Thursday, June 21, 2007

Couple of things

- Gasp! The liberal media! Seriously though, I don't mind journalists giving to either political party ... partially because I trust their ability to do their job to the best of their ability and partially because I believe they've got as much interest, and right, in backing an individual for public office as you or me.

- Well, OK ... The Athens Banner-Herald says James Marlow is waiting until all the votes are in, which is a bit different than what Marlow said at his campaign blog. But, then again, only a bit since he said he already called Jim Whitehead and Paul Broun to congratulate them, but also wanted to wait until the votes were in.

- Speaking of that, I talk about my dilemma in picking a candidate in the runoff, as well as ask an open-ended question about Terry Holley and the Augusta area votes.

- Lost in the special election down here was the fact that Michael Bloomberg left the Republican Party, which is interesting. Coming on the heels of his cover appearance for Time, this is more than likely a move which indicates his interest in running for president as a third-party candidate. I kinda like Bloomberg. Not more than Barack Obama, mind you, but if he does jump in the race it'll be interesting to see how it pans out since he actually has political experience, unlike Ross Perot.

- Larry! No!

- This is a pretty weird reason to not vote for someone Michael Covington. I mean, Louise McBee called my house four or five times on Marlow's behalf, but I just let the machine get it and still cast my vote for the man.

- I've mentioned it in the past, but I really don't like John Stossel.

- DuVall ... that's two out of three.

- Let's do a teaser for 'Music for the moment' with some Hank Jr.


Blogger hillary said...

There are plenty of weird reasons not to vote for someone that still affect how people's votes get cast. I found all the robo calling (and even the real calling) pretty annoying myself. They're kind of lucky I'd already voted for Marlow by the time I got home and found two more messages on my machine. I understand the need to get out the vote, but, really, it's almost as bad as telemarketing. Also, whose mind is it going to change? You might remember to vote at all if you get a call, but in that case, they could be targeted to people who haven't voted in every election ever. But you're probably not going to be convinced by 30 seconds of Louise McBee.

8:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In this case, the calls must have been made on behalf of the Marlow campaign. (Presumably, Louise McBee wouldn't record a call for Whitehead.)

However, it has been common in some other races for repeated automated calls that appear to be for candidate A, but they are actually being made by candidate B's campaign. They intent is to deliberately turn people off from voting for candidate A. It works well when you have a very narrow slice of the electorate (geographically or demographically) that you can target. Marlow would have been a good target for such an attack as his base was geographically quite small. Whitehead's support was widespread. It would have been difficult to attack him this way.

9:01 AM  
Blogger Xon said...

JMac, what's so objectionable about Stossel's article? He says plainly that we all want to help the world's poor and starving, etc. The disagreement is over the best way to do it. Stossel thinks free markets are better than government subsidies. So, you think he's wrong about that? Okay (though I still don't understand why), but is it really that dislikable of a position?

I mean, even if government subsidies are a more efficient way to acccomplish poverty and hunger relief, there are trade-offs in life that should make us all "sad" that that's the only way. Government subsidies, by definition, are going to be subjected to the whims and fluctuations and arbitrariness of politics. They require confiscating other people's money against their will. They often create a sense of complaceny among the citizenry of the giving nation that "this is being taken care of". Etc. So, due to the drawbacks of gov't subsidized world-fixing, I don't understand why you would "dislike" someone who hopefully suggesta a better way. If he's wrong and his free market ideas aren't really a better way, okay. But why the "dislike"?

If gov't is the only way, then I'll accept it but it shouldn't make us happy.

9:44 AM  
Blogger Jmac said...

This is a puzzling argument.

Now, I've got personal reasons for disliking Stossel which stem from some his questionable journalistic practices (along the same lines for why I'm not a big Michael Moore fan), and that's fine (and we've discussed this in the past).

But your contention is that it's odd that I don't like Stossel and that I should agree with his argument, which I don't largely because I share a different ideology than he does. I mean, you say 'well, you should like him' is kinda weird. It's as if you'd walk up to a Florida fan and say 'well you should be a Georgia fan.'

Regarding your specific example, well I don't necessarily agree with you on that, but - and don't take this as dismissive because I honestly don't mean for it to be - is it really worth us dancing around and around over a fundamental ideological divide we have that we've discussed numerous times in the past?

I'm all for wonky, ideological discussions, but this has a strange deja vu feeling to it.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Ned said...

Robo calling is the worst! There is no way for me to prevent a candidate from calling and leaving annoying voicemails unless I turn off my phone.

