Author Archives: Greg Morin

Warren’s Healthcare Plan Dead on Arrival

The likely Democratic front-runner, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, has at long last lifted the proverbial kimono to reveal the wizardry by which she proposes to fund the so-called “Medicare for All.” She has long insisted her plan would require no new taxes for the middle class while deftly sidestepping questions seeking details on the funding scheme. Those details have now been revealed and it is apparent that the veracity of her prior assertions depends on her definition of “tax”, “middle class”, and “total costs.” In Warren’s world a payment that the government requires you to make is not a tax but rather a “contribution.” Ok. Although Democrats are not shy about wanting to drain your wallet via taxation, they assiduously avoid associating themselves with that particular term, instead opting to use feel-good Orwellian phrases such as the “Affordable” Care Act’s “shared responsibility payment.” Other common taxation weasel words include “revenue,” or board/department of “equalization” when referring to the entity responsible for taking the money. The Department of Theft would be more honest, but I digress. 

The crux of the financial underpinnings for her plan rely on a new employer mandate, that is, a “contribution” paid by every “large” (whatever that means) employer to the federal government in place of the amount they used to pay in health insurance premiums. But I’m sure that amount will never go up, just like the original income tax rate of 6% was promised to never increase. New government programs always cost exactly what they are estimated to and efficiently achieve their stated goals. 

But wait, there’s more. The remaining funding for her plan relies on what George Bush senior would have charitably called “voodoo economics.” It makes broad assumptions about economic growth and how much can be saved by consolidating services under the federal umbrella as well as laughable estimates of how much more tax revenue can be brought in by increasing IRS enforcements efforts. How tone-deaf does a candidate have to be to propose increasing IRS audits? Truly, Americans love nothing more than the prospect of an IRS audit. It’s right up there with Root Canals for All. 

But don’t take my word for it. Just listen to what her fellow Democrats have to say about this plan. Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign went on the record stating that,

For months, Elizabeth Warren has refused to say if her health care plan would raise taxes on the middle class, and now we know why: because it does. Senator Warren would place a new tax of nearly $9 trillion that will fall on American workers.”

Additionally, the Urban Institute (a highly regarded liberal think tank) projects a Warren/Sanders style single payer plan would raise health care spending by $7 trillion over a decade, while healthcare economics Kenneth Thorpe finds such a plan would increase costs to more than 70% of people who currently have private insurance. And these are people on the left!

To briefly touch on the economics of her new “contribution” it should be obvious this would have the side effect of suppressing future earnings of the very middle class she is pandering to. Economics is (partly) the study of the seen and the unseen (Bastiat). The seen benefit here is the “free” healthcare. The unseen result is that future wages and hires will necessarily be lower in comparison to a world where this new “contribution” does not exist. Companies do not have an infinite supply of money; if resources are mandated toward an MFA payment scheme, then that much less will be available for raises, new hires, and expansion of operations. In short this new tax would be a million ton anchor on the American economy. To suggest one can add $20 trillion in new spending without harmful economic consequences is either deranged or willfully dishonest. Neither is a good option from a presidential candidate.

Quora: I’m sick of paying for everyone else’s kids to go to school. Why can’t people without children pay smaller amounts of school tax than people with children?

Why? Because we live in a world populated by morons that can’t seem to comprehend the idea that just because an investment (yes, education is an investment) benefits other people indirectly doesn’t therefore require all of “society” pay for said investment through a progressive theft (taxation) scheme

My God people. So a factory is built and it employs people and produces goods we all enjoy, does that mean “society” should pay to have all factories built? To subsidize all business creation? I invest in a car so I can get to work and I’m a heart surgeon. Guess without that car I couldn’t operate on people. I guess “society” has to buy me a car otherwise you have no right to think I should ever operate on you if you need my services.

“Society” benefits from everything everyone does (other than crimes of course). Does that mean every dang thing anyone does should be bought and paid for by some kid of tax?

The idea that without government schools throngs of children would be neglected and uneducated is absurd. So I guess all these same non-school inclined parents are now also neglecting to feed, clothe and provide shelter for their children too? Oh no you say of course they would do those things. All except for education. Right. Nope just sit at home and watch TV son. It’s alright

Government schools helping the least advantaged? Right! Where are the most common complaints about schooling levied? At the poorly run schools from poor districts. And that’s the outcome right now with government in charge. That’s your system folks. If the same occurred right now under a non government school environment you’d never hear the end of the screaming for the government to step in. But it happens on their watch and those of us insisting on a free market in education as the solution (and only moral system as it involves no theft) are called the crazy ones.

