Assorted Links (7/19/2012)

Here’s a list of articles that I have been reading lately:

Who else, Mr. President?

“When President Barack Obama hauled off and slapped American small-business owners in the mouth the other day, I wanted to dream of my father.”

The Campaign’s Stupid Moment

Holman Jenkins writes that, in ‘defining Romney,’ Obama may be finally defining himself for a mystified electorate. Quoting from this article, “So maybe, when the stupid moment passes, the two campaigns can take up the question likely to be on every lip in any case given the evening news: Whether America is to become more like Europe.”

‘You Didn’t Build That’

“The Wall Street Journal on the President’s burst of ideological candor.” Also be sure to check out the ‘You Didn’t Build That’ website located at!

There Is No ‘Euro Crisis’

Université Paris-Dauphine economist Pascal Salin writes that when a state in the U.S. has a debt problem, one never hears that there is a ‘dollar crisis.’  Quoting from this article, “It’s worth stressing that the deficits now plaguing these countries were, in large part, justified only a few years ago as necessary to initiate so-called “recovery policies.” But it is always an illusion to believe that governments could increase total demand and thereby induce producers to produce more. Governments can only shift resources from those who have created them to those who haven’t. The present state of affairs in countries that engaged in stimulus blowouts in 2008 and 2009 should serve as proof of the failure of the Keynesian model.”

Penn State, Duke and Integrity

“KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor write that Penn State and Duke offer examples of two universities experiencing two scandals and two leadership crises—but that’s where the comparison ends.” Fascinating case study of crisis management practices employed by two prominent academic institutions…

Infrastructure and Nation Building

“Adam White discusses the history of infrastructure improvement in these United States. Adam brings an acutely historical perspective to a perennial American problem – what is the proper role of federal government?” I highly recommend very informative podcast about the history of infrastructure improvement in the US, going back to its founding. The accompanying article entitled “Infrastructure Policy: Lessons from American History” (located at is also well worth reading!  

Why I’m Thankful For ‘Broken’ American Politics

“Although my daughter will miss out on the cross-cultural experience I had growing up in East Africa, mostly I’m grateful that she’ll be spared the political instability that most children around the world take as commonplace.”  Superb essay by a fellow parishioner from Christ Church in Austin, TX! 🙂

Obama against the Self-Made Man

Quoting from this article, “The Obama theory of entrepreneurship is that behind every successful businessman, there is a successful government. Everyone is helpless without the state, the great protector, builder, and innovator. Everything is ultimately a collective enterprise. Individual initiative is only an ingredient in the more important work when “we do things together.”

The Obama riff is a direct steal from Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Senate candidate in Massachusetts who sent liberal hearts aflutter by throwing the same wet towel on the notion of individual success a few months ago. The Obama/Warren view is a warrant for socialization of the proceeds of success. Behind its faux sophistication is a faculty-lounge disdain for business, and all those who make more than tenured professors by excelling at it. Behind its smiley we’re-all-in-it-together façade is a frank demand: You owe us.” 

Disastrous Economic Fallacies – Terror as Stimulus?

“Do natural disasters, earthquakes, or wars stimulate an economy and create growth? Did World War 2 get the US out of the Great Depression? Frederic Bastiat explained why such thinking is fallacious.”

How Surprise Changes Your Appetite for Risk

“According to new research… people who’ve experienced surprising outcomes in various situations — whether those outcomes were good or bad — are less likely to take risks in the future.”

The Capitalism Debate

The argument between President Obama and Mitt Romney has turned into a broader attack on the logic of global capitalism. Romney must now define his capitalist vision.

The Cure for Our Economy’s Stationary State

“Adam Smith knew what ails us—and he prescribed the cure.”

The Incredible Bain Jobs Machine

Andy Kessler explains how unfettered capitalism sets the stage for the “creative destruction” process in which both human and financial capital get redeployed in higher valued uses, thus creating jobs and “shared” (not coerced) wealth and prosperity. It used to be that these foundational principles of free enterprise came naturally for most Americans, but it now seems more like a foreign language rather than a natural aspect of the American enterprise for many of our fellow citizens…

Taubes on Why We Get Fat

Yet another book to read – Why We Get Fat and What to Do About it, by Gary Taubes (cf. Taubes claims, among other things, that “…nutrition and obesity research lost its way after the Second World War with the evaporation of the European community of scientists and physicians that did the pioneering work in those disciplines.” Specifically, he is referencing work done by German and Austrian scientists and physicians in particular (a similar point could be made about the work done by the Austrian school of economics, but I digress). Anyway, I listened to this podcast on my morning walk today – it provides an excellent layman’s guide to understanding food science. In a nutshell, I learned that hormones, enzymes, and growth factors regulate our fat tissue, just as they do everything else in the human body, and that we do not get fat because we overeat; we get fat because the carbohydrates in our diet make us fat.

