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02/06/2011

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toto

State-by-state winner-take-all laws to award electoral college votes were eventually enacted by 48 states AFTER the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution.

The Founding Fathers only said in the U.S. Constitution about presidential elections (only after debating among 30 ballots for choosing a method): "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . ." The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive."

Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, universal suffrage, and the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation's first presidential election.

In 1789, in the nation's first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, Only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote.

In 1789 only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.

The winner-take-all method is not entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. The current 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method (i.e., awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in a particular state) is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, the debates of the Constitutional Convention, or the Federalist Papers. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all method.

The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding the state's electoral votes.

As a result of changes in state laws enacted since 1789, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states, there are no property requirements for voting in any state, and the state-by-state winner-take-all method is used by 48 of the 50 states. Maine and Nebraska currently award electoral votes by congressional district -- a reminder that an amendment to the U.S. Constitution is not required to change the way the President is elected.

The normal process of effecting change in the method of electing the President is specified in the U.S. Constitution, namely action by the state legislatures. This is how the current system was created, and this is the built-in method that the Constitution provides for making changes.

toto

The current system does not provide some kind of check on the "mobs." There have been 22,000 electoral votes cast since presidential elections became competitive (in 1796), and only 10 have been cast for someone other than the candidate nominated by the elector's own political party. The electors are dedicated party activists of the winning party who meet briefly in mid-December to cast their totally predictable votes in accordance with their pre-announced pledges.

If a Democratic presidential candidate receives the most votes, the state's dedicated Democratic party activists who have been chosen as its slate of electors become the Electoral College voting bloc. If a Republican presidential candidate receives the most votes, the state's dedicated Republican party activists who have been chosen as its slate of electors become the Electoral College voting bloc. The winner of the presidential election is the candidate who collects 270 votes from Electoral College voters from among the winning party's dedicated activists.

toto

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes--that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The National Popular Vote compact is patterned directly after existing federal law and requires each state to treat as "conclusive" each other state's "final determination" of its vote for President. No state has any power to examine or judge the presidential election returns of any other state under the National Popular Vote compact.

Any attempt by a state to pull out of the compact in violation of its terms would violate the Impairments Clause of the U.S. Constitution and would be void. Such an attempt would also violate existing federal law. Compliance would be enforced by Federal court action

The National Popular Vote compact is, first of all, a state law. It is a state law that would govern the manner of choosing presidential electors. A Secretary of State may not ignore or override the National Popular Vote law any more than he or she may ignore or override the winner-take-all method that is currently the law in 48 states.

There has never been a court decision allowing a state to withdraw from an interstate compact without following the procedure for withdrawal specified by the compact. Indeed, courts have consistently rebuffed the occasional (sometimes creative) attempts by states to evade their obligations under interstate compacts.

John

Jack,

Once again, I'm right and you are smart enough to start listening.

Posner has given immunity to everyone on your list, from the appraiser on up. You must not be a lawyer. Until DiLeo and later Central Bank of Denver we used to have aiding and abetting liability all the way up the food chain.

Posner and other like minded judges eliminated aiding and abetting liability in the mid 1990s, so all the people you talk about got up every morning, went to work, and planned and executed crimes, with judicial immunity.

This is why there have been no prosecutions for the fraud we all knew took place. Judges like Posner ruled that what had been criminal would not longer be criminal.

As for defending appraisers, they cannot be defended. I have seen cases where the appraisers did not even have an office. They sat in a bar and the real estate brokers would put together a form called an appraisal and bring it in to be signed, for cash. The seal and signature is everything. 1000% total fraud. Putting disclaimers on something doesn't make it honest.

The lending officer would then put the appraisal in the file, never looking at such. Its entire purpose was to let Posner pontificate on disclaimers and fools like you listen, when the entire transaction was a fraud and no one ever looked at the appraisal, which was strictly a CYA document.

Jack

John: Ha! though I've been wound up in far more court issues than I'd have wished, you're right, I'm not a member of that great, but probably unConstitutional club known as the Bar. I'm sure I could do a lot better job than some I've witnessed, and could provide at considerable discount to the "seemingly" price fixed hourly rates, perhaps filling a badly neglected area in suits of less than $20,000. But! It seems I'm precluded from doing so in all 50 states and the DC.

But! I've quite a knowledge of the housing biz and its "financial industry".

