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(if I were) King of (the) Forest Posts

Bailout or Rescue?

Might it not be better described as a “rescue” of the innocent bystanders rather than as a “bailout” of the miscreants? If the primary effect is not to prevent Wall Street from suffering but to prevent their suffering from spreading — to ensure that their suffering doesn’t result in a general contraction in capital available for productive enterprises and for home purchases — that doesn’t sound nearly as horrible as all the news reports make it out to be.

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No, It’s NOT Obvious

Back in August the editorial board of The Boston Globe published a diatribe about the stupidity of anyone who couldn’t see how wonderful the world would be if only we would reduce the speed limit back to 55 miles per hour.

OK, that wasn’t really what the editorial said. It was only implied. But their sanctimony annoyed me enough to prompt this response.

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Activist or Compliant?

In mid May Jeff Jacoby used his column in The Boston Globe (McCain’s Supreme Wrongheadedness) to criticize John McCain’s notion of the ideal Supreme Court justice as one who deferred to the legislative authority — and reminded us that enforcing the Enumerated Powers of the Constitution on both the Legislative and Executive branches of government is precisely what the Court was designed to do.

Alas, in making that legitimate (and essential) point he inadvertently gave succor to those who believe the court should go much further and in the opposite direction by nullifying the enumerated powers entirely, by supplanting legislative judgment with judical judgment whenever and wherever a court deems a legislature insufficiently enlightened and vigorous in pursuit of some social or political goal.

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Common Folk

In her New York Times column on 4 May 2008 (This Bud’s For You) Maureen Dowd wondered “Why does Obama, the one with the bumpy background and mixed racial heritage, the one raised by a single mother who was on food stamps, seem so forced when he mingles with the common folk?” This was my answer to her.

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Budgeting Based on Reality

In May of 2008 Edward Glaeser, a professor of economics at Harvard University, wrote an op-ed for The Boston Globe in which he advocated some simple rules that would make budgeting in government more effective. The thrust of his article was that results of government programs should be measured to judge their effectiveness; that budgets should be cut from year to year rather than maintained (or increased) automatically unless the results are clearly positive; and that new spending proposals should be evaluated not on whether they seem worthwhile on their face but on whether they are more worthwhile than other uses of the resources they would consume.

I felt that he had missed something in his analysis.

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Conservative in Context

Last spring my friend Ira Goldman, inventor of the KneeDefender and other interesting gadgets (I wrote about the KneeDefender here) wrote me a note about a personal quandary, a momentary “crisis of conservatism” brought on by some particularly noxious behavior on the part of people exercising their “free market” right to gull the innocent:

I’ve been hearing radio ads by Quicken for mortgages “that let you cut your payments”, or some such. It seems that they are not even interest-only loans — they must be negative-amortization loans. “A normal $300,000 mortgage at 7% costs you [let’s say] $2,000 per month, but at Quicken Loan that same mortgage costs only $435 per month. That means you’ll have more than $1500 extra each month in cash to spend any way you want! …” I’ve not even heard the radio equivalent of the small-print disclaimer.Should I feel political guilt for thinking this is wrong?

I think these loans should be illegal. OR, so regulated that in a 30 second ad it would take 25 seconds to provide required disclaimers.

The subtext was, of course, “As a conservative and a believer in the free market I should accept this as unfortunate but legitimate. It is the market being the market and the price we pay for freedom and prosperity. And yet my conscience tells me, against the judgment of my reason, that the government should intervene!”

This, in two parts, was my answer to him and to this type of problem generally.

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Dialogue On Race

It seems we are about to embark on a long overdue “dialog on race”…

I believe that, fundamentally, we don’t want to talk about it. Some of us like to rant about it, for sure, but if the rest of us actually talked about it calmly and rationally we would steal their spotlight. And really, it would be uncomfortable. Americans aren’t used to being uncomfortable and are, therefore, bad at it. We will go to any lengths — even selling our own liberty — to avoid it.


When Bill Clinton raised this topic, I went out on a limb. I opened myself to the inevitable vitriol and wrote about race (and gender and ethnicity and class) from a middle-aged white guy’s perspective.

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Personal Responsibility

It seems in this, as in many things, we have seen a reasonable impulse lead inexorably to an unreasonable, and perhaps disastrous, outcome….

…As much as “conservative” talk of “values” and “social decay” has been derided as paranoia and prudery over the last decades, this is what they were talking about: that, compassion aside, if you consistently and persistently relieve people of responsibility for their own circumstances, then, over time, you inevitably create a culture in which people will not take responsibility for their own circumstances — and, in the end, you create a culture in which people not only will not do so but are incapable of doing so because no one has ever taught them how.

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