The Electric Commentary

Friday, March 31, 2006

Fun Friday, Part 2

I need only quote:

You would think that with a title of "Questions Young People Ask" the book might contain actual questions from young people. This is not the case. Rather, it contains questions that groups of old, frustrated nutjobs gathered in church basements might ask.


and link.

Fun Friday, Part 1

This is one crazy canine.

(Hat tip, Mike)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Chicago's Giant April Fool's Day Prank

This is a public service message.

Tomorrow, Chicago is going to play a funny prank on everyone driving through the city by closing four lanes on the Dan Ryan (that's 90/94) from just south of the loop (around 35th or so) basically to Indiana. If you have to drive through Chicago, don't. The delay will be measured in hours, not minutes, and it will be constant.

Not only are they closing half of one of the busiest freeways in the country, they are also keeping it closed for 2 years.

Have fun, and stay off of the Ryan.

The Sun-Times has a handy guide (on the right side about half way down).

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Krugman on Immigration.

I meant to rip Pauly K for his recent column, but Brian Caplan beat me to it:


I occasionally quip that I like the whole range of economists from Mises to Krugman. We can squabble amongst ourselves, but it's amazing how much we really agree. Now Krugman is voicing doubts about immigration, but once again, he doesn't disappoint me. What's bad about immigration, according to Krugman?

First, the net benefits to the U.S. economy from immigration, aside from the large gains to the immigrants themselves, are small. Realistic estimates suggest that immigration since 1980 has raised the total income of native-born Americans by no more than a fraction of 1 percent.

Horrors! Only a small gain to native-born Americans? Something's got to be done to fight this small gain.


I had to read that sentence twice to make sure the Krugman actually wrote it. Caplan has more, here.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Tunes for Pledge "Week"

It's pledge "week" at NPR, which means that I've been listening to ye olde iPod more than usual, and I feel that I must recommend a few tunes.

Sing Me Spanish Techno
, by The New Pornographers, is one of the best songs that I've heard in years. The linked video is a bit strange, but the song is great. The entire album, Twin Cinema, is also quite good.

I'm also a fan of The Decemberists' album, Picaresque. It is possibly the greatest pirate-themed rock album in history. You can download the best song on that album, the non-piraty "The Engine Driver" free on Amazon.

I also highly recommend this CD by The Reindeer Section, and this disc by Snow Patrol. You can listen to my favorite Snow Patrol tune, Chocolate, here.

Finally, I'm diggin' this Polyphonic Spree tune. (Although the album version is better.)

"The Simpsons" is dead.

Oh, it will still be around for a few more seasons, but Sunday's episode was so colossally unfunny that I hardly see the point.

The Simpsons used to be the greatest show on television, and it is difficult to criticize because it did maintain a high level of quality for a very long time, but it really should end. The Simpsons lost its way when it lost contact with reality. It is tough to rip a cartoon for a lack of reality, but part of what made The Simpsons great was a real family dealing with real issues, in an exaggerated fashion. For the past 10 years or so the show has grown increasingly nonsensical. The characters are no longer a family; they are independent characters. Homer has no job, the kids act like 20-somethings, and Marge is just taking up space. When a "side character" makes an appearance, it now seems forced. In the good old days, situations forced the participation of side characters. Occasionally, it even created them, as with Disco Stu. These days they simply make an appearance.

For a time they were able to combat this problem with self-deprecating humor, but after several years of laughing at yourself, it becomes tiresome to watch. If you have a problem, it is only funny to laugh at it a few times before you fix it.

The Simpsons hasn't fixed it and they will not fix it. They've stooped to mocking reality TV at least 3 times now.

I'm a big Simpsons fan. I own the first 7 seasons on DVD, and I've listened to the commentary on every single episode. About midway though Season 6 the writers suddenly become much more cynical, more political, and more self-indulgent. These are both fine seasons, featuring my all-time favorite episode, but you can't tell that the seeds of failure were planted sometime in season seven, like so many Shelbyvillian turnips.

The Simpsons used to be more than funny. It was clever, insightful, and emotional. It consistently had the best writing on television, and the voicework of Harry Shearer and Hank Azaria was a delight to hear. At this point, it has devolved into one long "Three Stooges" bit.

I used to watch every Sunday, and catch every syndicated episode, every time. At this point, I would rather watch an episode of South Park or Family Guy, without question. If I could travel back in time and tell relate to myself that last sentence circa 1997, I would not have believed it, and may have punched my future self.