But I’m not surprised. What would you expect to come out of government indoctrination centers err I mean public schools but mindless brainwashed apologists for the very system that produced them. The lesson there is theft is perfectly fine as long as I can come up with an ex post facto reason why I think you might have indirectly benefited from the tax money I stole from you.

Trump’s Troop Withdrawal, Spark of Peace?

How do you know when Donald Trump is doing the right thing? When the D’s & R’s are equally outraged. This past week Trump managed to trigger the neocons on the left and right into autistic apoplexy with his directive that US forces be withdrawn from northern Syria. What have the troops been doing there? Glad you asked. The US forces were allied with the Kurds who were busy fighting ISIS. ISIS tried to establish a new Islamic state in part of Kurdish territory a few years ago out of the chaos that arose from the Syrian “civil” war (or more aptly described by Tulsi Gabbard as the “Syrian regime change war”). This US instigated proxy regime change war utilized most fully the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. The US decided, on Obama’s watch, to fund and arm Al-Qaida (the guys that brought down the Twin Towers, yes those guys) because they were willing to fight President Assad’s forces in Syria on our behalf.

The Deep State (aka The Swamp) wants war. They want death. They want chaos. Why? Money and power; but mostly money. As long as people are killing each other they’ll need weapons to do so. It is a viciously endless Yin and Yang of death. Each party will gladly participate in murders half a world away to keep the music playing. Step 1: foment war. Step 2: sell weapons. Step 3: use weapon sales profits to keep war-friendly politicians in power. Wash, rinse, repeat. And if anyone tries to interrupt this broken record, then smear them as “obviously” being some sort of traitor or “in the pocket” of the enemy du jour (today that being Russia and/or Iran). The contradiction of the smears is laughable at best. For example, the claim now is that Trump is simultaneously in the pocket of Ukraine and Russia; two countries whose long-standing animosity make this assertion incoherent. Likewise, just this week, Tulsi Gabbard (Representative from Hawaii, military combat veteran, and Democrat candidate for President) has been accused of being a Russian asset by Hillary Clinton. Gabbard brooks no smears and shot back,

“The reason why she’s doing this is because she knows that she can’t control me. She knows that she’s not going to be able to manipulate me if I’m elected president to be able to continue these warmongering policies that she has championed.”

Trump is no angel but his instincts, at least when it comes to killing people, are in the right place. Please recall that when Iran shot down an unmanned US drone a few weeks ago Trump rightly called off a counter attack that would have killed dozens if not hundreds of people because Iran broke our toy. Response in the corporate press: apoplexy. But when he ordered an air strike early in his first year in office the response in the corporate media was nothing but effusive praise for how “presidential” he was. It would seem the presidency is like joining the mafia; you aren’t a “made man” until you’ve killed someone. 

Fortunately, Trump’s impatience with these endless wars was correct. Not even a week after the announced withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria, the Kurds have negotiated with Syria and Russia to provide them protection from a potential invasion by Turkey. The US bemoaning the idea that Russia now might exert more influence in Syria is as absurd as were Russia to decry US influence in the Panama Canal. Peace is on the horizon. Whether that horizon is a dawn or dusk depends on Trump’s ability to keep the war hawks in check. 

Every Breath (of CO2) You Take – “We’ll be watching you”

The noted 18th century British essayist Samuel Johnson is perhaps best know for his statement, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” This is often misunderstood to be a disparagement of patriotism, but, in fact, is quite the opposite. Johnson was casting aspersions against those who shield their true motives beneath a banner of a noble ideal. Apropos the shielding of true motivations: the modern era “climate” crusaders. If I may be so bold as to pen as variant of this principle, “Children are the last refuge of the undefendable.” 