As for: "Posner and other like minded judges eliminated aiding and abetting liability in the mid 1990s, so all the people you talk about got up every morning, went to work, and planned and executed crimes, with judicial immunity."

I tried to explain the near impossibility of tagging the appraisers. It can be a pretty good gig when properties are moving fast, but in every state one does have to yield to "apprenticing" for two years (ie do all the work) before being allowed into that guild. Anyway, atop 5 pages of boilerplate stating in legalese that can be summarized as "this is an opinion only done under the following method, or methods".

In residential "the method" is that of finding comps on the computer and sending the "apprentice" out to take pictures of them. and perhaps reaffirm the SF of the subject property.

It's true that, most often, in the case of "money out refi's" (that real bankers of 25 years ago rarely allowed) appraisers would find out what their customer "needed" and perhaps fudge the number upwards a bit by cherry picking comps, but rarely by enough to make a case.

Those you describe "sitting in the bar" and stamping off WERE committing fraud and could well be prosecuted. But, odds are his lackey (whoops meant "apprentice") was probably fleshing out the file with pics and stats for the electronic file. Absent such rudimentary documentation WHAT would a "banker" be doing "lending" 100% or more on the valuation??

The appraisal IS a CYA document, but one that does provide an "as built" documenting the SF, general condition and amenities of the home, and pics, along with a snapshot of approximate value on that date. Saves the banker from having to go out and see if the property exists, which is then shored up the the title exam gig.

Two competent and honest appraisers could easily be 5-10% apart. In the "old" world of ten or more percent down (loans of less than 20% down are further insured by "private mortgage insurance" though in this meltdown those were another "can't lose" scams that were wiped out during the first cool breeze) appraisals didn't have to achieve perfection, and the other problem of "money out refi's" were rarely done.

As you mention, mortgage brokers or loan originators are but brokers trying top make a commission, some go back and forth to selling cars or other similar gigs when housing slows. It's not their money at risk and they do simply assemble a file to be presented to, ha! in the old days! the bank's risk assessment committee.

It's at that level that some "geniuses" "discovered" that most home loans were paid even those to poor credit risks or No Docs based upon lies. It's at this level and up that they were negligent of their fiduciary duties. Seeing a housing price graph with as many warnings as these depict "bankers" and "bond raters" should have become far more conservative.

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:51_W7BsWWGsJ:mysite.verizon.net/vzeqrguz/housingbubble/+housing+price+graph&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&source=www.google.com

Instead the industry left behind "old" ratios of lending at 10 to 1 and went out to 30 to 1. Consider that! A whole "banking" industry so stretched out on an irrationally steep and speculative slope betting the whole wad at ratios where they'd be, and were, wiped out by less than a 5% correction. In some areas (Merced, CA) the "correction" is a whopping 68% and not over yet as there are, for now, hard working folks still paying on loans 50% underwater.

On this one those who should be looking at prison time are bankers who threw out standards that have served us well since the last depression and the bond raters who sold off reputations that took most of a century to build. And sorry, I'm not buying "But gee, I don't understand the derivatives a few of our whiz kids ginned up in the basement.

John

Jack:

What's the point you are trying to make?

As for the specific case I was talking about I gave you the exact facts. The appraiser had no lackey doing the work. Again, he had no lackey. He was an appraiser who did no work. The real estate brokers did the work, using the comps (track housing), and preparing the forms.

Why are you defending the indefensible?

Jack

Toto: All that you quote seems accurate, however:

"The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes--that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC)."

I think you end up with a problem to say the least.

One is that of the C having left the discretion you mention to the states.

The second is that of getting even half the electorals to agree. Right off it would seem an end run around having to amend the C, which if I recall, takes 2/3rds of the STATES, not the electorals.

Kinda reminds me of that early "Don't tread on me" flag and the founder's interests in the rights of the minority along with the flexibility of the states to do some things their own way.

John

A little guidance on Lincoln

Especially our foreign readers may not understand why I challenge Posner about Lincoln.

The answer is that Lincoln (and Reagan) are secretly hated by the current Republican Party, the Tea Party, the Kochs, really all of the right wing, who are nothing, as Krugman points out today, Johnny Rebel wannabees.

this link will explain that Lincoln was a Hamilton, favoring big everything and freedom

http://rortybomb.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/monetary-policy-hearing-today-or-ron-paul-versus-the-kochtopus/

John

Jack,

This morning CNBC had good coverage of the jumbo mortgage market---really at present there is no market.