It is an old show, and it is not fair to hold it to the same standard as shows that are still in their primes, but this is just sad. It is in full "Jerry Rice as a Raider" mode, and it needs to end.

I think I'll go pop in Season 6 and think of good times past.

Libertarians Actually Win Something!

Congrats to the generally libertarian George Mason University for winning its regional and advancing to the Final Four. I am part of a pool at work where we were randomly assigned teams, and I happened to get GMU. I was not happy about this when it happened, but after Wisconsin and Marquette flamed out it was nice to have an underdog to support, and nice to see them beat the long odds and advance.

This has been a fantastic tournament.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Fun Friday

First, Screech will be at the Cubby Bear by my apartment this weekend. As to what he will be doing there, I have no idea.

Next, Penn Jillette has a patent.

Finally, we haven't watched Homestar in a while.

Have a nice weekend.

Suddenly the idea of judges considering the standards of other nations in their decision-making doesn't seem so bad

Does it?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Do as I say, not as I do.

Go read Radly Balko's excellent article on the anti-gambling crusade.

Balko points out three reasons it is a bad idea:

Feds not our baby-sitter

The idea that government is somehow obligated, or even authorized, to protect us from our own vices and "bad" habits simply isn't compatible with a free society.

It's naked hypocrisy

Last month, police in Fairfax, Va., conducted a SWAT raid on Sal Culosi Jr., an optometrist suspected of running a sports gambling pool with some friends. As the SWAT team surrounded him, one officer's gun discharged, struck Culosi in the chest and killed him. In the fiscal year before the raid that killed Culosi, Virginia spent about $20 million marketing and promoting its state lottery.

It won't work

On CNBC three weeks ago, [Virginia Rep. and new Anti-gambling bill sponsor Bob] Goodlatte pointed out that because gambling companies themselves are offshore, they aren't subject to U.S. laws and regulations. But that's an argument against his own bill. Goodlatte's bill won't stop Internet gaming. Instead, it will not only keep gaming companies offshore, it will facilitate the rise of offshore financing services, too.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Multi-Dimensional Political Spectrum

Peter DiGaudio, one of the more conservative contributors to the BBA, is asking for description of the political spectrum. He mentions two popular conceptions. The first is the standard right-left dichotomy. The second is a circle:


... and the other is circular, with the extremes of left and right actually meeting.


I think that most libertarians would describe the political spectrum in terms of a Euclidean, two-dimensional graph.

The lower right quadrant would be your social right wing. Here we find obsessive moralizing, culture war issues, and much corporate welfare. And stuff like this. (Hat tip, Sully.) This is the power hungry sector of conservatism. They believe that government power can make the world better, if only they can control it.

Directly opposite this quadrant we find the power hungry left. These are your socialistic snobs. Your hippie do-gooders. They want you to ride your bike, not smoke, eat tofu, drink wheatgrass juice, and they certainly don't want you taking any foolish risks. Ever. This is the nanny state. They know what's best, and they'd like you to pay them for the privilege of obeying their orders.

The difference between these two sides is only a difference of opinion. Both want to harness government for the good of mankind, and neither can be trusted to zip themselves up without massive blood loss. At the meeting of these two quadrants, on the lowest point of the y-axis lies both fascism and communism, two peas in a pod. Both give government the ultimate power, and both make slaves of the people.

Now, let's move out of the more infernal areas of the spectrum and into the illuminating light of the libertarian half.

The upper right quadrant is composed of the economic conservatives. They want to reduce the size of government by cutting spending and cutting taxes. They see economic freedom as intrinsic to personal freedom. Many of these people still have socially conservative tendencies, which makes them hypocrites to some extent, but if push comes to shove, they don't trust government, and they will vote against it. These types of conservatives are currently in the minority. Actually, I can't remember this group ever having been in the majority. I wonder what it would be like.

Opposite the fiscal conservatives are the laissez-faire hippies. OK, let's call them social libertarians. While my brother and I throw the term "dirty hippie" around rather loosely on this blog, we are, frankly, a bit unfair. What we don't like is bossy hippies. They suck. However, there are also permissive hippies. They want to legalize drugs, gambling, and any other victimless/consensual crimes. They think that conservatives are hung up on sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and that the world would be in better shape if people just butted out of these areas. They think that homosexuals should be free to do as they please, that swearing on network TV is perfectly fine (and protected by the Constitution), and that Phish rules.

