Sunday, April 11, 2010

G. Will on Decadent Dependence of Welfare State

"Today, nearly half of Social Security recipients choose to begin getting benefits at 62. This is a grotesque perversion of a program that was never intended to subsidize retirees for a third to a half of their adult lives.

It also reflects the decadent dependence that the welfare state encourages: Because of the displacement of responsibility from the individual to government, 48 percent of workers over 55 have total savings and investments of less than $50,000."

~
George Will

124 Comments:

At 4/11/2010 9:41 AM, Blogger Michael said...

Maybe the Baby Boomers should be renamed the Greediest Generation.

I've never seen a group leech off both their parents and children.

 
At 4/11/2010 9:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe George Will should brush up on his actuarial science deficiencies.

There is no actuarial difference to the Social Security Plan if someone starts reduced benefits at age 62, regular benefits at age 66 or enhanced benefits at age 70.

 
At 4/11/2010 9:57 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"There is no actuarial difference to the Social Security Plan if someone starts reduced benefits at age 62, regular benefits at age 66 or enhanced benefits at age 70"...

Maybe some anon should consider getting a real opinion from real actuaries instead of that of the socialist state bureaucrats...

Just a suggestion...

 
At 4/11/2010 10:36 AM, Anonymous morganovich said...

if true, the fact that 48% of americans over 55 have essentially no savings is going to make reform of SS very difficult.

they will fight tooth and nail to keep the benefits high and early because otherwise, they can't retire.

while generally being right, will makes one erroneous point - SS is grossly mismanaged as well as being the victim of bad congressional promises. returns on the social security trust fund are quite literally criminally low. it doesn't even get a return close to that of US treasuries. any private money manager would be jailed for running a fund the way SS is run and accused of embezzlement and fiduciary incompetence among other things.

this is a nice outline of just how badly it's run.

http://www.coyoteblog.com/coyote_blog/2007/01/social_security-2.html

if returns on the SS portfolio were even half those of a balanced equity/bond portfolio, we would not be in this mess and could meet these pension obligations.

as someone in his late 30's, i have ZERO expectation of ever getting SS. this is a pure confiscation of my assets. as someone quite capable of achieving returns well above market on my investments, the fact that i MUST leave this portion of my assets in a trust that does not even keep up with inflation would be utterly galling if i though i'd ever see them again anyway.

plenty of money goes in to SS to meet it's goals. the problem is how little compounding goes on before it comes out.

do the math yourself - take the taxes you pay on SS and compound them at 4 or 6% until you retire.

at 5%, the $5k you pay at 25 is over $35k at retirement. if you manage to hit the equity rate of return of 8% it's 105k. as you can see, that incremental 3% return is a big deal over 40 years.

the key reason the feds don't want individual SS accounts where we can make our own investment decisions is that if we ever had them, it would rapidly become apparent how badly run SS is when our own accounts blew away its returns. (well, that and that you can;t rob personal accounts to fund your pet projects and to pretend to have balanced the budget (clinton) the way you can rob the SS trust fund which is mostly made up of IOU's at this point which may be a key reason for underperformance. as many california taxpayers discovered last year, IOU's have a lousy rate of return...

 
At 4/11/2010 10:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

morganovich said:

"they will fight tooth and nail to keep the benefits high and early because otherwise, they can't retire."

He is obviously correct. And this scenario will repeat itself with Obamacare.

Every single election from now on will be everyone fighting to keep/enlarge their entitlements from the federal government pie.

What a disaster.

 
At 4/11/2010 11:45 AM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

Sixty seven percent of the economy is consumption driven. The U.S. needs to get back to:

Production > Consumption of Goods and Services.

Borrowing to fund stimulus of Consumption is a decadent farce.
As Morganovich has pointed out a lot of borrowing came from the Social Security Trust (bonds).

Where are the custonmers for inceased Production? Exports to Emerging Markets.

 
At 4/11/2010 11:48 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Right on; We now see rural areas fight like rapid dogs to keep federal monies pouring into their districts. Rural America would just about blow away with federal subsidies, so those people will fight to keep the money coming--their very survival depends on more and more federal lard.
That is why Sarah Palin was fighting for the Bridge to Nowhere, as was Senator Stevens. Alaska needs federal lard, as does New Mexico, Montana, Alabama, Wyoming, etc etc etc. The Red States Socialist Empire.
Unfortunately for US taxpayers, each state gets two Senators--including sparsely populated rural states. Guess how those two Senators vote? For more and more lard into their states.
If you go to the Tax Foundation, you will find out how revolting this situation has become.
But the Red State Socialist Empire has such a powerful Red Bloc in the Senate, it will never be overcome.
Disgusting!!!!

 
At 4/11/2010 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

IOU's have a lousy rate of return...

If you say so morganovich. Not.

Assets of the OASI Trust Fund, End of Calendar Years 2007 and 2008
[In thousands]

 
At 4/11/2010 12:27 PM, Blogger m.jed said...

Benjamin - are you a proponent of progressive taxation?

Anon - the assets of the Trust Fund and their returns are meaningless. What matters is the IRR to the beneficiaries of SS and are well below market rates of return including returns on treasuries.

 
At 4/11/2010 12:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What matters is the IRR to the beneficiaries of SS and are well below market rates of return including returns on treasuries.

Not so, Jed. The OASI Trust Funds are not marked-to-market. That 5.125% special purpose bond due in 2021 is worth more than par value for purposes of your IRR calculation.

Play the FIX-IT Game, Jed.

 
At 4/11/2010 1:23 PM, Blogger m.jed said...

Anon -

If I'm a pensioner of GM, I don't care if their pension plan earns 14% or 2%, I care about the return on my "benefits", i.e., the opportunity cost of their contributions to the pension plan on my behalf. SS offers a sub-par opportunity cost, as measured by SS actuaries: http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/NOTES/ran5/an2004-5.html

 
At 4/11/2010 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Juandos,

Anonymous is correct on the actuarial costs.

It is also irrelevant to social security costs how much citizens have in their own savings.

However capitalists would love to see social security privatized, but the collapse of the market this year shows the dangers that exist there.

Any investment plan to provide for old age will have risks. Whether they are capitalist risks or socialist risks won't make much difference because a failure in the system of either kind will affect everyone in the economy.

It is astonishing how little people save - the averge thirty five year old has a net worth of only $5000.

 
At 4/11/2010 1:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...if true, the fact that 48% of americans over 55 have essentially no savings is going to make reform of SS very difficult."

So, if they have some savings besides social security it would be OK to break a promise made to them and confiscate all they have paid in?

Sounds like taking private property for public use to me.

And after all, isn't the reason we have social security is precisely becasue we once learned that people will not or can not save sufficiently for their ow retirement?

We either require them to pay something into the system or we wind up paying for old folks homes, anyway, so we can shield ourselves from the prospect of stepping over the homeless aged on our way to work.

Besides that, if we think they are going to work, we had better find some jobs for them. Right now Jobs are a scarce commodity.

 
At 4/11/2010 1:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

SS offers a sub-par opportunity cost, as measured by SS actuaries: http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/NOTES/ran5/an2004-5.html


True, except

"Internal rate of return does not reflect the full value of insurance in reducing the risk for extreme outcomes, such as death or disability at very young ages or survival to very old ages. In addition, calculations of the internal rate of return from Social Security benefits are not fully adequate for making comparisons with private-sector plans, since many features of Social Security benefits are not typically available in private-sector plans."

You cannot buy and equivalent plan on the private market, and the analyisis is based on long term merket conditions which are mostly non-existent over the last ten years.

 
At 4/11/2010 2:29 PM, Blogger m.jed said...

Anon - the IRRs calculated are theoretical, not empirical.

And that private plans don't exist is not only an example of government crowding out the private sector. but also an indication of SS lack of sustainability - if a private company started an investment/insurance scheme whereby they promised one thing at 2% employer/employee contribution, and the same thing at (IIRC) 10.4% (the difference is the contribution rate for the DI in OASDI) and stated explicitly that they weren't collecting enough to pay promised benefits in the future, they'd rightly no longer in business.

 
At 4/11/2010 3:34 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

mjed:

Only progressive consumption taxes, and of course, when adjusted for the cost of living.

The cost of living in rural Dakota must be one-third that of Manhattan. Of course, wages are lower. This is another, permanent subsidy for the Red Bloc.

I also favor a balanced federal budget--every state gets back what they put in, and that's how we balance the budget.

 
At 4/11/2010 3:35 PM, Blogger OA said...

Anonymous said...
...
Not so, Jed. The OASI Trust Funds are not marked-to-market. That 5.125% special purpose bond due in 2021 is worth more than par value for purposes of your IRR calculation.



A good reason not to "mark to market" is given in the footnote where it says:

"Special issues are always purchased and redeemed at par value."

