Spain’s Massive Investment in Solar Power has Greatly increased the Cost of their Electric Power

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 24th, 2013

Week in Review

People think renewable energy is the answer to all our energy problems.  But that isn’t quite so.  In fact, all it does is increase the cost of our electric power.  For sunshine and wind may be free.  But the equipment to harness the energy in sunshine and wind is not free.  It is very, very expensive.  And you need a lot of it.  You will not see one wind turbine service the power needs of one metropolitan area.  You may see a wind farm providing a small percentage of the electric power needs of a large metropolitan area.  And only when the wind blows.

Wind can blow day or night.  But it can also NOT blow day and night.  While solar panels will not work at all at night.  So you have massive investments to install renewable energy generation capacity.  And there will be times when they will provide no power.  So what do you do?  What do you do when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine?  You turn to old reliable.  The electric grid.

This is why renewable energy is so costly.  It cannot replace our fossil-fuel power plants that can provide reliable power day or night in any type of weather.  It can only supplement what we call our baseload power.  Like our beloved coal-fired power plants.  One of the most cost-efficient ways to produce reliable electric power.  Which the power companies have to still run and maintain day and night.  For those who don’t have a wind turbine or a solar array providing their electric power.  And to light up the night.  So instead of one cost-efficient power generation system we have two systems.  One cost-efficient and one cost-inefficient.  And those who invested heavily into renewable energy are now having to deal with these very real problems (see Out Of Ideas And In Debt, Spain Sets Sights On Taxing The Sun by Kelly Phillips Erb posted 8/19/2013 on Forbes).

With so much sunshine at its disposal, Spain has aggressively pursued the development of solar energy: over the past ten years, the government has made significant advances in pressing solar energy and is one of the top countries in the world with respect to installed photovoltaic (PV) solar energy capacity.

It might, however, be too much of a good thing. Spain is generating so much solar power, according to its government, that production capacity exceeds demand by more than 60%. That imbalance has created a problem for the government which now finds itself in debt to producers. And not by a little bit. The debt is said to have grown to nearly 26 billion euros ($34.73 billion U.S.).

So how do you get out of that kind of debt? You propose incredibly onerous taxes and fines, of course. And you do it on exactly the behavior that you encouraged in the first place: the use of solar energy panels. That’s right. Spain is now attempting to scale back the use of solar panels – the use of which they have encouraged and subsidized over the last decade – by imposing a tax on those who use the panels…

…many residents in Spain generate enough electricity from solar that they get paid to selling the excess energy back to producers. This, it turns out, is a problem. The government is putting a stop to that, too: as part of the reform efforts (read: desperate measures), there will be a prohibition on selling extra energy.

If the power companies are providing all the power at night they have to maintain their power plants.  And their power distribution system.  Which means they even have to trim the trees away from their overhead power lines from people who use solar power during the day.  Nothing changes for the power companies.  Except that they can’t sell as much power as they once did.  So their costs of producing power remain the same.  But their revenue has fallen.  Forcing them to operate at a loss.  Or find other ways to replace their lost revenue.  Which they have to.  Because they must have the same capacity available during the day that they have at night.  Even if they aren’t selling as much power during the day as they are at night.  And the last thing they want to do is buy excess power back from homeowners with solar panels on their house when they’re producing their own power that they can’t sell.

Baseload power plants like coal and nuclear take time to bring on line.  They have to produce the heat that boils water into steam.  Then superheat the steam to remove all water from it.  So the steam can spin the generator turbines without damaging the vanes on the turbine.  And once they start these plants up they run these systems at full capacity where they produce power most cost-efficiently.  During peak demand they may bring on some gas-fired turbines that can start and produce power quickly.  And add them to the grid.  When the peak subsides they can shut down these gas-fired turbines and let the baseload generation carry the remaining load.

The Spanish government invested heavily into solar power for whatever reason.  It’s ‘free’ power.  It’s ‘clean’ power.  Or it was just a good way to create a lot of jobs.  But what Spain has now is a surplus of peak power generation during the day that doesn’t eliminate the need to maintain baseload power generation during the day.  Creating a surplus of electric power during the day no one wants.  While requiring power companies to maintain their baseload power during the day so they can provide power at night.  Incurring great costs on the power companies.  Which must be passed on to the same people who paid for the renewable energies subsidies.  The electric power consumer.

This is a classic example of a Hayekian malinvestment.  Friedrich Hayek of the Austrian school of economics said this is what happens when governments interfere with free markets.  They make investments to produce what they think is best while the market demands something else.  The market demanded low-cost electric power.  Which baseload power plants (coal and nuclear) provided.  But the government intervened and subsidized the more costly solar power.  This bad investment—or malinvestment—has only increased the cost of electric power for the Spanish consumer.  And now the Spanish have a big problem on their hands.  What to do with this surplus of peak power no one wants to pay for?  And how to replace the lost revenue of the power companies so they can cover their costs?  Two problems they didn’t have until the government intervened into the free market.

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The Communists in Japan are targeting Young People to help them Transform Japan into an Oppressive Communist State

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 10th, 2013

Week in Review

The former Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China (back in the days of Mao), North Vietnam, North Korea and Cuba all have great police states.  Not to keep people out of their countries.  But to prevent the people inside their countries from escaping to the capitalist West. Why?  Life was better in the capitalist West than in the communist East.  Where nations in the capitalist West didn’t need a secret police to keep their people from escaping.  But needed strong immigration controls to keep their countries from being overwhelmed by refugees trying to escape to their lands.  Yet despite this history of communist failures there are still communist parties in countries trying to attract voters.  Preferably the ones who don’t know about that history of failure (see Communist Party makes a comeback … in Japan by Gavin Blair, The Christian Science Monitor, posted 8/5/2013 on Yahoo! News).

Founded in 1922, the JCP is the oldest political party in Japan, and has enjoyed constant representation in parliament for longer than any other. But until recently, its image was one of older activists and it struggled to attract younger voters.

