Tag Archives: Reponsibility

Two British conservatives to watch: Iain Duncan-Smith and Michael Gove

Here’s an article from the UK Telegraph about Iain Duncan-Smith.

Excerpt:

I’ve known Iain for many years since my days working for Lady Thatcher back when he was party leader. Few British politicians understand the Special Relationship as well as IDS, and he has made a concerted effort to cultivate ties with leaders in the United States, frequently visiting Washington over the past decade both in opposition and in government.

It was refreshing to see a British official showing leadership on an issue that few Washington politicians have seriously addressed since the reforms of the 1990s. His message was a compelling one – that Britain (and for that matter the West as a whole) is facing up to the biggest cultural challenge of the early 21st Century – dealing with “entrenched and intergenerational worklessness and welfare dependency.” In his speech he attacked “an obsession with inputs – with pouring money into social programmes so that governments are seen to be doing something,” a sentiment that tens of millions of Americans would heartily agree with:

So we are now faced with a fundamental challenge. Levels of social breakdown high and rising. Millions of people stuck out of work on benefits. Millions not saving nearly enough for their retirement. And politicians – of all hues – addicted to spending levels as a measurement of success, rather than life change as a measurement of success.

These are areas ripe for reform – but how do you reform when there is no money? The answer – you change the way you reform. Not just cheese-slicing, but recalibrating whole systems so that you change behaviours, and change the culture that allowed spending to get out of control in the first place.

With good reason IDS consistently ranks at the top of ConservativeHome’s poll of cabinet ministers, with an approval rating in the latest survey of 84 per cent. Together with Michael Gove (who currently ranks second), he has been the most consistently impressive minister in Cameron’s government. It is not hard to see why he is so popular with the grassroots. Duncan Smith is a conviction politician offering clear-cut conservative solutions to major problems, emphasising individual responsibility, a strong work ethic, and traditional values as opposed to big government meddling. His welfare reforms are a major step in the right direction, and the most radical since the system’s creation in the 1940s. They deserve widespread support, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Iain Duncan-Smith stands for pro-family policies and welfare reform. What does Michael Gove stand for?

Here’s an article about him in the UK Daily Mail. (H/T Dina)

Excerpt:

One Cabinet minister is increasingly standing apart from the crowd. Yesterday, this newspaper revealed that Education Secretary Michael Gove wants to bring back O-level-style exams.

Although this brave proposal is popular with parents across England, it is not uncontroversial. It takes us back to a system that separated academically gifted children from those with different aptitudes.

But I would argue that the abolition of O-levels in the Eighties was actually an early sign of the culture of dishonesty in our national life.

Britain fell into the grip of a dishonest kindness. We started to hand out good exam results like sweeties — regardless of whether pupils had really learnt anything at school.

We told ourselves that it didn’t matter whether parents spent their time working with their children or just letting them lounge in front of the TV.

We allowed school-leavers to think that a life on benefits was socially acceptable when it’s actually a place where they would easily rot and never fulfil their potential.

The statistics that poured out of the schools system suggested that all was well, however.

Like tractor production data from the old Soviet Union the latest exam grades were always better than last summer’s.

We were told to rejoice but employers and universities saw through the big lie. They complained that the children graduating from Britain’s schools lacked basic literacy and numeracy skills. Britain started sliding down the international league tables that compared the abilities of children in China, Germany, Korea and Britain.

Michael Gove is the first Education Secretary to say that enough is enough. He has said he’s not afraid to preside over a drop in exam grades. They’ll look less good, he concedes, but they’ll be more honest.

The teaching unions that have presided over the ‘All Must Have Prizes’ system will fight him tooth and nail. They want to protect their jobs-for-life regime where bad teachers are rarely sacked but are instead allowed to damage countless pupils’ life chances, year after year.

Gove is undeterred. He’s ready to close down a system where children who can’t manage their times tables are studying for exactly the same exams as those who are on track to study physics at Oxbridge.

[…]The compassionate politician who cares about equality of opportunity won’t accept this status quo, and will point out that the current system is dishonest. It puts children with very different abilities through the same sausage machine and then pretends that those who get ‘F’ or ‘G’ grades have still passed.

Michael Gove wants academically gifted children to be stretched by studying O-levels.

