Sunday, July 29, 2012

When Potential Rewards Overwhelm Risk

An interesting blog post over at the venerable site inanis et vacua (possibly the blog of writer Jim Harrison) asserts that the problem with capitalism is it is too rewarding. An excerpt:

"We know that people will lie, cheat, and steal for relatively small payoffs. What do you suppose they’ll do if they can make $345 million a year doing it?...

The opportunity to get ahead can certainly make people work harder and sometimes smarter, which is very often a good thing. Increasing the potential rewards without limit, however, simply means that other motives and considerations will be overwhelmed. Offer me enough and I’ll not only ignore my obligations to my fellow man, I’ll feel that I ought to ignore them."
It's an interesting theory.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ben Stein's Useless Criticism of Obama's Handling of Europe's Finances

In this article in the American Spectator, vacationing economic pundit and former Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein does a masterful job of playing the reader like a small mouth bass at the end of a fly line. Setting himself up as an all-round good guy: nature lover, breakfast-making husband, friend of gentiles, hater of Nazis and racism, Ben makes point after unassailable point. Who can argue with him? 

Then, at the very end of  the article, fresh off the images of "life better than anyone deserves" and war-ravaged Europe, "Uncle Ben" uses Eurozone financial problems to make an absurd attack on President Obama:
"But out at Hope, and in Sandpoint tonight, life is better than anyone deserves. And the Vissers are better than I deserve.

Still, I went to sleep with foreboding. Europe is falling apart. Mr. Obama is doing nothing, zero, about it. NOTHING. A cratered Europe will have immense effects on the world economy. Europe's economy, in toto, is larger than ours. Is Mr. Obama thinking of a rescue plan? Is he thinking about it at all? Does he even care if we go into another leg of recession as demand for U.S. exports to Europe corrects? What is he doing? Did he resign? Where is Mr. Geithner on this? Have we ever had a President without an international economic policy before? No. Never mind. Just go to sleep."
"Foreboding," "cratered Europe," "rescue," "recession" - more than enough to ruin a vacation that's "better than any of us deserve." My God, it's devastation time again. That's powerful writing, Ben.

I wonder what Ben Stein would say about Great Britain's David Cameron, or Germany's Angela Merkel coming over to the United States with a "rescue plan," telling us how to run the US economy - or how to overhaul our health care system.

What does Ben Stein think President Obama should do to fix Europe's economic problems?

By the way, many northern European nations such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, and others are doing pretty well. Right-wing pundits like to paint the entire European continent as a financial basket case, when, in fact, the main problems are found in Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy.

Is it really true, as Ben Stein says, that the Obama Administration is doing NOTHING about the European financial mess?  Ben is not just implying that Obama is doing NOTHING with respect to Europe, or that he's not doing enough, he flat out says Obama is doing nothing. How does he know?

Does Ben Stein spend all his time at the White House shadowing President Obama's every move?

Pretty hard to do from that cabin by the lake.