Also note that the only reason there are any bonds with a yield higher than 4% is they were issued long ago. Everything new in 2008 was at 4% or less. That $170 billion that came due in 2009 probably rolled over at lower rates.

The dollar weighted average rate of the holdings declined from 5.11% in 2007 to 4.89% in 2008. By the end of 2011, less than 1/4 of the holdings will be over 5.125%. Unless Treasury rates jump of course.

Hardly exciting when the average COLA increase for the last 5 years was 3.1% even including that zero for 2009.

But why even quibble with the returns? It is guaranteed that SS can never meet promised obligations as things stand now. The last projection was the trust fund was going to be depleted by 2037.

 
At 4/11/2010 3:55 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

>And after all, isn't the reason we have social security is precisely becasue we once learned that people will not or can not save sufficiently for their ow retirement?

>We either require them to pay something into the system or we wind up paying for old folks homes, anyway, so we can shield ourselves from the prospect of stepping over the homeless aged on our way to work.

>Besides that, if we think they are going to work, we had better find some jobs for them. Right now Jobs are a scarce commodity.

A sure indication that this is typical collectivist bullshit is the number of times the author uses some form of the 1st person plural "WE".

In the above example it is used 9 times in only 3 sentences. In one sentence, it occurs 5 times! This may be a record.

The recurring theme in such comments is that "WE", the really smart people, know what is best for "THEM", the really dumb people, and how "THEIR" money should be spent.

The arrogance is breathtaking.

 
At 4/11/2010 4:22 PM, Blogger grant said...

Are exports to emerging markets even possible when [for example]they form trading cartels like ASEAN where the aim of the members is to exclude countries such as the US from entering their markets to sell manufactured goods. These countries go even further and slap on tariffs just for good measure and government subsidies just to clinch the deal.
Have US free trade agreements with other countries served any useful purpose when they are so limited in what they limit to free trade. They are not free trade agreements at all.You need to fix this if you want to export against these game stackers.

 
At 4/11/2010 4:26 PM, Anonymous morganovich said...

anon 11.52-

you miss my point utterly.

look at what the trust owns, then look at what it pays out. the rates don't match at all.

read the analysis i linked. actual returns on SS calculated as an annuity are negative, but the returns on the assets owned are positive.

where did the rest of the money go?

it was stolen, pure and simple. this began under LBJ who opened up the SS trust fund to raiding for general fund purposes. clinton's allegedly balanced budgets were only achieved through this trick as well.

the trillions upon trillions owed intergovernmentally to the fund are not shown there.

i suggest you read up on SS funds being spent by the general fund.

look at the size of the fund to which you link: it's $2 trillion to cover liabilities of more like 20.

that seems adequate to you?

benefits paid out will shortly exceed taxes paid in. then the fund is in real trouble.

 
At 4/11/2010 4:29 PM, Blogger OA said...

Anonymous said...
..However capitalists would love to see social security privatized, but the collapse of the market this year shows the dangers that exist there.


This is a ridiculous assertion. A routine weekly or monthly contribution to a private account over 30 to 40 years would swamp the returns from Social Security. Moreover, since people don't liquidate their retirement the day they retire, but leave much of it invested, it is really a 50 to 60 year investment time frame for some of the money.

Even the 2000-2010 10 year period which people like to pretend was no return, is only the case if you ignore dividends.

Worrying about temporary blips to justify the current Ponzi scheme is ridiculous. We know for certain that it will not work as currently constructed. Well I guess something like bird flu or H1N1 could really take out the old folks and make SS work. So maybe there is a slim chance.

 
At 4/11/2010 4:58 PM, Blogger grant said...

To get jobs you need to export and America at the moment is not doing that!

 
At 4/11/2010 5:26 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

>"I also favor a balanced federal budget--every state gets back what they put in, and that's how we balance the budget."

Balanced budget? Yes. Every state gets back...? Not possible.

Aside from the legitimate functions of federal government that must be paid for somehow, If every state got back what it put in, there would be no point in putting it in in the first place. An idea I find pretty attractive, by the way.

Every time a dollar is handled by an additional government entity, some of it disappears. The best place for a dollar to be is in my pocket, until I'm ready to spend it. Otherwise, I get very little, if any, benefit from it.

 
At 4/11/2010 6:59 PM, Blogger DaveinHackensack said...

"if returns on the SS portfolio were even half those of a balanced equity/bond portfolio, we would not be in this mess and could meet these pension obligations."

If the Social Security trust fund were invested in assets other than U.S. government obligations, the government would have had to either raise taxes, increase general borrowing, or reduce spending (or some combination of those three options) by an equivalent amount. Politically, it was much easier to put it in government obligations. I suspect that -- and not any protestations about the putative risk of other assets -- is the real reason why it was never done. Back in December of '08 I suggested it wouldn't have been a bad time to invest some of the Social Security trust fund in stocks. That would have been good timing.

 
At 4/11/2010 7:26 PM, Blogger randian said...

well, that and that you can't rob personal accounts to fund your pet projects and to pretend to have balanced the budget

Liberal pundits and some adminstration officials are already talking about confiscating personal accounts. Naturally, they won't call it that, but forcibly taking 401k and IRA assets and replacing them with Treasuries earning 3% looks and smells like confiscation in my book.

 
At 4/11/2010 7:32 PM, Blogger randian said...

benefits paid out will shortly exceed taxes paid in. then the fund is in real trouble.

That was supposed to happen in 2018. As usual, government budget estimates were wrong, because benefits already exceed taxes this year. It can only get much, much worse than predicted.

 
At 4/11/2010 7:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before the 20th Century, everyone expected to work their entire lives...You only could retire if you had kids to take care of you or you were rich. But even the rich would work as long as they could. There was never enough. But abaundance gives people a false sense of security. Mix in Marxist ideology and you have a potent force for people living off other people.

 
At 4/11/2010 8:16 PM, Blogger grant said...

The I.M.F or the OECD currently have a 6 month enquiry underway into how the stimulus can be ultimately paid for. The final report is due out in June. Some of the very radical solutions were discussed months ago and the outstanding one revolved around forcibly removing money from retirement accounts and paying it directly to the government to reduce the stimulus deficit.Make a note to watch for this report.

 
At 4/11/2010 9:09 PM, Anonymous Lyle said...

MOre likley is that nothing will be done about the estate tax and it will revert to a $1 million exemption and 45% and up on top of that. Second the rules on 401ks and IRAS will be changed to require that they pay out using the rmd of the original owner, even after this owners death, (No resetting if the person who inherits it is younger) What this means effectivly is that if you die leaving a 401k or IRA balance 65% goes to the government unless you donate it to charity. Might as well eat drink and be merry, or uncle will get it anyway.

 
At 4/11/2010 9:41 PM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

Michael:"I've never seen a group leech off both their parents and children"

How did Boomers as a group leech off their parents? Certainly not through Social Security? Parents of Boomers are the ones who paid very low FICA taxes and then received far, far more in benefits than they ever contributed. Boomers - and every generation after them - will receive abysmal returns on their Social Security "contributions".

The real leeches, Michael, are not one generation or another. Every generation contributes millions of non-productive parasites to whom the wealth of the productive is forcibly transferred.

 
At 4/11/2010 9:53 PM, Anonymous morganovich said...

dave-

i think you miss an important point:

if the funds had been put in gov't bond and left there, we'd be OK too.

returns would be at least 5% or so instead of the negative returns SS recipients get on payout.

the issue is that the money has been grabbed by the federal government for its general fund expenditures and therefore most of it is gone.

this sort of monstrous fiduciary breach would land any private manger in jail next to bernie. it is precisely why you can't trust the government to hold your money. if they take it, there is no one to whom to appeal.

if your broker took all the appreciation and then some from your retirement savings to build his new house, you'd be livid. why are people so sanguine about the federal government doing the same thing?

 
At 4/12/2010 12:29 AM, Anonymous Lyle said...

Taking the compound annual growth of the S&P 500 from 1871 to present adjusted for inflation its about 6.68%, and it has a standard deviation of 18%. A bond portfolio by nature is would have to be a tips equivalent and would have a real yield of in the neighborhood of 1 % So adding 3% for inflation you need about 4% to keep up. (Less now that inflation is less depending on what way you want to measure it).
Of course no one likes the implication of such low returns, that you have to spend much less and save more, i.e. live below your means significantly. Which would lead to a depression if done suddenly. (Staying single and having no children help here). But that technique would also tank society.
Taking the 3.5 % number implies for 1k a month you need around 350k investments to equal a couples social security return. Given low returns thats 10k per working year over 35 years.

 
At 4/12/2010 8:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It takes more than 17 years for average taxpayers simply to repay what older taxpayers invested in them up until they reach the age to begin working.

Everyone benefits from the welfare state, and the benefits they get are pretty closely related to what they eventually pay, except that since we are in a perennial state of deficit the evidence is that we are not paying enough for the benefits we get.