Why, because no on trusts the appraisals.

A little more law so that you understand why it was only my opinion is not a defense. The law, over objections of Posner and others, understands that one's current state of mind is a fact. Hence, if I do not intend to pay you, but I say I intend to pay you, I have lied, made a misrepresentation, and committed a fraud.

Thus, when an appraiser prepares an appraisal and say it is his or her opinion, such is a lie, a misrepresentation, and a fraud if, in fact, that was not their opinion.

Posner loves and protects people who lie like this, because this is how he lies. Most everything he writes on this blog he does not believe. He writes such, as demonstrated by the criticisms of others that I have posted, for effect, to give a false appearance and to curdle favor of the rich and powerful.

When it comes time to actually rule for anyone, he always gives the screw. Read the dissent in Hartmann v. Prudential Ins. Co. of America, 9 F. 3d 1207 - Court of Appeals, 7th Circuit 1993, a case where Posner went out of his way to protect insurance companies

Christopher Graves

Are we still talking about the situation in Egypt?

John

Christopher Graves,

Posner's note was never about Egypt.

It is impossible to foresee where events are going in Egypt, although my bet is on an Egyptian "Napoleon" who will promise to feed and house the Army and who can capture the Egyptian nationalism implicit in what has happened so far.

One can only be sure that Greene's Laws of War and Power are popular reads, as well as Col John Boyd's ? and ?

If the reader doesn't know John Boyd and his writings, thoroughly, then they have about as much chance understanding events, and my writing, as a first grader has understanding Schrödinger's cat from quantum mechanic's

Look for a junior officer springing from this kind of event, "On 1 September 1969, a small group of junior military officers led by Gaddafi staged a bloodless coup d'état against King Idris."

What we ought to be learning is that these events are not about us. Tom Friedman is, I believe, on point when he says that the driver is the Egyptian view of China (If there, why not here, especially as they are heathen?)

This "world view," growing every day in the Mid-East, is an ocean we cannot dam. We ought to leave all the Mid-East, save for Israel, over the weekend.

We no longer have any ability to influence events there.

Also, it is why Posner's brittleness theory is meaningless. It disregards the emotional and psychological forces at play. A dam against a river may appear strong, but it will be swept away by a tsunami.

Mubarak is a damn against historical forces of previously unknown magnitude.

The recent parallel is the financial crisis of 2007 to date. It was a black swan event that so far exceeded prior observation that we still are not oriented.

The emotions and psychology putting people in streets in Cairo is a different black swan event.

This is why understanding Boyd's OODA loop analysis so critical. In chaos, whomever re-orients and acts first wins.

Recent examples of failing OODA loops include Bush on and post 9/11, the Iraq War, Greenspan and the financial crisis, Obama and healthcare, as opposed to jobs, jobs, jobs.

For example, Bush destroyed our economy on 9/11 because he was so disoriented by the attack, and so lacking in moral fiber, a key ingredient to Boyd, that he took all the planes out of the sky and shut down the economy.

By contrast, Americans speed up economic activity post Pearl Harbor, thanks to FDR's superior skills.

OODA explains why everyone is so mad at our investment banks.

Because of Metcalfe's law, Goldman Sachs re-oriented before any other public or private agency following the crisis. Thus it "won" the political battle for limited government resources, getting bailed out while main street and middle and lower income Americans got shafted.

In Egypt, some has a better OODA loop than anyone else. If they are ambitious, they will emerge on top.

What to know the future of Egypt, read Boyd, not Posner

Jack

John: Ha! it IS good indeed that "news" of fraud at the "jumbo" level is making the news! For a while I thought those trying to dump yet another problem on the heads of working folk and "community reinvestment" were having as good a time as those dumping on Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame.

Indeed! "mens rea" or "state of mind" often differentiates murder from manslaughter, negligent homicide or a garden variety accident.

But! in the case of the (intent?) of the lowly appraiser, WHAT, pray tell, is he or she to do when the application of money freely "loaned" (granted?) with ZERO (or less) down, to those submitting NO credit or income documentation has created the rampant inflation ANY economist would expect, when virtually UNlimited dollars flood a finite housing """market?""" As shown"

http://lanekenworthy.net/2008/03/09/the-best-inequality-graph/

Is his/her job OTHER than to dutifully report the comps and method used to determine a valuation to the "banker"?

