One of the common criticisms of capitalism is that it allegedly increases income inequality. There is a growing body of literature at the country level that shows otherwise. There has been some state-level work as well. Ashby and Sobel (2008) examined income inequality. They found that both the level and growth of income in the lowest income quintile was positively associated with the growth in economic freedom. They found similar results for the middle quintile and the highest income quintile, but in the latter group only income growth (not income level) was statistically significant. They also found that the growth of economic freedom was negatively associated with the ratio of the highest income quintile’s income share to the lowest income quintile’s income share, meaning that increased freedom was associated with less income inequality.
Read the whole thing – it’s rather disturbing in that the United States is now well behind Canada in term of economic freedom. (At least one prescient author/philosopher saw this coming many years ago.)
The report speaks to several fallacies of income inequality, while yr. obdt. denies that income inequality is anything but a problem, but is rather an inevitable fact of human existence; what matters is overall standard of living, which is still very high in the U.S. – although it’s slipping.
How have we come to this pass? Why is this happening? What has happened to our country? Who is John Galt?
Another long day of travel yesterday, with a late night and an early morning today. There are occasions in this line of work when I have reason to doubt my own sanity.
Here’s an interesting tidbit from Mark Steyn, wherein he advocates a new “hashtag” (I had to look that up) #bringbackourballs. Excerpt:
It is hard not to have total contempt for a political culture that thinks the picture at right (Michelle Obama holding up a sign stating “#Bring Back Our Girls”) is a useful contribution to rescuing 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by jihadist savages in Nigeria. Yet some pajama boy at the White House evidently felt getting the First Lady to pose with this week’s Hashtag of Western Impotence would reflect well upon the Administration. The horrible thing is they may be right: Michelle showed she cared – on social media! – and that’s all that matters, isn’t it?
Just as the last floppo hashtag, #WeStandWithUkraine, didn’t actually involve standing with Ukraine, so #BringBackOurGirls doesn’t require bringing back our girls. There are only a half-dozen special forces around the planet capable of doing that without getting most or all of the hostages killed: the British, the French, the Americans, Israelis, Germans, Aussies, maybe a couple of others. So, unless something of that nature is being lined up, those schoolgirls are headed into slavery, and the wretched pleading passivity of Mrs Obama’s hashtag is just a form of moral preening.
The problem isn’t moral preening, although this administration has done plenty of that. The problem is America’s seeming impotence in the face of vicious, aggressive Islamic savagery. Boko Haram took these girls, who are almost certainly irretrievably lost into slavery or worse, because they knew neither America nor any other developed Western nation would do anything about it.
The proper response by the Western world would be to hunt these savages down like animals and kill them, but that won’t happen.
Chris Sevier, a man from Florida, believes he should be allowed to wed his Macbook.
Mr Sevier argues that if gays should be allowed to marry, then so should other sexual minorities.
Mr Sevier states he has fallen in love with a pornography laden computer.
“Over time, I began preferring sex with my computer over sex with real women,” he told a court in Florida.
This appears to be not a passing holiday romance, but a lifelong commitment.
If gays have the right to “marry their object of sexual desire, even if they lack corresponding sexual parts, then I should have the right to marry my preferred sexual object”, he said.
I’ve made my stance on social issues (including marriage) very plain in the past, and will do so again here: I don’t give a damn what people do, as long as they leave me alone. With that said, I am of the considered opinion – considered again after reading about the nutbar Chris Sevier – that marriage, to avoid becoming a complete farce, should be limited to consenting human adults.
No matter how societal attitudes towards marriage have changed, it is still universally seen as a statement of deep commitment, entered into freely and willingly (at least in Western countries) by consenting, competent adults. It’s not, as Mr. Sevier so fatuously complains, just an attachment “to their object of sexual desire.”
So is it “intolerant” to think that it’s appropriate to keep it within the species?
Actually, I suspect Mr. Sevier is attempting some sort of a stunt. What point he is trying to make escapes us for the moment, but this doesn’t appear to be a serious person with a serious issue.
His website included articles that were critical of senior religious figures such as Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti, according to Human Rights Watch.
Mind you this is country that does not permit women to vote, drive, or leave their homes without a male relative as an escort. Raif Badawi, the webmaster in question, originally also faced charges of apostasy – a crime that carries the death penalty in the Kingdom.
Civilized people do not conduct the business of state in this manner; but then, civilization has always been in short supply in this part of the world, at least for the last thousand years or so.
Putin Backs Off. He’s up to something. This guy was a KGB Colonel and would love nothing more than to see the glory days of the Soviet Union come back, and everything he does is calculated to the inch. He’s figured out some way to get what he wants.
