Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Walter Williams explains why capitalism is moral in 5 minutes

Who is Walter Williams?

Dr. Walter E. Williams holds a B.A. in economics from California State University, Los Angeles, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in economics from UCLA. He has served on the faculty of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics, since 1980.

Williams was born into an African-American family. His family during childhood consisted of himself, his mother, and his sister. His father played no role in raising either child. He grew up in Philadelphia. The family initially lived in West Philadelphia, moving to North Philadelphia and the Richard Allen housing projects when Williams was ten. In 1959 he was drafted into the military, and served as a Private in the United States Army. Following his military service, he re-entered college as a far more motivated student.

While at UCLA, Thomas Sowell arrived on campus in 1969 as a visiting professor. Though he never took a class from Dr. Sowell, the two met and began a friendship that has lasted to this day.

Watch this 5-minute video where he explains why capitalism is more moral than socialism:

And here’s another 5-minute video where he explains the profit motive:

Now let’s consider another economist, Thomas Sowell:

Thomas Sowell (born June 30, 1930) is an American economist, social theorist, political philosopher, and author. A National Humanities Medal winner, he advocates laissez-faire economics and writes from a conservative and libertarian perspective. He is currently the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is considered a leading representative of the Chicago school of economics.

Sowell was born in North Carolina, but grew up in Harlem, New York. He dropped out of high school, and served in the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War. He received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1958 and a master’s degree from Columbia University in 1959. In 1968, he earned his doctorate degree in Economics from the University of Chicago.

Sowell has served on the faculties of several universities, including Cornell University and University of California, Los Angeles, and worked for think tanks such as the Urban Institute. Since 1980 he has worked at the Hoover Institution. He is the author of more than 30 books.

Here is a 33-minute interview with Thomas Sowell on basic economics:

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about Christians who focus on only one issue during elections, typically abortion. I consider this to be a weak and short-sighted approach. Even if the main goal you desire is to stop the murder of unborn babies, you would do well to consider your opponent and use every tool available to defeat them in elections. Our opponent on the abortion issue is the Democrat voter. A Democrat is a person who is liberal on social policy – who supports abortion and gay marriage. If you want to defeat the Democrat candidate in an election, then you need to appeal to as many voters as possible on as many issues as possible – not just on social policy. You need to defeat Democrat fiscal policy with arguments and evidence. You need to defeat Democrat foreign policy with arguments and evidence. If you engage every target using every argument and every piece of evidence, you will get more success and win the battle for public opinion.

Let’s face it. We are not going to win elections if we turn only to people who call themselves Christians and try to get them to vote pro-life. There are not enough Christians – and not every person who calls himself a Christians is one. Focusing only on Christians is not going to get the pro-life majority we are looking for. It may be easier to avoid confronting people outside of our church, but it won’t work. A much better idea is to use every argument against every person – Christian or not. And to be able to address objections on every issue – not just one social issue. If the voters don’t care about one issue, then you can argue on another issue. You must be all things to all people so that you can win some by knowing what to say when they ask you for reasons and evidence. Now where have I heard that before?

Here is a full audio course on economics from famous Christian philosopher Ron Nash which I recommend to those who have not yet learned to integrate their Christian faith with economics. His two favorite economists are Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell – he says so in the lectures. In fact, he actually quotes a lot of Walter Williams material from his public lectures on economics, and Thomas Sowell material from his books on economics.

Note: for those who want MP3s of the Thomas Sowell lecture I posted above, here they are:

These are low-quality so they could be smaller for downloading.

Filed under: Videos, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rising student debt will impact future housing demand

Bad news for homeowners from the California Association of REALTORS. (H/T Captain Capitalism)

Excerpt:

At May’s midyear legislative meetings held by the National Association of Realtors in Washington, DC, a panel of experts in a session titled “Shifting Demographics and Housing Choice: A Whole New World?” discussed future housing market demand and trends to keep in mind as we think about the future of housing in the U.S.

The biggest takeaway was that baby boomers will increasingly contribute to housing supply as they age, yet echo boomers are in a difficult position to absorb the inventory. The echo boomers, also called Millennials, are those currently ages 17 to 31, and account for 62 million people. And although future housing demand highly dependents on different rates of household formation among Echo Boomers, this generation is in a precarious position.

