Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Dear Ms. Lee:
Fred Barnes reports in the Weekly Standard that you refuse to use computerized checkout lanes at supermarkets (“Boneheaded Economics,” Oct. 24). As you – who are described on your website as “progressive” – explain, “I refuse to do that. I know that’s a job or two or three that’s gone.”
Overlooking the fact that you overlook the lower prices on groceries made possible by this labor-saving technology, I’ve some questions for you:
Do you also avoid using computerized (“automatic”) elevators, riding only in those few that still use manual elevator operators?
Do you steer clear of newer automobiles equipped with technologies that enable them to go for 100,000 miles before needing a tune-up? I’m sure I can find for you, say, a 1972 Chevy Vega that will oblige you to employ countless mechanics.
Do you shun tubeless steel-belted radial tires on your car – you know, the kind that go flat far less often than do old-fashioned tires? No telling how many tire-repairing jobs have been destroyed by modern technology-infused tires.
Do you and your family refuse flu shots in order to increase your chances of requiring the services of nurses and M.D.s – and, if the economy gets lucky and you and yours get seriously ill, also of hospital orderlies and administrators? Someone as aware as you are of the full ramifications of your consumption choices surely takes account of the ill effects that flu shots have on the jobs of health-care providers.
You must, indeed, be distressed as you observe the appalling amount of labor-saving technologies in use throughout our economy. It is, alas, a disturbing trend that has been around for quite some time – since, really, the invention of the spear which destroyed the jobs of some hunters.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030
(HT my buddy Lyle Albaugh)
UPDATE: My friend Wilson Mixon, from over at Division of Labour, e-mails to me this reaction to my letter to Rep. Lee:
The spear didn’t just destroy jobs. It (and even worse, the bow and arrow) dehumanized the whole process. How much more fulfilling it must have been to take on a boar mano a mano (or mano a colmillo). Think of the empathy and respect between predator and prey that the old fashioned way must have generated. No wonder we’re losing touch with nature and with our deeper, truer, fuller self. Ah, the (in)humanity!
… is from page 142 of Capital, Expectations, and the Market Process - a 1977 collection, edited by Walter Grinder, of some of Ludwig Lachmann’s finest academic papers; this quotation is from Lachmann’s 1954 article “Some Notes on Economic Thought, 1933-1953“:
It is difficult to avoid the impression that Keynes introduced expectations whenever it suited his argument, and left them out when it did not. Furthermore, in his Chapter 12 on “The State of Long-Term Expectation,” the famous diatribe against the Stock Exchange, it becomes painfully evident that Keynes failed to grasp the nature of the problem posed by the existence of inconsistent expectations. Instead of studying the process by which men in a market exchange knowledge with each other and thus gradually reduce the degree of inconsistency by their actions, he roundly condemned the most sensitive institution for the exchange of knowledge the market economy has ever produced!
It should be noted that Lachmann was more favorably disposed to Keynes’s economics than are most other economists who are heavily influenced by the Austrian tradition.
Andrew Bolt – Monday, October 17, 11 (05:41 pm)
Gaming Minister Michael O’Brien denies the implication of a story yesterday that I repeated on my blog:
Claims in the Sunday Herald Sun yesterday that the Victorian Coalition Government is protecting the Minister for Gaming personally through amendments to gaming legislation are false and a misrepresentation of legislation before Parliament.
This legislation does not make it a general offence to insult the Minister. There is an amendment in the Gambling Regulation Amendment (Licensing) Bill 2011 (at s 3.8.11) which is designed to protect public servants acting on behalf of the Minister for Gaming from serious types of bullying or intimidation in specific circumstances by certain persons relating to the inspection of gaming monitoring systems.
It is important that officials who perform lawful functions under gaming legislation are able to do their work unhindered and free from harassment. The Minister is referred to in these amendments only because the powers under the legislation belong to the Minister but are delegated to public servants to exercise on
It is ridiculous to suggest that these laws will in some way personally apply to the Minister or make it an offence to personally insult the Minister.
