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Free market fixes for climate change?

In her recent article for the Chicago Tribune titled "End climate change scare tactics; try free market fixes" Rachel Marsden dismisses President Obama's recent concerns about climate change as a threat to global security and goes on to suggest that although there is no way to control the earth's climate we can adjust by allowing multinational corporations to conquer the environment. Both of these claims seem misguided to me for a number of reasons.

As to the concern about security and the environment there are many documented cases of destruction of the environment by human action and subsequent societal collapse. The story of Easter Island is a good example, and may serve as a miniature version of what could happen globally.

As the earth's climate changes, areas that were marginally able to support the local population will suffer. And unfortunately the results are not self contained. Collapse results in lawlessness, chaos, and refugees who naturally head for t…
Recent posts

Lets Cut Taxes!

The Texas legislature is in session and a tax cut is on the agenda with two competing proposals. One is to reduce property taxes and the other is to reduce sales taxes. Which one is the best?

I've been complaining about property taxes for years, and since I'm close to retirement I see property taxes as an unending, uncontrollable, and increasing drain on my future fixed income. Sales taxes on the other hand are proportional to my spending, and so somewhat controllable. That's why I'd prefer the property tax cut.

But on further reflection I changed my mind. Here's why...

If government is going to work it needs to be fair, but historians and economists know that this isn't the natural order of things. Throughout history wealth has tended to become concentrated. People in power naturally act in their own self interest, and the result is to further increase their power and wealth. I don't see this as intentionally evil. It's simply the result of rational (a…

Government is not your enemy, business is not your friend

Sometimes it seems that for every problem we face in the modern world the conservative community has the same solution, eliminate government regulation.  If only we would free businesses (the job creators) to innovate in a free and open market all our problems would be solved.

Now I’m not going to claim that there aren’t way too many silly, destructive, or overly complex government regulations[1] (although it seems like many of them were created by the same job creators to protect some favorite benefit or government perk). And it’s perfectly rational that the business community is in favor of less restrictive regulation. But I don’t buy the “government is evil / business is good conclusion”, which in my opinion requires a stunning ignorance (or dismissal) of history, as well as current events.
Business needs government First of all, business can’t exist without the legal infrastructure, including contract law and corporate protections, provided by government regulation. And government…

United We're a Monopoly

When I think of the unequal distribution of gains in our economy over the last 30 years I wonder what it would take to reverse the trend. It seems that the solution would have to include reducing the inequality in influence between upper management and employees.

In the past, one way to level the playing field was through unions. In theory this should give employees the power to negotiate with management as equals and claim a bigger share of the proceeds. But personally I've always been a little wary of unions. Part of it is their early association with communist and socialist philosophy and ties to organized crime. And it sometimes appears that the union is just another large corporation with their hand in the till at the members expense. It may be that negative stereotypes have made it easier for corporations slowly reduce the unions power. For whatever reason, union membership is at historically low levels.
Even if unions were more successful there seems to be a bigger problem.…

War on Religion?

Over the last few weeks the news has been full of controversy about the intersection between religion and government. The catalyst was a ruling regarding medial insurance coverage, but since then the 'debate' has grown to a broader concern of government interfering in individuals religious practices.

I would never claim that this is a simple issue, but I also don't believe that there is a systematic attack or war on religion by government, as claimed by Newt Gingrich among others..

Of course there is reason to fear such an attack. History is filled with examples of governments outlawing and attacking religion. Mexico, the Soviet Union and China are good examples.

But our government has religious freedom guaranteed in the constitution, along with a requirement in the first amendment that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." And this isn't a hollow promise as demonstrated by numerous lawsuits and court rulings.

The problem is …

Money for Nothing?

Despite recent setbacks over the last 30 years the US economy has grown by over 120% in constant dollars. This should be good news for all Americans, but there's something interesting about this period of time that's quite different from prior years.

Over most of the history of the US gains in GDP were shared more or less equally on a percentage basis among all income groups. This makes sense if you assume that the success of an enterprise, whether it's a small business or the country as a whole, is the result of the efforts of the group rather than a few individuals.

What's unusual about the last 30 years is that, unlike prior periods, the gains have gone exclusively to the upper 20% of wage earners, and the bulk of that to the top 1%.

My first reaction is that this just doesn't seem 'fair'. Shouldn't everyone participate in our country's financial success?

We know from history that there's no economic force that tends to favor equitable distr…

Minority Rule

One of the foundations of our democracy is rule by the majority. Of course early on there was a lot of debate about who was allowed to vote as well as the issue of the power of states versus a plurality of voters. But the general idea was that a vote would be taken on issues and the majority would decide.

Starting in the 1970's the filibuster, began to be used in the senate by both parties as a means to prevent a vote that would be won by a simple majority. This tactic allows 41 Senators to block passage of a bill, and over time this has become the rule for all major decisions resulting in gridlock at the will of a minority.

During the debate over ratification of the US Constitution Alexander Hamilton saw the danger of this and described it in one of his contributions to The Federalist Papers, a series of articles in support of ratification of the proposed US Constitution. Here's an excerpt from Federalist 22;

"... what at first sight may seem a remedy, is, in reality, a p…