Econ 101

Thursday, February 19, 2009 \AM\.\Thu\.

While most of our recent public debates have centered around topics on which economist’s disagree, Harvard Economist Greg Mankiw recently posted a list of fourteen propositions that most economists accept, which is an excerpt from his popular macroeconomics textbook. I thought it might be of interest to some of our readers, as discussions of the common good and public policy often touch on these subjects:

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Tax Holiday Stimulus

Thursday, February 19, 2009 \AM\.\Thu\.

From the flamboyant  Michelle Lee Mucio of the Acton Institute.

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Most People Are Not Like You

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 \PM\.\Wed\.

Almost no matter who you are, the above is almost certainly true. Yet it’s a fact that few people seem to readily grasp.

I was struck by this as I continued to read the exchange between Ross Douthat and Will Wilkinson over whether secular libertarian intellectuals should all pack up and join the Democrats. Will predicts:

…I think intellectual capital flight from the right really does threaten the GOPs future success. If Republicans keep bleeding young intellectual talent because increasingly socially liberal twenty-somethings simply can’t stand hanging around a bunch of superstitious fag-bashers, then the GOP powers-that-be might start to panic and realize that, once the last cohort of John Birchers die, they’ve got no choice but to move libertarian on social issues. Maybe. I like to imagine.

This reads like it comes from some alternate universe, to me,

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Pope Denies Worthless Political Hack Photo-Op

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 \PM\.\Wed\.

pelosi

Hattip to Jay Anderson at Pro Ecclesia.  The Pope reminded Speaker Pelosi in their meeting of the Church teaching on life.

“The Vatican released the pope’s remarks to Pelosi, saying Benedict spoke of the church’s teaching “on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death.” That is an expression often used by the pope when expressing opposition to abortion.”

The 15 minute meeting was closed to reporters and photographers.

“The Vatican said it was not issuing a photo of the meeting — as it usually does when the pope meets world leaders — saying the encounter was private. The statement said the pope “briefly greeted” Pelosi and did not mention any other subject they may have discussed.”

I wonder if Pelosi is bright enough to realize the snub that the Pope just gave to her pro-abort self?

Update I: Ed Morrissey at Hot Air reminds us of why the Pope felt it necessary to repeat Church teaching on abortion to Speaker Pelosi since,  judging from her own words, she is woefully ignorant of it.

Update II: The ever perceptive George Weigel wonders if the Pope and the clueless Speaker were at the same meeting.


Luke Live, Day Two

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 \PM\.\Wed\.

I continue now with my shameless promotion of Father DiLuzio’s Luke Live performance.  Again, we were treated to a wonderful exchange of ideas, marked by a charismatic leader who helped enliven St. Luke’s Gospel and knit the narrative together.  Father DiLuzio offered us to begin with the choice of hearing entire chapters at once, or breaking it down into slightly smaller pieces.  Having seen yesterday the amazing continunity of a text that, for many of us, originally seemed a disjointed collection of brief non-sequitors, we voted roughly 55-45 to continue being inundated by large chunks of text.  And so he began his recitation starting from chapter 18, and the parable of the persistent widow.

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George Weigel on Narratives & ‘Bush Derangement Syndrome’

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 \AM\.\Wed\.

In an essay entitled A Campaign of Narratives in the March issue of First Things (currently behind a firewall for non-subscribers), George Weigel writes:

Yet it is also true that the 2008 campaign, which actually began in the late fall of 2006, was a disturbing one—not because it coincided with what is usually described in the hyperbole of our day as “the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression” but because of how it revealed some serious flaws in our political culture. Prominent among those flaws is our seeming inability to discuss, publicly, the transformation of American liberalism into an amalgam of lifestyle libertinism, moral relativism, and soft multilateralism, all flavored by the identity politics of race and gender. Why can’t we talk sensibly about these things? For the past eight years, no small part of the reason why had to do with what my friend Charles Krauthammer, in a nod to his former incarnation as a psychiatrist, famously dubbed “Bush Derangement Syndrome.”

Raising this point is not a matter of electoral sour grapes. Given an unpopular war that had been misreported from the beginning, plus President Bush’s unwillingness to use the presidential bully pulpit to help the American people comprehend the stakes in Iraq, plus conservative aggravation over a spendthrift Republican Congress and administration, plus that administration’s failure to enforce discipline on its putative congressional allies, plus public exhaustion with a familiar cast of characters after seven years in office, plus an economic meltdown—well, given all that, it seems unlikely that any Republican candidate could have beaten any Democrat in 2008. Indeed, the surprise at the presidential level may have been that Obama didn’t enjoy a success of the magnitude of Eisenhower’s in 1952, Johnson’s in 1964, Nixon’s in 1972, or Reagan’s in 1984.