In addition to having seen the worst housing downturn, these younger buyers have been hit hard by the recession. Faced with an uncertain job market, no real income growth, tighter mortgage lending rules, and mounting student and credit card debt, it is no surprise that some of them do not put priority on homeownership.

The concern over student debt is particularly alarming. According to a number of recent research studies, college seniors who graduated with student loans each owed an average of $25,250, up significantly from an average of $12,750 in 1996. Parents have accumulated student debt as well, $34,000 on average. The aggregate amount of student loan debt in the U.S. is over $1 trillion currently. The pace at which debt is mounting adds to the concern. Between March 31, of this year and 2011, student loan debt rose by $64 billion. However, over the same period, all other forms of household debt fell by $383 billion. Put another way, since the peak in household debt in the third quarter of 2008, student loan debt has increased by $293 billion, while other forms of debt fell by $1.53 trillion.

The rise in student debt is attributable to rising cost of education. Since 1978, the cost of tuition in the U.S. has increased more than 900 percent, 650 points above inflation. Between1990 and 2010 alone, tuition rose by 116 percent while the median household incomes inched a mere 2.1 percent.

The libertarian Cato Institute knows what the problem is (see my bold below) and they know how to fix it too.

Excerpt:

The real answer is for the federal government to get out of the higher education subsidy business altogether, as a Cato essay argues.

The following are some key points from the essay:

  • The effect of subsidy programs, in part, is to impose taxes on blue collar workers—who have not attended college—to pay for the tuition of future white-collar professionals. Why should the government subsidize future high earners at the expense of average working people?
  • Federal student aid programs transfer wealth from taxpayers to academic institutions. That’s because the rise in student subsidies over the decades appears to have fueled inflation in education costs. Tuition and other college costs have soared as subsidies have risen. College cost inflation induced by federal aid probably hurts low-income families—the people that federal aid was supposed to target—more than others.
  • Federal aid has probably helped increase student enrollment, but many of those additional students may not have been ready, or suited, for college. This is evidenced by the rising shares of college students who require remedial work, and the fact that institutions have lowered their standards to adapt to the rise in second-rate students.
  • Increasing top-down control and subsidization of higher education from Washington is creating a threat to the strength of the American system. As we have seen in K-12 education, the growth in federal subsidies is usually accompanied by calls for more oversight, micromanagement, and rising levels of red tape imposed by Washington.
  • Federal student loan and grant programs have been subject to waste and fraud for decades. The Pell grant program (which SAFRA would enlarge) costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars per year in fraud. Another ongoing problem is the high default rate on student loan programs.

Will the student debt problem be fixed through privatization? Not while Obama is in office. The universities are dominated by secular leftists – they are the ones who benefit from these rising tuition costs. Obama isn’t going to do a thing to stop them from getting your money through subsidies, otherwise he would lose lots of campaign donations!

In the meantime, the best policy is to make sure that you do your degree in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering or math). Non-STEM degrees, according to Captain Capitalism, are not recommended.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , ,

What is driving the middle class out of California?

Tom sent me this article from the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

Nearly four million more people have left the Golden State in the last two decades than have come from other states. This is a sharp reversal from the 1980s, when 100,000 more Americans were settling in California each year than were leaving. According to Mr. Kotkin, most of those leaving are between the ages of 5 and 14 or 34 to 45. In other words, young families.

The scruffy-looking urban studies professor at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., has been studying and writing on demographic and geographic trends for 30 years. Part of California’s dysfunction, he says, stems from state and local government restrictions on development. These policies have artificially limited housing supply and put a premium on real estate in coastal regions.

“Basically, if you don’t own a piece of Facebook or Google and you haven’t robbed a bank and don’t have rich parents, then your chances of being able to buy a house or raise a family in the Bay Area or in most of coastal California is pretty weak,” says Mr. Kotkin.

While many middle-class families have moved inland, those regions don’t have the same allure or amenities as the coast. People might as well move to Nevada or Texas, where housing and everything else is cheaper and there’s no income tax.

