Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Arthur Brooks: true fairness means rewarding merit, not spreading the wealth

Arthur Brooks is an economist, a Christian and the President of my third favorite think tank, the American Enterprise Institute. He has been making a push lately to convince conservatives to become more articulate when making the case for the free enterprise system. One of his major ideas is that happiness is not related to the amount of money you have, but it’s related to how well you can achieve your own prosperity and independence by your own labor. His research shows that people are happiest when they feel in control of their own prosperity, even if they have less wealthy than people who depend on the government to take money away from others so they don’t have to work.

Here’s an article he posted on AEI entitled “True fairness means rewarding merit, not spreading the wealth”.

Excerpt:

There are two main ways to define fairness: fairness in terms of opportunity, and fairness in terms of outcomes. The first means leveling the playing field, and the second means spreading the wealth around. The first means lifting people up on the basis of merit, and the second means bringing successful people down.

[...]In a 2005 Syracuse University poll, researchers asked a cross-section of Americans if they b14elieve that “everyone in American society has an opportunity to succeed, most do, or only some have this opportunity.” Some 71 percent of respondents said that all or most Americans can get ahead.

This is consistent with most of our experiences. It’s almost impossible to argue that American success is not earned. We can all think of times when our hard work has gotten us ahead or when we’ve been punished at work or in life for making poor decisions. Even if America’s not perfectly meritocratic, we all see how hard work pays off.

Now, of course, America is far from perfectly fair. But that‘s because life isn’t fair. For instance, all other things being equal, taller men and prettier women make higher salaries than their shorter, plainer counterparts. Believe it or not, there are studies that show these things (as if we needed them). More seriously, some people have substandard elementary education or childhood nutrition, which creates a lifelong disadvantage. Worse still, some children are born into families that don’t emphasize the values that beget opportunity: honesty, hard work, and education.

We need to address these inequities. Still, we shouldn’t abandon the idea of meritocratic fairness just because not everybody has completely equal opportunity. But this is what the president appears to be asking us to do.

America is built around the shared values and aspirations of mobility, opportunity, and merit. Even if only, say, half the outcomes in our life are due to merit, that’s still the half within our control. We should focus on increasing the role of merit, not dismiss the idea because it’s imperfect. Without a belief in meritocratic fairness, we have little incentive to work hard, be honest and optimistic, and create value in our lives and the lives of others. Fatalism and envy are simply not American values.

We need to make the case for the free enterprise system now, using moral arguments like this, otherwise we are going to find ourselves treading the path of countries like Greece, where almost no one works and almost everyone depends on the government to take care of them. It’s not sustainable.

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Marco Rubio’s finest speech yet… at the Reagan Forum

Greatness. He is everything that America has always been. (45 minutes)

Excerpt from the transcript: (scroll down)

And so, if defining the proper role of government was one of the central issues of the Reagan era, it remains that now. The truth is that people are going around saying that, well, we’re worried about – let me just add something to this because I think this is an important forum for candor.

I know that it is popular in my party to blame the president, the current president. But the truth is the only thing this president has done is accelerate policies that were already in place and were doomed to fail. All he is doing through his policies is making the day of reckoning come faster, but it was coming nonetheless.

What we have now is not sustainable. The role of government and the role that government plays now in America cannot be sustained the way it is. Now some are worried about how it has to change, we have to change it. The good news is it is going to change. It has to change. That’s not the issue.

The issue is not whether the role that government now plays in America will change. The question is how will it change. Will it change because we make the changes necessary? Or, will it change because our creditors force us to make these changes?

And over the next few moments I hope to advocate to you –- I don’t think that I have to given the make up of the crowd –- but I hope to advocate to you that, in fact, what we have before us is a golden opportunity afforded to few Americans.

We have the opportunity –- within our lifetime –- to actually craft a proper role for government in our nation that will allow us to come closer than any Americans have ever come to our collective vision of a nation where both prosperity and compassion exist side-by-side.

To do that, we must begin by embracing certain principles that are absolutely true. Number one: the free enterprise system does not create poverty. The free enterprise system does not leave people behind.

People are poor and people are left behind because they do not have access to the free enterprise system because something in their lives or in their community has denied them access to the free enterprise system. All over the world this truism is expressing itself every single day. Every nation on the Earth that embraces market economics and the free enterprise system is pulling millions of its people out of poverty. The free enterprise system creates prosperity, not denies it.

The second truism that we must understand is that poverty does not create our social problems, our social problems create our poverty. Let me give you an example. All across this country, at this very moment, there are children who are born into and are living with five strikes against them, already, through no fault of their own.

