Category Archives: Business

Ahhhhnuullld The Democrat

I’m listening to the evening news on my last night in LA, after the announcement that the state unemployment is in double digits, hearing the RINO Governator talking about how “creating jobs is his highest priority.”

Well, ignoring the issue of “creating jobs” (which can be done by simply handing out money stolen from the taxpayers or borrowed from future taxpayers to pay people to do various things of various and dubious value, often negative) as opposed to creating wealth and not making war on prosperity, here’s an idea, Arnie.

How about doing an analysis of previous California policy to figure out why the jobs were destroyed, and stop doing and start undoing those things? Or is that too hard?

That’s Not The John Maynard Keynes That I Knew

Apparently, President Obama and the Congressional Democrats have thrown Keynes under the bus, too, even though they don’t realize it:

…it is true that government direction of capital is something Keynes advocated. But the current direction of capital by government is being conducted in a manner that flies in the face of Keynes’s underlying justifications for such state involvement.

For example, the stimulation of investment has thus far been ad hoc. The Treasury and Federal Reserve have infused capital into some firms but not others. In the case of financial firms, the rationales have been to promote liquidity or prevent insolvency or both. The government has moved on to direct capital into the troubled automobile industry. The Federal Reserve and the Treasury are buying mortgage-backed securities, thereby making more credit available to the housing industry. The construction trades are expecting a huge infusion of capital under the rubric of “infrastructure” spending. And now an enormous list of other industries has been approved for temporary stimulation by the Obama administration.

It is difficult to imagine that Keynes would be enthusiastic about these temporary and discretionary policies given his diagnosis of the fundamental problem.

The historical record is helpful here. Keynes opposed immediate, short-term stimulus in 1937 when the British unemployment rate was 11 percent—much higher than we are experiencing today. Furthermore, he opposed temporary reductions in the short-term rates of interest because he believed that variability of interest rates sent the wrong long-term message. As he argued in “How to Avoid a Slump,” an article in the Times of London newspaper, “A low enough long-term rate of interest cannot be achieved if we allow it to be believed that better terms will be obtainable from time to time by those who keep their resources liquid.”

Of course, most of these people are far too economically illiterate to even understand Keynes. Instead, they simply adulate him as a god and use him as an excuse to do what they want to do anyway, regardless of whether or not it’s truly Keynesian.

[Update early evening]

More historical ignorance: Barack Obama versus Henry David Thoreau. Now, Thoreau was actually sort of a loon, and his “wisdom” is highly overrated, as P. J. O’Rourke has amusingly pointed out in the past, but the notion that the small-government philosopher would have approved of the “stimulus” plan is ludicrous.

Thoughts On COTS

…along with fixed-price versus cost-plus, appropriate payment milestones, and “skin in the game,” from Jon Goff.

We have to come up with much more innovative means of reducing the cost of access to orbit, something that Ares I doesn’t do at all. Charles Miller just became “Senior Advisor” on space commercialization with NASA’s Innovative Partnership Programs Office, so perhaps he will be able to help implement some of these kinds of ideas.

The Next Stage Of Wrecking The Economy

Get ready for the cram down:

Now, maybe higher interest rates on home loans would be a good thing. Home ownership is heavily subsidized in this country, and the reason bankruptcy law currently protects banks from losses on principal is so that they can keep mortgage-interest rates low. But is Congress really going to let mortgage-interest rates rise as a result of this new law? Liberal interest groups already think credit-card interest rates are a crime against humanity. Can you imagine the hue and cry whenever mortgage-interest rates start to tick up?

The more likely scenario is that Congress passes some new law that keeps mortgage-interest rates suppressed, even though the new bankruptcy law has exposed banks to greater risk. If your goal is to re-inflate the housing bubble and create another credit catastrophe, well, there you go.

It’s truly infuriating the way politicians muck with the market, then implement more mucking to deal with the unintended consequences of the first muck, and then blame laissez-faire capitalism for the problems. And the media let them get away with it, repeatedly.

The Man Who Talked Back

Jimmy Pethokoukis:

In 1937, there was a radio debate between Wendell Willkie— later to become the 1940 Republican presidential nominee—and Franklin Roosevelt administration official Robert Jackson—later a Supreme Court justice—about the proper economic role of government. (The event and its fallout are wonderfully described in the outstanding book “The Forgotten Man” by Amity Shlaes.)

