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No cease fire with Hamas

by Greg Krehbiel on 25 July 2014

I agree with this article.

Israel must be permitted to crush Hamas

--  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-07-25  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Partisanship is on the increase as the left goes further and further to the left

by Greg Krehbiel on 25 July 2014

There’s a lot of talk about how the Republican Party has become more extreme — e.g., that not even Ronald Reagan would pass muster with modern Republicans.

That’s probably true, but the same has been happening to the Democratic Party. We just don’t hear as much about it.

See Blue Crush: How the left took over the Democratic Party.

Democratic activists and elected officials have only become more liberal over the last two decades.

The reality is that we’ve become more polarized. The right is righter and the left is lefter.

I think this is the inevitable result of government getting too big and trying to do too much. If all you’re doing is keeping the roads clear of bandits and the seas free of pirates, there isn’t much to argue about. But when somebody wants to “fundamentally transform America,” there’s lots and lots to argue about.

If you want less partisanship and less bickering then you want a smaller government that does less.

--  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-07-25  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Downton Abbey: Rose MacClare, Jack Ross, racism, classism and “good matches”

by Greg Krehbiel on 24 July 2014

In Downton Anney, Rose MacClare is the underage daughter of Scottish parents who are part of the aristocracy. (I didn’t keep track of titles. They’re something-or-others.)

Rose (spelled t-r-o-u-b-l-e) secretly spends her time with Jack Ross, a nightclub singer who is completely not of her social standing — who also happens to be black. He ends up proposing to her and she accepts him.

Of course this would never do with the upper class, and we’re mostly led to believe that the problem is a matter of race, although that’s not all of it. He’s not part of the aristocracy, so the match is bad for two reasons — class and race.

The viewer is expected to gasp at how horrible and unfair all of that is, and is supposed to think how nice it is that we all live in such an advanced, forward-thinking, liberal society where we don’t worry about things like that.

Sure we don’t. In our advanced, modern times, Hollywood starlets marry plumbers left and right.

The truth is that we haven’t eliminated class, we’ve just redefined it. The modern aristocracy doesn’t have fancy “coming out” parties with the Prince of Wales, but they have the red carpet at the Emmy’s, the roar of the crowd at the ballpark and the adulation of the voters at the nominating conventions. Even though we don’t have an aristocracy, the fact remains that people pair off along class-conscious lines.

We’re supposed to look at the pressure on Rose not to marry Jack and think, “how awful to judge someone by the color of his skin.” And of course that is awful. But it’s also not the whole story.

There’s lots of tension in Downton Abbey over class. There’s Tom, the chauffeur, who caused scandal by marrying Lady Sybil, and there’s Edith, who gets tangled up with a newspaper editor. All very inappropriate.

The whole concept of an aristocracy is foreign to us, and since it’s foreign and different it’s easy to caricature it as evil. But leaving that aside (I’m not going to defend the aristocracy!), sometimes these things are presented in such a simplistic way that the resulting message comes across as something like “nothing should stand in the way of true love.”

And that brings up to the point of this post. Lots of things should stand in the way of true love.

Not skin color, of course, but there are many more things to consider in choosing a mate than the pitter patter of your heart. Class, culture, education, age, religion, general philosophy on life …. All these things matter far more than a surge of teenage hormones will admit. A “true love conquers all” attitude is almost certainly bound to disappoint in the end.

Life is a matter of going from one conflict to the next disappointment, with a few moments of joy tossed in from time to time. If the husband and wife have completely different attitudes towards money, or how to raise the kids (or even whether to have them), or any number of other things, there’s going to be a far worse ratio of conflict and disappointment to joy.

Two people with similar backgrounds have a better chance at fewer conflicts. It’s not a guarantee, of course. There are no guarantees. But a man raised in Massachusetts who marries a woman raised in Saudi Arabia is likely to have a rough ride. Little differences that seem insignificant when you’re in the throes of passion can become Big Things over time.

Which is why passion should follow sensible thinking about a mate. IOW, have reasonable standards and expectations about whom to marry before you find your heart getting all silly on you.

Extremes need to be avoided — the extreme that forbids marriage outside too narrow a category, and the extreme that ignores the strong likelihood that different backgrounds will end up causing trouble.

-- 13 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-07-24  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Why not just shoot the poor guy?

by Greg Krehbiel on 24 July 2014

Arizona Execution Of Inmate Takes Nearly 2 Hours

Put a bullet in his head, or chop it off, or hang him. If we’re going to be executing people we need to quit playing around. We can’t be torturing people to death.

--  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-07-24  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Feminism described briefly

by Greg Krehbiel on 24 July 2014


Yes, I know this sort of thing really belongs on Facebook, but I try not to post things on Facebook that will start a quarrel.