They’re born into substandard housing in dangerous neighborhoods, to broken families, being raised by their grandmothers because they never knew their father and their mom is either working two jobs to make ends meet or just not home. These kids are going to struggle to succeed unless something dramatic happens in their life.

These truisms are important because they lead the public policies that define the proper role of government. On the prosperity side, the number one objective of our economic policy, in fact the singular objective of our economic policy from a government perspective is simple — it’s growth. It’s not distribution of wealth; it’s not picking winners and losers.

The goal of our public policy should be growth. Growth in our economy, the creation of jobs and of opportunity, of equality of opportunity through our governmental policies.

And the most gripping part of the speech:

To me, this is extremely special, and I’ll tell you why. During the ’80s, politically especially, there were two people that deeply influenced me. One clearly was Ronald Reagan, the other was my grandfather, who lived with us most of the time in our home.

We lived part of our life, especially the key years, ’80-’84, in Las Vegas, Nev. And my grandfather loved to sit on the porch of our home and smoke cigars. He was Cuban. Three cigars a day, he lived to be 84. This is not an advertisement for cigar smoking, I’m just saying to you that …

He loved to talk about politics. My grandfather was born in 1899. He was born to an agricultural family in Cuba. He was stricken with polio when he was a very young man, he couldn’t work the fields, so they sent him to school. He was the only member of his family that could read. And because he could read, he got a job at the local cigar rolling factory.

They didn’t have radio or television, so they would hire someone to sit at the front of the cigar factory and read to the workers while they worked. So, the first thing he would read every day, of course, was the daily newspaper. Then he would read some novel to entertain them.

And then, when he was done reading things he actually went out and rolled the cigars because he needed the extra money. But through all of those years of reading, he became extremely knowledgeable about history, not to mention all the classics.

He loved to talk about history. My grandfather loved being Cuban. He loved being from Cuba. He never would have left Cuba if he didn’t have to. But he knew America was special. He knew that without America, Cuba would still be a Spanish colony. He knew that without America, the Nazis and Imperial Japan would have won World War II. When he was born in 1899 there weren’t even airplanes. By the time I was born, an American had walked on the surface of the moon.

And he knew something else. He knew that he had lost his country. And that the only thing from preventing other people in the world from losing theirs to communism was this country – this nation.

It is easy for us who are born here –- like me –- and so many of you, to take for granted how special and unique this place is. But when you come from somewhere else, when what you always knew and loved, you lost, you don’t have that luxury.

My grandfather didn’t know America was exceptional because he read about it in a book. He knew about it because he lived it and saw it with his eyes. That powerful lesson is the story of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. It’s our legacy as a people. And it’s who we have a chance to be again. And I think that’s important for all of us because being an American is not just a blessing, it’s a responsibility.

As we were commanded to do long ago, “Let your light shine before men” …

[PAUSE - he is overcome by emotion]

…“that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Well, as we gather here today in this place, that pays homage and tribute to the greatest American of the twentieth century, we are reminded that for him and for our nation, being a light to the world, that’s not just our common history, it remains our common destiny.

I cried at the part in bold above.

Here’s the verse he cited – Matthew 5:16 – in context: [NASB]

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;

15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

I notice that he cites the NASB, which is my favorite translation – the translation closest to the original Greek.

On my Facebook page, I have Matthew 5:13, which is the verse that comforts me when things look bad in my life – when my plans haven’t worked out the way I hoped they would. Things look bad for us right now as a nation. Maybe we need to reconsider these words.

This speech is being well-received everywhere. Permit me just one reaction from the UK Telegraph, which is still punch-drunk from socialism-induced rioting caused by the anti-marriage, anti-family, anti-father policies of the secular left Labour Party.

Excerpt:

Two of the brightest rising young stars in American conservatism today are Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio. Neither are running for president in 2012, but both will be strong contenders for the vice presidential running mate slot, whoever wins the Republican nomination. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ryan or Rubio eventually sitting in the Oval Office itself at some stage in the future. After all, Congressman Ryan of Wisconsin is only 41, and Senator Rubio of Florida is just 40; they have decades of public life ahead of them. They are both deeply principled politicians in the Reagan mould who grew up during the late Cold War years, and share a profound belief in American exceptionalism and the need for the United States to maintain its position as the world’s leading power.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Congressman’s Ryan’s superb speech on foreign policy to the Alexander Hamilton Society in Washington, remarks which outlined in stark terms the challenges the United States faces if it is to avoid decline. Ryan’s address, which I attended, was probably one of the most important statements by a US politician on American leadership this year.

