Friday, January 02, 2009

Small Government Means NOT Big Government

Steven Taylor has some observations on current affairs, and the views of one Richard Viguerie, with whom I shared the stage as twin Keynote Speakers at the Libertarian National Convention in Denver last year.

Some of what Prof. Taylor says makes good sense to me, some of it less so. But one portion is worth quoting:

One of the areas that Viguerie and his camp ignore in terms of “small government” is the increasing ability of the central state to intrude on our private lives, and well as the increase in power of the executive in way that damages our democracy. This is a more pernicious problem than most “small government” conservatives admit, and indeed, many who forcefully criticize fiscal policy aspects of “big government” are frequently boosters of an ever-growing security state that will “keep us safe” replete with an executive that ignores Congress when it feels like it. To me this is far more antithetical to the notion of “small government” than any amount of welfare spending could ever be.

The Repubs focused on lowering taxes, without decreasing spending. In fact, they increased spending, and regulation, more than any administration in history. All that does is borrow against the future. Maybe it doesn't do "harm," but it certainly does no good, unless you embrace the Keynesian principles the Repubs claim to hate.

And, the increases in regulation, education nannyism in the name of accountability, and the sheer hubris of the Patriot Act, the Gitmo imprisonment of due process, and outright lying about the war and etraordinary rendition.....Well, let me just say I think Prof. Taylor is on solid ground with this critique. The Repubs were hijacked and hoodwinked by a radical, statist minority who cloak their true intentions in "small government" rhetorical fabric.

(Nod to GW on the Taylor piece, which I had missed)

Physics? Really?

Hobbes thought law was like physics. Montesquieu thought law was like physics.

But....Lawrence Tribe?....Larry, Larry, Larry. What are we going to DO with you?

Some other views, like this, or then this.

Connecting this to Obama, however, is a bit of a stretch. MOST of the stuff published in the Harvard Law Review is crackpot science, or crackpot legal theory, or the product of crack or pot (pharmaceuticals). Don't blame BHO for this one thing. No one person can answer for Harvard.

(Nod to KL)

Education on Education

I just wish this weren't so true. President Obama is going to reform the public schools by sending his kids to private schools. Should he be able to do this? Is he right to do this, given the problems in the DC schools. Yup. It's the hypocrisy that bothers me.

Really a tremendous satire. Yes, you may have seen it long ago. But I just saw it for the first time.

Nod to Joanna, at FA

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Movies and Music from 2008

Here are my own Mungowitzian picks for 2008, in music and movies.

Music I Liked This Year:

1. Easily the best and biggest thing in musis is the third album from "The Mungers," titled Mungertown Road. I like the whole album, but the track entitled "B School" is extremely fine. And the title track captures a lot of where I came from, even though they are singing about Connecticut and I grew up in Florida.

2. Vampire Weekend. It is interesting that it is trendy to hate things that become trendy. And in music there is zero correspondence between "I subjectively like X" and "X is objectively good," for me or for anyone else. So I make no claims that Vampire Weekend is good. But I like listening to it. The lyrics are literate, and the New England references work for me because I have spent a lot of time there.

3. Taylor Swift, Fearless. Yes, it's robotic, formulaic, and entirely predictable. So are Big Macs. I had a Big Mac the other day. And I thought, "yummmm." My test for albums is pretty simple: Do I want to sing along, really loud, in the car. And I want to sing Taylor Swift. Someday, when she turns 13, she'll be even better.

Disappointments: Chinese Democracy (G&R) and Forth (The Verve)

Movies I liked (alphabetical order):

Dark Knight (one of the top five, all time, for me)
(The Tale of) Despereaux (a very libertarian movie, at least for the first half)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (I didn't expect to like it)
Ironman (absurd premise, but it really worked)
Quantum of Solace
Rachel Getting Married (more complex than I expected, interesting, Anne H is amazing)
(The) Visitor (not exactly happy, but remarkably acted and directed)
Sweeny Todd (Yes, really)

Disappointments: Kung Fu Panda, Wall-E, Burn After Reading (I couldn't finish, and walked out), There Will Be Blood, and Slumdog Millionaire. Maybe I expected too much, after the hype. Of these, Slumdog Millionaire was the best. It is surely a great movie in terms of execution and filming, but I kept looking at my watch.

Limbaugh, Munger, Hannity: Which of these three is not like the others?

I have been guest hosting on the Bill Lumaye show, on WPTF Newstalk 680, here in Raleigh.

A snippet of my radio stylings....