July’s elections were the first in Japan where online campaigning was permitted, and it was the JCP that is widely seen as having made best use of it. As well as savvy leveraging of social networks and video streaming platforms, the party created a series of online mascot characters that addressed individual issues such as the planned consumption tax hike, shady business practices, the heavy US military presence on Okinawa, and constitutional change.

“We were able to use the Net to reach out to younger people, many of whom don’t read newspapers or watch TV much. Through the characters, we could communicate issues simply and appeal to young voters,” says party spokesperson Toshio Ueki, who reports that the characters’ webpages got 1.5 million hits in the weeks before the poll.

Sound familiar?  That’s how President Obama won election twice.  By reaching out to younger people.  The people who probably know the least about economics.  And history.  That’s how people who want to change a country do it.  By getting people who don’t have the foggiest idea about what happened in the world in the last century or so.  Who simply don’t know of what people tried.  And what has failed.  With communism pretty much at the top of the list of things NOT to do based on past history.

If we did take power, the JCP wouldn’t try to implement a Communist economy immediately. It would require huge changes and we would seek the support of the people for each step,” Kira says. “And we would want to use the best parts of the current economic system, too.”

Japan is pretty close geographically to some of the great communist failures.  The former Soviet Union.  The People’s Republic of China (PRC) back in the days of Mao.  Vietnam.  And, of course, North Korea.  Places that have all gotten better with a move away from communism and towards capitalism.  Except North Korea.  Which is pretty much unchanged.  And the former Soviet Union.  Which is no more.  But the biggest part of the Soviet Union lives on.  Russia.  Which had moved towards capitalism.  But now is drifting back a bit.

History has shown where there is unfettered free markets life is better.  For this is the direction of all immigration.  From countries with highly fettered markets to countries with less fettered markets.  Older people know this.  People who read history know this.  Or lived it.  People who understand classical economics know this.  But young people?  They haven’t a clue.  Which is why all candidates who want to expand the power of the state over the people target young people.  For with them all they have to do is to promise more stuff and more freedom.  Even if they promise to deliver these with policies that have throughout history done anything but.

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North Korea turning to Free Markets to End Famine and Abject Poverty

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 2nd, 2013

Week in Review

Our public schools are teaching our children that capitalism is evil and unfair.  That government is needed to prevent business owners from making too much profit at the people’s expense.  Our public schools teach our kids this because the left controls our public schools.  And the left hates capitalism.  They would love to replace capitalism with socialism.  An egalitarian system that puts people before profits.  Because putting people before profits is the only way to truly increase the quality of life.  Unless you actually live in a place where they put people before profits (see NKorean farmers planting rice with profits in mind by AP posted 5/31/2013 on Yahoo! News).

Farmers say they have begun working under the new policies, which are designed to boost production by giving managers and workers financial incentives. Foreign analysts say the moves to spur North Korea’s moribund economy suggest Pyongyang is taking cues from Beijing on how to incorporate free market ideas within its rigid socialist system…

Impoverished North Korea suffers chronic food and power shortages and has not released economic data for decades. South Korea’s central bank estimates the North’s gross national income, an indicator of the average standard of living, was $1,250 per person in 2011 compared with $23,400 in South Korea.

In the past, the North Korean state set workers’ salaries. Under new measures announced April 1, the managers of farms, factories and other enterprises have been given leeway to set salaries and offer raises to workers who help drive up production…

Beijing dismantled its centrally planned economy slowly. In the 1970s, it began allowing farmers to keep more of their harvests, giving them an incentive to grow more to sell on newly permitted free markets. Food production soared.

In the mid-’80s, the government gave state enterprises the authority to link bonuses and salaries to better performance. Those changes were mostly aimed at managers, but they cracked a communist-era preference for egalitarianism.

New rules in the early 1990s gave state enterprises full flexibility to set wages, widening the use of performance incentives. In that decade, China truly broke away from its centralized “iron rice bowl” system of guaranteed employment and state-set incomes…

At the Tongbong farm in the eastern city of Hamhung, farmers are in the midst of a busy rice planting season after a long, cold winter.

A long, cold winter?  Guess there’s no global warming in North Korea.

North Korea’s “rigid socialist system” has impoverished and starved her people.  As well as left them in the dark as they don’t have the energy to light up the night.  This is egalitarianism.  Everyone’s life is equally miserable.  This is what socialism gets you.  Countries like North Korea, Cuba, the former Soviet Union and China under Mao.  Countries notable for their abject poverty.  And occasional famine.  This is what the left wants America to be.  Egalitarian.  Where we put people before profits.  Where no one has any incentive to do anything.  Because working harder than the next guy doesn’t improve your lot in life.  So you don’t work harder.  You do the minimum.  Because why work harder when the outcome is always the same?  Misery.

No doubt the American left disapproves of North Korea’s introduction of market forces.  And the profit incentive.  For it puts profits before people.  They’d rather see another layer of bureaucracy.  And another 5-year plan.  Where brilliant government elites think brilliantly to solve the nation’s problems.  Instead of leaving it to the chaos of the free markets.  For what did the chaos of the free markets ever do for the people?  Other than give them an obesity problem while socialism gives her people famine.  Free markets give her people smartphones and the Internet.  While Socialism can’t even light up the night.  And free markets give her people peace and happiness.  While socialism gives her people fear and intimidation.

Of course, the American left doesn’t have a problem giving fear and intimidation to some people.  As the IRS persecution of conservatives shows.  Which is perhaps why the American left admires socialism so much.  Why they insist that we put people before profits.  Because when we do we move closer to a police state like they have in North Korea.  Something the American left no doubt would like.  For it would make it easier for them to persecute their political enemies.

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Medical Tourism may offer a Final Option if we can’t Repeal Obamacare

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 5th, 2013

Week in Review

It’s amazing that as unpopular Obamacare is that we have been thwarted at every attempt to prevent its implementation.  We lost in the Supreme Court.  Some states are now buckling and are building their exchanges.  Basically exhausting all our options to repeal Obamacare.  But there may be another way (see Steve Forbes speaking in Edina: ‘Obamacare will collapse under its own weight’ by Ed Stych posted 5/1/2013 on Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal).