Still, I would argue that the basic dynamics of the 2008 campaign, evident in the passions that drove Obama supporters to seize control of the Democratic party and then of the presidency, were not set in motion by the failures and missed opportunities of the previous seven years but by Bush Derangement Syndrome, which emerged as a powerful force in American public life on December 12, 2000: the day American liberalism’s preferred instrument of social and political change, the Supreme Court, determined that George W. Bush (the candidate with fewer popular votes nationally) had, in fact, won Florida and with it a narrow majority in the Electoral College. Here was the cup dashed from the lips—and by a court assumed to be primed to deliver the expected and desired liberal result yet again. Here was the beginning of a new, millennial politics of emotivism (displayed in an astonishing degree of publicly manifested loathing for a sitting president) and hysteria (fed by the new demands of a 24/7 news cycle).

[Emphasis Mine]

I think this analysis gets things exactly backwards.

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Pro-lifers, the Next Generation

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 \AM\.\Wed\.

For those in the pro-life movement who may sometimes get discouraged, take a good look at this speech.  This struggle for the unborn will be fought until it is won, if not by us, then by the pro-lifers who come after us.  Naturally the judges at the speech contest where  this speech was delivered disqualified her because of her success at articulating the pro-life message.  This decision was later reversed after one of the judges stepped down and our pro-life speaker was declared the winner.  Truth will prevail if we have the stomach to proclaim it in season and out of season.


Benedict XVI vs. Nancy Pelosi

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 \PM\.\Tue\.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, renowned (by herself) as an “ardent, practicing Catholic” will be meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican tomorrow. Given her latest blunder during a press conference, stating that “500 million Americans lose their job every month” (talking about why the economic stimulus plan had to pass) despite the fact that there are only 300 Americans living in this country and less than 150 million of them working, if that, one might suspect that she’ll inform the Holy Father that “500 million clergyman will lose their jobs if abortion is not promoted worldwide.”

I have no doubt in my mind that the Holy Father is going to bring up abortion, embryonic stem cell research, contraception, gay marriage and attempt to correct her.

Thoughts? Will the Speaker of the House be formally excommunicated?


Luke Live, Day One

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 \AM\.\Tue\.

This week, at St. Paul’s Newman Center in Laramie, we have Father James DiLuzio visiting to perform his Luke Live, essentially a performance of the Gospel of St. Luke.  We are on the final run of the gospel, covering chapters 17-24.  I have to say, Father DiLuzio is quite an engaging, energetic fellow, and last night’s session was a blast.  I’m looking forward to the next three, and I hope to report on them each day, with what we discussed and what observations we made.  (And if anyone else has had the pleasure of joining Father DiLuzio for Luke Live, please feel free to share your observations!)

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Res Ipsa Loquitur (II)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 \AM\.\Tue\.

I posted last week about the negative reception to Geithner’s bank plan. Here, for instance, was Paul Krugman’s take:

It’s really not clear what the plan means; there’s an interpretation that makes it not too bad, but it’s not clear if that’s the right interpretation….So what is the plan? I really don’t know, at least based on what we’ve seen today. But maybe, maybe, it’s a Trojan horse that smuggles the right policy into place.

Not exactly an enthusiastic endorsement. Today’s Washington Post has some of the back story:

Just days before Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner was scheduled to lay out his much-anticipated plan to deal with the toxic assets imperiling the financial system, he and his team made a sudden about-face.

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Inequality and the New Aristocracy

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 \AM\.\Tue\.

Running into this article the other day, I was startled to find how many of my own intellectual hobby horses it touched upon. Arnold Kling and Nich Schulz are economists, and their topic is in equality in the modern economy. They cite Google co-founder (and billionaire) Sergey Brin as an example of many of the forces they believe are driving inequality and list the following major forces:

Technology: Brin’s wealth comes from the famous search engine he pioneered with cofounder Larry Page. Their company is a mere ten years old. And yet in the blink of an eye, he has become one of the richest men in the world.