As for protecting banking related insurance scammers, HARDLY at arms length since former "Sen" Phil Gramm slipped in the repeal of Glass-Steagal during the post T-day dead duck session of the waning days of the Clinton admin, one supposes that sans legislation to separate and hold accountable "banking" and "insurance" it's difficult TO find the bstds culpable and sentence them to the prison terms they well deserve.

Chris: The topic is not exactly "Egypt" but the brittle nature of dictatorial or otherwise undemocratic governments. Given: the failure of our own "democracy" (republic if you insist) to prevent the illegal, "pre-emptive" attack on a disarmed sovereign nation coupled with the rent-seeking lobbying that allowed the utter top to bottom corruption of our "banking" system, the "brittle" nature of what is left of our once functional democracy is bound to creep into the conversation.

Surely our "all for the rich few" example is NOT as attractive to emerging nations, or those in revolt against similar, all for the rich regimes are NOT seeing the America of today as the ideal "city on the hill" we once appeared to be.

Have you and others here seen "Fair Game" about the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson affair and the lengths the Bushies went to A. LIE us into an ill-considered sacking of a disarmed sovereign nation of NO particular threat to the US? Was two and a half years in prison (commuted by Bush) enough for what "Scooter" did? And why! did Rove not even get a prison term?

Jack

Posner comments:

There are several reasons. The obvious one is lack of information. A government that uses intimidation, surveillance, and control of media to quell dissent deprives itself of good information about the population’s concerns. People keep their concerns to themselves out of fear. Grievances are driven underground, to fester. Not having a good handle on what people want, the government risks being blindsided by a sudden explosion of repressed anger. Repression also fosters conspiracy; fearful of expressing themselves publicly, people learn to form secret cabals; they become experts at dissimulation.

........... INDEED! And what role did such fear play in NOT standing up to an admin LYING us into the longest, most costly and utterly wasteful "war" against a helpless nation? Are such foolish actions certain to give more incentives for the proliferation of nukies? Ahh, yes........... "secret cabals".

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Hi!
It is so good to see this post. It provides important information about democracy.

John

Mubarak out

Military in control

My wager remains, when the dust settles,


. . . an Egyptian "Napoleon" who will promise to feed and house the Army and who can capture the Egyptian nationalism implicit in what has happened so far.

Ernesto

When a one-page analysis of such an extremely broad and complex issue contains a paragraph filled with "exceptions", it's hard to lend it any credibility.

First, what is "unforeseen"? The fact that Americans have not predicted it does not mean anything. Who here was in touch with Egypt's internal developments? For that matter, Americans could not predict internal turmoil such as the Civil War or the latest economic crisis (nor any previous economic crisis for that matter).

Administrations, be them democratic, dictatorial or anything in between (and I do believe that every administration, including ours, is some intermediate shade of gray, never black or white) crumble and collapse, and every time those with opposite political views come out eagerly to explain why they could not survive.

But democratic systems have collapsed multiple times in history, and they will keep on collapsing, and I see no reason why the US system could not collapse (I'm not saying it will, since I am happy to admit I can not foresee the future). When that happens, supporters of dictatorial systems -be them right or left wing- come forward to explain why they could not last, using essentially the same arguments as Posner here.

And by the way, to insist that the Greek city states were truly democratic sounds like a bad joke or outright lack of touch with reality.

Jack

John: Interesting post and:

"For example, Bush destroyed our economy on 9/11 because he was so disoriented by the attack, and so lacking in moral fiber, a key ingredient to Boyd, that he took all the planes out of the sky and shut down the economy."

....... took the bait, hook, line and sinker. Spent mega billions on rushing in ill-prepared and sending our guys over there to be slaughtered in far higher numbers than the victims of WTC. Costly for us, and a prime recruiting tool for terrorists of all stripes everywhere in the world and against many nations.

Like the Irish, Algerians and others they can't take down a strong and stable power but can inflict a lot of pain and perhaps realize some political goal.

The Art of War, required reading at our military academies counsels knowing your enemy, picking the time of battle, not fighting battles at all if there are alternatives or they are not possible to win. The Bushies ignored them all, and the lesson of Vietnam, to KNOW what a "win" looks like and how to craft the way to the goal before engaging. A sad sight to see Colin, who knew better, up there going along with the irrational schemes and lies.

"Brittleness" comes in many forms and corruption in the WH, CIA, top ranks of the military along with that of cancerous growth of our "financial sector" certainly qualify as nation tanking examples.

