Capitalism and Public Words

I ran across a couple of TED talks yesterday that I want to share with you. Like you, I tend to find bias in most of them, or at least a different bias than mine. :-) But these are very good.

First is The Killer Apps of Prosperity

Makes all the sense in the world doesn’t he?

And then we’ll learn about Snollygosters

And these are both enjoyable and informative, I think.

Greedy Capitalists v Ebola; Going Where Government Won’t

There’s not much to say about this story, it’s about a private company looking out for its own, and doing what governments and NGOs can’t–stopping Ebola in its tracks.

Why? Because it’s the right thing to do, and likely because it needs its employees, but mostly because it the right thing to do, I suspect.

But the other thing here is, Firestone didn’t spend their time whining about funding and equipment and a myriad of rules. They simply got to work, and took care of business, in my life we call it Improvise, Adapt and Overcome. It’s something we learned from the Marine Corps, and it’s highly effective at getting things done, often superlatively.

While governments and nonprofits have been stymied in their efforts to stymie the spread of the Ebola virus, Firestone Tire & Rubber has apparently succeeded among its 80,000 Liberian employees and their families. When a wife of a Firestone employee showed up ill after caring for an Ebola victim, the staff of the evil capitalist corporation leaped into action.

“None of us had any Ebola experience,” he says. They scoured the Internet for information about how to treat Ebola. They cleared out a building on the hospital grounds and set up an isolation ward. They grabbed a bunch of hazmat suits for dealing with chemical spills at the rubber factory and gave them to the hospital staff. The suits worked just as well for Ebola cases.

Firestone immediately quarantined the family of the woman. Like so many Ebola patients, she died soon after being admitted to the ward. But no one else at Firestone got infected: not her family and not the workers who transported, treated and cared for her.

 

More at The PJ Tatler » Greedy Corporation Stops Ebola Spread in Liberia.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Election Economics 101; US and a little UK as well.

thobamaThe other day, Dan Hannan wrote on how much better Britain would be doing if it was not in the EU. Economically, yes, but in other ways as well, which are arguably more important. At least I think they are, although if I was trying to make a living in Britain, my priorities might be different, although given my outlook, I wouldn’t bet a lot on that. I’m one of those radical Americans that believe freedom is more important than nearly everything, and the EU is inimical to freedom.

Here’s some of Dan’s article:

1. Autonomous trade policy
Europe is the only continent in the world that is not experiencing economic growth, and Britain is the only EU state that sells more to non-members than to members. We are thus especially badly hit by the EU’s Common External Tariff, which sunders us from our commercial hinterland. Again and again, we have been unable to benefit from free trade because the common European position must take account of French film-makers, Italian textile companies, Austrian farmers and what have you. Norway and Switzerland, being in EFTA, recently signed free trade agreements with China. Britain can’t. Given that China grew by 7.7 per cent in 2013 while the EU shrank by 0.3 per cent, I’d say that’s a major disadvantage. Just look at this chart of where we’ll be in three years’ time.

 

Via Nine things David Cameron could bring back from Brussels to satisfy Eurosceptics – Telegraph Blogs.

OK, I hear you saying, so what, that’s Britain. Well yes, aside from the fact that I have a certain number of British readers, I want to point out the IMF number on where our economy ranks with the others as well. The other thing I want to note, as Dan did, and we’ll talk more about, the EU is dying, In a lot of cases, it almost looks like it is living off of Britain, and if Britain leaves, it’s going to be in real trouble.

Why? Well if I read right the other day, if you do your tax planning wrong in France these days, your tax bill can be about 105%, I can’t speak for anybody else but I wouldn’t work very hard to make a dollar if when I did I had to pay the government $1.05 for the privilege. That’s why so many people are leaving France.

But we aren’t doing all that well either, for all Obama’s bragging. We’re surely better than Europe but that saying almost nothing good. Here’s a bit of an article from Dan Mitchell yesterday.

[...]

Here are some blurbs from a Bloomberg report about the President’s remarks on that issue.

A month before congressional elections, President Barack Obama is making an appeal to American pride in promoting his economic policies, arguing that the U.S. is outpacing the recovery in other nations. …“The United States has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and every other advanced economy combined.” Obama said. …economies in Europe and Japan are sluggish. The recovery for the euro area – including France and Italy – stalled, with gross domestic product unchanged, from the first quarter to the second, according to Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg. Japan contracted by the most in more than five years, with GDP shrinking an annualized 7.1 percent, data from the government Cabinet Office in Tokyo show. …Jason Furman, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers…called Obama’s emphasis on the relative strength of the U.S. economy “useful context to compare to other countries that are facing similar challenges.”

I don’t know if the White House is correct on every specific claim, but it’s definitely true that the United States is out-pacing Europe.

Here are a couple of charts I found with a quick search. We’ll start with one comparing GDP performance. It’s not as up-to-date as the one I shared back in June, but it does a good job of showing how our cousins across the ocean are falling behind.