Any robo-call should be forced to give you the number of the place that is calling you and who is paying for the call at the very beginning - telephones should not be used for unsolicited advertising.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Nicki said...

I voted against Whitehead for many reasons, but one of them is that I was really tired of throwing away his campaign literature, some of which was so convincingly designed as to pass for legitimate mail, by election day. There was a lot of it! I don't recall getting many robocalls this time, though.

3:24 PM  
Blogger Nicki said...

xon, we can go into this somewhere else, but in general if something is really, desperately important, then it is too damned important to be left to be addressed exclusively by the private market. The private market is best at optimizing profit, not addressing needs -- and while it addresses some needs competently, it generally creates a huge patchwork that is hard to navigate and communicate across and achieves societal goals to varying degrees. Our local poverty situation is a great example.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank God for government. No huge patchwork that is hard to navigate there!

3:49 PM  
Blogger Nicki said...

Yeah, well, whatever, anonymous. The fact of the matter, though, is that if you want something done and that something has unprofitable aspects as well as dozens of programmatic needs, sending that to the private market will generally result in multiple groups -- who may or may not work together -- taking up various pieces of the problem. Which is inefficient and also unlikely to actually do what you want it to do.

As for my example, ask a homeless person how easy it is to navigate the dozens of nonprofits and for-profit groups who can help them.

7:30 AM  
Blogger Jmac said...

Amen to that Nicki.

7:32 AM  
Blogger I'm a Realist said...

Stossel is right, but he is not right for the right reasons.

1) The country that is interfering with the free markets is the United States. The subsidies and tariffs on agricultural products are artificially inflating the prices of the few products poor countries are able to produce more efficiently than we can. Since we are propping up an entire industry (domestically), these poorer countries are unable to peddle their wares - which are grown more cheaply and, typically, in a more ideal climate than our own - to better their lot in life.

2) It is true that the constant scuffles and general instability in Africa and other regions deter significant investment from the private market, but a concerted effort to create free markets would hardly solve these problems. But, for the very reasons that private enterprise is hesitant to invest (zero property rights, for one), it is silly for governments to spend billions of dollars in aid. The aid is only lining the pockets of the politicians and government officials who are living lives of relative luxury in otherwise desolate landscapes. Until they are forced to, you know, develop an economy to maintain their wealth, it behooves them to continue their oppressive ways.

3) It is naive to suggest that the West made it because of free markets, unless by free markets you mean exploitation of every resource possible with complete disregard to future consequences.

11:41 AM  
Blogger I'm a Realist said...

Oh, and I'm a free market guy.

11:43 AM  
Blogger Xon said...


Anon's snarky response already anticipated what I would say here a bit. Because, for snark, it is a really tempting response. I mean, whenever anyone worries about an "inefficient patchwork" resulting from the market, and then offers the government in its stead, there is a disconnect somewhere.


"The private market is best at optimizing profit, not addressing needs

Why the false dichotomoy? When profit is optimized, what does that usually mean? It means that a company has managed to more efficiently produce and deliver a product than its competitors. Which is a good thing for anyone who has a "need" for that product.

If we need orange juice, the market will provide it much more efficiently to the people who need it most, without even trying. Just let OJ producers adjust to the signals the market sends them, and you'll end up with more profitable OJ in areas that want more OJ, and thus those areas will actually get more OJ.

-- and while it addresses some needs competently, it generally creates a huge patchwork that is hard to navigate and communicate across and achieves societal goals to varying degrees. Our local poverty situation is a great example."

First of all, our local poverty situation is hardly the result of the "free market," unless you just mean that we're not completely socialistic and businesses are allowed to make many decisions apart from government regulation and interference. I know that this is one of those discussions where people talk past each other, so definitions are important. When I talk about a "free market," I mean an atmosphere in which there is absolutely no government coersion tipping the scales in any way--not through taxes, penalties, incentives, subsidies, laws, wars and rumors of wars, etc. Athens-Clarke-County is nowhere near a "free market," on this definition, though of course this is a matter of degree and it is freer than some places.

Besides, having alternative suppliers of a good or service, whether that good is organic toothpaste or a place for a homeless person to sleep, is a good thing, not a bad thing.

Besides besides, as anon already said and I will try to repeat more gently, governments make an enormous mess of things. Governments by definition cannot be anything but inefficient when it comes to allocating economic resources, because governments by definition are cut off from the market fluctuations which are what help resource allocators have some idea of what they should do.