 
At 4/12/2010 8:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

if you manage to hit the equity rate of return of 8% it's 105k.

Thats a pretty big if. Some people are willing and able to take that bet but the vast majority are not and will not.

We can watch old people living on the streets or we can demand that they provide some money to take minimal care of themselves.

If governement were actually trying to get that eight percent you would be xcreaming bloody murder over the risk they were taking eith other peoples money.

 
At 4/12/2010 8:56 AM, Anonymous morganovich said...

lyle-

not sure how you are doing that calculation, but here's a simpler way to look at it:

assume a 40 year career and retirement at 65. assume you live to be 85. this is a 2:1 saving to spending ratio.

on a weighted average of saving and spending this means that each dollar you save will be about 30 years old when you spend it in retirement.

at 3.5%, your money nearly doubles every 20 years, so at 30 years each dollar you save is worth $2.80 when you spend it.

so, even at 3.5%, if you save 15% of your money, you can have 85% of your working income to spend for your whole retirement.

given that most people have paid off houses etc by then, that's a pretty good number.

at 5% return, each dollar saved is $4.30 when spent, yielding a more attractive scenario in which 10% savings rate gets you 86% of income in retirement or a 15% rate yields 125% of income to spend.

however, if 7.5% of your income is "saved for you" in an account that loses money even before inflation (as social security does) then you have a real issue. that's half your projected savings rate for a comfy retirement GONE in terms of providing any appreciation.

that's a back-breaker. far from making our retirements more secure, SS is actually dooming them to penury.

 
At 4/12/2010 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Otherwise, I get very little, if any, benefit from it.

Easy to believe but hard to prove.

When the light turns green you assume the light on the other side turns red. Who is responsible for that happening? The government.

Can private enterprise put up a traffic light for less than $125K?

Sure. So why do they charge that much to put one up for government?
Because they charge as much as they can get. Absent government intervention, traffic lights would cost more, not less, and there would be zero standardization.

 
At 4/12/2010 9:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

at 5% return, each dollar saved is $4.30 when spent, yielding a more attractive scenario in which 10% savings rate gets you 86% of income in retirement or a 15% rate yields 125% of income to spend.

You did not discount this earning for inflation but you charge social security with inflation later in your argument.


Level playing ground, please.

Anyway,the problem again is IF. If people saved that much we would not need social security, but they don't.

 
At 4/12/2010 9:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...benefits paid out will shortly exceed taxes paid in. then the fund is in real trouble."

By law, that cannot happen. The plan is a PAYGO and when benefits exceed amounts paid in the benefits will be reduced.

 
At 4/12/2010 10:03 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

How are you guys putting a value on the disabilty insurance portion of Social Security? Social Security is much more like insurance than a savings plan. How much did you make from your car and house insurance investments last year?

Social Security is a hybrid insurance/Ponzi Scheme. Any comparison to savings plans is invalid. The 50% without savings better get busy and figure out a way to take care of themselves in the future.

 
At 4/12/2010 10:53 AM, Anonymous morganovich said...

anon 9.06-

no i didn't.

the returns from SS measured as ROI on pay in to payout are negative (about 80 bp) BEFORE inflation.

you are actually paying the government to hold your money. it's about the worst annuity structure you can buy. absent compulsion, no rational person would.

(and that's before they tax you on the benefit as if it were income. at least in a private account you only pay taxes on gains. in SS they actually tax you on a principal balance that has sustained a loss)

anon 908-

and SS was supposed to be by voluntary participation only, a protected trust fund that could not be used for other purposes, deductible from federal income taxes, and tax free as a benefit.

NONE of those things are true anymore.

what makes you believe that PAYGO will be adhered to? cutting benefits is awfully unpopular at the ballot box and as will said, nearly half of americans over 55 have no meaningful savings.

you seem to be betting that the feds will suddenly take a popularity hit to make a fiscally responsible choice.

historically, that's a pretty poor bet.

 
At 4/12/2010 11:20 AM, Blogger Ron H. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 4/12/2010 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's bring it back to the top. George Will turns 70 next month. Has he or will he draw on SS (his spouse is 17 years younger...that's 12 grand a year to her; and if his first spouse never remarried before age 60, that's an additional 12 grand)? Potentially, George and his spouse and ex can haul down $48000 per year based on how many dollars of contributions?

If he has not or will not then he can blah blah on the decadent dependence of the welfare state.

In his prior life he was a chickenhawk.

morganovich, an inflation indexed annuity with auxilliary benefits will never place someone in penury. A defined contribution plan may.

 
At 4/12/2010 12:30 PM, Blogger randian said...

So why do they charge that much to put one up for government?

Because of the cost of complying with government regulations and paperwork.

Absent government intervention, traffic lights would cost more, not less, and there would be zero standardization.

If we need government to enforce standards, how did you post your message here?

 
At 4/12/2010 12:40 PM, Anonymous morganovich said...

anon 12.07-

sure it can. if they give you back less (in actual dollars, not even in real ones) than you put in, it harms you.

every year i pay nearly 7 grand to SS.

i'll do this for 40 years+. then, for 20 or so, i get back around $12k. tell me how this is a good deal?

SS isn't an annuity structure. i will flat out get back less than i put in unless i live to about 90.

by contrast, if i took all that savings and let it compound in bonds then bought an annuity, i'd get 4-5 times they payout per month.

this is simple, unarguable math.

could SS be run effectively, sure. but the fact ism it isn't.

 
At 4/12/2010 12:47 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

morganovich,

How much do you get back if you go on SS total and permanent disabilty at 28-years-old and live to be 90-years-old?

 
At 4/12/2010 12:48 PM, Anonymous morganovich said...

also:

your point on will doesn't make any sense.

he paid in, he should get paid out.

you argument that eh is dependent on it is silly. do you really think that if it disappeared it would make 1 jot of difference in his retirement?

i'd be willing to bet he can retire quite comfortably without any aid.

his point is that may people fail to save because of SS.

my amplification of that point is that 7.65% as a savings rate is well over half of what you would need (at even a 5% ROIC) to save to retire at your working income.

thus, forcibly taking away this option and replacing it with SS harms would be retirees immensely.

it gets them about 25% of what they ought to have.

that, IMHO is penury.

do you want to live on 25% of your current income when you retire?

i sure don't.

 
At 4/12/2010 12:55 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Anon @ 9:02

Thank you for supporting my argument that when government handles my money, I may not get full value for it.

Your example of a traffic light is perfect. I suspect your $125k figure may be low, but that doesn't affect my argument.

"Can private enterprise put up a traffic light for less than $125K?

Sure. So why do they charge that much to put one up for government?
Because they charge as much as they can get."


Of COURSE they charge as much as they can get. Everyone does. This is true on a private project as well. However, in a normal situation, we would like to think that there was competitive bidding for this project, and that the lowest bidder won the contract. A MARKET FORCE will keep the price down, not government intervention. (I know, you hate that idea)
If you want to consider graft, cronyism, or no-bid contracts, then anything is possible, and my point is made even stronger.

Could this be done more cheaply as a private project? Yes, and here's why.

This onerous relic of the Great Depression forces employers to pay "prevailing wage" for labor. This means, in almost all cases, higher than necessary.

I understand that Davis-Bacon is a federal requirement, but if any federal funds come anywhere near this project, Davis Bacon will apply.

In my county, that means an electrician will get:
$34.00/hr hourly wage,plus nearly
$25.00/hr in fringe benefits, plus
$ 1.00/hr for cable splicing, plus
$ 3.40/hr for any underground work, plus
$8.00/hr if the work is more than 80 street miles from the county seat.

This could mean that some could make $71.40/hr on this government project.

I suspect there are many qualified non-union electricians who would be willing to work for less if they could, but it's not allowed, so yes, a private project would likely be cheaper.

"Absent government intervention, traffic lights would cost more, not less..."

I think you will agree that you are wrong about that.

"...and there would be zero standardization."

You're wrong again. Standardization is something that comes about because it's needed. Think computers, electronics, bolt sizes, and thousands of other examples of things that are standard, and work together even though manufactured by many different companies. Again MARKET FORCES have been responsible, not government interference.

I know you hate the idea that free markets can do a better job, but it's true.

 
At 4/12/2010 12:57 PM, Anonymous morganovich said...

walt-

i'm not sure, but that's only an issue for a very small number of people and could be more easily handled as insurance, not pension.

very few private pensions plans would pay you anything in that sort of situation either.

 
At 4/12/2010 1:46 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

>"By law, that cannot happen. The plan is a PAYGO and when benefits exceed amounts paid in the benefits will be reduced."

Technically true, but only when the "trust fund" is used up. The "trust fund" contains only Special Treasure Bills, or IOUs. This "trust fund" must now start paying benefits, as current contributions aren't enough to support "paygo".

