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November 19, 2004

Oliver Willis Speaks Out.

Noted US based leftie blogger, Oliver Willis  has this graphic up:
Willis

I'm not normally associated with things left-wing, not known to agree with the rather Statist ideology expressed by the left-wing of the US Democratic  Party. I have to admit though that he does have a number of points. These are exactly the things that US politics should be about.
1) Equal Pay? Sure, no problem with that. Equal pay for equal work is just fine and dandy. Who does the determining of what is equal work might cause a few problems but we have an answer for that; trust the people. 300 million Americans get together and decide, on a case by case, issue by issue basis, exactly what is "equal work"  that deserves "equal pay." A shorthand description of this process is "free market".
2) Equal Rights. Of course, no doubt about it, equality before the law is one of the defining  characterisitics of a free and fair society. Oliver is quite correct that the US is not quite perfect in this respect. We'd have to do away with all of the affirmative action nonsense, women-owned, minority-owned set-asides of course, slightly change the prevalent view that only whites can be racist,  start to think a little more seriously about the conflicting rights of women and their unborn children....but yes, I do think he's on to something here, there are ways in which the US can do better on this score.
3) 40 hour work week? Here I disagree a little....I'm not sure why those who are happy to work part-time should be forced to work longer hours. Surely those who desire just a little extra income, perhaps while making sure that they can raise their kids in the manner they desire, should be allowed to do so without being whipped back into the workplace?
4) Social Security. No doubt about it, one of the grand problems facing the US for the longer term. I'm not sure that the President's proposals are correct in every detail but they do seem to be a good start for the beginning of the conversation; for those just starting to pay in now the system provides a negative rate of return on their money so something has to happen....reduce benefits to those collecting now and in the near future, raise the retirement age....we can't really raise taxes as above, it's already a bad deal for young workers. Perhaps partial privatisation is the answer? Perhaps trying, at least, to raise the return for those who will fund the system in the medium term is a good idea?
5) Medicare? Sure, I have no problem with the existence of a medical system for the old. I'm a European remember? I believe in these things. There might be the odd quibble about precisely how it should work.
6) Clean Water. Yes, agreed. It is important that what comes out of the tap is good enough to drink. The global experience is that private companies do this best ( even France is signed on to this one). You might also want to avoid the European Union experience whereby new regulations just coming in mean that tap water has to be purer than most mineral waters. A waste of money really. Remember that cleaning up the last 10% of any pollution costs 90% of the money and the last 1%, 90% of that. At some point one has to say, "OK, that's good enough. Next problem please".
7) Clean Air? As above. Air pollution continues to fall. Good. We're obviously doing something right and it would be a shame to spend even more money when we're already doing a good job.
8) Safe food. Absolutely agreed. More irradiation, more GM, both processes we know add to food safety. Organic food is known to have more bugs and bacteria on and in it than industrially produced food so that should go as well. We might also note that the very worst practices in the food industry are in the meat packing part of it. That's the part overseen by the Federal Government via the USDA. A good lesson to learn, that using central government to do something can produce perverse results.
9) Freedom of speech. Indeed, it would be interesting to expand that to college campuses across the country.
10) Voting rights...yes, one of the grander scandals of American political life. We really do need to get rid of the absurd gerrymandering of districts that leave all but 30 House seats uncompetetive. That would include those districts that look like Rorshach ink blots on a map, set up to ensure minority representation of course.

So, somewhat to my surprise I find myself in agreement with one of the more partisan bloggers out there. These are indeed some of the problems that the US faces, the issues around which politics should revolve. I do hope that Mr. Willis, now that he's had at least some of the solutions explained to him, takes the advice on board. We know how to solve these problems Oliver, so why don't we get on with it?

Update: Linked into the Outside the Beltway Friday Linkfest

November 19, 2004 in Idiotarians | Permalink

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Comments

When left up to the free market, many of these things had a snowball's chance in hell of happening. We had child labor, 100 hour work weeks, women and blacks discriminated against, and widespread pollution (see Upton Sinclair). I think the free market is awesome, but history has shown that things that don't produce immediate profit motives (say, cleaning the water) need the government to push them in order for them to occur. In US history, it was the government - most often the government of FDR - to get any of these things to happen.

Posted by: Oliver | Nov 19, 2004 1:39:41 PM

I was interested in reading what you had to say about Oliver's latest Democrat ad. I must say, though, that I was very disappointed by the result. You adopt a mocking, superior, know-it-all tone, epitomized by the line "now that he's had at least some of the solutions explained to him." What you clearly fail to grasp is the historical context of the ideas listed. These are not, or should not be, points of current contention, although in many cases the status quo is not yet ideal, but rather are historical triumphs of the Democratic party of the U.S., and liberal idealogy in general.

