Things That Grabbed My Attention Yesterday

We’re going to pull back from the daily nonsense today, the Brits are voting and there’s not much new in the Washington nonsense. Let’s take a look at some background on various things. Some days there is just so much good material out there that I can’t decide. It’s a pleasant problem.

Ben Domenech at The Federalist disagrees with Time Magazine’s choice of Greta Thunberg as person of the year, as do I. He says in relation to her…

[…] a teenager who skipped school to travel around the world telling people that they are horrible and the planet is doomed. It’s a living. Perhaps her Malthusian visions will be fulfilled by future experience. But it’s not very likely.

Heh! I wish I’d written that! His choice I also agree with…

In defiance of the most powerful authoritarian regime in the modern world, the protester in Hong Kong has stood against the authority of Red China with courage and dedication. […]

There is no bigger fight. And so, the Hong Kong protester is the Person of the Year.

He’s right. That is the person/people that free people should be honoring.


There’s a remarkable (and remarkably long) essay by George Callaghan at The Duran on the problems (and possible solutions) in British education. Some are specific to Britain and/or England, but many apply to America, as well. My curation software says 45 minutes, it’s well worth it.

I don’t see anything short enough to give you a taste, so if it is an interest of yours, go read it. I agree with all of it that I think applies to the US, I simply don’t know enough about British education to have a valid opinion.


Unintended Consequences has made Britain a frustrating laughingstock for the last three years. Why? Abram N. Shulsky at Law and Liberty has figured out some of the reasons why the British government has gotten so pear-shaped. It’s a danger we face as well, as so many (especially on the left) want to tinker with our constitution.

The recent chaos resulted from two innovations that weren’t entirely consistent with the underlying principles of the British regime: the Fixed-term Parliament Act of 2011 (FTPA) and the Brexit referendum of 2015.  Both were introduced to solve short-term political problems.

It’s an excellent explanation of how the (primarily) Conservative Party has failed to conserve the things that made the Westminster System work.


Walter E. Williams at The Daily Signal tells us that Richard Ebeling, professor of economics at The Citadel, has an essay in the American Institute for Economic Research that clarifies how Capitalism is a morally superior system.

In a key section of his article, Ebeling lays out what he calls the ethical principles of free markets. He says:

The hallmark of a truly free market is that all associations and relationships are based on voluntary agreement and mutual consent. Another way of saying this is that in the free market society, people are morally and legally viewed as sovereign individuals possessing rights to their life, liberty, and honestly acquired property, who may not be coerced into any transaction that they do not consider being to their personal betterment and advantage.

Ebeling says that the rules of a free market are simple and easy to understand:

You don’t kill, you don’t steal, and you don’t cheat through fraud or misrepresentation. You can only improve your own position by improving the circumstances of others. Your talents, abilities, and efforts must all be focused on one thing: What will others take in trade from you for the revenues you want to earn as the source of your own income and profits?

They are both spot on.


Dylan Pahman at Law and Liberty has an essay on why economic nationalism fails.

However, at present economic liberty has fallen out of favor with some who see a sea change in recent events—from the election of President Trump in the United States to Great Britain’s “Brexit” referendum—moving away from a perceived elitist, globalist liberalism and back toward the old order of nation states, not only politically but also economically.

He does an excellent job of laying out the underpinning, and I mostly agree with him, completely in theory in fact. This is the Libertarian/Conservative rationale for free trade, and mostly it is true.

But


Curtis Ellis at American Greatness lays out why Globalism and Progressivism make such a toxic stew.

The reformers of the Progressive era championed safety standards for food, drugs, and labor.

The Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906 gave birth to the Food and Drug Administration. The chief chemist at the Department of Agriculture had mobilized a coalition of women’s clubs, physicians, and pharmacists to lobby for uniform national standards for patent medicines.

It worked, mostly, although it was and is very expensive. Now add Globalism

Communist China is the world’s largest producer and exporter of “active pharmaceutical ingredients,” the base components drug companies use to manufacture most of the medications found on store shelves across America. Today, 80 percent of prescription drugs consumed in the United States originate in India and China.

Drug companies are not required to disclose the country of origin of the active ingredients in their products. That means consumers are unknowingly exposed to the risks associated with drugs made in China.

