Even with the Bribes Chinese Health Care is Better since Privatization

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 12th, 2014

Week in Review

China has recently privatized their health care system.  Sort of.  They have private health care providers and a state health insurance that helps pay for it with a small patient ‘co-pay’.  Quality of care did increase.  But health care providers don’t get paid a lot in China.  And turn to other means of compensation that is not without its problems (see ‘Guardian angels’ to protect Chinese doctors from patients by Malcolm Moore posted 4/9/2014 on The Telegraph).

Hospitals in Beijing will recruit 1,500 “guardian angels” to protect their doctors from violent attacks by patients.

In recent years, angry patients have killed a number of Chinese doctors, often citing frustration at how they have been handled by the healthcare system…

Doctors and nurses in hospitals are violently attacked every two weeks on average, the state media said, by patients angry at long waiting times, high medical bills and haughty or uncaring doctors…

The government has promised to root out corruption in the healthcare system, and the Health Ministry said in February it would target patients who bribe doctors for better treatment.

Yes, bribes.  Or hongbao, as it’s called in China.  If you want some decent care in a Chinese hospital you have to slide an envelope with money in it to your health care provider.  Otherwise you’ll only get what the state health insurance will buy you.  Long waiting times, high medical bills (for what the state insurance doesn’t cover—a high deductible, if you will) and haughty or uncaring doctors.  Which tells you how bad the health care system must have been before they privatized it.  For it’s a lot better now than it used to be.

So China made their health care better by privatizing it (although it is still so bad that angry patients who paid good bribes for their loved one’s care are assaulting their doctors and nurses every two weeks on average).  While the United States is going the other way.  Towards more state control.  Pity the Obama administration can’t be more like China when it comes to health care.  And try to improve the quality of health care instead of making it worse.  Which they will likely do as their cost saving measure is simply to pay health care providers less.  Which will likely discourage doctors from entering the system.  Or remaining in the system.  Leading to longer waiting times.  And, perhaps, bribes.  At least from those who want good care for their loved ones.

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FT217: “If you want to know what it was like living under an absolute monarchy just think of the IRS.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 11th, 2014

Fundamental Truth

Thomas Jefferson wanted to keep the New Federal Government and Money Apart

Thomas Jefferson did not trust government.  And he didn’t trust moneyed men.  Because when the two come together they cause nothing but trouble.  That’s why he hated and distrusted Alexander Hamilton.  Hamilton wanted a strong central government.  A central bank.  And an economic system favoring merchants and bankers.  With big city moneyed men financing the government in return for special favors.

This is why the nation’s capital isn’t in New York City.  It once was.  But one of the first deals the Hamilton and Jefferson camps made was the relocation of the nation’s capital to a mosquito-infested swamp on the Potomac River.  A long, long way from the moneyed men in New York City.  To try to keep the new federal government and money apart.  To restrict the influence of the moneyed men on the government.  And to prevent the government from having easy access to big money.

Why did Jefferson want to do this?  Well, they fought for their independence from Great Britain.  Which was a constitutional monarchy.  Where some in Parliament were no friends of British America.  And got the king to agree with them rather than the pro-British America faction in Parliament.  Ironically, the Americans got help in their War of Independence from France.  Which had an absolute monarchy.  Whose king ruled with no check on his power.  Both governments were in the big cities.  London.  And Paris.  Where the moneyed men were.  In the big cities.  Allowing these monarchies to do a whole lot of mischief all around the world.  And a fair amount of mischief inside their own countries.  Because the money and the government were in the same city.

Government + Money = Corruption

Great Britain and France were forever at war with each other.  And with other countries.  Requiring a lot of money.  Which they got from the moneyed men.  In return for special privileges that allowed them to get ever richer.  Of course the mischief grew greater as they fought a world war or two.  Requiring ever more money.  Which they got from, of course, taxing the rest of the people.  Even those who could little afford it.  And once this starts, once the government starts accumulating debt, that taxation will only get greater.

This is what Jefferson was worried about.  And why he so distrusted Hamilton.  The Founding Fathers were all gentlemen of the Enlightenment.  Disinterested public servants.  Honorable men who would never take advantage of their position in government for personal gain.  Because for these men honor was everything.  Some even fought duels to protect their honor.  As Hamilton did.  And died.  Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, Jay and Franklin were men of exceptional integrity.  Men who could be trusted.  But here is where Hamilton and Jefferson differed.  Hamilton believed only men like them would ever enter government.  While Jefferson believed that government service would one day attract mostly scoundrels and knaves.

Of course, Jefferson was right.  For as the nation grew so did the size of government.  And the need for great big piles of money.  Which the moneyed men provided.  In exchange for special privileges.  Patronage.  Lucrative government contracts.  Etc.  Big piles of money flowed into Washington.  And favors flowed out from Washington.  With many a politician getting rich in the process of getting rich moneyed men richer.  Politicians who used their position in government for personal gain.  Corrupted politicians.  As government + money = corruption.  Which is why politicians always leave office richer than when they entered office.

Power + Corruption = Tyranny

This is how it started.  As the size of government grew corruption grew.  Just as Jefferson feared.  All that money flowing into Washington corrupted ever more politicians.  Who were not gentlemen of the Enlightenment.  But the scoundrels and knaves Jefferson knew would come.  Who used their position in government for personal gain.  Whose corruption grew so great it exploded federal spending.  So great that taxes from the moneyed men AND the middle class were unable to fund it.  So the taxation grew more aggressive.

The government created by the Founding Fathers had no income taxes.  They funded the few things the new national government did with tariffs for the most part.  People lived from day to day without any fear of the taxman.  The United States even did away with debtors’ prison.  Prison where people were sent who could not pay their debts.  A relic of the 19th century.  Sort of.  For there is one debt people can still go to prison for not paying.  Past-due taxes.  For the IRS can take everything you have and imprison you if you don’t pay your taxes.  And those taxes have grown great as of late.  As the tax code has grown convoluted.  Requiring businesses to hire armies of accountants and lawyers to comply with.  So the government can help the moneyed men who help the government.  In return for special privileges, of course.  Leaving the masses dreading April 15.  As they dread opening any letter from the IRS.