There is no money in the treasury to redeem these Treasury bills, so the money will likely come from increased taxes. If you aren't currently receiving SS benefits, expect to start helping support those that do, through higher taxes.

Current and future contributors can expect their withholding percentage or annual maximum contribution to increase - or both. Future recipients can expect their benefits to be reduced by having to wait longer before benefits can begin.

 
At 4/12/2010 2:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, let's just do what Ronald Reagan did to fix this.

Have Greenspan lead a commission; raise social security taxes so that it will "fix this forever'.

Then, after the extra social security money comes in....

Let's give everyone a tax cut.

 
At 4/12/2010 3:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...careful analysis shows that if there is effective competition in the widget market, so that the price ends up matching the number of widgets people want to buy to the number of widgets other people want to sell, the outcome is to maximize the total gains to producers and consumers.

Free markets are “efficient” — which, in economics-speak as opposed to plain English, means that nobody can be made better off without making someone else worse off.

Now, efficiency isn’t everything. In particular, there is no reason to assume that free markets will deliver an outcome that we consider fair or just. So the case for market efficiency says nothing about whether we should have, say, some form of guaranteed health insurance, aid to the poor and so forth."

Paul Krugman



This should set Juandos into a case of apoplexy.

 
At 4/12/2010 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

expect to start helping support those that do, through higher taxes.

Um. Wasn't I already doing that?

 
At 4/12/2010 3:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We now see rural areas fight like rapid dogs to keep federal monies pouring into their districts. Rural America would just about blow away with federal subsidies, so those people will fight to keep the money coming--their very survival depends on more and more federal lard.

I don't think so. Urban areas are far more in the hole than rural areas: their infrastructure and security and other costs are much higher than rural areas.

Sure, rural areas want their pork as much as urban areas, but they are more able to get along without it, and less likely to get it in the first place.

Socialism favors the urban areas.

 
At 4/12/2010 3:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Future recipients can expect their benefits to be reduced by having to wait longer before benefits can begin.

Isn't the problem that we are living longer? Won't they (future recipients) live longer as well?
Won't they eventually recieve the same amount actuarially?

I started at 62 because I have a bad health history: I don't expect to see 73. Is that sponging off someone else or is it being responsible for how I run my own life?

 
At 4/12/2010 3:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know you hate the idea that free markets can do a better job, but it's true.

"can do" being the operative phrase.

I know you hate the idea that free markets can fail, but it is true.

I believe free markets are generally better, and that we can use market based regulation, even.

It is just that I'm not blinded by an ideology that says it is ALWAYS true.

 
At 4/12/2010 4:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

we would like to think that there was competitive bidding for this project,

But that's another gov't function that we lknow they cannot manage.

And for competitive bidding the government would set the standards for the traffic lights, right?

Otherwise we would have all kinds of crazy quilt (but highly innovative and much cheaper) lights.

And that is why a government traffic light costs $125 K. : the specifications. Which every contractor tries to chisel on, to save costs. Then governmnent has to increase oversight to make sure they get what was ordered, and the costs go up even more.

There is plenty of blame to go around, as to why the gov't is so inefficient.

But every time you use a traffic light, do you feel like a member of a welfare state? Didn't other people who will never use it help pay for YOUR light?

 
At 4/12/2010 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A sure indication that this is typical collectivist bullshit is the number of times the author uses some form of the 1st person plural "WE".

Pardon me. I spoke without realizing that you had not yet learned that many people will not or can not save for their retirement unless forced to.

Income from my private savings will far exceed my social security income. I would have been better off if my social security funds had been in my private accounts.

But not by very much because my social security income will be a pittance in comparison. For me, its not a big issue.

But I'm not crazy enough to think that could ever be true generally, or that others would be as lucky (smart) as I have been.

I'm willing to put up with you and others being forced into "dependence" on the welfare state, just in case you don't retire with a few million in the bank.

 
At 4/12/2010 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a ridiculous assertion. A routine weekly or monthly contribution to a private account over 30 to 40 years would swamp the returns from Social Security.

Generally but not always.

How would youlike to save for 30 years and have your last payment fall in March of 2009? You could have had half of everything yous saved wiped out at that point.

 
At 4/12/2010 5:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again MARKET FORCES have been responsible, not government interference.

Right, and a primary market force is the government.

 
At 4/12/2010 6:08 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Anon @ 3:37

>"expect to start helping support those that do, through higher taxes."

>"Um. Wasn't I already doing that?

Not through higher income taxes; you can expect those to be higher as the treasury must begin replacing the money in the SS "trust fund" that has already been spent for other things.

Think of it as your 401k, and pretend that you have borrowed against it until there's nothing left. Now pretend you have to pay it back, or there's no retirement money for you.

Picture yourself getting a second job, or giving up lot's of things you now enjoy spending money on.

 
At 4/12/2010 6:47 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Anon @ 3:35

>"This should set Juandos into a case of apoplexy."

I can't speak for juandos, but I doubt that anyone here is much troubled by anything that moron Paul Krugman says. He constantly suggests breaking windows for the stimulus affect.

Say, Isn't he the guy who thinks that there was a silver lining in the dark cloud we know as Sept. 11, 2001? He thinks it's a good thing that a lot of work was created for construction companies in New York & Washington on that day.

Check his web site for more on that in his own words.

>"Free markets are “efficient” — which, in economics-speak as opposed to plain English, means that nobody can be made better off without making someone else worse off."

If this is actually a quote from Krugman, I'm surprised. I expect even a progressive idiot like him knows this zero-sum fallacy is incorrect.

 
At 4/12/2010 7:29 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

>"I started at 62 because I have a bad health history: I don't expect to see 73. Is that sponging off someone else or is it being responsible for how I run my own life?"

You are making a rational choice. If it's available to you, take it. Collecting Social Security is not sponging. It is supposed to be a retirement program, after all.

 
At 4/12/2010 7:58 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

>"I know you hate the idea that free markets can fail, but it is true."

Examples please. Keep in mind the operative word "free". This means unregulated by the state. Please don't say that free markets fail to take care of the poor.

>"I believe free markets are generally better, and that we can use market based regulation, even."

Then we agree, as long as the phrase "market based regulation" means to you that market forces regulate the market. I might also say "allow market based" instead of "use market based".

I didn't use the word ALWAYS in my previous comment, and I can't imagine when I would do so. I hope you aren't suggesting that I did.

 
At 4/12/2010 8:28 PM, Blogger OA said...

Anonymous said...
Generally but not always.

How would youlike to save for 30 years and have your last payment fall in March of 2009? You could have had half of everything yous saved wiped out at that point.



You can try to make up emotional scenarios, but it's all crap. You wouldn't have half of what you saved, you'd have half of what the value got to. But you would have been putting money into the account since 1979.

All those early dollars plus reinvested dividends would be many times higher than the original contribution. Even at "half" you'd have more than you put in. And half assumes the account was all in equities and not in bonds. Any bond holdings would have gone up.

Plus no one liquidates their retirement accounts the day they retire. People take it out over decades so they leave most of the money invested. Just a year on, that "half" is more like 7/8, and that retiree would still have a long investment horizon for most of that money.

I'll take market risk any day over the Ponzi scheme that is just about guaranteeing me a negative return.

 
At 4/12/2010 8:53 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

>"And for competitive bidding the government would set the standards for the traffic lights, right?

The government or whatever entity desired to have a traffic light built would set standards and specifications.

None of the problems you mention are unique to government, except that incentives to control costs seldom concern government entities, as thay are spending someone else's money.

As you say, there are plenty of causes of government inefficiencies. I thought that Davis-Bacon was more than enough to explain potential cost differences.

>"But every time you use a traffic light, do you feel like a member of a welfare state? Didn't other people who will never use it help pay for YOUR light?"

I'm not sure I understand this question in the context of our current conversation.

Like so many other things, it shouldn't be that way, but there it is. Only those who use the light should have to pay for it.

 
At 4/12/2010 9:39 PM, Anonymous morganovich said...

anon 514- (and can you guys please pick names? it makes it much easier to figure out to whom one is speaking)

even if you had 50% of your account wiped out, you'd still have more than 5 times what SS would give you if you had an all S+P allocation, so i don't buy that argument.

(30 year weighted save to spend period, 8% return = 10 x your investment)

further, you'd have made half the loss back last year if you just stayed in and have recouped 2/3 by now. it's not like you need to spend all the money in the first 18 months.

lastly, equity allocations ought to drop as you approach retirement anyhow. the bond market had a HUGE rally during the same period. that would have taken some sting out. given how little they have come off the highs, you could easily be up from jan 2008 if you were 70 bonds 30 equity as many urge those about to retire to be.

there's nothing difficult about this and even those substantially underperforming the market will still trounce SS.

