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Weekend 193.1

To put this in plain terms, Americans and their institutions have tended to choose the self-interest and individualism of the free market over the nationalized model more prevalent in postwar Europe. The faith once put in planning now seems so remote, even obscure, that its historical retrieval faces decades of cavalier indifference or ideological antagonism, a form of silencing fueled by Cold War anxiety, bull market profits, as well as the failures of American attempts at creating a public safety net. — Andrew M. Shanken

(1) If we are to survive the looming catastrophe, we need to face the truth

This was the heaven on earth for which liberal democracy had been striving: a system of wealth redistribution that was merciful but not Marxist, and a guarantee of lifelong economic and social security for everyone that did not involve totalitarian government. This was the ideal the European Union was designed to entrench. It was the dream of Blairism, which adopted it as a replacement for the state socialism of Old Labour. And it is the aspiration of President Obama and his liberal Democrats, who want the United States to become a European-style social democracy.

Weekend 192.1

(1) Trouble on the China Express (WSJ)

In a blistering essay titled “The Derailed Country,” posted online this past week and then quickly removed by censors, Han Han, one of China’s most popular bloggers, mocked the leadership for what he characterized as a heartless approach to development. “They think: ‘We built this. We built that. You don’t need to care what happens along the way, or who gets the benefits, as long as you get to use it,'” Mr. Han wrote. “Why aren’t you grateful? Why all the questions?”

Limestone Commentary (Rails as a Metaphor)
I stopped writing about politics (and have been happier for it) but everything in this article about China’s government could be written (or said) about the U.S. in terms of graft/corruption, abject obtuseness, lack of transparency, doublespeak, and shameless bias of the fourth estate.

‘Do not be desirous to have things done quickly,’ said Confucius, China’s most famous philosopher, some 25 centuries ago. ‘Desire to have things done quickly prevents their being done thoroughly.’ China’s leadership is now suffering the consequences of ignoring this traditional wisdom.

More Limestone Commentary
Not sure expediency is an attribute of good democracy, particularly of late against a rash of manufactured crises.

You don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste; it’s an opportunity to do important things that you would otherwise avoid. — Rahm Emanuel

Connecticut Taxes

Dan Malloy(1) Has Connecticut taken a hard turn to the left?

(2) Connecticut About To Adopt Amazon Internet Sales Tax

(2a) Tax Hikes On Cars, Planes, Jewelry and Drags In Connecticut Budget

(3) Negotiator for CT State Employees Brags: ‘They Want to Know How We Did It’

(3a) The ‘Anti-Christie’: What Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy’s tax hike plan tells us about liberal governance.

(4) Democratic Governors (Heart) Taxes

(5) Amazon.com

From: Amazon.com Associates Program

Subject: Notice of Contract Termination Due to New Connecticut Law

Hello,

For well over a decade, the Amazon Associates Program has worked with thousands of Connecticut residents. Unfortunately, the budget signed by Governor Malloy contains a sales tax provision that compels us to terminate this program for Connecticut-based participants effective immediately. It specifically imposes the collection of taxes from consumers on sales by online retailers – including but not limited to those referred by Connecticut-based affiliates like you – even if those retailers have no physical presence in the state.

We opposed this new tax law because it is unconstitutional and counterproductive. It was supported by big-box retailers, most of which are based outside Connecticut, that seek to harm the affiliate advertising programs of their competitors. Similar legislation in other states has led to job and income losses, and little, if any, new tax revenue. We deeply regret that we must take this action.

As a result of the new law, contracts with all Connecticut residents participating in the Amazon Associates Program will be terminated today, June 10, 2011. Those Connecticut residents will no longer receive advertising fees for sales referred to Amazon.com, Endless.com, MYHABIT.COM or SmallParts.com. Please be assured that all qualifying advertising fees earned on or before today, June 10, 2011, will be processed and paid in full in accordance with the regular payment schedule.

Regards,

The Amazon Associates Team

Weekend 179.0

(1) China’s train wreck

(2) The Disappearing Dollar

(3) Is “Conservative Environmentalist” an Oxymoron?

The Republic’s Bernanke

(1) The Inflation Solution?

A wise short seller once told us the secret of his profession: People always underestimate how bad things can get. That is, they see the cliff coming and put faith in decision-makers to avoid the cliff. The problem with the metaphor is there is no cliff, just a succession of decision points in a worsening situation. Have no fear that our decision-makers will impose both fiscal austerity and inflation on us when it becomes absolutely unavoidable. The momentous question is whether they will do anything productive in the meantime.

(2) Inflation inflicting pain, as wages fail to keep pace with price hikes

But the current price spike is in some ways more pernicious than the last great U.S. inflation — the steep increases of the 1970s — and harder for policymakers to address. Today, raising interest rates might make a weak economy even weaker, stifling what meager growth there has been in wages. Moreover, higher interest would make the nation’s massive budget deficits even more expensive to finance, taking an additional toll on the economy.

(3) Commodities Challenge Bernanke Inflation View: Chart of the Day

The Policy of Inflation

Companies Stock Up as Commodities Prices Rise (WSJ)

The present valuation will often depend on what people expect the future quantity of money to be. And, as with commodities on the speculative exchanges, each person’s valuation of money is affected not only by what he thinks its value is but by what he thinks is going to be everybody else’s valuation of money.

