Saturday, May 9, 2015

Last Call For Anarchy

The "We're taking our country back from you, using whatever means necessary" contingent of the country is quite upset, and now we have Charles Murray of the WSJ cal;ling for open lawlessness.

The broadest problem created by intricately wrought regulatory mazes is that, in an effort to spell out all the contingencies, they lose sight of the overall goal and thereby make matters worse. A particularly chilling example is offered by the 1979 Kemeny Commission’s postmortem on the Three Mile Island partial meltdown, which concluded that when “regulations become as voluminous and complex as those regulations now in place, they can serve as a negative factor in nuclear safety.”

I’ve been focusing on regulation in the workplace, but it isn’t just freedom to practice our vocations that is being gutted. Whether we are trying to raise our children, be good stewards of our property, cooperate with our neighbors to solve local problems or practice our religious faith, the bureaucrats think they know better. And when the targets of the regulatory state say they’ve had enough, that they will fight it in court, the bureaucrats can—and do—say to them, “Try that, and we’ll ruin you.”

That’s the regulatory state as seen from ground level by the individual citizens who run afoul of it. It looks completely different when we back off and look at it from a distance. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has authority over more than eight million workplaces. But it can call upon only one inspector for about every 3,700 of those workplaces. The Environmental Protection Agency has authority not just over workplaces but over every piece of property in the nation. It conducted about 18,000 inspections in 2013—a tiny number in proportion to its mandate.

Seen in this perspective, the regulatory state is the Wizard of Oz: fearsome when its booming voice is directed against any single target but, when the curtain is pulled aside, revealed as impotent to enforce its thousands of rules against widespread refusal to comply.

And so my modest proposal: Let’s withhold that compliance through systematic civil disobedience. Not for all regulations, but for the pointless, stupid and tyrannical ones.

Identifying precisely which regulations are pointless, stupid or tyrannical will be a lengthy process, but categories that should come under strict scrutiny include regulations that prescribe best practice for a craft or profession; restrict access to an occupation; prohibit owners of property from using it as they wish; prescribe hiring, firing and working conditions; and prevent people from taking voluntary risks.

So goodbye civil rights protections, laws fighting discrimination in the workplace, and allowing employers to do whatever they want to employees.  Let's take the country back to when white America ruled unchalleged and unbothered by equality and fairness.

The fact that Murray is allowed to do this is actually a pretty clear hint that everything he's spouting is wrong: if we really lived in the regulatory fascist hellhole he describes, Mr. Murray would no longer be employed, no longer a free man, possibly no longer with us on this Earth.

Funny how that works.

Bangers And Mashed

Paul Krugman takes the British voters to task for ushering in the Age of Austerity with this week's massive Conservative Party majority win, which most likely the end of a number of English social institutions and programs.

Simon Wren-Lewis of the University of Oxford, who has been a tireless but lonely crusader for economic sense, calls it “mediamacro.” It’s a story about Britain that runs like this: First, the Labour government that ruled Britain until 2010 was wildly irresponsible, spending far beyond its means. Second, this fiscal profligacy caused the economic crisis of 2008-2009. Third, this in turn left the coalition that took power in 2010 with no choice except to impose austerity policies despite the depressed state of the economy. Finally, Britain’s return to economic growth in 2013 vindicated austerity and proved its critics wrong.

Now, every piece of this story is demonstrably, ludicrously wrong. Pre-crisis Britain wasn’t fiscally profligate. Debt and deficits were low, and at the time everyone expected them to stay that way; big deficits only arose as a result of the crisis. The crisis, which was a global phenomenon, was driven by runaway banks and private debt, not government deficits. There was no urgency about austerity: financial markets never showed any concern about British solvency. And Britain, which returned to growth only after a pause in the austerity drive, has made up none of the ground it lost during the coalition’s first two years.

Yet this nonsense narrative completely dominates news reporting, where it is treated as a fact rather than a hypothesis. And Labour hasn’t tried to push back, probably because they considered this a political fight they couldn’t win. But why?

Mr. Wren-Lewis suggests that it has a lot to do with the power of misleading analogies between governments and households, and also with the malign influence of economists working for the financial industry, who in Britain as in America constantly peddle scare stories about deficits and pay no price for being consistently wrong. If U.S. experience is any guide, my guess is that Britain also suffers from the desire of public figures to sound serious, a pose which they associate with stern talk about the need to make hard choices (at other people’s expense, of course.)

Still, it’s quite amazing. The fact is that Britain and America didn’t need to make hard choices in the aftermath of crisis. What they needed, instead, was hard thinking — a willingness to understand that this was a special environment, that the usual rules don’t apply in a persistently depressed economy, one in which government borrowing doesn’t compete with private investment and costs next to nothing.

Democrats on this side of the pond at least did that. Labour did not make its case, especially to the Scots, and frankly they want out after Labour screwed them over.  I don't blame them.  The result?  A broken Labour Party and Conservative domination.

The Brits are going to find out the hard way what this will mean.  And I don't feel sorry for them.

We need to pay attention here, or we'll make the same mistake next year.

Jebby Goes Buy Buy

If you want to know why Jeb Bush is putting off his official candidacy until next month, well, he has about a hundred million reasons for that.

Jeb Bush is putting in motion an ambitious plan to develop a super PAC that would be unprecedented in its size and scope — a blueprint growing in scale and intensity as he nears the formal launch of his presidential campaign. 
The group, called Right to Rise, is said to be on track for raising an historic $100 million by the end of May, and its budget is expected to dwarf that of Bush’s official campaign many times over. In interviews, more than half a dozen sources familiar with the Right to Rise plans described a juggernaut that was rapidly taking shape — from its likely headquarters in Los Angeles, 2,700 miles from the Miami office where Bush was basing his campaign, to a new fundraising push aimed at expanding its ballooning coffers.

Bush is even setting the timing of his official campaign announcement — which is increasingly likely to come in mid-June, following a trip to Europe — around a cross-country fundraising tour. In the final weeks leading up to the launch, his strategists have been devising a plan to allow both arms of the campaign — the official one and the super PAC — to work seamlessly, even as they will be legally barred from coordinating once he officially becomes a candidate. 
There is little question that Right to Rise, with its deep cash reserve, will give Bush a leg up in the Republican nomination contest, especially if it becomes a protracted and costly affair. 
“It’s an advantage. No question,” said Fred Malek, a prominent GOP donor who chairs the Republican Governors Association’s finance committee. “I think Bush will be able to raise three or four times as much as anyone else.”

So yeah, Jeb may be in the back of the pack right now in Iowa.  Just give it a while, when he's able to pour tens of millions into ads every month for the next several months.

We're about to get the best Republican presidential candidate money can buy.

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