            The most current example of this principle (argumentum ad liberi) is manifested in a one Greta Thunberg. She is the physical incarnation of the modern climate campaign. And her address to the UN is the likely apotheosis of that movement. A child is the perfect avatar for a cause whose sole call to action is predicated on future calamities. And who will be here in that future? Children, of course! Being a child she is granted immunity from all criticism because this then facilitates casting such a critic as a misanthropic ogre (and we’ve already seen this dance play out in the media in the past week any time she has been criticized). Cue my critics in 3, 2, 1 and…

            But of course this is not her doing. We cannot blame her, she is after all only a child. She is but a tool, a puppet, for a movement whose roots extend far back into the last century. No, not environmentalism, but rather Marxism (aka communism). These 21st century Climate Marxists are political watermelons (green on the outside and red on the inside). Marxists are adept at pitting one “class” of people against another in order to foment unrest and animosity that they can capitalize (ironically) on in order to effect their political ideals in society. This pattern emerged during the Russian revolution and repeated throughout the 20th century (China, Cuba, Cambodia, Vietnam). Everywhere it was tried it was an abysmal failure that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of millions who did not want to be a part of their utopic commune. And now they are trying again. 

            Seeing as how capitalism raised the standard of living for billions in the last century and reduced absolute poverty from 90% to around 10% today, clearly the anti-capitalism message is rapidly losing its strength. But then along came “climate change” to breath new life into a dying movement. The appeal of this cause célèbre is that it doesn’t matter if the details are correct or not, what is important is that we “do something.” And of course that something, in their view, is to radically alter the global economy in order to “save” the planet. But leaders have been slow or recalcitrant to implement their favored policies. Potential damage is decades away. Time to shorten the timetable and pull out the big guns: children. 

            The current climate alarmism lobby is now taking a page from the Chinese communists propaganda playbook.  They used children in their propaganda as a means to shame adults into conforming.  And that is exactly what Greta set out to do. From her opening remark ,

“My message is that we’ll be watching you”

to her closing statement,

“You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you”

were remarkable in their capacity to cram so much shaming, hate, anger, and implied revenge into such a short speech. Her statements sound more like dialogue from “The Godfather” than the expected plaintive pleas of a young schoolgirl afraid for her future.

            But the mask is off now. If these “climate” extremists get voted into power you can fully expect unyielding persecution, subjugation, or worse to any that would stand in their way (“How dare you oppose us! Why do you hate the planet so much comrade?”). The 20th century’s mountain of corpses stands as a testament to what the extreme left is willing to do to its opponents to achieve their ends. And they would have zero qualms about a repeat of the Ukrainian Holodomor on a global scale. This is not hyperbole. The stated “solutions” to keeping temperature rise below 1.5 °C would quite literally sentence several billions to death by starvation. Without carbon or nuclear-based fuels there is no serious short-term alternative to maintain the current global standard of living and food supplies. If we go back to the future of 1850’s technology within 10 years then population must necessarily fall from today’s 7 billion to the 1 billion back then. And this is entirely ignoring the concomitant drop in standard of living, as manual labor must increase without an equivalent supply of power. Ironically their boogeyman “income inequality” would skyrocket to what it was in the 19th century with mostly those in government occupying the upper echelons of income and power (a pattern by the way seen in every communist/Marxist regime). Of course this would be perfectly fine since many of those on the left (from Paul Ehrlich of “Population Bomb” fame, to the Club of Rome) have called from drastic reductions in global population.  

“Our aim is not to save the world from ecological calamity but to change the global economic system…”

UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres (Feb 2015)

“The common enemy of humanity is Man. In searching for a common enemy against whom we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like, would fit the bill..”

– The Club of Rome Premier environmental think-tank and consultants to the United Nations. 

Anything Goes!

This past week Trump’s Energy Department announced a relaxation of a set of light-bulb energy efficiency standards (EISA) first implemented under George W. Bush and finalized under Obama. The standards were set to go into full effect in January 2020 (eliminating incandescent versions of three-way bulbs, candle-shaped, globe-shaped and reflector bulbs). 