At the very top of the y-axis we find anarchy, which is always a disaster. However, just under anarchy, looking down on the rest of you from on high, we find libertarianism. Why aren't libertarians just anarchists? Because libertarians know that in much of the world, especially in Africa, there is simply a lack of government. Sure government sucks at most things, but we didn't leave that state of nature for nothing. When we don't have government, the physically strong begin to dominate. That is anarchy, and that is the state of nature. It is no way to live. Strong governmental institutions are essential to a functioning nation, and libertarians, rather than seeking to be rid of all government, merely seek to discover which governmental functions are essential to social stability.

When libertarians say that there is really no difference between Republicans and Democrats, they are speaking vertically. They both wish to gain and exercise the same amount of power, and that is the most important criterion to a libertarian. Libs see most left/right squabbles as petty. The elephants and donkeys missing the forest for the trees.

Most people will fall into more than one category. If you graphed someone's political views you would probably get a bunch of zig-zags or a parabola but in general, everyone will fit somewhere into this spectrum. My hope is that more people find there way into the upper half.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

YouTube defeats Comedy Central

Here's the South Park explanation of Scientology.

Here's the entire episode.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Simple Is Better

From the excellent Animals in Translation, by Temple Grandin:

But I find that people in academia and often in government just don't get it. Most language-based thinkers find it difficult to believe that such a simple audit really works. They're like the people in the lever-pressing experiments; they think simple means wrong. They don't see that each of the five critical control points measures anywhere from three to ten others that all result in the same bad outcome for the animals. When highly verbal people get control of the audit process, they tend to make five critical mistakes:

1. They write verbal auditing standards that are too subjective and vague, with requirements like "minimal use of electric prod" and "non-slip flooring." Individual inspectors have to figure out for themselves what "minimal use" means. A good audit checklist has objective standards that anyone can see have or have not been met.

2. For some reason, highly verbal people have a tendency to measure inputs, such as maintenance schedules, employee training records, and equipment design problems, instead of outputs, which is how the animals are actually doing. A good animal welfare audit has to measure the animals, not the plant.

3. Highly verbal people almost always want to make the audit way too complicated. A 100-item checklist doesn't work nearly as well as a 10-item checklist, and I can prove it.

4. Verbal people drift into paper audits, in which they audit a plant's records instead of its animals. A good animal welfare audit has to audit the animals, not the paper and not the plant.

5. Verbal people tend to lose sight of what's important and end up treating small problems the same way they treat big problems.



Grandin is autistic, and believes that many animals exhibit behaviors similar to those of autistic people. She has used this insight spearhead many reforms in the treatment of animals. In fact, half the cattle in the US and Canada are now handled in a system that she designed.

In Animals in Translation she makes a strong case that animals are much more intelligent than people think. Parrots can learn to spell, prairie dogs use a very detailed language, whales are poets, and birds and squirrels never forget where they bury their nuts.

Highly recommended.

Parker and Stone Respond

The South Park Scientology episode continues to have ramifications for Trey Parker and Matt Stone. First Isaac Hayes quit, and now Comedy Central has pulled the episode. Why would Comedy Central care about offending scientologists? Rumor has it that Tom Cruise put pressure on the station to pull the episode. Cruise is set to begin promoting Mission Impossible 3 for the summer blockbuster season, and if he curtailed his efforts it would put a dent in the wallet of Paramount, which is owned by Viacom, which also owns Comedy Central.

Would Cruise actually put effort into thwarting a cartoon? Scientologists are famously litigious, and care about public perception above all else, so it is not as far fetched as it sounds. South Park has offended basically everyone that can be offended, but this is the first time that they have suffered any repercussions. Someone with some power in Hollywood was probably responsible.

Ed Brayton has much more, including a non-denial denial from Cruise's agent.

Parker and Stone, good sports that they are, could not just let this injustice stand. Here's their response, from Variety:

"So, Scientology, you may have won THIS battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun! Temporarily anozinizing our episode will NOT stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies. Curses and drat! You have obstructed us for now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu!!!"

The duo signed the statement "Trey Parker and Matt Stone, servants of the dark lord Xenu."


