There’s always something to howl about

Archive for May, 2010

A Month With the iPad

I got the iPad – 64gig 3G enabled – about a month ago. Unfortunately – or fortunately given how busy I’ve been – I haven’t had enough time to truly explore the possibilities.

Here’s my set-up. My MacBook laptop has been retired to serve as my home computer. I got an iMac (1 TB, 4 gigs of RAM) two weeks ago to serve as my desktop computer. And I have the iPad for the in-between use. The iPad serves as a light-weight mobile computing device.

Why this set-up? First, I needed to get something that could support Windows since all of the major bankruptcy software runs on Windows. (This software is maddeningly bad and looks like it hasn’t been updated in functionality since 2002.)

My MacBook had only 2 gig of ram, which would not adequately support a virtual machine. So I’m running Fusion’s VMWare on the iMac, which is awesome. With Mac’s Spaces, I can put Windows XP into a different window, and press Command-1 or Command-2 to move from Mac OS to Windows XP.

Second, the MacBook is actually not a very light computer, and not a very durable piece of hardware. The less I have to move it around, the less opportunity for it breaking or falling out of my bag.

The iPad is, of course, very light as a mobile computing device, and, in its case, seemingly durable, though I haven’t put it through a rigorous test. I’ve dropped it twice, and no scratches or defects have emerged.

Since typing on the virtual iPad keyboard is fine for limited tasks, but not fine for writing a document, I got Apple’s smallest, lightest bluetooth keyboard. The pairing works quite well. I’m typing this post on the iPad at the same speed I’d work on a post if I were at a laptop or desktop computer.

What is the iPad really good at?

Reading and presenting documents and other information. With Apple’s MobileMe ($99/year) system, I’m able to sync all of my documents on all three devices. And then I’m able to read and view any documents in the iPad. I’m also able to put together presentations with video and documents that can really potential clients, clients, and others (judges, lawyers).

In addition, I have this stuff on the fly without carrying around 100 client files.

The video is gorgeous. Really cool.

With AT&T’s 3G service, the device is “always on” provided I’m not out in the boonies. That’s convenient beyond words. And AT&T’s 3G service is ok. I had had troubles (prompting me to get the Droid) with dropped calls last year. But have had no problems yet with the 3G service.

iPad’s browser – Safari – is pretty awesome, with only a few problems rendering certain pages, including my own at I’ll need to fix that. Also, whereas my iPhone would render a page using its mobile format, the iPad attempts to render the page as you would see it on a full sized computer screen.

The battery is good. I’m really surprised. I’ve been using it for the two hours and it’s gone from about 50 percent to 31 percent on near-constant use.

Powering on and off the device seems to work faster on the iPad than on the iPhone. That means that when it’s not in use, I can power it off and save battery without having to wait a long time for it to power up when I need it.

Anyone using an iPad for a business needs to think about security. The password protection scheme for opening up the device allows you to tell the device to wipe itself if someone fails to enter the proper password 10 times in a row. That’s good.

And MobileMe allows remote wiping of the device if it goes missing.

What is the iPad not really suited for?

Serious computing. Until Apple permits true multi-tasking, this device will be limited. Writing a post like this on the iPad, I’m conscious that the post would be much richer if I were able to add links to various other websites etc. But while the iPad does allow cut-and-pasting across applications, there’s no multitasking, so opening up a browser requires shutting down this WordPress application.

Also, the lack of flash is annoying. Look, I know Steve Jobs is a genius. I know he can see far into the future to a Flash-free world. But right now some absurdly high percentage of websites (I’d get the real number if I could multitask and open Safari to google this) use flash. The iPad should support it.

Also there’s some bugginess. I haven’t figured out why, but at certain times Safari will crash, or other apps will crash. This introduces general insecurity about the stability of the device, and makes me avoid writing any mission critical documents on a time crunch with the device.

Some great apps include: The New York Times (gloriously renders the newspaper), NewsRack (an RSS reader that integrates with Google Reader), Twitterific (Twitter Feed Reader), Pages (Apple’s WordProcessor).

Summing up (but not a final word)

I’m still certain this device (or a future iteration thereof) can be awesome. Multitasking would help a great deal. Also, the screen-rotation-lock feature is great, but I do miss the mute switch for added security that the device will not start playing music in my bag in court.

Also, Apple must must must improve MobileMe’s iDisk application. Right now I’m using the iPhone app on the iPad and it’s pretty awful. The documents can’t be easily shared across applications on the iPad. Basically I can view them and read them, which is ok, but not super helpful.


