How Social Conservatives Can Win By Losing; or, Mind Your Own Business

It’s interesting how some of those who most vociferously object to government interference in our economic affairs are most desirous of government interference in our personal ones.

I’m referring of course to social conservatives, who want to legislate our morals and values according to their views.

To be clear, I am quite sympathetic to the social conservative argument on abortion. Life, it appears to me, does begin at the moment of conception. (I can’t think of another time.) And at whatever phase of pregnancy an abortion occurs, a choice must be made between human lives, a horrible, and perforce immoral, situation.

I am less sympathetic to the social conservative position on same-sex marriage, which seems to me a civil rights issue.

But hold your tongues (and you blog comments) for a moment. Arguing my positions on these issues is not my intention here.

My point is: The social issues, whatever your position, are best dealt with outside the governmental realm.

Emphasis in original. Via Roger L. Simon » ‘Mind Your Own Beeswax!’: How Social Conservatives Can Win By Losing.

The High Price of False Security

The attention paid to terrorism in the U.S. is considerably out of proportion to the relative threat it presents. That’s especially true when it comes to Islamic-extremist terror. Of the 150,000 murders in the U.S. between 9/11 and the end of 2010, Islamic extremism accounted for fewer than three dozen. Since 2000, the chance that a resident of the U.S. would die in a terrorist attack was one in 3.5 million, according to John Mueller and Mark Stewart of Ohio State and the University of Newcastle, respectively. In fact, extremist Islamic terrorism resulted in just 200 to 400 deaths worldwide outside the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq—the same number, Mueller noted in a 2011 report (PDF), as die in bathtubs in the U.S. alone each year.

…According to one estimate of direct and indirect costs borne by the U.S. as a result of 9/11, the New York Times suggested the attacks themselves caused $55 billion in “toll and physical damage,” while the economic impact was $123 billion. But costs related to increased homeland security and counterterrorism spending, as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, totaled $3,105 billion.

Something that I would love to see the Transportation Security Administration, the FBI, the CIA, and whoever else do is pull together an estimate of how many airplanes they think would have been blown up by terrorists if there was no passenger or baggage screening whatsoever. One way of thinking about it is this. If commercial airplanes were no more secure than your average city bus, planes would be blown up as frequently as city buses—which is to say never. I’ve heard some people postulate that terrorists have a special affection for blowing up planes, but I’m not sure that’s right. In the not-too-distant past, Israel had a substantial terrorists-blowing-up-buses problem and had to take countervailing security measures. But unlike Israel, we’re not doing anything to secure our buses. It’s at least possible that nobody blows up American buses because nobody is trying to blow anything up.

via The High Price of False Security.

Politics isn’t about Policy

Civics teachers talk as if politics is about policy, that politics is our system for choosing policies to deal with common problems.  But as Tyler Cowen suggests, real politics seems to be more about who will be our leaders, and what coalitions will rise or fall in status as a result.  Election media coverage focuses on characterizing the candidates themselves – their personalities, styles, friends, beliefs, etc.  You might say this is because character is a cheap clue to the policies candidates would adopt, but I don’t buy it.

The obvious interpretation seems more believable – as with high school class presidents, we care about policies mainly as clues to candidate character and affiliations.  And to the extent we consider policies not tied to particular candidates, we mainly care about how policies will effect which kinds of people will be respected how much.

For example, we want nationalized medicine so poor sick folks will feel cared for, military actions so foreigners will treat us with respect, business deregulation as a sign of respect for hardworking businessfolk, official gay marriage as a sign we accept gays, and so on.

via Overcoming Bias : Politics isn’t about Policy.

Why Can’t Companies Find the Workers they Need? – The Daily Beast

The jobs that people are thinking about when they talk about "good manufacturing jobs"–the kind where you take a C-student straight out of high school, stick him next to a machine, and the machine makes him productive enough to justify $25 an hour–have gone away, lost not just to China, but to a machine who doesn’t need to sleep, eat, or take a sick day when hunting season starts.  

In this economic environment, it doesn’t make sense for an employer to sit down and try to put an entry level worker through two years of calculus and machine language.  The training required is too expensive and intensive.  

It isn’t just that that isn’t what they’re good at; it’s that most of their candidates are going to find that they are not cut out for these higher end jobs–a process that currently happens in community college training programs, where many of the students flunk the math or otherwise wash out.  If employers take over this training, they’ll end up spending quite a bit of money training future non-employees who just aren’t cut out for a high-end manufacturing job.  

. . . along with a lot of future non-employees who are.  Anyone who makes it through your training program will now have a valuable skill they can take anywhere.  Another employer can probably pay them more than you can, since they didn’t have to, y’know, pay for all that expensive training.  This is why apprenticeships used to essentially involve signing on for seven years of slavery; it allowed the employer to enjoy some of the benefits of the investment in training.

In the modern world, where that sort of thing is illegal, the employee is the only one who can permanently appropriate the benefits of the human capital investment.  Economic logic tells us that therefore, they’re the ones who should pay the cost, and take the risk, of acquiring it.

Read the whole thing. Via Why Can’t Companies Find the Workers they Need? – The Daily Beast.

ObamaACAre: Marginal Costs Drive Business Choices

These, and countless other employers across the country, are not doing an impression of Montgomery Burns. They are simply responding to economic reality.

