06 Aug 2009

There Oughta Be a Video…

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Tell me this wouldn’t go viral on YouTube: You show a brief clip from CNN or some other official news network, announcing the release of the two journalists from North Korea, and how they flew back to the United States with Bill Clinton.

Then the screen changes showing a Bill Clinton impersonator with two Korean women on a plane. Clinton’s in the middle seat. They’re all holding cocktail glasses and Clinton says, “So did they tell you girls who got you released from prison? Do you want another drink? It’s OK–I used to be president.”

06 Aug 2009

The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

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Aristos posted a video of his six-year-old’s teeball game. If you are a father, watch the first 1:45 of the video. It is hilarious.

(BTW Aristos and I were very competitive in college. [He was better in pickup football, I was better in chess.] So that’s partly why I was laughing out loud. But even strangers will appreciate it.)

06 Aug 2009

Waiting on the IRS

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Argh… I am working on a payment plan with the IRS. (For a while my business wasn’t incorporated, and so I just got checks made out to me personally. You’re supposed to file quarterly tax payments as that income rolls in. Well, I was always going to do it, next month. And then it was April 15.) As soon as I navigated through the automated menu to where I needed to be, the computer voice said, “Your estimated wait time is greater than 15 minutes.”

Having said that, I must admit the IRS was–believe it or not–pretty “fair” in dealing with my delinquency. They told me how much I owed them, assessed penalties that actually weren’t all that bad, and then started the thing rolling over at interest. But the rate wasn’t outrageous by any stretch; I don’t remember off the top of my head but it was nothing compared to credit cards if you let your balance start rolling.

Don’t get me wrong, there is still a huge difference in that I signed up for the credit card. But dealing with back taxes isn’t nearly as awful as I would have thought, from watching movies and listening to talk radio.

P.S. If you want to call me a sellout for paying taxes even when there’s an unjust war going on, etc. etc., that’s fine. But please don’t discuss anything illegal in the comments, because then I’ll have to take it out, you’ll be even more convinced I’m a stooge for the feds, etc. No fun for anyone.

05 Aug 2009

Something New to Fret About: The U.S.’ "Green Trade Deficit"

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Just when you thought the “green recovery” plans couldn’t get more inefficient:

Green investment is a major pillar of the president’s economic recovery plan. Yet, America’s dependence on foreign countries to produce green technologies may undermine this recovery strategy. Using a list of green goods derived from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), we have determined that the United States ran an overall green trade deficit of -$8.9 billion in 2008, including a deficit of -$6.4 billion in the critical category of renewable energy, one of the main targets of the Obama administration’s green agenda. The U.S. economy also suffered a significant deficit in the pollution management category. On the positive side, the United States ran modest surpluses in two categories–energy efficiency and a grouping of other environmental goods related to water purification and sustainable agriculture.

If current trends continue, the green trade deficit can be expected to widen further as the administration’s agenda increases domestic demand but without sufficient measures to increase domestic production. If the deficit continues to grow, the United States will forego the creation of millions of high-wage, high-skill green manufacturing jobs and lose its potential to be a global producer as well as a consumer of green technologies.

And liberals love to guffaw at General Turgidson when he says, “Mr. President, we cannot afford to let the Soviets create a mineshaft gap!”

05 Aug 2009

It’s For a Good Cause…

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Recently I discovered this great public radio station. (It’s 98.9 FM in the Nashville area; I don’t know the call letters.) The first time I stopped on it, there was a guy who didn’t sound insane, talking about how all the Osama bin Laden videos after a certain date were obvious fabrications.

Then a few days later I heard some woman reading a lengthy treatise on why the charging of interest was a harmful social practice. This isn’t “Go Obama!” programming like NPR; this is seriously hardcore stuff.

Anyway, today I was on the way to my office and I was listening to some activist fighting rhino hunting in Africa. She explained to the radio show host that the hunters sell the ivory horns to be used for dagger handles and to be ground into aphrodesiacs in China. The host was horrified.

Then the activist said, “Yes, we actually started a rumor that it would give you AIDS.”

The host immediately approved: “Oh that’s a good idea.”

Isn’t that rather shocking? I thought two, fairly important, official progressive goals were to (1) tell the truth and (2) dispel rumors about how you can catch AIDS. But I guess they were trumped by (3) save the rhinos.

05 Aug 2009

O’Driscoll Economizes on My Words

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For a while, I think Mario Rizzo and I were the two contributors to the geeconosphere who most succinctly pointed out the micro-coordination problems that macro stimulus would distort. But in a short post, I think Jerry O’Driscoll crystallizes it even more tightly:

Consider the current economic situation. A financial crisis has been brought on by, first positive, and then negative monetary shocks. In the short run, individuals are increasing their demand for money (velocity is declining), and are simultaneously increasing their long-run, desired savings to a more normal rate. These effects combine to place downward pressure on nominal demand in many markets.

But the decline in nominal demand is not evenly spread across all markets. If demand is to be stimulated consistent with the new consumption/savings equilibrium, it would need to be supplied in the precise proportions that correspond to the new pattern of demand across markets (including inter-temporal markets). The information requirements to accomplish that task are nothing short of what would be required for comprehensive economic planning of the economy. Moreover, Public Choice tells us that stimulus will always be applied according to political, not economic, criteria.

If nominal demand is falling at uneven rates, then relative prices are changing. The same self-regulating forces are at work as described in microeconomics. Resources are being re-allocated across markets even as this is being written. A macroeconomic model with one good (output), one price, one interest rate, one wage rate, etc. is incapable of capturing those forces. The rationale for stimulus makes sense only in terms of such models and not in terms of how market economies actually work.

05 Aug 2009

The Difference Between the Market and the Government

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When businesspeople try to benefit from technological advances, they end up designing robots that feed humans Ramen (HT2MR).

When government officials realize the new opportunities, they fund the development of robots that feed on human corpses (HT2LRC).*

Any questions?

* Aww shucks, the wusses at Fox News have officially repudiated the original story. Now apparently the Pentagon robots are just supposed to eat plants. Hmm…

04 Aug 2009

Potpourri

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* Another favorable review (of my first Politically Incorrect Guide) at FrontPageMag.

* My radio interview with Michael McKay, from the Mises Institute.

* Betsy Hansen was a summer fellow at the Mises Institute this year. Last week (during the conference) we started talking about mark-to-market and it soon became apparent that she had done a lot more research on it than I had. (She was citing specific regulations and such; go figure.) I like her take in this article; she basically says that yes the government screws up financial regulation, but changing accounting rules mid-game isn’t going to solve the crisis.