If you subscribe to Netflix, Gardens of Stone is a good film to take in for Memorial Day…

The Vietnam War as seen from the Arlington National Cemetery. Frank. Brutal. Tragic. Very affecting. See it today. It’s gone tomorrow.

1 comment

“If wind and solar power were practical, entrepreneurs would invest in it. There would be no need for government to take money from taxpayers and give it to people pushing green products.”

John Stossel on the phractured physics of “green” energy:

Maybe the electric car is the next big thing?

“Electric cars are the next big thing, and they always will be.”

There have been impressive headlines about electric cars from my brilliant colleagues in the media. The Washington Post said, “Prices on electric cars will continue to drop until they’re within reach of the average family.”

That was in 1915.

In 1959, The New York Times said, “Electric is the car of the tomorrow.”

In 1979, The Washington Post said, “GM has an electric car breakthrough in batteries, now makes them commercially practical.”

I’m still waiting.

“The problem is very simple,” Bryce said. “It’s not political will. It’s simple physics. Gasoline has 80 times the energy density of the best lithium ion batteries. There’s no conspiracy here of big oil or big auto. It’s a conspiracy of physics.”

Yes, Stossel is pop-science. You can only go so far with him. But this may be the only article you will see that explains why so many of the highly-touted environmentaloid “solutions” are pipe-dreams, based in wishful thinking and a math education that foundered on the shoals of Algebra. Read the whole thing.


Carolyn Capalbo – a REALTOR needs our help

I have been buried in 18 hour days lately. My frist inclination towards anything that comes my way has been. “I’m buried. Leave me alone.” or “I will get back to you on it.” But this story tugged at me a little. Enough for me to take action.

See, back in the day here on BHB, Brian Brady put up a post about Ashley Dupree, the person who made headlines with Elliot Spitzer, the then governor of New York. It was more of a lark than anything, seeing how much irrelevant traffic could be generated from a post and from Greg’s being in good graces with Google. Brian’s post proved the power of serch marketing pretty handily.

It is wild to see how this story would affect the life of a fellow REALTOR.

Carolyn Capalbo is a fellow REALTOR in Northern Virginia who shares her name with Ashley Dupree’s mom. Can you see where this is going? Online Reputation Management Trainwreck. Let me have her tell it to you in her own words. You can see at the bottom of the post that she is asking for anyone to help her regain her credibility in Google. Every time someone Google’s her name right now in relation to a real estate deal, they get stories about Ashley Dupree…and pictures. Nice.

RealEsetateWebmasters started an Online Reputation Management contest to draw awareness to the issue. I have had my head down working on code and did not see it until an email crossed my desk. I am far more interested in simply doing a good deed for this fellow traveler than worrying about the contest. (Morgan did throw in some huge prizes to get it going – nice work!). I decided to throw in a prize or two of my own for anyone showing up on the top three pages of Google.

so the goal is REALTORS UP – SMUT DOWN. Pretty straighfordward (grin).

I did put together a Carolyn Capalbo post on EricOnSearch. It is sitting right now at #11…I will be working on that. 😉

So now I am seeing more than a few bloggers start to post entries and help a fellow REALTOR out. If you can assist us by either posting about Carolyn’s situation with a link to her site or blog post (and mine both here and at EricOnSearch if you feel inclined, thanks.) or by entering the contest and putting up a post of your own, that would be great.

Oh yeah… I did notice that once Real Estate Webmasters posted about the contest, Carolyn Capalbo domain names started flying off of GoDaddy’s shelves…grin. Here’s a Carolyn Capalbo contestant… 😉 Knew that would happen…hehe.

Ok. I have to get back to work now, but if we can help the Carolyn Capalbo who DESERVES notoriety for being a great REALTOR out, it would be most appreciated.


Ubiquitous Bloodhound finally makes his break

All of us, proprietors of this kennel included, have known that Odysseus was destined for the big time. Well, he finally got his break! Look for our pal anywhere a gorgeous face is needed.

It's midnight. Do you know where your Bloodhound is?

True confession: I was hiding in the bushes at a webinar (name withheld to protect the perps) and discovered PhotoFunia while waiting for the inevitable “buy today! Special deal just for our attendees! Super special deal if you get your broker to bring more lambs agents  to the slaughter!”  Well anyway, I found PhotoFunia at this webinar.  It is free and it is fun. There really was a pony in there!  I hope you enjoy.