ROIC for SS is negative, even before inflation. you need to be a pretty dismal bond investor not to beat that.

for those who are actually remotely good at investing, it's not hard to beat SS by 10% a year. (that's barely over historical equity returns BTW)

that leads to something like 17 times the payout to SS if we use a 30 year weighted save to sped period.

that's a pretty big deal.

even ending on a 50% loss, you'd still be uyp

 
At 4/12/2010 10:17 PM, Anonymous Lyle said...

It would be interesting to back out the disability and surviors benefits of Social Security as well as the non working spouse benefit to do an apples to apples comparison. For the disability using the AAPG rates the cost varies from $154 per year under 30 to 540 a year from 60-64. For term life per 25k increment the cost varies from 21/year in the thirties to 186 from 55 to 65. The survivors benefit could be modeled as an immediate annuity in the 200k region. (depending upon income) so one would need 8 such units. So we have for the 30is set 154/year for disability and 160 per year for term life, and from 55 on its 540 plus 1450 or so for term life. (Once again we see the leveling effect of no age rating on the SS system) So one should deduct about 320 to 2000 depending on age from the SS tax to cover these expenses.

 
At 4/12/2010 10:38 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

>"Pardon me. I spoke without realizing that you had not yet learned that many people will not or can not save for their retirement unless forced to."

Why are you concerned about that? Don't you think they are responsible for their own condition? You certainly have no responsibility for them.

>"Income from my private savings will far exceed my social security income..."

Good for you. Mine already does, but I wouldn't presume to tell other people how to manage their lives, or how to spend their money. I don't know how long until you retire, but it's not always easy to reach the admirable goal you have set for yourself. Things sometimes happen along the way.

>"But not by very much because my social security income will be a pittance in comparison. For me, its not a big issue."

Great! That's the spirit. It's good that there are such opportunities in this country, isn't it? Besides, the future of Social Security is kind of uncertain, so It's good not to depend on it.

>But I'm not crazy enough to think that could ever be true generally, or that others would be as lucky (smart) as I have been.

True enough. Not many can be as smart as you are. It's obvious from the way you talk, that you are really clever.

>"'m willing to put up with you and others being forced into "dependence" on the welfare state, just in case you don't retire with a few million in the bank."

If you are truly concerned about others, and I have no reason to believe you are, why aren't you in favor of forcing them into savings plan more like yours, rather than into a dud like social security? Then everyone could have a secure retirement.

At least, now you are using the first person singular instead of that all inclusive "we".

As I said before, the arrogance is breathtaking.

How old are you, anyway? If I had to guess from your tone, I would say you are fairly young. You probably haven't hit very many of those speed bumps in life that tend to give people better attitudes.

 
At 4/12/2010 11:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's obvious from the way you talk, that you are really clever.

Thank you.

 
At 4/12/2010 11:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If you are truly concerned about others, and I have no reason to believe you are, why aren't you in favor of forcing them into savings plan more like yours, rather than into a dud like social security? Then everyone could have a secure retirement.
"

I think they should have two, as I did. If you had a private plan aimed at March of 2009 you could have timed out and lost half of your life savings.

Social Security is a dud, but it is not a total loss, which is where you might be if you wound up over invested in Enron or
Adelphia or Madoff.

I could have done better without social security, but I got lucky. My other plan equally could have gone bust, or I could have been permanently disabled before I finished it.

We have social security for a reason. Sure, we could do the same thing with voluntary charities, but the same sanctimonius SOBs that cheer on the cause of individual responsibility woudl be he same ones that wouldn't contribute.

Read a little on the history of nursing homes and the like to see how our present system grew out of the efforts of early philanthropists who found the task was too big.

http://www.poorhousestory.com/WASHINGTON.htm

 
At 4/13/2010 12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's good that there are such opportunities in this country, isn't it?

Yes it is, but bald headed opportunities cut both ways. An opportunity can be an opportunity to fail as well as to succeed.

I succeeded, in part, because I was able to take risks that I might not have otherwise, knowing that the dud, low paying, less risky part was already covered by social security.

 
At 4/13/2010 12:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have US free trade agreements with other countries served any useful purpose

You ever shop in a WalMart?

 
At 4/13/2010 12:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"as someone quite capable of achieving returns well above market "

Well, gee, you must be smarter than the market. Maybe smarter than everyone else.

It sounds as if you are arguing that since you can beat the market, everyone should be able to beat the market, which of course is impossible.

Otherwise, if you are so much smarter than "the market" how is it that the market can do so many wonderful things for so many?

 
At 4/13/2010 12:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last projection was the trust fund was going to be depleted by 2037.


One reason I signed up as soon as possible. Use up SS first, and then turn to my personal savings.

 
At 4/13/2010 12:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That $170 billion that came due in 2009 probably rolled over at lower rates.

And you think the government can't do anything right.

 
At 4/13/2010 12:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are you concerned about that? Don't you think they are responsible for their own condition? You certainly have no responsibility for them.

As far as I'm concerned we can set them on the back porch and let thme freeze to death.

Whether I think they are responsible is irrelevant if the are incapable. Or trapped. How many truly poor people do you know?
How many escaped? How many did you help?

Some people do escape poverty. And some people beat the market. Just not everybody.

I don't have any responsibility for them, maybe, but even an animal will try to help another one injured or starving. Most societies honor and support their aging one way or another. Why is this one worse than the others? You think the other ways are not subject to the vagaries of demographicsor economics?

Even assuming they are not my responsibility, I'd rather pay to have them taken care of than be pestered by them or their fundraisers.

 
At 4/13/2010 12:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Picture yourself getting a second job, or giving up lot's of things you now enjoy spending money on.


Isn't that what you call personal responsibility? We have had decades to demand our legislators fix this. We didn't do it and now we have to pay the piper.

it is going to take lower benefits AND higher taxes.

Better get a second job. I had one most of my life.

 
At 4/13/2010 12:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would say you are fairly young.

I'm well over sixty. Old enough to know that speed bumps are no problem if you just take it easy, and smart enough to go around them.

I know something about personal self dependence, too. I've probably spent more consecutive days alone depending only my skills than many.

When big trouble hits, it is way overrated.

That is one reason we form those big bad capitalistic corporations: so the big boys cann look after each other.

 
At 4/13/2010 12:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So one should deduct about 320 to 2000 depending on age from the SS tax to cover these expenses.


Apples to apples those premiums include profit and SS doesn't.

I think you are suggesting too high a deduction to account for the insurance portion.

 
At 4/13/2010 12:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like so many other things, it shouldn't be that way, but there it is. Only those who use the light should have to pay for it.


I'm not willing to support an ideology that would accept that kind of transaction costs, just for the sake of purity.

That is shooting off your foot to spite your nose.

I think we would be better off not to worry about such trivial things and just try to make sure that what goes around comes around. My rights are equal and opposite to your liberty and vice versa.

 
At 4/13/2010 1:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

further, you'd have made half the loss back last year if you just stayed in and have recouped 2/3 by now. it's not like you need to spend all the money in the first 18 months.

Great. What if it was the last eighteen months. What if the social security debacle means that 2/3s is all you get back, and the rest is decimated by inflation?

What if you were in real estate instead of the market?

You would have to be a real dump truck to be that stupid, no?

There are a lot of dump trucks.

You come on a sinking vessel at sea you are obligated to help out.

On land we have social security, for what its worth.

 
At 4/13/2010 2:21 AM, Blogger randian said...

Pardon me. I spoke without realizing that you had not yet learned that many people will not or can not save for their retirement unless forced to.

I have no obligation to save you from your own improvidence. If you aren't willing to take care of your own future like an adult, don't come crying to me or any other adult.

 
At 4/13/2010 2:31 AM, Blogger randian said...

How would you like to save for 30 years and have your last payment fall in March of 2009? You could have had half of everything you saved wiped out at that point.

How would I like it? Since I'm rational, I'd be happy. Social Security's returns are negative before inflation, so I would still be better off. Besides, who said life was without risk? It's not your duty to mitigate my investment risk.

 
At 4/13/2010 2:45 AM, Blogger randian said...

Sure, we could do the same thing with voluntary charities, but the same sanctimonius SOBs that cheer on the cause of individual responsibility would be the same ones that wouldn't contribute.

The ability of liberals to project their own failures onto others knows no bounds. Conservatives give more to charity than liberals do, even though liberals are on average wealthier.

 
At 4/13/2010 2:53 AM, Blogger randian said...

My rights are equal and opposite to your liberty and vice versa.

You are mistaken. Any "right" that opposes my liberty isn't a right at all. If what you want requires that somebody else provide it to you by force, it isn't a right. I am not your slave and I will not be reduced to slavery by you.

 
At 4/13/2010 8:56 AM, Blogger juandos said...

anon @ 4/11/2010 1:36 PM says: "Anonymous is correct on the actuarial costs"...

Says which credible source and the SS people are NOT credible?

"However capitalists would love to see social security privatized, but the collapse of the market this year shows the dangers that exist there"...