-- 1 comment  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-07-24  ::  Greg Krehbiel

“Ahab served Baal a little …”

by Greg Krehbiel on 23 July 2014

This story reminds me of Jehu and the prophets of Baal. (2 Kings 10: 18ff.)

Jihadi cleric calls for Muslim fighters to join the fighting in Gaza

Yes, by all means bring all the Muslim fighters into one place. Just make it a safe distance from non-combatants and give the IDF the exact location.

--  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-07-23  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Conservatives vote against their self interest?

by Greg Krehbiel on 22 July 2014

Those stupid conservatives. They always vote against their self interest.

At least that’s what you hear all the time from the left. Here is an article that tries to make the point. Why Do Conservatives Vote Against Their Own Interests?

The problem may be that liberals define self interest differently than conservatives. Liberals seem to want to define it entirely in terms of economic self interest, but conservatives may have other interests in mind. For example, consider this article about Obama’s drop in popularity.

What’s wrong with the question [why are Obama's numbers dropping even while the economy is improving] is an assumption embedded within it, that what voters seek most from government and political officeholders is economic growth. I think there’s something they value even more: the maintenance of order.

Perhaps conservatives don’t want an extra percentage point of economic growth if it means more chaos — socially, or on the world stage. Maybe (could it be?) conservatives have other priorities than liberals.

-- 6 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-07-22  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Applying Haidt’s logic to the news

by Greg Krehbiel on 22 July 2014

A court overturns a key part of Obamacare.

According to the decision, the law only allows subsidies for people who purchase insurance from a state-created exchange — not from the national exchange. I predict the left will respond with frustration.

Why are you so concerned about the letter of the law? You’re being so particular! Giving these people subsidies is the right thing to do and you’re valuing legalisms more than people!

The left values fairness and compassion, but doesn’t care too much about authority. Questions like “does Congress have the authority to pass such a law?” or “are these subsidies allowed by the law?” don’t resonate with them. All they care about is whether the law or the subsidies are fair and compassionate.

Conservatives also value fairness and compassion, but they value the rule of law. When these things are in conflict, conservatives will try to find a way to reconcile all their competing values. Liberals interpret this as callousness.

How can you hurt these people just to follow the nit-picky meaning of some law?

Since the whole concept of authority doesn’t resonate with them, they simply can’t understand the conservative take on the issue. They can only attribute it to malice.

Of course I’m relying on the characteristics Jonathan Haidt says govern the conservative and the liberal mind.

--  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-07-22  ::  Greg Krehbiel

The kickstarter stimulus

by Greg Krehbiel on 22 July 2014

We all know that the “stimulus” package was mostly a failure. It was sold as if there were “shovel ready” projects just waiting to start, but that was another lie. It was sold as an effort to rebuild our infrastructure, but it didn’t do much in that regard. (Another lie.) Most of the money was spend on dusted off liberal ideas that had been defeated time and again (because they were lame), but were pushed through by a Democratic Congress in a mad rush to spend some money.

In the comments on this post there’s some discussion of government jobs as an antidote to unemployment caused by automation and so on. But rather than typical government jobs, imagine a different sort of stimulus program. (Assume, for the sake of argument, that allowing the government to pump borrowed money into the economy is a good thing.)

Let’s say the country wants to spend what we spent on the stimulus (about $800 billion) to jumpstart a moribund economy. There are about 115 million households in the United States. That’s about $7,000 per household. So let’s issue each household that much in Kickstarter credits. People who want to start new businesses can post their idea to kickstarter, then each household can browse through kickstarter and spend their credits on the projects they think are best.

These would not be government jobs. They would be private sector jobs that compete in the real world. They would be allowed to fail if their product or service doesn’t pan out. But in the meanwhile, they would be hiring people and doing things.

There would have to be some rules to prohibit abuse. For example, no individual idea can get more than some ceiling (say, $5 million) in kickstarter money. No employee can earn more than some ceiling, and (if you like) no employee can make less than some floor. (I don’t think that’s necessary, but it could be part of it.)

There are some clear problems with this idea. Congress would want to impose all kinds of stupid restrictions and special rules on any of these companies, in the same way that they attach conditions to any other money they dole out. It would be best to find a way to avoid that. One way might be to take the money out of Congress’ control, but I’m not sure how to do that.

It might also be good to keep the money local so the jobs don’t all end up in Silicon Valley. E.g., people in Maryland can only spend their money on kickstarter proposals in Maryland.

What do you think? And what are some other issues that would have to be addressed?

