Notes from the Publisher

December 20, 2008

Politics / The Economic Crisis and Money Shortages

JB

One thing that I learned from Thomas Sowell's book, Basic Economics, is that when you establish price contols, it invariably leads to shortages and rationing.  Rent control always led to a shortage of affordable housing, especially for the poor.  The reason is that price affects our usage of products.  If the cost of something goes down, we consume more of it, even if we didn't need to.  Thus, as the supply of something goes down, the price goes up, which discourages consumption of that product.  Thus, the process is self-limiting.  If the price of housing is very high, societies will tend to have more people in one house.  If the price of housing is very low, the same society will more likely have small families or even single individuals in a house.  Thus, if the price is kept artificially low, then the demand can easily exceed the supply.  If housing was free, every college student would want their own house.  If housing costs $1000/month, they will likely live with their parents.  Thus, price controls create shortages and rationing.

The current bailout is very much along these same lines.  Money is a product just like everything else.  Money also has a cost - normally called interest.  What the government is doing to "bail out" the economy is providing money below its normal cost.  The auto industry loans, the money to the banks, etc.  They are providing money below its normal cost.  I have a feeling that, rather than making the credit crunch smaller, this is going to make the credit crunch worse.  The reason is that the access to money is being given at a lower-than-normal rate.  Therefore, lots of people are going to be asking for the money even if they don't need it.  Instead of forcing companies to limit their consumption, they are keeping the price of money artificially low, which will prevent companies from engaging in good fiscal policy.  This is going to lead to an even greater money shortage, which will lead to either (1) unmanaged shortages, (2) rationing, or (3) printing more money.  All three of these are problematic.

#1 is obviously bad.
#2 is totalitarianism.  When the government controls the money, they control everything.
#3 will lead to massive inflation.  This is what many people don't understand - if you increase the money supply enough to fulfill the promises being made, that will make the money in your bank account and your salary worth about half what it is. 

This will hurt not only those businesses which had problems, but all of the ones which did not.  It's bad enough that the financial industry is having problems, if we print the money we need to fulfill our promises of low-cost credit, it will cause all of the industries that aren't having problems to suddenly start having problems.  And, because we are providing them money at below-market prices, the failing companies will have no incentive to reform their ways.

If there is anything which will cause the economy to plunge into a deep depression, it is the bailout.

November 26, 2008

General / Lectures from the Academy

JB

Kelly Kilpatrick just recently posted a list of 100 great Ivy League lectures on a variety of subjects.  I haven't started watching them yet, but thought some of you might be interested.

HT to Denyse O'Leary

November 07, 2008

Politics / For those of you conservatives sick of the GOP

JB

I have officially had it with the GOP.  I'm done.  I'm renouncing my membership to the Republican party.  The reasons go back and forth between the bailout package, the endless government programs, and the fact that the GOP presidential candidate could not articulate the conservative message.  But the straw that broke the camel's back was the trashing of Sarah Palin.  Palin has been one of the best things to happen to the Republican party, and to see the way that the Republican Punditocracy reacted to her has me realing, especially combined with this new series of attacks by McCain aides.  It's just sickening.  It sends a strong signal - the Republican Party is no longer a conservative party.  If you want conservatism, you have to go somewhere else.

I'm going to throw my hat in with the Constitution Party.  Are you ready to do the same?  Here's where you sign up.  For 2012, I want debates with more than just the Democrats and the Republicans.

For politics from a Constitution Party perspective, see the Backwater Report.

By the way, for those of you who are also concerned about the treatment of Sarah Palin, here are some ways you can show her support.

November 02, 2008

General / The Coming Homeschool Revolution

JB

I am convinced that within the next five years we are going to see a mass exodus of children from the public school system into homeschooling.  Everywhere my wife and I go, when we meet new people, inevitably the question comes up - where do your kids go to school?  When we say "we are homeschooling," then, in every single case this year, the people talking to us get really excited and start asking a bunch of questions.  Inevitably, it is because one of their kids is having trouble in school and not getting the attention they need (or too much negative attention), and they are seriously considering homeschooling.

