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?

Words matter. If the left succeeds in re-defining the very terms of debate to the point that it becomes difficult or impossible to describe the judicial behavior that is objectionable — if they usurp the term “judicial activism” (and how many others?) and replace its meaning with something less objectionable — then they win by default.

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Common Folk

Those born to the lower class that are now living by upper class values and norms have made a conscious choice to do so. In a sense, they have repudiated their roots, declared by their actions that the way they live now is better than the way they lived then. And believe me, those on the other side of that divide are aware of the choice and feel it as a challenge. When you’ve actively chosen one way over another, it’s hard to make the argument, even to yourself, that the choice was merely between two equivalents rather than between a better and a worse.

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Budgeting Based on Reality

…prioritizing and making tradeoffs is infinitely more difficult when the government has made promises in flush times that it is hard-pressed to keep in lean times. And yet that seems to be the default mode of operation: commit windfalls when the economy is strong to long-term and popular causes, like entitlements and salaries and program expansions, that are politically difficult to rescind when the windfall evaporates.

If revenues were estimated and allocated based on the mean over some suitable period — say a typical business cycle — then decisions about priorities could be made in a relatively stable fiscal environment without the periodic panics that characterize the present budgeting process.

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Conservative in Context

I think that, 90% of the time, business (and I use the term loosely here) brings regulation upon itself by tolerating and even embracing sleazy practices. If we want less government regulation, we need a lot more ethical sense among the business community in particular and among the public generally.

…’Conservatives’ have always offered a different compact than ‘liberals’. ‘Liberals’ say:

Cede some of your political and economic liberty to us; in return we will protect you, both from bad guys and from yourselves, and grant you all the cultural liberty and irresponsibility you can stomach.

‘Conservatives’ say:

We offer you political and economic liberty, but in return you must agree to take responsibility for your own well-being and everyone else’s; and, in particular, you must agree to exercise cultural restraint, both by controlling your own base impulses and by being willing to judge others’ indulgences of theirs.

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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.

Nonetheless….

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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Federal Funding of…Everything

When people suggest that the federal government send out money to help states or towns or individuals, where do they think that money comes from? Sometimes it seems they believe that dollars swim around in vast schools beneath the placid surface of the Potomac just waiting for the fishing fleets of the Department of the Treasury to net them and dry them and disperse them, an inexhaustible supply of federal resources available to cure all ills. Or perhaps FDR was really an alchemist whose bequest to the nation was not merely the spending habits of the New Deal but a philosopher’s stone with which subsequent Presidents and Senators and Congressmen could support their grand fiscal promises by transforming lead into gold.

The reality, of course, is that there is no magical and bottomless well of wealth from which federal assistance gushes forth without cost or consequence. The federal government aggregates money for its beneficence in the same way every government does: it extracts it from other uses, either by taxing its citizens or by borrowing from the nation’s reserve of capital.

…The only rational reason to argue that the federal government should assist the state of New Hampshire in making internet access universal — or that the federal government should help with any other infrastructure project — is that you believe the citizens of New York and California and Massachusetts and New Jersey and Kansas and Illinois should subsidize our needs or desires.

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