1. Equal Pay. I don't know why you bring the Free Market into this. If two individuals have had the same job for the same amount of time and have demonstrated the same amount of competence in that job, then they should be paid the same. Women still tend to collect smaller paychecks for equal work, but it's been getting better, and we have Democrats to thank for that.

2. Equal Rights. From the contents of your statement on this notion, I get the feeling we won't see eye-to-eye on this. Let's just say that historically the fact that we have any concept of equal representation for women and minorities in the U.S. owes to the Democrats.

3. 40 Hour Work Week. Again, this is a little matter of history. The concept that people shouldn't have to work more than 40 hours a week to earn a decent living is a relatively recent concept in the U.S., and the fact that it is even that low has a lot to do with effective unions that vote Democrat. Sadly, we're starting to see this erode.

4. Social Security. I'm not exactly sure why you're so much in love with our President. Generally speaking, most Europeans seem a lot smarter than that. Sane economists predict that we're going to hit the financial wall in 2007, when 70 million baby boomers drop out of the work place and start sucking on the social security teat. Bush has nothing in place to seriously deal with that problem. Honesty compels me to say that Kerry didn't have any serious plans either. The fact is that no one in the public spotlight is even acknowledging that we're facing a crisis.

5. Medicare. As you said nothing of substance about this issue, there's no real grounds for argument.

6, 7, 8. Clean Water, Clean Air. Safe Food. What, clean water is a good thing? Really? You know what? Every single environmental bill in America, every single one that attempts to regulate companies to secure better air, better water, safer food, and a generally cleaner environment for the average citizen, was a Democratic proposition. And now that Republicans are in control, many of these regulatory laws are not being enforced. And water and air quality in America is slipping.

Interestingly enough, the first environmental regulation in the world was created in England as a response to the environmental harm caused by the metal refining and acid production industries.

9. It took me a while to figure out what you were talking about here, and then I realized you were probably concerned about how Young Republicans feel like an isolated minority on many campuses, which are by and large liberal. What you fail to distinguish between is the concept of suppressing someone's voice versus simply failing to be interested in listening to it. I read a statistic off a righty blog that 90% of college teachers were liberal. To my mind, that's another way of saying that 9 out of 10 Ph.D.'s think that Conservatism is a really dumb idea.

10. Voting Rights. My goodness, as if the House isn't locked up by Republicans, and as if gerrymandering wasn't cheerfully being employed by Republicans to eliminate even more opposition seats. Butter wouldn't melt in your mouth. As it stands, our system could use a major upgrade. We have the technology to make direct voting practical even with a population of over 300 million, so we could eliminate districting and the electoral college in one fell swoop. And, again historically, as I mentioned above, the fact that women and minorities can vote rests solely on the shoulders of Democrats.

You know, for a self-proclaimed European, you'd make a really good Southern gentry Republican, with your ability to deliberately misconstrue arguments and maintain an elitist tone while pretending to support the best interests of the lower class.

Posted by: David R. | Nov 19, 2004 2:06:47 PM

Oliver: you're joking, right? (Upton Sinclair? My, but you're up-to-date).

How is forcing children to work part of the free market? How is racism and sexism part of the free market? As for air pollution, the West handled that better than the East.

Even the 100-hour week was considered a better deal at the time by those who accepted it than what was on offer elsewhere.

Posted by: Scott Campbell at Blithering Bunny | Nov 19, 2004 5:52:40 PM

Tim, you should really learn from David R. how not to sound like a sneering know-it-all.

>Women still tend to collect smaller paychecks for equal work,

Claims about this usually end up, on examination, to be a matter of women being paid less on average than men, not less for same work, and there are various reasons why this is so, such as women having different sorts of jobs, having kids, etc. Thomas Sowell in Vision of the Annointed has a good section on this.

>Again, this is a little matter of history.

Ah, that's where we righties go wrong. We never read history. Tim, go order some history books for us, will you?

>The concept that people shouldn't have to work more than 40 hours a week to earn a decent living is a relatively recent concept in the U.S.

The reason it's recent is because it's only with increasing wealth that the idea of living a good life while only working a 40-hour week has been possible for most people.

But the main problem with this idea is that it's so vague. What counts as a "decent life"? I'm happy with the idea that we should make sure that people have enough to eat, clothes to wear and a roof over their heads, but if you start demanding that they have to have an internet connection and a new car and a pool for their forty hours, then I draw the line, seeing as the rest of us will be paying for those things

>and the fact that it is even that low has a lot to do with effective unions that vote Democrat.