What is amazing about this is that, just 10 years ago, homeschooling was almost unheard of. It was one of those things practiced by weird parents with weird kids.  But now, almost everyone we talk to desperately wants to homeschool one or more of their children, but they often don't feel adequate and/or don't know how to get started.  As more and more families start to do this, the difficulties involved will be minimized, and the downsides will be eliminated. 

It is entirely possible that the liberal social agenda will be implemented in public schools over the next ten years.  It is equally possible that by the time they are done there won't be anyone left in the public schools to listen.

As a company, we are currently looking at the ways in which we can assist the homeschool community, so be watching.  We'll probably be announcing something in the coming months.

For those of you wanting to homeschool, don't be afraid!  It will be worth your time and effort.

Feel free to comment on this article if you need advice on how to start homeschooling.  My wife and I currently homeschool a 1st grader, but we are well-connected with the local homeschooling community.  I'm also interested for feedback on what you think are the needs of the homeschool community which can be addressed with technology, curriculum/content, and/or organization/planning.

October 21, 2008

Politics / I Find It Interesting

JB

I find it interesting that often times prosperity actually breeds anti-prosperous attitudes.

For instance, when you get to be prosperous, you often help people so that they don't have the same obstacles you faced.  The problem is that when you do that, the person never understands the attitudes required for success in adversity.  They take the fruit of prosperity, which is a gift, and transform it into a right.  Then, any deficiency from this new ideal becomes not just a problem to be dealt with, but a moral problem with those who are supposed to be providing the prosperity.  They have lost sight that prosperity is not a given in the first place, and, in order to be kept, must itself be vigorously defended, sometimes at the expense of some of the gifts of prosperity which they have grown accustomed to.

This is not just true in politics, but also in business.  I think this is one of the reasons which led to the Internet bubble collapse.  The Internet was built off of good business and hard work.  This created a bubble in which a bunch of companies could get by without hard work, live in plush offices, and goof off half of the day.  There's nothing wrong with that.  However, when the economy had issues, rather than cutting all of that, buckling down, and getting back to the basics, they continued the playtime atmosphere until it was too late to turn back.  They had taken their prosperity for granted, and it had itself become a moral right, instead of the fruit of success.

October 07, 2008

Politics / McCain Would Be a Great President if it Weren't for His Policies

JB

One thing that many Republicans were wondering over the last few weeks is this - why hasn't John McCain come out swinging against Obama with regards to Freddie/Fannie?  I think I know why - it is because John McCain always puts country above politics.

Before the bailout bill was passed John McCain suspended his campaign, and worked with anyone and everyone he could to come up with a good bailout bill.  There were almost no attacks during this time on Obama and his role in it from McCain.  In fact, I think the only ones that were made were from the RNC and not from the McCain campaign.  Now that the bailout bill has passed and is signed, McCain has indicated that he is going to start attacking Obama for the situation with Fannie and Freddie.

More than being president, John McCain wants the country to work.  He is willing to sacrifice his presidency to do what he believes is best for the country.  This is the same situation with the troop surge.  John McCain lobbied for it even when it was a politically bad move, because he thought it was right for the country.  John McCain allowed himself to be shot at time and time again with no response while working for the bailout.  Why?  Because getting the country working again was his most important task.

Now that McCain's duty has been fulfilled, he is ready to fight Obama.

That's exactly what we want in a leader.  I am actually in awe of McCain's leadership.  Now if only he hadn't just used his awe-inspiring leadership qualities wasting $700 Billion, I would be a lot happier.

September 29, 2008

Politics / YouTube Summary of Financial Crisis

JB

Several of my friends sent this video to me.  A good summary.

September 28, 2008

Politics / How Race-Baiting is Destroying our Financial Markets

JB

Most people are familiar with the mother-of-all-bailouts being pondered by Congress.  Nearly $1 Trillion dollars in debt being purchased by the government.  However, watching the debates, interviews with the candidates, and the pundits, I was awestruck that few of the members of the mainstream media ever looked into the over-arching causes of the financial meltdown.

Many members of the media criticized McCain because he deregulated the banks.  And, using mainstream media logic, this means that the loans failed because of lack of regulation.

In fact, the opposite was true - the loans failed because the government was over-involved.  Why was the government involved?  Because of the race-baiters.

