Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Quotes of the Day: P.J. O'Rourke

1. Government subsidies can be critically analyzed according to a simple principle: You are smarter than the government, so when the government pays you to do something you wouldn't do on your own, it is almost always paying you to do something stupid.

2. Freedom is not empowerment. Empowerment is what the Serbs have in Bosnia. Anybody can grab a gun and be empowered. It's not entitlement. An entitlement is what people on welfare get, and how free are they? It's not an endlessly expanding list of rights— the "right" to education, the "right" to food and housing. That's not freedom, that's dependency. Those aren't rights, those are the rations of slavery— hay and a barn for human cattle. There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.

3. I don't understand why the same newspaper commentators who bemoan the terrible education given to poor people are always so eager to have those poor people get out and vote.

23 Comments:

At 7/08/2008 8:09 PM, Anonymous Machiavelli999 said...

Mark, I agree with every word. But I wish the free market capitalists would shine the light on how corporations use government subsidies, bailouts and protection against "unfair competition" to make our economy far from free market capitalist.

I think that is the biggest danger to our society because it is that that makes people ultimately hate capitalism and turn to socialism.

 
At 7/08/2008 8:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Machiavelli,

Why does gaming the system not discredit the very system that employs such endless government free-bees in all manner of big government boon-doggles? Aren't we talking about the very opposite of free market capitalism...government thinking it can "manage" the economy, choose winners & losers in technology/industry, and designing public policy to try to create the optimum social outcome.

Socialism is defined as the political and economic theory advocating state ownership and control of natural resources and commercial activities.

There is no example of a free market economy in the world. Hong Kong came closest to a free market economy before it was returned to China. Most of Europe and the U.S. have mixed economies (part government control-part market capitalism). The Europeans have expanded into many industries while the U.S. has tended to favor regulation. Both Europe & the U.S. favor the use of carrots like tax credits and subsidies which are by their very nature distortionary.

The actions of unscupulous corporations do not reflect any more on free market capitalism than the mafia involvement in the Teamsters reflects on unionization or than the existence of sin undermines the christian ideology.

A corporation like all human enterprises demonstrate the best and the worst of human nature.

 
At 7/08/2008 9:02 PM, Blogger David Appell said...

No one on welfare is a rich, pompous humor columnist obsessed with getting free. They have more likely been born in the gutter or have fallen into it, through medical problems or bad luck or lack of discipline and other learned skills, and to few people's surprise, rent and food can suddenly become more valuable than some abstract notion about freedom when the alternative is sleeping in the park in 10 degree weather.

I'd place more value on O'Rourke's opinion if he had ever been down and out and selling possessions for his next meal. I doubt he has ever been there, and his lack of empathy and understanding of the spectrum of the human condition shows.

 
At 7/08/2008 9:07 PM, Blogger LibFree said...

I doubt that people hate capitalism and turn to socialism because of how Corporations respond to the government. Government is a powerful tool, and a powerful tool with the associated costs removed. Who doesn't want to use the biggest, most expensive saw when we are cutting lumber. It usually isn't called for, sometimes terribly destructive and rarely used by someone who knows what their doing.

 
At 7/08/2008 9:10 PM, Blogger LibFree said...

David,

You should read about his life sometime. P.J. didn't come from money, and spent most of his early years as a hippie stoner working for a socialist school newspaper.

 
At 7/08/2008 9:28 PM, Anonymous Fred said...

And David SWINGS!

...and misses.

...again.

 
At 7/08/2008 9:35 PM, Anonymous Machiavelli999 said...

Wow, David. How about I just make you my slave. I'll feed you and provide you housing and you don't have to worry about such abstract concepts as "freedom".

What is needed is a new concept. A concept of separation of economy and state similar to the separation of church and state.

Where things like tax incentives, subsidies, government mandated wages, tariffs and any other market distortions are deemed unconstitutional. The only way to do this (at least within the system) is to push for a new Constitutional amendment that defines property rights and explains that they are as unalienable as life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

And another amendment to clarify that the main point of government is to protect the inalienable rights listed in the constitution and ONLY those rights not any other imagined rights.

 
At 7/08/2008 9:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come on, guys, lighten on David a bit. PJ can be a bit of an annoyingly, sarcastic, git at times and at other times, he does sparkle with wit.

Much prefer Mark Twain. Great humor, wonderful satire without the bitter aftertaste but then Twain seemed to like people and acknowledge that he too had feet of clay. His humor was never mean spirited.