He wants other children to have a more appropriate educational experience, albeit an equally rigorous and demanding one.

This Government’s investment in high-quality apprenticeships and a new generation of technical colleges is early proof that it is serious about restoring the standing of vocational education.

Michael Gove’s specialty is education reform – he wants to stop the left from bashing kids into the same mold, regardless of their individual abilities and aptitudes.

Those are the two guys to watch. They’re not perfect, but they are the two best in the UK, in my opinion.

In which I blame the coffee manufacturer for making bad coffee

This morning, I was contemplating whether to go downstairs and buy a cup of coffee for $1.25 from the coffee shop on the first floor, or whether to take a cup of free coffee from the kitchen on the 4th floor where I work. I like to have things that are free because then I do not have to work for them. Besides, I can spend more time watching TV if I don’t work as hard to buy the pay-coffee.

I was pretty sure that coffee that is sold by the small business on the first floor for profit would taste the same as coffee that is based on a community of coffee drinkers on our floor who just contribute whatever they want to out of the goodness of their hearts. To tell you the truth, it’s not something I really want to put that much thought into, I just expected that the world would conform to my intuitions and emotions.

So I snuck into the kitchen and poured myself a cup of the free coffee and snuck out again. I skulked back to my desk and sat down to drink the free coffee.

Imagine my horror at finding out that free coffee tastes like raw sewage!

Imagine! Free coffee doesn’t taste as good as coffee you have to pay for! How unfair! I hate this coffee! It’s weak! It’s cowardly! It’s lazy! It isn’t meeting my needs and expectations! It isn’t making me happy! It’s to blame for all of my problems! I want to sue this coffee manufacturer in court! I want everyone to condemn them! I demand justice! This coffee is to blame for my tires being underinflated! This coffee is to blame for me not going to the gym! Why is this coffee judging me? Why am I being marginalized and excluded?

Why, oh, why did God make coffee that is so bad? How could a loving God allow me to suffer from this bad coffee that I freely chose instead of pay-coffee? Shouldn’t God give me free coffee that doesn’t taste like sewage? Oh, woe is me! Why doesn’t anyone care about my needs? Why do other rich people have coffee that tastes good, and not me? Why are all my friends drinking good coffee, while I am forced by evil corporations to settle for sewage coffee? We should have a government-run social program to provide me with good coffee for free!

Do you know what I should do? I’ll tell you. I should take control of this coffee corporation. I should force them to give me free coffee for the rest of my life! After all, they are to blame for making the bad coffee. I shouldn’t have to pay for coffee! It’s my right! I have a right to the same coffee as people who go further away and who work hard and who pay for their coffee! I’m being discriminated against! There is no way that I should have to be. There is nothing that I should have to do. I should just get all the goodies in life and never have to give anything back to anyone, if I don’t feel like it.

Do you know what would be really good? A faucet that poured hot coffee with Splenda and cream. I think i’ll go see if we have that in the kitchen. I know we have water, so how hard can it be to get hot coffee with cream and Splenda, too?

Hey, I wonder if I could also get free back rubs? And free candy? I like candy! So I should get candy, too, right?

MUST-READ: New York Times critiques socialized medicine

Ed Morrissey links to this New York Times article from Hot Air.

Excerpt:

New York’s insurance system has been a working laboratory for the core provision of the new federal health care law — insurance even for those who are already sick and facing huge medical bills — and an expensive lesson in unplanned consequences.

[…]The problem stems in part from the state’s high medical costs and in part from its stringent requirements for insurance companies in the individual and small group market. In 1993, motivated by stories of suffering AIDS patients, the state became one of the first to require insurers to extend individual or small group coverage to anyone with pre-existing illnesses.

New York also became one of the few states that require insurers within each region of the state to charge the same rates for the same benefits, regardless of whether people are old or young, male or female, smokers or nonsmokers, high risk or low risk.

Healthy people, in effect, began to subsidize people who needed more health care. The healthier customers soon discovered that the high premiums were not worth it and dropped out of the plans. The pool of insured people shrank to the point where many of them had high health care needs. Without healthier people to spread the risk, their premiums skyrocketed, a phenomenon known in the trade as the “adverse selection death spiral.”

Obama plans to get around the problem of healthy young people opting out of paying for other people’s health care by fining them.