Note that that was me, right between Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Pretty fun. Three hours of air time, and lots of callers. I have guest hosted five times now. Not easy to keep track of time and commercials.

Bill of Rights Day

In Charlottesville, Bill of Rights Day, December 15.



My little "speech" is second on this segment.

Thanks to Rick Sincere....

Happy New Year, People!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top Ten Most Interesting or Perversely Damaged People of 2008

10. Eliot Spitzer. We didn’t catch Osama Bin Laden, but we caught Eliot Spitzer with a prostitute. This pleased me a lot, I have to admit. (Whenever we were watching the news, and a Spitzer-n-da-ho story would come up, my wife would look at me and mouth, "LO--REE--NA BOB--BITT!")

9. Matt Whitton and Rick Dyer. Two guys who did the Bigfoot hoax. Claimed they had DNA and everything. Sold to Tom Biscardi, but it was just a gorilla suit frozen in a block of ice. Biscardi must be one of those people who bought into Bernie Madoff’s investment schemes.

8. Dmitry Medvedev. Current President of Russia, clearly a puppet for Vladimir Putin (who looks better with their shirts off?). Medvedev just signed a new law that makes the NEXT Pres of Russia be able to serve a six year term, not a four term, and in fact next guy can serve TWO of them, 12 years. There is some chance that Medvedev will resign in the next six months. Something like that could never happen here…unless President’s daughter Caroline Kennedy is elected Senator from New York, a state where she has never lived, following President’s wife Hillary Clinton, in a state where SHE had never lived. Okay, never mind. Vlad, go ahead.

7. Harry Reid, Dem and Senate Maj Leader. Very nearly a veto proof majority, quite possibly with Stuart Smalley ("I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.) Now, this is not because Harry Reid is anything special; quite the contrary. But because of the events of 2008, Harry Reid is now the Majority Leader for a Senate with 59 Democrats.

6. Michael Phelps. Remarkable athlete, seemed able to do just well enough to win, even in races he should have lost. Born and raised in Baltimore, Phelps worked hard and made the best use of his very long arms and torso. Nearly $10 million in endorsement income already.

5. Rod Blagojevich (made Sarah Palin look positively level-headed and sane!)

4. Sarah Palin: Burst on the scene already a legend. (Tina Fey's spot on imitation was remarkable). The Wasilla whirlwind.

3. Bernie Madoff / Barney Frank. Madoff with $50 billion. We didn’t catch him, we did catch Eliot Spitzer….Barney: On-line rights (partnered with Ron Paul), free speech, medical marijuana.

2. Ron Paul / Joe the Plumber: Ron Paul ran for President as a Republican, and made quite a good showing. And the small government wing of the Republican party can sure use the support. Joe the Plumber? Plumbed the depths of “I hate everything,” by writing a fatuous tell-all book, Fighting for the American Dream. Said that he “Felt more dirty after the campaign,” because of the untruths and sheer contumacity of the McCainiacs. On the other hand, Joe the (not licensed) plumber did get Obama to say, “Things work better when we spread the wealth around.” This did reveal something about Obama that many suspected.

1. Barack Obama: One of the truly unique figures in American political history. So far, his economic team is great, his foreign policy team is great… But is he even interested in those things? Is the reason he picked good people is that he wants to work on....(pregnant pause)....OTHER THINGS?

You Can't Even Trust Entertainment Shows Anymore

This is rather upsetting.

The charge never actually got below 20%. Why would they lie like that?

Squeeze Play

A pretty tough old chick,

She grabbed her assailant by the....well.

Owie.

The year in film

I saw 6 good new movies this year. They are:

Slumdog Millionare
Man on Wire
Dark Knight
Burn After Reading
The Visitor
Iron Man

Pretty eclectic group, all highly recommended. Slumdog Millionare is a tour de force home run for Danny Boyle.

I'll fill out my top 10 with four movies that I think I would have liked if I had been able to see them:

Frozen River
The Wrestler
Happy Go Lucky
Rachel Getting Married

Finally, here are two touted films where it's obvious from the trailers (which I've seen) that the movies will suck hideously:

Revolution Road
The Reader

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wow, speaking of Laziness.....

Roger Farmer writing December 30th 2008 in the FT:

"In classical economics, the prices of stocks are determined by fundamentals and the fundamentals of the economy are sound. The US had the same stock of factories and machines in August that it had in July and the US workforce has not been afflicted by a sudden attack of contagious laziness."

Franco Modigliani writing in the AER, March 1977:

"Sargent (1976) has attempted to remedy this fatal flaw by hypothesizing that the persistent and large fluctuations in unemployment reflect merely corresponding swings in the natural rate itself. In other words, what happened to the United States in the 1930's was a severe attack of contagious laziness!"


