Tag Archives: Big G

Dear Noreena

Dear Noreena Hertz,

You were the first lady economist I followed, back in the days when I read things like The New Republic and The New Yorker, but before I discovered anything old. We met right after my Chomsky stage, when I flirted with Kibbutz-esque ideas, when I was the only person I knew who could tell you who is John Galt. The internet was still only Al Gore’s hobby then, so nothing pointed me yet to the curmudgeonly stuff I’ve come to prefer.

Noreena you wore white suits with red scarves and worked with Bono, whose music touched my life, and with Yunus, whose investment in investing still resonates for me. You have always been both smart and sexy and you became a role model at that critical time when I started actively to grab ahold of what I was starting to become.

And, perhaps more importantly, it was because I admired you that I started looking into Economics. You might be horrified to learn that I don’t believe, as you do, that Capitalism is dead. So it goes. But it was because you pointed out that Econ is important that I started thinking along those lines at all.

While I’d completely forgotten about you until I read this Jezebel profile today, I’m so glad we met, Noreena. Even if you’d like me less now, I still admire you, still find your scarf-wearing, ass-kicking self an apt role model.

But. That will not stop me from sharing this post dedicated to your communistic sensibilities with an example of the kind of “Government Inefficiency” anecdote I love:

A Chat About Inefficiency:

Speaking of government inefficiency, I was just going to get my car in the FDIC parking lot. It’s 3 levels underground and a HUGE lot.

And they had a worker down there with a broom and a dirt catcher thing.

You’d think that they would have a giant leafblower
not like . . .
a little broom.

Not even an industrial one, but like one you’d use to sweep up spilled rice in your apartment

I mean: Can you get more efficient? And this was 9 pm. And this guy was sorta halfassedly sweeping. Like: “Its impossible for me to sweep all these leaves so im just going to pretend for the 8 hours i work.”

WPA, teeny brooms — this is how we save or create, folks. Oh, and by smashing resources, like cars.


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IJ Protects Individuals from Arbitrary, Life-threatening Legislation

Jeff Rowes introducing IJ’s new case:

Here’s an analogy. Congress doesn’t like big pets attacking people. After 18 months of hearings, Congress outlaws selling pets over five pounds, and defines “pets” as “dogs, cats,” and, inexplicably, “pet rocks,” even though “pet rocks” were never mentioned during the hearings, are not actually household pets, and banning their sale doesn’t advance any interest Congress was trying to address by banning the sale of dogs and cats.

The inclusion of bone marrow in NOTA, like the inclusion of pet rocks in the hypothetical law, is not the result of Congress “making a hard call” or “drawing the line somewhere.” It was just sheer error, one that has undoubtedly cost tens of thousands of lives.

Of course, not every legislative mistake is unconstitutional. But a legislative mistake so profound as to render a statutory provision irrational is unconstitutional when it affects liberty. The Supreme Court has invalidated irrational statutes under the rational basis test at least a dozen times and there are literally hundreds of state and federal cases doing the same thing.

Here’s our constitutional theory in a nutshell. The provable absence of a rational basis for the bone marrow provision of NOTA means that the statute violates the substantive due process right of doctors, nurses, patients, and donors to participate in safe, accepted, lifesaving, and otherwise legal medical treatment.

Next, throwing people in prison for compensating marrow-cell donors, but not throwing people in prison for compensating blood or sperm donors, violates equal protection because there is no non-arbitrary distinction between these acts. In all cases, the donor is being compensated for safely donating renewable cells. The flip side is also true. Just as it is arbitrary to treat similar things differently, it is also arbitrary to treat solid organs such as kidneys like bone marrow.

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To Develop

This is to develop later, but here’s the model I keep referring to privately when I think about political affiliation:

In the center there’s just a person: oneself. At some basic level, every person is a libertarian. We all want to be free to go about our business as we choose. We don’t want any restraints except the basic ones that facilitate that critical personal freedom.

It’s at this “personal liberty” starting point on the ideology spectrum that people want minimal government — not “Big G,” but decision-making centrality inasmuch as it keeps Pakistan at bay, facilitates trade so we can get the wheat and unbleached, organic coffee filters we require (I know, economists, the market; caveat, caveat).

As I imagine the spectrum, the further “right” you move, the more you believe that your people-counterparts are capable of teaching a thing or two. This backs the idea of a community functioning to raise all members up. There’s a veto (or a Dellinger statement? Will update) in every Con Law textbook describing why taxlike forced-giving inhibits the naturally-charitable mentality most folks in a community assume.

Logically, if someone requires giving, that stunts generosity of spirit, which affects the entire community mentality. But the baseline “humans are social creatures after all” dicta suggests that in fact we’re all naturally inclined to share, having learned pretty early on that sharing makes everything better for all involved.

Left-wise on that spectrum I think there’s a tendency to assume that other members of a prospective community are less strong than the central ego point. This guides that mentality that wants to keep things under a tight rein — e.g., this is why we have so many government czars right now.

Moving right, we expect less formal government and more organic cooperation. As we move left, we expect people to cooperate organically less, so we mandate cooperation more.

Both sides have points in their respective favors. When I think of right-swaying I always think of the Buckley community near and dear to my heart, but the best point I know for left-leaners is legislation like the Americans w/ Disabilities Act. Sometimes central decision-makers can more easily accomplish what The Market won’t demand on its own.

And recall, of course, that centrality-enablers like lobbies are a critical part of The Market cf. how the Constitution structures our gov’t. Atrocities like sugar subsidies aren’t independent of a market; they’re a sort of super-evolution sophisticated to market ebb and flow, they represent uber-growth like cancer.

