November 13, 2011

Tyler Cowen on traditional values

Filed under: Economics, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:54

In his latest New York Times column, Tyler Cowen looks at the relationship of wealth to traditional values of self-discipline and hard work:

The Occupy Wall Street movement has raised important questions about the respect paid to wealth in our society. There is a good deal of unfairness in the American economy, and by deliberately targeting the “top 1 percent,” the demonstrators have opened up a dialogue that is quite useful.

Nonetheless, as someone from a conservative and libertarian background, I find that I am hearing too much talk about riches and not enough about values. It’s worth recalling why so many Americans have respected the wealthy in the first place.

The United States has always had a culture with a high regard for those able to rise from poverty to riches. It has had a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit and has attracted ambitious immigrants, many of whom were drawn here by the possibility of acquiring wealth. Furthermore, the best approach for fighting poverty is often precisely not to make fighting poverty the highest priority. Instead, it’s better to stress achievement and the pursuit of excellence, like a hero from an Ayn Rand novel. These are still at least the ideals of many conservatives and libertarians.

The egalitarian ideals of the left, which were manifest in a wide variety of 20th-century movements, have been wonderful for driving social and civil rights advances, and in these areas liberals have often made much greater contributions than conservatives have. Still, the left-wing vision does not sufficiently appreciate the power — both as reality and useful mythology — of the meritocratic, virtuous production of wealth through business. Rather, academics on the left, like the Columbia University economists Joseph E. Stiglitz and Jeffrey D. Sachs among many others, seem more comfortable focusing on the very real offenses of plutocrats and selfish elites.

Stephen Harper’s government is not small-c conservative

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Government — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:44

The National Post editorial board surveys the federal government’s economic record and discovers it’s really the old Liberal party in disguise:

There is no question the Harper government has been profligate and could easily cut federal spending dramatically without doing further damage to the economy. Since 2006, the Tories have increased nominal federal spending from about $175-billion to just over $250-billion. That’s a shocking rise of almost 43%. Even after accounting for inflation and population growth, plus factoring out the money the Conservatives have spent on anti-recession stimulus (over $75-billion), the real growth in federal spending since 2006 has been nearly 10%.

The size of the federal civil service has increased rapidly, too, as has its composition. The Tories have added 13% to the rolls of the bureaucracy in just five years. Some of this is the result of their expansion of the military, police and border service, but much of it has nothing whatever to do with national security. Health Canada, for instance, has seen a nearly 50% increase in its staff under the Tories, the largest percentage increase of any department.

Mr. Flaherty would not have to be motivated by ideology to pare some of that spending and hiring back. If the Tories simply reversed federal spending to the levels they were at when the worldwide financial crisis hit in the fall of 2008, Ottawa’s budget would be balanced this year. Even if the Tories wanted to hold off on any cuts in transfers to individuals — such as pensions and GST credits — and preserve provincial transfers, they could still find enough cuts to non-essential spending to return to balance in two years.

The report from Greece

Filed under: Economics, Europe, Germany — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:16

Michael Petrou and Stavroula Logothettis survey the Greek debt crisis in a report that Maclean’s cheekily headlines “Acropolis Now”:

“We are finished as a nation,” says Marko Gjini, a 39-year-old unemployed construction worker in Athens. “The country has been sold off. We have no say in anything anymore. Greece is owned by the Germans.”

Like many Greeks these days, Gjini is bitter and despondent because of his country’s financial mess, and the austerity measures that have been imposed in an effort to contain it. His wife, Aleka, a public hospital nurse, has seen her income drop from 1,200 euros a month to 800 euros. Now, facing more taxes and cuts to public expenditures, the family expects to have a net monthly income of less than 500 euros. Marko and Aleka are investing whatever money they can toward English lessons for their twin eight-year-old boys in the hope that they might have a better future somewhere else. “Let the government fall,” says Gjini, “[German Chancellor Angela] Merkel is the boss now anyway.”

[. . .]

For Vaso Gildizi, a Greek freelance writer, events in Cannes were “a national humiliation for the country.” The Greek prime minister was scolded like a schoolboy and sent home. The incident didn’t sit well with many Greeks who were already sour on the bailout deal and the euro itself.

“We’re bankrupt,” says 44-year-old Vasilia Paneli, owner of Bliss, a trendy café a short walk from Syntagma Square and the parliament in Athens. “We know it. The EU knows it. And yet we continue this Greek tragedy. A referendum would at least give us a voice, a chance to speak up for our future.” Paneli was unmoved by French and German threats that a referendum on the bailout deal would have meant a vote on whether to remain in the eurozone. She’d rather Greece leave it. “It’s self-serving,” she says. “I say let’s go back to the drachma.”

[. . .]

William Antholis, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank, likens flirting with a return to the drachma to “threatening suicide to avoid a lynching.” Greece is in for a painful few years whatever happens, he said in an interview with Maclean’s. The austerity measures are going to bite. But leaving the euro, he says, would be disastrous. The costs could include a run on Greek banks, as people sought to withdraw euros before they were changed to drachmas. Some banks would probably collapse. Greece would likely default on its debts, and would be unable to pay pensions and salaries. Some sectors of the economy built on export might benefit from a new, devalued currency, but at the expense of much heavier blows elsewhere.

NFL week 10 predictions

Filed under: Football — Tags: — Nicholas @ 12:09

Well, the early game was a disappointment, as San Diego not only didn’t cover the spread, they lost the game. Hopefully the rest of my picks will return to above average form.

    @San Diego 17 Oakland 24

    @Atlanta vs New Orleans (0.0) Sun 1:00pm
    Pittsburgh vs @Cincinnati (3.0) Sun 1:00pm
    @Cleveland vs St. Louis (2.5) Sun 1:00pm
    @Dallas vs Buffalo (5.5) Sun 1:00pm
    Jacksonville vs @Indianapolis (3.0) Sun 1:00pm
    @Kansas City vs Denver (3.0) Sun 1:00pm
    @Miami vs Washington (3.5) Sun 1:00pm
    @Philadelphia vs Arizona (0) Sun 1:00pm
    Houston vs @Tampa Bay (3.0) Sun 1:00pm
    @Carolina vs Tennessee (3.0) Sun 1:00pm
    Baltimore vs @Seattle (6.5) Sun 4:05pm
    @Chicago vs Detroit (2.5) Sun 4:15pm
    @San Francisco vs New York (NYG) (3.5) Sun 4:15pm
    @New York (NYJ) vs New England (1.5) Sun 8:20pm
    @Green Bay vs Minnesota (13.5) Mon 8:30pm

Last week: 6-8
Season to date 80-51

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