Friday, April 2, 2010

Some things are worth repeating – as often as it takes

Here are some important facts that seem to need emphasis - again. 
    The housing meltdown and financial crisis that accompanied it was NOT the result of insufficient regulation of financial markets or of unrestrained greed. 
    The financial sector is and was highly regulated. In fact it was overregulation of the housing industry that caused the crisis - the arrogant, irresponsible promotion of a social agenda to increase the proportion of home ownership in the U.S. no matter what the cost, no matter what the risk. Congressman Barney Frank is the most culpable - yet he is a hero to his many supporters. The amount of damage for which he personally, by "rolling the dice" (his words) is responsible is beyond estimation. He should be vilified not celebrated. There are others Chris Dodd (who is trying to extend the damage with his latest financial regulation proposals)., Nancy Pelosi, and others.

    The housing crisis (slump) will NOT be solved by trying to stimulate or boost or support the housing industry.
    Housing development was artificially raised to an unsustainable level by the nudging, bullying, and mandating of Fannie, Freddie and Barney who, in effect, muscled out any private sector competition and established a comprehensive new, dumbed-down, set of mortgage approval standards that put people in houses they could not afford. The only "cure" for the housing industry is a reallocation of these misallocated resources into economic ventures that can be sustained, without the need for persistent government (taxpayer) support. The current initiative by Team-Obama is just the latest exercise in futility, one more assault on private enterprise and individual responsibility. This means allowing the housing market to spontaneously reach bottom. [See today's WSJ editorial here.] 

    Here is an interesting dictionary entry.
    Politics - Derived from PolyticsPoly - many; tics - pl. of tic - a tenacious blood-sucking parasite. 

    The price of health-care, like any price, is the result of the supply and demand for health-care. 
    This means the price (aka cost) of health-care will not come down unless we somehow reduce the demand or increase the supply. You can stand on your head and whistle dixie until you pass out, there is no way to deny or change this basic fact. Question: what in the current health-care reform package will increase the supply of health-care? Will it be enough to bring down the price? What will decrease the demand? (this one is easy - on paper, nothing, its all about satisfying an increasing demand; in reality, the response to increased demand will be various forms of rationing - longer waiting for the doctor [when was the last time you kept the doctor waiting? When was the last time the doctor did not keep you waiting? That's ok your time is worth less than his/hers, right?], longer wait times to get an appointment, quotas for certain kinds of procedures, ... . ).

    Governmnts cannot "create" jobs independently of the private sector.
    Government is a service organization, it does not produce anything (or produces very little) that can be sold in the marketplace. It gets revenue from some form of taxation (current taxation or future taxation or inflation - which is a hidden tax on money and debt). Taxes are paid out of incomes. If those incomes are earned in government this is just value-neutral recycling.  Its the incomes from the private sector that count. Only the private sector creates value. To be sure, governments can sometimes enter the private sector and behave like a producer. If they do this and charge the market price and cover their costs (payments to private sector resource owners -  workers, landlords, capital providers) they might as well be private sector producers. (Show me an example of this.) If they don't cover their costs (the usual case) they should not be in business.

    Governments work by diverting resources from the private sector - essentially by coercion. This "crowds out" private sector jobs. In the short run it may appear as if jobs are being created by government spending, but this impression will be betrayed as resource prices adjust. In the current recession we don't even have the impression of new job creation. Unemployment is not the result of too few job opportunities in general; it is the result of too few job opportunities in unsustainable ventures, like housing, auto production, and other overproduced sectors, that spill out into the economy at large but may not be suitable for employment in many others sectors. There is an inevitable painful transition for restructuring/retraining that takes time and patience. Any attempt to short-circuit it will prolong it!

    There are also social psychological effects that obscure the fundamentals. Business confidence is certainly a driver of private sector investment. But artificially boosting business confidence does not buy much in the way of real recovery. And current economic policy is, in any case, unpredictable, ad-hoc, often capricious and detracts from rather than adds to the degree of business confidence.

    All this is well-known by many who have studied and learnt the lessons of U.S. economic history. It is the reality that disproved the claims of the Keynesian economic policies of the quarter-century following W W II. But, somehow, the Keynesian mumbo-jumbo has bounced back. Maybe because the earning generation of today was not alive or had not reached adulthood the last time around. History is repeating itself in a painful way.

    The U.S. public-school system is a failure. 
    There are good public schools, mostly in the affluent suburbs, where they face real competition. But, the system as a whole, and education for lower income kids in particular, is horrendous. U.S. pre-college education is probably the least successful in the developed world - as measured by math, reading, writing, and comprehension competencies. The system cannot be reformed. It is the problem, it cannot be the solution.

    The only hope for lower income families in search of adequate basic education is parental-choice - competition in the delivery of education. There is absolutely no reason why education should be produced by government. It has no special expertise in this. Education can be subsidized by government without being produced by it - or exclusively produced by it. Team-Obama claims to care about low income families, but its education policies are dominated by the powerful teachers' unions who are determined to maintain a government monopoly on the production of education.

    There are a lot more things to be said, but that is probably enough for the moment.

    1 comment:

    Jason Tyra said...

    I repeat the health care supply/demand point to everyone who will listen. In my experience, either most people don't get it or they simply don't believe that it's true. Ironically, the same thing that makes universal health insurance possible from an actuarial standpoint is the thing that will force it be be rationed (barring any change in policy)- the idea that people are more likely to seek preventive/routine care when they have health insurance.