More on Scientology:

Here's my interview with Xenu. Here is Scott Burgess's three-part series. Here's Kevin Drum on Cruise. Here is Tom Cruise killing Oprah.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Have a great weekend.

Fun Friday

I know you're all watching basketball anyway, but just in case you need a break from watching, here you go:

Here's a fun little game.

Here are some ninjas.

Here's Pac-Man being terrorized.

Here's my favorite Radiohead video. It's weird.

Here's that disturbing UNKLE video.

And if you don't think that either of those is particularly disturbing, try this on for size.

Enjoy the tourney.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Good Ol' Wisconsin

Here's a law that I found quoted in the La Crosse Tribune:

"No person shall within the city of La Crosse molest, injure or in any manner interfere with any squirrel of any kind.”


The article evokes memories of Waiting for Guffman, as well as The Simpson's hometown of Springfield's town charter, which promises the mayor "four comely maidens of virtue true."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Who's the black Scientologist who quit when his beliefs were dissed?

Chef!

He's a complicated man:

"There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins," the 63-year-old soul singer and outspoken Scientologist said.

"Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored," he continued. "As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices."


And no one understands him but Matt Stone:

"This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology... He has no problem - and he's cashed plenty of checks - with our show making fun of Christians."

Stone told The AP he and co-creator Trey Parker "never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin."

Sunday, March 12, 2006

What happens to bad teachers?

According to The Atlantic Monthly, they just get moved around (subscription required, unfortunately):

There's plenty of debate about "school choice," but perhaps parents and other interested parties should worry more about "teacher choice—"that is, principals' ability to hire the best teachers they can find. A recent study from the New Teacher Project, which collected data on staffing at five major urban school districts around the country, discovered that 40 percent of teacher vacancies were filled by "voluntary transfers" (incumbent teachers exercising contract- mandated transfer options) and "excessed" teachers (teachers whose jobs were cut and who generally must, according to union rules, be hired before other candidates). According to the study, many of the teachers hired in these instances are "poor performers" and are "passed around from school to school instead of being terminated." Principals, of course, are unhappy about this state of affairs. In one district, 64 percent of principals at schools that added such teachers in the last year said that they wished they had not hired them, and 26 percent rated "all or almost all" of the excessed teachers who came on board as "unsatisfactory."

Unions: Protecting the unqualified from termination for over a century. Lovely.

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, is an 18th century novel by Laurence Sterne, about a man attempting, but failing, to write his autobiography. Or so I'm told. I've never actually read it. Admitting this fact puts me one step ahead of the cast and characters, of Tristram Shandy, A Cock and Bull Story, a movie about an attempt at making a movie about a man attempting to write his autobiography, but failing, but failing.

Steve Coogan plays Tristram Shandy, but he also plays Steve Coogan. "Co-lead" Steve Brydon plays Toby Shandy, as well as Steve Brydon. It is clear that, at most, two people on the set actually understand that the story is more about writing and the creative process than it is about any story that may or may not be there. As no one understands this, the poor writer has been forced to do three re-writes to make the story more audience friendly. His most recent version contains a battle scene which clearly isn't that important, but is the cause of much fretting.

The movie is brilliant.

It begins with some semblance of an actual story, focusing on Tristram's birth, but it quickly breaks down into a movie about the politics and egos behind the movie. It could have turned into a pretentious trash heap at this point, but instead it moves along rather seamlessly thanks to inspired dialogue between Coogan and Brydon, as well as great supporting performances from Naomie Harris (Coogan's assistant Jennie, who has actually read the book in question), and Kelly MacDonald (Coogan's girlfriend, also named Jenny, with whom he has a newborn baby).

This movie features a 20 foot replica of a uterus, the same number of forcible castrations as Sin City, and a cameo from Gillian Anderson who plays widow Wadman, an of course, Gillian Anderson, in what can only be described as a Carl Weathers-esque performance (if you are an Arrested Development fan).

It's great fun. If you're lucky enough to have it playing in your city, you should see it.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Bad Policy In Action

Dan Drezner reports on one of the worst decisions that a government could possibly make. Here's an excerpt from an L.A. Times story:

Argentine President Nestor Kirchner has a plan to fight rising inflation and escalating food prices: Let them eat beef.

In an extraordinary decision, the government this week announced a six-month ban on most beef exports from the world's third-largest purveyor of the meat.

In Argentina, prime beef is a cultural icon, rivaling tango, soccer and the late Eva Peron. Argentines are voracious beefeaters, consuming 143 pounds per capita annually.