Ouch! Can't one of the all-time greats of Macro get any love in this day and age???

A Late Xmas present from Sam Presti

Ladies and gentlemen, the Nenad Krstic era has begun in OKC!!!

Be afraid Robert Swift. Be afraid Johan Petro. Be very very afraid.

Actually I thought Presti had signed Nenad Medic and I was thrilled beyond words.

Here's some Serbian eye candy, people:

Bigotry: yer doin' it wrong

What's so green about electric cars?

Doesn't almost 60% of electricity in the US come from coal fired plants? Isn't coal a pollutant? Isn't coal mining often inherently destructive to the environment? Are these snooty people in Prius' just deluding themselves?

Can anyone tell me why electric cars are so great? Why the gubmint is/has been subsidizing their purchase? Why our political class considers them part of a "sustainable" auto industry?

By the way, here at Chez Angus we take our 4 mile commute on Honda scooters when it's warm enough and dry enough and use a Mini Cooper when it's not (we also have a Honda Element for hauling Pluto around and for whenever we need to bring more than a briefcase with us).

Monday, December 29, 2008

Freddy The Ex-Parrot

This is actually kind of sad. Why in the world was the guy not allowed to make contact, for a bond of only $200?

There are many odd people in the world, people who are likely disrespectful to, and of, authority.

That doesn't mean the state gets to jail them electively.

The "pining for the fjords" reference is artful, and well known to the cognescenti:

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Some Recent Papers Of Interest

Banking Crises: An Equal Opportunity Menace

Carmen Reinhart & Kenneth Rogoff
NBER Working Paper, December 2008

Abstract:
The historical frequency of banking crises is quite similar in high- and middle- to-low-income countries, with quantitative and qualitative parallels in both the run-ups and the aftermath. We establish these regularities using a unique dataset spanning from Denmark's financial panic during the Napoleonic War to the ongoing global financial crisis sparked by subprime mortgage defaults in the United States. Banking crises dramatically weaken fiscal positions in both groups, with government revenues invariably contracting, and fiscal expenditures often expanding sharply. Three years after a financial crisis central government debt increases, on average, by about 86 percent. Thus the fiscal burden of banking crisis extends far beyond the commonly cited cost of the bailouts. Our new dataset includes housing price data for emerging markets; these allow us to show that the real estate price cycles around banking crises are similar in duration and amplitude to those in advanced economies, with the busts averaging four to six years. Corroborating earlier work, we find that systemic banking crises are typically preceded by asset price bubbles, large capital inflows and credit booms, in rich and poor countries alike.

----------------------

Ownership: Evolution and Regulation

Julian Franks, Colin Mayer & Stefano Rossi
Review of Financial Studies, forthcoming

Abstract:
This article is the first study of long-run evolution of investor protection and corporate ownership in the United Kingdom over the twentieth century. Formal investor protection emerged only in the second half of the century. We assess the influence of investor protection on ownership by comparing cross-sections of firms at different times in the century and the evolution of firms incorporating at different stages of the century. Investor protection had little impact on dispersion of ownership: even in the absence of investor protection, rates of dispersion of ownership were high, associated primarily with mergers. Preliminary evidence suggests that ownership dispersion in the United Kingdom relied more on informal relations of trust than on formal investor protection.

----------------------

Product market deregulation and the US employment miracle

Monique Ebell & Christian Haefke
Review of Economic Dynamics, forthcoming

Abstract:
We consider the dynamic relationship between product market entry regulation and equilibrium unemployment. The main theoretical contribution is combining a job matching model with monopolistic competition in the goods market and individual bargaining. We calibrate the model to US data and perform a policy experiment to assess whether the decrease in trend unemployment during the 1980s and 1990s could be directly attributed to product market deregulation. Under our baseline calibration, our results suggest that a decrease of less than two-tenths of a percentage point of unemployment rates can be attributed to product market deregulation, a surprisingly small amount.

(Nod to KL)

Drunk Jeff Goldblum Videos

Drunk Jeff Goldblum videos.

Yes, they are slowed down to achieve this effect.

But the interview with Conan....I think he really WAS drunk.


"I like the peach....piiiieeeee."

(Nod to cracked.com)

Signs of the Apocalypse

The End Time: Star Wars the Musical.

For me, there need be no more Star Wars-themed musical entertainments after this ended the genre:


(Nod to Anonyman, who has watched the burning of Washington from up close)