The autistic screeching from the corporate press and leftist “public policy” lackeys only underscores the lengths to which “the Cathedral” will go to in order to maintain the hell-fire of climate alarmism. For Cathedral adherents the sky is quite literally falling. It is because of their prescient guidance that the rest of us are corralled into doing “the right thing” – namely spending $10 on a bulb to save $15 in electricity – over the next 30 years. Even though the market has always deprecated older technology in favor of newer, we just can’t wait when it comes to energy efficiency. In the words of New York Times columnist John Schwartz, we need the federal government to “force(d) Americans to use more energy-efficient light bulbs.” Please note that “force” here is a politically correct euphemism for “threaten with initiatory violence”. Now it is true, force can solve problems quickly. All the mugger needs to do is to wave his gun in my face and moments later his monetary problems are solved. One would like to believe that in the “land of the free” such state sponsored aggression would not be so readily lauded as the primary method deployed against perceived societal problems. Of course I do not expect the state to abjure this special power it has any time soon, it is the qua sine non of every state/government. When a such a body dictates to the citizenry what they may or may not manufacturer and buy, then that country is no longer entitled to call itself “the land of the free” or claim “liberty and justice for all.”

One of the more vocal critics of this rollback, an Andrew deLaski of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project went on record with some rather eyebrow-raising comments. For example

“The Trump administration is trying to protect technology that was first invented in the 1800s. It’s like trying to protect the horse and buggy from the automobile technology.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but as I recall the government did not OUTLAW the sale or manufacture of the horse and buggy in favor of promoting the automobile. Consumers transitioned to the newer technology over time at a rate mediated by both the cost and advantages of the new technology.

To imply that removing regulations that are annihilating an industry is equivalent to “protecting” said industry makes about as much sense as saying someone who was in the process of knifing you to death but then pauses and begins to only punch you in the face is actually now “protecting” you. The truth is the polar opposite. The manufacturers of fluorescent and LED bulbs are the ones receiving state protection insofar as competing technology have being outlawed. But we’re “protecting” the planet so greater good trumps all. Makes one wonder what the left is capable of when they eventually hold power and the climate apostates are in their cross hairs. In the words of Cole Porter I suspect it will be “anything goes!”

Trash Talk

Given Oconee County’s proximity to Athens we often can’t help but be aware of the political landscape within the People’s Republic of Athens. The powers that be in Athens are exploring the possibility of re-municipalizing trash service because a handful of residents have complained about “too many trucks on their street” because multiple providers are permitted to serves within the city. Apparently if the market does not provide a service deemed essential, then that is proof of “market failure.” Likewise, if the market provides too much of a service deemed essential, that too is “market failure.” Heads I win, tails you lose. 

The justification to proceed down this path adheres to the socialist doctrine of better societal outcomes through the increased efficiency of a monopoly provider. Apparently competition is wasteful and inefficient. Perhaps. But putting political lackeys with zero experience, unlimited budgets and little to no oversight in charge is not exactly a recipe for optimal outcomes either. The efficiency argument is not satisfied until a complete takeover by the government of all business. In other words, state run monopolies are a-ok because enlightened omniscient angels run them. Of course the trust busters come out of the woodwork the second two firms try to merge for purposes of efficiency gains through consolidation of resources.  

Sure, government run services can appear to “work” because they are propped up with tax money taken at gunpoint (fail to pay your taxes and you’ll see how quickly the guns come out). The extent to which they are subsidized is directly proportional to their operational losses. Losses represent massive inefficiencies insofar as they have taken resources of a higher value and transformed them into products of a lower value. We want profits – profits mean lower valued inputs were transformed into something regarded as more valuable.

Efficiency is a measure of how many resources are needed to meet some particular end. There are many paths to reach some end but since none of us are omniscient there is no way to know a priori which is the shortest (most efficient) path. It is an iterative process. We start with assumptions and use the profit/loss test to give us feedback. Profit means you’re headed in the right direction; losses the opposite. The desire to make more money drives us toward seeking out efficiency gains. The part people (i.e. busybodies who know nothing of how an industry operates) object to is the time component. It takes time for many individual firms to experiment and sort out what works best, with the successful firms thriving and the inefficient firms going out of business. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it does eventually happen.

Maybe that will happen with the trash pickup and in a few years (or months) there will be far fewer providers. Or maybe not. Maybe, just maybe, the present arrangement is the most efficient. Maybe some carriers compete on price while others compete on service. I can understand why it might seem more efficient to have fewer providers, but when has a government backed monopoly ever been regarded as the most efficient arrangement (i.e. performing so well it did not require subsidies through taxes). I’ll wait. 