Winners-take-most markets: Certain mass-market fields tend to simulate tournaments in that they produce just a few big winners along with many losers. These include technology/software, as in the case of Google, but also entertainment (Céline Dion), book publishing (Stephen King), athletics (Tiger Woods), and even some parts of academia, finance, law, and politics (as the impressive post-presidential earnings of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton demonstrate).
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The Strange Case of Father Damien and Mr. Hyde

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 \AM\.\Tue\.

robert-louis-stevensonLeprosy Settlement

The Vatican is expected on February 21 to announce the date of Father Damien’s canonization.  So much has been written about the famed leper priest that I feel no need to discuss here the basic facts of his life.   After his death from leprosy grave libels were made against Father Damien, chiefly by a presbyterian minister C.M. Hyde, who, oddly enough, had praised Father Damien during his life.

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Just An Observation

Monday, February 16, 2009 \PM\.\Mon\.

Wyoming recently has passed legislation that “bans” smoking in public places (except for a list of particular establishments where smoking is still permitted, and except for any county or municipality that doesn’t want to participate in the ban).  There once was hope of increasing the “sin tax” on chewing tobacco.  Elsewhere in the nation, we have had strong campaigns to reduce smoking for sake of health and public expenditure.  Now the campaigns are shifting gears and targeting refined sugars, transfats, and calorie-laden meals.

I understand, to an extent, why people are so concerned about how many times we vist McDonald’s, or much fat is in that bag of potato chips, or whether or not we buy “Biggie”-sized soft drinks.  As we continue to pay for insurance, either private or governmental, the effects are clear.  Bad health practices lead to increase in expenses.  Yet what I find odd is how the whole matter is couched almost as a moral dilemma, a moral crusade.  Isn’t just unhealthy to partake of deep-fat-fried potatoes–it is an abomination that should be punished.

Now, I seem to remember a certain gentlemen who came around saying something like: “Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?”

Is it just me, or is our society unwittingly attempting a reversion back to the Old Covenant (though we’ll pick different foods to declare “unclean”)?


Road To Tyranny

Monday, February 16, 2009 \AM\.\Mon\.

It’s a commonplace of sorts in Catholic and conservative circles that democracy without virtue will quickly become tyranny. At the same time, this is one of those phrases which seems to drive secular commentators to distraction. How could liberal democracy lead to tyranny when it’s clearly those authoritarian religious people who want to be tyrants?

Damon Linker (the “the theocons are coming” chicken little whom First Things once made the mistake of briefly employing in his younger days, thus giving him the claim to know the “theocon conspiracy” from the inside) has a post on The New Republic blog which seems to me to throw this point into sharp relief. Linker, it seems, tired of attacking “neocons” and decided to go after the more quixotic paleocons as his newest batch of crypto-authoritarians. The following section is fascinating in its thought process:

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The Devil and Andrew Jackson

Monday, February 16, 2009 \AM\.\Mon\.

the-devilold-hickory

I have never liked President’s Day.  Why celebrate loser presidents like Jimmy Carter and James Buchanan, non-entities like Millard Fillmore, bad presidents, like Grant, with great presidents like Washington and Lincoln?  We have had other great presidents, and one of them, although Republican as I am I bridle on bestowing the title upon him, was Andrew Jackson.  No one was ever neutral about Old Hickory.  He is described as the father of the Democrat party.  Actually, both major parties owe their existence to him.   The Whig party, the main ancestor of the modern Republican party, was founded in opposition to Jackson’s policies.

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Why Does This Not Surprise Me?

Sunday, February 15, 2009 \PM\.\Sun\.

churchill

During his term as President, George W. Bush had on loan from the British government a bust of  Sir Winston Churchill in the oval office.  The Brits offered to extend the loan to President Obama.  Nope, he decided to send the bust packing.  Perhaps some of our thoughtful readers might have guesses as to what bust Obama might replace it with?


Democrat Economy

Sunday, February 15, 2009 \AM\.\Sun\.

budget20chart20883_002-thumb-410x287

The  Bankrupt the Nation Act of 2009, often erroneously called the “Stimulus” bill, fittingly passed on Friday the 13th.

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The Single Life and St. Valentine’s Day

Saturday, February 14, 2009 \PM\.\Sat\.

So you’re a single Catholic sitting at home with nothing to do on St. Valentine’s Day, what are your options?  Well there are many things that you can do, especially if you want to resolve your current status as a non-married person.  If you’re not called to religious life, you are most certainly called to married life with very few exceptions, yet you’re sitting on your couch still being single.  In this column I’ll offer a basic and fundamental template for a single Catholic in pursuing your future spouse(1).