“We will undo it (Obamacare) piece by piece,” Forbes told about 250 people in a speech to the Freedom Club at Interlachen Country Club in Edina. “All of it can be reversed, and we can have lower health care costs through innovation.”

If Obamacare is not repealed, Forbes said he could see American Indian tribes using their limited sovereignty from the federal government to develop medical tourist destinations on their reservations…

Forbes, the CEO of Forbes Inc., spent much of the evening talking about the benefits of free markets and how they can solve the nation’s health care problems. He said those problems stem from the government and insurance companies playing middlemen, leading to a disconnect between health care providers and consumers.

He said health care is one of the few industries where few people know the cost of services…

“Why is demand for health care considered a problem when demand for anything else is considered an opportunity?” Forbes asked. “The problem is that we don’t have free markets in health care.”

This is a good point.  The American Indian tribes opened casinos on their reservations because there was a demand for gambling venues when there were few places to go.  Now every city and state is falling over themselves to legalize gambling.  Which has greatly diluted the earnings of all casinos as supply is outstripping demand.  But Obamacare will create a huge demand for quality health care as Obamacare reduces quality, increases wait-times and rations services in what was once the best health care system in the world.  And the American Indian tribes can be there to meet that demand.

And these hospitals can use free markets and innovation to attract the best doctors and nurses by eliminating the middle man.  The reservation hospitals can even bring in the old health insurers.  But revamp that system so insurance is insurance and not simply welfare.  People will pay out of pocket for most health care needs.  And buy a true insurance policy for unexpected catastrophic health issues.  In this way market forces will keep costs down.  Because the consumers will be making the spending decisions.  Doctors will be able to charge less because they’ll push less paper.  And spend more time with patients.  And people will actually pay before leaving the doctor’s office.  Like they used to.  And it could get even better.

The American Indian tribes could implement a fair and reasonable medical malpractice legal system.  To reduce the amount of frivolous lawsuits with, say, a loser pays requirement.  Thus reducing the cost of a doctor’s medical malpractice insurance.  Allowing them to earn more money while charging less.  Because they will spend less time doing paperwork.  And have lower overhead costs.

The American Indian tribes could reinvent health care, health insurance and tort law.  They could.  Or perhaps we should.  Let’s look at what the American Indian tribes could do because they are free from the long arm of the federal government.  Build the ideal system.  And then reform our systems to become that ideal.  But if we can’t then let’s help the American Indian tribes build it.  For if they do Americans in pursuit of quality health care will come.

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FT121: “As liberals gain knowledge and experience they become conservatives.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 8th, 2012

Fundamental Truth

Carnegie and Rockefeller were able to make the World Better because of Capitalism and Free Markets

Liberals campaign hard to get the youth vote.  Before the young grow up and become responsible adults.  Lose their youthful idealism.  And their ignorance of rudimentary economics.  Kids graduating from high school don’t know much about economics.  They don’t know that JFK was a tax cutter just like Ronal Reagan.  And that those tax cuts stimulated real economic growth.  They don’t know any of this.  But they know who Al Gore is.  And will read you the riot act whenever you do anything that will increase your carbon footprint on this planet. 

Those who go on to college build on their liberal high school education.  Where they don’t learn about how Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller created the modern nation we know today.  Carnegie made steel plentiful and inexpensive.  Allowing us to build the skyscrapers in our cities.  Rockefeller made kerosene so plentiful and inexpensive that he put the whale oil industry out of business.  Saving the whales.  And gave us plentiful and inexpensive gasoline for our automobiles.  Providing fuel for our trains and planes.  Giving us the freedom to travel anywhere.  Visiting big cities like New York.  Where many of the great skyscrapers built with Carnegie steel are still standing today.

Carnegie and Rockefeller are just two entrepreneurs who changed the world.  And greatly increased our standard of living.  Who were free to make the world a better place because of capitalism and free markets.  Instead of working for a paycheck like most people do they took risks and created things.  Better steel.  And better fuel.  As well as jobs.  Lots and lots of jobs.  So people could work for a paycheck.  Why did they take these great risks?  Because the possibility of getting rich is a great incentive.  Which is why aspiring actors go to Los Angeles and starve.  Hoping to get a break.  Get discovered.  So they can become rich.   Which is why people buy lotto tickets.  To become rich.  For it appears everyone wants to get rich.  But there is a difference when people like Carnegie and Rockefeller get rich.  Everyone lives a better life when they do.  Not just the movie star or the lotto winner.

Students live College Life to the Fullest and Pursue Degrees that won’t take up too much of their Time

So what do they learn in college?  That capitalism isn’t fair.  Corporations are evil.  But communism and socialism are good.  Government intervention into the free markets is good.  And, of course, those who do learn economics only learn Keynesian economics.  The school of economics that favors government interventionism into private markets.  And that great industrialists like Carnegie and Rockefeller were greedy and exploited their workers.  While communism and socialism protected their workers.  Which is another failing of our educational system.  Students don’t learn what an abject failure communism was.  Both as an economic system.  And on human rights.  They don’t learn that.  Or that a lot of rich industrialists like Carnegie and Rockefeller spent the last years of their lives giving away the wealth they amassed.  Like some of America’s rich continue to do today.  As exemplified by Bill Gates.

No.  Their education is a poor one.  Which explains why the Indians and Chinese are passing American students by.  The goal of American public education is not to produce high test scores.  But to indoctrinate students into being good Democrat voters.  So those in the public sector unions can continue to earn more in pay and benefits than their counterparts in the private sector.  Another fact they don’t teach these young students.  They keep these students young and dumb as long as possible.  And the government helps.  By focusing on the things important to these students.  Lenient drug laws.  Birth control.  And abortion.  To make sure their first time living away from their parents is a good time.  A fun time.  And to make sure that they understand that Democrat political candidates aren’t like their parents.  Those buzz kills.  Whose favorite word in their vocabulary is ‘no’.  Not the Democrats.  They like the word ‘yes’.  As in “yes we can.”  And yes you can.  Do whatever young people with raging sex drives like to do.  And they do. 

