Friday, November 05, 2010

Quotes of the day

When people tell me how mad they are at Wal-Mart for driving the mom-and-pop stores out of business, I ask them how Wal-Mart managed to do that. Did they go around torching their stores in the middle of the night, threatening the moms and the pops with baseball bats if they didn’t close their stores? The consumers drove the mom and pops out of business. The consumers preferred Wal-Mart (and Target and K-Mart) to the mom-and-pops. To the extent Wal-Mart did the driving, it was by offering better products at better prices. I was thinking of that yesterday when I saw the headline in the Washington Post:

GOP Seizes Control of House

I know, it’s just an expression. But they didn’t seize control. The voters essentially gave the Republicans control. (I say “essentially” because voters don’t vote for who gets control–they vote for an individual politician.) And if the Republicans don’t do a good job, the voters will let the Dems run the House again.--Russ Roberts

This election was a nationwide recoil against Barack Obama's idea of unlimited government. The more he denounced Republicans as the party of "no," the better Republicans did. His denunciations enabled people to support Republicans without embracing them as anything other than impediments to him. He had defined himself as a world-class whiner even before Rahm Emanuel, a world-class flatterer, declared that Obama had dealt masterfully with "the toughest times any president has ever faced" - quite a claim, considering that before the first president from Illinois was even inaugurated, seven of the then-34 states had seceded. Today's president from Illinois, a chronic campaigner and incontinent complainer who is uninhibited by considerations of presidential dignity, has blamed his difficulties on: George W. Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, the Supreme Court, a Cincinnati congressman (John Boehner), Karl Rove, Americans for Prosperity and other "groups with harmless-sounding names" (Hillary Clinton's "vast right-wing conspiracy" redux), "shadowy third-party groups" (they are as shadowy as steam calliopes), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and, finally, the American people. ... The progressive agenda is actually legitimated by the incomprehension and anger it elicits: If the people do not resent and resist what is being done on their behalf, what is being done is not properly ambitious. If it is comprehensible to its intended beneficiaries, it is the work of insufficiently advanced thinkers.--George Will

I don’t believe for a second that the majority of people who argue for health reform really give a damn about the poor or infirm – it just makes them feel good to say it, or be more acceptable in the company of others. Why do I say this so strongly? Because providing even a very generous level of support to the poor and the infirm is so easily within our reach that it is laughable to suggest otherwise. Instead, “we” use the poor and infirm as pawns in a corporatist game, in a middle-class entitlement game, special-interest game, political-nanny-statism game, and no one is willing to admit it. Look at it this way. You want to argue that the world’s richest economy could easily sacrifice a little income to make sure people do not die (early, unnaturally, due to the poverty that used to kill people) because of income or for the seriously infirm to go without care. I agree. If you add up all of the annual expenditures by local governments, state governments, and the federal government in the United States, you would get a figure around $6 trillion. That would make the US government the world’s single largest economy, and by a factor of 20%.--Michael Rizzo

It is hard to exaggerate the emotions invested in the “hopey-changey thing” around the world. Just think of the cheering crowds at Mr Obama’s open-air speech in Berlin in the summer of 2008; the rave reviews given to the newly-elected president’s Cairo speech on Islam and the west; the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Mr Obama, when he had barely had time to arrange his pens on the Oval Office desk. Now a nasty thought is occurring to the foreigners who invested so much hope in the new president. Perhaps Mr Obama represented not a new beginning in American relations with the rest of the world, but a temporary aberration? Maybe, after a brief stab at internationalism and engagement with the rest of the world, the US will revert to a more unilateralist and nationalist foreign policy?--Gideon Rachman

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