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Archive for August 15th, 2010

A conservative, in a wheelchair, entered a restaurant one afternoon and asked the waitress for a cup of coffee.  The conservative looked across the restaurant and asked, “Is that Jesus sitting over there?”
 
The waitress nodded “yes,” so the conservative requested that she give Jesus a cup of coffee, on him.
 
The next patron to come in was a libertarian, with a hunched back.  He shuffled over to a booth, painfully sat down, and asked the waitress for a cup of hot tea.  He also glanced across the restaurant and asked, “Is that Jesus, over there?”
 
The waitress nodded, so the libertarian asked her to give Jesus a cup of hot tea, “My treat.”
 
The third patron to come into the restaurant was a liberal on crutches.  He hobbled over to a booth, sat down and hollered, “Hey there honey!  How’s about gettin’ me a cold mug of Miller Light?”  He too looked across the restaurant and asked, “Isn’t that God’s boy over there?
 
The waitress nodded, so the liberal directed her to give Jesus a cold beer. “On my bill,” he said loudly.
 
As Jesus got up to leave, he passed by the conservative, touched him and said, “For your kindness, you are healed.”  The conservative felt the strength come back into his legs, got up, and danced a jig out the door.
 
Jesus passed by the libertarian, touched him and said, “For your kindness, you are healed.”  The libertarian felt his back straightening up and he raised his hands, praised the Lord, and did a series of back flips out the door.
 
Then, Jesus walked towards the liberal, who immediately jumped up and yelled, “Don’t touch me … I’m collecting disability!”

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It’s hard to believe that anybody would classify the Germans as a master race after reading this Spiegel article. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett plan have a nutty (but at least non-coercive) plan for rich people to give away big share of their fortunes. The German billionaires are rejecting this plan. But not because they are sensible and want capital in the hands of those who know how to create wealth. Instead, they think private charity intrudes upon the government’s responsibility.

Germany’s super-rich have rejected an invitation by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to join their ‘Giving Pledge’ to give away most of their fortune. The pledge has been criticized in Germany, with millionaires saying donations shouldn’t replace duties that would be better carried out by the state. Last week, Microsoft founder Bill Gates attempted to convince billionaires around the world to agree to give away half their money to charity. But in Germany, the “Giving Pledge,” backed by 40 of the world’s wealthiest people, including Gates and Warren Buffet, has met with skepticism, SPIEGEL has learned.

Here’s an actual section of an interview with a rich German. The most astounding comment is when he basically says that private charity is bad because the state should decide how resources are allocated.

SPIEGEL: But doesn’t the money that is donated serve the common good?

Krämer: It is all just a bad transfer of power from the state to billionaires. So it’s not the state that determines what is good for the people, but rather the rich want to decide. That’s a development that I find really bad. What legitimacy do these people have to decide where massive sums of money will flow?

SPIEGEL: It is their money at the end of the day.

Krämer: In this case, 40 superwealthy people want to decide what their money will be used for. That runs counter to the democratically legitimate state. In the end the billionaires are indulging in hobbies that might be in the common good, but are very personal.

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Using road management as an example, John Stossel explains that government does a worse job than the private sector, even at things that theoretically are a government responsibility. Part of this is because of the profit motive, to be sure, but a big reason is probably because government bureaucracies inevitably are filled with overpaid bureaucrats who understand that job security is best assured by maintaining problems rather than solving them. Stossel makes an excellent point by noting that “contracting out” is not the same thing as genuine free enterprise. But at least it means whatever government is doing (either good things or bad things) will be done for less cost and with more competence.

Free enterprise does everything better. Why? Because if private companies don’t do things efficiently, they lose money and die. Unlike government, they cannot compel payment through the power to tax. Even when a private company operates a public facility under contract to government, it must perform. If it doesn’t, it will be “fired” — its contract won’t be renewed. Government is never fired. Contracting out to private enterprise isn’t the same thing as letting fully competitive free markets operate, but it still works better than government. Roads are one example. Politicians call road management a “public good” that “government must control.” Nonsense. In 1995, a private road company added two lanes in the middle of California Highway 91, right where the median strip used to be. It then used “congestion pricing” to let some drivers pay to speed past rush-hour traffic. Using the principles of supply and demand, road operators charge higher tolls at times of day when demand is high. That encourages those who are most in a hurry to pay for what they need. …for years there was a gap in the ring road surrounding Paris that created huge traffic problems. Then private developers made an unsolicited proposal to build a $2 billion toll tunnel in exchange for a 70-year lease to run it. They built a double-decker tunnel that fits six lanes of traffic in the space usually required for just two. The tunnel’s profit-seeking owners have an incentive to keep traffic moving. They collect tolls based on congestion pricing, and tolls are collected electronically, so cars don’t have to stop. The tunnel operators clear accidents quickly. Most are detected within 10 seconds — thanks to 350 cameras inside the tunnel. The private road has cut a 45-minute trip to 10 minutes.

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