If you want to know what it was like living under an absolute monarchy just think of the IRS.  People fear the IRS.  Just as people feared the arbitrary power of an absolute monarchy.  A king could take your property and lock you away.  Just like the IRS.  And if you spoke out against the monarchy the king could make your life really unpleasant.  Just like the IRS.  During the 2012 election the IRS targeted conservative political groups to stifle their free speech.  Delayed their tax-exempt status approval.  And harassed them with costly tax audits.  And now their tyranny has extended to people in the middle class.  Who unbeknownst to them had a family member owe the federal government.  Years earlier.  Even a generation earlier.  And the IRS is arbitrarily seizing the tax refunds from these debtors’ distant relatives to pay these debts.  Even though they are in no way responsible for these debts.  And the government has no documentation for this debt.  Doesn’t matter.  Because they have the power to do this.  And these people are powerless to stop them.  Just like people living under an absolute monarchy were powerless to stop their king from doing anything to them.  And this is what Jefferson feared.  For after corruption comes tyranny.  For power + corruption = tyranny.  (Just look at every tin-pot dictator that has oppressed his people).  Which is why people fear the IRS.  And the federal government the IRS is beholden to.  Because they have become everything Jefferson feared they would.

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Hamilton, Jefferson, Republicans, Federalists, Money & Power, Corruption, British, French, Neutral Shipping and Letters of Marque

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 27th, 2012

Politics 101

Hamilton trusted Men of Integrity to Govern Justly while Jefferson believed Money and Power would Corrupt Anyone

Nasty politics began back in the Washington administration.  With the seething hatred between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.  These American greats had two different visions for America.  Based on their background.  Hamilton’s from his experience in the Continental Army and his business experience.  Jefferson’s from his books.  As different as their views for America were, and despite their hatred for each other, they both loved their country.  And wanted what was best for their country.  While absolutely sure that the other had nefarious plans for its ruin.

Both were students of the Enlightenment.  Both believed in the natural, God-given rights of the people.  And both believed vehemently in the rule of law.  In fact, both were lawyers.  But Hamilton was part of the Continental Army when its troops were barefoot, half-naked and starving.  Which were barefoot, half-naked and starving because of a weak Continental Congress that could not provide for them.  Because they were weak, impotent and could not levy taxes.  All they could do was ask the states to give them money.  The states promised little.  And delivered even less.  Threatening the American Revolution itself.

Jefferson, on the other hand, saw that history was replete with examples of corruption and oppression whenever financial centers and the seat of power got too close.  Hamilton may have seen this.  But what he was most conscious of was the British Empire.  The greatest empire in the world.  Which became the greatest empire in the world by bringing the financial centers and the seat of power together.  Which is what Hamilton wanted to do.  Trusting in the integrity and moral character of gentlemen of the Enlightenment.  Who would rule with selfless indifference.  Principled men with strong Judeo-Christian values.  These were the men that would rule America.  Men like the Founding Fathers.  Who they could trust with money and power.  Who America should trust with money and power.  To make an American Empire to surpass the British Empire.  This is what Hamilton wanted.  While Jefferson believed that money and power would corrupt anyone.  If not in their generation then surely in the generations to follow.  And the best way to prevent this was by giving government as little money and power as possible.

An Outbreak of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia nearly settled the Quarrel between Hamilton and Jefferson

So Jefferson opposed Hamilton at every opportunity.  Such as the Bank of the United States.  And Hamilton’s funding system.  Making matters worse was that Hamilton’s Treasury Department was the largest department in the federal government.  While Jefferson’s State Department was one of the smallest.  So Jefferson tried to transfer some parts of Treasury to his State Department.  The Post Office.  Which he failed in getting.  But he did succeed in transferring the Mint from Treasury to State.  Hamilton even learned that James Madison and Jefferson met with Robert Livingston and Aaron Burr to conspire against Hamilton to remove him from office.  Hamilton saw an ambitious Jefferson.  Who wanted the kind of power Jefferson accused Hamilton wanted for himself.

So these gentlemen began a campaign to force the other from office.  Hamilton had an ally in the Gazette of the United States who championed his policies.  To counter Jefferson hired Philip Freneau into the State Department to help finance a new paper.  The National Gazette.  Whose sole purpose was to attack Hamilton while praising everything Jeffersonian.  Hamilton wrote anonymous attacks published in the Gazette of the United States.  While Jefferson left his dirty work to Freneau.  And the attacks grew uglier.  The attacks were not just on policy or the future vision of the nation.  But these were personal attacks on each other.  Where accuracy was not a major requirement.  Such as when Hamilton took Jefferson out of context.  Quoting selective excerpts from a 1787 letter to suggest that Jefferson wanted to rob the Dutch to repay the French.  Hamilton and Jefferson became like two quarreling children in Washington’s cabinet.  Each running to ‘father’ tattling on the other.  Insisting that Washington demand the resignation of the other.

An outbreak of yellow fever in Philadelphia nearly settled the question.  By almost killing Hamilton.  But he survived.  Unlike some 4,000 others in Philadelphia.  Even Hamilton’s illness was seen through a political lens.  Hamilton sought the medical advice from an old college buddy.  As opposed to following the good advice of Dr. Benjamin Rush.  Who recommended massive bloodlettings.  When Hamilton recovered he publically thanked his friend (who had nothing to do with his recovery) and encouraged others to follow his recommended treatment.  Which didn’t include bloodletting.  Dr. Rush was infuriated.  Accusing Hamilton of killing countless others through this quackery instead of the sensible bloodletting that was established medical practice.  Of course, this was a personal attack on Dr. Rush.  Because he was not a Federalist.  But a Republican.  And a friend of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.