I wondered why the Minister’s position seemed to be covered by the legislation, too, and whether that meant the Minister was therefore protected from abuse, too, even if the intention was to protect his delegates. The answer is that the amendments only protect the authorised officers (and the minister) only when they are checking out the electronic gaming machine monitoring systems. I’m not sure Ministers do that very often themselves.
Andrew Bolt – Monday, October 17, 11 (01:56 pm)
I noted the bizarre group chanting of the Occupy Wall Street movement in The Bolt Report yesterday.
Here’s another mad example, starring warming alarmist Bill McKibben, who sometimes tests his audience’s recall with trickily long sentences:
Can anyone tell me which collectivist thought up this technique, and why we shouldn’t treat it as an embarrassing surrender of independent thought to the mob and its manipulators?
(Via Watts Up With That.)
This group-repeat “human mic” started because no sound systems were allowed at the original Occupy Wall Street protest. But then it became an ideological statement for even guys with megaphones:
WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange has trouble with the technique, and finally even he sees how stupid it all is - before correcting himself:
The technique allows a speaker to manipulate a mob into saying any damn crazy thought - and in saying it, begin to own it:
One Helen Caldicott sounding like Helen Caldicott is already too many, surely.
Freaky… Kanye West turns up at the Occupy Wall Street protest against “corporate greed” while wearing a huge gold chain around his neck, advertising the wealth he’s earned by making and producing records, opening Fatburger restaurants, releasing his own Nike shoe, and producing his own sneaker range for Louis Vuitton. Blind to the irony, he’s also struck dumb, leaving his friend to talk about his support for the protesters like he’s not actually standing right next to him.
Andrew Bolt – Monday, October 17, 11 (11:11 am)
Collectivists of the world unite! Both the Nazi Party and the Communist Party of the US back the Occupy Wall Street movement.
I did say on yesterday’s Bolt Report that the instinct to baa was what united the Left and Right.
This is a movement which claims to speak on behalf of ordinary Americans, “the 99 per cent”. Yet its super-cool members spend most of their time moaning about how ordinary Americans, being a bit dumb, have been “emotionally brainwashed” by “right-wing propaganda"…
What we’re witnessing is not the birth of something new, as the occupiers would have us believe, but rather the death of something old - the death of a principled Left that believed in progress and development and in the ability of “the little man” to change his world for the better.
Mr. Vivona grew up in a working-class family on Staten Island and now lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, with his wife and two young children. He ... works “13- or 14-hour days"…
Mr. Hall said that he grew up in New Mexico and that both his parents were politically active lawyers… Mr. Hall said he attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh…
For people who claim to want a kinder, gentler world, they’re kind of ... aggressive:
(Thanks to reader Alan RM Jones.)
Andrew Bolt – Monday, October 17, 11 (08:56 am)
Live long enough, and you’ll live to laugh at so many green scares:
AT 73, former CSIRO engineer Denis Whitnall has seen many things—but rising sea levels isn’t one of them.
Looking out over the Pacific Ocean from the back of his waterfront property at Avoca, on the NSW central coast, Mr Whitnall shakes his head as he talks about a grim report commissioned by his local council in 1995 that predicted some houses along the beachfront, including his own, would be subject to flood risk.
“...Twenty feet (6m) of water is supposed to be covering my land (by 2015).”
Hazard lines included in Gosford City Council’s 1995 coastal management plan, obtained by The Australian, forecast a threat of flood for some waterfront homes by 2015, due to a combination of shoreline movement from a rise in the sea level and major storm events.
“The Avoca beach unit as a whole has been assessed as losing sand in the long term. This, together with sea level rise, will lead to shoreline retreat over time..,” the 1995 report says. However, 16 years after the release of the council’s warning, the shoreline remains about 100m from Mr Whitnall’s back door, where it was when his family acquired the property in 1951.