What are those risks? Well, in 2008, 100 Americans died after taking the anticoagulant heparin that was made in China. Some of the heparin was fraudulently replaced with chondroitin, a dietary supplement for joint aches.

Now what? The free traders say the Chicoms are the low-cost producer and it makes economic sense for our drug hoses to buy their product. The families of a hundred dead Americans are likely to disagree. And if we are going to use uninspected raw material, what exactly is the point of the FDA?

That’s the kind of real-world problem that always screws up those lovely theoretical solutions. The answer? We don’t really have one yet.

That should be enough to keep you out of trouble for a while! 🙂

Whingey Kickballers

And so, the US women’s soccer team, world champions, so they say, is suing for equal pay. Well, Bookworm took a look. Let’s see what she found.

The 26 members of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, winners of the 2019 World Cup, are in the midst of a court battle against the US Soccer Federation, with whom they have a collective bargaining agreement signed in 2016. The ladies are screaming about gender discrimination and the gender pay gap. They want to be paid the same as the men on the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team. Or as CBS’s 60 Minutes frames it:

Few teams have been as glorious on the soccer field as the United States Women’s National Team. They’ve won three World Cups, four Olympic gold medals, and set the standard in the most popular sport on the planet.  But despite their achievements, the players say they have been discriminated against, paid less and treated worse, next to the U.S. men’s team. Soccer may be known as the beautiful game, but the team has embarked on a bruising and historic legal fight for equality and their opponent is the U.S. Soccer Federation, their own employer. For the players, it’s the match of their lives. They hope a victory will help close the gap, not just in sport, but in any job where women do the same work as men for less pay.

Heart rending, is it not? There is a reason everyone on the left is framing this as an equitable and emotional argument.  Neither statutory law nor the laws of free market economics are on the side of the ladies.

If their labor was purely soccer and we lived in the world of Karl Marx and the labor theory of value, they would have a good argument.  It is not.  Whether the women win or lose on the pitch, the labor of the U.S. women’s soccer team has no intrinsic value to their employer, the USSF. To the employer, the sole value of the ladies’ labor is to generate revenue, and women soccer players overall do quite poorly relative to the men.  Only a small subset of soccer fans care enough about women’s soccer to support it.  For comparison, the world soccer governing body, FIFA,reported revenues from men’s soccer in 2018 of “over $6 billion”  in revenue in 2018, while the women’s tournament “is estimated to only have brought in $131 million in 2019.”

Book makes an excellent point here. Professional athletes are not paid to play their sport. They are paid to sell tickets, TV contracts, and hot dogs. That they do that by playing a sport is as relevant as the steelworker who thinks he is paid to swing a hammer, he is part of an effort to make steel, the hammer swinging, as important as it may be, is not the point.

But it’s California where the law depends on your feelings, so they’ll probably get some unearned income, depend partly on how hard the USSF fights, I suppose.

The Babylon Bee also reported on this and may have the most relevant post of all.

U.S.—Despite the U.S. Women’s soccer team’s stunning performance in winning the World Cup, there is a giant pay gap between them and the less successful men’s team. This has caused a huge outcry, as many Americans are now baffled that anyone is paid to play soccer.

“What? Why? How?” stammered plumber Rory Eubanks, expressing the sentiment of many Americans. “Where is that money even coming from?”

Soccer is a game played by children and Europeans that involves moving a ball around without using one’s hands — the feature that distinguishes man from lesser animals. It is unclear how such an activity could generate money. “I know with actual sports, you have stadiums that make money from selling tickets and hot dogs,” said Alison Jensen, a nurse and another citizen scared and confused by the concept of soccer players being paid, “but there’s nothing like a soccer stadium around here.” Her eyes then grew large with fright. “Is there?”

Even scientists are baffled at how soccer players are being paid. “I dunno,” said scientist Earl Webb before adding, “You got me.”

Theories on how soccer players are getting paid range from tax money boondoggle to mob money laundering scheme to ISIS plot to get Americans to do a useless thing like kick a ball around instead of activities that actually help the economy like hauling lumber or driving an Uber.