I would've love to have seen the money extorted from me via the FICA/Ponzi scam in the market and my rate of return would've been much better...

Dangers in the market place? Oh yeah but how many of those dangers were brought on in whole or in part by stupid government people?

I'd rather take my chances in the market with the money I earn and not have it wasted on a series of socialist, nanny state failures...

 
At 4/13/2010 9:08 AM, Blogger juandos said...

anon @ 4/12/2010 8:50 AM says: "Everyone benefits from the welfare state, and the benefits they get are pretty closely related to what they eventually pay, except that since we are in a perennial state of deficit the evidence is that we are not paying enough for the benefits we get"...

On planet earth the welfare state has been proven to be an abysmal failure everywhere its tried...

The welfare state was a complete failure when FDR foisted it onto the citizens and its been a complete failure ever since...

 
At 4/13/2010 9:22 AM, Anonymous morganovich said...

anon 103-

i'm not really sure what to make of your ramblings. they don't make any sense.

when you retire, you don't need ALL your money right away.

so maybe you spend a 1/20th or 1/25th. that's all that the near term issue of the market affects. the other 95% is still there to appreciate.

further, you ignore the point that even if you had to take the whole 50% loss in the last year, you'd still have 4 times as much money as under SS.

if private investment is 4X better than SS even right after the worst debacle in a generation, then you prove my point for me.

i'm sure you can always paint some scenario where some poor guys messes up and has a bad retirement, but you know what, that's life. we'd all be much safer if highway speed limits were 15 MPH. it would save tens of thousands of lives a year. but would we as a nation be better off? are you willing to pay that price for safety?

what if we could save another 1000 lives by dropping it to 5mph?

that's what all your worst case scenarios boil down to.

the price of creating a world where bad outcomes don't occur is that you prevent all the good ones too.

any of us could die today in a 65 MPH crash, but 99% of us are OK with that as the price of getting around quickly. hell, most of us speed.

 
At 4/13/2010 9:24 AM, Anonymous morganovich said...

randian-

you say :

"You are mistaken. Any "right" that opposes my liberty isn't a right at all. If what you want requires that somebody else provide it to you by force, it isn't a right. I am not your slave and I will not be reduced to slavery by you."

that is absolutely dead on. well said.

 
At 4/13/2010 10:11 AM, Blogger juandos said...

anon @ 4/13/2010 1:03 AM says: "On land we have social security, for what its worth."...

Well its worth nothing but a collection of IOUs...

 
At 4/13/2010 12:32 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

>"I'm not willing to support an ideology that would accept that kind of transaction costs, just for the sake of purity."

You already do to some extent if you drive a car. Think of some of your gasoline tax going toward paying for that light. Those who don't drive, don't pay it. Consider toll roads and bridges, paid parking, and any other thing requiring a user fee. Those who DON'T use these things shouldn't have to pay for them.

Purity? What are you talking about?

That is shooting off your foot to spite your nose.

What? What could this possibly mean?

>"My rights are equal and opposite to your liberty and vice versa."

No, Mr. Socialist, you have rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as we all do. Add to that a right to your own property. None of those interfere in any way with my liberty, and aren't 'opposite' to it. Anything you claim beyond that isn't a "right" at all. Anything that forces someone else to do something isn't a "right".

You have no right to food, shelter, job, school, medical care...What else might you claim?

All those things ARE rights conferred by the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. How did that eventually work out for them?

 
At 4/13/2010 12:39 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"The ability of liberals to project their own failures onto others knows no bounds. Conservatives give more to charity than liberals do, even though liberals are on average wealthier."

Say, that raises an interesting question: If liberals are wealthier, why are THEY the ones who favor "spreading the wealth"? Could they be referring to OTHER people's money.

Hmmm...Something to ponder.

 
At 4/13/2010 2:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Economic activities that impose costs on other people should not always be banned, but they should be discouraged. And the right way to curb an activity, in most cases, is to put a price on it. to put a price on it implies that someone must own it and be able to sell it.

Therefore if conservatives rally around the liberalization of property rights, in the sense that we need more kinds of property rights for more kinds of property then they will be able to back into their goal of more market based solutions and have a rallying cry that any owner of any kind of property can understand.

This will give them far mor popular support than the kind of hateful negativism espoused by Juandos.

This approach requires nothing as far as abandoning present conservative touchstones: it is simple, universal and based on the constitution and solid values that anyone can undserstand.

 
At 4/13/2010 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you have rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as we all do. Add to that a right to your own property. None of those interfere in any way with my liberty,
"


Not true. You cannot have untrammeled liberty without eventually trampleing on my rights.

As Pigou put it, you don't have the unlimited rights to raise rabbits if they eat my flowers. And no, I don't have to stand gurad over my flowers to enforce my rights and protect them from your rabbits.

Your rights and your responsibilites are equal to my rights and my responsibilties. I expect to treat you the same as you would treat me.

There is nothing socialist in that.

 
At 4/13/2010 2:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Conservatives give more to charity than liberals do, even though liberals are on average wealthier."


That expalins a lot. I always thought that conservatives were wealthier.

Conservatives give more because they feel guilty over being fiscal conservatives and they hate liberals because they are more successful.

 
At 4/13/2010 3:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You have no right to food, shelter

you have rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, "


You are not only seriously deranged and confused, you have not the slightest inkling of the realities of life.

Not only that, but you espouse the same things liberals do: telling others what they can and cannot do.

I'd like to build a house. The liberals won't let me. You agree with them that I have no right to shelter.

I don't think I can support your views. I think they are internally conflicted.

How can you have the right to life without the right to food and shelter? They are kind of essential elements.

 
At 4/13/2010 3:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you have rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as we all do.

Yes we all do, therfore your rights and your liberty are limited by interference with mine.

You have what you have and Ihave what I have. We meet in a market place to make agreeable trades and those trades include some of your rights and some of mine.

 
At 4/13/2010 3:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any "right" that opposes my liberty isn't a right at all.

I disagree. Any Liberty that imposes on my pursuit of happiness is not free.

What you are doing is placing "your" liberty above all others including their right to life and the pursuit of happiness.

In doing so you are claiming a prior and superior right to liberty, that cannot be subverted by any other person or government.

You cannot calim a prior and superior right at the same time you claim all others have the same rights.

That isn't civilization or law, that is what wild animals do.

 
At 4/13/2010 3:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You already do to some extent if you drive a car.

So ninety eight percent of us own or use cars and nearly everyone else depends on them and supports them in some way.

Those that don't use traffic lights shouldn't have to pay for them.

Let it go. It is down in the noise. Those that don't use traffic lights do not have the right to impose even higher costs than they wish to avoid, on others, just to do the accounting necessary to see that they are not cheated.

I believe in markets for most everything, butr lets not get stupid about it.

 
At 4/13/2010 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the price of creating a world where bad outcomes don't occur is that you prevent all the good ones too."

Typical partisan extremist absolutism. Folly of the premise.
Doesn't wrok from the right OR the left.

We believe in businesses and corporations which are associations of people organized to do what one person cannot do, and to do so at a profit that can be shared.

We have nonprofit corporations that do the exact same thing, except they are nonprofit because all of it is distributed.

We create these organizations to do good things. They are able to do this because the value of their combined effort is greater than the value of their individual efforts.

But, apparently, conservatives refuse to believe that government can do the exact same things, or that when government does it the exact same things are to be emotionally labeled as socialist?

I once had a boss who would get mad and scream, "Come on guys, this is a business not a social exsperiment." And I used to laugh at him because of course it is a social experiment. How do you organize a group of people with no, or very few, bad results (injuries, deaths, quitting), and enough good results to come out ahead?

The losers (laborers, generally) have to be compensated enough so that they don;t come out behind, and everyone else still comes out ahead.

If you fail at that, your social experiment goes broke or gets bought. My boss didn't get it and he got bought out. It wasn;t hard to see coming.

 
At 4/13/2010 3:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it would save tens of thousands of lives a year. but would we as a nation be better off? are you willing to pay that price for safety?

I'm glad to see you are coming around to my vision of cost benefit analysis.

Suppose we had transponders where we could vote for the speed we want with dollars, and the central system was organized to select the speed that maximized revenue.

When the spped got too high and too congested and too scary more people would vote for lower speeds, and eventually you would get a consensus on desired speed.

By examining the accident rate you would KNOW what people are willing to pay for what element of risk.

Once you know that, you can use that risk value for other cost benefit analyses, and the liberals cannot say to you, hey, you can;t put a price on life, because you just did.

 
At 4/13/2010 4:26 PM, Blogger randian said...

Not true. You cannot have untrammeled liberty without eventually trampleing on my rights.

We don't include "damaging other people's property" as one of your liberties. Hence, I can in fact have untrammeled liberty without trampling on your rights.

 
At 4/13/2010 4:37 PM, Blogger randian said...