Why so many financial crises?

Here’s the abstract for this AEI paper: “The global financial picture continues to look bleak, with major current disruptions in the United States, Europe, and China that demonstrate a troubling overall pattern of weak recoveries and rolling crises. Boom-and-bust examples from Japan and China over the last forty years show how overinvestment can result in financial bubbles. When the bubbles burst, investors are pushed into less-risky assets that reflect a transition away from wealth enhancement to wealth preservation that complicates a much-needed return to economic equilibrium. Sound currency policy, including more exchange rate flexibility for rapidly growing economies, can help mitigate asset bubbles and financial crises that are hampering global growth.”

Assorted Links (7/15/2012)

Here’s a list of articles that I have been reading lately:

Can Liberal Christianity Be Saved?

“The more progressive the Episcopal Church becomes, the more it shrinks.” One way to answer this question is to consider data on church membership. The Episcopal Church currently has roughly 1.95 million members. According to the Association of Religion Data Archives (see, the last time Church membership was at this level was 65 years ago, when the US population was about 40% of what it is currently. This same source indicates that membership peaked in 1966 at 3.4 million members. In the 46 years since then, the average annual rate of decline in church membership has been 1.22%. During this same period, the population of the United States has increased slightly more than 1% per year on average. So this is one heck of a delta!

The Tax Cliff Is a Growth Killer

“In The Wall Street Journal, Arthur Laffer and Ford Scudder write that no matter what happens from now on, 2013 will be a very tough year.”

How Europe Can Create Jobs

“The Wall Street Journal writes that the Spanish labor market has been regulated, mandated and taxed nearly to death, but Mariano Rajoy and other leaders in Madrid can still reverse 24% unemployment.”

Chávez’s War on the Media

“In The Wall Street Journal, Americas columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady writes that Venezuela is holding a presidential election between Hugo Chávez and Henrique Capriles, but the president has squelched free speech.”  This sure sounds familiar: “The president takes no responsibility. He blames everything on the rich. He says they are exploiting the working classes and don’t pay their fair share in taxes. Fomenting class envy and resentment is his stock in trade. Now suppose there are is no independent media.”

The Left’s War on Science

Quoting from this article, “Perhaps the best way to deal with this war on science is not to merely rant against the political party you hate but to produce science open to all possibilities and when the research suggests a finding that is counter to liberal presuppositions that we treat it like we treat the ones counter to conservative presuppositions. Mirroring the proper attitudes and actions for conservatives would go a long way to show how science should be used in our society.”

For those who have lost faith (in capitalism)

Quoting from this Economist book review, “”Capitalism without failure is like religion without sin. It doesn’t work well… However, the sins attributed to capitalism—corruption, fraud and greed, to name but three—are not only pervasive in systems where the state controls production, but far more damaging and far less likely to be rectified.”

The Intelligent Investor: Yields So High, They Can’t Be for Real

“The Cornerstone closed-end funds boast yields of as much as 22%. Why we’re not buying it.” This article showcases how innumeracy can be dangerous for one’s financial health!

Home Prices Are Hitting Bottom

“This may be the buyer’s market of the century, but what if you’re a seller? Here are some things to consider if you’re on the wrong side of the market.”

Forget About the Mandate. Let’s Fix Health Care

Quoting from this article by University of Chicago finance professor John Cochrane, “Health care is a complex service, in which each person’s needs are blurry, and the line between “need” and “want” blurrier still. Imagine if the government decreed that law firms, car-repair shops, or home contractors had to charge everyone the same price, and couldn’t turn anyone away. “House fix,” for example, would be $1,000 per year, no matter how large the house or what shape it’s in. Why do we think this will work for medical services?”

Five myths about free enterprise

Here is the list of five myths about free enterprise that American Enterprise Institute president Arthur Brooks debunks in this Washington Post op-ed: 1. Free enterprise hurts the poor, 2. Free markets are driven by greed, 3. Free enterprise breeds envy, 4. The free market caused the financial meltdown, and 5. Free enterprise is unfair.

