November 29, 2011

Comparing the Tea Party and Occupy movements

Filed under: Economics, Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 16:04

H/T to Jon, my former virtual landlord, for the link.

Stephen Gordon: Governments should favour consumers over producers

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Government — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:40

In his latest post at the Globe & Mail‘s Economy Lab, Stephen Gordon points out that governments get the entire prosperity thing wrong:

The next time a political party vows to defend the interests of the producers in a certain industry, you should ask why it isn’t choosing to defend the interests of consumers instead. Because the contribution of an industry to the public good is not its ability to provide large incomes to those who work there; it is its ability to produce things that people want to buy.

Business groups may give lip-service to the benefits of competitive markets, but their heart isn’t in it; they know that their real interests are best served by providing reduced output at high prices. And that’s exactly what we get whenever governments set policy in order to benefit producers: see, for example, our dairy industry.

The motives of producers who call for special treatment in the name of consumer protection are equally suspect. Producers are not in business for their health, and they definitely are not in it for your health. So when producers call for regulations in the name of protecting consumers, you can generally assume that the real and intended effect is to exclude potential competitors: see, for example, our dairy industry.

Megan McArdle: Barney Frank will be missed

Filed under: Economics, Government, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:29

Yeah, read that title again. She’s not kidding at all:

Guess which Democrat now becomes the ranking member on the financial services committee? That’s right, none other than our favorite batty aunt, Maxine Waters. The woman who, during a major hearing with the cameras on her, asked the heads of Goldman Sachs and State Street bizarre questions about how they set the limits on their consumer credit cards*. She asked Ken Lewis, the head of Bank of America, a question about “offshore loss mitigation caps” (a term of which I — and also, clearly, Ken Lewis — had never heard) that was so bizarre — and garbled — that he was flummoxed into silence; he sat there squirming like a third grader being picked on by the teacher.

When he finally got the courage to ask what she meant, it became clear that Maxine Waters had no idea what she meant; I assume she’d either taken hasty and incomplete notes when her staffers briefed her about what to ask, or had flubbed reading the question, and couldn’t bring herself to admit on C-SPAN that she hadn’t really bothered preparing for the hearing to the extent, of, say, familiarizing herself with the institutions whose heads she was grilling, or actually bothering to understand the questions she was going to ask. It was kind of hilarious, until you realized that this was her job, and that she voted on critical financial regulatory questions.

Nor is this an isolated pattern; every time I see Maxine Waters at a hearing I know that the questions are going to be bizarre, and that Congresswoman Waters will make them even stranger with garbled readings and off-topic follow-ups.

* If I actually have to tell you this, these financial institutions do not really deal with consumers, much less their credit cards. I’m not picking on you — you have an excuse. You’re not a member of the financial services committee.

European democracy is now “the preserve of right-wing populism”

Filed under: Europe, Government — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:09

Frank Furedi on the urge to omit democracy from European government:

Over the past month, it has become clear that the European Union doesn’t simply suffer from a democratic deficit; rather, it has decided that in the current climate of crisis and uncertainty, the institutions of government must be insulated and protected from public pressure. In Brussels, and among an influential coterie of European opinion-makers, the idea that ordinary people have the capacity to self-govern is dismissed as at best a naive prejudice, and at worst a marker for right-wing populism.

As we shall see, this desire to renounce the politics of representation is by no means confined to EU technocrats. To no one’s surprise, many businesspeople and bankers also prefer the new unelected governments of Greece and Italy to regimes that are accountable to their electorates. And such elitist disdain for nations’ democratic representative institutions is also shared by sections of the left and the intelligentsia, too. So in his contribution on the crisis of democracy, Jürgen Habermas, the leading leftist German philosopher, writes off national electorates as ‘the preserve of right-wing populism’ and condemns them as ‘the caricature of national macrosubjects shutting themselves off from each other’.

Indeed, it isn’t the old-fashioned conservative detractors of the multitude who are at the forefront of the current cultural turn against democratic will-formation — no, it is liberal advocates of expert-driven technocratic rule who are now the most explicit denouncers of democracy. The current political attack on the principles of representative democracy is founded on three propositions. First it is claimed that the people cannot be trusted to support policies that are necessary for the preservation and improvement of society. Secondly, it is suggested that there is an important trade-off to be made between democracy and efficiency, and that in a time of crisis the latter must prevail over the former. And finally, anti-democratic ideologues believe that governments, especially democratic governments, have lost the capacity to deal with the key problems facing societies in today’s globalised world.

NFL week 12 results

Filed under: Football — Tags: — Nicholas @ 08:26

Ugh. After a great start on Thursday, Sunday was grim (against the spread, anyway). I’m dropping like a stone in the AoSHQ pool, down to 30th spot after this weekend.

Thursday’s games: 3-0 (2-1 against the spread)

    Green Bay 27 @Detroit 15
    @Dallas 20 Miami 19
    @Baltimore 16 San Francisco 6

Sunday’s games:

    @Atlanta 24 Minnesota 14
    @Cincinnati 23 Cleveland 20
    @Tennessee 23Tampa Bay 17
    Carolina 27 @Indianapolis 19
    @St. Louis 20 Arizona 23
    @New York (NYJ) 28 Buffalo 24
    Houston 20 @Jacksonville 13
    @Oakland 25 Chicago 20
    @Seattle 17 Washington 23
    @Philadelphia 20 New England 38
    @San Diego 13 Denver 16
    Pittsburgh 13 @Kansas City 9
    @New Orleans 49 New York (NYG) 24

Sunday’s games: 7-6 (3-10 against the spread)
Season to date 106-70

Oh, the jarmanity!

Filed under: Britain, Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:08

The Reg reports a terrible traffic accident in Yorkshire:

A flood of yeast extract has blocked the M1 motorway in South Yorkshire after a truck containing the Marmite ingredient crashed and spilled its load.

The road is still closed this morning, according to the latest traffic information, as cleanup workers scoop 23.2 tonnes of the gloopy brown stuff off the road surface.

[. . .]

The dumped yeast extract was described as “waste” by the BBC, so is highly unlikely to now end up in Marmite jars.

Left uncleaned, the vitamin-rich syrup, packed with denatured yeast cells, could cause a minor biohazard as it is highly nutritious to bacteria cultures.

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