23
Feb

Why I Will Never Believe in the Fallacy of ‘Limited Government’

Stockholm, Sweden. The dystopian capital of evil government coercion.

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite statistic created by the United Nations Development Programme that measures a country’s standard of living. It takes into account life expectancy, education, adult literacy, years of schooling, and income. Based on these figures, lists can be created that rank countries by their standard of living. The countries with the best HDI scores also tend to have the lowest crime rates and happiest citizens. In other words, the countries with the best HDI scores are, generally speaking, the best places to live on planet earth. 

Although numbers can sometimes be inaccurate, the great thing about combining all these different statistics into one number is that even if a few figures are off, on the whole we can still make a fair assessment of which countries provide the highest quality of life for their citizens. The development index also allows us to cut through ideological arguments and examine the simple facts.

Since the rankings change a bit each year, I will not pay too much attention to which country is 4 or 5 or 6, etc. Instead, I’ll look at the countries in groups of ten. The top 10 countries in the UN development index for 2011 are:

1. Norway

2. Australia

3. Netherlands

4. United States

5. New Zealand

6. Canada

7. Ireland

8. Liechtenstein

9. Germany

10. Sweden

There is also a second HDI ranking, which takes economic inequality into account. Some would argue that this is a better evaluation of the overall standard of living for a country. When adjusted for inequality, the top 10 countries are:

1. Norway

2. Australia

3. Sweden

4. Netherlands

5. Iceland

6. Ireland

7. Germany

8. Denmark

9. Switzerland

10. Slovenia

Notice the United States does not appear on this second list. When adjusted for inequality, the U.S. ranks at number 23.

The countries that appear in the top 10 on both lists are:

Norway

Australia

Netherlands

Ireland

Germany

Sweden 

These 6 countries will be called our “All Star” nations. So what is it about these All Stars that makes them so successful? 

Let’s start by looking at health care, since the topic is hotly debated in America today.

Here’s a list of countries with universal health care systems. It specifies the start date and exact type of health care system (single payer, insurance mandate, or two tier). How many of our All Star nations have universal health care? All of them

1. Norway (1912, single payer)

2. Australia (1975, two tier)

3. Netherlands (1966, two tier)

4. Ireland (1977, two tier)

5. Germany (1941, insurance mandate)

6. Sweden (1955, single payer)

Notice that universal health care was implemented in all of these countries decades ago. In Norway’s case, a single payer system has been around for 100 years. This shows, at the very least, that a country can prosper for generations despite a “big government” solution to health care.

Health care is certainly not the only indicator of a country’s political philosophy. So let’s now look (courtesy of Wikipedia) more broadly at the type of government policies and economic models that exist in some of our All Star nations.

Norway:  The country maintains a Nordic welfare model with universal health care, subsidized higher education, and a comprehensive social security system. 

Netherlands: Both trade unions and employers organisations are consulted beforehand in policymaking in the financial, economic and social areas. They meet regularly with government in the Social-Economic Council.

Germany: The country has developed a very high standard of living and a comprehensive system of social security. Germany has a social market economy with a highly qualified labour force, a large capital stock, a low level of corruption,[90] and a high level of innovation.[91] 

Sweden: Sweden has the lowest Gini coefficient of all countries (0.23) which makes Sweden the most equal country on earth in terms of economic division. Sweden is an export-oriented mixed economySweden is currently leading the EU in statistics measuring equality in the political system and equality in the education system.[85] Sweden has the second highest total tax revenue behind Denmark, as a share of the country’s income. 

Please take note of some of the key terms and phrases in those descriptions, such as “Nordic welfare model,” “universal health care,” “subsidized higher education,” “comprehensive social security system,” “trade unions,” “social market economy,” “mixed economy,” and “highest total tax revenue.” None of these things, in theory or in practice, are consistent with the policies of small government conservatives and libertarians.

The two All Star nations not included above are Ireland and Australia. Both of these countries are much more similar to the United States in their political philosophy, but neither could be considered as being exemplars of limited government (again, both countries instituted universal health care decades ago). It should also be mentioned that Ireland is currently suffering from 14% unemployment and is dealing with the consequences of deregulated markets, just like America.

Having pointed out the correlation between liberal governments and high standards of living, I should add that correlation does not necessarily prove causation. Perhaps there are other factors at work here that are not obvious to outside examiners. And by no means am I suggesting that capitalism doesn’t work (it generates vast amounts of wealth) or that the market is never effective (Ireland grew substantially thanks to decreased protectionism) or that government should run everything (Cuba…need I say more?).

