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January 26, 2012

The Daily DOOM


Liberals love to haul out the World War II government-spending canard. In their minds, it fits both their FDR-as-a-secular-saint belief system and their Keynesian spending argument. Yet America in 1941 was not much like America is now. In most ways that count, our country is a completely different place than it was then. (The past is a foreign country, as the old saying goes; they do things differently there.) Then, the population was predominately rural rather than urban; then, the workforce was heavily concentrated in both agriculture and manufacturing; then, the population was about half the size that it is now; the population also had a much smaller cohort of the elderly; the welfare state was still in its infancy in 1941; and even prior to the war, America’s industrial might dwarfed nearly every other nation in the world. The American GDP growth curve was on the verge of a skyscraper rise then (though we didn’t know it at the time), whereas now...not so much.

Here's the thing about World War II: Allied victory was not at all preordained. Had Adolf Hitler been a bit less paranoid and megalomaniacal*, Nazi Germany might well have won that war. Japan never had a prayer of defeating America, but if the Nazis had prevailed in Europe America would have been hard-pressed to defeat Japan in the Pacific theater -- we would have lost the British and ANZAC forces as allies as well as the Russians -- and there’s every possibility that the US Navy would have simply withdrawn from the Asian theater to protect Hawaii and the mainland. That war was a much more closely-run thing than many people realize. America faced enemies that were much more formidable than the ones we have now: Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. “Defeat” in that war carried much more profound implications than “defeat” at the hands of a ragtag Taliban or Al Qaeda terrorist band in Iraq. The public monies spent during World War II were not expended as some wrong-headed "stimulus" effort -- it was an existential battle against powerful enemies.

(*All Hitler had to do to win that war was NOT pre-emptively declare war on the United States after Pearl Harbor. I doubt that FDR would have been able to convince the American public to fight Nazi Germany when after all it was Japan who had attacked us. That would have given Germany enough time to strangle Britain, consolidate their hold over western Europe, and concentrate their forces on the Soviet Union. The European war would have been over by 1943, and the Nazis would have had more than a decade to retrench before America could have seriously challenged them.)

In related DOOM-y news: 20% of young Germans have never heard of Auschwitz. So it's not just American kids who are historically illiterate.

Lése majesté is not something His Majesty can simply let pass. In a more civilized age, His Majesty would have had the blackguard dangled from a gibbet for such an outrage against the Royal Person.

I’m sure that this was just an honest mistake that anyone could have made and that there was no political, racial, or ass-covering aspect to it at all. At all.

Yes, this is an economics story: there’s a price to be paid for being a dick, and it’s usually far higher than people think it is, esepecially when riding high. Forgiveness may be an admirable virtue, but it also goes completely against the human grain. When you spend your life alienating your true friends while hanging out with liars, grifters and gold-diggers, you shouldn’t be shocked when you get no sympathy when the inevitable fall comes. Businesses have known for ages that "good will" is a pearl of great price, and that a loss of that asset can lead to ruin. Hubris is always shadowed by Nemesis -- that is the eternal truth of the human condition.

Greg Mankiw’s take on Obama’s SOTU. I think it’s fair to say that he wasn’t exactly bowled over by it.

CalPERS racked up a sweet 1.1% investment return last year. CalSTRS, the other large public-sector pension fund in California for teachers, racked up a similarly impressive 2.3% return rate. Bonuses all around! (Is the sarcasm amplifier on? I’m not hearing it over here. Make sure the middle switch in in the ON position.) California is so boned.

In which I respond to John Bury’s response to my response.

Barack Southey Obama.

“He conceives that the business of the magistrate is not merely to see that the persons and property of the people are secure from attack, but that he ought to be a jack-of-all-trades, architect, engineer, schoolmaster, merchant, theologian, a Lady Bountiful in every parish, a Paul Pry in every house, spying, eavesdropping, relieving, admonishing, spending our money for us. His principle is, if we understand it rightly, that no man can do anything so well for himself as his rulers, be they who they may, can do it for him, and that a government approaches nearer and nearer to perfection in proportion as it interferes more and more with the habits and notions of individuals.”

If Greece doesn’t kill the Euro, Portugal will. And if Portugal doesn’t, Spain will. And if Spain doesn’t, Italy will. It’s almost like this currency union is doomed or something.

Teh Bernank pledges to keep screwing savers and investors until at least 2014.

Jan Schakowsky (D-IL): “Twenty thousand jobs is really not that many jobs. Obama has destroyed millions of jobs since he took office. Now that’s a lot of jobs!” That might not be an exact quote.

$1000 per year on coffee? In my case, that’s probably a lowball estimate.

Postmodernism is dead? Please, God, let it be true.

Where gold comes from and where it goes.

Sub-Saharan Africa is Exhibit A in the utter failure of the liberal worldview. Decades after the end of colonial rule, almost the entire continent remains mired in poverty, violence, and stagnating development. From the Peace Corps and UN to modern NGOs, an ocean of western money has flowed into that continent with precious little effect except to make the recipients of all this “help” even more dysfunctional.

At this point, the Greeks would get better loan terms from the Mafia than they will from the bond markets.

Newt: To the Moon, Alice! To the Moon! I love the idea, Newt, seriously, but I don’t think we’ve got the spare quarter-trillion or so it would take to do this thing. I mean, don’t get me wrong: we need to colonize space, for our own self-preservation if nothing else. But man...we’re currently in debt to the tune of 100% of GDP. We’ve got some pressing problems here on the ol’ dirtball to deal with. But once they’re out of the way? Moonbase, baby! I’m totally on board.

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posted by Monty at 08:40 AM

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