Italy and Germany’s Endgame for the Euro

“The risk of a euro-zone breakup may actually be rising rather than falling.”

What’s Really Behind the Entitlement Crisis

“Ben Wattenberg writes that declining birth rates mean there are not enough workers to support retirees.”  “Pay as you go” is obviously not a good system, given the demographics of American society (as well as most other western societies)…

What Ails the Episcopalians

Quoting from this article, “During the day, legislators in the lower chamber, the House of Deputies, and the upper chamber, the House of Bishops, discussed such weighty topics as whether to develop funeral rites for dogs and cats, and whether to ratify resolutions condemning genetically modified foods. Both were approved by a vote, along with a resolution to “dismantle the effects of the doctrine of discovery,” in effect an apology to Native Americans for exposing them to Christianity.”

The Ballot Box Is Not the Only Way to Stop Obamacare

“In the wake of the recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision holding the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) constitutional as a tax, the conventional wisdom is that the only way to save America from the consequences of Obamacare is via the ballot box. Elect a Republican majority to the U.S. Senate, keep the Republican majority in the House, replace President Obama in the White House, and then hope they keep their promises and repeal Obamacare.”

ACA ruling kicks the real challenges down the road

“The fundamental challenge for American health policy is to balance three competing goals: getting better value for our health care dollar, controlling public spending on entitlements, and providing a safety net for those who cannot afford care.”

Holder’s Jim Crow Politics

“The Wall Street Journal on the AG’s claim that voter ID laws are ‘poll taxes.’”

John Steele Gordon: Air Conditioning, Blessed Invention

“Willis Carrier changed the world for the better—though making Washington, D.C. livable in summer doesn’t help the cause of limited government.”

The Libor Scandal’s Threat to Growth

“In The Wall Street Journal, David Malpass writes that the world cannot afford endless litigation against banks in the wake of the allegations against the manipulations of Libor.”

Libor Demystified

“The Wall Street Journal on the attempt by the Bank of England’s No. 2 to put the minor scandal in context.”

Don’t Eat Your Dog: The Surprising Moral Case for Free Enterprise

“Government keeps growing — and freedom keeps shrinking — because we fail to make the moral case for free enterprise.”  I highly recommend this 8 minute animated video which provides a compelling summary of the moral case for free enterprise, based upon Arthur Brooks’ new book entitled “The Road to Freedom” (cf.

For Obama, taxes are about social justice

Quoting from this article, “For Obama, it’s clear that rising taxes for the affluent is about social justice, not balancing the federal budget or the economy. He doesn’t think that some people should be making that much more than other people, and government should do something about it.” For President Obama, raising tax RATES (which doesn’t necessarily translate into higher taxes paid; see below) on the affluent is all about “social justice”, not balancing the federal budget or improving the overall performance of the economy.

In a televised interview during the 2008 campaign, ABC’s Charlie Gibson pointed out to then candidate Obama that historically, an inverse relationship exists between capital gains tax rates and government revenue – i.e., the higher (lower) the rate, the lower (higher) are the tax collections that result (see for a partial transcript of this interview). Candidate Obama’s response was, “Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.”

Freakonomics » How Much Do Football Wins Pay Off for a College?

“An NBER paper by Michael L. Anderson looks into the how a university’s football performance affects its academic performance.”

Assorted Links (7/9/2012)

Here’s a list of articles that I have been reading lately:

A Short History of Congress’s Power to Tax

“In The Wall Street Journal, historian Paul Moreno writes that the Supreme Court has long distinguished the regulatory from the taxing power.”

America Already Is Europe

“In The Wall Street Journal, Arthur Brooks notes that in spending, debt and progressivity of taxes, the U.S. is as much a social-welfare state as Spain.”

America Has Too Many Teachers

“In The Wall Street Journal, Andrew Coulson writes that public-school employees have doubled in 40 years while student enrollment has increased by only 8.5%—and academic results have stagnated.”

Democrats and the Tax Cliff

“The Wall Street Journal reports several Senators suggest they may not want to take the November leap.”

Saving Money By Converting to Christianity

“At upwards of US$500, the cost of slaughtering a buffalo to revive a relative condemned to ill-health by the spirits has pushed the Jarai indigenous minority residents of Somkul village in Ratanakkiri to a more affordable religious option: Christianity.”