I’ve said it before, but a big part of why I lean right is that, while perhaps I’d trust some group around me to hold the reins now, there’s always the next group. If I appoint ten (or thirty) “czars,” it’s bc I trust that group to turn the screws today. But who knows who might take their shoes tomorrow? I’d much rather leave it to the individuals; then I know each person is working for his own self interest, and no one will be left out. If all know they can rely on a central decision-maker, many will likely forget to pick up after their own dogs, and other ugly metaphors.

Obvi bipartisanship comes down roughly along these lines. The point of this spectrum model is that I think the difference has to do w/ a person’s faith in his fellows, and his related interest in being involved w/ the relevant community.

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The Flaccid Fourth Estate

Last year I asked myself repeatedly why we kept talking about Britney Spears’s ladyparts.  I wondered how an ungraceful limo entrance heard round the world could supplant everything more urgent, if not more critical, than Britney’s hoochie-cooch.

The answer, of course, is obvious: We pay for it.  Why would we seek out nebulous concepts buried in spin when Britney’s right there?  And she’s underdressed! And now she’s shaving her head!

I’m fortunate to live in a place where I have instant access to the viewpoint I prefer.  There’s no question we have some response to what’s up in this country.  There’s simply not enough of it to counter the oppressive “act first, think later” attitude that prevails.

Right now we’re looking at a unified Executive-Legislative one-two punch.  Legal scholars have added their collective voice to this collective thinking, calling for the Supreme Court to move further to the left.  Indeed, a few major left-leaning Constitutional scholars have begun to call for a Rooseveltian Court-packing scheme to “prolong [their] majority.”  Even without packing, the Judiciary may well move substantially to the left before Obama’s first term ends.

Traditionally the media provides a sort of “fourth check” to balance the government.  Arguments in the First Congress surrounding the passage of the First Amendment suggest that maintaining an objective media is a huge part of why the Bill of Rights passed at all.  The first of few enumerated rights, critical to our structure of government, is our ability to criticize.

Checks and balances have more to do with sharing powers than distributing them.  But in this past year the fourth branch has utterly failed to keep the government (“Big G”) in check.

Start with the legislature.  We’re seeing some massive bills rammed through the works.  Our unified Congress has brazenly expressed its determination to pass as much legislation as possible before 2010.  If you check Drudge this morning there is a list of pork included in the health care bill that includes actual pork: $1,191,200 for “2 pound frozen ham sliced”; $16,784,272 for — no joke! — “canned pork.”  Not only are these government-expansion measures blatant, encounter little complaint from the media.

In fact, the filibuster-proof legislature has been using the fourth estate to hasten its expansion.  Right before the first (or second, if you count Bush’s 2008 stimulus) bail-out we saw a flurry of fear-mongering propaganda among the major left-leaning news sources to stir up reactionary responses to the recession.  Without that propaganda, popular resistance would likely have hindered the bail-out from passing.  Markets may have found their way back to their feet by now.  But because so much main stream emphatically backs our otherwise-unchecked government, we see deference where there should be skepticism from the press.

Failure to check the Executive proves even more dangerous.  Honduras (Zelaya) coverage [last summer] represented perhaps the most egregious example of the media’s failure to perform its “check” duty as Fourth Branch.  Countless networks continued for months to refer to military action in Honduras as a “coup”!

If anything, that was President Obama’s greatest coup yet.  Honduras merely attempted to maintain its constitutional government and dignity abroad.  But the American president sided with such revolutionaries as Chavez and Castro to quash the rule of law in Honduras with one rhetorical fell swoop.

When former President Bush toed the Rule of Law line the media immediately – and rightly! — pounced to demand adherence.  With Honduras we should have seen a monolithic media declaiming Obama’s actions and demanding that we respect the rule of law.  We don’t want an irreverent media; we just need a press corps that does not behave like the President’s deferential interns, making a Lewinski of the Fourth Estate.

President Obama repeatedly takes advantage of media deference.  Last month he penned a Washington Post op-ed filled with rhetoric and aimed directly at latte-sipping, arugula-eating elites.  Kudos to the President for acknowledging that the bail-out failed.  But a Sunday morning “fireside editorial” is NOT the way to address those most affected by government failure.  Karl Rove mocked the president’s rhetoric in a subsequent Wall Street Journal column.  This was the extent of the fall-out calling for more action than rhetoric.

Rather than spin feeble verbal circles, the Executive branch should release its death grip on industry and permit markets to work.  As long as President Obama continues to apologize even while persevering in using Big G as a reactionary tool we will only see more problems.  An active “fourth branch” media check could demand results and halt further disingenuous appeals to elites who don’t know and don’t care.

Finally, in the least dangerous branch, an overly deferential media failed to demand soon-to-be Justice Sotomayor’s perspective on legal policy.  For the duration of last month’s hearings we all waited with bated breath to hear Sotomayor betray her position on…anything!  She never revealed a single viewpoint, and her adoring fans in the press took it in stride.

Without a media check we will inevitably see the judiciary follow the rest of Big G to spin further and further from responsibility to the political process.  With the rest of the government so united, a weak Judiciary will be a huge detriment to the future of our constitutional republic, and indeed, to the future of our Constitution.

Now is not the time to nod sheepishly and admit that we have not read the bills.  The First Amendment may cover Britney’s ladyparts better than she covers them herself, but this was not why 1A was passed.  The media can keep the government responsible, but deference is not the way.


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