While the French were causing Headaches for Jefferson and his Republicans the British were doing the same to Hamilton and his Federalists

The yellow fever also claimed another casualty.  The National Gazette.  As people fled Philadelphia, or died, circulation fell.  And the paper lost money and closed shop.  About the same time that happened Jefferson resigned from the cabinet.  And returned to Monticello.  Things were looking up for Hamilton.  Until the reverberations of the French Revolution further divided the country.  The Federalists were reestablishing trade with the British.  So when the French and British were back at war with each other it caused some problems in America.  For the American people still hated Britain.  While having deep emotional ties to the country that had helped them win their independence.  France.  The United States had proclaimed their neutrality in this new war.  But being a maritime nation dependent on exports her best interests lay with Great Britain and the most powerful navy in the world.  Which further proved that Hamilton and his Federalists were secret monarchists.  And that Hamilton wanted to be king.

Meanwhile, the French had sent their new ambassador to America.  Citizen Genêt.  Who Jefferson, the Republicans and the American people welcomed with open arms.  But then he started issuing letters of marque to American captains to attack and capture British shipping.  Bringing them back to American ports to refit them.  Which was a dangerous thing for a neutral nation to do against the nation that kept the sea lanes safe for their commerce.  Then Citizen Genêt tried to raise an American army to attack the Spanish in Florida and in New Orleans.  With further aims of attacking the British in Canada.  This was too much even for Jefferson.  And it was one of the few times that Jefferson and Hamilton were in agreement.  Citizen Genêt had to go.  For Jefferson he was proving to be an embarrassing liability for the Republicans.

While at the same time the British were retaliating.  Issuing orders to blockade France and to seize any neutral shipping trying to supply France with corn.  Which was pretty much any agricultural grain product.  A major export of the United States.  So this was a direct blow against U.S. commerce.  Even though she was a neutral in this current war between France and Great Britain.  This did not make the American people happy.  Nor did it help Hamilton or his Federalists with their rapprochement with Britain.  Then the British began to seize all shipping going to and from the French West Indies.  Which were mostly American ships.  So while Citizen Genêt was causing great headaches for Jefferson and his Republicans the British were doing the same to Hamilton and his Federalists.  Further dividing the nation.  And bringing them closer to war.  In large part due to the politics dividing the nation.

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Democrat Political Cronies profit well from Energy Department Loan Guarantees and Stimulus Spending

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 29th, 2012

Week in Review

Thomas Jefferson did not want the federal government to have money.  This is where he parted ways with Alexander Hamilton.   Hamilton wanted to give the federal government money to spend to jumpstart American industry.  To make it an empire to rival the British Empire.  But Jefferson looked at world history and saw nothing but examples of corruption whenever money and government intertwined.  This is one reason why Washington D.C. is where it is.  Because the big financiers were in New York City.  Which in those days was on the other side of the world from Washington D.C.  Something he hoped would keep money out of the hands of the federal government.  For awhile at least.

Fast forward to today.  Where we have a bloated federal government the size of which would have sickened Jefferson.  And seeing the amount of money it spent would have killed him.  The Department of Energy guaranteeing loans?  And a trillion dollar stimulus bill?  Had he lived he would have suspected some heinous Hamiltonian plot.  For neither would have happened in a Jefferson presidency.  For he knew it would only lead to corruption.  Like it has (see Solyndra, Cronyism, and Double-Dipping on the Taxpayers’ Dime by Nancy Pfotenhauer posted 7/23/2012 on U.S. News & World Report).

Solyndra became the poster child of spectacularly poor political and policy judgment when it filed for bankruptcy, laid off a thousand employees, and left taxpayers holding the bag on $535 million in loan guarantees. In testimony Thursday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the other shoe dropped. Apparently, many of the companies that received loans under the auspices of the same infamous program were well-established entities that essentially double-dipped to grab as many taxpayer dollars as possible…

According to Mercatus scholar Veronique de Rugy’s testimony, approximately 90 percent of the [Department of Energy's Section] 1705 program loans went to subsidize power plants often backed by big companies with extensive resources…

Now comes the double dip: Companies such as NRG Energy Inc.—closely linked to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid—not only received $3.8 billion 1705 loans (almost a quarter of the total), but three subentities of the same company received a total of at least 39 grants under the stimulus law…

While happily House Republicans are moving to end the Energy Department’s loan guarantee program, the Export-Import Bank, reauthorized in May in a rush of bipartisan irresponsibility, was part of the double-dipping in a particularly distressing manner.  According to de Rugy, First Solar raked in $646 million in 1705 loan guarantees through partner Exelon and landed another $547.7 million of the same from the Ex-IM bank…

…Some of the Ex-Im money went to a Canadian company named St. Clair Solar, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of First Solar. St. Clair Solar received a total of $192.9 million broken into two loans to buy solar panels from First Solar. In other words, the company received a loan to buy solar panels from itself.  (emphasis added)

Loaning money to a company so it can buy from itself?  That just isn’t right.  And $3.8 billion going to a crony of Majority Leader Harry Reid?  No wonder the Democrats are all for green energy initiatives and stimulus spending.  They get to take care of their friends.  Get some of that money in return.  And live very well courtesy of the taxpayers who they are stealing from.  Of course they will deny this.  Saying people (i.e., rich people like them) will eventually spend this money in the economy.  That when they and their friends buy expensive cars, private planes, large houses, expensive wines, vacation junkets, etc., they are creating jobs in the economy.  Generating economic activity.  Which is what a stimulus is supposed to do.  And they will say this with righteous indignation.  But what they won’t say is how much middle class economic activity their high taxes kill in the private sector.  And how much their deficit spending adds to the national debt.  Which has already lowered America’s debt rating once.  Which is just a sign of the devastation their reckless spending will cause us.  And our children.

We should follow Jefferson’s advice.  And limit the amount of money government can spend.  Defense spending?  Yes.  Intervening into the private economy?  No.  Because loan guarantees and stimulus spending don’t help anyone but those spending the money.  Our politicians.  And their cronies.  For Jefferson was right.  Nothing but corruption comes from intertwining money and government.

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The Chinese Economy suffers from High Corruption that is a Part of Communism

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 7th, 2012

Week in Review

The American Left likes to look at China as the way we should do business here in America.  Just like they looked at the Japanese in the Eighties and thought the same thing.  For the Left just hates laissez faire free market capitalism.  They want the government inserted into the economy in a big way.  For they believe that only then can we reach our true economic potential.  Despite what happened in Japan (their deflationary spiral and Lost Decade).  And what’s happening in China (see Chinese Corruption Comes in Staggering Sums by Angela Wang posted 7/2/2012 on The Epoch Times).