By all accounts, Willkie won easily by arguing that FDR’s efforts at nationalizing the utilities industry, his dramatic tax increases, and his administration’s push for prosecutions of businessmen had frozen the private sector with fear and prevented the country from returning to prosperity. The Saturday Evening Post would later dub Willkie “The Man Who Talked Back” against the New Deal and Big Government. I would love to see a debate between Santelli and Obama spokesperson Robert Gibbs.

Yeah, I’d pay to see that, but they’d have to institute a mercy rule, I think, after the first ten minutes.

I hope that Santelli is ready for his upcoming IRS audit.

Space Billiards

There is an excellent and comprehensive discussion of the recent satellite collision over at The Space Review today. There is plenty of blame to go around, from perverse incentives in the military, to government policies that are long on rhetoric and short on funding and priority, and corporate risk taking:

It also appears that either Iridium or the JSpOC terminated the collision screening for the Iridium constellation at some point between July 2007 and the collision in February 2009, as Iridium has made repeated public statements that they did not receive any warning. Likewise, the US military has stated that they did not have any warning. The following additional comment by Campbell at the same event may shed some light as why this happened:

That said, this isn’t aviation; the Big Sky theory works [emphasis added]. We figure that the risk of a collision on any individual conjunction is about one in 50 million. However if we have 400 a week for ten years, you can do the math; clearly that risk is something bigger than zero. As I said, our coordination with JSpOC is great.

Basing the protection of the largest low Earth orbit constellation of satellites on such a theory, even when there is a significant amount of data showing that it could be false, leads one to question the decision-making process involved. Perhaps Iridium decided that they could not afford the resources to deal with the decision-making and maneuver planning to properly operate their satellites in a safe manner. If that is indeed true—and there is no known hard evidence either way—then they placed the short-term financial well being of one company over the long-term welfare of all.

Clearly, the entire international system in place for dealing with this kind of problem (to the degree that it exists at all) needs to be overhauled.

Sure About That?

Kaus says that there are only four GM cars that he would consider buying, and one of them is a Chevy Malibu. Well, I rented one from National at LAX on Wednesday night. The thing has the turning radius of a supertanker (which is particularly problematic given the postage-stamp-sized parking spaces in LA). It also scrapes the undercarriage (or at least the bottom of the front license plate) coming in and out of the driveway, a problem that I didn’t have with the Versa I was renting last week.

I wonder if he’s test driven one?

What Ended The Depression

Megan McArdle says (correctly) that no one knows, and anyone who tells you that they do is lying or fooling themselves, but that what you were taught in school is almost certainly wrong. She also notes (again correctly) that there was a lot more to the New Deal than simply government spending (which likely didn’t have much stimulative effect), some of it good, much of it disastrous (particularly the artificial propping up of wages and prices by fiat).

One can’t run controlled experiments in economics, so we can never know for sure, but I’m inclined to at least go with economic theories that make sense and for which there is useful empirical evidence. Someone has to tell me what Hayek and von Mises got wrong to persuade me that Keynes is right. And most people who think that Keynes is right haven’t even read them.

[Update a few minutes later]

“Mr. Obama, give back my wallet.”

[Update a while later]

OK, so I’m not as impressed with David Brooks as the intelligentsia want me to be, but he does have some good thoughts occasionally:

The correct position is the one held by self-loathing intellectuals, like Isaiah Berlin, Edmund Burke, James Madison, Michael Oakeshott and others. These were pointy heads who understood the limits of what pointy heads can know. The phrase for this outlook is epistemological modesty, which would make a fine vanity license plate.

The idea is that the world is too complex for us to know, and therefore policies should be designed that take account of our ignorance.

What the world needs now is not love sweet love, but epistemological modesty. Particularly inside the Beltway. Unfortunately, the perverse nature of humanity is that often the less one knows about something, the more certain one is in his knowledge. They have never learned from the ancient Greeks that to admit the limits of your knowledge is the beginning of wisdom.

[Via Manzi, who reads David Brooks so I don’t have to]

[Late morning update]

Are we going to emulate Japan’s lost decade? It seems to be what they want to do, unfortunately.


[Update a couple minutes later]

Renters are angry. They should be. They’ll probably join the tea party, too.

And here’s a novel concept: let housing prices find their clearing price. Can’t do that — it makes too much sense.