Archive for the ‘Cato Institute’ Category

Starting a new blog

May 20, 2012

Enthusiastic followers of this blog will recognize that I often interleaf travel, hiking, and photography with more serious topics, frequently critiques of material from the Cato Institute, but including any commentary that seems appropriate on the topic of civilization: the arrangement and agreements  by which we all live peacefully together — or don’t. It makes more sense to break this material into its own thread, so I have launched a new blog to capture thoughts on Civilization.


Cato — Arnold Kling: Break up the banks

May 16, 2012

In National Review online and at Cato, Arnold Kling writes about the JP Morgan fiasco and the predictable power grab now playing out in Washington. There is a great deal here with which to agree, but Kling also writes:

… writing in National Review two years ago, I proposed breaking up the big banks. J. P. Morgan’s announced loss serves to reinforce my view. …  we should seek limits on the asset size of individual banks. J. P. Morgan today is about ten times as large as any bank ought to be.

Arnold, you know better than that! The fact that government regulation and support allowed and encouraged banks to supersize themselves is merely an argument for getting the government out of the picture. It is not an argument that the government should interfere even more.

Leaving aside your common garden-variety thug, the root of all evil is the idea that some people are qualified to run other people’s lives and property, better qualified than the owners of those lives and property, and that these better-qualified people are somehow entitled to act on that belief. I would even argue that hubris is the worst of the seven deadly sins.

Where did your 10x come from? If JP Morgan shrank to 9.9x its current size, would you be happy? Or would you insist on 9x? Or maybe 5x? If you mean your proposal to be taken seriously, these silly questions become serious questions, because your bureaucracy will either have to decide according to bright-line criteria or decide on the basis of friendship and favors. (Any bets about how that would play out?)

How big is too big? Who decides? By what criteria? And having demonstrated his Delphic wisdom, how does our philosopher king derive the right to compel compliance?

Think about it.

Cato — Michael Tanner: Christie the Prophet

April 18, 2012

On the National Review online site and the Cato Institute op-ed sites, Michael Tanner discusses Chris Christie’s remarks regarding American dependence on government. There is much to agree with here. But Tanner also writes:

In 1965, just 22 percent of all federal spending was transfer payments. Today it has doubled to 44 percent…. In 1965, transfer payments from the federal government made up less than 10 percent of wages and salaries. As recently as 2000, that percentage was just 21 percent. Today, transfer payments are more than a third of salary and wages.

Michael, please explain why “just” 10% or 20% or 21% was okay in 1965 or 2000? Was it not already abundantly clear even in 1965 that the US had crossed the peak of the slippery slope?

The welfare state started with small programs targeted toward a small number of genuinely needy people.

Michael, please explain why the genuinely needy, no matter how small in number, have a claim on resources coerced from taxpayers?

You are surely in a position to understand that compassionate conservatism, of course with other people’s money, not only leads to the slippery slope of an unconstrained majority-rule democracy, but also destroys whatever virtue may reside in compassion.

Think about it.

Cato — Timothy B Lee: Inflation not a moral issue ??

April 17, 2012

At and here, Timothy B Lee asserts that inflation is not a moral issue; it is just a matter of economic expediency, the fine tuning that is necessary in a managed economy.

Timothy, please explain why the intentional transfer of wealth by government away from savers is not a moral issue. Do you mean that political power and political advantage are not moral issues?

You argue that the thrifty can and should invest in inflation-priced assets, and that the market prices the expected rate of inflation into its futures. If we accept that view, then, should we conclude that inflation is not a moral issue, but a change in the rate of inflation is a moral issue?

You argue by analogy that oil prices fluctuate and may or may not be good investments, and that the same is true of money. This begs the question — if an oil producer created reserves in the same way that governments create money, he would be prosecuted for criminal fraud, and rightly. Not a moral issue?

I suggest a more appropriate analogy: I have a responsibility to protect myself from pickpockets and muggers, but that responsibility does not mean that pickpockets and muggers are morally neutral.

Think about it.

Cato — Patrick Basham: Tax on sugary soft drinks

March 31, 2012

In an op-ed on the Cato Institute site here, Patrick Basham writes:

A sugar tax also has undesirable social and economic consequences. This tax is economically regressive, as a disproportionate share of the tax is paid by low earners, who pay a higher proportion of their incomes in sales tax and also consume a disproportionate share of sugary snacks and drinks.

Patrick, please explain why a regressive tax is socially and economically undesirable. It is paid by those who consume the product, rather than being a transfer of wealth from one group to another. Even better, a regressive tax encourages a majority to vote against increased government intrusiveness.

Think about it.