They live college life to the fullest.  Many pursuing degrees that won’t take up too much of their time.  Taking less science and math like the Indians and the Chinese.  Because those are hard and require a lot of homework.  Instead they pursue degrees in women’s studies.  Minority studies.  Family studies.  American studies.  Communications.  Film.  Psychology.  Philosophy.  Things that are fun and have no math.  Allowing a lot of fun when outside of the classroom.  But are absolutely worthless in the high-tech economy.  The only employment opportunities for these degrees is to become a professor and teach other students these worthless degrees.

It turns out Liberalism is a Lie used to maintain a Privileged Class

So when these college graduates can’t get a job that’ll make them rich overnight they get angry.  And struggle to pay down the mountain of debt that paid for those worthless degrees.  Of course it’s not their fault.  Or the universities who sold them those worthless degrees.  It’s Wall Street’s fault.  Those evil rich people who don’t pay their fair share in taxes.  That somehow if they only paid more in taxes they could find gainful employment.

And when the young start working for a living they discover taxes.  From property taxes to payroll taxes to income taxes.  Which are a lot of taxes.  And when they start raising a family they start paying attention to what’s on television.  Which was fine when they were partying in their youth.  But somehow isn’t right now that they are parents.  They start thinking about the things they did in their youth.  And how to hide it from their kids.

And when there are ballot initiates to raise taxes to pay for budget deficits at the city and state level they pay attention to what caused these deficits.  And they don’t like what they learn.  Public sector pensions and health care benefits that are far greater than theirs.  Worse, they are not only paying for theirs (through a payroll deduction and/or lower pay) they’re paying for these generous public sector benefits via ever increasing taxes.  And they will be paying these taxes for a long time as few will be able to retire until they’re well into their sixties.  Working some 40-50 years.  While public sector retirees can enjoy their more generous benefits after only working some 20-30 years.

Which is why as liberals gain knowledge and experience they become conservatives.  Because young and dumb was fun in their youth.  But everyone has to grow up.  And learn that their parents were right.  Which is why a lot of people grow up to become conservative like their parents.  But few conservatives become liberals.  Because as it turns out liberalism is a lie.  It is just a means to maintain a privileged class.  Where life is great within the privileged class.  Where you can retire after 20-30 years and receive generous pensions and health care benefits.  But it sucks for those outside that privileged class who have to pay for it.  Which is why public education is not about test scores.  But producing good Democrat voters.  To maintain that privileged class.  Because education is in that privileged class.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #52: “The political right is usually right.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 8th, 2011

Sitting in the French Legislative Assembly and Defining Future Politics

In politics we hear a lot about the Left and the Right.  What does that mean?  Where did these terms come from?  Probably the French Revolution.  So we need a small primer on the French Revolution.  So here goes. 

In late 18th century France, in the Ancien Régime (before the French Revolution), there were three main groups of people.  They called these the estates of the realm.  The First Estate was the clergy of the Catholic Church.  The Second Estate was the nobility (less the king).  And the Third Estate was everyone else (approximately 98% of the population).  The first two estates were exempt from most taxation and lived well and had full bellies.  The Third Estate paid the bulk of taxes, lived horribly and suffered a famine or two.

Well, this caused tensions.  The poor were deplorably poor and hungry.  Compounding this problem was the near constant state of war between France and Great Britain.  That and financing the American Revolution was bankrupting the Ancien Régime.  The régime had nothing to give to the poor and hungry.  So the poor and hungry revolted.  They met in the French Legislative Assembly of 1791 to debate the future of France.  Those in favor of the monarchy and the old order sat on the right.  The radicals who wanted to overthrow the old order sat on the left.

Right and Left become Conservative and Liberal

So that’s a brief lesson on the origins of the political labels ‘Left’ and ‘Right’.  They weren’t political parties.  They were just seating arrangements.  In those days, the Left were liberals.  Similar to our Founding Fathers.  In the classical sense of liberalism (it meant something completely different then than it does today).  Basically, the Left said the old ways just ain’t working anymore and it’s time to try something new.  The Right, on the other hand, was worried about losing their privileges.  As well as the potential chaos that could result from trying something new.  And for good reason.  The French Revolution got a little chaotic.  And a little bloody.

Since then the labels kind of morphed into new meanings.  Right and Left have become synonymous with conservatism and liberalism (or Progressivism, Socialism, Communism, Marxism, etc.).  Conservatives (the Right) believe in individual liberty, limited government, laissez-faire capitalism, low taxes, free trade, little business regulation, etc.  Liberals (the Left) believe in Big Government to redistribute the wealth, high taxes, strict controls on capitalism and business, oppose free trade and believes business operates best (and most fair) when ‘partnered’ with government.

So, to simplify, on the right you will find capitalists.  On the left you will find anti-capitalists.  On the right, people decide what’s best.  On the left, government decides what’s best.  On the right you keep more of your paycheck and buy what you want.  On the left you keep less of your paycheck so others can buy what they want.  And so on.

Free Markets and Planned Markets

The Right believes in free markets.  That if left alone, free markets will maximize employment and living standards.  The Right doesn’t believe that any one person is smarter than the collective of millions of individual decision makers in the free market.  The free market is always win-win.  When two people agree on an economic decision, they both prosper.  The seller gets what they value more (money).  And the buyer gets what they value more (what they bought).  When everyone is choosing what they value most in the free market, economic activity explodes.  This creates jobs.  Workers earn money to buy goods and services.  And taxes at low tax rates paid by the multitude of businesses and individuals swell the public treasury.

The Left, on the other hand, believe a free market economy is inefficient.  They prefer a planned economy.  They want to mettle.  To tinker.  To help people make economic decisions by regulating markets.  Enacting targeting taxing and targeting tax cuts.  To make us buy what they think we should buy (electric cars, for example).  And they think free markets are woefully unfair.  Because poor people can’t buy as much as rich people.  So they want to tax the rich to redistribute their wealth to the poor.  They call this stimulative.  Giving away other people’s money.  So other people can spend that money.  (So if you’re keeping score, net spending doesn’t change.  Just who is spending the money changes).