And here’s another chart I found showing how Europe also is lagging on employment.

And I can also say from personal experience, based on my trips to various conferences, that Europeans look at the American economy with envy. Heck, they even think 1 percent growth is a reason for celebration!

Which should give you an idea of how bad the outlook is in Europe.

After all, the United States is experiencing the weakest economic expansion since the Great Depression. Yet compared to European nations like France and Italy, we’re a powerhouse.

Via Obama Is Right about the European Economy…

Meanwhile John Hinderaker over at Powerline Blog reminds us that the Democrats are running on the recovery. Personally I think they should be running away from such a botched recovery but, I suppose when you think all good things come from Europe. Here’s a bit of that

[...]

President Obama boasted in a speech yesterday that by any measure, the economy today is better than when he took office.

I should hope so! Obama took office shortly after the financial collapse of September 2008, in the depth of a recession. The stimulus, as you no doubt recall, was supposed to get the economy back on its feet. The problem we have today is not that we are in an even worse recession than in January 2009–God forbid–but that the current recovery is the worst one ever, by a wide margin. This graph, which I posted a few days ago, tells the story:

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 3.48.00 PM

As for the September jobs report, was it anything to crow about? Pre-Obama, a 5.9% unemployment rate was considered unacceptably high. The average unemployment rate during the George W. Bush administration was 5.3%. Moreover, most people have figured out that the official unemployment rate has been dropping primarily because Americans are leaving the labor force. Is the latest report a sign of some real awakening of the jobs market, that will make voters more optimistic over the next 30 days?

I doubt it. The September report says that the number of those not in the labor force increased by another 315,000 last month. [...]

Via WILL YESTERDAY’S JOBS REPORT BOOST DEMOCRATS?

The “dismal science” wasn’t nearly as dismal back when Reagan was President, was it?

Cousins, and Their First World Problems

City of LondonThis is rather fascinating. It is a comparison of Charles Murray’s, an American Libertarian, book: Coming Apart, and the comparable effort of Rod Liddle, a British Laborite (and former Troskyite) and his book: Selfish, Whining Monkeys.

As you read through it, you will find that they find similar problems in our societies, which is reasonable, almost any honest person will but, the differences begin when they start trying to come up with answers. It nearly comes to the point that Reagan/Thatcher was the greatest thing since sliced bread, or the worst thing since Henry the Eighth. I know my answer but, I suppose your mileage may vary.

Anyway enjoy, from David Conway:

Two years ago, Charles Murray published a book entitled Coming Apart about the main socioeconomic changes that have swept America over the last half century and the impact they have had on the happiness of its citizens. Not surprisingly, the major economic changes Murray identified were the vastly increased levels of personal affluence of Americans accompanied by exponentially increasing consumer choice.

He highlighted four major social changes:

• declining marriage and marital stability, especially among lower income whites;

• much greater female participation in the labor market accompanied by declining male participation in it particularly at the lower-paid end of the job market;

• growing disparities of income between a largely married middle class and the largely unmarried least well-off; and

• declining religiosity and religious observance, plus a concomitant decline in communal activity proportionate to the decline in religiosity (again, more prevalent among the lower income groups)

Murray argued these four social trends mattered profoundly because of a strong positive correlation among marriage, vocation (as reflected by industriousness), and religiosity, on the one hand, and happiness on the other, suggesting the former three factors strongly contributed to the latter. While a similar positive correlation obtains between affluence and happiness, longitudinal studies have shown it is not a particularly strong one above the level of abject poverty which practically all Americans now are.

The trends Murray identified, therefore, seem to reveal an America that is increasingly starting to come apart along the seams of class. A largely married and still (at least residually) religiously engaged middle class is drawing ever farther apart in affluence, lifestyle, and personal happiness from a largely unmarried and wholly religiously disengaged lower class, bereft of the consolations and social capital that family ties and religious engagement typically bring.

Rod Liddle is a highly prolific and widely read British journalist who has just published a similar study about the major socioeconomic changes in his country in the last half century and their impact on the happiness of Britons. In Selfish, Whining Monkeys he reaches conclusions that are strikingly similar to Murray’s.

Compare the following extracts from their respective books. Here is what Murray has to say about socioeconomic change in America this past half century:

One of the things that struck me forcibly is that neither of the authors would have any interest in going back. Here’s Murray:

[i]f a time machine could transport me back to 1960, I would have to be dragged into it kicking and screaming. In many aspects of day-to-day life, America today is incomparably superior to the America of 1960… Go back to 1960? I wouldn’t dream of it.

And Riddle:

It would be easy to be nostalgic about my childhood… But when I look back… the primary emotion I feel… is one of immense guilt: that I do not do things as well as my parents… Again, this isn’t nostalgia… It is hard to argue against longer life expectancy, greater affluence, safer workplaces, the freedom to escape a hopeless marriage, the rights of women to be treated equally, and so on. But a certain moral code has been lost along the way, which has contributed lately to our country becoming close to bankrupt, a nation of broken families clamouring about their entitlements, siring ill-educated and undisciplined kids unfamiliar with the concept of right and wrong, where there is a diminishing sense of community and belonging.