Under ObamaCare, employers with 50 or more full-time workers must provide health insurance for all their workers, paying at least 65% of the cost of a family policy or 85% of the cost of an individual plan. Moreover, the insurance must meet the federal government’s requirements in terms of what benefits are included, meaning that many businesses that offer insurance to their workers today will have to change to new, more expensive plans.

ObamaCare’s rules make expansion expensive, particularly for the 500,000 US businesses that have fewer than 100 employees.

Suppose that a firm with 49 employees does not provide health benefits. Hiring one more worker will trigger the mandate. The company would now have to provide insurance coverage to all 50 workers or pay a tax penalty.

In New York, the average employer contribution for employer-provided insurance plans, runs from $4,567 for an individual to $ 12,748 for a family. Many companies will likely choose to pay the penalty instead, which is still expensive — $2,000 per worker multiplied by the entire workforce, after subtracting the statutory exemption for the first 30 workers. For a 50-person company, then, the tax would be $40,000, or $2,000 times 20.

That might not seem like a lot, but for many small businesses that could be the difference between survival and failure.

Emphasis mine. Via The 49ers –

Want To Fix Healthcare? Acknowledge That It’s the Responsibility Of the Individual

A government’s sole function is the protection of individual rights; all other functions the modern U.S. government has assumed are usurpations which have required the violation of the very rights the government was established to protect. This strictly delimited function of government requires the establishment of a police force, a military, and a judiciary system. As such, the government’s position on the economy of the nation should not be to steer it or bolster it, but to stay out of it.

As Yaron Brook and Don Watkins write in Free Market Revolution, “If a rationally selfish individual is told that by surrendering his paycheck he will help ‘the economy,’ his attitude should be ‘To hell with you; it won’t help my economy!’”

via Want To Fix Healthcare? Acknowledge That It’s the Responsibility Of the Individual – Forbes.

U.S. Leads World In Carbon Emissions Reductions — Government Not The Reason

Over the past six years, the United States has reduced its carbon emissions more than any other nation in the world.

Efforts to curb so-called man-made climate change had little or nothing to do with it. Government mandated "green" energy didn’t cause the reductions. Neither did environmentalist pressure. And the U.S. did not go along with the Kyoto Protocol to radically cut CO2 emissions. Instead, the drop came about through market forces and technological advances, according to a report from the International Energy Agency.

Breakthroughs in how natural gas is extracted from underground shale formations were the key factors that led to the reductions, the report said. Natural gas has a low carbon footprint and is widely available in the United States. As a result, entrepreneurs are flocking to extract it from new areas.

"It’s good news and good news doesn’t get reported as much,” John Griffin, executive director of Associated Petroleum Industries of Michigan, said of the lack of reporting about the CO2 reductions. "The mainstream media doesn’t want to report these kinds of things."

via Shhh, U.S. Leads World In Carbon Emissions Reductions [Michigan Capitol Confidential].

How A Failed Commune Gave Us What Is Now Thanksgiving

It’s wrong to say that American was founded by capitalists. In fact, America was founded by socialists who had the humility to learn from their initial mistakes and embrace freedom. One of the earliest and arguably most historically significant North American colonies was Plymouth Colony, founded in 1620 in what is now known as Plymouth, Massachusetts. As I’ve outlined in greater detail here before (Lessons From a Capitalist Thanksgiving), the original colony had written into its charter a system of communal property and labor. As William Bradford recorded in his Of Plymouth Plantation, a people who had formerly been known for their virtue and hard work became lazy and unproductive. Resources were squandered, vegetables were allowed to rot on the ground and mass starvation was the result. And where there is starvation, there is plague. After 2 1/2 years, the leaders of the colony decided to abandon their socialist mandate and create a system which honored private property. The colony survived and thrived and the abundance which resulted was what was celebrated at that iconic Thanksgiving feast.

via How A Failed Commune Gave Us What Is Now Thanksgiving – Forbes.

End This Deduction

What’s the least defensible special break in the U.S. tax code? With so many distortions to choose from, it’s hard to name just one. If forced to pick, I might say the deduction for state and local taxes, which cost $67 billion in fiscal 2011, according to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

This one overwhelmingly benefits upper-income households in a handful of upper-income states, while rendering the entire nation’s finances less transparent. It’s also a potential source of friction in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations between President Obama and the Republicans (but we’ll get to that in a moment).

While we’re at it, get rid of the mortgage deduction as well. Via Charles Lane: The best deduction to chop – The Washington Post.

Hipsters On Food Stamps

When we see a welfare mom we assume she can’t find work, but when we see a hipster [on food stamps] we become infuriated because we assume he doesn’t want to work but could easily do so– on account of the fact that he can speak well– that he went to college.  But now suddenly we’re all shocked: to the economy, the English grad is just as superfluous as the disenfranchised welfare mom in the hood– the college education is just as irrelevant as the skin color.  Not irrelevant for now, not irrelevant "until the economy improves"– irrelevant forever. The economy doesn’t care about intelligence, at all, it doesn’t care what you know, merely what you can produce for it.  The only thing the English grad is "qualified" for in this economy is the very things s/he is already doing: coffeehouse agitator, Trader Joe’s associate, Apple customer………………………………………….. and spouse of a capitalist.

Read the whole thing. It is hilarious and insightful. Via The Last Psychiatrist: Hipsters On Food Stamps, Part 1.

Update: Just wait until you get to part 2. Fantastic and terrifying.