And things will only get worse in the coming years as Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and his green cadre implement their “smart growth” plans to cram the proletariat into high-density housing. “What I find reprehensible beyond belief is that the people pushing [high-density housing] themselves live in single-family homes and often drive very fancy cars, but want everyone else to live like my grandmother did in Brownsville in Brooklyn in the 1920s,” Mr. Kotkin declares.

[…]Meanwhile, taxes are harming the private economy. According to the Tax Foundation, California has the 48th-worst business tax climate. Its income tax is steeply progressive. Millionaires pay a top rate of 10.3%, the third-highest in the country. But middle-class workers—those who earn more than $48,000—pay a top rate of 9.3%, which is higher than what millionaires pay in 47 states.

And Democrats want to raise taxes even more. Mind you, the November ballot initiative that Mr. Brown is spearheading would primarily hit those whom Democrats call “millionaires” (i.e., people who make more than $250,000 a year). Some Republicans have warned that it will cause a millionaire march out of the state, but Mr. Kotkin says that “people who are at the very high end of the food chain, they’re still going to be in Napa. They’re still going to be in Silicon Valley. They’re still going to be in West L.A.”

That said, “It’s really going to hit the small business owners and the young family that’s trying to accumulate enough to raise a family, maybe send their kids to private school. It’ll kick them in the teeth.”

A worker in Wichita might not consider those earning $250,000 a year middle class, but “if you’re a guy working for a Silicon Valley company and you’re married and you’re thinking about having your first kid, and your family makes 250-k a year, you can’t buy a closet in the Bay Area,” Mr. Kotkin says. “But for 250-k a year, you can live pretty damn well in Salt Lake City. And you might be able to send your kids to public schools and own a three-bedroom, four-bath house.”

According to Mr. Kotkin, these upwardly mobile families are fleeing in droves. As a result, California is turning into a two-and-a-half-class society. On top are the “entrenched incumbents” who inherited their wealth or came to California early and made their money. Then there’s a shrunken middle class of public employees and, miles below, a permanent welfare class. As it stands today, about 40% of Californians don’t pay any income tax and a quarter are on Medicaid.

It’s “a very scary political dynamic,” he says. “One day somebody’s going to put on the ballot, let’s take every penny over $100,000 a year, and you’ll get it through because there’s no real restraint. What you’ve done by exempting people from paying taxes is that they feel no responsibility. That’s certainly a big part of it.

And the welfare recipients, he emphasizes, “aren’t leaving. Why would they? They get much better benefits in California or New York than if they go to Texas. In Texas the expectation is that people work.”

California used to be more like Texas—a jobs magnet. What happened? For one, says the demographer, Californians are now voting more based on social issues and less on fiscal ones than they did when Ronald Reagan was governor 40 years ago. Environmentalists are also more powerful than they used to be. And Mr. Brown facilitated the public-union takeover of the statehouse by allowing state workers to collectively bargain during his first stint as governor in 1977.

Mr. Kotkin also notes that demographic changes are playing a role. As progressive policies drive out moderate and conservative members of the middle class, California’s politics become even more left-wing. It’s a classic case of natural selection, and increasingly the only ones fit to survive in California are the very rich and those who rely on government spending. In a nutshell, “the state is run for the very rich, the very poor, and the public employees.”

Another Wall Street Journal article I just spotted talks about how states with low income taxes have much higher population growth rates than states with high income tax rates.

Excerpt:

Over the past decade, states without an income tax have seen 58% higher population growth than the national average, and more than double the growth of states with the highest income tax rates. Such interstate migration left Texas with four new congressional seats this year and spanked New York and Ohio with a loss of two seats each.

The transfer of economic power and political influence from high-tax states toward low-tax, right-to-work ones is one of America’s most momentous demographic changes in decades. Liberal utopias are losing the race for capital. The rich, the middle-class, the ambitious and others are leaving workers’ paradises such as Hartford, Buffalo and Providence for Jacksonville, San Antonio and Knoxville.

Illinois, Oregon and California are state practitioners of Obamanomics. All have passed soak-the-rich laws like the Buffett Rule (plus economically harmful regulations, like California’s cap-and-trade scheme), and all face big deficits because their economies continue to sink. Illinois has lost one resident every 10 minutes since hiking tax rates in January. California has 10.9% unemployment, having lost 4.8% of its jobs over the past decade.