Monopolies have no incentive to improve and become more efficient. But even a company that dominates a sector at least tangentially has some incentives to provide the best service they can as they know a new company could arise and gain market share. But a government backed monopoly? That is the worst of all worlds since that provider knows it is ILLEGAL for anyone to compete with them. They can literally sit back and provide the worst service possible and they’ll still receive the same income stream. 

Government run systems incorporate the human instinct toward laziness and magnify it’s vice-like qualities because self-interest can’t be rewarded via work but rather only through social ladder climbing in the state apparatus (not what you do, but who you know). The free market, in contrast, takes that same human inclination toward laziness and transforms it into a virtue. The desire to do more work with less energy is the definition of seeking greater efficiency. This drive flourishes only because self-interest is rewarded and not outlawed. This drive toward greater efficiency and profit benefits both the producer and the consumer. 

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” Adam Smith

iMonopoly?

This past May the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against Apple on the question of whether a group of iPhone users could file an antitrust lawsuit against Apple arising from their contention that Apple’s App Store constitutes a monopoly and thus has harmed consumers. Their primary argument is that Apple’s 30% fee on every app store sale constitutes a “tax.” Consumers are “harmed” because most developers simply pass that additional cost onto the consumer. So apparently if some entity is construed to hold a monopoly market position and imposes a “tax”, that is a bad thing. But if the government does precisely the same thing that is just a-ok. On the precedent of this ruling it should now be possible to overturn the taxing authority of every level of government! But I won’t hold my breath.

In point of fact, Apple does not hold a monopoly position in the market. To suggest so quickly leads to absurd wrongheaded conclusions such as Ford is a monopoly because only they can sell Ford cars or that Robert Di Niro is a monopolist because he is the only one that can star as Robert Di Niro in a movie. The obvious rejoinder to such claims would be that “well that’s silly, there are other manufacturers of cars and other actors, so the consumer can simply substitute the good if they find the supply too constrained or the price too high.” Exactly. Last time I checked Apple does not have the only “App Store” in town. Google has their equivalent and there are number of other independent “Android” app stores as well. But even if Apple did have the only App store platform they would still not be in a monopoly position. Anything that can be done in mobile apps can be done through a desktop or web interface.But even if that were not true, Apple would still not be a monopolist. Why? Because no company in a free market can become a monopoly (other than governments themselves which exert their monopoly provision of certain market goods (security, courts, roads, regulation) through coercive violence). Just as Ford competes with other automakers to sell cars, they are also competing with every other market entrant. Everyone is vying for the consumer’s dollar and so everyone is competing against everyone.Apple competes against pet stores, Ford competes against Apple, pet stores compete against shoe sellers, and so on. 

Every consumer, no matter how wealthy, has a limited supply of funds. When they use those funds they economize them, that is, they rank those things they desire in order of importance and spend their money on the most important items first (food, shelter) and then work their way down the list until at some point they only have enough for one more thing. The next entrant on that list lost out to the one just before, so in that sense they were competing with them head to head. So the App Store could lose out to someone who chose to go to the movies or to buy their dog a treat, or it could be vice versa. If the consumer has a choice (even if a difficult one) then there is no monopoly power. If you hate big oil you can choose to go electric.If you hate all cell phone carriers you can choose to not have a cell phone. It may be a difficult choice that imposes other costs on you, but you are free to do so. No one will throw you in a cage if you don’t sign up for cell service. But they will if you don’t pay your taxes.

In the broader context though this case was rather amusing. That a company can be sued for providing to the consumer this thing that literally didn’t even exist 15 years ago demonstrates an utter lack of comprehension by the public at large of the benefits bestowed on them by the market economy aka capitalism. You should rejoice that there are so many greedy SOB’s seeking to take your money and giving you in return the most incredible, standard of living enhancing tools in human history… things you could not create yourself if you had a hundred years to figure it out. Very sad. Many people agree. 

