Friday, January 22, 2016

The things people get offended by...

High up on the list seems to be that outcomes are influenced by personal choices (CBC - yes, the our state sponsored broadcaster):

Not wanting to face a lifetime of debt, Cooper sacrificed three years of his life to pay down a $255,000 mortgage on a $425,000 Toronto home he bought in 2012.

He worked up to 100 hours a week at three jobs: pension analyst; financial writer; and supermarket clerk. Naturally, the bachelor's social life suffered. Cooper also lived like a pauper, maintaining a strict budget and residing in the basement so he could collect rent on the rest of his house.

His story generated more than 2,000 comments on CBC News sites.​

[...] Media across the globe have now jumped on the story and also taken sides. "Well done, big fella, congratulations, an inspirational guy," gushed host David Koch on the Australian breakfast television program, Sunrise.

But America's Slate magazine had a different take, stating Cooper's story implied our money troubles were entirely our own fault. The Slate article suggested cash-strapped people wanted real economic change rather than just "inspirational stories of sacrifice and pluck."
General rule of thumb: when you're offended by what someone else has done that isn't hurting anyone else, that probably says more about you than anyone else...

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The real barrier to affordable housing?

According to Reason, regulations and bureaucrats:

In an alternate reality, the city government wouldn't be calling shots on what is legal and illegal in terms of apartments, rents, sub-contracting, you name it. That would fall on the shoulders of owners and renters rather than what is at best a capricious set of rules enforced by bureaucrats whose actions are subject to wide variation.

According to Lisa Sturtevant of the National Housing Conference, regulatory approvals (zoning, inspections, and more) add up to $50,000 to the cost of new single-family dwellings in urban areas. That's a lot of scratch that ends limiting housing supply and squeezing residents in all sorts of ways.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Michael Burry: After the financial crisis

Yep. Remarkably candid/good reporting from NYMag:

The major reform legislation, Dodd-Frank, was named after two guys bought and sold by special interests, and one of them should be shouldering a good amount of blame for the crisis. Banks were forced, by the government, to save some of the worst lenders in the housing bubble, then the government turned around and pilloried the banks for the crimes of the companies they were forced to acquire. [...] Whether it’s the one percent or hedge funds or Wall Street, I do not think society is well served by failing to encourage every last American to look within. This crisis truly took a village, and most of the villagers themselves are not without some personal responsibility for the circumstances in which they found themselves. We should be teaching our kids to be better citizens through personal responsibility, not by the example of blame.
But also, in response to the question "What, if anything, makes you hopeful about the future?":
Innovation, especially in America, is continuing at a breakneck pace, even in areas facing substantial political or regulatory headwinds. The advances in health care in particular are breathtaking — so many selfless souls are working to advance science, and this is heartening. Long-term, this is good for humans in general. Americans have so much natural entrepreneurial drive. The caveat is that it is technology that should be a tool making lives better in the real world, and in line with the American spirit of getting better and better at something, whether it’s curing cancer or creating a better taxi service. I am less impressed with the market values assigned to technology that enhances distraction. We don’t want Orwell’s world, but we don’t want Huxley’s world either.

2015: Best year to be alive, but also a year of absurdity

A juxtaposition - a pessimistic look of 2015 and the pain we, in the West, inflict on ourselves by George Will (Washington Post):

We learned that a dismal threshold has been passed. The value of property that police departments seized through civil asset forfeiture — usually without accusing, let alone convicting, the property owners of a crime — exceeded the value of property stolen by nongovernment burglars. [...]

The Internal Revenue Service persecutes conservative advocacy groups but does not prosecute IRS employees who are tax cheats: An audit revealed that over the past decade, the IRS fired only 400 of the 1,580 employees who deliberately violated tax laws, rather than the 100 percent required by law. [...]

A suburban Washington high school promoted self-esteem by naming 117 valedictorians out of a class of 457. Two Edina, Minn., elementary schools hired “recess consultants” to minimize “conflict” — children saying “Hey, you’re out!” rather than “Nice try!” The principal of a San Francisco middle school withheld the results of student elections that did not produce properly “diverse” results.
But a year of hope as well - from John Stossel looking at the world as a whole. While the US, along with much of the west, may be making incremental moves away from economic and personal liberty that has brought them prosperity, much of the rest of the world has been moving in the opposite direction with quantifiable, positive and predictable results (Fox):
Twenty-five years ago, 2 billion people lived in extreme poverty -- that meant surviving on about a dollar a day, often with little access to basic needs like water and food. “Experts” predicted that number would rise as the population grew. Happily, thanks to the power of free markets, they were wrong. In the space of a generation, half the people most in need in the world were rescued.

Ten percent of the world’s people still live in dire poverty, but the trend is clear: Where there is rule of law and individual freedom, humanity is better off. As Marian Tupy of puts it, “Away from the front pages of our newspapers and television, billions of people go about their lives unmolested, enjoying incremental improvements that make each year better than the last.”