That expalins a lot. I always thought that conservatives were wealthier.

Why did you conclude that, when nearly all publicly known wealthy people are liberal? Gates, Buffet, Ellison, most any actor or rock star. Look at Congress and you will see a striking difference in wealth between the Republicans and the Democrats. The only conservative public-company CEOs I can think of off the top of my head are TJ Rogers, John Mackey, and John Allison.

 
At 4/13/2010 4:48 PM, Blogger randian said...

When the spped got too high and too congested and too scary more people would vote for lower speeds, and eventually you would get a consensus on desired speed.

The effort is hardly necessary. Just look at how fast people actually drive. You will see that they generally drive faster than the revenue enhancing speed (the posted limit), but very rarely drive very fast or very slow compared to prevailing traffic, even when there are no cops on the road. I would bet good money that accident rates wouldn't change at all if there were no traffic cops, and the cops only showed up for accidents and injuries. People are very good at self-policing.

 
At 4/13/2010 4:57 PM, Blogger randian said...

I'd like to build a house. The liberals won't let me. You agree with them that I have no right to shelter.

You are seriously confused. The liberal is telling you what you can do with your own property. The liberal holds that a lizard's life is more valuable than yours, that's why they won't let you build a house.

The conservative has no problem with you building a house, so long as you don't steal from others, either personally or by proxy, to build it.

In summary, the liberal says you have no right to shelter because they want to own your property without paying you for it. The conservative says you have no right to shelter because you only have the right to that which is yours. Only the misinformed think these are similar positions.

 
At 4/13/2010 5:01 PM, Blogger randian said...

But, apparently, conservatives refuse to believe that government can do the exact same things, or that when government does it the exact same things are to be emotionally labeled as socialist?

They should be labeled socialist, because they are. Socialism is no mere label, it is an evil creed. Millions have been sacrificed in its name.

Conservatives don't believe government can't do things. They believe government is generally the most expensive, least effective, and most liberty-destroying way to do them.

 
At 4/13/2010 5:03 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

>"As Pigou put it, you don't have the unlimited rights to raise rabbits if they eat my flowers. And no, I don't have to stand gurad over my flowers to enforce my rights and protect them from your rabbits."

You are absolutely right. If my rabbits eat your flowers I am interfering with YOUR property rights. The purpose of a court system is to remedy just that problem. You should be compensated for your loss at my expense.

In reality, If you complained to me about my rabbits I would probably fence them to be a good neighbor. I would expect the same respect for my property from you.

Good old Pigou. More social policy than economics. His solution, I suppose, would be to tax my rabbits, so you could somehow be compensated for your losses.

The trouble with Pigou is that his solutions to externalities require a benevolent central authority. Not something we often find.

Of course, Piqou is very popular with proponents of bigger government as the solution to every problem.

 
At 4/13/2010 5:16 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

>"...liberalization of property rights, in the sense that we need more kinds of property rights for more kinds of property..."

How many kinds of property rights can there be? If something is mine, it is mine. If something is yours. it is yours. That something could be land, a house, a car, a hammer, a stone arrowhead, a paycheck, etc. I have a right to what is mine. You have a right to what is yours. That is the basis for any workable market system.

Maybe you could explain what you mean.

 
At 4/13/2010 6:31 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

>"I'd like to build a house. The liberals won't let me. You agree with them that I have no right to shelter."

You're the one who seems confused. You need to read my words slowly and carefully, and correctly understand their meaning.

You have, as we all do, a right to life, liberty, and the PURSUIT of happiness. That means you have a right to PURSUE happiness. You do not have a RIGHT to happiness.

Likewise, I didn't say you couldn't build a house, I said you had no right to shelter. You may freely pursue shelter any way you wish (this is called liberty), as long as you don't interfere with other people's rights. You may build a house or a thousand houses if you wish, but you are not ENTITLED to a house. You cannot force someone else to provide you with a house. THAT would be a violation of THEIR rights. Do you understand that difference?

>"I don't think I can support your views. I think they are internally conflicted."

No conflict here, just misunderstanding on your part.

>"How can you have the right to life without the right to food and shelter? They are kind of essential elements."

You are playing with me, right? Are you a dependent child? If so I can understand your muddled thinking. All things will seem to be rights, as they come to you with no effort on your part.

As before, you have a right to your life. It can't be taken from you arbitrarily. It is up to YOU to pursue food and shelter to maintain your life. You may do this in any way you wish (liberty again), as long as it doesn't interfere with the rights of others. If you had a RIGHT to food and shelter and a good paying job, someone would be FORCED to provide it for you. Do you see the difference here too? I have not forbidden you to build a house, or eat food, or play with your WII. I have just not provided them FOR you, and I shouldn't be FORCED to do so.

Why do you seem to be unfamiliar with the words Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness? They are from the preamble to the US Declaration of Independence. I would recommend that you read the whole preamble, and understand the words in context. They are some of the most powerful words you are likely to ever read, and are well worth your time. Get someone to help you if you have trouble understanding it.

 
At 4/13/2010 6:49 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

>"Yes we all do, therfore your rights and your liberty are limited by interference with mine."

Absolutely! We agree on that 100%.

You have what you have and Ihave what I have. We meet in a market place to make agreeable trades and those trades include some of your rights and some of mine.

Hmm... That doesn't make sense. As we all have the same rights, how can we trade any rights? Do you mean liberties? Do you mean freedom? What exactly?

 
At 4/13/2010 8:24 PM, Blogger randian said...

As we all have the same rights, how can we trade any rights?

Is this a serious question? You never trade your general right to own property, you trade your rights in specific property.

For example, you own a house. You have rights to that house (occupancy, quiet enjoyment, economic appreciation, income, etc), I don't. I then sign a lease with you. You give your right to occupancy and quiet enjoyment of that house to me, in exchange for money. Viola, rights have been exchanged! You could sign over title to me and I would acquire the entire bundle of rights associated with that house, while you would lose them. You can slice and dice title by time (life estate, remainder estate, estate for years). You can give me an exclusive option to buy your house, and in so doing giving up your right to sell as you will. Indeed, the bundle of rights need not all be held by the same person. The rights to income, appreciation, depreciation, occupancy, minerals, air rights, free passage, etc can all be owned by different people.

 
At 4/13/2010 9:49 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

>"Is this a serious question? You never trade your general right to own property, you trade your rights in specific property."

You are correct, of course. I guess I was thinking in more general terms like the rights to life, liberty, and etc. I'm exhausted from fighting off ignorance and socialism.

 
At 4/13/2010 10:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Randian gets it.

There are all knds of property rights, and we need to have a lot more kinds.

All protected by the idea that property cannot be taken for public use without compensation.

And all tradeable on various kinds of markets. Pollution rights, sequesration rights, rights to certain income, waer rights, mineral rights, hunting rights, etc etc etc etc.

If property rights are fully protected, and recorded if necessary, then pretty near any kind of liberty is protected, without imposing on someone else.

Lawsuits sre greatly diminished because there are published current prices on most anything that is now disputed.

"The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the law of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence."

John Adams

"If a majority are capable of preferring their own private interest, or that of their families, counties, and party, to that of the nation collectively, some provision must be made in the constitution, in favor of justice, to compel all to respect the common right, the public good, the universal law, in preference to all private and partial considerations... And that the desires of the majority of the people are often for injustice and inhumanity against the minority, is demonstrated by every page of history... To remedy the dangers attendant upon the arbitrary use of power, checks, however multiplied, will scarcely avail without an explicit admission some limitation of the right of the majority to excercise sovereign authority over the individual citizen... In popular governments [democracies], minorities [individuals] constantly run much greater risk of suffering from arbitrary power than in absolute monarchies..."

John Adams

 
At 4/13/2010 10:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As before, you have a right to your life. It can't be taken from you arbitrarily. It is up to YOU to pursue food and shelter to maintain your life. "

But I cannot maintain food and shelter, if as you claim, I have no right to it.

Suppose that you own all the food. If you have the right to keep all of it to yourself, then you have taken my life, which you claim I have an equal right to as you.

 
At 4/13/2010 10:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why do you seem to be unfamiliar with the words Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness? They are from the preamble to the US Declaration of Independence."

Why are you so preoccupied with your own preconceived notions that a new idea is as foreign too you as mars?

My philosophy is based Primarily on the Preamble, with the idea that all the rest is just an explanation of how the preamble might be carried out.

I do not think that the constitution should be dissected to words and phrases interpreted literally, but accepted as a whole, the idea of which is to succeed at the preamble.

However, since property is so important to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness I do take particular interest in the part about compensation for property taken for public use.

Government has the right to take proerty to support the general welfare (I know you think that is socialist) but it must compensate you for it. As John Adams said: "...some provision must be made in the constitution, in favor of justice, to compel all to respect the common right, the public good, the universal law, in preference to all private and partial considerations..."

