Another conversation with my brother

In case you missed it on the George Bush & Aids post, my brother and I had another exchange, in the course of which I formulate what I consider a truly conservative economic ideology:

He says: OK. I (“Dr. Veith’s” younger brother who is still and always will be a Democrat) hereby give George Bush credit for saving millions of lives as a result of his AIDS initiative. Hey, that felt kind of good!

Now for you conservatives, isn’t it about time to give President Obama credit for the bailout of General Motors?

I say: Jimmy (my brother) @3: Thank you for that concession. That was all I wanted. But what you want from conservatives shows that liberals do not understand the many different ideologies that they lump together under that label. Most people on this blog, I daresay, are suspicious of BOTH big government AND big business.

We do believe in free markets. To return to your earlier illustration, if doctors and pharmaceutical companies and everyone else in the health care professions could not make a lot of money from their work, we soon would be back to what you decried in the primitive health care endured by Adam Smith back in 1776.

However, the really big companies hate free markets. They don’t want competition that brings prices down and increases supply. This is the lesson of Monopoly, at which I beat you so many times, the object of which is not prosperity and abundance for everybody, but one person putting everybody else out of business and getting–with the state-run socialist bank–ALL of everyone’s money.

And even worse for us crunchy-conservatives or front-porch conservatives or social conservatives or whatever you want to call us than big government and big business is when both of those behemoths combine together into something that so gargantuan that it crowds out everybody! This is why we don’t like Obama’s bailout of the big banks and his merger with General Motors. This is also why we don’t like Obama’s health care system, which is a marriage of big government with the big insurance companies.

Then he says:

To my big brother,”Dr. Veith”. Thanks for reminding me how often you beat me at Monopoly.

I agree with much of what you said in your comments at #26. I agree that the individual can be harmed by both BIG government and BIG business. My question for you is how can we check the powers of BIG business?

Historically, it has been done in two ways, with unions and government. With the decline of unions, government is the principal way we can check the powers of big business. When conservatives reject any government role in a “free market system” as a mater of ideology, they are left with nothing to check the powers of big business.

I don’t think that a corporation should be allowed to make money any way it pleases. Corporations are fictional “persons” created under the law. Corporations exist to serve the people, we do not exist to serve the corporation. It is perfectly appropriate that the government that created corporations can and should regulate its activites. For example, the government should prohibit companies from selling dangerous products to the public, and should protect the safety of the company employees. I acknowledge that rules and regulations imposed by government on business can be too burdensome and heavy handed. So the rules and regulations imposed by government should be smart and pragmatic. But I think it is insane to reject the role of government in a modern free market economy on purely ideological grounds.

This is why I support Obama’s health care, because I think it is perfectly appropriate for government to prohibit insurance companies from denying people coverage for a pre-existing condition. Allowing insurance companies to only insure healthy people is a business model that does not benefit the public and is not sustainable in the long run.

Now I don’t want to start another debate on the wisdom or lack of wisdom of Obama’s health care. Time will tell. My point is that we should not reject the power of government to regulate the health care insurance industry as a matter of principal.

Does this make me a soci@list? I don’t think so.

I repost these exchanges because my brother is actually very perceptive, liberal though he is, and because they demonstrate the lesson I have been trying to impose on you all, that it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable, to remain one big happy family through it all, and that it is possible to use discussions consisting of different opinions to come to actual insights.

Anyway, who is with me in this suspicion of big government and big business and, especially, their marriage with their hideous spawn?

And can anyone answer Jimmy?  What can limit both big government and big business?

The bloodiest war since WWII

If Ben Affleck is right, a slaughter that approached Holocaust proportions happened, but hardly any of us noticed:

Ask many Americans to name the bloodiest war since World War II and chances are that most would not know the answer. If you told them it was in Africa, they might guess Rwanda or the ongoing conflict in Sudan. They’d be wrong.

By far, the deadliest conflict was in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1998 to 2003. Eight African nations participated in the fighting on Congolese soil, many hoping to seize control of its vast mineral wealth. Some 4 million Congolese died during the conflict and nearly another 1 million have died in the lawless aftermath from starvation, conflict and preventable disease. Tens of thousands of children were forced to become soldiers, and as many as two out of three women were victimized by rape and other forms of sexual violence.

This is still happening today.

via Ben Affleck – Ben Affleck: How the United States can help secure Congo.

George Bush & AIDS

Bush haters, will you at least give him credit for saving some 5 million lives in Africa, due to the AIDS initiative that he was responsible for?  Bono, at least, does.

In the past 10 years, HIV infections have dropped by 20 percent. Medical experts say the combination of new treatments and a greater focus on prevention has been a success story.

But, according to specialists in the field and AIDS activists alike, in sub-Saharan Africa — where efforts on raising awareness and relief is credited with saving 5 million lives — the game changer has come as a direct result of massive U.S. funding that began in 2003.

While support for the funding has been bipartisan, U2′s lead singer and world-renowned humanitarian Bono credits former President George W. Bush with leading the charge on the issue.