Mr Whitnall said while the 1995 report had been discredited, Gosford was among 55 coastal NSW councils “at it again” by using “flawed” data to warn of possible floods. “The data council is using from the 2007 IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report has been shrouded in controversy since its release,” he said.
(Thanks to reader Chris.)
Andrew Bolt – Monday, October 17, 11 (06:13 am)
To retire at 65 will seem a reckless indulgence:
THE first drugs that can slow the ageing process are likely to become available within five to 10 years,raising the prospect of people living to 150 or more, researchers say.
Peter Smith, dean of medicine at the University of NSW, said a girl born today in Australia could reasonably expect to live to 100 already, due to advances in medicine, lifestyle and public health.
Also, new drugs to help the body repair itself were in the early stages of development, along with new stem cell therapies.
Would 50 years in a nursing home appeal to many?
Andrew Bolt – Monday, October 17, 11 (05:59 am)
The mayor’s arrival on a rainy day will be worth watching:
AN inner-city council is set to ditch the mayoral car in favour of a bicycle. Yarra Greens mayor Alison Clarke will push for the change at a council meeting tomorrow night.
But does this mean no one fat, old, disabled or unfit will be able to be mayor?
Andrew Bolt – Monday, October 17, 11 (05:50 am)
A signal in New South Wales’ HSC enrolment figures of how assimilationist the Dutch are:
But it’s also one more sign of how Chinese language has given many Chinese-background students an unfair advantage.
Andrew Bolt – Monday, October 17, 11 (05:34 am)
It’s ludicrous to dress this up as some manifestation of our fabled racism:
A “WHITE flight” from elite selective high schools is entrenching ethnic segregation in Australia’s education system, according to a social researcher.
In a study of student language backgrounds in schools, Dr Christina Ho, of the University of Technology Sydney, found a clear pattern of cultural polarisation, with few Anglo-Australians in high-achieving selective entry government schools. Students from migrant families — mostly from Chinese, Indian and other Asian backgrounds — dominate the enrolments of the schools.
In Melbourne, 93 per cent of students at Mac.Robertson Girls High School and 88 per cent of pupils at Melbourne High School and Nossal High School are from language backgrounds other than English (LBOTE), a category that also includes those from non-Asian backgrounds.
In Sydney, nine out of the top 10 highest performing selective schools have similar high percentages of LBOTE pupils, mainly from Asian backgrounds…
“The ‘white flight’ from these schools must partly reflect an unwillingness to send children to schools dominated by migrant-background children, which simply further entrenches this domination...”
Here’s several other possibilities I’d have thought far more likely, especially when I observe how many school orchestras seem to have a high proportion of Asian string players but a relatively lower proportion of, say, singers:
- On average, Asian and Indian immigrants put a higher value on academic achievement than do Anglo-Australian parents.
- On average, Asian and Indian immigrants tend to be more ambitious, as defined by career success. A high proportion, I would assume, are drawn from the aspirational middle class,
- On average, Asian and Indian students come from cultural backgrounds that stress hard work and study. “Australian” culture has for some time tended to consider hard study as too brain-hurty.
Then there are other possible cultural factors, such as differing notions of parental discipline and filial obedience, differing values on friendship over advancement and so on. Racism would be far lower on my list of possible explanations.
Andrew Bolt – Monday, October 17, 11 (04:55 am)
Dennis Shanahan on the significance of the leaks that Julia Gillard overruled her Immigration Minister’s recommendation to reopen Nauru:
This cabinet leaking and undermining cannot be put down to Kevin Rudd’s campaign to be become leader again.
The leaks of cabinet differences on political and policy options for offshore processing show that a wide range of ministers are betraying the confidence of cabinet and they are doing so to protect themselves or damage rivals.…
For ministers to attempt to either justify their position or damage colleagues by exposing cabinet tensions not only fuels the impression Gillard is losing control in every area but also suggests senior ministers believe her leadership is terminal.
Part of the positioning over offshore processing policy is to sheet home responsibility to Gillard for the mess Labor is in.