Reforging American Greatness

We’ve spoken of the things we do here many times, and it’s nice to have another voice. David L. Hunter raises his voice in The American Spectator. He makes his case well, and I agree with his diagnoses. While I see merit in his remedies, they are indeed far better than what we are doing, they are, to me at least, much too government-centric. In my opinion, we need to unleash the beast that built this country, devil take the hindmost, not simply give it a longer leash. The leash itself is a large part of the root problem. Still, this is very worthwhile.

Politically, what’s the definition of insanity? Electing the same types of people doing the same things, but expecting a different outcome.  (Thus, perhaps the main reason Donald Trump was elected president, in 2016, is neatly explained.)  More to the point, on an economic level, what’s the definition of insanity—other than doubling-down on what has been done previously? Thanks to President Trump, and the promise of Republican tax cuts, the tide—superficially—has started to turn. However, a record-setting Wall Street is not the same thing as a booming Main Street. After all, Wall Street is based upon the return on investment by stockholders. That’s rather far removed from real-life factors like creating homegrown American businesses, generating highly skilled domestic jobs or providing Americans opportunities to advance up the socioeconomic ladder. So, the true test of a strong economy is an expanding, upwardly mobile middle class. Yet, this all-important demographic has been declining for more than 40 years:

“After more than four decades of serving as the nation’s economic majority, the American middle class is now matched in number [read: statistically equivalent to] by those in the economic tiers above and below it. In early 2015, 120.8 million adults were in middle-income households, compared with 121.3 million in lower- and upper-income households combined, a demographic shift that could signal a tipping point, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data.”

It’s true, we have many more so-called upper class (based on income) people about, and many more what we call working class, as well. The middle has been hollowed out, and it works to our detriment. Why?

 

[…] What’s also apparent is that generally speaking, American companies are being outcompeted by their international counterparts for the world’s largest market share.
How is that happening?  It’s because U.S. businesses rely upon financial shell games designed to generate profits on their balance sheets. This has the superficially positive effect of artificially buoying the stock price (benefiting executives’ salaries and stockholders’ investments), while inversely gutting the real-world ability of a company to compete in the global marketplace. If that is not the case, why do American corporations widely participate in cost-slashing measures like corporate inversion, using inferior components in U.S. products (read: bailed out GM’sIgnition Switch Scandal) and outsourcing jobs?
Contrast that mindset with fundamentally producing products and services that excel at satisfying one or more customer needs for a true competitive advantage in the worldwide market. Instead, U.S. companies engage in modern-day finance-based parasitic behavior: absorbing weaker firms, often stripping them of their employees and selling off divisions for quick infusions of cash to elevate the “almighty” stock price. In popular culture, this dynamic was immortalized by the contentious exchange between corporate raider Edward Lewis (Richard Gere), and embattled “old-time” business owner Jim Morse (Ralph Bellamy) in “Pretty Woman” (1990):
Morse: “Mr. Lewis, if you were to get control—and I don’t think you will—but if you did, what do you plan to do with the company?”
Lewis: “Break it up and sell off the pieces.”
Morse: “I’m sure you’ll understand I’m not thrilled at the idea of your turning years of my work into your garage sale.”
Lewis: “At the price I’m paying for this stock, Mr. Morse, you are going to be a very rich man.”
Morse: “I’m rich enough. I just want to head my shipyard.”
We’ve touched often on this before, from the viewpoint of one inside the machine. Many are, and can see what needs to be done, but can’t because it might impact the quarterly bottom line. Eventually, it’s going to kill any business with the infection, and almost all big businesses, and many mid-size and small ones have it. What to do about it? Mr. Hunter thinks this is the answer.
How does one achieve this elusive key to lasting success? For that answer, one must look to Ronald Reagan’s Commission on Industrial Competitiveness, circa 1985. Remarkably, this forward-thinking president was troubled by the overt financialization of the U.S. economy, and specifically, its adverse impact on American competitiveness. In response, Reagan launched a then-classified initiative known as the Socrates Project with the mission of transitioning the U.S. back to technology-based planning—and away from the type of financial shenanigans mentioned above.  It was so astonishingly effective that it far surpassed what countries like Russia, Japan and China were executing or could execute in the foreseeable future.
In turn, the Socrates Project developed the Automated Innovation System. Today, it can map global technology—high-tech, low-tech, “no”-tech –in real time. In function, it operates like a digital four-dimensional chessboard showing foreign organizations’ and countries’ plans for exploiting worldwide technology.  Specifically, it details the full range of present and future technology opportunities, and constraints, that can be exploited by U.S. public and private organizations for the essential competitive advantage to bring true and lasting economic prosperity back to America.
He may be right, at least to a point but I’m as always leery of panaceas, and this rather smells like one. More expert systems telling experts what to do strikes me as mostly more elite bullshit. Better than what we do now, but hardly the answer.
In truth, I do not think there is an answer. In the singular, that is. This a big diverse country, it works best when it has a goal and everybody leaves it alone and lets it see what it can accomplish.
Bigness is often an advantage, but just as often a disadvantage, the ability to marshal large amounts of money and groups of people offset by the elephantine measures necessary to manage such a group, rather than lead it.
And that is the answer, and where we are failing, leadership. The kind of leadership that can see an opportunity, and come hell or high water or even Washington bureaucrats and Wall Street idiots, drive on to success. Where are they? I don’t know, maybe school and college drove that spirit out of them, but I doubt it, they’re out there, thinking of better ways to do better things, and wondering how they can get from here to there.
A  good start would be to simply get the government back in its place, you know what Jemmy Madison said,
[…] to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.
That’s government’s job, and nothing else, anything else the government does is done to the detriment of some citizen, usually many citizens. Prosperity is something we are required to do for ourselves.