Corruption is a massive problem for the Chinese Communist Party, and it cuts both ways, as reflected in the Chinese phrase: “Oppose corruption and destroy the Party, don’t oppose corruption and destroy the nation.”

Lacking the legitimacy to rule conferred by elections and institutions like the rule of law, the Chinese communists must rely on an extralegal system of perks and benefits—also known as corruption—to keep their cadres in the system incentivized and at least minimally obedient. The unchecked power is increasingly getting out of control, however, and with the rise of the Internet and social media, the public is increasingly learning more—much to their anger.

So much for the dictatorship of the proletariat.  Guess Karl Marx got that wrong.  For here are communists accumulating private property through corruption.  So it would appear that communism has been nothing but a scam all along to allow the people at the top to accrue power.  And live very comfortably.

Communism is based on corruption.  It cannot work without corruption.  Because in communism it’s all about who you know.  That’s how you get ahead.  And that’s what liberalism is all about.  Who you know.  For the government loves to pick winners and losers in the economy.  Instead of letting the market do that.  As it does in laissez faire free market capitalism.  Under liberalism, as it is under communism, those who please the ruling elite do well.  While those who don’t do not do quite as well.  And the vast majority just get by.

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Newly Found Oil Reserves may break the Cycle of Oppression due to Poverty and Corruption in East Africa

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 15th, 2012

Week in Review

East Africa is plagued by poverty, political corruption, lack of infrastructure, poor health conditions, AIDS epidemics, high infant mortality rates and everything else that goes with impoverished, corrupt countries.  Somalia is home to pirates that are the scourge of the high seas.  Ethiopia’s recurring famines are well known.  Uganda had Idi Amin.  Who terrorized his people with murder, rape and torture.  South Sudan came into being after a bloody civil war.  Where tribal civil wars continue within the new South Sudan.  As they do throughout much east Africa.  Because there are no advanced economies to support a prosperous middle class.  Just a ruling elite terrorizing the impoverished masses who survive on subsistence farming.  But that may all be changing (see Eastern El Dorado? posted 4/7/2012 on The Economist).

IN ENERGY terms, east Africa has long been the continent’s poor cousin. Until last year it was thought to have no more than 6 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, compared with 60 billion in west Africa and even more in the north. Since a third of the region’s imports are oil-related, it has been especially vulnerable to oil shocks. The World Bank says that, after poor governance, high energy costs are the biggest drag on east Africa’s economy.

All that may be about to change. Kenya, the region’s biggest economy, was sent into delirium on March 26th by the announcement of a big oil strike in its wild north. A British oil firm, Tullow, now compares prospects in the Turkana region and across the border in Ethiopia to Britain’s bonanza from the North Sea. More wells will now be drilled across Kenya, which also holds out hopes for offshore exploration blocs.

President Obama continually tries to tell the American people that we have the smallest oil reserves in the world yet we consume the lion’s share of the world’s oil production.  But that’s not true.  There’s a lot of oil out there.  But you have to drill first to find it.  And until you do you can’t prove these reserves.  So no one counts them.  Including our president.  But it doesn’t stop anyone from looking for oil and natural gas.  If they are not forbidden to do so.  Like they are in America wherever the government has a say in the matter.  People once thought east Africa had no energy.  But it didn’t stop them.  Who believe in the policy of ‘drill baby drill’.  And in ‘drill and ye shall find’.  Which they did.  And they found.  Oil and gas all over that once thought barren land.  Because they just kept drilling, baby.

Kenya’s find raised less joy in Uganda, where oil was first struck in 2006…

South Sudan, for years the largest oil producer in the region and locked in an oil dispute with Sudan, now wants to send crude out through Kenya on a pipeline to a proposed new port in Lamu (see map). Such a channel could also serve Ethiopia, which shares Kenya’s joy about their joint oil prospects. But their winnings pale next to those farther south. Tanzania has done well out of gold, earning record receipts of $2.1 billion last year, a 33% increase on 2010. It will do even better from gas. The past month has seen the discovery of enormous gasfields in Tanzanian offshore waters. That of Britain’s BG Group is big, Another, by Norway’s Statoil, is bigger. Statoil’s recent gas find alone is estimated to hold almost a billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe).

Happily, Tanzania’s gasfield extends south to Mozambique, where Italy’s Eni last month unveiled a find of 1.3 billion boe, matching similar finds by an American firm, Andarko. With plans to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, Mozambique could be a big exporter within a decade. At least the vast and impoverished south of Tanzania and north of Mozambique will be opened up to much-needed investment.

Oil and natural gas everywhere.  Finally a chance for these impoverished lands to develop a middle class.  Who can develop a rule of law.  And government of the people by the people for the people.  Like in all Western countries.  Where the quality of life and life expectancy is higher than in these impoverished east African countries.  Which they can have, too.  If they harness their energy resources.  Create jobs.  And provide the energy a modern economy requires.

Yet the region is not just excited about fossil fuels; a parallel push towards alternative energy is under way. Several east African countries are keen to realise the Rift Valley’s geothermal prospects. One of the world’s largest wind farms is being built in Kenya not far from the new-found oil in Turkana. Its backers say it will produce 300MW, three times the total output of Rwanda.

That is a drop in the bucket for Ethiopia. Its rivers, plunging from well-watered highlands into deep canyons, have hydropower potential. Meles Zenawi, the prime minister, has ordered the construction of a series of dams at a total cost of over $8 billion. The jewel is the $4.7 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile. This should generate 5,250MW when finished, increasing electricity production in the country fivefold, providing a surplus for export and allowing Ethiopia to open up as a manufacturer.

Wind farms.  Well, when you have no energy that 300 mega watts will be a lot.  But when they build that dam which will produce 5,250 mega watts they can shut down those novelty wind mills.  And put that land to better use.  Perhaps building better homes for that budding middle class.  Businesses.  And schools.  For that dam will be able to modernize their infrastructure.  And bring electricity, and the modern conveniences we all take for granted, into their homes.  Including cable TV.  The Internet.  And smart phones.  Things few subsistence farmers enjoy.