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Political Philosophy or Ideology?

Saturday, February 14, 2009 \PM\.\Sat\.

While we’re discussing libertarianism and its derivations, Randy Barnett at The Volokh Conspiracy recently flagged a post by a libertarian that I found interesting:

I’ve always found libertarianism to be an attractive political philospohy. But…the libertarian perspective has a couple of traps. The trap Barnett describes is a particularly tough one to get out of: once seduced by a libertarian idea, like “goods and services are produced & distributed more effectively when markets are not interefered with by coercive agents like government”, its apparently obvious correctness turns it into a sort of semantic stop sign.

I went through a phase where if, say, education or healthcare policy came up in conversation, I’d say “Markets! Markets markets markets! MARKETS!” I found these conversations astonishingly unproductive, but I didn’t think to blame myself.

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Cultural or Political Axis?

Saturday, February 14, 2009 \PM\.\Sat\.

Donald linked below to a discussion of the death of “liberaltarianism”, which led many to ask what exactly that is.  As it so happens, I’d been reading about this seemingly contradictory phenomenon on Ross Douthat’s blog the other day.  It seems all this goes back to a piece Brink Lindsey originally wrote for The New Republic a couple years ago in which he complains:

Conservatism itself has changed markedly in recent years, forsaking the old fusionist synthesis in favor of a new and altogether unattractive species of populism. The old formulation defined conservatism as the desire to protect traditional values from the intrusion of big government; the new one seeks to promote traditional values through the intrusion of big government. Just look at the causes that have been generating the real energy in the conservative movement of late: building walls to keep out immigrants, amending the Constitution to keep gays from marrying, and imposing sectarian beliefs on medical researchers and families struggling with end-of-life decisions.

Though he admits there’s not been much real movement on the part of Democrats to please libertarians, he cites a few things: Read the rest of this entry »


Bumpy Road to Richmond

Saturday, February 14, 2009 \AM\.\Sat\.

virginia-civil-war-map

Something for the weekend.   Here is an  excellent video for the song Richmond is a hard road to travel, which retells the less than successful attempts of the Union army to seize Richmond from 1861 to the beginning of 1863.  This is one of the best historical music videos I have seen on the net.


The Laughing (Four of Them) Babies

Saturday, February 14, 2009 \AM\.\Sat\.

I have this particular video clip of toddling quadruplets laughing their diapers off saved on my YouTube list for quite a long time now.  You may have seen this awhile back on America’s Funniest Videos.  These four quadruplets never fail to put a smile on my face.  So enjoy and get your Saturday off to a great start.

Happy St. Valentine’s Day!


The Death of Liberaltarianism

Friday, February 13, 2009 \PM\.\Fri\.

liberaltarianism

Robert Stacy McCain has a brilliant column here on the death of the idea of a liberal and libertarian alliance.  Libertarian sites are noted for their scorn of traditional conservatives.  It will be amusing to see how much their economic and small government ideas need to be trashed before they decide that government sanctioned hedonism is not satisfactory compensation for paying for the socialization of America.


Data Ownership

Friday, February 13, 2009 \AM\.\Fri\.

As an analyst, one of the things that fascinates me about the latest Obama cabinet snafu is that it centers around data ownership.  GOP Senator Judd Gregg had been nominated to head the Commerce Department, but withdrew his nomination yesterday over “irresolvable conflicts“, large among which was disagreement over management of the US Census.  Although the Census has traditionally been run by the Commerce Department, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had indicated after Gregg’s nomination that the Census Bureau would be moved to report directly to senior White House officials.

Effectively, this would have created for Emanuel the largest political polling organization in the world — funded at government expense. Having influence into census methodologies, questions asked, and the priorities of census data analysts would not only give political operatives in the White House an incredible data edge of their opponents, it would also give them an inside edge on redrawing congressional districts as the result of the 2010 census.

For those with a great deal of faith in the chances of putting together a truly “bipartisan” cabinet, Gregg’s withdrawal is a setback. However, the fact that other members of the administration were seeking to take from Gregg’s control any politically potent processes, the commitment to real bipartisanship seems to have been shallow anyway. And one hopes that with a new nominee the Census Bureau will stay in the Commerce Department and remain less politicized than it would have if reporting to Rahm Emanuel.