Recently, the TEA Party movement celebrated its first anniversary. At first the TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party activists were dismissed as a few grumpy right-wingers upset that America elected a black president. They were given little credence beyond being an amusing political side show. That soon changed. On April 15th hundreds of thousands of average Americans showed up at protest rallies across the nation, outraged at the “stimulus” package of goodies doled out to special interests, liberal activism organizations and Democrat pet projects. CNN reported that a few thousand people showed up at the rally in Atlanta, but I was there and can assure you that it was close to ten-fold that amount. It was shoulder-to-shoulder for about four blocks in one direction, not counting the people on the side streets.
Once they could no longer be dismissed as a fringe element, TEA Party activists were labeled as “Astro-turf” (fake grass roots), accused of being flunkies of Big Corporate America, mindlessly doing the bidding of their masters. They were accused of being a fabrication of FOX News and the Republican Party. They were accused of being everything except what they are…average Americans, generally with traditional conservative values, who were fed up over 20 years of Bush-Clinton-Bush politics, two political parties who paid only lip service to the people they claimed to serve while engaging in a bacchanalian orgy of political perks, who had finally been pushed over the edge by a pork-laden spending bill of almost $800 billion. They were saying “Enough is enough!”, and they were going to make their voices be heard.
I recently read an article written by former Fed economist Richard Alford over at Naked Capitalism. He focused his criticism on the zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) currently deployed by the Fed under the watch of Chairman Ben Bernanke. There has been increasing noise surrounding ZIRP and more mainstream suggestions that interest rates were too low for too long between 2001 and 2006.
Alford’s article gets into quite a bit of detail, but it is worth a read if you enjoy geeky economics stuff. Mainstream macroeconomists believe that the economy can be explained and managed with mathematical formulas. In fact, the formulas are really quite simple and do not capture the dynamics of the millions of “irrational” actors therein. One favorite is the Taylor rule which suggests a target for the Fed funds rate - the key interest rate set by the central bank. Alford points to a Taylor op-ed which states that rates were too low from 2002-2005.
Bernanke has suggested that rates necessarily had to be low (and must stay low) to fend off the threat of deflation. When analyzing Bernanke’s definition of deflation, however, Alford suggests deflation was never a threat. Thus, interest rates were lower than they “should have been” for no good reason.
Oxford University Press, which published Jennifer Burns’ biography of Ayn Rand, has made available a short excerpt of the book:
“I am coming back to life,” Rand announced as the Nathaniel Branden Institute entered its second year of existence. Watching Nathan’s lectures fill, Rand began to believe she might yet make an impact on the culture. Roused from her despair, she began once more to write. In 1961 she published her first work of nonfiction, For the New Intellectual, and in 1962 launched her own monthly periodical, The Objectivist Newsletter. Over the course of the decade she reprinted articles from the newsletter and speeches she had given in two more books, The Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Although she occasionally talked of a fourth novel, Rand had abandoned fiction for good. Instead she reinvented herself as a public intellectual. Gone were the allegorical stores, the dramatic heroes and heroines, the thinly coded references to real politicians, intellectuals, and events. In The Objectivist Newsletter Rand named names and pointed fingers, injecting herself directly into the hottest political issues of the day. Through her speeches and articles she elaborated on the ethical, political, and artistic sides of Objectivism.
So contends Lev Nazrozov. He writes:
Out-of-control predatory capitalists have perpetrated a worldwide economic depression. Capitalism’s degenerate character is now extraordinarily visible during this time of multiple crises.
On each side of the page there is a picture of a miserable emaciated proletarian who carries on his back a huge pack of money, with a bourgeois seated atop of the pack and smoking a cigar.
By simply allowing the government to dominate every sector of the polity, by embracing totalitarianism, we might be able to avoid the woes of economic recession? Historical study makes such a conclusion seem ridiculous. While totalitarian economies did not suffer from “depressions”, per se, one could argue that consumers and citizens lived under a system which continuously mimicked the effects of depression.
Every year the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, AL hosts a conference for scholars of the Austrian tradition to come together and share essays and ideas. This year’s conference was loaded with big names and reputable authors among the Libertarian and generally liberty-minded.
It has been observed that the up-and-coming generation of young people are more socially conscious than their spoiled Baby Boomer parents and their SUV-driving, yuppified older siblings.
This new generation is keyed into world affairs and world suffering and is doing something about it. They march against the War in Darfur; they do fund drives for AIDS Orphans; and they largely vote for candidates who pledge to recruit the government (i.e. the taxpayer) to solve these problems.
Increasingly, these young people are voting more and more Democratic. Of course, liberal Democrats have always enjoyed the majority of the youth vote - what little there was. But today’s socially conscious youth are making up an increasing percentage of the electorate and are going to play a larger role in certain elections.
Since February 4th, students have been protesting in San Cristóbal, Venezuela. Protesters have been strongly opposed to current President Nicolas Maduro and his heavy-handed interventionist government and have decided to take it to the streets, which ended up triggering waves of violent attacks that are mostly perpetrated by paramilitary forces. At least 6 people have died so far.
Before the protests, Venezuelans were experiencing soaring crime rates, an annual inflation rate of 320 percent and shortage of basic goods, which are all mostly due to protectionist policies and Hugo Chavez’s National Bolivarian Guard’s crack down on the ‘over-pricing’ the government accuses producers and merchants of practicing.
In Venezuela, food is subsidized. The government has instilled an idea among its citizens that cheap gas is every Venezuelan’s right, so oil is heavily subsidized as well. The president of the Venezuela’s national oil company is also the vice president in charge of the country’s economy, has also acted as the government’s energy minister.
Rick Santorum quoted Aristotle in his address to CPAC-St. Louis on Saturday: “Give me the storytellers, and I will control the country in a generation.” Santorum, now the CEO of EchoLight Films, was there to talk the culture war and plug his company’s new film, “The Christmas Candle.”
A common complaint on the right is that liberals control the entertainment industry and have unchecked power to influence the culture. Conservatives in the entertainment industry have been afraid of losing their jobs for so long that defeatism has taken hold; they find comfort in being a small minority unable to break through the iron grip the left has on every aspect of the business.
A 10-year old Pennsylvania girl by the name of Sarah Murnaghan could die within a few weeks if she doesn’t receive a lung transplant soon. There’s currently a petition on Change.org directed at HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to alter the current policy so that Sarah is made a higher priority on the donor list because the clock is ticking at least somewhat faster than some who are ahead of her.
I’ll leave it to the readers to determine if this petition is the right way to go in the case of Sarah, but I think there is a much larger problem with the organ donation system that I believe could be addressed by the free market. Back in 2008, I wrote a post at The Liberty Papers about why a regulated, above board organ market would be superior and much more moral than the current “altruistic” system. Some of my examples might be a little dated (Hanna Montana is all grown up now) but my overall point stands. Though this post is mostly about live donations, compensation going to an individual’s estate would give Sarah and countless others a much better shot at living.
Free Market Organs (Posted January 24, 2008)
Last week, Doug linked a post about British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s support for a policy that would allow hospitals to harvest organs without prior consent of the decedent or his/ her family. In essence, the organs of all deceased British citizens would belong to the government’s healthcare system except for those individuals who “opted out” prior to death. The policy in the U.S. is an “opt in” approach rather than “opt out.”