--  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-07-22  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Why doesn’t increased efficiency create more jobs and cause economic growth?

by Greg Krehbiel on 21 July 2014

In the past, trade and an increase in productive efficiency resulted in economic growth. Now it only seems to result in unemployment and lost wages. Why is that?

Things didn’t use to be this way. Imagine a medieval village that got by making what it needed to survive. Then somebody invented a new plow that made farming much more efficient. With the new plow it only takes 80 farmers rather than 100 to do all the work to feed the village. The other 20 start other sorts of businesses — like making shoes, or brewing beer, or whatever. More efficient production makes the wheat cheaper, and now everybody can buy better shoes and drink beer. The standard of living goes up and everybody is happier.

Then somebody repairs the road to the next village and they can travel back and forth. Village A is really good at making beer and village B is really good at making jam. So they trade. The cost of beer and jam goes down because the market is larger, and now somebody has a job shipping goods back and forth.

This seems to have been the way of things for the last several centuries. The discovery of better methods to get and refine petroleum hurt jobs in the whaling industry, but it was a net gain for the economy, and for workers. The invention of the car cost a lot of jobs in the horse and buggy industry, but again it was a net gain. Families had cheaper ways to light their houses and they could get around farther, faster and cheaper.

There always seemed to be something else that a worker could do to replace the lost job.

Then automation came along. You no longer needed a laborer to do your riveting — a machine could do it. This decreased the cost of production, but … at least for a while … the displaced workers still had someplace better to go. There were new kinds of businesses, some that didn’t require labor, like selling insurance or financial instruments or information.

Some people seem to think this is a permanent law of economics — that increased efficiency will always lower costs and create economic growth. But doesn’t that assume a constant supply of new markets and new, better-paying jobs? If you go from swinging a sickle at $1 a day to driving a tractor at $10 a day, that’s great. But if your $50K job is outsourced to somebody in India for $10K, you need a better job to take the place of the one you lost.

If I can spend $100 on to get the same service I would get from an architect for $1000, that’s better for me, but … what happens to the architect’s business? There’s a balancing act here. A lot more people are willing to hire an architect at $100 than at $1000, so the availability of a cheap alternative could be a boon to business in general … but it might put the architect out of business.

Self-check machines at the grocery store lower the cost of food, which is better for everyone, but when the teller has no paycheck the slightly lower cost of food is poor compensation.

The problem seems to boil down to whether there are new jobs to replace the ones that are being displaced by innovation. If jobs are being lost faster than they’re being created, that doesn’t help the economy.

This makes me think that “efficiency grows the economy” only applies in specific circumstances. That is, it only works when the displaced workers have the opportunity to move on to something better. If there are too many displaced workers, unemployment shoots up, which hurts the entire economy.

That seems to be the problem now. Efficiency and automation is destroying jobs faster than new markets can replace them, and when new opportunities are created, they seem to be at lower wages, or fewer hours.

It may be that the old rules apply, but I continue to suspect that something fundamental has shifted and has messed with the math. Here are some possible causes.

  • We simply have all the stuff we need, so there’s no big, untapped market out there for a new product.
  • Automation is destroying jobs faster than the economy can grow to compensate.
  • Off-shoring is flooding the expensive western market with cheap labor.
  • Regulations and general government busy-bodying are slowing the growth of new businesses.
  • There are fewer jobs for unskilled workers.

The one thing that seems certain is that a rising tide is not lifting all boats. Three solutions are often offered for this problem: (1) a “living” minimum wage, (2) higher taxes on the rich and redistribution of their wealth, and (3) making it easier to create new businesses.

I find all these solutions inadequate.

There are lots of problems with a minimum wage, but for purposes of this discussion it doesn’t do any good to have a living minimum wage if nobody needs you at all. Many companies aren’t replacing workers with cheaper workers, they’re replacing them with computers. That is only going to get worse.

Taxing the rich and redistributing their wealth to the unemployed has lots of problems, and far more than I want to discuss right now. There may be something to it in some form, but … maybe I’ll write more on that later.

Making it easier to create businesses would probably help to some degree, but I don’t think it addresses the fundamental problem, which is that workers are becoming unnecessary.

This, IMO, is the crying need of our time. We need an economic / social theory that works when workers are displaced by computers. This subject has been on my mind for a long time now, and I’m going to be thinking and posting more about it. I look forward to your ideas.

-- 7 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-07-21  ::  Greg Krehbiel

2014-07-21 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
The surveillance state and parenting
2014-07-18 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
Sex roles and Anglican bishops
2014-07-18 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
Waiting for Governor No
2014-07-16 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
Has racism finally jumped the shark?
2014-07-15 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
Give me your huddled masses