The Jobless Class of 2012

“The unemployment rate for those aged 18-29 may now be close to 17%.”

Motives vs. results

Excellent essay by GMU economics professor Russ Roberts. Quoting from the article, “Both sides want to make the world a better place. We just disagree on how to get there.”

Conservatives Are Happier, and Extremists Are Happiest of All

“WHO is happier about life — liberals or conservatives? Scholars on both the left and right have studied this question extensively, and have reached a consensus that it is conservatives who possess the happiness edge.”

In Health-Care Ruling, Roberts Writes His Own Law

“In the end, most of the arguments about President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul turned out to be beside the point.”

How to cure health care

Here is a link to Milton Friedman’s (Winter 2001) National Affairs article entitled “How to cure health care”. Although it is a dated article, Friedman’s analysis is timeless, in that he identifies how over-reliance upon third party payment mechanisms (which Obamacare “doubles down” on) incentivizes consumers to over-consume health care and thereby drive up the overall costs of the system…

How to Replace Obamacare

This National Affairs article by health economists James C. Capretta and Robert E. Moffit provides a roadmap for “replace” after “repeal” has occurred… Tip of the hat to Kevin Stuart for making me aware of this article.

5 million jobs still missing since recession ended

“Five million jobs. That’s how many the economy has still failed to recover since the Great Recession officially ended three years ago. The nation lost nearly 8.8 million jobs between January 2008 and February 2010. Since then, it’s regained more than 3.8 million — less than 44 percent. The economy has added just 137,000 jobs a month since employment hit bottom. At that pace, it would take three more years for employment to return to where it was in January 2008.” — Paul Wiseman, AP Economics Writer (Source:

The imperial presidency revisited

Here’s the latest from Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer… “Obama’s policies are the very definition of executive overreach.”

The States Resist Obamacare

“Michael Tanner writes on NRO: One of the few bright spots in the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare was its 7–2 decision striking down the Obama administration’s attempt to blackmail states into going along with a massive and costly expansion of Medicaid.”

A Choice, Not a Whine

“Opponents of Obama’s health care law should stop venting about John Roberts and instead provide a credible alternative.”

Supreme Court didn’t agree with Obama

“Despite president’s claims, justices did not endorse health care law’s core principles.”

A Strategy to Undo ObamaCare

“Stanford’s Keith Hennessey writes that to push through key parts of the Affordable Care Act, Democrats used the ‘reconciliation’ process. A Republican president, House and Senate can use reconciliation to repeal them.”

The Roberts rewrite: A fitting save for Obamacare

“Chief Justice John Roberts’ judicial sleight of hand, transforming Obamacare’s mandate into a tax, was a fittingly twisted save for a law of such grisly provenance.”

America, the Exceptional

Quoting from this inspiring article:

“A day after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams sent word to his wife with a prescient note:

The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

He was off by two days, not realizing the date on the document would overshadow the vote itself—a tribute to the skill with which Thomas Jefferson captured the zeitgeist of the moment. The Declaration was more than an announcement or a contract. It encapsulated a philosophy and vision that set the cornerstone of an exceptional nation.”

Obamacare: The Final Battle

“Republicans have to explain why it’s bad — and explain it soon.”

The Real Reason Companies Aren’t Investing

Quoting from this article, “In the wake of the financial crisis, the Facebook IPO debacle, the “flash crash,” and the developments in high-frequency trading, stock investors are questioning the very integrity of the markets, and the perceived risk of holding an equity portfolio has increased. Investors want a higher return to compensate for the risk, and issuers have to account for that in their spending choices.”

Assorted Links (7/2/2012)

Here’s a list of articles that I have been reading and podcasts that I have been listening to lately:

Zingales on Capitalism and Crony Capitalism

“Luigi Zingales of the University of Chicago and author of “A Capitalism for the People” talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the ideas in his book.”

The Price of Health Care

Quoting from this essay by NYT columnist Ross Douthat, “But the Obama White House was convinced that it could fight the recession and rewrite the social compact all at once. And when the administration’s economic policies didn’t deliver as promised, it was almost inevitable that the focus on health care would cost Obama approval ratings, cost his party House seats — and perhaps help cost him a second term as well.”

The Return of the Protectionist Illusion

“Dartmouth economist Douglas Irwin writes that trade barriers are once again threatening the global economy, and the U.S. isn’t helping.”