There’s a lot more to these political labels Left and Right.  But this will suffice for our purposes.  You will see more mature and elderly people on the right.  And more younger people on the left.  Remember the expression from the hippy counter-culture in the Sixties?  Never trust anyone over thirty?   You know who was saying this?  Inexperienced and ignorant young people.  Young college students who learned a thing or two from a radical professor.  You didn’t see many family breadwinners in the counter-culture movement.  Just a lot of people who hadn’t grown up yet or worked a job or raised a family.

Age, Experience and Family tend to make you Conservative

And so it is today.  The Left depends on the young.  That’s why they lowered the voting age to 18.  To get these people who haven’t experienced the real world yet to support things that sound good.  Yes, we should pay more taxes for a better education.  Of course, what the young don’t know is that they’ve been saying this for the last 50 years or so.  And the quality of our education has gotten worse.  Not better.  That’s why the older and more experienced voter tends to vote against these tax increases.  Not because they hate kids.  But because they’ve seen throughout their life that throwing money at education hasn’t helped any student.  Only the public school bureaucracy.

When you’re young and stupid you tend to think about today.  Your emotions easily sway you.  And your passions.  Your thoughts focus on having fun in the sun.  Going to a club.  Dating.  It’s a little different when you have a family.  You think about other things then.  Your kids’ school.  Paying a mortgage.  Putting money aside for your kids’ college education.  Putting money aside for your retirement.  Those kinds of things.  And, incidentally, those things require a good-paying job.  And tax rates that aren’t so onerous that you can’t afford those things you want for your family.

That’s why we call these people on the right conservative.  They’re not too keen on change.  Because they have a lot of responsibilities.  And they’ve made commitments to meet those responsibilities.  It’s one thing to be footloose and fancy free and have radical thoughts.  I mean, what have you to lose?  But it’s quite another thing when you do have something to lose.  Any by that time in your life, when you’re making a pretty good living, you’re paying quite a bit in taxes.  Unlike those young radicals.  You have skin in the game.  They don’t.  They are, in fact, gambling with your money.  Those radical changes (health care for everyone, taxing the ‘rich’, carbon taxes to end global warming, etc.) they’re fighting for won’t impact their lives much.  They’re not paying the taxes.  Yet.  You are.  But those things will impact your life.  So much so that they may alter your life.  You may have to make a choice between a college education for your kids.  Or a comfortable retirement.

Radicals tend to Live in the Heat of the Moment while Conservatives look beyond the Moment

Part of the reason those on the right stood with their king in France was that they saw the danger in radical change.  The breakdown of institutions.   Of tradition.  Things that they knew worked.  Things that made France a great empire.  There may have been problems.  Some inequities.  But the collapse of the old regime may unleash chaos and violence.  Back then, that’s how power changed.  Through chaos and violence.  And sometimes an imperfect system is better than chaos and violence.

Over in America, a group of liberal radicals led their revolution.  But once they won their independence from Great Britain they got very conservative indeed.  In fact, they called some of the Founding Fathers ‘too British’.  Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Jay, to name a few, where attacked for letting down the spirit of ’76.  There were still a lot of passions in the states.  Still a bit of a civil war going on in the south between Patriot and Loyalist.  But it was time for the grownups to step in to win the peace.  Even if they were perceived as being too British.

Radicals are quick to point out your failings.  But they don’t often have the wisdom or experience to see the big picture.  They live in the heat of the moment.  And often act bold and impertinently.  Whereas wisdom and experience tend to make you act with restraint.  To be conservative.  To see beyond the moment.  Because some of the established institutions and traditions have worked.  And even have defined a people.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #39: “Socialism is easier said than done.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 9th, 2010

Capitalism vs. Socialism

Socialism as a political/economic theory is pretty involved.  With an involved history.  And if you’re suffering insomnia one night I recommend reading some of it with a glass of warm milk.  Should put you right to sleep.

Let me simplify it a bit.  To begin with, by ‘socialism’ I mean any form of collectivism (socialism, communism, fascism, statism, social democracy, etc.).  They’re all similar.  Just variations on a theme.  And they all suffer the same defects.  Three of which I summarize here:

  • Public (instead of private) ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange
  • Put the common good before individual wants or desires
  • Equality of outcomes

That’s not everything.  But it’s the 3 big reasons why socialism fails.  Basically, socialism is the opposite of capitalism.  In fact, socialism was created to defeat capitalism.  The East-West rivalry during the Cold War was the final showdown between the two systems.  And we know how that turned out.  (In case you don’t, capitalism won).

Public (instead of private) ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange

Mikhail Gorbachev asked the great Margaret Thatcher how she fed her people.  Her reply stunned him.  She did nothing.  The Soviet Union was struggling to feed her people with their socialist command economy.  And they couldn’t do it.  They who had great tracts of some of the most fertile farmland in the world.  And yet they still had to import grain from their arch nemesis.  The United States.  To keep famine at bay.  The free markets of capitalism didn’t have to struggle to feed her people, though.  The United States had food to spare.  And even though Great Britain is an island nation that had to import much of her food, there were no famine fears in Great Britain.  The socialist just couldn’t understand how that was possible.

One of the problems with socialism is that it ignores market forces.  And perverts the economic decision making process.  In a free market, market forces maximize the use of scarce resources that have alternative uses.  The market does this through the laws of supply and demand.  And prices.  Things high in demand but low in supply have high prices.  This ensures there is enough of that supply available for those who really need it.  Anyone who pushed a car to the gas pump during the gas shortages in the 1970s understands this.  When the Nixon administration kept prices artificially low, everyone bought and used gas until the supply ran out.  If we had let prices rise to their true market price, those who didn’t absolutely need gas would have cut back on their purchases, leaving gas available to those who really needed it and were willing to pay a high price for it.

When the state takes over the economy, politicians make economic decisions for political reasons.  They ignore the ‘invisible hand’ of the market place.  In the Soviet Union, the state boasted about its industrial output and filled stores with tractor parts no one wanted to buy.  Meanwhile, people stood in line for hours in hopes of buying soap or toilet paper.  And no matter how hard they tried they just couldn’t increase the yield of some of the world’s most fertile farmland.

