Archives for October 2012

Envy and Resentment Often Lurk Just Below the Surface

Envy is one of the most pervasive human emotions, yet it’s rare that you find someone who admits to it. But someone just did. In a WSJ article the author, Lee Siegel, compares the rise of Asian-Americans with that of Jewish-Americans. He writes,

Some of the more vehement attacks on Amy Chua’s deliberately provocative 2011 memoir of child rearing, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” were perhaps fueled by resentment of Asian-American ascendancy, especially in the context of raising “perfect” children. Confession: I was one of the book’s more vocal detractors. Was I, a Jewish-American writer, driven to pique, in part, by a member of a group that threatens Jewish-American cultural domination, just as American Jews once threatened the WASP mandarinate? Well, maybe.

Wow. Thank you Mr. Siegel for your honesty in admitting that your earlier criticism of Amy Chua’s style of child-rearing was partly fueled by a resentment (i.e. envy) of Asian-American ascendancy. (And it’s a bit ironic that this is coming from someone who’s part of a group that often itself is a target of envy and resentment.)

This is so revealing – and not just in Siegel’s case. One extrapolates that many opinions and observations that one comes across in the media and elsewhere actually derive from selfish and petty human foibles, rather than from substance. It shows that everything should be taken with a grain of salt. The next time one comes across a scathing criticism of Mitt Romney or whoever, one should ask whether the person doing the criticizing has too much envy running through his or her veins.

* * * *

On another but related subject, the article points out that Asian-Americans, to their credit, enjoy the highest incomes of any racial group in the United States. And as well they should, thanks to their admirable focus on education and hard work. (One example is that, in my local area and I’m sure elsewhere, Asian-Americans far more than Americans of other extractions send their children to academics-focused summer school. And that makes perfect  sense. Three months of summer vacation is an anachronism – based on the desire to let children work on the farms back when we primarily were an agricultural society. America never fixed that, and now it’s practically impossible because the teachers unions would be so resistant. Even though they mostly enjoy good salaries for working only nine months of the year — like Chicago where they earn $75K — were we to propose a 10 or 11 month school year, the unions would of course demand a big salary increase to compensate for it. And that would be too expensive so it’s unlikely that it ever would fly.)

The statistic in the article that Asian-Americans enjoy the highest incomes reminded me of a class-warfare-laden “infographic” about a year ago in LiveScience focusing on the top 1 percent (yes, it was class warfare in what should be a science-focused publication), which I wrote about previously. It included a bar graph of average incomes of racial groups in America: white, black, and Hispanic. It showed that whites had the highest incomes – and the tone of the graphs did not put people with high incomes in a favorable light. But it conspicuously left out average incomes of Asian-Americans.

That no doubt was because the writers and editors of the publication wanted to convey the impression that the inequality and other ills of America stem from the actions of upper-income white Americans. In the context of that infographic, it would have been very politically incorrect to show that a minority group actually has higher average incomes than those of European extraction. So they simply left out that inconvenient fact. It was one of the most blatant examples of journalist malpractice I had ever seen.

Vehicles of Human Consciousness

“The plain fact is that the materialist picture of the body and brain as the producers, rather than the vehicles, of human consciousness is doomed.”

Stirring words from Dr. Eben Alexander, M.D., a neurosurgeon who contracted a rare bacterial meningitis four years ago and was in a coma for a week, with a non-functioning neocortex. Medically, he knew that there’s no way a person can experience consciousness when the neurons of one’s cortex are reduced to complete inactivity. Prior to his experience he was like most other scientists, who just think that science, not faith, is the road to truth. “Before my experience I strongly suspected that this was the case myself,” he writes. Yet during that coma he experienced consciousness – a consciousness so profound that it completely changed his outlook on life. Read about his account here.

It’s ironic that the number of atheists are swelling. Because they’re bumping up against more and more compelling accounts of persons who’ve experienced what it’s like on the other side. I suspect that such accounts are going to slow the march of atheism in America.

Meantime, all I can say is you’d better be good. Because there’s probably someone watching your every move.

The Internet is Bad News for Tax Raisers

Bad news for tax-and-spenders. The Internet is making it harder to raise tax revenue.

Governments can still raise taxes, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to raise revenue they had hoped to raise. And for leftists, it doesn’t mean they’re going to inflict the punishment on the rich that they had hoped to inflict.