“Even people who are snide and snarky about the United States of America

have to admit that millions and millions of lives have been saved by American taxpayers,” Bono told Fox News’ Bret Baier during an interview with the lead singer and the former president taped at Bush’s Dallas, Texas, office.

via FoxNews.com – U.S. AIDS Funding Program Started Under Bush Credited With Saving Millions.

A typo with the force of law

A Virginia man sped by a stopped school bus, violating this law:

“A person is guilty of reckless driving who fails to stop, when approaching from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children.”

Read it carefully.  “Who fails to stop”a school bus?”  The law was supposed to read “who fails to stop at” a school bus.  The word “at” was inadvertently left out when the statute was published.

The man, who was pulled over by the police, took his case to court.  The judge admitted that the law, as written, does not forbid what he did, so he found the defendant “not guilty.”

The statute cannot be repaired until the state legislature comes back into session in January.  Until then, I guess, we Virginians can pass school buses unloading kids.   But we will also be guilty of reckless driving unless we stop buses that are stopped.  I’m not sure how to do that.

But this is another lesson that, as an English professor, I want to drive home:  GRAMMATICAL MISTAKES MATTER!

via 2 little letters acquit man who passed stopped school bus.

Monopoly vs. Settlers of Catan

Once again, this blog scoops the mainstream press.  You might remember a discussion of Monopoly vs. Settlers of Catan between my brother and tODD not too long ago.  Finally the Washington Post takes up these board games, only without the depth of analysis:

More than 275 million copies of Monopoly have been sold, remarkable for a game that’s not particularly well designed. I don’t mean the graphics (which are bold and appealing) or the components (which I remember being sturdier when I was a child, before everything was made in China), but the experience of playing. In Monopoly, much depends on luck; strategic decisions are limited; once someone has Boardwalk and Park Place, it’s hard to beat them; there’s little to keep you occupied when it’s not your turn; and you can keep playing for hours after it has become clear who’s going to win. A game of Monopoly can take three or four hours, and many players, especially adults, will be bored much of the time. Idleness may not have been an acute problem in 1935, but in 2010, it’s a fatal flaw. . . .

Settlers of Catan is the pinnacle of the German style. It is, like Monopoly, a multiplayer real-estate development game, in this case set on an island rich in natural resources to which players have limited access. You need ore to build a city, and if you can’t mine enough yourself, you can trade – but the wood you surrender in exchange may help your partner, or boost or thwart someone else. In Settlers, the trading – and the interconnected fates of the players – keeps everyone involved even when they aren’t rolling the dice; there are multiple ways to win; and players are often neck-and-neck until the very end. The game has been constructed to last an hour, 90 minutes tops. And each time you play, the board, which is made up of 19 hexagons, is assembled anew.

Thanks to the Internet, Settlers has spread from Stuttgart to Seoul to Silicon Valley, where it has become a necessary social skill among entrepreneurs and venture capitalists (one tech chief executive calls it “the new golf”). Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg reportedly plays it with his girlfriend. It is popular among programmers and college students, a set of forward-thinkers similar to those who played Monopoly years before Parker Brothers got in on the action.

via Like Monopoly in the Depression, Settlers of Catan is the board game of our time.

A new game for a new Depression!

Lessons from Ireland’s economic collapse

Ireland may have saved civilization at one time, but now Ireland may be pulling down the European economic system.  Robert Samuelson explains what is going on with the Irish economic collapse and the European bailout of yet another country in the Euro-zone:

That Ireland, after Greece, has come to grief is ironic. Until recently, it was admiringly dubbed the Celtic Tiger for emulating Asian countries in attracting foreign investment – Intel and others – and achieving rapid export-led growth. From 1987 to 2000, annual economic growth averaged 6.8 percent; unemployment fell from 16.9 percent to 4.3 percent. But then solid growth gave way to a housing boom and bubble whose collapse left Irish banks awash in bad loans.

One cause was easy credit occasioned by the euro. With its own currency, Ireland could regulate credit. If it seemed too loose, the Central Bank of Ireland could raise interest rates. Adopting the euro meant Ireland surrendered this power to the European Central Bank (ECB), which set one policy for all euro countries. The ECB’s rates, though perhaps correct for France and Germany, were too low for Ireland and some others. Moreover, financial markets pushed rates on government bonds of euro countries down to lower German levels. In 1995, Ireland’s rates were more than a percentage point higher than Germany’s; by 2000, they were almost identical. . . .

So now the reckoning. In Ireland, the burst housing bubble left a massive budget deficit and lifted unemployment to 14 percent. Most European economies suffer from the ill effects of some combination of easy money, unsustainable social spending and big budget deficits. Countries are interconnected, so there are spillover effects. European banks – led by British, German, French and Belgian banks – have $500 billion in loans and investments in Ireland, reports the Financial Times. Large losses could snowball into a broader banking crisis.

Europe’s challenge is no longer just economic. It’s also social and political. Cherished values and ideals are under assault. The euro, intended to nurture unity, has bred discord, as countries assign blame and argue over sharing costs. The social contract is being rewritten, with government benefits and protections being cut.

via Robert J. Samuelson – In Ireland’s debt crisis, an ominous reckoning for Europe.

A single currency set by a central authority, indifferent to individual country’s economy sounds like an experiment that didn’t work.  This is another kind of argument for federalist-style de-centralization.


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