What I am suggesting is that all the world’s most developed and modern countries have found that government intervention and regulation, in a variety of areas, can work quite well, especially when combined with a competitive marketplace. 

So while I will always be willing to debate the merits of specific taxes and regulations, I will never be able to find merit in the idea that government should sit on its hands and do nothing. The modern world is center-left on the political spectrum and it’s time that the enemies of active governments start admitting it. 

05
Feb

The Situation with Iran

Iran has threatened to respond militarily to any country that either attacks it or provides aide to countries attacking it. Many will speculate as to how much damage the Iranian military could do, but the signs are clear: Iran will go to war with Israel, the United States, and any other country that attacks it.

Of course we would win this war, but the potential benefits are not clear. Iran is not respecting the rules of the UN or the international community regarding its uranium enrichment program. Iran does not believe they owe anyone anything and it’s probably safe to say they would have no problem lying about their nuclear ambitions. The fact that they literally bury their nuclear facilities underground is also not reassuring.

Iran is probably stronger than Iraq was when we invaded. It is probably not on the cusp of revolution or civil war as Libya was when we intervened. So, it is probably safe to assume that a war with Iran would be very difficult, very costly, and clouded with uncertainty. 

Given that the Middle East is changing, for the better, so rapidly, would it not be wise to continue placing restrictions on Iran and essentially waiting out the regime? The Green Movement is strongly supported by younger Iranians, which makes the long-term success of Khomeini and Ahmadinejad impossible. These dictators will eventually die or be overthrown, but either way they will be disposed of. When this happens, we can expect a more rational and democratic Iran, which would make their acquirement of nuclear weapons far less worrisome and thus eliminate the need for harsh restrictions or military intervention.

I am fearful of the religious subtext of this conflict as well. This is fast becoming a Judeo-Christian war against the evil Muslims. The kind of insanity that such a war would inspire is frightening to imagine. This would not be, as it was in Libya, an alliance with Democratic forces. It would be all-out war with a country. When Iranians opposed to the current regime witness Israeli and American forces decimating their homes, what will they think of us? Will they be eager to unite with us against the old guard? I think not.

The stated goal of our military escapades in the Middle East has been the promotion and spread of democracy. But surely no one believes that constant warfare is the best way to bring about peace. Dorothy Thompson defined peace not as the absence of war, but as the presence of the rule of law. Using her definition, it is clear that there is no peace in Iran right now. But the future, thanks to the Green Movement, looks hopeful. A war with Iran would make this hopeful future at the very least much more uncertain and at the very worst much more bleak.  

22
Dec

For What It’s Worth: An Official Endorsement of Jon Huntsman

I frequently write about my man crush on Jon Huntsman and tonight I hope to cure my obsession by flat out endorsing his candidacy. Does my endorsement mean anything? No, but it’s 1am and I’m awake with nothing better to do.

Why then is Huntsman worthy of your vote? Allow me to summarize:

- He supports creating a Glass-Steagall Act for the 21st century. In other words, he wants new, smart regulations for banks.

- He believes that “too big too fail” is too big to exist. He wants to break up (or “right size”) the large banks responsible for 2008’s worldwide economic collapse.

- He is, by far, the most open-minded and tolerant Republican candidate on religious issues. His family recognizes the value of different faiths and he never uses religion to promote himself or to attack his opponents. 

- He believes in evolution and global warming. He has publicly criticized Republicans who reject scientific consensus on these issues. Huntsman: ”To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”

- He supports civil unions.

- He supports a gradual withdraw from Afghanistan but does not favor the “non-interventionist” philosophy of Ron Paul, which would have us heartlessly deny financial aid to people starving to death in other countries.

- He served under President Obama, demonstrating a willingness to work with Democrats for the greater good.

- He has a great sense of humor, has kids who don’t act like stiff-collared Republican zombies, and he’s adopted two kids from different countries. These are perhaps minor things, but I don’t think they are meaningless. Character and personality do count for something.

To be fair, there are more than a few things I don’t like about Huntsman’s political views. He is pro-life. However, I consider this almost a non-issues since we all know Roe v. Wade is not going to be overturned. His tax policies, while better than his Republican opponents’, are still quite conservative (meaning they favor the 1%). His statement about how “the scientific community owes us more” on global warming was stupid and ignorant. And if I may unfairly judge someone I don’t know, I think he is a bright, ethical person contending with the conservative nonsense taught to him his entire life by his father. (I admit I am entering Freudian territory here, but this is my amateur analysis).