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Study finds that the Liberal Policies Like that Favored by President Obama make People Unhappy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 8th, 2012

Week in Review

Money can’t buy happiness.  A new study proves it.  For it’s not buying the richest country in the world happiness.  So there is something else apparently that leads to a people’s happiness (see Canada among the happiest countries in the world by Tavia Grant posted 4/2/2012 on The Globe and Mail).

It finds the world has, broadly speaking, become a “little happier” in the past three decades, as living standards have risen. (One exception is the United States, where life satisfaction has not improved).

Interesting.  Life satisfaction in America hasn’t improved.  I wonder why.  And what are the things that make people more satisfied in life.  Here are some of those things according to this study.

•Happier countries tend to be richer ones. But more important for happiness than income are social factors like the strength of social support, the absence of corruption and the degree of personal freedom.

•Unemployment causes as much unhappiness as bereavement or separation. At work, job security and good relationships do more for job satisfaction than high pay and convenient hours.

•Behaving well makes people happier.

•Mental health is the biggest single factor affecting happiness in any country. Yet only a quarter of mentally ill people get treatment for their condition in advanced countries and fewer still in poorer countries.

•Stable family life and enduring marriages are important for the happiness of parents and children.

•In advanced countries, women are happier than men, while the position in poorer countries is mixed.

•Happiness is lowest in middle age.

Liberal Democrats are all for bigger government.  Continuously raising taxes to pay for it.  The federal budget has exploded as a result.  As has the debt.  For despite the vast wealth they’re taxing out of the private sector it isn’t enough.  And as it is anywhere where people manage large piles of money there is corruption.  The bigger the pile the bigger the corruption.  And so it is with government.  Just look at the billions thrown away on pork barrel spending on worthless projects like the Murtha Airport.  This kind of out of control corrupt pork barrel spending makes people unhappy.  Apparently they would be happier with a government that lives responsibly within their means like they have to.  At least, according to this study.

High taxes and onerous regulatory compliance costs are squeezing small business.  Millionaire entrepreneurs of yesteryear say they couldn’t do what they did today.  The explosion in new regulatory law just squashes innovation.  It’s simply too costly and too complicated to go into business.  There are so many laws that it impossible to know them all.  Unless you’re a lawyer.  And lawyers are about the only ones who understand these laws.  Or, at least, understand them enough.  So they can sue any business for violating some obscure law the business owner is unaware of.  And they do this all the time.  It’s legal extortion.  For business owners find it cheaper to settle out of court just to make the lawyers go away.  As a result this active interventionist government pushed by liberal Democrats is a drag on job creation.  Whose answer is more benefits for the unemployed rather than helping the job creators.  This tenuous job environment makes workers feel less secure in their own jobs.  And less happy.  According to this study.

Liberals attack religion and their moralizing.  They attack conservatives and their moralizing.  Liberals instead prefer fewer restraints placed on life.  For who is to say what is right and wrong?  So they favor relaxed drug laws.  Free contraceptives.  Abortion on demand.  And as much consequence-free fun as they can have.  In public places.  And in quiet neighborhoods.  Where property damage is just kids blowing off a little steam.  I mean, who hasn’t done a donut on a neighbor’s lawn because they told them to be quiet at 2 in the morning?  Well it turns out people prefer having quiet church-going people for neighbors.  Who treat people with respect and behave well when in public.  These are the people that make other people happy.  According to this study, at least.

LBJ was a big liberal Democrat.  His Great Society was a bonanza of welfare benefits for the poor.  Especially for single mothers.  The government said to these single moms, “Look, you don’t need a husband in your life.  We will provide for you and your children.  We’ll even provide public housing for you to live in.  So you don’t need a husband.  And your children don’t need a father.  We can be all of that for you.”  Well, the worse place to live was in public housing during the Seventies.  Where crime and drugs use was rampant.  With no stable family structure kids of single parents turned to the street.  And crime.  Taking that behavior into their schools.  Spreading the trouble.  Having the government take over the role of family was like introducing a cancer into a healthy being.  And it spreads still to this day.  The idea that family isn’t important.  And that government can provide.  But more government has only made people less happy.  At least, according to this study.

The policies of liberal Democrats encourage irresponsible behavior.  Consequence-free fun.  They’ve attacked religion and tried to remove it from everyday life.  To the point that people today have very little if any moral compass.  Young women have babies out of wedlock.  Some of these mothers sacrifice everything in a herculean struggle to raise their children.  Working and sacrificing everything for their children.  Even a happy family life with a husband and father that would have made children rearing easier.  Some single mothers are superheroes.  Some are not.  And neither as are happy as a family with two parents providing for and nurturing their children.  And having time to spend with them in their childhood because they’re not working a second or third job.

So this is why America has not improved in the area of life satisfaction.  Because of the extraordinary growth of liberal Democrat policies.  The very things that lead people to be less happy.  At least, according to this new study.

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Protesters on Wall Street haven’t a Clue of what they’re Protesting About

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 1st, 2011

Why are they Protesting?  Because Protesting is Fun.

They’ve gathered on Wall Street.  And they will be heard.  That is, if they had anything to say (see Occupy Wall Street protesters driven by varying goals by Tina Susman posted 9/29/2011 on the Los Angeles Times).

“At a certain point, there’s a valid criticism in people asking, ‘What are you doing here?’”

What are they doing there?  I think that’s pretty clear.  They’re protesting.  Why?  Because protesting is fun.  That’s why.

They may not know why they’re there.  Or understand how the free market economy works.  Have the foggiest idea of what capitalism really is.  All they know is that they had some Leftist high school teachers and/or some Leftist college professors who told them how much fun protesting was.  How much they enjoyed it all those years ago.  When they were dirty, filthy, stinking hippies.  Enjoying the college ‘education’ that Daddy paid for with his capitalistic career.  And how much they hated their fathers.  For being capitalists.  Which allowed their parents to give these spoiled little brats whatever they wanted.

