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Dark, Dark Times

Thank you Obama voters. What's amazing to me is how someone like Obama, someone who has never shown even the slightest skepticism toward government power, got backed by a majority. I guess fashion and white guilt are more powerful drives than I thought.

One of the biggest power-grabs in modern history is basically a done deal. Merry Christmas!

Historians of the decline will note this decision

Chris Floyd has a post that actually made me lose sleep last night: Dred Scott Redux: Obama and the Supremes Stand Up for Slavery.

Here's how the bad deal went down. After hearing passionate arguments from the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court acquiesced to the president's fervent request and, in a one-line ruling, let stand a lower court decision that declared torture an ordinary, expected consequence of military detention, while introducing a shocking new precedent for all future courts to follow: anyone who is arbitrarily declared a "suspected enemy combatant" by the president or his designated minions is no longer a "person." They will simply cease to exist as a legal entity. They will have no inherent rights, no human rights, no legal standing whatsoever -- save whatever modicum of process the government arbitrarily deigns to grant them from time to time, with its ever-shifting tribunals and show trials.

Obama does a number of dangerous things better than Bush, like how he distances himself a lot more from his minions at the Justice Department. All of this has to be happening with at least his blessing--after all, he is the president--but he's never at the press conferences and when you see him lately he's always talking about some urgent national issue that requires you not to pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

Chris Floyd's blog is normally excellent, and he's outdone even himself with this piece. Have at it.

Price controls in sheep's clothing

While most Americans would say that price controls are vaguely a bad thing, they're missing out on the most fundamentally damaging one:

Missed in virtually all the commentaries is the key question: Should a central bank try to manipulate interest rates? Lost in all the debate over monetary policy is the fact that interest rates are market prices that are supposed to tell the truth: the truth about actual supply and demand conditions in financial markets. [Emphasis mine.]

Richard Ebeling has more.

Spit in one hand and pile Democratic fortitude in the other and see which one fills up first

Jesus Christ:

Pelosi: Obama must make case for war buildup

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It is up to President Barack Obama to convince wary Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives to support his escalation of the Afghanistan war, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday.

Pelosi also said many House Democrats "are eager to have a vote soon on Afghanistan," and may get it as early as next month on a resolution to end the conflict.

With Democrats divided and most Republicans backing the war, there seems no chance the resolution will be approved.


"War votes are votes of conscience," Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Oh wow! They'll be getting the US military out of Afghanistan?

Congress is expected to approve funding for the troop increase, which the Pentagon has estimated would cost between $30 billion to $35 billion.

Hey, Democrats and Democratic voters, great job. Pat yourselves in the back.

Winner and loser at the same time

Follow-up to previous post on the subject: Helicopter Ben is Time's Person of the Year.

Update: J. Grayson Lilburne has some good commentary on the Mises Institute blog.

People to Live Longer, Healthier Lives: Society Hardest Hit

Via Arnold Kling comes this hilariously negative warning about the perils of people living longer:

Life expectancy for Americans by 2050 will surpass government projections by as much as eight additional years for women and five for men, with disastrous implications for a country unprepared for an explosion of elderly, a new study released today says.

Forty years from now, women will live 89.2 to 93.3 years; and men, 83.2 to 85.9 years — driven by ongoing advances in both treatment of major fatal diseases and slowing of the aging process — according to the report in a journal of health and health policy, The Milbank Quarterly.

U.S. government projections for life expectancy by 2050 now stand at 83.4 to 85.3 years for women; 80 to 80.9 years for men.

It's bad enough that the article doesn't even mention the positives. More time with the grandkids, more time to travel? Bah, the budgets must be balanced!

Even if one is inclined to look solely at the budget, this isn't all that hard a problem to solve. There's fairly strong evidence that we could cut Medicare in half and suffer no adverse health consequences. Social Security isn't actually all that damaging to the budget, and relatively minor increases in the retirement age would handle the longevity "problem".

Whether or not we choose to do so as a society is another matter. I tend towards optimism in this matter, based on Herb Stein's old maxim that what cannot go on forever will not. We won't spend 150% of GDP on health, because we can't. Libertarians seem to run towards a pessimistic outlook on an imminent implosion of society from excess government (at least the ones on the internet do), but that has hardly been the record of the last 200 years.

But as Bob Fogel recently noted, why should we be concerned that we're spending more money on health care? What else are we going to spend it on anyway?

The main factor is that the long-term income elasticity of the demand for healthcare is 1.6—for every 1 percent increase in a family’s income, the family wants to increase its expenditures on healthcare by 1.6 percent. This is not a new trend. Between 1875 and 1995, the share of family income spent on food, clothing, and shelter declined from 87 percent to just 30 percent, despite the fact that we eat more food, own more clothes, and have better and larger homes today than we had in 1875. All of this has been made possible by the growth in the productivity of traditional commodities. In the last quarter of the 19th century, it took 1,700 hours of labor to purchase the annual food supply for a family. Today it requires just 260 hours, and it is likely that by 2040, a family’s food supply will be purchased with about 160 hours of labor.12

Consequently, there is no need to suppress the demand for healthcare. Expenditures on healthcare are driven by demand, which is spurred by income and by advances in biotechnology that make health interventions increasingly effective. Just as electricity and manufacturing were the industries that stimulated the growth of the rest of the economy at the beginning of the 20th century, healthcare is the growth industry of the 21st century. It is a leading sector, which means that expenditures on healthcare will pull forward a wide array of other industries including manufacturing, education, financial services, communications, and construction.

I'd rather, of course, this expansion be done primarily through the private sector. But if it isn't, and government expands, well, what of it? Our extra money from productivity will be going to finance longer lives, and we will be slightly worse off (from deadweight loss from taxation) than otherwise. Suboptimal, yes. A crisis, no.

I should note, by the way, that these projections are somewhat conservative relative to some others out there. People have dire predictions about those as well, which I find equally non-credible.

Time's Person of the Year

Vote for Time Magazine's Person of the Year

Other than Steve Jobs and Usain Bolt, the specific people on that list are all scumbags, and in a just society would be treated like crooks, not celebrated by an adoring press. "The Chinese Worker" is a concept, not a person, but it got my vote. Which, of course, is not worth the electrons it's submitted with.

BONUS: Minimum 100-word harangue about Steve Jobs and intellectual "property".

Opening yourself up to joy

The best show on TV right now is Glee. It's the only (first?) musical television series. Combine the trials and tribulations of high school with the edgy realism of Ryan Murphy, throw in gaudy theatrical productions, add just a touch of Journey, and the result is simply fabulous.

Obama's Nobel Prize Speech

Left and right, pundits applaud Obama Nobel Peace Prize speech

This, to the discerning mind, is a clear sign that the speech is full of shameful lies that would make a decent person cringe.

Here's a more honest (and funny!) take.

Sheriff Joe on the warpath

In a situation tailor-made to demonstrate the problem with the Randian quest for legal finality within a monopolistic law enforcement system, Maricopa County's various legal system components are feuding with each other, fueled by a sheriff with literally no concept of the rule of law. Check it out.