A Vast New Taxing Power

“The Wall Street Journal writes that Chief Justice John Roberts’s ObamaCare ruling is far from the check on Congress of right-left myth.”

What Is the American Creed?

“In The Wall Street Journal, David Gelernter writes that if we forget our basic ideals or shrug them off, we no longer deserve to be great.”

Obama and ‘The Wealth of Nations’

“In The Wall Street Journal, Michael Boskin writes that after listening to his litany of economic excuses, it’s clear the president’s reading list should include Adam Smith.”  This is a sort of WWCD (what would Clinton do) essay by Stanford University economist Michael Boskin. Probably not going to happen…

Why Locavorism Doesn’t Make Us Happier, Healthier, or Safer

“All the rage among foodies today is locavorism, the idea that you should buy local food, but Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu defend the health, safety, and economic benefits of our global food-supply chain.”  This article about locavorism does a superb job in delineating its myriad unintended consequences!

The Grumpy Economist: My 2 Cents on the Supreme Court and Obamacare

The Grumpy Economist (AKA University of Chicago professor John Cochrane) gives his 2 cents on the Supreme Court and Obamacare; he also just posted two more cents earlier today @ Anything that Cochrane writes is worth reading, since even if you don’t agree with him, at least his arguments are logically coherent and thought provoking.

After reading both of these postings, my inner libertarian feels a lot better about what happened this past week. Although I am certainly not a fan of Obamacare (in fact, I hope Obamacare gets repealed and replaced with a more market friendly and patient centered approach which completely, once and for all breaks the link between insurance and employment; e.g., see for further discussion of these ideas), Professor Cochrane notes that 1) SCOTUS overturned the mandate under the commerce clause, and 2) while a mandate is a mandate, a tax is “only” a tax. The latter point is important since a mandate would have implied nearly unlimited and potentially highly intrusive federal enforcement powers, whereas once you pay the tax, there is nothing else that the government can do. Furthermore, taxes require congressional approval, whereas mandates are at the discretion of HHS.

Uncommon Knowledge: Thomas Sowell on the second edition of Intellectuals and Society

Peter Robinson’s 52 minute interview with Thomas Sowell centers around a discussion of a new edition of Sowell’s famous book entitled “Intellectuals and Society” (cf., which begins with the sentence “Intellect is not wisdom”. I especially appreciated the following quotes from the interview:

1. “The road to hell is paved with Ivy League degrees”, and
2. “It gives them a much bigger role in the world. I mean if you believe in free markets, what about all these people who want to have social justice. People just go out there; they make whatever deals they can with each other, work things out and then go on their way. Here is all this unused brilliance standing on the sideline watching with impotent rage.”

It Now Falls to Congress

Quoting from this article, “ObamaCare was a mistake from the start, a massive effort by the federal government to take over and control one-sixth of the economy — indeed, the part that concerns the most complex and intimate details of life, our health. It’s the most ambitious example to date of the political hubris progressives have displayed for over a century now, the belief that government can solve all of our problems.”

Who will pay the ObamaCare uninsured tax?

“These three million people are not rich, they will be uninsured, and they will be required to pay higher taxes. The tax increases on these people clearly violate the President’s pledge not to raise taxes on anyone earning less than $250K.”

He Knows Why We Fight

Here’s yet another book to add to my summer reading list: “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion” (cf.… “Holman Jenkins interviews Jonathan Haidt, as the professor of moral psychology explains that conservative or liberal, our moral instincts are shaped by evolution to strengthen ‘us’ against ‘them.’” 

Chief Justice Roberts and His Apologists

“In The Wall Street Journal, John Yoo writes that some conservatives see a silver lining in the ObamaCare ruling, but it’s exactly the big-government disaster it appears to be.”  Quoting further from this article by Berkeley law professor John Yoo, “Justice Roberts too may have sacrificed the Constitution’s last remaining limits on federal power for very little—a little peace and quiet from attacks during a presidential election year.”

ObamaCare—Upheld and Doomed

“In The Wall Street Journal, Business World columnist Holman Jenkins writes that regardless of the Supreme Court, fiscal reality will prevail.” Quoting further from this article, “The last thing we needed, in a country staggering under deficits and debt, a sluggish economy and an unaffordable entitlement structure, was a new Rube Goldberg entitlement. The last thing we needed was ObamaCare. The nation and the times were asking Mr. Obama to reform health care, not to double-down on everything wrong with the current system.”