Blog Archives

The fat American: your ruling class at work

The hypothesis from an ‘evolutionary biologist’ regarding the nation’s ‘obesity epidemic’:

Merely medicating it won’t do, he [Daniel Lieberman] said, and education is well-meaning but ineffective. His answer? “Coercion. … We should start telling corporations what to do.” But not just corporations. He also advocated – “to hearty applause,” the Harvard Gazette noted – “requiring people to exercise.”

What is the evolutionary explanation the evolutionary biologist would have for attempting to assert this sort of control over other people’s lives? I suspect it goes something like this: when you can only get people to do what you want them to do through coercion it means other methods of persuasion have failed for some reason. But the goal is control. When you control people, you have power. When you have power, your agenda (and not necessarily the individual’s) is much more likely to be implemented.

Yale’s Kelly Brownell has long advocated taxes on Twinkies, soda, and other high-sugar snacks. That idea has gained support from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with the mayors of Philadelphia, Baltimore, and state lawmakers in numerous states.  The New York Times’ Mark Bittman likens foods with added sugar to tobacco, and asks “How do we regulate the consumption of dangerous foods? … We need the government on our side. It must acknowledge the dangers caused by the most unhealthy aspects of our diet and figure out how to help us cope with them.” Bittman’s colleague, Frank Bruni, agrees. In a column lamenting America’s spreading waistline, he concludes that “we need to rethink and remake our environment much more thoroughly.”

It seems every do-gooder somehow thinks they (or better, a faceless government) should be making choices for normal, small-minded, careless, undisciplined Americans, regardless of whether the issue is the law, economic policy, the marketplace, taxes, health care, energy, affirmative action, obesity, or anything else.

How did Americans end up becoming obese in the first place? It’s suggested government subsidies for things like high-fructose corn syrup and the government created food pyramid calling for up to 11 carb-servings per day had something to do with the obesity epidemic.

But back to the do-gooders:

Of course the coercionaries could leave… [everyone] … alone… But this solution never seems to occur to them, does it? And why should it? It would require a certain degree of humility and restraint. Besides, they already know the solution: In the event of any government failure, apply more government directly to the wound.

My suspicion is their efforts are all about power; craving power and control over people’s lives (but without being told how to live themselves) without having to make a compelling or attractive argument. Otherwise, how do we get more sidewalks built or subsidies for electric cars or running shoes?

Consider Marx, Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, et al: control is the goal and government is the tool.

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The best book review ever?

Peter Suderman at Reason gives a world-class review of The Escape Artists: How Obama’s Team Fumbled the Recovery.

Despite the quasi-provocative title—designed, no doubt to help the book sell—Suderman characterizes the effort (from Noam Scheiber, a writing worker from The New Republic) as a hagiography and an apology for the Administration writ large.

The major players are all professional Democrats and liberals of one stripe or another. Scheiber’s detailed, thoroughly reported account describes their efforts at responding to the faltering economy while pursuing the rest of Obama’s ambitious agenda. In the process, Scheiber takes as a given his protagonists’ centrality to the success or failure of the economy. 

It is an assumption that his subjects share. Their endless infighting and many personal differences are what drive the book and furnish its occasional bursts of dramatic urgency. But they are united in a conviction that the system is broken—and that only they know how to fix it.

Of course, they didn’t fix it, based in large part to the oversized and totally unwarranted hubris of the President.  Meanwhile, the President continues to blame George W. Bush.

The older I get, the more I see humility as an essential characteristic, something that’s missing from the I, me, my of this Administration.

Read the whole thing. It’s a great review.

Clandestine Forms of Taxation

If you think low interest rates are heaven sent, they are… for borrowers. Like the U.S. government, among others.

For savers, it isn’t so heavenly. From Ira Stoll at Reason.com:

…low interest rates mean whatever money is left in the bank is generating less interest — to be precise about it, $384.5 billion less interest in 2011 than 2008.

Now, if President Obama or Congress announced that they were going to raise taxes in a way that would take $384.5 billion a year out of American pockets, there would be a huge uproar about it. It would be the lead story on the evening news and there would be 30-second political commercials about it. With zirp, on the other hand, you might see some complaints from Ron Paul, from the Wall Street Journal editorial page, or from a few congenitally cantankerous hedge fund managers, but otherwise, the silence has been deafening.

Mr. Obama has even tried to make a virtue of it. At his press conference last week, he said, “Congress should pass my proposal to give every responsible homeowner a chance to save an average of $3,000 a year by refinancing their mortgage at historically low rates….That would make a huge difference for millions of American families.”

The Shakespearian lesson made modern:

Neither a saver nor investor be;
For savings oft loses both itself and interest to inflation,
And Buffett-style investing demands one’s very soul.

Warren Buffett, America’s Greatest Crony Capitalist

(show me the moneyThe alternate title for this post was Show Me The Money.)

The article at Reason.com by Peter Schweizer is entitled Warren Buffett: Baptist and Bootlegger.

Frankly, Buffett is an insult to both Baptists and bootleggers: he lacks the Christian morality of the Baptists and the entrepreneurial spirit (so to speak) of the bootleggers, preferring instead to rig the game by having Washington steal from the people. He is, or has become, a plain and simple crony capitalist.

Does crony capitalism pay? Sadly, using taxpayer money (and borrowed at that), far too well.

Finance professors Ran Duchin and Denis Sosyura found that politically connected firms, despite the infusion of federal funds, were outperformed by unconnected firms. In other words, poorly run but well-connected companies got the [TARP] loot.