A tale of two presidents
Progressive Dane strongholds must be circling December 2 as a red-letter day. And I do mean red. For that is when Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez is expected to win a plebiscite that will give him totalitarian powers as president for life.
It appears that Chavez will be given the power to set aside state laws, declare a state of emergency, nationalize private property, etc. at his whim. Like his pal Fidel.
Why would people freely give up their rights? Tell them what is behind Door Number 2, Don Pardo: a six-hour work day, "free" health care (with Cuban doctors, no less), free food for the poor, goodies galore! It's called bribery and true libertarians understand that what government gives it can take away.
But isn't that the PD platform: city-only minimum wages, mandatory health care for small mom and pop start-ups, eviction prevention funding, etc. etc. Hey, it's not coming out of their pockets.
Chavez is not the first to think he can create wealth by presidential fiat. It's a good thing he's got oil.
Not President for Life
I love Paris and not only in the springtime but it was spring when last I visited, staying in a small hotel on the Boulevard St. Michel in the Latin Quarter, not far from the Sorbonne and across the street from the Luxembourg Gardens, where the old men played boule and lovers met on their lunch breaks before returning home to their spouses.
We were about to visit the Musée de Cluny, the great museum of medieval art, when we were passed, going the other way on the sidewalk, by a noisy contingent of placard wavers. At our destination, a hastily scrawled sign advised that the museum was closed. It had been "struck" only moments before.
In fact, it seemed that most of Paris was on strike that spring of 2000 (thankfully, not the botes). We watched a long parade of public employees, led by teachers, on strike. For all that agitation, France's economy has not kept pace with most European nations achieving only 2.1% growth over the last five years compared to 2.8% in the United Kingdom, 3.5% in Spain and 6.1% in Ireland.
New French President Nicolas Sarkozy aims to do something about that by, for one thing, ending France's long-established 35-hour work week. "What madness it is to think the way to increase wealth and create jobs is to work less," he says. Sarkozy, it is safe to say, is going in the opposite direction from Chavez.
Sarkozy hopes to improve France's ranking of 45th in the Index of Economic Freedom. But that is a far sight better than Venezuela's rank of 144th (out of 157 nations) - in the same decrepit neighborhood as its buddies Cuba, Iran, and North Korea. Wonder where they would rank the Bolivarian Republic of Madison?
The Marxist dilemma
Did you know Chavez has a dilemma that has plagued socialist heads of state since Lenin? It's true. And for the solution, he should revisit the solution Lenin worked out with Zinoviev. Read this bit of Marxist claptrap. It probably will make sense to Kyle Nabilcy.
Picking up on my Thanksgiving diatribe
A new book posits that per person income was essentially flat throughout history until approximately A.D. 1800. Yes, that coincided with the Industrial Revolution. But author Gregory Clark attributes the increase "partly to the slow but sure spread of middle-class values in England: Literacy and numeracy increased, hours worked rose, and interpersonal violence declined."
In other words, values matter. As a black delegate from Kansas City told me at the Republican national convention in 1992, "poor people have poor ways."
But no nation can achieve prosperity without "an open, dynamic and capitalist society. The National Review writes about both concepts.
There are no guarantees
Peter Eisch would win the title of most intelligent blog-responder even if it were not by default. Responding to my last blog about encouraging responsible behavior through ownership, Peter suggests: "We could subsidize mortgage insurance payments to allow people to afford lower-down-payment mortgages" and by eliminating floating rates and balloon payments.
Sounds scrumptious, Peter. Where can I get them there subsidized mortgage insurance payments? Oops, damn, I earn too much money. My bad.
But I can't dismiss the idea. Robert J. Schiller in Sunday's New York Times does propose something of the sort -- mandating home equity insurance on the market value of a home. But I cannot understand how that would not add to the upfront cost of your home.
It's not like home ownership is not already and subsidized and protected -- by the Federal Home Loan Bank system, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (to preserve a source for home mortgages), Fannie Mae, etc. Wisconsin state government offers the property tax deduction for all and, for low-income homeowners, the Homestead Credit. Mortgage interest is deductible on federal income taxes.
Freedom is having nothing left to lose?
The Wisconsin State Journal on Sunday published a profoundly conservative editorial cartoon for a fearfully middle of the road newspaper. Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public examine the U.S. Constitution and are incredulous that they cannot fine their presumed rights to guaranteed cable television and cheap gasoline.
My point today, class, is that there are limits to what can be guaranteed and those guarantees can come at a fearsome price. Risk and sacrifice (the latter concept includes work) must be rewarded; failure must be penalized. Yes, cushion the blow but leave some of the sting.
Saying anything else is pure demagoguery. (See Chavez, Hugo)