Government Paternalism - An Inverted Analogy

Cries of government paternalism are common to the point of cliché.  As well founded as I think these outpourings are - I have referred to the issue as helicopter government - I think the analogy of the government as parents is not as appropriate as the analogy of government as children.  Consider the following similarities:

  • With rare exception they are incapable of generating revenue beyond a regular allowance or a hand-out.  Thus they are dependent on their parents or their taxpayers respectively.  
  • They have very short memories, attention spans and time horizons.  They flit from crisis to crisis without resolution, they make promises they have no intention of keeping, and any plan beyond four years might as well be ignored. 
  • They are incapable of grasping the appropriate price of even the most common household items.  We've all heard children quote ridiculous prices for everyday items, and similarly, few have been able to escape tales of government excess in the purchase of common tools
  • They are prone to throwing tantrums, getting in squabbles and exaggerating small problems in order to get the attention of their parents/voters/breadwinners.  Consider the relatively low risks of such hyper-inflated issues as gun violence, bullying, global warming, global cooling, and genetically modified foods.    
Now don't be afraid to correct your friends and family when they refer to our paternalistic leaders in government.  Feel free to discuss the childlike nature of our state and federal dependents within the context of everyday conversation.  Your coworkers will love you for it*.

*Results not typical.  

The Democratization of Information?

I have been hearing quite a bit recently about the "democratization" of information, knowledge, art, entertainment, etc.  With the expansion of the world wide web and other technological wonders, we find ourselves with more opportunity to learn the skills that we choose, to watch the movies that appeal to our taste, and to read the  books, magazines and blogs that focus on our hobbies and interests.  Most of this is even available on-demand, bringing what used to be at least a car ride away instantly to our fingertips.  What makes this even better is that much of this content is available at no additional cost beyond that paid for the medium by which it is consumed. 

For example, the entertainment I consume during my daily commute has been transformed from the relatively minimal content available over the radio to countless hours of absolutely free podcasts tailored to my individual interests of comedy, economics, politics and technology.  I rarely watch news on television, but I have the opportunity to pick from several 24-hour news stations.  On the web, my news sources are endless.  When I was a child we could tune in, via our antenna, to the evening news on CBS or NBC.  We subscribed to the morning newspaper and the evening newspaper, published in the nearest major town, and the two county papers published every Wednesday.  I was born in 1985. 

Is it appropriate to refer to this great leap forward as a "democratization"?

On Assault Weapon Bans

Our humble servants in Washington are unwilling to let the latest shooting crisis go to waste.  They are hell-bent on banning "assault weapons", a term I have yet to see defined objectively.  I would never advocate such a ban, but I would expect its proponents to at least provide the following evidence:
  • That gun violence in the nation is increasing
  • That gun violence in schools is increasing
  • That gun violence among children is increasing
  • That the use of "assault weapons" in mass killings is on the rise
  • That the use of "assault weapons" increases the number of people killed in sprees controlled for other variables

Why do so many American heroes begin with "J"?

Have you ever noticed how many male American movie heroes have names beginning with the letter "J"?
  • Jack Bauer
  • Jack Ryan
  • Jack Reacher
  • Jack Harper (Tom Cruise's character in the trailer that got this post started)
  • Jack Slater
  • John McClane
  • John Kruger
  • John Kimble
  • John Matrix
  • John Connor
  • John Rambo
  • John Spartan
  • Judge Joseph Dredd (does that count as two?)
  • James Bond (English character, American movies)
I'm sure the list could go on.

Is there some sort of rule I am not aware of?  To me this seems to imply that not every Tom, Dick and Harry can save the day - it's up to John, Jack, Joe and James.  

The Simpsons Reference Austrian Economics

The Austrian School of Economics was referenced in last night's episode of The Simpsons.  Unfortunately, it seems as if the writers have taken a jab at the Austrian perspective, but it is nice to see a reference in popular culture.  Progress indeed. 

Mr. Burns: Notice how the Keynesians climb trees while the Austrian School economists hide under rocks. 

What if the Federal Government Ended?

What if the federal government of the united States shut down and came to an end?  I'm not advocating or talking about a violent overthrow by any entity foreign or domestic.  This shouldn't even be interpreted as a protest, just a hypothetical.  What if the leaders just said, "We're tired of everyone begging goodies from us on one hand and their unwillingness to pay with the other.  We've come to the 'Fiscal Cliff' and have reached no final, lasting resolution.  Forget it, we're packing up, going home and getting jobs.  This is isn't a temporary shut down while we point fingers across the isle like you've seen before.  Mom and Dad aren't fighting; we're shrugging and splitting up."

Would their be any jobs?  Would we be safe?  Could we trust our doctors, our food supply, our clean air and water, our banks and our employers?  What about the states; are they up to the challenge of managing our safety and security?

Stossel: Freedom 2.0

I have lately been a little bit bored with Stossel, not because I don't think his topics are interesting and important, but because I have just heard it all before.  I am hearing the sermon from choir.

But his latest episode, Freedom 2.0, was fantastic.  He covered some of my favorite topics in considerable detail including:
  • Government Transparency
  • New Media (Including Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia). 
  • Government-free regulation of important markets
  • Artificial Intelligence and its potential effects on our lives and the economy of the future
  • Bitcoin, the government-free currency of the future (hopefully).
I feel that I actually learned something new, and I highly recommend you check it out.  

In the Long Run We're All Ill-defined

John Maynard Keynes - In the long run, we're all dead
Admittedly I'm no expert in details of modern macroeconomic theory, but one thing that has bothered me since the beginning of that course in college is the concept of the long and the short run.  They seem so varyingly and broadly defined to me as to be relatively useless.  To me this is exemplified in the oft-quoted evasion by the famous John Maynard Keynes, "In the long run, we are all dead."

The one important point I do recall about the subject is the admonition that correlation X and law Y apply only in the short run.  As well as I recall, this stipulation applied to every quantitative concept that we learned.

If one were to take the pragmatic position for central planning based on macroeconomic models, wouldn't one need to answer to a high degree of certainty this glaring issue?  Isn't the long-term the period we should be interested in for our future and that of our posterity?  Do we know the effects of today's policies on prosperity 5, 10 or 15 years down the line?  Is it mere coincidence that politicians, who are in office for a relatively short period in comparison to the length of a human life, seem serially uninterested in the long-term effects of their "scientifically" guided, short-term machinations?  If pharmaceutical companies relied only on science investigating the immediate effects and side effects of their drugs, would we not cry foul?  Would we not accuse them of confirmation bias?

It is fine by me if someone wishes to invest their wealth based on macroeconomic models.  It may be quite beneficial for them, and I wish them the best.   But, I will not consent to having mine taken to support such lofty and ill-defined goals.  Unfortunately, as a lowly citizen of these states I have no choice in the matter.  
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