Like bugs trapped in amber, take a close look at Rotarian Socialist cockroaches and the pusillanimous pissants who make them possible.

This is from today’s Arizona Republic:

Businesses that send employees door to door through Phoenix neighborhoods have jumped into the discussion over whether the city should require peddlers to be licensed before ringing doorbells.

Phoenix is the only major city in the Valley that does not require some sort of business license for door-to-door solicitors. In the past year, council members have been getting complaints about bad behavior by people who sell door to door.

On Tuesday, about 25 residents and business representatives gathered at the Phoenix Public Library’s main branch for the first of seven public hearings the city will hold on the issue.

Of course we need a new law. Why should fully-grown adults be expected to confront and respond to “bad behavior” without Big Brother to scare away the bad guys and Big Mother to kiss their boo-boos?

But wait. There’s more.

About half of those attending represented areas that are fed up with solicitors. The rest represented businesses that had a range of opinions on regulation.

This is a fact: Business “regulations” are written by and for the businesses putatively being “regulated.” They put the Rotarian in Rotarian Socialism. Hide and watch:

“We are in favor of regulation and monitoring of door-to-door solicitors,” said Magnolia Lee, who described herself as business consultant who represents a small group called Sales, Solicitation and Distribution United.

“There needs to be some sort of standard for professional and courteous conduct,” she said.

What’s the standard? Me-and-mine, not thee-and-thine. The “regulations” will advantage Lee’s clients by disadvantaging their competitors. This is the objective sought by all “regulation.”

But we’re not done yet:

Marc Scher, government relations director for the Phoenix Association of Realtors, said his group favors licensing people who ring doorbells to sell products but wants any new law to exempt real estate sales people seeking listings.

“Realtors have been going and knocking on doors and introducing themselves to their neighbors,” he said. “There has to be a differentiation between selling a product and a relationship.”

This would the the anti-dog-eat-dog rule, straight out of Atlas Shrugged. Steal the other guy’s dinner, but keep your mitts off mine! Makes you proud to be a Realtor, don’t it?

And all of that is pitiful, but take a look at the awful crimes this new law will protect the citizens of Phoenix from:

Neighborhood representatives, meanwhile, brought up concerns about sales people knocking on doors after dark and using aggressive tactics that scare homeowners.

“My community, which is the Laveen area, has had very pushy door-to-door salesmen selling alarms,” Stephanie Scovell said. “Some put their foot in the door so the homeowner can’t close it. To me, door-to-door sales is no longer an efficient way to run a business or keep a community safe.”

Jackie Rich of north Phoenix said people in her area worry about opening the door to solicitors who might be casing their homes for burglaries. Rich said Phoenix residents she has spoken to favor some sign or sticker that could be put near a doorbell that tells solicitors not to ring.

The people who first settled Phoenix crossed a thousand miles of empty plains to get here, many of them pulling hand-carts, often going for many days without water. The land here is hostile and inhospitable, and the heat is blistering. There were snakes, scorpions and Gila monsters to deal with — along with at least 100 consecutive days every summer of 100+ degree temperatures and storms like nothing you’ve ever seen. But they were hale and hardy and armed to the teeth. But, by now, the proud citizens of Phoenix cannot pick up a semi-automatic hand-gun and explain to a pushy salesman that going door-to-door with a shredded foot might not be very profitable. Good grief!

But even now we’re not done. Because we still have to carve out an exemption for the most annoying door-knockers of all: Fundies.

Phoenix City Councilman Claude Mattox, who ran Tuesday’s meeting with Councilman Tom Simplot, said any licensing ordinance for peddlers would only aim to regulate for-profit businesses, not religious groups or other non-profits.

“We’re not talking about limiting religious groups – or handbills.” Mattox said.

“The First Amendment comes into play,” Assistant City Attorney James Hays said. “There is a limit to what we can do.”


This is a very small thing, of course, but this is precisely how the “regulation” process works for everything, at all levels of government. Only big-babies and the “businessmen” who stand to profit from their inability to diaper themselves will show up for the “hearings,” and the “regulations” that emerge from these “hearings” will always be to the advantage of the politically-connected.

Do you think this can be reformed? Think again. The corruption is baked in the cake. The only way to eliminate this kind of mishegoss is to eliminate government entirely. So long as politically-favored insiders can use the power of the state to eliminate their competition, they will.

Don’t believe me? Ask your broker to show you your real estate license. What do you think it’s for…?