That way, you cannot complain that government is stealing from you, unless the compensation is grossly inadequate. Unfortunately we have let this part of the constitution get away from us, so that compensation is freuently arbitrary and inadequate.

There ae horror stories like the Texas man who was gong to a farm euipment show in Oklahoma. He had a large amount of cash with him in case he wanted to buy a used tractor. He was stopped on the highway, the cash was found in his car and confiscated under drug trafficking or RICO law, and last I heard he was still trying to get it back.

That is the kind of anarchy that John Adams was talking about and that is something we need to fix. But simply demanding unlimited liberty for everyone is another kind of anarchy.

So the provision we have in the constitution is that the government can take your property [in order to compel respect for the ecommon right (to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness)], but it must compensate you in doing so.

There is nothing socialist or liberal in that positin and it is based only on the most basic parts of the constitution.

In fact, if we work only to support these most simple ideas we have a conservative basis that is nearly unassailable. And it is one that effectively combats socialism (taking property to share without compensation) without giving up the (rare) possibility that the government might be able to do some good without making anyone worse off.

It does not require screaming at the other side, hurling epithets, or presenting a surly face of constant anger.

 
At 4/13/2010 10:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If you had a RIGHT to food and shelter and a good paying job, someone would be FORCED to provide it for you."

But under the constitution if your property (food or shelter) is taken from you for public use (prevention of public starvation) then you must be compensated.

Yes, force is still involved and your liberty is not absolute. It cannot be, if liberty itself is shared equally.

 
At 4/13/2010 11:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't say you couldn't build a house, I said you had no right to shelter. You may freely pursue shelter any way you wish (this is called liberty), as long as you don't interfere with other people's rights.

Well, I would like to build a house and I cannot. I am prohibited by liberals who think they have the right to control what i do on my land because they have gnned up some far fetched reasoning by which they figure my construction interfers with their rights.

They are afraid that their property will be confiscated via taxes in order to pay for public services to my new home.

The liberals re using your argument to prevent me from "stealing from them".

I think yur argument is wrong and I think they are wrong in adopting it.

But my argument is internally consistent. If they don't want me to build on my property (they say I have no right) then they can buy my property and hold it vacant at their expense.

Or, if they want to prevent me from building they can take that right from me, but they owe me compensation for holding my land vacant for public use (minimizing the county budget).

By their argument I save them $2700 a year for each house I don't build. (At one time I had developmnet rights for roughly fifty homes, and now I have none.)

So my position is that they are effectively borrowing that savings from me at my expense. If they just paid me 5% interest on what they claim I'm saving them, I'd figure that was a fair deal. In any case, getting that savings from me is euivalent to taking my property for public use and they owe me compensation.

They can still get waht they want, but they cannt get it for free.

And the only reason they can do it now, is that they outnumber me, by a large margin.

As adams ssid "...the desires of the majority of the people are often for injustice and inhumanity against the minority,"

I think my position is more internally consistent than yours, because yours depends on a claim of superior and primary right to "liberty" which necessarily undermines every other persons rights.

 
At 4/13/2010 11:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In summary, the liberal says you have no right to shelter because they want to own your property without paying you for it."

Randian is correct in the first part, but wrong in the second part.

"We don't include "damaging other people's property" as one of your liberties. Hence, I can in fact have untrammeled liberty without trampling on your rights."

Here you make the same mistake as Juandos, beause this statement requires that you assert a prior and superior right: you already have property which is protected.

In my case it is the liberals who claim I may not build a house because it damages their proerty.

But by the same token their denial dmages my property. they "win" because they are taking your position which claims a prior right.

But, they have publicly stated that their damaged prevented is worth $2700 a year. Until recently at least, it wold be pretty easy to show that my opportunity loss on any reasonable house is grater than that amount.

They are denying me a big liberty by claiming defence of their (small) property.

But regardless what the reasoning is, it could be resolved by requiring compensation for what they have taken (I had zoning and now I don't and so the property is worth much less).

In a similar vein, another porperty was once purchased with zoning for theree homes. By virtue of the "public interest" in preventng "excess runoff" the set back requirements were changed, and so now the land purchased for the opportunity of three dwellings is now reduced to one, simply becasue of the sape of the lot.

AT considerable expense, the owner bought two slivers of land from his neigbors, in such a way that they still met the setback reauirements. The end result is that the same number of homes were built as originally allowed, and the space between the homes is the same as before.

So here is a situation in which it can be shown that the original "public interest" was bogus, and of no value. Yet impostion of this rule cost the owner of the lot $240,000 which wnt into th epockets of his neighbors and the surveyors.

In other areas the ne set backs did achieve its real goal: preventing new houses on the supposition that new houses steal from existing owners by requiring more public services.

If that was the true case, then, those public services should simply have a price on them and be sold on demand.

But of course it isn't the true case. What is actually gong on is just as Randian stated: the liberals want to control property without having to buy it.

But, as soon as they make the claim that (whatever policy to achive this) is for a public purpose or benefit, then the losses due to that policy must be compensated.

That does not mean that they cannot still get their desired policy, but now they are gong to have to convince themselves that the runoff prevention is worth the cost of compensation.

They are going to have to come up with a real cost and benefit nalysis.

Liberty for everyone is equally protected by putting a price on it.

 
At 4/14/2010 12:53 AM, Blogger randian said...

But my argument is internally consistent. If they don't want me to build on my property (they say I have no right) then they can buy my property and hold it vacant at their expense.

But that's the whole point of the liberal kleptocratic state: to give others de facto ownership of your land without paying for it. If, for example, somebody wanted to preserve their lake view they should do exacty what you say. But they're greedy, and want something for nothing. If helping your neighbor further erodes property rights, Progressives will be right there to help them, because property rights interfere with the establishment of the Progressive state.

 
At 4/14/2010 1:03 AM, Blogger randian said...

Here you make the same mistake as Juandos, beause this statement requires that you assert a prior and superior right: you already have property which is protected.

I have made no mistake. Your error is in believing that liberals have a sound conception of rights. They do not, that's why you are confused when applying their rights analysis.

In my case it is the liberals who claim I may not build a house because it damages their property

They're lying. If you extend services to your lot, which of course you should pay for, it doesn't cost them anything. If it's a view they want, tough noogies. It's your property, and your right to build a house on it is superior to their right to a view through it. Why? Because it isn't their property.

 
At 4/14/2010 10:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They're lying. If you extend services to your lot, which of course you should pay for, it doesn't cost them anything.

I agree with you that they are lying. What they really want is conservation of my property, which they don't want to pay for.

However, they have published the calculations which show that every new (average) home built costs the county $2700 more in services than it pays in taxes, as part of the county budget process. By their caluclation only homes in the $800,000 range pay enough to cover thier own services. The numbers are published and support their contention.

I would argue that if this is the case, then they need to raise taxes, or cut services. I would also argue that this is done on purpose so that they can argue in favor of homes only for people in their class.

But even beyond county services we know from market surveys that homes adjacent or near to open space are more valuable than homes adjacent to say, strip malls and gas stations. At some point it is possible that what someone does on their property costs you money, and therefor e they do not have infinite right to express their liberty.

These people then argue that by building anything on my property it decreases their value and therefore amounts stealing from them. (You and I know this is bogus, but that is the argument, and sometimes it has merit.)

I would gladly offer to pay them the $2700 per year, for their "losses" but the answer is still no. So what this amounts to is a claim of superior property right in which their $2700 is worth more than my $2700.

But it seems to me that you are on the right track. As long as I pay for the losses, they have no losses to claim and our rights are equal. And equally if they wish to claim new rights they should expect to pay for them. Under those terms they will only demand new social policies if they are certain that the net benefits recieved exceed the costs of compenssation.

This cost benefit analysis assures them that they only get the very best socila policies and the get them at the lowest price. Therefore strong proeprty rights actually help progressives. Conservation easements depend on storn proerty rights. When the Burt's Bee's Magnate bought 20,000 acres in Maine she kicked out all the outfitters that had leases to use her property and declared it a pure wildilife preserve. "It's my p[roperty and I can do what I like with it," she said.

Conservatives have been selling this all wrong.The conservative sales pitch on proerty rights is that not having them carfully defined and fully protected is wasteful of resources, unethical, and certainly not green.

So the first step is, rather than dissing cost benefit analysies, we should be promoting the very best ones possible untilw we can prve that people protected by B are costing us twice as much as people protected by A.

You protect liberty by putting an accurate price on it that is equal for everyone. They didn't call it the liberty dollar for nothing.

 
At 4/14/2010 1:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yeah.

The liberals in question were all elected on a Republican ticket.

 
At 4/14/2010 9:56 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

>"The liberals in question were all elected on a Republican ticket."

I'm not surprised. It's really hard to tell the difference these days.

 
At 4/15/2010 8:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is why I am anti partisan.

 

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