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Monday, February 28, 2005

Never Ending Good News

Economy Grows Better Than Expected:
The economy grew at a solid 3.8 percent annual rate in the final quarter of 2004 — stronger than previously estimated_ and an encouraging sign that the business expansion was firmly entrenched at the start of the new year. [...]

For all of 2004, the economy expanded by 4.4 percent, the best showing in five years. This annual estimate was the same as first reported last month. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, delivering the Fed's economic outlook to Congress last week, struck a fairly positive note about the economy's performance. "All told, the economy seems to have entered 2005 expanding at a reasonably good pace, with inflation and inflation expectations well anchored," he said.
On the other hand, other countries are having a little more trouble:
German unemployment rose to a postwar record in February as cold weather caused companies to lay off staff while labor-law changes swelled jobless registers, a member of the ruling Social Democratic Party said.
Not to mention:
France said Friday that its jobless rate reached 10 percent in January for the first time in five years...
I hope that those jobless aren't all immigrants from the mideast. That could be a seriously unstable situation.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Behavioral Conservatives

I just spent a couple of weeks in that most liberal of liberal European countries - The Netherlands. While the purpose of the trip was primarily business, I had the good fortune to spend some time with one of the guys I work with there and his family. I went to his house and hung out with him, his wife and their two kids. They consider themselves good liberal Europeans and classify Americans as being very right wing and conservative relative to themselves.

But I couldn't help noticing that their lifestyle was nearly identical to conservative Americans living in republican states. They live in a house, have two cars, one of which is a minivan. They have two kids, and though that is less than average for a conservative American family, it's by no means unusual. Their interactions with their kids didn't seem any different to me than what I observe here in the United States. They don't partake of any of the vices that The Netherlands if famous for.

Indeed, if an alien came down and observed this Dutch family and a conservative American one, the alien would be hard pressed to tell them apart. The only obvious differences are that this Dutch family was not religious and they didn't own any firearms (which are generally prohibited). They basically talk the liberal talk, but they don't really walk the liberal walk. So they may be ideological liberals, but they are behavioral conservatives.

I'm an "actions speak louder than words" kinda guy, so I find this very interesting. When I pointed it out to my Dutch friends, they were quite uncomfortable with the concept of being behavioral conservatives. They put a lot of thought into trying to come up with distinctions between themselves and conservative families in America. Religion and guns are about it.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Gay Marriage

I hadn't yet blogged on this particular topic because it simply doesn't matter all that much to me. Nonetheless, I've come to the conclusion that the government should get out of the marriage business, whether same-sex, heterosexual, etc. I think that these excerpts from a Reason article says it well:
Around 270 A.D.—according to one tradition, at least—St. Valentine, a Roman cleric, was imprisoned for his opposition to Emperor Claudius' decree that young men (his potential crop of soldiers) could no longer marry. Valentine performed their ceremonies anyway and was thrown in jail for his obstinacy. His belief was that marriage is too sacred a rite to relegate to the incompetence of state bureaucracy. And, on February 14, he was executed for that belief. [...]

As we approach the anniversary of Valentine's own rebellion and denial, shouldn't the nation that pioneered a popular government of the people, by the people, and for the people" be the one that finally stands to assert the pre-governmental primacy of matrimonial privacy?

It is time to privatize marriage. If the institution is really so sacred, it should lie beyond the withering hands of politicians and policy makers in Washington D.C. There should be no federal or state license that grants validity to love. There should be no state-run office that peers into our bedrooms and honeymoon suites. If the church thinks divorce and homosexuality are problematic, it should initiate the real dialogue to address these problems in-house rather than relying on state-sponsored coercion to affirm doctrinal beliefs. And if tax-codes and guardianships need some classification for couples, let's revise civil union standards to reflect those needs.

I fully realize that the devil's in the details regarding those tax-codes and guardianships, but nonetheless, it's a solution that eliminates the State supported discrimination against gay couples while allowing people to define and believe in marriage according to the mores of their community.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Don't Jump

Fewer Americans have died in the Iraq war than have died jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge (suicide) since it opened. Close down the bridge I say. It's clearly far too dangerous.

Monday, February 07, 2005


Arthur Laffer, the "Father of Supply Side Economics", thinks things are great:
OK, let's take a look at what happened to marginal tax rates. The highest rate has gone from what -- 70 percent -- down to what, 35 percent? What's happened to inflation? What's happened to regulation restrictions? What's happened to America and the world? What's happened to the stock market? What's happened to everything you and I believe in? Do you remember what unemployment rates looked like back in 1979? Do you remember what the prime was when Ronald Reagan came into office on Jan. 20, 1981? It was 21 percent. [...]

When (Nobel Prize-winning economist) Bob Mundell and I sat there at the University of Chicago in 1967, '68 and '69, we dreamt of a world. That world is now. Can you imagine a world with no inflation? Everything that's happened. It's absolutely spectacular. I'm just so happy about what's happened to this world. [...]

If you looked at (House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi and you looked at (Senate Minority Leader) Harry Reid Wednesday night, they looked really, really uncomfortable. They were running everything in 1979. They had the president, the Senate, the Supreme Court, the Fed chairman. They had every damn position in the world. They had everything -- the states, the houses, the governors. It was a Fabian redistributionist nightmare. Now it's really beautiful. I'm an old man, and old men are supposed to be curmudgeons and hate the modern day and love the ancient. But the truth of the matter is, we've won.
I have to say that that's how it looks to me too.