Check Your Usage of “Check Your Privilege.” Seriously, what is this privilege I keep hearing about? What did being white get me? My Old Man was a farmer, later a middle-management type for John Deere – far from a rich guy. I went to college on the G.I. Bill. I started several businesses that failed and had a piece of one that sold before I hit on the one I still run today, a one-man consulting operation. I’m not in the 1% but I sure as hell am in the 10%, and nobody gave me shit – I worked for every last damn dime of it, and wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for taking some serious risks along the way. So where did the big advantage of my Scots/Irish/English/German ancestry come in?
Why the hell do people insist on defining folks in groups? Everyone is an individual, unique in and of themselves, with a host of unique traits and attributes, skills, talents and abilities. “Race,” to a biologist, is an utterly meaningless construct. And yet people are goddamn obsessed with it.
KCAL9’s Bobby Kaple reports that Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, introduced a bill to test out the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax because the state’s gas tax was no longer bringing in the revenue it used to due to people driving more fuel efficient vehicles.
The program is modeled after ones in Oregon and Washington.
“We want to do as Washington and Oregon have done in a much bigger state with much longer commutes…to make sure that we find out whether it would work, whether the public would like it or not,” DeSaulnier said.
It’s unknown how much the tax would be, but Oregon currently charges its volunteers 1.5 cents per mile.
See also PJMedia scribe Bryan Preston’s piece on the topic here.
Stupid Point #1: Voluntary? Who the hell will sign up for this? 1/10th of 1% of the population? Do they actually expect to see any real revenue from this, or is it (more likely) a cheap piece of political theater?
Stupid Point #2: Who the hell will support this idea, knowing (as any thinking person should) that when the increasingly nutty California legislature sees zero revenue, or as close to zero as makes no difference, will make it mandatory?
After all, it’s only your money when the government is through taking what it wants, right?
Stupid Point #3: Why the hell does anyone with any sense, any ambition, or any inclinations towards productivity stay in California any more?
It seems the first Earthly colonists to Mars may be bacteria. Only a few years ago everyone assumed that harsh conditions in space would kill any Earthly hitchhikers, but that’s no longer a safe assumption; discover and study of extremophiles has shown that some bugs can live damn near anywhere.
Lawrence Livermore has discovered element 117. The new element has not been named; given the predilection for naming these super-heavy elements after Roman dieties, I would suggest the name Penianium after a minor Roman god of poverty. Why? Because it’s funny, in a mildly juvenile way. Sound it out. Right?
It’s waaay too early to start handicapping the 2016 Presidential elections, but the 2014 mid-terms are not all that far off – and they don’t bode too well for the party that currently holds the White House and the Senate. This just in from the Washington Free Beacon: Shellacking II: The Sequel. Excerpt:
Let’s be empirical. The Democrats, according to one political science model, have a one percent chance of recapturing the House in 2014. According to other models, the Republicans are either “slight favorites” or just plain favorites to control the Senate next year. (On Thursday, the New York Times forecast a 54 percent chance of a Republican Senate takeover.) The models can change, of course. That’s what models do. And models can be wrong—they often are, in fact. But, for the time being, the same models that our educated classes trumpeted during the 2012 election predict a happy day for Republicans on Nov. 4. And so I, in turn, am happy to base my analysis on them.
Mind you predictions are notoriously hard to make, especially when they’re about the future. Mid-terms tend to go badly for the party in power, but so far – and only so far – this mid-term looks like it’s shaping up to be a 1994-style debacle for the Democrats.
There’s one big difference, though, between 1994 and 2014. Bill Clinton was in the White House in 1994, and President Clinton was and is one of the canniest political operators of our time. He was capable and smart enough to realize that, when his first mid-term went so badly against him, a change of course was in order. He did change course, tacking back to his left-of-center, southern Democrat roots, and was largely successful for the rest of his two terms.
Not so for Barack Obama. Never in yr. obdt.’s lifetime has a President been so tone-deaf to the electorate; even after his 2010 shellacking he did not change course, but stayed true to his Hyde Park urban liberal roots – a longs way to the left of mainstream America.
Bill Clinton, whatever his faults, had some idea how Americans really think. Unlike Barack Obama, Bill Clinton actually lived in that world before moving into the rarefied atmosphere of Oxford.
However, there is hope for the Democrats: As the Beacon concludes:
Will the clouds still be out for the president on Election Day? After the experience of 2012 I am venturing no predictions. Some unexpected event will have to occur, something bizarre will have to happen, to bring the Democrats good fortune, to brighten the sky for Obama and for his party. Fortunately for him, there is a major, long-lived American institution that specializes in making life easier for liberals.
