Sunday, January 29, 2012

What a dangerous and stupid idea

Though it may not be the worst thing Mr. Kucinich has ever proposed, it is certainly up there. The link above is to a press announcement on Mr. Kucinich's website introducing a proposed U.S. constitutional amendment to ban all private financing in federal elections. From the article:

"H.J. Res.100 would require that all federal campaigns –all campaigns for President, Vice-President, Senator and Representative – be financed exclusively with public funds and prohibit any expenditures from any other source, including the candidate. H. J. Res. 100 would also prohibit any expenditures in support of, or in opposition to, any federal candidate, so that interest groups will not be able to influence elections. It will maintain the First Amendment “freedom of the press” and preserve the traditional role that the media have played in our electoral process."

From what I can gather, this amendment is saying that any and all money from any private citizen would not be allowed in any federal campaign. But it does allow for the freedom of the press. Thank God for that bone Mr. Kucinich. Does this mean that Jon Stewert, or Richard Colbert, or Bill O'Reilly, would be allowed to stump for a candidate on their shows, but that I would be unable to take out an ad, or publish a flyer, supporting my candidate of choice? It sure sounds like it. So if you have a TV show, or a newspaper editorial page, you can advertise for a candidate as much as you want, but if you are a regular person who wants to spend $200 for an ad in your local paper that would be illegal.

Also, if all potential federal politicians are to be federally funded, who decides who gets to run? After all, if everyone who wants to run gets money, what is going to stop me from signing up, making a few high end campaign stops (vacation stops) in Maine and New Hampshire, blowing through my money and then being out of the race? Is every citizen going to be eligible? Or do we have to meet some arbitrary criteria set up by some candidate czar who decides who can run for president? "Well you look pretty presidential, here is $30 million. You're a little portly though, I think we are going to pass.". Is that how it is going to work? If the government refuses to invest millions of dollars in me to run for president I am just shit out of luck? How can we possibly live in a free country when someone who wants to spend their own money on a federal election is made into a criminal? We can not leave the decision of whether to run for office or not up to some arbitrary government board/rules. This is insane!!! And the alternative that everyone who wants to run gets to is a road fraught with waste, taxpayer money down the toilet.

This is the problem with simple minded people like Mr. Kucinich. He doesn't think his ideas through to their logical conclusions. He wants to solve (what he sees as) problems with the creativity of a 3rd grader "Hey, that's not fair, lets make it illegal!!". He doesn't think about all of the regular people who want to spend money to put out yard signs, or create bumper stickers for their cars, or wear t-shirts in support of or against various candidates. Or the people who aren't a republican or a democrat and want to use their own money to run for Senator, or Rep, or President. Or maybe he does and he just doesn't care. After all , he is well ingrained in the current democratic party. I am sure he will always get his candidacy signed off on.

Regardless of how you feel about Dennis Kucinich, we all need to stand up against this obvious infringement on free speech and personal freedom. After all, who is going to watch the watchmen?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Individuals do matter

In the above article from Mr. Krugman in the NY Times, Mr. Krugman takes offense at Mitch Daniel's characterization of Steve Jobs as a jobs creator in his GOP rebuttal to the State of the Union address.

His main point seems to be this quote:

"The point is that successful companies — or, at any rate, companies that make a large contribution to a nation’s economy — don’t exist in isolation. Prosperity depends on the synergy between companies, on the cluster, not the individual entrepreneur. "

The idea of agglomeration economies is indeed old-hat in the world of economics. It makes intuitive sense that similar companies located in the same area can share suppliers, a skilled labor force, pertinent natural resources, etc. and that these advantages along with spillover effects and collaboration can lead to more innovation and increased output.

But when Mr. Krugman says that it is not the individual entrepreneur who matters, but the cluster, he begs the question, how/why did this cluster form? Was it written in the heavens that Detroit would be the Motor City? That Silicon Valley would be the high tech capital of the world? That LA would be the center of the film industry? While natural resources play an obvious part in the formation of many agglomeration economies (see Texas, oil) , the fact that Detroit became the motor city instead of say Chicago does not seem to be a forgone conclusion. It seems to me that individuals matter, and Henry Ford's birth near Detroit was vital in Detroit becoming the center of the American auto industry.

I am sure that there are other examples of this as well, places that became known for an industry due to the ingenuity and creativity of a few intelligent and hardworking entrepreneurs, who started their work long before the agglomeration economies that later built up around these industries were in place.

It is interesting to read articles by Mr. Krugman, who for whatever reason seems to loathe the individual. His work often talks of society, collectivism, and the common good, putting these ideas above individual freedom, entrepreneurship, and personal liberty. His apparent belief in the "it takes a village to raise an industry" idea is just another example.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Maybe, but take a closer look..... often puts self submitted bios on their website exemplifying any number of issues. The one above is meant to show examples of people who are worse off than their parents. I have heard this gripe come up a lot lately, and while I think there are some points to be made affirming this belief, it is mostly wrong.

I do believe that older generations have set up the government to transfer wealth from the young to the old, mainly through Medicare and Social Security. I have read that this was done under the belief that future generations would be better off than the current generation, and so these transfers from young to old were like transfers from rich to poor. I think that some young people, especially the ones in the above CNN article, would disagree.

But that being said, in many ways we are all much better off than our parents. People between the ages of 18 and 30 grew up with the internet, cell phones, flat screen tv's, cars that get 40 miles to the gallon, ipads and ipods. All of these things and countless others have increased our standard of living. This should be obvious simply by looking at the amount of people that have these products. If they weren't good, if they did not benefit us, why do we all purchase them? And that is the point. Some of the people in the CNN article complain that there parents had houses at their age and were living the "American Dream". But houses in the 1950's often involved 2 kids to a bedroom. Now teenagers complain if they do not have their own bathroom. Houses were smaller, and people did not clamor for gourmet kitchens and stainless steel appliances in their first house like many do today. This may be anecdotal, but I do not know of one friend who has purchased a house without immediately remodeling the kitchen, bathroom, or both. Did our parents do that? I know mine did not.

Different generations make tradeoffs, and recent generations seem to value education, consumer goods, especially electronics, and mobility over a house with a white picket fence, 2 kids, and a 9 - 5 job with the same company for 40 years. And that is ok. Apartment living and self employment are no less the American dream than the factory job and the white picket fence of the 1950's. Things may be different now than they were in the 1950's and 1960's, but I find it hard to believe that any 28 year old who has found time to sit outside a starbucks sipping a cafe latte with their friends while surfing the web on their ipad would argue that their parents had it better. If so, maybe their parents thought that the farmers on Little House on the Prairie had it better than them too.