Let me give you a generalized sequence of events as I understand them:

  1. Race-baiters use severely flawed studies to indicate that minorities were being denied credit because of their race (no one bothers to mention that asians actually get more loans than whites, or that the default rate is the same for all races, indicating that the lender's criteria is actually correct)
  2. Race-baiters pressured congress to "fix" the "problem"
  3. Congress responded by having Freddie and Fannie (you know - the two failed institutions) offer to buy loans to at-risk borrowers that lenders wouldn't otherwise make (which would include the low-income groups that the race-baiters were saying were being treated unfairly); they would then bundle these together and offer them as semi-government-backed bonds
  4. Race-baiters picketed any bank which refused to involve themselves with this scheme
  5. Freddie and Fannie's offer to purchase the idiotic loans meant that banks could make loans that the banks thought were irresponsible and make money off of them anyway, and keep the race-baiters off of their backs.  
  6. Because these loans were instantly profitable for the banks, were available to a lot more people, and required a lot less work for everyone, they flooded the market (in retrospect, I think my first mortgage was a Fannie mortgage).  Because Freddie and Fannie were semi-government-institutions, the market trusted that their lending practices were sound.
  7. Most conservatives sounded the alarm on this multiple times.  This includes the Wall Street Journal, Bush's Economic Advisers (note - Bush is still largely culpable in this - see here), and John McCain.  The democrats would not listen, and especially not the race-baiters.  Some RINOs (Republicans-in-Name-Only) were also oblivious.
  8. The rules became so lax (in order to include illegal immigrants) that they also became easy to do fraudulent loans (illegal immigrants were used as pawns in fraud schemes to purchase housing).
  9. When the housing market slowed down, many people simply walked away from their housing investments - they had no money themselves in the house, so they just stopped paying.  Since the housing market decreased, selling the home wouldn't recoup much of the money for the loan.
  10. Not surprising to anyone, Freddie and Fannie fell over because of both fraud and the failure of loans to people who should not have been borrowing money.  The only surprising factor (to some) was how quickly the rug got pulled out.
  11. As another interesting point-of-fact, "mortgage counseling" has been a mechanism by which many radical left-wing groups have obtained funding, and some versions of the bail-out bill give them even more.

For those of you who want to read more, here are some conservative commentators who have shed light on the problem:

And we'll end with a nice parable from Michelle Malkin.

Our current crisis is simply the natural result of what happens when government tries to do the market's job, especially responding to phony problems from race-baiters.  I fear the result of what congress will do.  As Sowell pointed out, the 1987 Wall Street crash was just as big as the 1929 one.  However, the government didn't do anything about the 1987 crash, and so we got a decade of growth.  The government tried to "fix" the 1929 crash, and we got the Great Depression.

It will be bad for congress to do nothing.  It will be worse if they do something.

September 18, 2008

Politics / White Privilege?

JB

Essayist Tim Wise just wrote a piece on white privilege in the campaign.  Let's look at what he says:

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

This has multiple mischaracterizations.  First of all, I think we all can agree that the fact that we have a culture in which kids are having lots of sex before marriage is an arbiter of social decay.  This includes Bristol.  The question is whether or not the Palin family is unusual in this respect.  The answer is - they are.  Bristol is having, not aborting, the baby, and marrying the father.  This isn't an ideal situation, but it's an ideal response to the situation.  No one - I repeat - NO ONE - is criticizing Obama's mother for having Obama out of wedlock.  They are being treated equally. 

White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll “kick their fuckin' ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

In a crowded city environment, it is always wrong to fire weapons.  In the open country it is not.  This is no different than if inner-city white kids would say the same thing.  It has nothing to do with white or black, but the location where it occurs.  I don't know anything about Levi, perhaps he is an evil person.  But I think this is quite the over-reaction.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

I don't know anything about Sarah's academic qualifications - but her intelligence has certainly been questioned many times.  To imply that it hasn't is simple ignorance.  From what I've seen, I don't like Sarah for being smart (she's not the brightest one on some things) but for fighting corruption.  Let's also look at that last statement - "probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action" - that's exactly the problem with affirmative action!  This is specifically one of the reasons it has been criticized - it leaves the class of people being "affirmed" being continually looked down upon no matter what their achievement is, because no one knows if they really achieved it or not!