Senator Rubio’s speech yesterday at the Reagan Presidential Library in the presence of Nancy Reagan, was another key address by a Member of Congress that deserves to be widely read, both at home and abroad. Like Ryan, Rubio offers a powerful rejection of the Big Government approach that has crippled America’s economy, and outlines a firm defence of the free market, championed by Ronald Reagan.

There is something very different and special about America. And Marco Rubio reminds us all what it is in this speech. A speech heard ’round the world! A reminder of our principles – of our role – and of our responsibility to the world.

On a side note, Marco Rubio also rescued Nancy Reagan from a fall by alertly grabbing her arm when she slipped.

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

A great article that explains what is at stake with “net neutrality”

From the American Spectator. (H/T ECM)

Excerpt:

Yet, without compelling reason, law or even politics on their side, on December 21, on a 3-2 party line vote, the FCC voted to impose its “net neutrality” rules on the Internet. What net neutrality means is that the government now has the power to decide how ISPs and broadband operators manage the access they provide to the Internet. It is as if the government decided to regulate how FedEx delivers its overnight mail, and what routes and what vehicles they use.

The FCC starts out by proclaiming that its net neutrality rules are just meant to ensure equal access by all to the Web. But as George Orwell showed us, that is how socialism started out too, until we later discovered that some were more equal than others. Once the founding principle is laid for government regulation and control, then that power can be used to regulate and control access to the Internet “in the public interest.” In English translation, that means in the special interest of the Ruling Class. There are precedents in China and Iran for how that has worked out in practice.

Dissenting FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell explained further in the Wall Street Journal on December 20 why the FCC’s net neutrality regulation makes no sense:

Nothing is broken and needs fixing, however. The Internet has been open and freedom-enhancing since it was spun off from a government research project in the early 1990s. Its nature as a diffuse and dynamic global network of networks defies top-down authority. Ample laws to protect consumers already exist. Furthermore, the Obama Justice Department and the European Commission both decided this year that net neutrality regulation was unnecessary and might deter investment in next-generation Internet technology and infrastructure.

But what I have learned in life is that when something doesn’t make sense, that means there is something else behind it that people are trying to hide.

And that is exactly what we have here. For what is behind the FCC’s net neutrality crusade is reflected by an organization calling itself Free Press. That is an Orwellian title in this case, because what Free Press is for is the opposite of a free press. Free Press is one of those pseudo-Marxist front groups that Barack Obama has always traveled with so easily throughout his life. It is a grown-up, slick, sophisticated version of those campus radicals who shout down college speakers with whom they don’t agree.

That is what Free Press is after with its “net neutrality” regulation. It is laying the groundwork for government control of the Internet. Once that it is established, it will be able to shout down websites with which it doesn’t agree, if not shut them out altogether.

The entering wedge for net neutrality so far is not public freedom to access and navigate the Internet, which no one can credibly claim is not currently as free as could be. The entering wedge for now is use of Internet access and broadband services by competing commercial concerns like Netflix and YouTube, which consume huge proportions of bandwidth that can consequently interfere with use by consumers and others.

The problem has not become unmanageable yet, but threatens to be. The concern is that broadband operators will limit use of their service by other commercial operations that are effectively bandwidth hogs, to preserve the viability of their service for the general public, which is exactly what they should do. The supposed purpose of net neutrality regulation so far is to prevent broadband operators from doing this.

The solution is for broadband operators to charge heavier commercial users of their service heavier fees to cover the costs. Those heavier fees can then be used to build even bigger and better broadband and Cyberspace access, sufficient to fully accommodate even the heaviest commercial broadband users.

But that [solution] doesn’t involve the expanded government power that Obama’s FCC and net neut advocates like Free Press are after. So it is not on the table as the answer. Government takeover is the only answer they will consider, just as in health care. But if the government is going to take control over the big investment bucks broadband providers put in the ground or into orbit, America is not going to get the Internet investment and access it needs. That is why America’s Internet access is already lagging behind other countries.

[...]This FCC episode raises a broader question about the Obama Administration in the next two years. Because what we see here is what we are already seeing elsewhere in the Administration as well, from HHS Secretary Sebelius’s takeover of health insurance, to the EPA’s takeover of the economy based on global warming fantasies. That broader question is: Are we going to be governed by democracy and the rule of law in America, or not?

Worth reading. I am trying to write about the problems in Obamacare and with the EPA raising energy costs on American consumers and businesses. But taking over the Internet could be an even bigger disaster if the government can prevent the truth about what they are doing from being reported.

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

Indian auto sales surge 71.9% while free trade vaults Chile into the first world

Map of India

Map of India

Before, I wrote about India’s election results and the decision of the ruling Congress Party to drastically cut income taxes. And I also wrote about China’s decision to cut taxes on purchases of new automobiles. So did those tax cuts work out for India and China?

Story from the Associated Press

Excerpt:

China extended its lead over the U.S. as the world’s biggest auto market in November, with production and sales both surpassing 1 million vehicles, and India saw sales jump 71.9-percent.

[...]China’s auto market is sizzling, thanks largely to tax cuts and subsidies aimed at supporting the industry and encouraging use of more fuel-efficient vehicles. The boom has clinched China’s status as the world’s biggest vehicle market due to languishing sales in the U.S.

[...]The surge is also a sign of how the Indian consumer — encouraged by government tax cuts, a big disbursement of back pay for government employees and falling interest rates — is fueling economic growth in Asia’s third-largest economy.

As everyone knows, the Democrats chose to bail out auto companies with taxpayer money and reward people with taxpayer money for destroying fully functional vehicles. And we all know how well that has worked out.

Chile poised to jump from the third world to the first world

Check out this editorial from Investors Business Daily. (podcast here)

Excerpt:

Chile is expected to win entry to OECD’s club of developed countries by Dec. 15 — a great affirmation for a once-poor nation that pulled itself up by trusting markets. One thing that stands out here is free trade.

[...]It’s not like Chile was born lucky. Only 30 years ago, it was an impoverished country with per capita GDP of $1,300. Its distant geography, irresponsible neighbors and tiny population were significant obstacles to investment and growth. And its economy, dominated by labor unions, wasn’t just closed, but sealed tight.

In the Cato Institute’s 1975 Economic Freedom of the World Report it ranked a wretched 71 out of 72 countries evaluated.

Today it’s a different country altogether. Embracing markets has made it one of the most open economies in the world, ranking third on Cato’s index, just behind Hong Kong and Singapore. Per capita GDP has soared to $15,000.

Besides its embrace of free trade, other reforms — including pension privatization, tax cuts, respect for property rights and cutting of red tape helped the country grow not only richer but more democratic, says Cato Institute trade expert Daniel Griswold.

But the main thing, Griswold says, is that the country didn’t shift course. “Chile’s economy is set apart from its neighbors, because they have pursued market policies consistently over a long period,” he said. “Free trade has been a central part of Chile’s success.”

Democrats oppose free trade, and their hostility to free trade angers many other countries in the world.

What does it take for a country to succeed?

I gave my Dad my copy of “Money, Greed and God” by Jay Richards, and although he thought that it started out slow, he’s warmed up to it. He calls me on the phone at least twice a day, and last night he alerted me to this web site, where you can track each countries average citizen’s life span and per-capita GDP over time. My Dad was pretty liberal on economics before, so naturally I’ve been working on him with lots of introductory books on economics. He’s read about a dozen now, and Thomas Sowell is his favorite.

Anyway, my Dad says that this is what a country needs to succeed:

  • free trade with other nations
  • the rule of law
  • low judicial activism
  • low tax rates
  • private property protections
  • currency not threatened by inflation
  • low government spending
  • minimal regulation of commerce

And at that web site, you can track the success of countries like Singapore and Hong Kong, which embrace conservative small government free market fiscal policies, and compare them with countries like Zimbabwe and North Korea, which embrace big government protectionist fiscal policies. Countries fail because they adopt the wrong policies. They succeed when they adopt the right policies. It doesn’t matter how poor they start, if they have the right policies, they grow rich over time.

Why are the Democrats so incompetent on economic policy?

Well, it’s because there is almost no one in the Obama socialist regime who has ever run a business or worked in a business. Check out this graphic. (H/T Flopping Aces)

You can read more about the Obama administration’s ignorance of business and economics here in Forbes magazine.

This Reuters article discusses the price of economic ignorance: (H/T Gateway Pundit)

Excerpt:

Hunger is spreading while the number of homeless families is increasing as a result of the recession and other factors, according to a report on Tuesday.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors said cities reported a 26 percent jump in demand for hunger assistance over the past year, the largest average increase since 1991.

Middle-class families as well as the uninsured, elderly, working poor and homeless increasingly looked for help with hunger, which was mainly fueled by unemployment, high housing costs and low wages.

Democrats really don’t know what they are doing. It’s like putting pre-schoolers in charge of Amazon.com. It doesn’t work. Their ivory tower, silver-spoon worldview cannot comprehend real-world, grown-up complexities. So long as the Democrats continue to attack the businesses that employ citizens while redistributing wealth from people who produce to people who vote Democrat, our economic troubles will continue.

Related Cato Institute podcasts

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

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