Using Captcha to Capture Idiotic Real Estate Agents

A CAPTCHA is a challenge-response test most often placed within web forms to determine whether the user is human. The purpose of CAPTCHA is to block form submissions by spambots, which are automated scripts that post spam content everywhere they can.

Somebody’s Got to Stop the Stupid

Okay, a bit of a rant.  But I’ll bet you’ll want to jump on the proverbial bandwagon once I’m exhausted, spent and fallen down in subluxed joy after finishing this. The outlet for my frustration came courtesy of a Facebook comment by Mary McKnight. “Thanks, Mary.”

If there’s one theme that Bloodhound blog has perpetuated, promulgated and promoted, it’s excellence. A close second would probably be splendor. Tom Johnson perhaps put his arms around what I’m about to rant a little over tonight, and he did it with this post about a famous Greek historical event.  The Spartans were professional soldiers. They studied their craft. They studied their history. They studied their enemy. They sought fellowship with one another, coupled by a sense of duty to excellence and splendor.

Oh, how I would that my compatriots in the profession of real estate were to embrace the Spartan ethos. And if not, at least an ethos. My encounters of late with real estate agents have left me thinking they lack not only a distinctive character, not only fundamental values, but simply a lack of any character, training or professionalism whatsoever.  In short, I’ve had my fill recently with agents who have no common sense, no commitment to excellence, no knowledge commensurate with their duties, no bleeping right to be called a professional real estate agent, and certainly no right to practice the longstanding legal requirements of agency.

I’ve had agents not call me back.  Then, then don’t call me back.   They tell me to sign contracts that they know have errors in them.  They provide inaccurate information to me about contracts they represent. They cant’ find documents. They can’t find the time to do what needs to be done. They can’t find their own assholes, honest. What they can find is some kind of perverse justification for their existence due simply to the fact that they have talked themselves into a contract to represent a client, and that contract justifies everything they do. Period.

Captcha – The New Bloodhound Secret Handshake

What I want is something slightly more difficult than “What color is the sky?”  But I want it.  I want Greg or Eric or someone to come up with a way to keep the “godspam” wannabe real estate agents away from me.  I want to know if they’re “human”, but by human I mean competent, evolved, involved, resolved to something other than an amoebic type representation for their clients.  I want a Captcha at the beginning of every relationship I have with a real estate agent that tells me that they are Leonidas-like, a seeker of excellence, one who seeks splendor.

I suspect you want the same thing.  It’s why we go to work each day.  It’s why we write, why we blog, why we teach, why we sing, why we play, why we are. We want the dregs to fall to the bottom of the wine barrel. We want the bilge pumps to pump the soft, the weak, the stupid out to sea. I hope you want this as much as I do.

Here, Graham Nash, with his version of what’s partially going on in my head.


Capitalist going green: Why the hate during my quest to go paperless?

If you’re an artist or a tree hunger, you may want to read this post and re-tweet or repost this on your left wing blog while you’re probably still living in your parent’s basement trying to help save earth worms and maggots!  Hey artists of the world, after reading you may feel like you should be on the right, instead of the left (wink).  Does anyone every feel like when someone gives you literature or a brochure on products or even a simple appointment reminder slip from the doctor that you try everything in your power to be polite and kindly say, “No thank you, I can save that reminder in my phone” or even ask a sales rep to email you that brochure?

My story is simple.  I am a capitalist who is trying to go paperless.  Why would I need paper when I have a tablet pc and also receive email?  You see what I have been finding is that people in general take offense to the fact that I kindly decline their literature or appointment reminder slip.  Simply put, my life is organized all virtually.  As a matter of fact, I recently purchased a professional scanner the “Xerox documate 152”.  I simply scan all the closing papers to my hard drive and carbonite automatically backups up my hard drive daily.  I’m way more efficient and organized which allows me to close more deals and wow customer and enjoy my life more at the same time.

I do send out snail mail for marketing purposes yes, however, the real question I am trying to pry out of you right is do you see yourself going paperless (or near paperless) anytime soon?  If yes, describe how you think people will react towards if you kindly decline literature, ect, ect and as that is all be emailed to your email address for receive.


So Simple Even a Realtor Can Do It? – Fishing In Wells

“So simple even a Realtor can do it.”

Our old friend Russell Shaw wrote a post recently in which he made use of that quote. It comes from the well known Gary Keller book, Millionaire Real Estate Agent. Though I’ve not read it, that quote alone got it on my to-do list, if only to see what other nuggets might be lurking within.