The new federal health care law tries to avoid the death spiral by requiring everyone to have insurance and penalizing those who do not, as well as offering subsidies to low-income customers.

[…]Under the federal law, those who refuse coverage will have to pay an annual penalty of $695 per person, up to $2,085 per family, or 2.5 percent of their household income, whichever is greater. The penalty will be phased in from 2014 to 2016.

How does this reduce health care costs? It doesn’t. But it does explain why we have so many uninsured in this country – they don’t buy insurance because government regulations requiring mandatory coverages have made it a bad deal for them. Young men don’t need to pay for in vitro fertilization and sex changes. They don’t use it, so why should they agree to pay for other people’s problems? They have their own lives to live.

Ed Morrissey explains:

If nothing else, this proves a couple of points that critics have made all along.  The mandates are nothing more than a way to get the young to create a proxy welfare state by forcing them into a usurious insurance model.  It does nothing to reduce actual costs, and in fact makes cost increases both more likely and more amplified.

Now you understand socialized medicine. The left plays on people’s fears and insecurities in order to gain control of the economy. They promise to take care of people, so that people can stop worrying about taking responsibility for their own choices. Once the leftists are elected, they take money from the young people who don’t understand what is happening to them, and they give it away to special interests in order to buy votes.

George Will explains how Democrats favor increasing dependency on government

Article here in the Boston Herald. (H/T Dad)

Excerpt:

For congressional Democrats, expanding dependency on government is an end in itself. They began the Obama administration by expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. It was created for children of the working poor, but the expansion made millions of middle-class children eligible – some in households earning $125,000. The aim was to swell the number of people who grow up dependent on government health care.

Many Democrats favor – as Barack Obama did in 2003 – a “single-payer” health insurance system, which means universal dependency on government. The “public option” insurance proposal was to be a step toward that. So was the proposed “alternative” of making 55- to 64-year-olds eligible for Medicare. Both of these dependency multipliers will be revived.

The government used TARP funds not for their stipulated purpose of buying banks’ “toxic assets,” but to pull auto companies and other economic entities into the spreading web of dependency. Servile – because dependent – banks were pliable during the farce of Chrysler’s bankruptcy, but secured creditors resisted when settled law was disregarded. Nevertheless, those creditors received less per dollar than did an unsecured creditor, the United Auto Workers, which relishes dependency on government as an alternative to economic realism.

Democrats’ financial “reforms” may aim to reduce financial institutions to dependent appendages of the government. By reducing banks to public utilities, credit, which is the lifeblood of capitalism, could be priced and allocated by government.

Many Democrats, opposing the Supreme Court, advocate new campaign finance “reforms” that will further empower government to regulate the quantity, timing and content of speech about government. Otherwise voters will hear more such speech than government considers good for them. Such paternalism is American progressivism’s oldest tradition.

The Democrats aren’t the party of making the little guy bigger, they’re the part of making the little guy even smaller than he is right now.

Bigger government means smaller individuals

Consider this article about food stamps from the New York Times. (H/T Protein Wisdom via ECM)

Excerpt:

A decade ago, New York City officials were so reluctant to give out food stamps, they made people register one day and return the next just to get an application. The welfare commissioner said the program caused dependency and the poor were “better off” without it.

Now the city urges the needy to seek aid (in languages from Albanian to Yiddish). Neighborhood groups recruit clients at churches and grocery stores, with materials that all but proclaim a civic duty to apply — to “help New York farmers, grocers, and businesses.” [note who is missing from that list … ed.] There is even a program on Rikers Island to enroll inmates leaving the jail.

“Applying for food stamps is easier than ever,” city posters say.

[…]The drive to enroll the needy can be seen in the case of Monica Bostick-Thomas, 45, a Harlem widow who works part-time as a school crossing guard. Since her husband died three years ago, she has scraped by on an annual income of about $15,000.

But she did not seek help until she got a call from the Food Bank of New York City, one of the city’s outreach partners. Last year, she balked, doubting she qualified. This year, when the group called again, she agreed to apply. A big woman with a broad smile, Ms. Bostick-Thomas swept into the group’s office a few days later, talking up her daughters’ college degrees and bemoaning the cost of oxtail meat.