In the latest Spike Jonze movie, Her, an operating system called Samantha evolves into an enchanting, self-directed intelligence with a will of her own. Samantha makes choices that do not harm humanity, though they do leave viewers feeling a bit sadder.
In his terrific new book, Our Final Invention, documentarian James Barrat argues that visions of an essentially benign artificial general intelligence (AGI) like Samantha amount to silly pipe dreams. Barrat believes artificial intelligence is coming, but he thinks it will be more like Skynet.
In the Terminator movies, Skynet is an automated defense system that becomes self-aware, decides that human beings are a danger to it, and seeks to destroy us with nuclear weapons and terminator robots. Barrat doesn’t just think that Skynet is likely. He thinks it’s practically inevitable.
Is it really inevitable?
At present we are in the midst of mankind’s third great cultural revolution. The Agricultural Revolution made it possible for people to produce more than they consumed; it made possible trade, a division of labor, the birth of villages, towns, cities.
Later, the Industrial Revolution gave us mass production, factories, consumer goods; it gave us railroads, automobiles, aircraft, travel, and leisure time. It gave us the first modern standard of living.
Now, we find ourselves in the Information Revolution, and it will be as world-changing as the first two – it already has been, even now, in its infancy. Who is to know what the next hundred years will bring?
Barrat concludes with no grand proposals for regulating or banning the development of artificial intelligence. Rather he offers his book as “a heartfelt invitation to join the most important conversation humanity can have.” His thoughtful case about the dangers of ASI gives even the most cheerful technological optimist much to think about.
Much to think about – but predictions are notoriously hard to make, especially when they’re about the future. AI may prove difficult to produce, and fickle when it’s realized – or it may be as predictable and reliable as the rising sun, and as gentle as the morning rain. We can’t know, and won’t – until it happens.
Has the once and former Mayor Bloomberg overextended his gun-banning efforts? Maybe so. Excerpt:
A mere 10 days after former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his new anti-gun coalition Everytown for Gun Safety in the New York Times, former Pennsylvania Gov. and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, one of the most prominent members of its advisory board, has resigned from the group.
No one should be surprised.
“When I signed on as an adviser to Everytown,” Ridge said, “I looked forward to a thoughtful and provocative discussion about the toll gun violence takes on Americans. After consultation with Everytown, I have decided that I am uncomfortable with their expected electoral work.”
It’s an early embarrassment for Bloomberg’s latest effort to buy the Second Amendment back from the Constitution, but one that is sure to be repeated over the coming months — if Everytown even lasts that long.
First of all – thinking people should take issue with Gov. Ridge’s use of the idiotic term “gun violence.” Guns can not commit violence; they are not motive agents. As inanimate objects, firearms are capable of being neither good nor bad; they can only be tools. People can be good or bad, and it’s important to note that Mayor Bloomberg and his ilk favor acts of legislation that will only affect good people – and which bad people will ignore.
That, True Believers, is the ultimate fallacy of gun control legislation. Laws only affect the law-abiding – and the savage hypocrisy of fools like Bloomberg, themselves surrounded by layers of armed guards, is that they would deprive the peaceable and law-abiding citizens of the country of their best and most effective means of self-defense.
Bloomberg may be losing influence, but what he really deserves is derision, for his thoughtless and foolish stance on this issue.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is probably looking a bit smugger than usual, if that’s at all possible. In the latest commerce-war news between Texas and California—a battle which California appears to be losing badly—Toyota has announced it’s moving its headquarters from the Golden State to the Lone Star State.
As a result, 3,000 jobs will be transferred (from) California to Texas. Not everybody will be going, though. According to the Associated Press, 2,300 jobs will remain in California after the move. But before we mock high-tax, high-regulation California for getting another kick in the moneybasket, let’s see how Perry lured Toyota there:
Perry, who made two visits to California to lure employers to his state, said Texas offered Toyota $40 million in incentives from the taxpayer-funded Texas Enterprise Fund. The Republican governor said Toyota is expected to invest $300 million in the new headquarters.
Some folks would call what Governor Perry is doing corporate welfare – Mr. Perry probably calls it canny politics. Both sides would have a legitimate point. But what does Toyota think?
Toyota, obviously, thinks there are good reasons for relocating a portion of their American enterprise to Texas. They aren’t alone. Texas has a reputation for being as friendly to business as California is hostile. We have no way of knowing if Toyota may have made the move if Texas hadn’t sweetened the pot, but Texas did, and Toyota did – and there we are.
The fact is, all of the several states engage in similar acts of bribery enticement when major corporations are considering a move. It’s just that Texas, for a variety of reasons, seems to be more successful than most other states of late. True Believers everywhere are invited to investigate and contemplate the possible reasons for themselves.