Now these blue states may raise tax rates again. In California, a union-backed ballot initiative would raise the state’s highest tax rate to 13.3%. Union-funded groups in Illinois aren’t satisfied with last year’s income tax rate hike to 5% from 3%, so they now want to go as high as 11%. That would put them in the big leagues with California and New York. And in Oregon, lawmakers are considering raising the highest rate to 13% from 9.9%. In all of these states, proponents parrot Mr. Obama, insisting that the rich can afford it.

They can, but they can also afford to save hundreds of thousands or more each year by getting out of Dodge. Every time California, Illinois or New York raises taxes on millionaires, Florida, Texas and Tennessee see an influx of rich people who buy homes, start businesses and shop in the local economy.

Republican governors in Florida, Georgia, Idaho, North Dakota, South Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Wisconsin and even Michigan and New Jersey are cutting taxes to lure new businesses and jobs.

Asked why he wants to reduce the cost of doing business in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker replies: “I’ve never seen a store get more customers by raising its prices, but I’ve seen customers knock down the doors when they cut prices.”

Georgia, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma are now racing to become America’s 10th state without an income tax. All of them want what Texas has (almost half of all net new jobs in America over the last decade, for one thing).

This is important because voters need to understand that when you tax and regulate people, they don’t just sit there are take it. The same thing can happen at the national level if we pursue the same policies. People just move their money and businesses out, and eventually, themselves. If young people want to vote for socialists because of abortion, gay marriage and environmentalism, they may find themselves without jobs – without enough money to even support a family.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What economic policies do left-wing and right-wing economists agree on?

This article is from Harvard economist Greg Mankiw. (H/T Michael)

Excerpt:

Here is the list, together with the percentage of economists who agree:

  1. A ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available. (93%)
  2. Tariffs and import quotas usually reduce general economic welfare. (93%)
  3. Flexible and floating exchange rates offer an effective international monetary arrangement. (90%)
  4. Fiscal policy (e.g., tax cut and/or government expenditure increase) has a significant stimulative impact on a less than fully employed economy. (90%)
  5. The United States should not restrict employers from outsourcing work to foreign countries. (90%)
  6. The United States should eliminate agricultural subsidies. (85%)
  7. Local and state governments should eliminate subsidies to professional sports franchises. (85%)
  8. If the federal budget is to be balanced, it should be done over the business cycle rather than yearly. (85%)
  9. The gap between Social Security funds and expenditures will become unsustainably large within the next fifty years if current policies remain unchanged. (85%)
  10. Cash payments increase the welfare of recipients to a greater degree than do transfers-in-kind of equal cash value. (84%)
  11. A large federal budget deficit has an adverse effect on the economy. (83%)
  12. A minimum wage increases unemployment among young and unskilled workers. (79%)
  13. The government should restructure the welfare system along the lines of a “negative income tax.” (79%)
  14. Effluent taxes and marketable pollution permits represent a better approach to pollution control than imposition of pollution ceilings. (78%)

I wonder which political party believes in most or all of these positions?

Hmmmmn.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Let’s learn economics using videos from Thomas Sowell

ECM sent me these videos from the Uncommon Knowledge web site. Tom Sowell is the official economist of the Tea Party movement.

Part 1 of 5: (Housing Boom and Bust)

Part 2 of 5: (Quantitative Easing and Tax Cuts)

Part 3 of 5: (Health Care)

Part 4 of 5: (Trade, Trade Deficit, Protectionism, Tariffs)

Part 5 of 5: (The Federal Reserve, Bailouts, Keynes)

The fourth edition of his new book is out! Only $25 or less. (One of my readers bought it for me for Christmas, so please don’t buy me one!)

You can translate youtube videos into MP3 using the “vidtomp3″ web site. Or I could make them FOR YOU!

UPDATE: Within 5 minutes somebody asked me to make the MP3s for them. So here you go if you don’t like YouTube.

These are low-quality so they could be smaller.

UPDATE: Commenter Jim says:

Downloads of Sowell’s interview are also available in both audio MP3 and video M4V formats.

Filed under: Videos, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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