But consumers here have been grumbling about beef prices for months, and Kirchner — a left-leaning populist often at odds with big business — presented the ban as a way to protect his people from export-driven price hikes.

The government hopes that meat targeted for overseas sale will now stay at home. Increased supplies will reduce domestic prices, which skyrocketed 20% last year, surpassing the worrisome inflation rate of more than 12%.

"It doesn't interest us to export at the cost of hunger for the people," Kirchner declared.


Unbelievablele. The only question that remains is if this will lead directly to mass starvation, or if mass starvation will come only after the enormous economic hit.

Slobodan Milosevic is dead.

Details here.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Fun Friday

What could be more fun than the live action Simpsons intro?

Have a nice weekend. To the Peter Copter!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

When a problem comes along, you must whip it.

Devolution:

An extraordinary family who walk on all fours are being hailed as the breakthrough discovery which could shed light on the moment Man first stood upright. Scientists believe that the five brothers and sisters found in Turkey could hold unique insights into human evolution. The Kurdish siblings, aged between 18 and 34 and from the rural south, 'bear crawl' on their feet and palms. Study of the five has shown the astonishing behaviour is not a hoax and they are largely unable to walk otherwise. Researchers have found a genetic condition which accounts for their extraordinary movement.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Point/CounterPoint


A recurring EC segment in which two intellectual giants square off on the big issues of the day. Today's question:

In the State of the Union address, the President raised the possibility of banning human/animal hybrids. Is this type of scientific research ethical?


Human/Animal Hybrids are an affront to God.

by Pat Robertson, Former Presidential Candidate and founder of The 700 Club.

God created humans in his image, to rule over all of the animals. We are clearly differentiated from animals, as anyone can clearly see. You can see it in our intellects, and in our power.

Most of the time, I'm busy blaming hurricanes and comet strikes on homosexuals, calling for the assassination of foreign leaders, and faith-healing, but werewolves are quickly becoming my focus as we advance like a runaway freight train towards all sorts of dangerous scientific "progress."

Animals are a step backward. They are primal, relying primarily on instinct to act. If combined with the attributes of humans, they will become monsters. God once saw fit to destroy the sons of Cain, many of which can be described as creatures of this sort.

People, we are not meant to meddle with the genetic code. This is the very language of God, and when we meddle in that language, we create chaos. I suspect that nothing is capable of slowing this scientific juggernaut, but let no one claim that they were not warned.


Human/Animal hybrids will be an important part of the future.

by Animal, Drummer, Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem.

Woman! Woman! Woman!

What Animal supposed to do? Surrounded by frogs and pigs all day. Which no one bats an eye at, by the way. Ha! Ha! Ha!

Weirdo and chicken get cooped up too. Animal have needs. Animal is unique. Human women seem to like animal. Animal bad boy. Haaahhh!

Chicks dig drummers.

Also, this type of thing is useful for insulin production! May have many applications!

Pat Robertson just jealous.

Mwahhh! Hah! Hah.


The EC would like to thank both of our panelists for participating. We look forward to having both of them back again for a future exchange of ideas.

Oscar the Grouch

J-Stew did fine, George Clooney was just a tad sanctimonious:

We were into fighting racism before it was cool.


but all in all, not a bad show, at least, the parts that I saw (I had a volleyball game last night).


Our resident movie experts at the L&N Line have a nice rundown, as you would expect, and Ace weighs in here. And here's Ebert.

Casimir Pulaski Day

Today, every kid in Chicago has the day off from school because of this weird Polish holiday. Apparently, Chicago has the largest concentration of Polish people outside of Poland, but I still think this is strange. I don't remember having any unique days off when I was in school. (I wonder if the south side of Milwaukee has a big CP celebration.) This reminds me a bit of Jebediah Springfield day.

Of course, the kids all have to write a research paper. Topics include:

1. The quest to send a man to the sun, at night.

2. The Polish kamikaze who flew 48 successful missions.

3. A book review of the Polish classic, "How to Read."

4. Why wasn't Jesus born in Poland? No wisemen, or no virgins? Discuss.

Think that you can do better? That's what the comments are for.