That’s because thanks to the Internet and the information economy, many businesses can be run from anywhere. Business owners can simply set up shop in another country or jurisdiction whenever the government wants to take more of their money.

A case in point is France. The new president there jacked up the top tax rate from a whopping 48 percent to a whopping 75 percent.

A recent article reports that “Start-up entrepreneurs (are) looking to move their headquarters out of France and taking their families with them.”

With the Internet “it is now possible to work in any corner of the world and come and spend one week a month in France,” said Thibault de Saint Vincent, president of Barnes France, the principal competitor to Daniel Feau.

You can tax people more, but you can’t make them stick around.

It’s yet another reason why cutting the budget deficit calls for spending cuts, not tax increases.

Romney/Ryan the “True Progressives”?

The Economist magazine has an article on how to reduce inequality while maintaining economic growth. They call it “True Progressivism”. Among their prescriptions are:

* Eliminating tax subsidies for the wealthy like the mortgage interest deduction
* Means testing of entitlements, which Republicans always propose but Democrats always shoot down
* Cracking down on teachers unions
* Ending government bailouts of big companies

Wow – who would have thought Romney/Ryan are the “True Progressives”?

Not unexpectedly, in the article The Economist doesn’t t admit that the above prescriptions are much closer to the Romney agenda than the Obama agenda – in fact they’re anathema to the Obama agenda.

What’s wrong Economist? Can’t you bring yourself to say that in order for these things to have a shot at happening, Romney/Ryan are the way to go?

Waiting with baited breath to find out who The Economist endorses this time.
Update: Wouldn’t ya have guessed it: they endorsed Obama.

Don’t Sweat the Red-Blue Switch

There was a WSJ op-ed where the author laments the media’s labeling of all things Republican with red and Democrats with blue:

“Perhaps the most brazen language diktat has been the mischievous switch of political colors. … The change came in 2000 courtesy of MSNBC and NBC’s “Today” show. …Saddling your political rivals with a symbol to which they have been historically opposed is an even better and naughtier joke. Either it was that or numbing cluelessness.”

The red-blue switch used to somewhat bother me but not anymore. Want to know why the use of “red” and “blue” is so much more common now than it was pre-2000? Because the Dems must have hated the “red” label due to its association with communism. They were insecure with that, and didn’t want people to think they were that far to the left. Now that Repubs have been annointed with the “red” label, no one’s going to associate Republicans with communism.

So let the pundits have their fun. The switch has freed the media (who of course lean left) from that insecurity. Using the terms “Democrat” and “Republican” all the time can get boring, so why not liven things up a bit – add some color to the conversation – by throwing “red” and “blue” into the mix?


Any Economists at The Economist?

I wonder who The Economist magazine is going to endorse for president this time. Four years ago they endorsed Barack Obama. Puzzlingly, The Economist thought Obama would be good for The Economy. If makes one wonder if there are  any economists on staff at The Economist. Now, four years later, I wouldn’t be surprised if they endorse Obama again, because from what I gather, that publication has become decidedly left-leaning. (Though you never know – they went for Bush in 2000.) Compared with other left-of-center publications they can occasionally say a sensible thing or two when it comes to economics, but overall they usually seem to be colder toward U.S. candidates that lean free-market and warmer toward those who lean otherwise.

Case in point was yesterday. In the aftermath of the first Obama-Romney debate, everyone seems to think Romney eviscerated Obama – which may be so but I think Romney could have presented even better arguments. In any event, The Economist’s “Lexington” columnist put in his or her (their columnists go unnamed) two cents on the issue. It prompted me to write this:

It’s noteworthy that the writer of The Economist article points to Romney’s “repeated false claims about Mr. Obama cutting hundreds of billions from Medicare programmes for the elderly”. The writer seems to think that because the $716 billion is to be cut from providers rather than beneficiaries, that it’s not a cut. Try getting treatment from someone if they’re not being paid. Even Obama didn’t dispute the $716 billion transfer from Medicare to Obamacare.

Meanwhile Obama repeated the patently false claim that Romney plans to raise taxes on the middle class, basing that on some “study” where the authors think Romney should raise such taxes in order to fund his promises. That’s a far cry from Romney proposing to raise those taxes, which is what the Obama people want everyone to believe. It’s the biggest, most outrageous falsehood of this campaign and gets repeated over and over, which should make anyone think twice about the integrity of the Obama people. Not to bring up that falsehood in The Economist article is journalistic malpractice.