Blowing the Sails

President Trump continues on his shortsighted warpath of ever escalating tariffs on Chinese goods. “Tariffs will make our Country MUCH STRONGER, not weaker. Just sit back and watch!” he tweeted recently. Well, yes, I suppose if you jump off a bridge and break both your legs those bones will be stronger once healed, but I don’t think that’s what he had in mind. Tariffs are a self-imposed burden; the exporter of a good does not pay them – the importer does (i.e. the domestic business, employing domestic workers, selling to a domestic market). It is the economic equivalent of me insisting I pay an extra 25% to the grocery store because I’m so upset there is a trade imbalance between the grocer and myself. Trump is either being willfully dishonest (and to be fair, what politician isn’t – ‘if you like your plan you can keep your plan’), or, he is entirely ignorant of how tariffs actually work. If Importer ABC is buying widget A from a Chinese exporter for $1 and there is a new 25% tariff imposed, the cost goes from $1 to $1.25 – paid for entirely by the importer. The cost is either passed on to the American consumer or expenses in other areas are reduced (i.e. layoffs of American workers) in order to stay price competitive. 

            Perplexingly, Trump actually acknowledged the potential harm to some sectors (i.e. US farmers, whose sales of exported goods to China have dropped off due to in-kind retaliatory tariffs by China on the US) and rather than extinguishing the dumpster-fire he has created he has doubled down on an even more ludicrous plan. He is proposing that we take the proceeds from the tariffs and use it to offset declining agricultural sales by purchasing the unsold goods – and get this – donating it to foreign countries! So, it is bad for the US if China “dumps” low cost goods into our market, yet somehow it’s a-ok if the US in turn dumps totally free goods into other countries’ markets? Nah, that won’t totally disrupt their domestic agricultural market driving them to cross a border in order to find work… there is some country where that has happened before but the name escapes me right now. This Rube Goldberg scheme is tantamount to using a fan to blow the sail of a sailboat. Yes, it works, but it is incredibly inefficient; just remove the sail and turn the fan around. In other words, an actual free market in trade (not managed trade á la NAFTA or TPP) is maximally efficient and beneficial to all.

            The only utility to be gained from this scheme is to encourage Trump-hating-leftists to closely examine the idiocy of this scheme. Perhaps once Trump is out of office they will recognize the lunacy of this scheme in future government polices. For example, all foreign aid works on this principle. Take money from some Americans and give it to others to buy their goods in order to give them to a third party for free. Or, take money from some Americans and give it to a third party with the stipulation they can only use it to buy goods from some other Americans.Carbon taxes, if imposed, would work the same way. Impose a tax (on Americans) then turn around and refund the just collected funds to other Americans to offset the fact they are paying more for energy. 

            Perhaps in the end that will be the silver lining of the Trump presidency; to awaken the American electorate to the fact that the idiotic schemes implemented by Trump are identical to every past presidential administration in their execution. These programs and schemes are counter-productive and inefficient on their face regardless of who sits in the Oval Office. 

Quora: Social Contract question

Someone asked this question below, you can see it on Quora here

My reply is below

According to some libertarians, the idea of a social contract is invalid. If so, on what basis do they argue that I can’t steal, as I have never explicitly committed myself to respect their property?

The social contract is a cudgel that says one MUST act i.e. forcing one to engage in an activity one would otherwise avoid (eg taxation toward some putative communal good).

Not stealing compels no action. Not stealing is inaction. Not acting costs nothing. Acting carries a cost (opportunity cost e.g. I want to do x but the social contract forced me to do y). So forced or required action not explicitly agreed to carries with it an outside imposed burden.

The social contract is invalid not because it is imaginary but because it imposes costs not agreed to. So even if you believe basic tenets of morality (such as theft is wrong or murder and rape are wrong) are imaginary, it costs nothing to not engage in those activities. Indeed it is advantageous to not do so insofar as it creates additional opportunity to engage in other more productive activities.

Social contract limits choices. Morality expands them. Perhaps both are imaginary constructs but positive obligations are inherently more limiting than negative obligations.

Reparations Roller Coaster

The political landscape in the Democratic Party has become so chaotic that in order for a presidential candidate to distinguish him or herself it is no longer sufficient to engage in safe, conservative levels of vote pandering e.g. free healthcare for all. Now one must step up with über-insane policy positions like slavery reparations. Several candidates have put forth pro-reparations platform positions recently. Any self-respecting black person should reject such talk outright. The whole notion is preposterously insulting. Why? Ok, hold up your hand (any race) if you think your “success” today is even marginally affected by the life events of one or more of your sixteen to thirty-two second-great or third-great grandparents? Can you even name a single one of them? The argument is basically that all succeeding generations over 150+ years have been entirely impotent to advance in life because they lacked a check from the federal government – all other forms of welfare and assistance not withstanding (12 years of free schooling be the main one). Perhaps you could make that argument (as with apartheid in South Africa) if every single black person were dirt poor today. But that’s not the case. In fact there are numerous highly successful black individuals today (doctors, lawyers, business owners, actors, politicians, athletes, etc.). This alone should conclusively prove that race no longer plays a meaningful role in holding anyone back. While the poverty rate for blacks as a whole vs. whites is higher, it is not earth-shatteringly so (20% vs 8%). To hear the pro-reparations people talk you’d think black poverty was 90%+ in this country.