The free market allows people to make their own trade-offs on amount of hours they work versus they money they want to earn. As Milton Friedman has argued, most of the increases in worker's prosperity this century have come about because of the free market, not because of unions.

>4. Social Security... Sane economists predict that we're going to hit the financial wall in 2007.

And who's idea was Social Security? And who is it that keeps it alive?

>9... What you fail to distinguish between is the concept of suppressing someone's voice versus simply failing to be interested in listening to it.

But campus liberals aren't uninterested in hearing these views, on the contrary, they're so interested that they show up whenever possible and scream at whoever voices them. Or else they have a nervous breakdown when someone disagrees with them, and accuse you of being a Nazi.

>I read a statistic off a righty blog that 90% of college teachers were liberal. To my mind, that's another way of saying that 9 out of 10 Ph.D.'s think that Conservatism is a really dumb idea.

Actually, it was 7 out of 8 in the humanities and social sciences - the 9 out 10 of all academics was just at Berkeley and Stanford. And having known dozens of recent humanities and social sciences PhDs, this really isn't anything to be boasting about.

Anyway, you've made a silly mistake here of assuming that PhDs all go into academia. But of course there are plenty of PhDs who go elsewhere, so stats about what College Profs think doesn't tell us what those PhDs who went elsewhere think.

>We have the technology to make direct voting practical even with a population of over 300 million, so we could eliminate districting and the electoral college in one fell swoop.

Yes. Yes we could. Of course, there is just the little matter that we would be destroying a significant part of the Federalist system in doing so, a system that has worked damn well so far. So we might need to think just a little before rushing off to embrace David's idea.

(Actually, we have some nice Labour gerrymanders in Britain here ourselves).

Posted by: Scott Campbell at Blithering Bunny | Nov 19, 2004 6:05:39 PM

Well, if 40-hours a week is so good then why not 35? I hear france is doing it. In fact, I believe they even send the gendarmes around to enforce it.

Let's give it up for liberty and the free market - Whoot! There it is.......

Posted by: Daniel | Nov 19, 2004 6:25:46 PM

The stated agenda is fine. The unstated agenda sucks. I don't want the Democratic Socialist party running my life.

Posted by: Todd | Nov 19, 2004 6:50:38 PM

The Upton Sinclair thing is hilarious. It represents the typical Left-liberal mindset -- they live in a cartoon-world of their own imagination. Citing Upton Sinclair on issues of pollution?! Would he cite Bambi for a point on animal cruelty?

As for clean air, water and food, statist responses inexorably follow the Law of Unintended Consequences, and end up giving political and legal cover to the regulated industry. The reality is that manufacturers PREFER regulation over products liability lawsuits -- which is a minarchist libertarian solution that imposes the costs of harm, on a case-by-case basis, on those in a position to prevent it.

In contrast, state-based strong-arm regulation almost always comes with special protections from lawsuits, and instead empowers bureaucrats to decide for all of us what is safe and what is not.

There are a few other big-ticket items not on the list -- the income tax, a nationalized monetary system (the Federal Reserve). They should add this to their sloganeering: "From the people who brought you Amtrak."

Oh, and World War I (Wilson) World War II (FDR, the criminal), Korea (Truman) and Vietnam (JFK) can all be laid at the feet of the Democrats, too.

Posted by: George Gaskell | Nov 19, 2004 8:55:10 PM

"I think the free market is awesome."

Translation: Somebody has to earn a living around here. How else are we going to have something to steal?

Posted by: George Gaskell | Nov 19, 2004 8:58:51 PM

Please allow me to pile onto the comments on Tim Worstall’s post.

"…although in many cases the status quo is not yet ideal, but rather are historical triumphs of the Democratic party of the U.S., and liberal idealogy (sic) in general"

Before we get started, let’s agree on something, and that is that both political parties share many ideals, it’s just that we often differ on how to reach the solution, which is one of the fundamental points made by the original post. To imply that only Democrats are driving towards a fairer, more just and less onerous world is much more insulting than Worstall’s tone. Democrats have no more historically moral voice to speak from than Republicans, and if you don’t agree, than I suggest I, as a Republican, owe YOU a history lesson. It is this kind of self-righteous, malignant, narcissistic, unaware, attitude that engenders Worstall’s tone in the first place. If we want that, we can go listen to an idiot absolutely true to this form; Bill Maher.