If we want to sell democracy and "free markets" abroad we'd better heed the advice of "physician heal thyself".

John

Jack,

The reason why I cannot stand Posner is that his view is so limited, yet he claims to be so broad minded.

The reader should study and truly broad mind and really great lawyer, Charlie Munger.

The reader will learn far more from Munger's 1995 Harvard Law School speech, The Psychology of Human Misjudgment, 25 pages, free on the Internet, than they will ever learn from these two very limited minds.

Munger realizes is that "economists," like Posner and Becker, have what he calls man-with-a-hammer syndrome: to the man with a hammer, every problem tends to look pretty much like a nail.

Since economists have only limited tools, they just assume away reality. Today, we should just throw out the lot and start using common sense.

No one doubts that tax rates, for example, don't have some effect on investment or how much people sometimes work. However, common sense tells us that many many other factors are going to have a much more profound effect.

Thus, turning to Bush. Unless the reader is familiar with Boyd, they will not understand that Boyd created a new kind of "science." His work gives one a "theory" to look at the effectiveness of leadership. It can be applied to plan and execute conflict and war.

His keen insights include observation, timing, and moral fabric and, hence, morale

We already have enough altitude and perspective to understand that the events of the last 10 years are not policy failures, they are moral failures, failures of leadership.

Posner and Becker won't admit such, will never admit such, for to do so will admit their irrelevancy.

For example, both now scream about deficits. Where were either when Cheney said, "Deficits don't matter." Hell, I am a tax and spend Democrat---the permi-keynesians have been the borrow and spend republicans---and I went nuts over that remark.

Common sense tells us that except under the circumstances outlined by Keynes which were very limited that gov't doesn't borrow to support consumption. More on this in a moment

Now to Bush. When you reach the write the check moment, as Buffett says, it is plain to anyone giving the matter serious thought that the judgment is both rational and emotional, based on many many factors, of which confidence in the future has to be the highest.

What economic model applies any real measure of confidence to predict future results?

Without such models economists have no ability to judge the moral fabric of life. Thus, when Bush took the planes out of the sky and shut down the economy, all that economists could see was slowed economic activity, which was counter-factual, for during a war you are supposed to have demand skyrocket.

Having no "model" to apply to events, they could not "see" what just happened, could not gage its effect.

Then the chicken hawks decided to have a war in Iraq, to be paid for by future generations. What economic model measures this impact on confidence of the investor or entrepreneur?

I could go on, but what is the point, as unless the reader is very bright they will not be able to grasp these very subtle propositions.

As to gov't borrowing, if Obama were a leader---he is not---he would do the following

1) he would stop promising a bigger crop next year and first clear the fields of brush, disk and plow and fertilize.

What do I mean by that. Obama should advance to the American people a truth---we have lost our confidence---and a theory of how we get out. What is that theory--it would have 3 or 4 parts. Why do I say a theory, because as Drucker taught, no human activity succeeds without an theory of the business that is modeled to fit the facts of the then existing reality.

Churchill, for example, explains in one of his books that for 400 years England's foreign policy toward Europe was the same theory of the business, to ally England with the 2 and 3rd most powerful countries in Europe against the 1st most powerful.

Obviously, at present, we need a theory of fed gov't spending. Here is what Obama ought to say with his budget. Without a theory his budget lacks moral content and structure and can only be defended by special interest politics.

1) Except for capital expenditures, or expenditures that have provable long term returns, we are going to be pay as we go.

2) We are going to end regressive taxation and move toward progressive taxation when such can be collected efficiently and effectively.

let me explain each point. At present the US has no capital budget. If we pay several billion this year for an aircraft carrier with a useful life of 40 years, we do not separate such out in the budget process and say, we should sell 40 year bonds to pay for that aircraft carrier.

similarly, we spend on basic science and research or education, the returns for which are all in the future, we likely should pay for such with borrowed funds. Otherwise we are creating an imbalance.

last, while a lot of regulation can be budgeted on an annual basis (police officers to stop speeders) some cannot. Efforts by the EPA to control air pollution have very long term benefits.

This view also holds as to the recent financial crisis. As Martin Wolf has been writing this week in the Financial Times, the reason for deficits since 2007 has been a very appropriate effort to maintain the ability of the economy to grow more rapidly in the future, which will quickly pay for the cost. Great Britain is already starting to see that the future cost of present austerity is going to be diminished growth.