– Henry Hazlitt, Economics In One Lesson

Related
Obama to Chamber: Let’s Do Business

But the inflation, though in part often deliberate, is today mainly the consequence of other government economic interventions. It is the consequence of, in brief, of the Redistributive State—of all the policies of expropriating money from Peter in order to lavish it on Paul.

– Henry Hazlitt, Economics In One Lesson

Limestone Commentary: Sigh. Hazlitt wrote that in 1976.

NY Times on Government Perversion

Jury duty. You endure CNN and watch some crappy video about how judges don’t legislate from the bench. I don’t typically use my blog to rant so I’ll spare all three of my reader(s) the histrionics. It was a fairly productive morning (completed a workbook my accountant provides me each year) and the lawyer sitting next to me furnished me with a copy of the NY TIMES after he moved onto his Kindle.

There were three articles in it I wanted to mention/cite since each makes the case against BIG government (and the favored policies of the liberals who read that awful paper). It’s also the NY TIMES so you feculent liberals can trust the source.

(1) Britain’s Economy Stalls, in Setback for Cameron

It is that formula that has stirred allegations from the political left in Britain that Mr. Cameron and Mr. Osborne are embarked on an ideological crusade, using Britain’s indebtedness, the worst in Europe, as an excuse to roll back the power of the state.

Limestone Commentary: Um. Fact. Britain’s indebtedness is the worst in Europe. What’s a logical and plausible counter to that indebtedness? How about expanding the power of the state via more spending? What a brilliant, Obama-like, solution!

(2) Who Invests in Low-Income Housing? Google, for One

Mr. Copeman attributed the differential today in tax credit prices from one region to another to “the unintended, perverse consequences” of the Community Reinvestment Act, despite what he said was a need for five million more units in all 50 states. He said banks generally did not make these investments in places where they had no depositors.

Limestone Commentary: Perverse! Fact: When the government tries to legislate equality something perverse always happens. Need a modern day example (the CRA is from 1989)? The Obama administration is passing out health care waivers because what was signed into law is a disaster. And what basis are the waivers being awarded? The government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers -unless- that was the entire point.

(3) A Growth Agenda for World Economic Forum

Finally, there is liberalization. It has become fashionable to blame the global financial crisis on free markets. But the problem rather was that markets were distorted by bailouts and skewed incentives.

Freeing markets, whether by liberalizing rules on hiring and firing or sweeping away restricted practices in professions, still has the capacity to deliver a big long-term boost to productivity in much of the world. The Davos delegates should grasp this agenda.

Limestone Commentary: Two words- perverse and distorted. Two more…tea and party.

UPDATE
The Wall Street Journal adds context via Virginia Postrel’s Small Crafts vs. Big Government.

Net Neutrality: A government “solution” for a non-problem

(1) The Net Neutrality Coup: The campaign to regulate the Internet was funded by a who’s who of left-liberal foundations.

(2) The Obama FCC has regulated the Internet

(3) Abolish the FCC

Quote
There is nothing in life that grows and thrives on its own that a liberal won’t come along and want to regulate and control. That is happening here…It’s particularly arrogant with the Internet which is evolving and changing rapidly as anything in the history of communications. I think that in and of itself is scary. -Charles Krauthammer

Limestone Commentary
It has to be doublespeak since the staff at WIRED were advocates (and campaigned for it) since the very beginning.

Weekend 156.0

(1) 12 Awesome Airplane Paint Jobs

(2) How to Turn a Recession into a Depression

(2a) “As hostility to businessmen grows, politicians tax them more heavily, while debasing and inflating the currency to maintain an illusion of prosperity. Then, when these policies cause rising price levels, a deluded populace demands price controls, which ambitious politicians are all too ready to impose.

Every nation has developed and flowered – with art, music, and the other ornaments and means of civilization – only on the basis of flourishing business trade, commerce. This was true of the Phoenicians, Ancient Greece, and Ancient Egypt, the Chinese civilization, the Byzantine Empire, Venice, Florence, Spain, England, France, Germany and the United States. Go through the history of each and you’ll find in its origins that period in which commerce and finance were highly regarded and relatively free in a developing civilization.” – V. Orval Watts

(3) Honda Icon Museum

(4) 23 years in the making for just one hour off the travel time: Drilling on world’s longest tunnel stretching 35.4 miles under the Alps is completed

(4a) Boondoggle in the Motor City – Detroit’s Train to Nowhere

(4b) Flashy Projects Have Not Helped Detroit

(4c) Where Infrastructure Estimates Come Up Short

(5) Yale Center for British Art

Mystery Solved: Why Obama crated Sir Winston

How Obama Thinks

While the senior Obama called for Africa to free itself from the neocolonial influence of Europe and specifically Britain, he knew when he came to America in 1959 that the global balance of power was shifting. Even then, he recognized what has become a new tenet of anticolonialist ideology: Today’s neocolonial leader is not Europe but America. As the late Palestinian scholar Edward Said–who was one of Obama’s teachers at Columbia University–wrote in Culture and Imperialism, “The United States has replaced the earlier great empires and is the dominant outside force.”

Update
White House rips Forbes over Obama cover story

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