I understand the sentiment. Even if we assume the expertise and knowledge it takes to produce results for buyers and sellers, without the ability to get yourself in front of folks who have the option of tellin’ you to stick it, all your skills will go unused. The best fisherman in the world won’t catch fish #1 casting his line down a well. He tends to prefer plyin’ his talents where the fish are likely to congregate. Go figure.

We humans tend to pull the wool over our own eyes. Having a plausible, even credible sounding reason for consistent abject failure is key to maintaining our perfect record of failing for very solid reasons. You know, we may fail, but it’s never due to anything we’ve done or failed to do, right? Right.

Beginning last week I began knockin’ down dominoes launching my company’s new infrastructure/marketing/return to San Diego. I ‘left’ SD almost seven years ago, as income property there was for those who either didn’t know what they were doing, were unaware of outa town options, had simply given up — or all of the above. My assessment back then, and until recently, was that it was akin to fishing in a well — it might be relaxing, but you were still gonna be eatin’ beans for dinner.

One of the dominoes knocked down this Monday was reintroducing myself to the local Board of Realtors (gulp) and the MLS. I was pleasantly surprised to learn they’ve followed Phoenix’s lead and become Mac friendly. Also, don’t know when this started, but one must now click a fob to access the MLS now. I joined again cuz I needed other fishermen to know where my fish can be found.

“So simple, even a Realtor can do it.”

The half dozen things I’ve either retooled, restructured, or added, have one major factor in common — they’re either aimed at, or centered on, bodies of water silly with real estate investors, or those wantin’ to get started.

2010 turning out to be a disappointment for ya? I have a idear for ya. If your favorite fishin’ hole ain’t producing, is fished out, grab your gear and figure out where they went. Duh. You and I can let the marketing geniuses here tell us how to catch the fish, after we ascertain there are fish lurking below the surface.

Which brings me to the real point.

I suspected in early 2003 my days in San Diego might be numbered, and knew as much by year’s end. From 1/1/04 through today, I’ve closed two transactions in SD. If I’d continued fishing in SD’s murky, infertile waters, I’d of been on permanent forced vacation, eatin’ a steady diet of beans. I searched high and low for rivers and lakes chock full of my kinda fish, found them, reinvented my firm, and did business — sometimes good, sometimes great, sometimes OK — but business.

Here I am today tellin’ you about how I’m yet again reinventing my company. This time though, my fishing holes haven’t gone barren. I’m just adding several more spots in which to fish — and where the surfaces are bubbling with my favorite catch.

Even Realtors with inferior bait will catch enough fish to eat each night if it’s the right spot. So ask yourself — why am I insisting on starving while continually castling my line down a cold, dark, abandoned well? You know, or can find out where the best local fishin’ holes are.

Why in Heaven’s name aren’t you doin’ just that? Why do you insist on learning better fishing techniques, buying better quality tackle, and higher tech boats, when you’ve already empirically shown there are no damn fish there!

Grandpa once told me, while we were in the Sierras back in the 1960’s, the cardinal rule of successful fishermen was to go where the fish are. Sounds too simple, doesn’t it?

Is it simple enough for Realtors?


What caused the housing crisis? Perverse government incentives.

Form an academic paper by George Mason University Economics Professor Russell Roberts:

Beginning in the mid-1990s, home prices in many American cities began a decade-long climb that proved to be an irresistible opportunity for investors. Along the way, a lot of people made a great deal of money. But by the end of the first decade of the twenty- first century, too many of these investments turned out to be much riskier than many people had thought. Homeowners lost their houses, financial institutions imploded, and the entire financial system was in turmoil.

How did this happen? Whose fault was it? Some blame capitalism for being inherently unstable. Some blame Wall Street for its greed, hubris, and stupidity. But greed, hubris, and stupidity are always with us. What changed in recent years that created such a destructive set of decisions that culminated in the collapse of the housing market and the financial system?

In this paper, I argue that public-policy decisions have perverted the incentives that naturally create stability in financial markets and the market for housing. Over the last three decades, government policy has coddled creditors, reducing the risk they face from financing bad investments. Not surprisingly, this encouraged risky investments financed by borrowed money. The increasing use of debt mixed with housing policy, monetary policy, and tax policy crippled the housing market and the financial sector. Wall Street is not blameless in this debacle. It lobbied for the policy decisions that created the mess.