Regressive taxes. What Obama should do is announce a new policy that taxes should be progressive, not regressive, which means ending FICA and other employment taxes (unemployment insurance) and replacing such with a tax that is efficient and effective and, to the extent possible, progressive.

Republicans like to say that if you tax something, you will have less of it. That is true and Democrats ought to take them at their word and stop taxing employment and jobs.

Jack

John -- Many good observations and I'll read the materials you suggest. Ha! there are few jokes about the "dismal science" but it seems a couple of scientists and an economist became marooned on a desert island. The two scientists couldn't come up with a plan of escape, but the economist suggested getting busy cutting down a tree and making a dug out canoe. The scientists objected to there being no trees. "Assume a tree" said the economist.

Much of what you write is akin to my observation of "Economics" having gone from a tool of a functioning democracy to serve the general welfare of our nation with positive ripple effects felt the world over, to that of making us serfs of a souless "market" that WE serve as it blindly moves over the globe like a cancerous growth. Even worse are those imbuing it with god-like qualities, for example the incredible shift of wealth and income to the topmost tiers are excused as perfect markets rewarding scarce skills, talents and application of capital. Garbage.

On investment Gspan was on (Cspan) this week, and though put forth a bit fuzzy (this is news?) that over recent and very recent years biz investment HAS been robust and has increased productivity significantly. This effect has been covered by the extremely low investment in housing, commercial and large building construction which is dead, dead, dead. I think he said if housing etc were even limping along GDP growth would be a percent or more higher than it is. Ha............ "assume a tree" or a housing industry revival which Geitner (sp) estimates to be a continued mess for 3 years or more.

And yeah, I've always been a fan of trying to determine which government expenditures are investment and which "current consumption" It's a difficult task in a "clean room" stirred and mixed by pols it's what we see. But those "Bridges to Nowhere" were both to be built here in Alaska (with the same Trans Cmtee Don Young building an unwanted road through a FL swamp for his developer pal who raised $40,000 for him) and both were a COMPLETE waste. One -- the Knik Crossing -- we've spent millions (locally) "studying" it, though it comes up just as uneconomic with millions as most of us could figure on an envelope in 15 minutes.

Assuming several trillion of needed infrastructure investment against very scarce public resources we should make much better estimates of the return on various projects -- but it IS tough.

In rural Alaska, for example, we have some subsidies for mail planes going into fairly small towns -- that the incoming TP set are targeting. But we are a huge state that does not have subsidized roads and bridges too these far flung towns and likely will never have them. If we did, the snow and other maintenance would be far too expensive. So TOUGH to weigh high speed rail or even a federal hwy cloverleaf serving many against access for a few to remote towns.

Here too are "competing" means of supplying energy to Anchorage where those pumping large company big construction (pipelines of 700 miles or more that the consumer will PAY for big time) have lots more pol support than say "little guy" conservation efforts of re-insulating, new furnaces etc.

We'd like to reach out to "experts" or "academics" to help determine the best bang -- but as you see they buy 'em thirteen to the dozen like day old donuts to dress up the dogs or make an industry out of "studies".

By any measure the Iraq war is a perfect storm of lose, lose, lose and a PRIME example not just of a failure of process but truly the result of a coup as the neocons responsible had it well in mind earlier when they lobbied Clinton for "regime change" which I don't recall being justification for first strike, "go it alone" no UN resolution war making.

"Taxing and getting less of it" Ha! I don't know why, but way back in the late 60's when oil was cheap and plentiful, I recall making a case then for shifting some of the income tax burden onto finite resources replete with a cash back feature so it wouldn't be regressive. I often wonder where we'd be in terms of oil and gas wastage had we even adopted such measures back when President Carter wanted to put a dime of "conservation" tax on gasoline and continued on with more such measures. My guess it we'd have not pumped the US dry as fast and able to provide our needs from the American continents alone. Nah, we'd rather tax labor and creativity!

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Waw, it's really full with new information for me. but i think i have to study more English to be able to understand more fast. by the way i am Egyptian.

Christopher Graves

I tried posting this comment a while ago but still am not seeing it, so I'll try again.