“I’m not saying I go hungry,” Ms. Bostick-Thomas said. “But I can’t always eat what I want.”

It is not good for people to depend on the government. It turns adults into children. People need to live with the results of their own decisions and not expect to be bailed out by their neighbors. For those of us who are concerned about poverty, we should solve the problem ourselves by private charity. Just taking an interest in your neighbor is a good thing.

How redistribution of wealth kills the entrepreneurial spirit

There is a perception, especially on the left, but also on the “big government” right, that the federal government should be responsible for redressing every inequality that occurs in society. This is true whether the person brings misfortune on themselves or whether it is accidental. The problem with this wealth redistribution is revealed when you think about the incentives this introduces to the producers and the victims.

  1. Government does not transfer wisdom, skill or responsibility from producers to victims
  2. Government transfers money from producers to victims
  3. Being productive involves risk and hard work on the part of producers
  4. Receiving money involves ingratitude and rationalization on the part of victims
  5. If the government confiscates a large enough portion of the earnings of the producers, they stop producing
  6. Every dollar taken from producers is a dollar less they have for engaging in their productive plans, (e.g. –  running a business or raising a family in a responsible way)
  7. The more money is that transferred to victims, the more the frequency of bad behavior increases – because being a victim is easier
  8. If you subsidize being a victim, you get more of it
  9. If you tax production, you get less of it

“Going Galt” is named after the character John Galt in Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugs. Galt is an industrialist who withdraws from the economy when faced by punitive tax rates and burdensome regulations. Going Galt refers to slowing down or ceasing production, because the risks and effort involved in producing are not worth the portion of the earnings that producers keep after taxes are redistributed to the victims.

The idea was first brought up afresh by Dr. Helen Reynolds in October 2008 on her blog Ask Dr. Helen. A more recent discussion of the phenomenon is here at the Washington Independent web site.

Excerpt:

“Just this weekend,” said Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) on Wednesday in an interview with TWI, “I had a guy come up to me in my district and tell me that he was losing his interest in the business he’d run for years because the president wanted to punish him for his success. I think people are reading ‘Atlas Shrugged’ again because they’re trying to understand what happens to people of accomplishment, and people of talent and energy, when a government turns against them. That’s what appears to be happening right now.”

The plot of Rand’s novel is simple, despite its length — 1,088 pages in the current paperback edition. The United States is governed by bureaucrats, “looters” and “moochers,” who penalize and demonize creative people. The country is in decline because creative people are disappearing — they have followed the innovative John Galt to a mountain enclave, “Galt’s Gulch,” where they watch society crumble. Creativity has gone on strike (the working title of the novel was “The Strike”), and the engine of capitalism cannot run without it.

For Campbell, this is a powerful and relevant story. The congressman calls “Atlas Shrugged” an “instruction manual,” and inscribes the copies that he gives to interns. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, also gives copies of the novel as gifts and refers to it to make the case against President Obama’s policies. “It’s an audacious scheme,” said Ryan in his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference last week. “Set off a series of regulatory blunders and congressional meddling, blame the free market for the financial crisis that follows — then use this excuse to impose a more intrusive state. Sounds like something right out of an Ayn Rand novel.”

Michelle Malkin is posting a lot of messages on her blog from people who are suggesting other ways to Go Galt.

Excerpt from one of the producer’s letters:

It is now fashionable and politically expedient to extend blame for the current financial crisis on greedy businesses and predatory lenders. The reality is that individuals and poorly managed businesses were responsible for the bulk of the problems. Government also played a role – and it was both parties – that encouraged and supported unsound business practices. Now the Government “must” step in to “save” these poor people from losing their homes, and “save” these “too big to fail” financial institutions. What about those of us, and those businesses, that chose to act responsibly? Who chose to live within their means? Who chose sound financial decisions over high risk behavior?

Enough is Enough. Let them all fail. It is not too late. I don’t care about the homeowner that borrowed more than they could afford and now find themselves potentially without a home and bankrupt. I don’t care about the businesses that overlooked sound financial decisions in the name of short term profits. We all make choices in life and it is time to let those that made the bad choices live with their decisions and finally reward those that chose to act responsibly. It has come down to this – either we let those that made the bad decisions fail, or we end up sacrificing our nation, our national identity and our very way of life.

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