Leading the World: Why and How

A few videos from Praeger today, and perhaps some comments from me.

He’s right, of course. You don’t have to like it, it some ways, none of us do. The old saying is, “If not now, when?; If not us, who?

A lot has gone wrong in the last eight years, we may not be able to fix all, or perhaps even most of it, but our lives will be worse if we do not try. And who else is there, really, who can do even half of it? Especially without mostly looking for advantages we don’t need.

We’ve gotten too far away from this ideal, again, in my estimation. It’s time to fix it.

Otherwise, this is where we end up.

 

12 Bucks for a Cup of Joe – Why it is Worth it to Many

Barista Ryan McDonnell siphons coffee using vintage technology at the coffee experience bar of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room. (David Ryder/Bloomberg)

Barista Ryan McDonnell siphons coffee using vintage technology at the coffee experience bar of the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room. (David Ryder/Bloomberg)

George Will notes in the Washington Post the other day that Starbucks has a new and exclusive coffee experience awaiting you. Let him explain.

Indiana’s Thomas R. Marshall, who was America’s vice president 100 years ago, voiced — he plucked it from a Hoosier humorist — one of the few long-remembered utterances to issue from that office: “What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar,” which would be $1.11 in today’s currency. A century later, what the country needs is a $12 12-ounce cup of coffee.

Or so Howard Schultz thinks. Betting against the man who built Starbucks to a market capitalization of $86 billion is imprudent.

Today, you cannot swing a dead cat without hitting a Starbucks store. There are 25,000 in 75 countries, with another 12,000 due by 2021, so Starbucks is not an elusive or exclusive experience. This poses a problem peculiar to affluent societies, and an opportunity. Seattle, where the original Starbucks was opened in 1971, now has a Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room where customers can turn a cup of “small-batch” coffee into an experience — Starbucks sells experiences as much as coffee — of both conspicuous consumption and conspicuous connoisseurship. Bloomberg reports that for a pittance, a.k.a. $10, skinflints will be able to buy a cold-brew coffee, which presumably is an excellent thing, infused with nitrogen gas, which sounds like an acquired taste.

Well, OK, even though my taste runs more to strong although not burned Java. In fact, I dislike  Starbucks, and find the average convenience store coffee better, although I admit that gets you negative style points from the cool kids.

My favorite(s) come from the Black Rifle Coffee Company, a fairly new outfit, started by veterans. I like the coffee, and I like the badassery, which feels so very American, for a change. Like this from their site:

Patriotism, honor and sacrifice; three words that hipsters, (most) millennials and as of recently…an NFL quarterback know nothing about. Thousands have served our country through 2 wars and have seen first-hand what sacrifice means. Personally, I have lost many of my best friends and teammates to both wars. Whether they agreed on the politics behind being there, when our country asked, they called! So sitting on my ass while our nations anthem is played is something I cannot fathom. I can say with a substantial amount of certainty that with any other veteran, this is also the case. With all that said, the United States of America would not be who we are without the right to free speech, expression, religion and most importantly…the right to bear arms.