You know, while I certainly understand what they are saying, and there are things I would miss immensely, like the instant (and free) communication with my British friends, and the likely case that I would never have met them, in many ways, that world (I grew up in the 60s) was a much better place, and I’m not so sure. In fact, I would be very drawn to going back to that world, and I suspect a lot of us would be.

Via Coming Apart in the UK | Online Library of Law & Liberty.

In any case, a fascinating study, that I recommend.

Having solved all other problems, Obama to fix your dishwasher

Seal of the United States Department of Energy.

Seal of the United States Department of Energy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, guys, Apparently, our appliances still aren’t efficient enough. Of, course you know, and so do I that every time the government mandates things for your own good, the aforesaid things get worse. How many times do you flush your new super efficient toilet? Yep, so do we all. How many time do we have to flush a low flow toilet before it uses more water than the old one? 2 maybe 3.

You know of course that washers and dryers made in the 60s and 70s will last forever, you probably also know that new ones won’t, a couple of years is it. Why? because they are efficient. Sounds counterintuitive, but really, it’s not. You make things efficient by making them just barely good enough. Very little margin involved, just enough water on average, just enough motor, don’t use 16 gauge metal when 22 gauge will work, and so on. You make long term dependability by over engineering things- making them better than they absolutely have to be. You can’t have both, and you can’t choose anymore either.

From Hot Air

I guess he really was multitasking out on the golf course. The President’s team has been hard at work behind the scenes, coming up with a strategy … well, maybe we should say plan, to address the nation’s many challenges.

Spurred by President Obama’s climate action plan, the Department of Energy is pumping out new standards for refrigerators, dishwashers, air conditioners, ceiling fans, furnaces, boilers, water heaters, lamps and many more appliances.

The administration says the standards will not only help the planet but also stimulate the economy by saving consumers money on their energy bills that they can spend elsewhere.

After what we’ve been through with energy regulations, you’d think the administration would be at least a little hesitant to leap in for another grab at that brass ring. I mean, won’t a sudden raft of new requirements for the products everyone has to purchase have some, er… unintended consequences? William Teach seems to have been thinking along the same lines.

While the rules may save a bit of energy (and there is nothing wrong with that, though it should be the consumer choice, not Government Mandate), it will also drive up the cost of the appliances/devices, which will harm the lower and middle classes.

Having solved all other problems, Obama to fix your dishwasher « Hot Air.

Where is comfort?

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There’s no doubt, my friends, that we live in unsettling times. The ending of the Cold War was hailed by some as the ‘end of history’; we wish! We can wish we did not live in such times as we now see, but as Gandalf says in ‘Lord of the Rings’, so do all who live in them; but it is not given to us to order the days of our lives. An historical perspective soon makes us grateful: that we are not in Rome when Alaric’s armies sacked it; or in Roman Britain facing the Angles and the Saxons as they marauded; neither are we in Constantinople in 1453 when it fell to the Ottomans. But we might understand more, now, how people felt as the world with they were familiar began to seem under threat.

It isn’t simply the, as yet for us, distant threat of ISIS (though we should not think it that far when we have in our midst those who might seek to harm us), it is the dislocation of the times. It is, in some ways, more comforting to think of President Obama as some kind of Manchurian Candidate than as what he is – a well-meaning man up against the hard fact that what he believes in and the real world don’t mix. Our sense that it is a ‘plague on all their houses’ when it comes to politics, derives from a feeling that none of them have answers to the problems which face us. There is, Adam Smith once wrote, ‘a lot of ruin in a nation’ – perhaps we shall see just how much it takes?

But the eternal verities stand where they always did. If you have too much regulation and too many taxes, things don’t work – and soon people don’t either. Welfare is a Christian duty, but when there are more taking out than putting in, it won’t work. When people depend on people, it generates good morale; when they depend on Government, it generates dependency. Power still tends to corrupt, and absolute power to do so absolutely. If something seems too good to be true, it isn’t. Power without responsibility is the prerogative of the harlot down the ages, and Government is best when it sticks to doing as little as possible. JFK was right – ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for it.

When politics becomes a ‘profession’ it attracts too many of the wrong sort; term limits should be there for all elected office. Ten years is enough, not least in the pressure of modern politics. All leaders go sort of mad after too long; it’s a service to them to save them from themselves. We need to be more involved too. In the end, if we care about freedom, it will thrive; if not we can have bread and circuses, till the wheat runs out and we find ourselves in the Coliseum. Naught for our comfort then? Aye, naught but this – that we are the children of the Living God and through Jesus, we are saved. If that is so, what have we to fear save fear itself?

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