In the United States we like to believe we are a capitalist society based on individual responsibility. But we are what we do. Not what we say we are. Not what we wish to be. But what we do. And what we do in the United States is make it easy to gamble with other people’s money—particularly borrowed money—by making sure that almost everybody who makes bad loans gets his money back anyway. The financial crisis of 2008 was a natural result of these perverse incentives. We must return to the natural incentives of profit and loss if we want to prevent future crises.


Is This Normal? (What Seattle Real Estate Agents Earn)

We’ve spent plenty of time trying to figure out what’s fair to pay Redfin agents. As part of that exercise, we analyzed the gross commissions for all Seattle-area (King County, to be precise) agents who closed at least one transaction over the past year (May 12, 2009 to May 11, 2010). The data surprised us, so much so that we thought we’d ask this community if we’re making any obvious mistakes.

We sorted the agents by gross commission, assigning percentiles to each. When we didn’t know the commission on a deal, we assumed it was high: 3% for each side.

Agents at the 50th percentile of pay earned $29,820 in gross commissions. Agents at the 75th percentile earned $75,018. You don’t hit $100K in commissions until the 82nd percentile. Then we graphed the data, showing the gross commissions on the vertical axis, and the percentile of the agent earning those gross commissions on the horizontal axis. The result was a hockey stick:

But then we reasoned that a lot of part-timers are closing one or two deals on the side while working another job; so we excluded all the folks who earned less than $25K in gross commissions. This shifted the graph to the right a bit, but otherwise we still saw a very small number of agents earning a huge proportion of the total commissions in a market:

Then we asked ourselves how much money a good agent — say, someone earning $100,000 in gross commissions — has to shell out in costs each year:

Type of Expense Traditional Agent, Annual Costs
Brokerage fee $10,000
Health insurance $10,500
Marketing $10,000
Social Security, Medicare Taxes $6,500
Transportation $3,600
Cell service $1,200
Equipment $1,000
Dues, education $783
IT $1,000
Total $44,583

All told, the data left us scratching our heads. In a fairly wealthy market where sales volume has been increasing, a good agent — someone among the top 15% of his peers — is probably netting less than $60,000 per year. Does that sound right?


The greatest risk of resurrgent statism is that we will forsake the unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness…

Arthur C. Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute in The Washington Post:

The new statism in America, made possible by years of drift and accelerated by the panic over the economic crisis, threatens to make us permanently poorer. But that is not the greatest danger. The real risk is that in the new culture war, we will forsake the third unalienable right set out in our Declaration of Independence: the pursuit of happiness.

Free enterprise brings happiness; redistribution does not. The reason is that only free enterprise brings earned success.

Earned success involves the ability to create value honestly — not by inheriting a fortune, not by picking up a welfare check. It doesn’t mean making money in and of itself. Earned success is the creation of value in our lives or in the lives of others. Earned success is the stuff of entrepreneurs who seek value through innovation, hard work and passion. Earned success is what parents feel when their children do wonderful things, what social innovators feel when they change lives, what artists feel when they create something of beauty.

Money is not the same as earned success but is rather a symbol, important not for what it can buy but for what it says about how people are contributing and what kind of difference they are making. Money corresponds to happiness only through earned success.

Not surprisingly, unearned money — while it may help alleviate suffering — carries with it no personal satisfaction. Studies of lottery winners, for instance, show that after a brief period of increased happiness, their moods darken as they no longer derive the same enjoyment from the simple pleasures in life, and as the glow of buying things wears off.

The same results emerge with other kinds of unearned income — welfare payments, for example. According to the University of Michigan’s 2001 Panel Study of Income Dynamics, going on the welfare rolls increases by 16 percent the likelihood of a person saying that she or he has felt inconsolably sad over the past month. Of course, the misery of welfare recipients probably goes well beyond the check itself. Nonetheless, studies show that recipients are far unhappier than equally poor people who do not receive such government benefits.

Benjamin Franklin (a pretty rich man for his time) grasped the truth about money’s inability by itself to deliver satisfaction. "Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it," he declared. "The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one."

If unearned money does not bring happiness, redistributing money by force won’t make for a happier America — and the redistributionists’ theory of a better society through income equality falls apart.

The goal of our system should be to give all Americans the greatest opportunities possible to succeed based on their work and merit. And that’s exactly what the free enterprise system does: It makes earned success possible for the most people. This is the liberty that enables the true pursuit of happiness.

To win the culture war, those of us in the 70 percent majority must reclaim — and proclaim — the morality of our worldview.

