Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Seeking Political Perfection


Yesterday's post triggered an outburst from a reader who is unabashedly Libertarian.  He didn't like the concept of "we" presuming the use of such a word could only mean totalitarian thinking.  I like to think of the word "we" meaning more than one "I"... even if they are all "rugged individualists."

If you get 100 Libertarians in a room, they would not construct a platform that begins "I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I,... the People."  At least I don't believe they would.

He objected to the notion of a representative form of government, suggesting that there could never be a representative who would vote on all issues the way I would.  That may be true, but I don't see that anything workable could come out of 300+ million people each having a separate vote on ever separate issue that might be addressed.  While not perfect, I think our representative form of government has served us reasonably well... better than a dictator ... better than millions of people jamming the streets with signs.  That's my bias, of course.

He did agree with me that politicians lie to ... I, I, I, I, I???... us.  We know that.  That's why we have elections every two years... to get the old liars out and vote in the new ones.  The problem occurs when some of the liars convince enough gullible people that they are "on their side"... that's "the devil we know."

He objected to the notion that a nation is an amalgamation of tribes.  Okay, find another way to describe a nation that covers the geographic political combination of a number of disparate individuals calling themselves Libertarians, auto unions, bankers, such-and-such-minority, etc.  His misinterpretation suggested to him that an "amalgamation of tribes" was something monolithic.  Quite the opposite.

He brought up the notion that we form governments to protect our "natural rights."  That is one way, as I mentioned in yesterday's post,
As individuals, we presume certain "truths" about the way our amalgamation of tribes should function.  "We hold these truths to be self-evident...."  "Long live the King...."  "لا إله إلا الله محمد رسول الله...."
but certainly not the only way governments are formed.  And once formed, we have incentives to support that form of government because it does provide order and a sense of protection from "others" who are not part of our amalgamation of tribes.  Of course, that doesn't mean that the government reflects the wants and needs of every individual.  The government is more like chicken salad than a flock of chickens.  Individuals are in there somewhere.

He neither agreed nor disagreed with the notion that the purpose of government was to provide a legal framework supported by culture and individuals.  Even Saddam Hussein's government provided a legal framework of sorts... as did Stalin's USSR and Henry VIII's English monarchy.  I never said every government provided a good framework.  I did conclude that:
So, again, what guarantees our Constitution?  Nothing more than people... and leaders... who are willing to play by its rules.  If the framework is allowed to be fluid and transitory, there is very little in it for individuals.  The tribe disintegrates.
The purpose of all of this is to come to the realization that our choices are really between representatives who play by the rules of the Constitution or the ultimate unraveling of the Constitutional form of government we happen to enjoy.  How those representatives will vote is entirely up to us... us being a lot of I's.

If enough I's like the idea of bigger, more involved government, that's what all the I's will get.  If enough I's like the idea of smaller, less involved government, that's what all the I's will get.  Those who can't live with that situation will have to find another amalgamation of tribes wherein to live.

Will that be perfect?  No, but if we don't get rid of those that refuse to "play by the rules," it won't matter how any of the I's vote.

Asking Some Right Questions 
If you combine a contentious Congress that votes on, without reading, legislation changing the basic social and power structure of the country... with predisposed Supreme Court justices... and on top of that, a President who chooses which laws should be enforced and which should be ignored or when he will abide by the Constitution and when it is simply too inconvenientthen the framework within which the right questions can be asked is broken... and any answers regarding the efficiency, effectiveness, and appropriateness of the federal government become meaningless. 
Instead, we get un-elected "czars", unmanageable laws, overbearing regulations, and massive special interest giveaways... all of which go unchallenged and unabated.
The upset reader was not really disagreeing with me as much as presuming I favored a socialist or totalitarian form of government because he focused on isolated words... "amalgamation"... "tribe"... "we"... rather than the dynamics of how 300 million people can effectively interact.  He wants less government involvement and intrusion in his life.  I agree.  
But I recognize the need for government and I very much like our system.  300 million people could theoretically interact without government and laws, just one-on-one commerce interactions... the Libertarian nirvana... but the chaos would be unimaginable.  Our government serves the vastly different interests of over 300 million people... not perfectly... but reasonably.  And it provides the needed legal framework for commerce and protecting our rights.  
The biggest dangers to our framework are individuals who undermine the framework by seeking to use its benefits without stepping up to their personal responsibilities... and the politicians they vote in who ignore the rules of the framework in order to satisfy those irresponsible individuals and thereby retain their political power.  After all, not everyone is a totally responsible Libertarian... even some Libertarians can be irresponsible within the framework [probably just hangers-on ].
That results in ever larger cracks in the framework.

2012 IS HERE


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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
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- O. Henry
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Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)