Equal Pay and Equal Rights
I’m not sure how pointing out that the Democratic Party started or pushes these concepts are necessarily a refutation of Worstall’s assertions; while it is certainly not true, it’s also beside the point. The point is the concepts, as employed in our statutes, are so governmentally invasive and lack such a basic economic understanding of the free market at work that they introduced a shameful amount of administrative overhead into doing business in the USA even as they produced debatable returns for the intended recipients. Go ahead; read the statistical (not political) studies on their effectiveness. So we tend to have bad situations inspiring even worse legislation that doesn’t nurture its intended solution, at great government expense. Who wants that?

40-hour workweek
Why is everyone still talking about this? In France where they have instituted this law, amongst others, they have not generated a new net job in 10 years. Conversely, in USA, where there is still at least a modicum of freedom of choice, folks can choose how much they want to work, and in combination with their talents, decide how much money they want to make. Isn’t that good? Some jobs require more time than others. If you want to work less, get a different job. If you want to legislate business to define jobs in a uniform manner, get ready for a much higher structural unemployment rate. It really is that simple, and unions’ (who as workers’ representatives are supposed to be tied into business at least enough to understand this) continued absorption with making pay, seniority, hours, job descriptions, etc. less flexible, rather than negotiating more flexibility, more objective meritocracies, pervasive stock options and revenue sharing plans, really limit employee pay in the long run and defines their fading memberships and increasing irrelevancy. Forty-hour workweek? Get over it. This ain’t Russia, and that’s a good thing. You are living in the richest country in the world with the highest standard of living in the world. Stop attempting to choke the golden goose. It could be flying five times this fast already.

Social Security and Medicare
As a continuation of our equal rights/pay discussion, both are examples of a defined need made into terrible public policy. Government needs to get out NOW. Watching Kerry debate Social Security on TV was not only obfuscating and misleading, it bordered on slander (I’m not trying to say it is just Democrat’s fault). For a solution already enacted by government, check here: http://www.ncpa.org/ba/ba215.html .

Clean Water, Air, and Safe Food
These are great examples of foundational differences between Republicans and Democrats. Let’s look at clean air as an example. Instead of lawyers writing laws on the types of pollution devices needed by industry to regulate pollution, and setting up huge agencies to administer it, why not forgo all that. Let the government decide on the level of acceptable toxins per so many units of product in any given industry (this is the comparatively easy part and already done), and sell chits to industry on the open market. Big polluters will have to buy more chits. Great industry will sell their chits, because they will innovate manufacturing and emission technology to below acceptable levels. The chits will find their own price. And the government will debate the acceptable level of pollution, which is what they should do in a democracy. And the government will stop playing with my taxes to pay lawyers and inspectors and engineers to manage and police and otherwise harass businesses, which is not what they should do. Guess what else will happen; some companies will return to USA to do business, and they’ll hire people.

Freedom of Speech
Ummm. You still don’t get it. When I go to school, it’s bad enough that I have to listen to some pompous academic who doesn’t appreciate the practical ramifications of his almost child-like view of the world comfortably insulated by his womblike governmental atmosphere and incestuous social sphere. What I don’t have to do is listen to said irrational PHD propeller head spout off at the front of the class and inject his idiotic socialist agenda on the world as if it were fact, and pretend to give me a ‘C’ if I don’t agree.

Gerrymandering
Let’s stop it. What more shall we say? I hesitate to add anything else, other than to question the continued need to see voters’ rights through racial glasses. It’s meaningless, dispiriting and unhelpful; like listening to the debate on education through the same slanted forehead approach. That we are still doing it in 2004 (after all these years) for purely political gain is shameful.

Posted by: Conservative Virginian | Nov 19, 2004 9:08:34 PM

And, again historically, as I mentioned above, the fact that women and minorities can vote rests solely on the shoulders of Democrats.

I suggest you read a book. A U.S. history book. And not one written by Howie Zinn.

Cordially...

Posted by: Rick | Nov 19, 2004 10:47:53 PM

"And, again historically, as I mentioned above, the fact that women and minorities can vote rests solely on the shoulders of Democrats."

Er, yea, George Wallace was a republican, right?

And the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments were pushed by Democrats, too, right?

Aaron Augustus Sargent, who introduced the first amendment to the Constitution which would give women the right to vote, the text of which was introduced into every congress for 42 years before it became the 16th amendment to the constitution, he was a Democrat too, right?

Oh and Susan B. Anthony voted a straight Democrat ticket on Nov. 5, 1872 too, right?

One can say up is down, right is left, and green is red all day long. It doesn’t make it factual. It seems to me that both parties have pushed for equal rights, but it was historically the Republican Party who got the ball rolling (hey remember that little war we had?) and it was the Democrat party who came in late in the 1960’s and decided to get in on the party.

Cordially...

Posted by: Buddy | Nov 20, 2004 4:58:31 AM