Unfortunately, we often fail to do this. Instead, we sound unabashedly materialistic. We talk about growth rates, inflation and investment, while the 30 percent coalition walks off with the claims to happiness and fairness. (According to Obama, for example, we need to restore "fairness" to our tax code by increasing taxes on the wealthy and exempting more people at the bottom from paying anything.)

The irony is that it is the 30 percent coalition, not the 70 percent majority, that is fundamentally materialistic. What do they consider the greatest problem of poor people in America? Insufficient income. What would be evidence of a fairer society? Greater income equality. For the leaders of the 30 percent coalition, money does buy happiness — as long as it is spread evenly. That is why redistribution of income is a fundamental goal and why free enterprise, which rewards some people and penalizes others, cannot be trusted.

The 70 percent majority, meanwhile, believes that ingenuity and hard work should be rewarded. We admire creative entrepreneurs and disdain rule-making bureaucrats. We know that income inequality by itself is not what makes people unhappy, and that only earned success can make them happy.

We must do more to show that while we use the language of commerce and business, we believe in human flourishing and contentment. We must articulate moral principles that set forth our fundamental values, and we must be prepared to defend them.

This is just a longish clip. Read the whole thing.


Free Market Solutions To Government- Hatched Problems

Got oil in your water?  How’s that government supervised clean up working out for you?  A few weeks ago, I said:

This may be a hard pill for government groupies to swallow but the response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill (more government regulations and a limit on liability) is what caused this disaster.  Regulations offer a false sense of security.  Moreover, when the State manages risk for private industry, private industry will take as much risk as they are legally permitted.  It happened in the housing market and now its happening to our environment.  This is what free market supporters call “moral hazard” which is a fancy way of saying “with reward comes responsibility”.

Still, the chocolate milk pumps into the sea at a rate of 150 gallons per minute.  In my conclusion I said the free market might develop some new technology to clean up oil spills:

The solution?  Government should do one of its two legitimate functions and adjudicate the claims.  The judgments will properly quantify the risk associated with an oil spill so that the industry can better measure that risk.  Maybe all offshore drilling will cease.  Maybe new technology will be developed to bring the oil through the water safely.  Maybe reinsurance products will be developed to diversify the risk.  …but we’ll never know.  We’ll never know because Senator Sara and the rest of the superheroes in Washington are certain that they can corral what Adam Smith called “The Invisible Hand”

and…perhaps the private sector, financially backed by the most unlikely of entrepreneurs, did:

Motivated by the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, Kevin Costner began assembling a team of scientists to construct a machine that could clean up massive spills. A decade and a half later, that technology might now be put to use off the coast of Louisiana.

A massive oil slick creeping to the coast, vulnerable Louisiana wildlife just miles from its path, and Kevin Costner mingling on the lakefront. These are unusual times, and the Hollywood star is introducing his unusual machine — one designed to separate oil from water.

“It’s not anymore about talk,” said Costner. “It’s about doing the walk, and that phrase was probably invented down here.”

With a tub of oil at his side, Costner unveiled what he’s been financing for the last 15 years.

“It’s like a … big vacuum cleaner and it brings the water up and oil up and it will actually separate the oil and separate the water,” said John Houghtaling, Costner’s business partner.

Houghtaling said the biggest machines can handle 200 gallons per minute. That’s more than 50 gallons faster than what the leaking oil well is spewing out each day.

Read the whole article.  It’s fascinating stuff.

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Everything the ancient Greeks warned us about democracy has come true in modern Greece — and right here in River City as well

Mark Steyn in Macleans:

Traditionally, a bank is a means by which old people with capital lend to young people with ideas. But the advanced democracies with their mountains of sovereign debt are in effect old people who’ve blown through their capital and are all out of ideas looking for young people flush enough to bail them out. And the idea that it might be time for the spendthrift geezers to change their ways butts up against their indestructible moral vanity. Last year, President Sarkozy said that the G20 summit provided “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give capitalism a conscience.” European capitalism may have a conscience. It’s not clear it has a pulse. And, actually, when you’re burning Greek bank clerks to death in defence of your benefits, your “conscience” isn’t much in evidence, either.

Let us take it as read that Greece is an outlier. As waggish officials in Brussels and Strasbourg will tell you, it only snuck into the EU due to some sort of clerical error. It’s a cesspit of sloth and corruption even by Mediterranean standards. On my last brief visit, Athens was a visibly decrepit dump: a town with a handful of splendid ancient ruins surrounded by a multitude of hideous graffiti-covered contemporary ruins. If you were going to cut one “advanced” social democracy loose and watch it plunge into the abyss pour encourager les autres, it would be hard to devise a better candidate than Greece.