Put the common good before individual wants or desires

Doing what’s best for the common good sounds noble.  And easy to do.  We all agree our children should be safe.  And should have enough to eat.  And that our schools should serve them breakfast each morning.  And teach them about contraception.  Well, okay, it’s not that easy to do.  Because different people want different things.  And different people think different things are better for the common good.

This is the problem of putting the common good before our individual wants or desires.  Few can agree on what the common good is.  We know our own wants and desires.  But we have no idea what other people want or desire.  Unless we ask them.  But does that even help in determining the common good?  Get a group of your friends and family together.  Make it at least 10 people.  Now get the ten of you to agree on a movie to see.  You know what will happen?  First of all, you’ll waste a lot of time saying, “I don’t care.  What do you want to see?”  Then people will start suggesting movies.  And for every one suggested, someone will vote it down.  This will go on until you finally arrive at a movie that no one wants to see.  But because it’s the movie everyone hates the least, everyone’s willing to settle for it.

Now imagine that little exercise with a thousand people.  The agreeing process will be even more difficult.  In fact, it may be impossible.  It is very unlikely that one thousand people will agree to anything.  And if they try they will waste an enormous amount of time in the process.  No.  Someone will have to decide for the group.  Someone will have to weigh everyone’s opinion and decide what is best for the common good. No matter how many people disagree with this one person’s decision.  F.A. Hayek wrote a book about this.  The Road to Serfdom.  He said socialism ends in dictatorship.  Because there’s no efficient means to determine what’s best for the common good.  He predicted this would happen in Germany with their creeping state socialism.  And Adolf Hitler proved him right.

Equality of Outcomes

If a business has a good year, they tend to be more generous at the holidays.  Let’s say a business owner wants to give out some Christmas bonuses to thank her employees for all their hard work.  She goes to her accountant.  Asks what’s the maximum she can give out without giving herself any cash-flow problems at the beginning of the new year (taxes, insurance, etc.).  The accountant crunches some numbers and says $50,000.  If she has 15 employees, that’s about $3,300 each.  Which should make for a pretty Merry Christmas.  Now, let’s say she has 125 employees.  That works out to a $400 bonus per employee.   Which won’t be quite as merry.

The lesson learned?  The more people included in the getting of something, the less each one gets.  And so it is with socialism.  The only way to get equality in outcomes is to give everyone less.  Sure, we can afford to give Congress people a Cadillac health insurance plan.  But we could never afford to give the same coverage to everyone.  To be able to give coverage to all the people, each person will have to get less.

And they will continue to get less.  As costs go up, it is difficult to maintain the same level of government benefits.  Eventually, they’ll have to raise taxes to cover the higher costs.  And when they can’t raise taxes anymore, they’ll have to reduce the amount of benefits.  Or, in other words, they’ll have to ration benefits.  A bureaucrat will have to decide who should get what.  Which could easily turn health care into politics.  A political opponent needs an expensive cancer treatment?  So sorry.  We’ve already reached our quota this year.  Try again next year.

Socialism is Slavery

What it comes down to is this; socialism really fails for one reason.  It goes against human nature.  It only works when we sacrifice our wants and desires so that others may have their wants and desires.  It’s not trying to keep up with the Jones.  It’s helping the Jones get ahead of you.  It’s living your life to serve others.  And there’s another word for that.  Slavery.  Hence the title of Hayek’s book.  The Road to Serfdom.  For socialism to work, the state must become a dictatorship.  And we must become its slaves.  But few willingly volunteer for servitude.  So, given the choice, we will ultimately choose to make socialism fail.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #38: “Repeating a lie doesn’t make it true.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 2nd, 2010

If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit; even if O.J. Simpson did it.

A lie is a lie.  No matter how well you say it.  Or how often you say it.  O.J. Simpson has said over and over that he didn’t kill his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson.  Or her friend, Ronald Goldman.  Few believe him.  Even Oprah Winfrey told Mark Furman recently on her talk show that Simpson did it. And she’s no racist.  She even endorsed Barack Obama for president.  And he’s black.

But if you repeat the lie enough people will believe it.  The Simpson jury apparently believed it.  And they believed Furman was a racist and that he lied under oath.  But Furman is no more a racist than you are.  And although he was a pretty good detective, he actually forgot a thing or two he said in his past.  Like using the ‘n’ word during an interview with a writer who was working on a screenplay about cops.  A recording surfaced during the trial where Furman did in fact make some pretty nasty racial slurs.  But it was probably more bravado than racism.  A young cop trying to sound like a tough and gritty L.A. cop in front of a screenwriter.  Besides, Furman was a Marine.  And Marines aren’t racists.  ‘Nuff said.

Anyway, armed with that, the defense repeated the lie that racist mark Furman planted the infamous bloody glove that did not fit.  The shrunken leather glove that didn’t fit Simpson’s gloved hand.  “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”  And they did.  Simpson went free, though he’s in jail now for other crimes (armed robbery and kidnapping).  And Furman pleaded no contest to perjury.  The only criminal sentence in the Simpson/Goldman murders.  And very sad testament to the L.A. criminal law system.

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”  Anita Hill cried wolf.

President Bill Clinton looked into the camera and wagged his finger at America.  “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”  But the infamous blue dress begged to differ.  In some people’s world, playing with each other’s genitals and climaxing on someone may not be sexual relations.  But you’re not going to do any of that with a hooker unless you pay for it.  And what do hookers do?  They sell ‘sexual relations’.

Clinton did, in fact, lie.  Though to this day he still says what he said was not untrue.  He can say that all he wants but the Arkansas Supreme Court’s Committee on Professional Conduct says otherwise.  They suspended his license to practice law because they say he lied about Monica Lewinsky.  Makes one wonder about all those other denials about sexual misconduct with Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick, Elizabeth Ward Gracen, Sally Perdue, Dolly Kyle Browning, etc.  He denies the allegations.  But then again, he also denied the Lewinsky allegation. 

