Monday, April 18, 2011

Atlas Shrugged

Went with my girlfriend to see the movie this weekend and I didn't think it would be very good, but like Star Wars, I had to see it. Anyway, it wasn't as bad as the critics said, but it wasn't very good either. The book the movie is based on is nothing more than a thin veil of Ayn Rand's philosophy, and unfortunately it doesn't come across as a very entertaining, nor comprehensible movie.

What the movie needed was a major rewrite. For G-ds sake, make the characters act and speak like human beings! Also, it might be blasphemy, but temper the philosophy to its essential and universally appreciated points. Maybe it wouldn't be "Atlas Shrugged" to the faithful, but so what? If people want the undiluted version of the book, read the book!

Most people, including myself, find the appeal of Ayn Rand in her unrelenting celebration of the individual. That Man doesn't exist for other men, but for himself. She believed that the philosophy of altruism/collectivism, where man is viewed as a sacrificial animal to others/society, is abhorrent.

I don't ascribe to Objectivism, and I am certain that the adherents of Objectivism would castigate those like me. But the reality is that there are tons of us out there who implicitly understand and celebrate, the message that individual achievement is moral and admirable for its own sake. Capitalism is moral, not because it's "Dog eat dog", but because it is the manifestation that what you produce is your achievement, and that others placing a claim on your life is immoral.

That's what inspires me about Atlas Shrugged, and I think that's what inspires others too. It isn't some philosophically consistent diatribe, but universal themes of individual achievement, freedom, and morality. One day, that will make a great movie.

Friday, April 15, 2011


"If you like your medical care, you can keep it."

As Neo correctly deciphered, the issue is choice. Obama-care passed because despite its obvious awfulness, it offered the false choice that nothing had to change. Why don't conservatives learn this lesson?

It's amazing listening to the Left and their attacks against completely reasonable proposals regarding health care. The proposal: instead of receiving government insurance, give people money to buy their own insurance. Sounds radical, right? No, but what's radical is the insinuation that conservatives want to destroy Medicare, rob old people, and give their money to millionaires and billionaires (who ironically happen to be quite old).

The logic behind the proposal is that by giving people money, they become conscientious consumers. You would be employing millions of people to act as fiscal watch dogs over health insurance companies. Right now, no one has any incentive to restrain their health care consumption because they don't pay for it. Like it or not, the logic is compelling and just makes common sense.

Of course there are people who disagree, so how can we sell this "experiment" and see if it actually works? Liberals, for all their open mindedness, will not allow the experiment to be run. So we have to get people on board by letting them keep what they have, and allowing them to try our proposal. If you like Medicare, you can keep it. But ours might be a better deal and the choice is yours.

Choice is always a political winner, which is why Obama so disingenuously employed it. We don't have to lie; we offer choice and that's how we should sell our ideas to the American people.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Align incentives

The best way to restrain government is to impose the cost of government on as many people as possible. Why? Because regardless of the cost, everybody's vote counts equally and who wouldn't vote for something they don't have to pay for?

Now the reality is that we could always ask the rich to pay more. After all, it's only fair because they have all the money. The issue however isn't fairness, but efficiency, and taking money from the rich makes us all poorer. Even if you are a huge proponent of redistribution, it doesn't make sense to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Here's my proposal: redistribute first, and then tax every single tax payer at the same flat rate. The rich will pay more because they have much more money, but the poor will also pay because you gave them money to pay taxes with. This means that they are more likely to resist future tax increases because they have skin in the game, and this will in turn limit the size and scope of government.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rich Pay More, DUH!

While not a fan of the "rich don't pay their fair share" camp, I find it slightly disingenuous for my side to argue that the rich pay too much. One statistic bandied about is how the top 1% of income earners contribute nearly 40% of federal income taxes and how the top 50% pay almost all federal income taxes. Well, color me stupid, but so what.

Let's say Rich Guy III makes $1,000,000 and Poor Joe makes $10,000 and they both pay 10% of their income in taxes. Well, even though the individual percentage is the same, Rich Guy III will pay $100,000 vs. $1,000, or 100 times the amount in taxes. As a fraction of the tax pie, Rich Guy III pays about 99%.

The Right seems to think that because these percentages are so skewed in favor of the rich that it will elicit sympathy. Wrong, it simply points out that these people are rich and furthers resentment from those who don't make lots of money.

The issue with taxes is not how high they are, but how they incentivize behavior. Rich and poor alike work and invest to make money, not to pay taxes. At some point, high tax rates act as a disincentive to produce. That's a bad thing. Taxes are a means to generate revenue, and revenue consists not only of what you get today, but what you get tomorrow as well.

The winning argument for conservatives is that taxes are too high because they generate lower total revenue. Not that the "rich" pay too much. The reality is that most Americans are envious and resentful of the "rich". To win, we must acknowledge that and adapt.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What do they want from us?

Lately, politics has gotten me despondent, and I am coming to the conclusion that the Left is insane. I am trying to come up with an argument on how to limit taxes on the "rich" and I haven't a clue.

Every day I hear from a Left winger that the "rich" don't pay enough. FINE. Then what would be enough? What would it take for you to leave them alone? Name a freakin number already!

Years ago I had the same thought with regard to education. How much is enough? The problem, we are told over and over again, is money. That's a solvable problem. Hire more teachers, pay them more, do whatever it takes and get it done. Yet spending has gone up significantly, while results have not. Where is the humility? Where is the admission that your hypothesis was invalid?

Saying the "rich" don't pay enough implies that you have a figure in mind. It means that there is a ransom for which you'll release your captive. Yet, I have a sinking feeling that no ransom will ever be enough. The life of the "rich" will always hang in the balance, at the whim of so called social (un)justice.

Taken to the logical conclusion we can either be hopeful or fearful. If there is a definite number, then one day we will reach it. But, if that number doesn't exist, then one has to wonder what the Left actually wants? If it's not money, it's...