John, here is the vital insight into human nature that economics focuses our attention on, and that is, people are typically motivated by self-interest. This view of the falleness of human nature comes to us through Judaism and Christianity via Adam Smith. Smith recognized that people are also motivated by a moral sense that is based on empathy and an innate ability to judge situations impartially. Smith further recognized the importance of a community in which individuals made moral and market decisions. I am afraid that many economists overlook the moral and communitarian aspects of human life, and in so doing, they are missing integral aspects of the human condition. But if one does not understand the unrelentingly self-interested character of humans, then one will be continually be frustrated and puzzled in attempting to understand why people act as they do. And those who approach political, social, psychological, and economic issues without this emphasis on self-interest are primarily on the so-called left.

Another important aspect of analyzing human affairs that comes to us from economics is the limited nature of personal, explicit knowledge. Unfortunately, the recognition of the limits and the dispersed and unconscious nature of human knowledge has been subverted by more contemporary economic models that simply assume perfect knowledge and rationality. Lucky for us that we still have the work of Hayek before us to remind us of these critical features of human endeavor. Again, these realizations have their antecedents in Judaism and Christianity.

Now to the situation in Egypt. I hope that their revolution will take a liberal (in the classical sense) turn. But I have reason to doubt that it will or, if it does for a time, other forces will supplant it. One reason for my pessimism is the authoritarian nature of the regime that has just exited the stage. Average Egyptians might not have built up the habits, attitudes, and skills of discernment, determination, autonomy and responsibility that are necessary to make independent judgements necessary to function in a free society. Egypt may also lack the degree of development of the social institutions that would have provided an alternative to state action to meet people's needs and to offset governmental power.

Closely related to this possible lacking is the nature of the dominant religion of Egypt, Islam. While Islam does teach a sense of moral restraint that we see missing in large part from our contemporary free society in America that our Founders correctly thought necessary to provide social order, Islam does not seem to internalize many of these norms in the same way that Christianity does, especially Protestant Christianity. Consequently, people are not as free under Islam to make moral decisions that are truly autonomous. We, too, are failing to foster a true sense of autonomy in individuals for very different reasons, but, in any case, political liberty is dependent upon moral autonomy that might be lacking in Egypt.

Another, related problem with Islam is its lack of focus on the individual's relationship to God. There is no theological doctrine in Islam that is comparable to "the priesthood of the believer" that is central to Protestant Christianity. Hence, there is nothing comparable in Islam to the separation of church and state and religious toleration that we enjoy in historically Christian nations. Religious toleration in Europe and America developed straight out of its religious heritage dating back to the practices of Judaism that included separating the duties of the king and the High Priest continuing with the teachings of Jesus who famously said, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." This trend was taken up with a newly found vigor by Protestants, who unevenly practiced these teachings at first, but came to form the basis of our modern concepts of religious liberty. According to Protestant teaching, one must come to accept Christ in a heartfelt personal decision. A coerced conversion is worthless. Hence, coercion is of no value in religious matters.

Princeton historian Perez Zagorin argues along these lines in this 2003 book, *How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West.*

"Religious intolerance, so terrible and deadly in its recent manifestations, is nothing new. In fact, until after the eighteenth century, Christianity was perhaps the most intolerant of all the great world religions. How Christian Europe and the West went from this extreme to their present universal belief in religious toleration is the momentous story fully told for the first time in this timely and important book by a leading historian of early modern Europe.
Perez Zagorin takes readers to a time when both the Catholic Church and the main new Protestant denominations embraced a policy of endorsing religious persecution, coercing unity, and, with the state's help, mercilessly crushing dissent and heresy. This position had its roots in certain intellectual and religious traditions, which Zagorin traces before showing how out of the same traditions came the beginnings of pluralism in the West. Here we see how sixteenth- and seventeenth-century thinkers--writing from religious, theological, and philosophical perspectives--contributed far more than did political expediency or the growth of religious skepticism to advance the cause of toleration. Reading these thinkers--from Erasmus and Sir Thomas More to John Milton and John Locke, among others--Zagorin brings to light a common, if unexpected, thread: concern for the spiritual welfare of religion itself weighed more in the defense of toleration than did any secular or pragmatic arguments. His book--which ranges from England through the Netherlands, the post-1685 Huguenot Diaspora, and the American Colonies--also exposes a close connection between toleration and religious freedom.
A far-reaching and incisive discussion of the major writers, thinkers, and controversies responsible for the emergence of religious tolerance in Western society--from the Enlightenment through the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights--this original and richly nuanced work constitutes an essential chapter in the intellectual history of the modern world."

http://press.princeton.edu/titles/7638.html

Jack

Chris sez: "I am afraid that many economists overlook the moral and communitarian aspects of human life, and in so doing, they are missing integral aspects of the human condition. But if one does not understand the unrelentingly self-interested character of humans, then one will be continually be frustrated and puzzled in attempting to understand why people act as they do. And those who approach political, social, psychological, and economic issues without this emphasis on self-interest are primarily on the so-called left."