Then there was Clarence Thomas.  During his confirmation hearings, the Democrats brought in Anita Hill to testify.  She alleged inappropriate behavior.  Nothing illegal, but inappropriate.  And they gave him a full-blown public anal exam during his confirmation hearing.  Because Hill cried wolf.  There was no substantive proof.  Just some wild-ass allegations.  Of which he was all of a sudden guilty until proven innocent.  The feminist stood tall with Anita Hill.  But nary a one came to the defense of the Clinton women.  Even after the infamous blue dress.  They all stood by their man.  Bill Clinton.  Misogyny and all.  (And the allegations against Clarence Thomas were nowhere close to ‘blue dress’ level).

Pragmatist liberals lie to impose their liberal agenda because the ends justify the means.

Everybody lies.  It’s the degree of the lie, though, that matters.  And the reason.  Militant feminists, for example, will accept and perpetuate any lie to protect a ‘feminist’ man.  Any by a ‘feminist’ man I mean one who will be a staunch supporter of Roe vs. Wade and abortion in general (which they feared Clarence Thomas was not).  And lying in court is especially useful.  As the character Louie DePalma (played by Danny DeVito) illustrated so well in the TV show Taxi.  When Alex Rieger (played by Judd Hirsch) asked Louie if he knew what it meant to lie under oath in a court of law.  Louie replied, “Yeah, it means they gotta believe whatever you say.”

Some liars are just trying to stay out of trouble.  Or jail.  Others, though, are people who lie for another reason.  They’ll fabricate or sustain a lie for a ‘higher’ purpose.  We call these people pragmatists.  These people believe the ends justify the means.  And if the ‘ends’ are important enough, then any means employed are justified.  Liberals are pragmatists.  They have specific ends in mind.  They want legal abortion.  Universal health care.  More government.  Less free markets.  Etc.  And because only approximately 20% of Americans want the same thing, they have to tell a few lies to impose their liberal agenda.

Ronald Reagan was senile.  George W. Bush is stupid.  Sarah Palin is stupid and inexperienced.  Rush Limbaugh is a hate monger.  Glenn Beck is a fear monger.  Members of the Tea Party are a bunch of racists.  Business owners oppress their employees.  Republicans hate the poor.  And hate gays and lesbians.  Hate minorities.  Hate women.  And hate just about anyone liberals have a vested interest in.  Or so the liberal lies go.  Over and over and over again.

The 20% (liberal Democrats) try to rule the 80% (center-right America) with an able assist from the mainstream media, university professors, celebrities and activist judges.

America is a center-right country.  That means liberal Democrats are in the minority.  Which means they can’t impose their agenda at the voting booth.  They can’t legislate their liberal agenda.   So they lie to build a coalition.  To try to pull independents and moderates to their cause.  You know the lies.  Republicans will force women into back alleys for abortions.  Republicans want to defund Social Security.  Republicans will bring back Jim Crowe laws (which, ironically, Democrats put into law).  Republicans want to transfer the tax burden from the rich to the poor.  Etc.

And they have willing accomplices.  Though they are only 20% of the population, they are a very strategically located 20%.  They’re in the mainstream media.  They teach at our universities.  They star in our favorite movies and TV shows.  They perform our favorite music.  And they sit in our courts (what they can’t legislate in Congress, they legislate from the bench).  It’s a small 20%.  But they have a hell of a bully pulpit.  And they use that bully pulpit with extreme prejudice.

And then you have the politicians themselves.  Who will tell any lie.  Smear any character.  For they feel untouchable.  Because they write and enforce the laws.  They ARE the law.  And they think like Louis DePalma.  That the truth doesn’t matter.  Because the people gotta believe whatever they say.  Or should.  Because they are the law.  But we, the other 80%, know they lie.  The DePalma analogy still fits, though.  We see the typical liberal Democrat as a lying, corrupt, despicable scoundrel, lacking any vestiges of integrity who enrich themselves at the expense of the people they serve.  And who can’t see Louis DePalma in that?

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #32: “America is great but it can’t make bad ideology good.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 21st, 2010

We’ve Always Done Things This Way

The Old World was set in her ways.  Change didn’t come easy.  When it came it often spanned centuries.  But not always.  As the Roman Empire incorporated new territories into the empire, she modernized those new territories.  Roads.  Fresh water.  Sanitation.  Rule of law.  Markets.  The things that made cites better.  Civilizations better.  But as a civilization grows, so does its government.  And as government grows, taxes inevitably become more onerous.

A sprawling empire required a sprawling bureaucracy to control it.  And a huge standing army to protect it from without.  And to police it from within.  When you expand and conquer new territory, the spoils of conquest can fund your empire.  When your borders are relatively static, though, you have to use alternative sources of funding.  Taxation.  As the tax burden grew, dissatisfaction grew.  Fewer citizens volunteered to serve in Rome’s legions.  So Rome relied more and more on hired armies.  This increased the cost of empire.  And it increased taxation.  The tax burden grew so great that people gave up their small farms and worked for the bigger farms.  Worked for the rich landowners.  Some tried to quit farming all together.  This caused problems in trying to feed Rome’s legions.  And her bureaucracy.  The food supply became so critical that the Romans wrote new laws forbidding people to leave their farms.  Farmers were bound to the land.  They could never leave.  If you were born on the land you would farm the land.  Forever.

During the decline of the Western Roman Empire you saw the rise of the economic system that would dominate the Middle Ages.  Feudalism.  As the Western Empire declined, the power began to shift to the rich landowners.  As did loyalties.  As the empire further disintegrated, the power of Rome could no longer protect you.  Or feed you.  And thus food and protection became the foundation of feudalism.  Land owners, the nobles (i.e., lords), would let you work their lands.  The bulk of the proceeds went to the landlord.  But you also had a portion of the manor to farm for yourself.  In exchange for the use of a lord’s land you provided military service to the lord.  When needed to protect the lord and his lands.  Property rights allowed the lord’s sons to inherit the estate upon his death.  So property ownership became hereditary.  As did the nobility.   And so it would be for centuries.

England Leads the Way

From the nobles arose one.  A dominant one.  A ruler of nobles.  A king.  A king consolidated the many nobles’ estates into a kingdom.  A country.  And the king became sovereign.  The supreme authority.  The nobles pledged their loyalty to the king.  Provided for the king.  And fought for him when necessary.  Thus the few, the many and the one.  The masses (the many) served the lords and worked on their estates.  The lords (the few) were the wealthy land owners who served the king.  The king (the one) ruled the kingdom.