Funny how some things never change.

The Man Sure gets Around; of course he was a Much Younger Man during the Vietnam era Protests.

But surely they must have a reason for being there?  Other than sticking it to the man (see Wall Street protest’s success not easily measured by the Associated Press posted 10/1/2011 on TRIBLIVE).

It all has the feel of a classic street protest with one exception: It’s unclear exactly what the demonstrators want…

“It’s time for us to come together to realize we are the masses, and we can make things happen.”

But he couldn’t say what, exactly, he wanted to happen. Handmade signs carried by some of the demonstrators — “Less is More” and “Capitalism is evil” — hardly make it clearer…

… the group’s lack of specificity serves a purpose because it invites outrage over a full spectrum of societal grievances. Indeed, some demonstrators say they are against Wall Street greed, others say they are protesting global warming and still others say they are protesting “the man.”

Yes.  The man.  I remember first hearing about ‘the man’ during the Vietnam era protests.  The man sure gets around.  Of course he was a much younger man in those days.  But just as oppressive.  He had a job.  He paid taxes.  Saved for retirement.  And saved for the college education for the next generation of protestors.  That vicious, selfish bastard.

The Protestors have no Leader or Message but have the Support of Teachers and Transport Workers

But these protestors are not alone.  Other anti-capitalists have come out to support them (see Wall Street protesters set to march on police by Ray Sanchez posted 9/30/2011 on Reuters).

… a unionized subway worker, said, “Last year we had 900 of our members laid off … These are our issues too: Wall Street, the banks, layoffs, the struggle that these young people are spearheading is our struggle too.”

Among those pledging solidarity were the United Federation of Teachers and the Transport Workers Union Local 100, which has 38,000 members. The unions could provide important organizational and financial support for the largely leaderless movement.

It was the high unemployment that cut the tax base of the city that required them to lay off some of their employees.  Because they couldn’t pay them and those generous pensions and health care benefits for their retirees.  And that didn’t have anything to do with the Wall Street banks.

It is interesting that the teachers and the transport workers are supporting a movement that has no message.  At least when the unions protest you know what they want.  Money.  And benefits.  But these protestors have no leader.  And no message.  But the teachers and the transport workers will be right there with them to help them win what they want.  More fun protesting.  I guess.

Corruption is Initiated by Government because they have the Power, they Write the Laws

Perhaps we should listen to the protestors themselves.  Let them tell us why they’re protesting.  Bill O’Reilly sent Jesse Watters to Wall Street.  To find out.  And here is what he learned.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Crl31Xgc3_w

Well, that clarifies everything.  These people are demonstrating how poor our educational system is.

What they’re complaining about is not capitalism.  It’s crony capitalism.  Crony capitalism is when politicians sell themselves to the highest bidder.  They say if you give me lots of money I will write laws that favor you.  This is the corruption.  And government initiates it.  Because they have the power.  They write the laws.  And set the rules of the game.  And if you want to play you have to pay.

Not all corporations do.  Microsoft didn’t.  Until they were called to Congress in a huge antitrust case.  Because they were giving consumers something free.  The Internet browser Internet Explorer.  Microsoft has since learned their lesson.  And now lobby accordingly.

Democrats need the Youth Vote because the Young stay neither Young nor Ignorant Forever

There are some older people in these protests.  But the vast majority are college age kids.  Many of who will grow up and raise families.  Have a career.  And will think about other pressing issues of the day other than legalizing pot.

Yes.  These kids today?  A lot of them will be ‘the man’ tomorrow.  And some punk kids will demonize them in a similar protest some 10-20 years in the future.

This is why the Democrats work so hard on getting the youth vote.  Because the young stay neither young nor ignorant forever.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #78: “It’s a dishonest politician that sneaks sneaky legislation into a bill.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 9th, 2011

The Devil is in the Details and the Sneakiness is in the Fine Print

You know what they say.  Buyer beware.  Because they’re out to get you with their sneaky advertising.  Which you need to read closely.  Because the devil is in the details.  And the sneakiness is in the fine print.  That print that no one reads.  Like credit cards that send you those checks. 

They may offer 0% interest for six months when you write yourself a check for $5,000.  Wow.  Sounds great.  But if you don’t pay that off in that 6 month period look out.  Through the miracle of compound interest, that $5,000 debt will grow.  And that growing starts the moment you cash that check.  Because in the fine print the credit card company notes that after the 6-month period they will begin charging interest at 27.24% APR.  Starting on day one of the 6-month period.

People may wonder how credit cards can make any money if they don’t charge interest.  Well that’s the secret of the zero-interest offers.  They don’t expect you to pay it off within in that 6-month period.  And the second that 6-month period ends they book $720.84 of interest income on that $5,000 they loaned you.  That’s a short-term loan that yields 14.42%.  And there ain’t any 6-month investment out there that can match this yield.  But it doesn’t end there.  The yields on the credit card loan will continue to grow.  If you owe that $5,000 for 1 year, that yield rises to 30.91%.  And instead of owing $5,000 you now owe $6,545.59.

A zero-interest offer seems to be good to be true.  That’s because they are too good to be true.  Which you’ll see when you read the fine print.  If you read the fine print.

You have to be Sneaky to get People to Agree to Things that will Hurt Them in the Long Run

Now it’s obvious why they do this.  Be sneaky.  Because they can make a lot of money by doing this.  And the more people that take them up on these zero-interest offers the more money they can make.  So they put the things that would sour most people on using these checks in the fine print.   In hopes few will read it.  And few do.

You see, you have to be sneaky to get people to agree to things that will hurt them in the long run.  You just can’t be honest.  They can’t tell you that this loan will cost you nothing at 11:59 PM on the last day of the 6-month period.  And that it will cost you $720.84 one minute later.  Worse, your minimum monthly payment will jump about $125 as they calculate this loan into your payment.  And compound interest will make that credit card balance swell like a beached whale to the point that you’ll never be able to pay it off. 