Worth my money, and yours, to have people around that understand that.

Back to George:

Four decades ago, the economist Fred Hirsch distinguished between the material economy and the positional economy. Once a society has satisfied basic material needs (food, shelter, clothing), it turns yesterday’s luxuries (cars, air conditioning, college educations) into necessities. Because these are mass-market commodities, such material prosperity is a leveling, egalitarian force. Positional competition is emphatically not.

In the competition for an “elite” education or an “exclusive” vacation spot, one person’s success is necessarily a loss for many other persons because positional goods cannot be expanded indefinitely. Of course, Starbucks Roasteries could be expanded by the thousands, but this would make the “experience” banal and drain the stores of their positional power.

via Starbucks shines in our ecosystem of snobbery – The Washington Post

Yep, he’s right. In fact, my liking for BRCC is kind of like that as well. It’s damned good coffee, in my opinion, but a good part of the appeal is in the values they promote. And in a sense, we all do this. Why do we drive a Caddy instead of a Chevy, or a Ram pickup instead of a Prius, or any of those myriad choices we make. It has a lot to do with how we see ourselves, and how we want others to, as well. Nothing new under the sun, it’s always been that way, and it always will. That’s why I wear Lucchese boots and a Stetson hat these days, instead of Chuck Taylor All Stars and a stray baseball cap.

You know, I always laugh at people buying bottled water, but it’s the same thing, Richard Hammond explains it pretty well, amongst other interesting things to do with water.

Carrier Blinks, Jobs Stay, Trump Wins |

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik, file)

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik, file)

Well, well, well, look at that, Carrier with all the noise about domestic manufacturing jobs decided it would be a good idea to stay in Indianapolis. Undoubtedly they are correct. From the NY Times

From the earliest days of his campaign, Donald J. Trump made keeping manufacturing jobs in the United States his signature economic issue, and the decision by Carrier, the big air-conditioner company, to move over 2,000 of them from Indiana to Mexico was a tailor-made talking point for him on the stump.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump and Mike Pence, Indiana’s governor and the vice president-elect, plan to appear at Carrier’s Indianapolis factory to announce a deal with the company to keep roughly 1,000 jobs in the state, according to officials with the transition team as well as Carrier.

Mr. Trump will be hard-pressed to alter the economic forces that have hammered the Rust Belt for decades, but forcing Carrier and its parent company, United Technologies, to reverse course is a powerful tactical strike that will hearten his followers even before he takes office.

“I’m ready for him to come,” said Robin Maynard, a 24-year veteran of Carrier who builds high-efficiency furnaces and earns almost $24 an hour as a team leader. “Now I can put my daughter through college without having to look for another job.”

It also signals that Mr. Trump is a different kind of Republican, willing to take on Big Business, at least in individual cases.

And just as only a confirmed anti-Communist like Richard Nixon could go to China, so only a businessman like Mr. Trump could take on corporate America without being called a Bernie Sanders-style socialist. If Barack Obama had tried the same maneuver, he’d probably have drawn criticism for intervening in the free market.

via Carrier Blinks, Jobs Stay, Trump Wins |

The Times goes on with comments from Robert Reich and such. I don’t disagree, part of the reason it worked this time for Trump/Pence is that pence is Indiana’s Governor, and Trump speaks business. I suspect part of it is also that Carrier is owned by United Technologies, one of the big defense contractors, who undoubtedly don’t want any troubles with the administration, if they can help it.

All that said, it’s good news, and it goes to the point that relocating to Mexico is a rather marginal cost-savings, usually. I can remember when we had a Monroe shock absorber plant here, it was the old Rancho suspension plant, built in the 50s or 60s, a few years ago it moved to Mexico, now it’s off in Asia somewhere. Apparently, the Mexicans didn’t work cheap enough either. By the way, they couldn’t get the plant sold, so a few weeks ago they bulldozed it, it ain’t coming back. The tax breaks weren’t good enough, likely.

He won’t win them all, but it’s a good start: when you can save 1000 jobs in December before you are even inaugurated. That’s a thousand jobs that Obama couldn’t have saved.

%d bloggers like this: