Monday, September 29, 2008

A letter to the left

I blogged tonight at the Shotgun on a great letter by Dr. Steven Horwitz of St. Lawrence University on why the left should not blame the free market for the current financial crisis in the US and why they should reconsider asking the government to remedy the situation.

Many of us in the free market movement will insist that "greed is good." I think Dr. Horwitz puts us squarely in our place on that one - greed is a fact of life. What is good is institutions that take advantage of greed to make sure that it helps all of us, rather than just a special few. This is precisely what has not been happening thanks to government interventions in the market, which have allowed many corporations to profit at our expense rather than in a manner that is helpful, at least to some extent (even those on the left must acknowledge that consumers get something from a trade, even if they believe they're taken advantage of in order to get it), to society at large.

Check out the blog post, if only to check out Dr. Horwitz's argument in more detail, or even better, in full.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

faculty strike & hypocrisy.

The University of Windsor faculty is currently on strike for a variety of reasons, many* some of which seem to have been debunked by a letter from the University's president to students last night.

I can't help but wonder how many of the professors and students picketing are the same folks who believe that a post-secondary education is a right and constantly use that opinion as an argument for "free" post-secondary education.

I wonder how all those who throw about the rights argument and stand on the picket line supporting professors' work stoppage explain suspending this supposed right in order to get what they want? I also wonder how they justify many cost-increasing demands that will surely be passed on to students in the form of higher tuition if they believe that the cost of post-secondary education infringe on that right?**

Do these folks also agree with suspending other rights when it's deemed necessary by those able to suspend them?

Sounds to me like, to these people, the "education as a right" argument is nothing but an argument of convenience.

A few notes, since I wasn't trying to make too broad a statement towards those on strike and because I've been convinced otherwise on another point:

*Note 1: A few people with way more knowledge of exactly what's going on between the two sides than I have have assured me there's more to the story than the letter, and you can read the union's response, which seems fair enough, here.

**Note 2: A few valid points have convinced me to withdraw this specific criticism:
- first: the University can only increase tuition rates by a set amount every year, so this really doesn't add to the cost of university for students, though higher costs do lead to higher debt for U of W.
- second: if you're the kind of person who believes a university education is a right, you're also the kind of person who believes it should be completely publicly funded, and therefore monetary demands wouldn't increase the costs to students. As such, this specific point wouldn't constitute hypocrisy.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Fannie and Freddie takeover - does it matter?

Over at CEI's Open Market Blog, John Berlau argues that the announcement that control of Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac will be taken over by the US government doesn't matter because the companies have always been controlled by the state even if they were technically privately owned.

But is that the case - that it doesn't matter if it's always, technically, been that way, even if it wasn't official? I don't think so. Making it official is both important and upsetting.

The nominal private ownership of these companies, in spite of their extremely close ties with the government, was important because the US typically doesn't think of the housing market as something that needs to be controlled by government, and hasn't used government owned and controlled companies to control markets. With the nationalization (basically) of these companies, the US government has implicitly sanctioned government control of a very important part of the market.

While I wouldn't go so far as to say that the US is now more communist than China, it's still significant, and it's certainly not good.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

the price of a vote

A friend and I were talking about selling votes the other day, and someone passed along this link to me for my (and now your) amusement.

What's really interesting is to look at the sold votes. Unless I'm reading it wrong, it looks like the highest anyone was willing to pay... er... donate to someone who happens to be supporting their candidate of choice... for a vote was $30.

I say that's overpriced (and therefore would be a great deal if I was selling - assuming I'm not giving up work or something I'd really like to be doing to vote), but assuming you're not opposed to government programs that pay out for you, it might not be too far off the real non-emotional value of a vote.

On the other hand, most people don't like the idea of selling votes, which would push the value down. If this is because selling your vote is illegal, making it legal might be another matter all together... that said, since most people likely wouldn't want to sell their vote, imho, maybe it's not affected as much as it would otherwise be by the closed market.

I guess we'll probably never know. It's interesting, at any rate.