Of course, there are many things I don’t like about Obama’s beliefs and his actual policies once in office. This does not deter me from supporting the President and hoping for the best from him. To be clear, I am not endorsing Huntsman over Obama but rather Huntsman over all the other pathetic Republican candidates. And I endorse Huntsman knowing that in the seemingly unlikely event of Huntsman winning the nomination, Obama would have a much harder time winning the general election. I endorse Huntsman for reasons that I think Huntsman himself would applaud: a sincere love of country and desire to see the very best possible candidates for both parties on the ballot. On the Republican side, Huntsman is undoubtedly the best option and I support him with all the power and influence of my little tumblr page. 

25
Nov

Settling old scores: Romney-Huntsman clash at GOP debate was more than just politics

22
Nov

I Have an Incurable Man Crush on Jon Huntsman

image

Jon Huntsman…

…wants to drawn down troop levels in Afghanistan.

…wants to create a Glass-Steagall Act for the 21st century.

…wants to break up the big banks.

…thought the economic stimulus was too small.

…supports civil unions.

…was opposed to the war in Vietnam.

…believes in global warming and evolution and criticizes other Republicans for being anti-science.

…wants a return to center-right policies in the Republican Party.

—-

Please, America. Give me hope and vote for this man.  

10
Nov

Good Riddance, Joe Paterno

What happened, or more accurately did not happen, goes to the core of evil that major college sports programs in this country have become, equivalent to Mafia families in which the code of omerta rules and coaches and staff always close ranks around their own, even if it means letting someone who was first accused of inappropriate sexual conduct in 1998 continue to roam.

07
Nov

Let’s Admit It: Herman Cain is the Conservative Bill Clinton

One cannot express disgust for Herman Cain’s sexual “misconduct” or “inappropriateness” or whatever euphemism we’re using to describe his perversion, and then turn around and say Bill Clinton’s erotic escapades were no big deal.

If Cain is a sexist man-pig, then Clinton is certainly much worse and therefore was unfit for office. I’ve never liked Bill Clinton so it doesn’t bother me to label him a sleazy, manipulative, pathological liar. But liberals can’t have it both ways. Either this stuff matters or it doesn’t.  

01
Nov

Occupy Wall Street Transforms Public Opinion: For First Time Since Great Depression, Majority of Americans Support Wealth Redistribution

27
Oct

Why Little Kids Supporting Political Causes is Always Wrong and Never Cute

Small children really don’t know anything about politics. They may understand simple concepts like compassion and justice but they can not understand complicated issues. Every time there is an election, a rally, or a protest, inevitably some parent drags their kid out there, slaps a sticker on their chest, sticks an American flag in their hand and parades them around like a little circus freak. This is always wrong, regardless of the cause or candidate being supported.

These parents are forcing their children to support a cause that the child does not fully understand. The child is being used, in the worst sense of the word, to attract attention and smile for cameras. These parents are mocking important and complex issues by pretending as if it all boils down to the sweet innocence of a child. It does not. It cannot.

So instead of fawning over these kids, let’s start displaying a little contempt and disgust for their parents. Kids shouldn’t be pawns in adults’ political games.  

15
Aug

The Wall Street Journal Begs for Better GOP Candidates

I think the Journal is far too soft on Rick Perry, who used a very generous helping of Obama’s stimulus money to create jobs in Texas, but nonetheless this editorial seems to summarize what many are thinking.

from The Wall Street Journal:

Michele Bachmann:

Mrs. Bachmann has a record of errant statements (see Battle of Lexington and Concord, history of) that are forgiven by Fox Nation but won’t be if she makes them as a GOP standard-bearer.

More substantively, her attempt to position herself at all times as the anti-establishment outsider has made her seem on occasion less principled than opportunistic. She quickly distanced herself from Paul Ryan’s Medicare reform when it came under liberal fire, even as she purports to be the scourge of uncontrolled spending. Her recent opposition to the debt-ceiling deal on grounds that GOP leaders should have insisted on first passing a balanced budget amendment, while holding only the House, was a political fantasy.

Mitt Romney:

Mitt Romney is a weak front-runner who has money and campaign experience and looks Presidential. But he gives little evidence that he has convictions beyond faith in his own technocratic expertise.

Rick Perry:

The questions about Mr. Perry concern how well his Lone Star swagger will sell in the suburbs of Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where the election is likely to be decided. He can sound more Texas than Jerry Jones, George W. Bush and Sam Houston combined, and his muscular religiosity also may not play well at a time when the economy has eclipsed culture as the main voter concern.