Have a wonderful Casimir Pulaski Day.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Fun Friday, Part 2

Bill Simmons chats with Malcolm Gladwell:

There's a famous experiment done by a wonderful psychologist at Columbia University named Dan Goldstein. He goes to a class of American college students and asks them which city they think is bigger -- San Antonio or San Diego. The students are divided. Then he goes to an equivalent class of German college students and asks the same question. This time the class votes overwhelmingly for San Diego. The right answer? San Diego. So the Germans are smarter, at least on this question, than the American kids. But that's not because they know more about American geography. It's because they know less. They've never heard of San Antonio. But they've heard of San Diego and using only that rule of thumb, they figure San Diego must be bigger. The American students know way more. They know all about San Antonio. They know it's in Texas and that Texas is booming. They know it has a pro basketball team, so it must be a pretty big market. Some of them may have been in San Antonio and taken forever to drive from one side of town to another -- and that, and a thousand other stray facts about Texas and San Antonio, have the effect of muddling their judgment and preventing them from getting the right answer.

I'd be the equivalent of the German student. I know nothing about basketball, so I'd make only the safest, most obvious decisions. I'd read John Hollinger and Chad Ford and I'd print out your mid-season NBA roundup and post it on my blackboard. I'd look at the box scores every morning, and watch Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith on TNT. Would I have made the disastrous Marbury trade? Of course not. I'd wonder why Jerry Colangelo -- who I know is a lot smarter than I am -- was so willing to part with him.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Fun Friday

Fishin' with Rivers and The Muppets.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

On Corporate Welfare

I hate corporate welfare. Milwaukee has recently attempted to spur development and attract jobs by handing out millions of dollars in corporate welfare, first to the failed Pabst City project, which would have included condos, restaurants, and a House of Blues in an area just outside of downtown proper (with about $41 millions dollars of aid), and then they offered Mapower Inc., a $20 million parking garage in an attempt to lure them downtown.

Milwaukee could probably use more jobs downtown, and it would be pretty cool to see a House of Blues open up, but the incentives created by these sorts of deals screw up the local economy. They're simply not worth it.

Milwaukee has several music venues already. One of the more prominent theatres is The Rave, which is roughly the size of a House of Blues. The Rave is just west of Downtown on Wisconsin Ave., in a "lackluster" neighborhood, to put it nicely. As far as I know, The Rave has not received any subsidies. Perhaps, if they were $41 million richer, they could have spruced up the place a bit, or moved to a nicer location, or booked bigger acts, or lowered ticket prices, but as they received no subsidy, they book middling acts on 24th and Wisconsin Ave.

The House of Blues would have been given an unfair advantage over The Rave, as well as every other venue in Milwaukee. There is little chance that any given business can compete with an adversary if that adversary is given a $41 million dollar advantage. Their only option, if they want to survive and prosper, is to lobby for their own subsidy or tax break.

Instead of competing with their free-market competitors to increase service and lower prices, they wind up in a bidding war over the favors of public officials. And, while consumers are hurt by the lack of competition, they are also hurt by the increased role of government.

When government officials start giving out these favors, they basically become urban planners. They are put into the position of deciding what businesses should go where, and which should be kept out. If there was truly a demand for a House of Blues in Milwaukee, why wasn't it built before the subsidy idea was explored? What if some official decides that he would like a Cheesecake Factory downtown? Do they get a break? Why not Chili's or Olive Garden?

Perhaps the single worst aspect of corporate welfare is that it disguises the true problems of an unfriendly business climate, high taxes, and cumbersome regulations. Cities offer certain natural advantages for businesses over more rural areas. There is a higher concentration of people, good infrastructure, and a large employee pool. Because of this, cities can get away with taxing at a higher rate. This is rent seeking, pure and simple, however, it is difficult to maintain this situation, and eventually suburbs start to compete by creating business-friendly climates with solid infrastructures. Some cities have adjusted to their suburban competition, and some haven't.

If Milwaukee would simply reform its tax situation there would be no need to grant corporate favors to attract businesses. Unfortunately, politicians like this situation. They can easily extort a few thousand dollars in campaign contributions from any business if they can cut the business some kind of break that will allow them to make a greater profit, especially if that break eliminates competition.

Basically, politicians hit up companies for money, and then repay them several times over with your tax money. Sound like a good deal?

Whenever the government is in a position to grant favors, it is exercising too much power. It doesn't matter if the issue is regulating marriage or granting subsidies, what does matter is that they are playing you off of your fellow citizens for their own benefit.


 
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