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Archive for May 24th, 2010

Governments that tax work and subsidize sloth are committing a form of slow-motion suicide, and the Greek fiscal crisis is the canary in the coal mine of this phenomenon. Interestingly, some European governments are trying to halt the downward slide, though I suspect that most of them will fail to take the necessary steps. But it’s nonetheless good news that this is getting coverage since it is equally important that the United States learn the right lessons so we can reverse the reckless big-government policies of the Bush-Obama years. Here’s an excerpt from a thorough AP story:

…the welfare state — cherished by many Europeans as an alternative to what they see as dog-eat-dog American capitalism — is coming under its most serious threat in decades: Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. Deep budget cuts are under way across Europe. Although the first round is focused mostly on government payrolls — the least politically explosive target — welfare benefits are looking increasingly vulnerable. “The current welfare state is unaffordable,” said Uri Dadush, director of the Carnegie Endowment’s International Economics Program. …”We have to adjust our social security systems in a way that they motivate people to accept regular work and do not give counterproductive incentives,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told news weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung on Saturday. …Demographers and economists began warning decades ago that social welfare was doomed by the aging of Europe’s baby boomers. Some governments had been trimming and reforming, but now almost all are scrambling to close deficits in order to prevent a wider collapse of confidence in the euro. The [British] government has promised to raise the age at which citizens receive a state pension — up from 60 to 65 for women, and from 65 to 66 for men. It also plans to toughen the welfare regime, requiring the unemployed to try to find jobs in order to collect benefits. …Ministers are reviewing the long-term affordability of the country’s generous public sector pensions. …France’s conservative government is focusing on raising the retirement age. Many workers can now retire at 60 with 50 percent of their average salary. …Unions in France are organizing a national day of protest marches and strikes on Thursday to demand protection of wages and the retirement age. [Spain] has proposed hiking the retirement age for men from 65 to 67. …After sharp cutbacks imposed as the condition of an international bailout this month, Greeks must now contribute to pension funds for 40 instead of 37 years before retiring, and the age of early retirement is set to 60 at the earliest. Civil servants with monthly salaries of above 3,000 euros ($3,750) will lose two extra months of salary — one paid at Christmas, the other split between Easter and summer vacation.

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Just when you thought leftism couldn’t get any weirder, there’s a column in the Washington Post advocating a government ban on discrimination against ugly people. If you read the article, there actually is a lot of research showing that attractive people have a big advantage over unattractive people (and Greg Mankiw has written about the advantage tall people have over short people). That being said, it is amazing that anyone actually thinks the government can somehow offset the lottery of genetic luck. But if legislation is enacted, I plan on filing a lawsuit against Gisele Bundchen because she clearly is discriminating in favor of tall, good-looking football players when she should be dating me:

In the 19th century, many American cities banned public appearances by “unsightly” individuals. A Chicago ordinance was typical: “Any person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated, or in any way deformed, so as to be an unsightly or disgusting subject . . . shall not . . . expose himself to public view, under the penalty of a fine of $1 for each offense.”    Although the government is no longer in the business of enforcing such discrimination, it still allows businesses, schools and other organizations to indulge their own prejudices. Over the past half-century, the United States has expanded protections against discrimination… Yet bias based on appearance remains perfectly permissible in all but one state and six cities and counties. Across the rest of the country, looks are the last bastion of acceptable bigotry.   …in California in 2001, Jennifer Portnick, a 240-pound aerobics instructor, was denied a franchise by Jazzercise, a national fitness chain. Jazzercise explained that its image demanded instructors who are “fit” and “toned.” …In a survey by the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, 62 percent of its overweight female members and 42 percent of its overweight male members said they had been turned down for a job because of their weight. …Prevailing beauty standards penalize people who lack the time and money to invest in their appearance. And weight discrimination, in particular, imposes special costs on people who live in communities with shortages of healthy food options and exercise facilities.   So why not simply ban discrimination based on appearance? …Opponents of a ban on appearance-based discrimination…warn that it would trivialize other, more serious forms of bias. After all, if the goal is a level playing field, why draw the line at looks? “By the time you’ve finished preventing discrimination against the ugly, the short, the skinny, the bald, the knobbly-kneed, the flat-chested, and the stupid,” Andrew Sullivan wrote in the London Sunday Times in 1999, “you’re living in a totalitarian state.”

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Every so often, perhaps inadvertently, a collectivist says something very smart. In the case of Lula da Silva, Brazil’s socialist president, he made the common-sense observation that you can’t redistribute without first producing. He didn’t quite realize what he was saying, one imagines, since he presumably would have realized that capitalism is a superior system in both the short run and long run, but at least he recognized the role of wealth creation. Obama, by contrast, acts as if the blessings of a free market economy automatically exist and that people will continue to produce even if he persists with his statist plans to simultaneously subsidize sloth and penalize productive behavior. Here’s the excerpt with the Brazilian President’s amazing statement:

He described the situation when he was elected Brazilian president: “The country had no credit, had no working capital or financing or income distribution. What kind of capitalism was that? A capitalism without capital. I decided then that it was necessary to first build capitalism, then make socialism, we must have something to distribute before doing so.”

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