Thus the European monarchy was born.  In France it was absolute.  In England, in 1215, the nobles met King John on the meadow at Runnymede.  And the king reluctantly set his seal to the Magna Carta.  In England, there would be limits to the sovereign’s power.  The king may be king, but the nobles held the wealth.  And with it a lot of power.  Sometimes they saw things differently.  And the little people, the masses, often saw things differently than did the king and lords.  These different interests were reconciled, in time, by king and Parliament, a two-house or bicameral legislature (comprised of the House of Commons and the House of Lords). 

England was the place to be.  Rule of law.  Bill of rights.  Commerce.  Banking.  Capitalism.  Liberty.  Food.  Security.  Your common everyday Englishman had a better quality of life than your common everyday [insert any other European national here].  As transoceanic trade took off, the great European powers collided with each other.  Fought for that lucrative trade.  In the Old World.  And in the New World.  These wars became very expensive.  And some lasted for years.  Like the Seven Years War.  Which the British won.  And took many French possessions throughout the world.  But at a huge cost.  She incurred a great debt.  Especially in securing one of her colonies.  British North America.

Tea Anyone?

So England taxed her British American subjects.  Only problem was, these English subjects had no representation in Parliament.  And this was very un-English.  Taxation without representation.  This caused tension.  Also, Great Britain’s mercantilist policies were also rubbing the colonists the wrong way.  America was growing.  And she wanted free trade.  But that was impossible when the home country maintained a favorable balance of trade at your expense.  And had the Royal Navy to enforce it.  As a colony, everything had to ship to/from England ports on English ships so England could accumulate bullion.  The British protected their industries.  Her colonies fed raw materials to these industries.  And that’s all they did.

Trouble brewed for a while.  When Great Britain legislated what type of tea they could drink (only British East Indian tea), the American colonists had had enough.   There was a tea party in Boston, a revolution and formal independence.  And then a new nation.  With a bicameral legislation.  An executive.  And a judiciary.  It wasn’t quite Parliament, but was very similar in function.  The president was the one.  The Senate was the few.  And the House of Representatives were the many.  But there were key differences.  There was no king.  No hereditary nobility.  And there would be no mercantilism.  Despite Alexander Hamilton’s best efforts.

Let’s Just Agree to Disagree

Getting the colonies to come together to declare their independence was not easy.  It helped that there was already a shooting war going on.  Lexington and Concord.  Bunker Hill.  The coastal towns the British burnt and left in ruins.  They were already fighting a rebellion.  The declaration was almost a moot point.  But it was important.  And, after some arm twisting, they voted for independence and posted their Declaration of Independence.  But that was then.  After the Revolutionary War, there was no such unifying force.  Everyone was back to looking out for number one.  Well, most. 

Locked in a Philadelphia hall during a sweltering summer thick with horseflies, a collection of America’s finest worked to create a new government.  George Washington, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, to name just a few, could hardly agree on anything.  The Constitution they created was not great in their eyes.  But it was probably the best that they could do.  So acknowledged, they sent it to the states for ratification.  The odds were against them.  It would take some persuading.  And persuading they did.  Hamilton and Madison (and John Jay) wrote a series of essays appearing in newspapers to make the case for ratification.  They addressed and answered all arguments against ratification.  (You can read these today in the Federalist Papers.)  And this effort was successful.  The states ratified the constitution.  There was now a nation known as the United States of America.

Our first Secretary of the Treasury was Alexander Hamilton.  A capitalist genius.  And a great admirer of the British Empire.  Being a recent transplant to the American Colonies, he had no deep-seated resentment of the former mother country.  In fact, he wanted to emulate her.  She was the greatest empire in the world.  She was obviously doing something right.  But he pushed too far.  His mercantilist plans were a bit much for some.  Especially the ‘simple’ farmers of the South.  The planter elite.  Led by Thomas Jefferson (covertly) and James Madison (overtly), they fought Hamilton tooth and nail and did everything to destroy him.  (After seeing his plans Madison switched to the opposition.)    And ultimately, did.  When Aaron Burr shot him in a duel on the field of honor at Weehawken, New Jersey, across the Hudson from New York City.  All because Hamilton tried everything within his power to keep him from becoming president of the United States and governor of New York.  Because he was on unprincipled man.  Burr took offense to that.  And, well, the scoundrel challenged him to a duel and killed him.  But I digress.

The American Ideology

The American ideology is simple.  It includes things that have been proven to work.  And excludes things that have been proven not to.  A large, diverse people make up America.  So at the heart of our ideology is that we agree to disagree. 

We don’t have kings or nobility.  We don’t have an entitled class.  No hereditary rights.  Here, it doesn’t matter who your father was.  Or what group you belong to (religious, societal, etc.).  No one person is better than another. 

We have property rights and live under the rule of law.  We honor legal contracts.  We built our nation on laissez faire capitalism.  Free markets.  With a minimum of government interference.  We do what we want and respect that others do what they want.  And we are free to do this as long as we play by the rule of law.

It was a long road getting here.  We took the best history had to offer.  And rejected the worst that history included.  Nations who did likewise went on to greatness, too (like the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, etc.).  Those who didn’t have been repositories of great suffering and human bondage (North Korea, Cuba, The People’s Republic of China, the Soviet Union, etc.).  Of the latter nations, please note that life is getting much better in China and the former Soviet Union with the introduction of capitalism and free markets.  And it’s not in North Korea and Cuba where these governments stubbornly cling to failed policies to keep their governments in power.  Whatever the cost is to their people.

It’s the Ideology, Stupid

Good ideology makes good nations.  Bad ideology makes bad nations.  A good nation can NOT take bad ideology and make it good.  A good nation that implements bad ideology will only make that good nation bad.  All people have the capacity for greatness.  And that greatness will shine through if the government doesn’t suppress it.   To see this all we have to do is look to history.  It’s all there.  The good.  The bad.  And the ugly.

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