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you’re “untested.”

The question is about executive experience.  Palin has more executive experience than the other three players combined.  In America, we have a history of electing governors rather than senators for office.  And, even in her short tenure, she has, from what I've heard, a record for cleaning up politics.  This preference for governors has been near-universal for the last half-century, so this isn't race, it's American politics - we have, with or without the issue of race, always considered governorships to be more prepertory for president than other positions.

White privilege is being able to say that you support the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance because “if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the “under God” part wasn’t added until the 1950s--while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.

I don't disagree that this was a gaffe, but my guess is that most citizens don't know the history of "under God" in the constitution - but that is what most people like about Sarah - she's a citizen-politician, not a politician-politician.  It would be great if she knew more about the history of some of our traditions, but it isn't disqualifying that she doesn't.  And, she doesn't think that reading accused criminals their rights is dangerous.  This is simply a misrepresentation.

White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.

This is idiotic.

White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was “Alaska first,” and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s being disrespectful.

This is actually funny, especially considering that Todd isn't white, he's Indian.  Since when are race-baiting liberals against Indians who want their own land?  Oh, that's right, when they're conservative.  As a state's rights supporter, I'm actually fairly sympathetic with AIP (don't read too much about them - I know only what's in the paragraph above + Wikipedia).  They actually aren't, as a party, for Alaskan independence, but rather that Alaska be presented with all of the choices, which also include becoming a U.S. territory again, or a U.S. commonwealth, as well as remaining a U.S. state. As to the reference to Michelle, if there is any problem with it, I don't think it has to do with race, but rather conservative bias towards democrats.  However, I do know that the day before she was speaking in Toronto (I think) in support of Obama, so it's not likely that she's just staying home to be with her kids like everyone tries to make it out.  It's possible, but not likely.

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you’re being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college--you’re somehow being mean, or even sexist.

No one is making fun of community organizers.  This is simply a misrepresentation.  Obama put out "community organizer" as an instance of executive experience, not of being a good person.  No one was criticizing his goodness, only whether or not it qualifies as executive.

White privilege is being able to convince white women who don’t even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a “second look.”

You don't think this would happen with any woman on the ticket?  Would you also be complaining if this happened with Hillary?

White privilege is being able to fire people who didn’t support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

Hmmm... Palin ran as a reformer who was going to remove corrupt people from power.  Who do you think opposed her?  Maybe corrupt people?  And Obama didn't "merely know" these people, these were the people who launched his career.

White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God’s punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you’re just a good church-going Christian, but if you’re black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you’re an extremist who probably hates America.

This is probably the one legit claim he has, if it is true.  I've seen Palin misquoted many times about what she says about religion, and this is possibly another instance.  But if it's not, it will be the lone valid claim on the list.

White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a “trick question,” while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O’Reilly means you’re dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

I haven't seen or heard about the Bill O'Reilly interview, but I know O'Reilly criticizes everyone.  As for the Bush Doctrine question, I don't disagree that the failure to know the Doctrine is a failing on her part, but I also think that she rightly perceived it as a trick question.  Any agreement with the Bush doctrine would have been viewed as automatic agreement with everything Bush has done.

White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it a “light” burden.

I haven't seen these claims, but I would say that in comparison McCain's burden was greater.  McCain, however, does not say he should be a President because of his POW status, rather he shows how being a POW has shaped his moral development, which is a different issue altogether.  In his convention address he shows how being a POW changed his attitude towards love of country and others, not how it qualified him for president.

And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren’t sure about that whole “change” thing. Ya know, it’s just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain…

What on earth does that have to do with race?  This article isn't about Racism, it's just using Racism as an excuse to do mindless Republican-bashing, and be praised for it.

Some people just can't take the idea that American's simply don't care what the color of Obama's skin is, and we tend to vote conservative.  But that's just too much for the Race-baiters to handle.

September 04, 2008

Funny / Economic Theory for Poetry

JB

I had no idea that you could use economic theory to help you write poetry, but it appears that you can.