I challenge you to actually read PJ's most recent imprint, On the Wealth of Nations which starts off very well with lots of great insights and wonderful wit. The last 3 chapters however are an unmemorable slog of increasingly lame jokes. If you can like PJ after reading him, then you, Gunga Din, are a better man than I am.

 
At 7/08/2008 9:57 PM, Anonymous bob wright said...

David said:

"I'd place more value on O'Rourke's opinion if he had ever been down and out and selling possessions for his next meal."

And I'd have more respect for the opinion of any politician r.e. the price of oil if they had worked for an oil exploration company or an oil refining company, or worked as a geologist looking for oil, or been a trader in the commodities market.

Or how about the opinion of politicians r.e. corporate taxes. Have any of them ever started or ran a company: large or small? If not, then there is no reason to give any credence what so ever to their opinion on how to tax corporations or pass any type of law regulating corporations.

Or how about the war. Has Obama served in the military or received any training in making war? If not, then he has no basis on which to make credible judgments and therefore he should not be allowed to make any decisions or even make off-handed comments regarding the U.S. military.

If the only people allowed to comment on a particular topic are those who have personal experience with the topic, then most writers, bloggers, politicians and journalists should just quit heir job, go home, and find something else to do.

 
At 7/09/2008 2:36 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"Socialism is defined as the political and economic theory advocating state ownership and control of natural resources and commercial activities"...

LOL! Someone else who wasn't paying attention to history...

Yes socialism has been such a BLOODY SUCCESS that it defies description...

"No one on welfare is a rich, pompous humor columnist obsessed with getting free. They have more likely been born in the gutter or have fallen into it, through medical problems or bad luck or lack of discipline and other learned skills, and to few people's surprise, rent and food can suddenly become more valuable than some abstract notion about freedom when the alternative is sleeping in the park in 10 degree weather"...

Hmmm, is that a rationale for stealing from the productive so that some can feel good about themselves?

Welfare is an ongoing failure...

 
At 7/09/2008 6:31 AM, Blogger LibFree said...

P.J. on the Wealth of Nations was tough but then again, so was the wealth of nations.

 
At 7/09/2008 9:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Juandos,

I provided the definition of socialism to clarify the terms of reference since the term socialist/socialism is often used to denote small L liberalism/liberal.

Yes, Juandos, we do know totalitarian socialism (aka communism) doesn't work. It promises equality and delivers poverty, oligarchy, despotism, gulags and genocide on the grand scale.

Providing a definition is not the same as advocating socialism. If you read the rest of the post, the context clearly does not advocate this theory but merely asks why subsidies which are an emblem of governmental interference should negate market capitalism. :)

Libfree,

I agree Adam Smith's the original work is pretty tough going and PJ's book is very useful there. PJ has a very good brain but he seems to lack concentration. His focus is on his next "brilliant" or "outrageous" (or "brilliantly outrageous") remark rather than on any substantive insights.

Personally, I prefer Charles Krauthammer and Milton Friedman to PJ because their logic cuts through to the heart of issues. There are very few things that P.J. O'Rourke has written that I can even recall. In contrast, Charles' and Milton's ideas continue to resonate in one's consciousness for years.

P.J. O'Rourke is a talking head like Pat Buchanan, Anne Coulter, Naomi Klein or Bill O'Reilly. He just doesn't have sufficient ballast which is disappointing because he is extremely clever. Caustic comments just don't turn my crank after the first 75 pages.

 
At 7/09/2008 9:16 AM, Blogger Marko said...

Why the shot at Serbs? 21st century, much? Wouldn't saying that Iraqi insurgents are empowered have been more topical?

 
At 7/09/2008 3:21 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Providing a definition is not the same as advocating socialism. If you read the rest of the post, the context clearly does not advocate this theory but merely asks why subsidies which are an emblem of governmental interference should negate market capitalism. :)"...

Have no fear lad, I read the whole thing and maybe since I'm a child of the fifties & sixties one can't talk about socialism without considering the real world implications of socialist theory... Sorry, it just doesn't work for me...

 
At 7/09/2008 3:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me neither. How did you & I ever survive the idiocy that was the 1960s?

...and it's lassie not lad. Not all women come in the left-leaning, save the planet flavor.

 
At 7/09/2008 4:20 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Oh! Oh!... "...and it's lassie not lad'...

my bad! and my apolgies to you lassie...

"Not all women come in the left-leaning, save the planet flavor"...

Thank God for this not so minor miracle...

"How did you & I ever survive the idiocy that was the 1960s?"...

Well if I had to guess, you were maybe a bit to busy actually having to live and make a living...

That's how it worked out for me...

It just seemed that sitting around burning blunt after blunt and washing it down with wine or beer was O.K. for a day or two but after awhile the whining (a.k.a. political discourse) by others started to get to me...

