Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Big banks and state capitalism

Very good post by Ross Douthat here: "Tyler Cowen's Counsel of Despair", commenting on a pair of great posts by Cowen. The gist of Cowen, as related by Douthat: the recurring financial crises in capitalism are a product of the state's perpetual willingness to "socialize" (i.e., bail out one way or another using taxpayer money) the failures of financial institutions, which in turn induces entirely rational willingness by those institutions  to take on greater risk -- a willingness that no amount of regulation by bureaucrats will ever be detailed or micro-managerial enough to overcome. And size isn't the problem -- many small banks can fail in waves too, as the Savings and Loan bust a while back demonstrated, and a few large institutions can behave in stable, relatively low-risk ways, as the example of the Canadian banks in the latest crisis indicates -- so Douthat's addition to Cowen seems not just beside the point but may well be counter-productive in the usual unintended consequence manner. The basis of the problem is rather what Cowen referred to as "state capitalism", and part of his solution deserves his own words:
Breaking up the large banks would be striking at symptoms rather than at root causes, namely the ongoing growth of political power and the reliance of that power upon an ongoing inflow of capital.
If you do wish to break or limit the power of the major banks, running a balanced budget is probably the most important step we could take. It would mean that our government no longer needs to worry so much about financing its activities.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Iraq, the media, and a dream Presidential candidate

The dream candidate is the one on the right (in both senses):

Thanks to SDA

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Politics and its limitations

I thought I should maybe give a little more explanation for my taking a breather from the blog. It began, as I said, as an experiment, but, a little more specifically, as an experiment in political blogging. Clearly, I have no shortage of political opinions, though I'll say that I have somewhat less interest in the various issues, gaffes, scandals, gossip, and general slagging matches that characterize so much of partisan politics, and a little more in the ideological issues that stand in back of these. But even on that level, it eventually begins to seem as though politics as such is a bit thin and a bit dry -- lacking juice, so to speak, whether in comparison with the denser level of actual human interactions, or with the richer alternatives of history, art, philosophy, science, etc. In any case, some such sense as that was increasingly nagging at me, and making the blogging itself more burdensome than enjoyable.

Politics, in other words, is just one kind of interest that people can take in the world. But it is one interest, and like the others, it's inexhaustible. So -- I may be poking my head back here from time to time, and at some point may find myself once again absorbed in it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bloggish reflections

I started this blog about six months ago, as an experiment. It's been fun and interesting, including the debates in the comments (which have sometimes gotten a little heated, as debates sometimes do). More than that, it's given me an opportunity to think through some issues and put those thoughts into words. And it's provided me at least with a way to store and tag links to some excellent content elsewhere on the Web. But six months is a good run for an experiment, and a good point to pause to examine the results. So, just to whom it may concern, this is a notice that posting will likely be interrupted, at least for now.

Oh, and thanks to all who've looked in thus far....

The myth of Palin

From the astute Jennifer Rubin, at her new venue with the Washington Post, comes this assessment of the Sarah Palin phenomenon, the full title being "The myth of Palin's frontrunner status". It's one of the very few such analyses I've come across on either the left or the right that would qualify as perceptive -- not just vis-a-vis Palin but other, more likely GOP frontrunners as well:
For months now the real story on the right has been the search for new presidential contenders. There is far more awareness than many in the media imagine among conservative activists, Tea Partyers included, of Palin's limited appeal to independent voters. ... Is she admired for her ability to rally the base? Yes. Is she especially talented at throwing the White House off stride? Obviously. Does she give voice to populists' suspicion about media bias and liberal elites? Better than most anyone on the political scene. But the notion that she is a frontrunner is an eye-roller for most elected GOP officials (Chris Christie tipped his hand a bit on late-night TV) and even for many fans who furiously defended her against what conservatives saw as excessive and unfair criticism during the 2008 race.
Indeed, more Republicans -- on the Hill and around the country -- are beginning to suspect that she might not run. Why risk her fame and her rock-star status by running and possibly losing?
Instead, and as examples of new possibilities, Rubin mentions Chris Christie, of course, as well  as Mike Pence and Paul Ryan. But she's quick to acknowledge that "Right now the frontrunner is 'none of the above.'"