Stephen Smith has all the qualifications. Before entering parliament in 1993 he had experience in the private sector and academe as a solicitor, lecturer and as an adviser to state and federal ministers including prime minister Paul Keating…
Few portfolios are as difficult as foreign affairs and defence but Smith handled both superbly. Always on top of his brief, he never hesitated no matter how difficult the question. He staked a claim as a future PM.
With degrees in mechanical engineering, economics and a graduate diploma in labour relations and law, none were surprised when Greg Combet became a union official in 1987 and secretary of the ACTU in 1999… His successful battle with shipping companies won everyone’s respect. He brought those qualities to Canberra, where as a parliamentary secretary he was an outstanding success. In near record time he became minister in the toughest portfolio of modern times: climate change....
Which brings us to Bill Shorten, former national secretary of the AWU… Like Combet he was elected in 2007 and immediately became parliamentary secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services.
Conventional wisdom has it that Rudd, already fearful of Shorten, gave him a dead-end portfolio. If true, Rudd failed miserably. Shorten, with the help of Jenny Macklin, convinced the government to get the Productivity Commission to undertake a review into potential for a National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Faction leaders, including Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and Sports Minister Mark Arbib, were among a small group who met the PM in her office on Thursday, after two Cabinet meetings where the idea of re-opening the Nauru detention centre was raised.
Sources said the faction heads made it clear their argument was on policy not leadership.
Andrew Bolt – Monday, October 17, 11 (04:29 am)
A few dozen, largely middle-aged, protesters rudely interrupted parliament last week with their chant of “no mandate, democracy is dead”. From the floor of the chamber, Parliamentary Secretary and Member for Eden-Monaro, Mike Kelly, tweeted: “Couldn’t quite hear, thought it might have been something about dental plates and brain dead.”
It makes “let them eat cake” seem like empathising.
Incidentally, Kelly also seems to think that the Government’s carbon dioxide tax - which aims to cut the world’s expected temperature by at best between 4/1000s and 1/20,000 of a degree - has saved the snow in Eden Monaro:
Mike Kelly MP (MikeKellyMP) on Twitter
In air above beautiful EM on board the trusty Baron58. Still some snow on the alps. Glad we have acted to make sure will b snow 4 future
Andrew Bolt – Monday, October 17, 11 (04:04 am)
The Galaxy poll should terrify Labor, which partied after Wednesday’s vote on the carbon dioxide tax::
With the government’s asylum seeker policy also in disarray, the Coalition’s primary vote has now soared to a crushing 51 per cent, according to a Galaxy poll commissioned by The Daily Telegraph.
It is the largest primary vote the coalition has enjoyed in any poll since 1996 - when John Howard defeated Paul Keating - with Labor now stuck at a morale-sapping 29 per cent…
On a two party-preferred basis the Coalition now leads Labor 58 per cent to 42 per cent
The Nielsen poll is little better:
The latest Herald/Nielsen poll finds Labor’s primary vote has jumped 3 percentage points in a month to 30 per cent, a small increase but psychologically significant because it is the first time since May Labor’s first preference vote has been in the 30s.
The Coalition’s primary vote was steady at 48 per cent, giving it a two-party-preferred lead over Labor of 57 per cent to 43 per cent.
Stephen Smith is exposed as the candidate the Right wants to just buy insurance from Kevin Rudd - or to block him:
JUST as Labor’s Right faction is trying to rally support around Stephen Smith as the replacement for Julia Gillard, a new poll comes to an emphatic conclusion - don’t bother.
Today’s Herald-Nielsen poll shows that Smith is even less popular than Gillard, attracting 40 per cent against the Prime Minister’s 44 in a one-on-one comparison. And he has less than half the voter support enjoyed by Kevin Rudd.
“I don’t know why they keep bringing his name up,” the Herald’s pollster, Nielsen’s John Stirton, said. “Most people wouldn’t know who Smith was and couldn’t pick him in a line-up.”