JJ Indeed! And puzzling that as we live in an era of increasing interdependency and complexity so many seem to forget the community aspect of life. If there is a bias or deficiency in education surely it's not "left" but that of too little emphasis on "it takes a village". Much of the political diff between HS grads and those going on to college is that of sociology, taken in college, and a closer look at history and econ developing a higher sense of what makes civilization work.

Annnd, here we are, with Repubs trying to carve a token $50 billion out of programs benefiting the working and lower income groups, so far nothing out of the military which makes up nearly half of the budget, and preserving the unaffordable tax cuts for the top 2%. Yeah, this should generate a fine sense of community and shared sacrifice. And, hmmmm, what effect is the close relationship of the "conservative??" right with religion playing?

Christopher Graves

Jack, conservatives are all for organic community. I do agree that the market can undercut community, and that is a real tension in conservative thought. But the state can certainly undercut organic community with attempts at social engineering to achieve and maintain equality. As historian Eugene Genovese has observed, the left talks a good game on community in the abstract, but they are not comfortable with any community in particular. By the way, religion is one of the key factors in shaping and holding a community together. We neglect the influence of religion at our own peril.

John

Jack

Neil Ferguson tried to make some important points today about Obama on Morning Joe.

He was tired and a little off his game, but he spoke to the parallels with the French Revolution---terrorism at home and nationalism thereafter., as being the likely course forward.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036789/

He asserted that Obama is not leader, lacking any grand strategy. Why can't the guy learn?

Chris,

You models are too simplistic and, worse, they are just flat out biased.

Beyond that we are not part of a Judeo-Christian tradition. We are part of a Greek/Christian/Roman tradition, which is why, for example, Paul had the gospels written in Greek.

In the ancient world, the Greeks and Jewish people had opposing views on the fundamentals. We follows the Greeks. Read Paul Johnson A History of the Jews, especially his discussion, "The Greeks versus the Jews"

By contrast, Muhammad drew Islam out of Judaism.

Jack

Chris: Aah yes! It's the difficulty of finding that balance between community and a democratic process that harnesses the power of capitalism to provide for its citizens and "general welfare", but! with the pudding being THE proof, that sweet spot is NOT the case today. In fact we are in grave danger of killing the communal goose if we continue to split the nation into haves and have nots by continuing policies favoring the rich at expense of working folk, those of lower incomes and those of NO incomes. Just take a look at the list of "token" cuts proposed (on the heels of saving the unaffordable tax cuts for the rich) that impact working folk and poor almost entirely. WHERE, is say an ending of mortgage interest deductions on homes of a million or more? or on second homes?

As for "our" history of religion, I'm for the most part more than happy with the founders having realized the sinkhole of an "established" religion" and deftly provided the freedom of those so inclined to worship as they please but NOT to insert their beliefs directly into government policy. To be sure it gets in anyway with it being RARE for a pol to be elected who doesn't profess a belief in god and allegiance to one sect or another.

As for religion being the communal glue that binds? Perhaps varies by region? or in the eye of the beholder? I observe in OK a fealty to large extended families who tend to remain there for generations, followed by loyalty to church, and to, what I perceive their disadvantage and weakness, LITTLE concern for society as a whole. In Alaska and perhaps in much of WA and OR (among the least religious states in the union) we've more "new settlers" who've left extended families behind and much more of sense of general community.

In any case, in discussing public policy, I'd NOT favor any policy mandating or even encouraging more power to the various religions. By the same token, I'd not want to see government interference in the religious sector. It seems our founders got this one "about right".

I do puzzle about the seeming lack of "christian values" having been engulfed in the recent display of unrestrained greed. What happened to values such as a crust of bread for all? You saw the Scrooge Party favoring cutting off unemployment on CHRISTmas Eve?


John: Well......... often not easy to spot a leader in the midst of the fray. I suppose we'd have to go back to FDR to find a tougher era in which to be President. I guess he too was subject to an ideology spewing "right" with, like today, much of the public unaware of just what hit them. I can't think of any post WW President better suited for understanding and dealing with the Mess. Can you?

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