You’ll lose sleep as your minimum monthly payments grow.  You’ll struggle to get that balance to go down.  Of course it never will.  And the more those minimum payments grow the less money you have for groceries and gas.  So then you’ll start paying less than the minimum due so you can put food on the table and drive to work.  Then the collection calls start.  It’ll get to the point that your stomach turns every time you hear the phone ring.

So you can see why they put this kind of stuff into the fine print.  I mean, if they advertise that they are going to ruin your life, are you going to use one of those checks?  Probably not.

The Founding Fathers hated Democracy with a Passion

So you really have to be sneaky and devious to get people to voluntarily destroy their lives.  And speaking of politics, politicians are the worst.  For a credit card company may try to get as much money from you as possible.  But that’s just business.  And they don’t swear oaths to protect you.

Thomas Jefferson hated bankers and merchants.  Partly because he was forever in debt.  But mostly because they can buy themselves favors.  And the seller of favors is, of course, government.  Jefferson was a well read man.  He knew history.  And he saw how combining money and government led to bad things.  Corruption.  Patronage.  Privilege.  War.  Money gave government power to do its worse.  And allowed a ruling minority to oppress the people for personal gain.  Now even though America was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, Jefferson knew that money could, and would, change that.  This is one of the reasons why the nation’s capital was located on a swamp a long, long way from the nation’s financial center.  New York.

This is also a reason why the nation is a republic.  And not a democracy.  We have representative government.  Not direct participation.  For the Founding Fathers hated democracy with a passion.  Why?  Because all democracies fail.  Once the people learn they can vote themselves whatever they want.  That’s why the Founding Fathers put enlightened/educated representatives between the treasury and the people.  Who will be rational and logical.  And not give in to base desires.

But the Founding Fathers were a special breed.  Who came along at just the right time and place.  And they created something perfect as far as governments go.  But as they passed from memory, the ways of the Old World became hard to resist. 

You have to let Others Steal from the Treasury if You want to Steal from the Treasury

As the nation grew so did its tax base.  More people meant more tax revenue.  First through import tariffs.  Then the income tax.  And other various taxes.  A little bit of tax from a huge population meant a lot of money for politicians to play with.  And play they did.  With the power to control these vast sums of money, they played God.  Just as Jefferson warned.  Money and government created a ruling minority.  Or a Ruling Class.  Much like the Founding Fathers fought so long and hard to end in the New World.

Of course, people won’t willingly support a Ruling Class that oppresses them.  So they have to be sneaky.  And hide much of what they do from the general public.  By burying it deep in pages of legislation.  Pork barrel spending we call it.  To get a part of the population to support you by promising them free stuff.  Then you honor that pledge by attaching a rider to a bill to house and feed orphans, for example.  When the final bill gets passed into law not only do we house and feed orphans (which everyone supports), but we also shower select constituencies with federal dollars for their help in getting out the vote during the last election (which only those select constituencies support).

Of course you know how this plays out.  If you oppose the excess spending in this bill you hate orphans.  And who wants to be labeled an orphan hater?  Probably not many.  But chances are few will oppose it.  Because to get pork you have to give pork.  You have to let others steal from the treasury if you want to steal from the treasury.  And this is why representatives and senators vote to pass thousand page bills without reading them.  They know they’re full of shameless pork barrel spending.   But as long as they include their pork they don’t care.

Short-Term Gratification with Long-Term Consequences

Politicians are a lot like those credit card companies.  Promising great short-term gratification.  With long-term consequences that will be a bitch.  They both want our money.  The credit card companies want us to go on a spending orgy so they can book fat profits on the interest they charge us.  Politicians just want to go on a spending orgy with our money.

So who’s worse?  The politicians, of course.  They’re supposed to be looking out for us.  Besides, when the credit card companies are screwing us, at least we get to enjoy the ride before the crash.  Taxpayers don’t.  Because their money typically goes to people who don’t pay income taxes.  So they don’t get to enjoy the ride.  They just suffer the crash.

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LESSONS LEARNED #63: “There is no such thing as a monopoly in free market capitalism.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 28th, 2011

Even the mighty Coke-Pepsi Duopoly can’t stop People from Drinking Tap Water

Coke and Pepsi have a near monopoly in the cola market.  Or a duopoly.  They dominate.  And they’re bitter enemies.  Few brands are locked in such a bitter struggle that we call it war.  The Cola Wars.  They are archenemies.  Even though they may cooperate by alternating their discounting to limit their losses.  One month Coke may be on sale.  The following month, Pepsi.  They’re big and their powerful and when you ask for a Coke at a restaurant you’ll either get a Coke.  Or they’ll ask you if Pepsi is okay.  Or vice versa.  Because they own the market.

But do they?  There’s always another choice.  At a restaurant, we can order ice tea.  Hot tea.  Coffee.  Orange drink.  Beer.  Wine.  A cocktail.  Or even water.  Ditto at the grocery store.  Walk down an aisle and there’s more to choose than Coke or Pepsi.  RC Cola, for one.  And then there’s the un-cola (7-Up).  VernorsA&W Root BeerSquirtDr. PepperCrushSnapple.  And other name brands that aren’t owned by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group.  Not to mention all the store brands.  And, of course, tap water.  Which I personally drink with most of my meals.  Even though there’s nothing finer than a Coke or Pepsi to wash down a greasy pizza.

Try as they might Coke and Pepsi can’t limit entry into the beverage market.  The barriers they can erect are minimal.  They can offer a special price to a store or restaurant in exchange for keeping out their hated rival, but they can’t prevent people from asking for tap water.  Or from people simply going elsewhere to get the Coke or Pepsi product they want.  Or the million other options out there.  And if they raise their prices in their ‘duopoly’, people will just seek out those other options.  Yes, they may be able to tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi in blind taste tests.  But if the price isn’t right, they’ll enjoy RC Cola just fine.  Or even the store brand cola.

Go ahead and Tax our Tea.  We’ll just drink Coffee Instead.