And yet and yet . . . riot-wracked Athens isn’t that much of an outlier. Greece’s 2010 budget deficit is 12.2 per cent of GDP; Ireland’s is 14.7. Greece’s debt is 125 per cent of GDP; Italy’s is 117 per cent. Greece’s 65-plus population will increase from 18 per cent in 2005 to 25 per cent in 2030; Spain’s will increase from 17 per cent to 25 per cent. As lazy, feckless, squalid, corrupt and violent as Greece undoubtedly is, it’s not that untypical. It’s where the rest of Europe’s headed, and Japan and North America shortly thereafter. About half the global economy is living beyond not only its means but its diminished number of children’s means.

Instead of addressing that basic fact, countries with government debt of 125 per cent of GDP are being “rescued” by countries with government debt of 80 per cent of GDP. Good luck with that. Alas, the world has deemed Greece “too big to fail,” even though in (what’s the word?) reality it’s too big not to fail. And the rest of us are too big not to follow in its path:

“Another reform high on the list is removing the state from the marketplace in crucial sectors like health care, transportation and energy and allowing private investment,” reported the New York Times. “Economists say that the liberalization of trucking routes—where a trucking licence can cost up to $90,000—and the health care industry would help bring down prices in these areas, which are among the highest in Europe.”

Removing the state from health care brings down prices? Who knew? This New York Times is presumably entirely unrelated to the New York Times that’s spent the last year arguing for the governmentalization of U.S. health care as a means of controlling costs.

The EU is now throwing an extra trillion dollars at countries which by any objective measure are insolvent, and are unlikely ever again to be anything but—at least this side of bloody revolution. How do you grow your economy in a remorselessly shrinking market? That’s to say, Greece is a land of ever fewer customers and fewer workers but ever more retirees and more government. How do you increase GDP? By export? Where? You’re entirely uncompetitive; you can’t make anything at a price any foreigner would be prepared to pay for it. More to the point, foreigners already own your debt, and just servicing that in the years ahead will gobble up around 10 per cent of GDP—which you’ll have to try and make up domestically. How? You’ve got some of the lowest productivity rates in Europe, and a “workforce” that would rather rouse itself to murder bank tellers.

Greece, wrote Theodore Dalrymple, is “a cradle not only of democracy but of democratic corruption”—of electorates who give their votes to leaders who bribe them with baubles purchased by borrowing against a future that can never pay it off. The future is now here, and the riots will spread.


The Next bubble to burst: Government!

I’ve been a bit slow on this one.  I have been wondering what sector of the economy was going to over inflate and burst next.  The answer has been right in front of me the whole time but the reason I did not see it very clearly is because I was wondering what part of the private economy would burst next.  Sure, I knew the government was in trouble, but I did not think of it as a “bubble”, like real estate or the era.

A simple headline today put the perfect perspective out there for me to get it.  If I apply “bubble economics” to the government sector, it is perfectly clear.

The economic collapse of Greece is a wake-up call. The unsustainable combination of a bloated public bureaucracy, high deficit spending and unfunded pension obligations busted Greece’s government bubble. Now the birthplace of modern democracy is on the brink of becoming a failed state.

The Bank of England recently warned that the U.S. is on the road to the same fiscal failure as Greece, and the Obama administration’s insistence on massive public spending and increasing deficits is the reason.

At this rate, the U.S. government will be the next economic bubble to burst. We’ve seen similar downturns: the information technology bubble in 2000, housing in 2007 and Wall Street in 2008. If unchecked, America’s government bubble will depress our economy with higher interest rates and defaulting state and local governments.

Politicians Aren’t Businessmen

Federal spending alone this year accounts for 25% of our nation’s gross domestic product. If you add state and local spending, the number is closer to 50%. No economy can thrive when nearly half of all economic output is directed by politicians rather than entrepreneurs and small businesses.

After big government spending, government employee unions pose a serious threat to America’s fiscal health. Over the past 30 years, union membership has declined significantly, from 23% of all workers in 1980 to about 12% today. But the percentage of union members working for government has soared: Over 50% of all union workers in the U.S. are employed by the government compared with only 17% in 1980.

In addition, government workers make about $10 per hour more than the average private sector worker.

And when they retire, taxpayers are on the hook to pay for lucrative pensions promised by a generation of politicians trying to win the next election. America’s small-business owners could only dream of providing the type of pensions that government workers take for granted. – IBD Editorials


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