The time for reparations was immediately after emancipation, to the actual slaves. That is how reparations have operated for more recent state-level atrocities (Germany, South Africa, etc). Locate the victim and compensate them. That is correct and just (although monetary compensation can never truly make one whole for these kinds of state sponsored crimes). Reparations should have been made in the US shortly after the Civil War (and indeed this was done for a short period, General Sherman’s Special Order 15 was quickly reversed by President Johnson). That this did not occur is a crime against those former slaves. However, there is nothing that can be done to fix that now. History is like that. Bad people did horrible things, but navel gazing hundreds of years later isn’t going to put the toothpaste back in the tube. If my grandmother were raped but the culprit never served time nothing is served by putting that guy’s grandson in prison today. However that is exactly what reparations would do, only worse (it would be like grabbing some random person off the street and putting him in prison merely because he’s a man). Were reparations to come to pass it would be funded by some new tax. But many millions of Americans (like myself) are recent generation Americans. All of my great-grandparents entered this country over 50 years after the end of the civil war – why should I be taxed to pay for something that neither I nor them could ever have conceivably benefited from? Indeed, these great grandparents were initially treated harshly (yes, the Klan hates Catholics too) by the “nativist” populations they emigrated to. Should I get reparations too for how they were held back by such incipient hatred on arrival? (In case you were wondering the  answer is “no” to this rhetorical question).

Some would argue that even post Civil War emigrants enjoyed the privilege of all the wealth brought about in this country through the labor of former slaves who built this country. Ok. Except that is totally backwards. This country was made poorer, not wealthier, because of slavery. The reason for this is simple: automation. Cheap slave labor meant there was no incentive to explore more efficient means of production. Without slavery the south would have been pushed economically to explore efficiency improving automation that much sooner. As we recall from high school history, the north was regarded as wealthy while the south was considered poor. The primary reason for this was the difference in automation. The highly industrialized north was highly automated in its output. Just as paper beats rock so to do machines beat humans every time in the output Olympics.

Even if we were to pay reparations there is no practical “fair” way to do so. The whole thing quickly spirals out of control into a general welfare check. Such a check would be far out of proportion to what those individuals might have had had actual reparations been paid in 1865 to the forefathers. If it were in proportion it would amount to only a few hundred dollars and politically such a small amount would be a non-starter. So it will have to be disproportionately larger. So how does this idea go from only for descendants of slaves to everyone? Well, first if it were constrained to only those that could prove a genealogical connection to a slave, accusations would fly of unfairness for all those unable to claim their rightful inheritance because of paperwork lost to the ages. Ok, so now anyone who is black (DNA test) gets it, but how much “blackness”? 90%? 50% 25%? No matter where you draw an arbitrary line someone will complain so just make it 1% or more then no one will complain. And of course the DNA tests will have to be free, otherwise this too would be deemed as unfairly keeping those most in need from obtaining their due. Next is the problem of payment ratio. Should it be a ratio of your DNA %, e.g. you are 10% black so you get 10% of the reparations payment? Or what if you can only prove one out of 32 ancestors was a slave; do you get 1/32ndof the payment? The mind boggles with the logistics of handling this all. Even if you assume a generous $100k reparations payment to each former slave this would be rapidly diluted to only a few hundred dollars today after applying the various race and generational dilution heuristics. Is a few hundred dollars really going to change anyone’s life?

And lastly, this must be a one-time payment. Anything other than that is not reparations but simply welfare. If you have made each “victim” whole, then there is no more reason to continue payment to them or their progeny. So under the only possible “fair” model of reparations Barack Obama would qualify. That’s a good thing, just think of what he could have accomplished had he not been black!