 
At 7/09/2008 5:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Juandos,

No apologies necessary. You haven't lived until you talk to a female lawyer who believes that you can alter your DNA through meditation...someone better tell OJ! You are not the first person who has mistaken my postings for those of a man.

Jack Nicholson summed it up best when asked how he created such realistic female characters in As Good as it Gets: "I take a man and then I take away all reason and accountability." (Like Evil Kanevil used to say "Don't try this at home, kids" - it's called entering the mine field for any man to repeat this quote)

Fortunately, I was born in 1960 so I only had to survive my educators and socialist siblings. My socialist imprinting met reality working for a small business.

I have to get a blog ID straightened out but have not had the time.

Have a nice evening :)

 
At 7/09/2008 10:22 PM, Blogger LibFree said...

Maybe its a question of value? I don't expect a rousing discussion of game theory from PJ but I get to read an entertaining application of libertarian philosophy to real life events. I agree to the same with Milton Friedman. My favorite quote was when he asked the General if he would prefer an "army of slaves". I digress though. I've taken classes with some brilliant economists and I've listened to lectures by even more. I even had a brilliant astrophysicist as my professor once. I don't remember having both a good teacher and master of their field all in one.

 
At 7/10/2008 11:11 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> No one on welfare is a rich, pompous humor columnist obsessed with getting free.

No, they're usually fat, lazy, ill-educated idiots who spend way too much of their limited income on lottery tickets and $200 Air-Jordans, and who sit around their slums playing on their PSPs and listening to music with more thump than words.

> I'd place more value on O'Rourke's opinion if he had ever been down and out and selling possessions for his next meal. I doubt he has ever been there, and his lack of empathy and understanding of the spectrum of the human condition shows.

Demonstrating that you are, indeed, an ignorant, pompous jackass.

The man has gotten rich off his ability to write well and humorously, to carry complex points with congency and clarity.

His BACKGROUND is very lower middle class at best, and he most definitely wasn't well-off when he went to college. His father wasn't around for most of his childhood (I forget if he left or died, I think the latter) but he was definitely not some rich white suburban kid.

He's been all over the world, and made his initial living writing about hellholes you would not visit on a bet (one hint of this would be the title of one of his early books: "Holidays in Hell").

The details of his youth are covered, among other places, in "Age and Guile — Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut", wherein he details his transition from a stupid hippie punk in the late 60s to a modern small-l libertarian.

You would have known all this, prior to putting your foot in your mouth up to the knee, if you'd actually even bothered to look him up on wiki.

So, frankly, I'd place more value on your opinion if you hadn't demonstrated that you are someone with such exceedingly bad Cranio-Rectal Insertion Syndrome that you can't even use an internet encyclopedia.

 
At 7/10/2008 11:12 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

OOps:
congency=="Cogency".
Doh!

 
At 7/10/2008 11:17 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

AS far as P.J. goes, I recommend:

Parliament of Whores
Give War A Chance
Eat The Rich

In that order. Haven't read the latest one(s?). But those three pitches strike out the opposition with ease.

 
At 7/10/2008 11:28 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> I provided the definition of socialism to clarify the terms of reference since the term socialist/socialism is often used to denote small L liberalism/liberal.

The usual terminology is "classical liberalism" -- denoting the root concepts, which might be desirable and worthy of consideration -- contrasted to "modern liberalism", which is collectivism and socialism, along with a host of violations of individual rights including property, guns, speech, and general freedom -- and the latter is thus repugnant to any rational individual, with appeal limited to masochists, misanthropes, and wannabe dictators of every stripe...

> Yes, Juandos, we do know totalitarian socialism (aka communism) doesn't work

There is no other kind. All forms of it are perverted into totalitarianism over time. Look at the USA -- we started with some mildly socialist policies in th 1930s and we are about 30-40 years away, at most, from a defacto dictatorship (all it will take is one major economic catastrophe on the order of the Depression).

I'm sure it will bear all the gew-gaws and frippery we're used to, but freedom and individual liberties will be a thing of the past, and an illusion at best.

People these days are all too ready to give up essential liberties for the appearance of safety. And they give up individual freedoms for conformity rather than celebrating true diversity. 60 years ago no one would have taken the idea of a modern home-owners-association seriously. Nowadays you have to live in the woods just to not deal with 'em.

If I had kids, I'd be looking for a nation to relocate to, for their sake.

 
At 7/10/2008 11:34 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

AnonyLassie:

On this blog, at least, you can always use a name/url, and just not give a URL...

;-)

 

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