You see, to keep out the competition, you need the power of government.  Just ask the sugar importers.  Who would love to sell to the cola companies.  But don’t.  Because government has erected a barrier to that market.  Now, we don’t know what their highly guarded secret recipes are, but we do know that they each use the same sweetener.  High fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  They don’t use sugar.  Why?  Because Big Ag lobbied Congress to slap high tariffs on imported sugar.  Which they have.  Now the price of sugar is so high the cola companies use HFCS instead.  Though that may be changing as of late with a new round of health concerns about HFSC.  But that’s a whole other story.

To limit consumer choice, you need government to step in.  Because only government can write laws to erect market barriers.  For example, the last straw of British oppression before America’s Declaration of Independence was about a British law that erected a market barrier.  British Americans, being of British stock, liked their tea.  But they didn’t like paying the high price of East Indian Company tea.  In the Mercantile economics of the day, everything bought and sold in the British Empire shipped on British ships through British ports.  Indian opium shipped on British ships to China (via Calcutta).  The British than used the proceeds from those sales to purchase tea.  Which they shipped on British ships back to London.  Where they paid a duty on it.  And then on to America.  Where the colonists paid a tax on it.  All these markups made their tea pretty expensive.

Famine and recession caused financial problems for the East India Company.  To help alleviate their problems, British Parliament stepped in.  Said they could ship their tea directly to British North America (without going through London).  And sell it tax-free in the colonies.  Which made all other tea more expensive.  Which did not go over well with the American tea merchants.  Or the colonists in general.  This led to the Boston Tea Party.  American Independence.  And the switch from drinking tea to drinking coffee in America.  Because even when there is only one tea that is legal to drink, there is always another choice.

Rockefeller benefited Consumers.  The ICC did not.

People love Teddy Roosevelt for his trust busting.  Attacking the big robber barons.  To help the little guy.  And one of the big guys the little guys loved to hate was John D. Rockefeller.  Of Standard Oil fame.  Rockefeller was richer than most nations.  And some people just hated that.  He made his wealth by making refined oil products affordable to the consumer.  And he was a great environmentalist.  He saved the whales by replacing whale oil with kerosene.  And his relentless research and development made every bit of refined oil into a useful product.  While his competitors dumped most of their waste back into the environment.  Not Rockefeller.  He hated waste.  He even experimented in finding the least number of welds it would take to hold an oil barrel together.  He invented vertical integration (controlling industries up and down the product pipeline from the collection of raw resources to the sale of a finished product).  He not only made refined oil products cheap.  He made them plentiful.  Which made America the world’s leading economic power.  Successful corporations follow his example today.

Sure, he put a lot of his competitors out of business.  But it wasn’t because he was a monopoly.  It was because he was just that much better.  He produced refined products better and cheaper than his competition.  By the time the trust busters busted up Standard Oil, competition was coming into being on the Standard Oil model.  Which ultimately produced more refined products at lower costs.  He forced the competition to step up to his level which benefited consumers.  While the trust busters tried to bring Rockefeller down to his competitor’s level which benefited his competitors.  Not the consumers.  No, consumers did very well by John D. Rockefeller.  He created and produced at a relentless rate.  He didn’t ask for government help.  Unlike his competitors.  Who complained to the government.  (It is never a consumer that complains about predatory pricing).  Because when you can’t compete legitimately, you petition government for special favors.  Much like some of the railroads did.

Building a railroad is costly.  And takes a lot of friends in government.  At all levels.  Because you have to lay track through federal land, state land, county land as well as through cities.  Of course, everyone wanted that track to go through their land because the railroad was the way to ship goods.  And people.  So the system was ripe for corruption.  And it often was.  Once built some shippers complained about unfair shipping rates compare to what others got.  Rockefeller, for example, was highly criticized for getting better rates by far than any of his competitors.  Of course, he shipped by far more product than any of his competitors.  Which probably had a lot to do with his rates.  But the government saw that things were unfair in the railroad business.  So they stepped in.  And created the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC).  Which was to right all the wrongs.  Which, of course, it didn’t.  It just made it easier for the big companies to fix things in their favor.  For they now had a single governing body to buy.  Which made it easier to buy political influence.

But none of this made a difference to save the railroads.  They started to die in the Fifties.  Of arrogance.  When people asked the big railroad executives what business they were in, they replied, “The railroad business.”  But they weren’t.  They were in the transportation business.  What’s the difference?  The ‘railroad’ business had only other railroads for competition.  The transportation business had cars, trucks and, eventually, planes, as competition.  So even though those who used the power of government to restrict other railroads from entering their markets, there was still competition.  The interstate highways and the automobile killed passenger rail.  And the trucking industry almost killed the freight railroads.  What saved them was realigning their operations into the transportation business.  Intermodal transportation combined container ships, railroads and trucks into a seamless and cost efficient transportation system.  Roadrailers took that concept to a higher level.  These are truck trailers that can be pulled by a locomotive without the need of a rail flatcar.  Trucks deliver these trailers to a rail yard.  They add a train bogey to the trailer.  Put it on the track.  Couple them together.  And attach them to a single locomotive.  Very little non-revenue weight.  Making it very efficient.  John D. Rockefeller would be impressed.

In a Free Market there is always a Choice

Wherever there is a market there is competition.  For any market where a profit can be made will attract others to that market.  Companies can try to restrict competitors.  But that’s all they can do.  Try.  Because if it’s a free market, it’s open to competition.  There are no barriers that a competitor can’t overcome.  Except one legislated by government.  And competitors can even crack that barrier.

And this is what it takes to make a monopoly.  Government.  Railroads had monopolies for awhile.  But creative business people found a way to crack their government-imposed monopoly.  Truckers came in and shipped at rates lower than the ICC said was fair.  Of course, fair is a relative term.  What’s fair to the railroad is not fair to the shipper.  Or the consumer.  But a trucker shipping at rate that he can cover his expenses and support his family is fair to everyone.  Except the railroad who depended on government instead of innovation for their business profits.

Coke and Pepsi can fight their cola wars but they can’t keep out competition.  There’s always root beer, ginger ale, orange drink, beer, wine, liquor, water, coffee or tea.  And even when government uses their full weight and power to create and maintain a tea monopoly, tea drinkers can simply become coffee drinkers.  For in a free market there is always a choice.  Always.

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