us. Impatient with the slowness of persuasion and example to achieve the great social changes they envision, they are anxious to use the power of the state to achieve their ends and are confident of their own ability to do so. Yet if they gained the power, they would fail to achieve their immediate aims and, in addition, would produce a collective state from which they would recoil in horror and of which they would be among the first victims. Concentrated power is not rendered harmless because of the good intentions of those who create it. The two threats unfortunately reinforce each other. Even if we avoid a nuclear holocaust, the threat from Kremlin requires us to devote a sizeable fraction of our resources to our military defense. The importance of the government as a buyer of so much of our output, and the sole buyer of the output of many firms and industries, already concentrates a dangerous amount of economic power in the hand of the political authorities, changes the environment in which business operates and the criteria relevant for business success, and in these and other ways endangers a free market. This danger we cannot avoid. But we needlessly intensify it by continuing the present widespread governmental intervention in areas unrelated to the military defense of the nation and by undertaking ever new governmental programsé─ţfrom medical care for the aged to lunar exploration. As Adam Smith once said, é─˙There is much to ruin a nationé─¨. Our basic structure of values and the interwoven network of free institutions will withstand much. I believe that we shall be able to preserve and extend freedom despite the size of the military programs and despite the economic powers already concentrated in Washington. But we shall be able to do so only if we awake to the threat we that face, only if we persuade our fellow men that free institutions offer a surer, if perhaps at times a slower, route to the ends they seek than the coercive power of the state. é─ţMilton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom (The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 201é─ý202.

Freedom Friday: Four Ways to Spend

Our Fridays are (usually) dedicated to the promotion of liberty. Milton Friedman explains why we get so little value for the vast sums of money spent by governments: Four Ways to Spend Money

Freedom Friday: Iron Economist

Our Fridays are (usually) dedicated to the promotion of liberty. I wasné─˘t going to see Iron Man 2. Ié─˘m kind of fed up with the superabundance of comic book superhero movies which represent a supersized hunk of the proof that Hollywood has no original ideas. Back in the days of Reeveé─˘s Superman and Keatoné─˘s Batman, I thought they were cool. I even liked the three more recent Spiderman movies (although #3 had some pretty lame moments). These days, though, I find any more superhero movies to be superfluous. Ié─˘ve changed my mind about Iron Man 2 and hereé─˘s why (HT: Steve Weaver).

Some Unchristmasy Thoughts

Monday··2010·12·27 · 2 Comments
Most of us are still in holiday mode, and will be, to some extent, through New Year’s Day (or even Epiphany, for church calendar devotees). However, I’ve had a couple of non-holidayish thoughts this morning that I might as well dump here. 1. George Bailey is no hero. So you give loans to individuals who are not really good risks. Unless you have a good scriptwriter, a good share of them default on their loans. The bright side is that George Bailey’s Building and Loan is way pre-21st Century, so Congress and the President don’t jump to stick the taxpayers with the tab. 2. Aren’t black and white colors? I know, black and white are not technically colors, but when we use them to describe people, skin tone is in mind. I watched an old episode of Law & Order last week in which a murder was committed to cover the alleged fact that a man who had passed for white was actually black. Notice: I do not say to cover the fact that he had black ancestry, but that he was black. Well, I looked at him and concluded that he was, in fact, white. Yet throughout the program, it was insisted that he was black. Why is that? We all know that if a black African marries a fair-skinned, blond Swede, their children will be black, regardless of the fact that one parent fairly glows in the dark. They are actually half black and half white, so why do we call them black? Because of their skin color, of course, and no other reason. In fact, if each of those children, their children, and all successive generations, marry fair-skinned Swedes, it will take a few generations before a white child is born. That child—according to the Law & Order writers, at least—will only be said to “pass” for white. Again, why is that? The first generation, a full half white is not merely said to pass as black, but is said to be black. Yet generations later, the child who is white in appearance, and retains only a trace of African blood, is not really white, but only passing? Why is the black person with some white ancestry not said to be passing for black? Am I wrong to draw the conclusion that, according to Law & Order, at least, everyone wants to be white? My question, the one I really want to ask, is this: Is this how people—black, white, violet, or turquoise—think? Is there anyone in the real world (Hollywood and Berkeley are not real world places) who thinks like this? And a second question, one of those rhetorical ones of which you are expected to see the answer self-contained: isn’t this just more proof that it’s way past time to drop the language of race and acknowledge that there is but one race, that all of our different ethnicities and cultures are united in one blood? As Christians—speaking now only to those whose faith rests solely on the Christ of the Bible—it should be so for us. We should recognize only one division among men: the division between those who are united in Christ, and those who are not. Christ came to redeem multitudes from all the peoples of the world, different in many superficial ways, but all sinning sons and daughters of Adam. Maybe this is Christmasy after all.

Freedom Friday: How You Got Your Job

Kevin DeYoung: Jobs are in the news. The lack of them actually. Unemployment is high and underemployment is higher. So tonight President Obama will address Congress and the nation and unveil a new jobs agenda. The Republicans will follow up with their plan next week. Ié─˘m not interesting in commenting on the specifics of either partyé─˘s job plan. There are, no doubt, many good ideas that could help the economy and many bad ideas to avoid. Ié─˘ll let you decide which are which. But I thought it might be worthwhile to think about where private sector jobs come from. Most basically, new jobs come from people with money to spend who want to spend their money on more people. This means . . . [continue reading]

Freedom Friday: Why You’re Unemployed

Continuing last Friday’s theme:

Freedom Friday: Stupid Budget Tricks

Several years ago, I worked for a company that offered the “opportunity” to contribute to the United Way via a payroll deduction. I always declined on the grounds that I do my own giving to specific needs as I see fit, not to charity organizations that distribute funds according to God-knows-what criteria. Furthermore, I argued, the United Way supports organizations that I would never, under any circumstances, support. I don’t remember what those were, but I seem to remember Planned Parenthood among them. Regarding the latter point, I was informed that I could designate the recipient of my contribution, if I wished. To that, I replied, “Poppycock, balderdash, fiddle-faddle, hogwash, stuff and nonsense!” In case that wasn’t convincing enough, I explained something like this: I have a certain amount of money. Some is spent on groceries, some is spent on rent/mortgage, some on utilities, some on clothing, some on going to the movies, etc. I may budget these items more or less strictly, but all are paid from the same source: my income. Some months, I might run short, and have to skimp in one area to pay another. I can do that, because what might look like separate funds in a ledger all really come out of the same pool. Then, one day, you come along, and because you’re such a nice, generous person, you give me twenty dollars—thank you very much—but there are strings attached. Under no circumstances do you want me to spend it at the theatre. You tell me to apply it to groceries only, which suits me fine, because now I have twenty extra dollars to spend on bacon, cheese, and salt & vinegar chips. And it frees up twenty of my own dollars that might have gone to groceries, but doesn’t have to now. Thanks to you, this month I can go to the movies twice. The effect is this: Unless all funds are designated, none are. Remember that next time someone tells you that the Title X money received by Planned Parenthood is designated for non-abortion services. Not only is the legal separation probably bogus, but the practical separation is simply not even possible.


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