As the quip goes, if the government took over the desert, in 10 years you'll have a shortage of sand.

When something is "really, desperately" important, then my heart goes out to everyone who is on the wrong end of the important situation. But, see, that's the thing: human beings are fairly empathetic creatures on the whole, and so many people end up feeling these concerns for these people. And for at least a good number of them, these concerns translate into shifted motivations to try to help, to do something. There is no need to quelch the free market. In fact, if this issue is really so important then you'd better NOT trust it to the government.

How will the gov't even know what to do? This is like the current debate about the immigration reform, with idiotic Republicans (no surprise there?) saying that we "need a government that can do something." Ah, unless the "something" is even worse than what would have happend if you did nothing! This is a real logical possibility, right?

Okay, there's a shortage of water. People are dying of thirst. Aquafina moves into the area and sets up a distribution center. They truck the water in from more plentiful regions and sell it to the thirsty locals. The price of water goes up to, say, 5 bucks per bottle. Various charitable organizations buy up some water at bulk prices (for, say, 4 bucks a bottle) and set up shelters where the very poor can get it for free. And, just to be as stark as possible, let's say that some people do indeed die of thirst.

So, outraged at the "price gouging" works of Aquafina and its minions, the government steps in to "help." How? Mandating lower prices for water bottles? Back to "normal" or "near normal" levels? (Say, 1 dollar per bottle?) But this will cause demand for water to go UP even futher. Many people at the front of the line for water at the Aquafina shops will try to buy even MORE water than they really need, b/c it's a bit cheaper than it had been before. This will leave less for the people who come later--a water shortage. Aquafina might try to adjust for this by shipping MORE water down, but you've just removed some of their incentive for doing so by reducing the profit they are allowed to make. At 1 buck a bottle, a bottle sold in the drought area is no more profitable than a bottle sold anywhere else. Before you call the Aquafina people "monsters" for thinking this way, it's not so much that they are "thinking" this way. The free market is not magic, and nobody says it is. Real life is chaotic. The Aquafina people are making decisions on the run, and they are not going to be perfect, but they are going to be somewhat accurate if they can respond to market forces. If water is more profitable in Seattle, then we send more water to Seattle. This makes us more money, we make more water bottles, and we have more to send to less profitable places (b/c any profit is still good, but you want to start with higher profit first if you can help it). The more we make, the cheaper we can make it, and the more our profit margins go up.

Even if Aquafina abandons all regard for profit and just starts trucking down extra water bottles to the drought area to sell at the "normal" price (what's a 'normal' price, anyway?), this won't necessarily have the intended effect. (See next point, which is a similar situation.)

Eventually, frustrated socialists might come out of the woodwork and say enough with all this tiddlywinking with market forces, trying to let businesses do their thing but just regulating them here or there--let's just end all private ownership of water and let the gov't distribute it to whoever needs it. This way it's all about "need," and not at all about profit.

But this is the most disasterous answer of all, and the economic workings of all true socialist states demonstrate that it is so(usually they give the demonstration by descending into madness for a few years, and then coming up with some "reform" which actually takes them in a quasi-market direction...the Soviets in the early 1920s did precisely this, the Vietnamese did this, the Khmer Rouge did this, etc.).

Okay, you are now the centralized bureaucrat in charge of gathering and distributing water to the people who need it. Where exactly do you send it? Who needs it most of all? Is that ALL they need? What if you use so many trucks taking water from New England to drought-plagued Mississippi that you end up taking away the ability of other industries to supply OTHER things. You'll have no idea that this is the case when you first make your'll only figure out something went wrong when people in the midwest start suffering from a grain shortage. Uh oh. So, um, start putting more resources into producing grain. Okay, but how much more? You don't want to overdo it; remember all those people who needed water originally! How on earth can any human being make these kinds of decisions in a reasonably accurate way? I don't think they can; this isn't a knock on the people themselves, but on the government that has the hubris to believe it can do what no person can do.

Ah, too long! A lot needs clarified, but I've tried your patience enough...

2:10 PM  
Blogger Xon said...

JMac, I'm not saying you should LIKE Stossel. I'm saying you shouldn't DISLIKE him. To me those are not the only two options; it's possible to do neither. So what I don't understand why an article arguing for preferability of free market forces would make you DISLIKE someone, even if you do disagree.

2:11 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

Regarding journalist's political donations, Conrad Fink would like a word with you.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Jmac said...

Don't get me started on Fink ...

10:25 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home