Main


September 12, 2014

3.2 Million Waiting for Care Under England's Single-Payer Socialized Medicine



(p. A13) . . . even as the single-payer system remains the ideal for many on the left, it's worth examining how Britain's NHS, established in 1948, is faring. The answer: badly. NHS England--a government body that receives about £100 billion a year from the Department of Health to run England's health-care system--reported this month that its hospital waiting lists soared to their highest point since 2006, with 3.2 million patients waiting for treatment after diagnosis. NHS England figures for July 2013 show that 508,555 people in London alone were waiting for operations or other treatments--the highest total for at least five years.

Even cancer patients have to wait: According to a June report by NHS England, more than 15% of patients referred by their general practitioner for "urgent" treatment after being diagnosed with suspected cancer waited more than 62 days--two full months--to begin their first definitive treatment.


. . .


The socialized-medicine model is struggling elsewhere in Europe as well. Even in Sweden, often heralded as the paradigm of a successful welfare state, months-long wait times for treatment routinely available in the U.S. have been widely documented.

To fix the problem, the Swedish government has aggressively introduced private-market forces into health care to improve access, quality and choices. Municipal governments have increased spending on private-care contracts by 50% in the past decade, according to Näringslivets Ekonomifakta, part of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, a Swedish employers' association.



For the commentary, see:

SCOTT W. ATLAS. "OPINION; Where ObamaCare Is Going; The government single-payer model that liberals aspire to for the U.S. is increasingly in trouble around the world." The Wall Street Journal (Thur., Aug. 14, 2014): A13.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Aug. 13, 2014.)






March 31, 2014

Better Policies Explain Why Poland Prospers More than Ukraine



RushchyshynYaroslavUkraineEntrepreneur2014-03-30.jpg "Yaroslav Rushchyshyn, a garment manufacturer, wants to end penalties when his company reports a financial loss." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. B1) LVIV, Ukraine -- Every kind of business in this restless pro-European stronghold near the border with Poland has an idea about how to make Ukraine like its more prosperous neighbor.

For Yaroslav Rushchyshyn, founder of a garment manufacturer, it is abolishing bizarre regulations that have had inspectors threatening fines for his handling of fabric remnants and for reporting financial losses.

For Andrew Pavliv, who runs a technology company, it is modernizing a rigid education system to help nurture entrepreneurs.

For Natalia Smutok, an executive at a company that makes color charts for paint and cosmetics, it meant starting an antibribery campaign, even though she is 36 weeks pregnant.


. . .


(p. B10) Victor Halchynsky, a former journalist who is now a spokesman for the Ukrainian unit of a Polish bank, said the divergence of the two countries was a source of frustration.

"It's painful because we know it's only happened because of policy," he said, adding that while both countries had started the reform process, Poland "finished it."

Ukraine has been held back by a number of policies. Steep energy subsidies have kept consumption high and left the country dependent on Russian gas, draining state coffers. Mr. Pavliv said the state university system, which he called "pure, pure Soviet," was too inflexible to set up a training program for project managers, or to allow executives without specific certifications to teach courses. An agriculture industry once a Soviet breadbasket has been hurt by antiquated rules, including restrictions on land sales. Aggressive tax police have been used to shake down businesses.



For the full story, see:

DANNY HAKIM. "A Blueprint for Ukraine." The New York Times (Fri., MARCH 14, 2014): B1 & B10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MARCH 13, 2014.)



PavlivAndrewTechEntrepreneur2014-03-30.jpg "Andrew Pavliv, who runs a technology company, wants to help turn Lviv into a little Ukrainian Silicon Valley." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.






March 28, 2014

Paul Ryan Warns that the Safety Net Can Be a Hammock



(p. A21) . . . Mr. Ryan said two years ago: "We don't want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives."


For the full commentary, see:

Krugman, Paul. "The Hammock Fallacy." The New York Times (Fri., MARCH 7, 2014): A21.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date MARCH 6, 2014.)



The original source of the Paul Ryan quote appears to be:

"Paul Ryan Wants 'Welfare Reform Round 2'." The Huffington Post (posted 03/20/2012).


Ryan made similar comments in his January 25th official Republican response to the State of the Union speech:

We are at a moment, where if government's growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America's best century will be considered our past century. This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.

Depending on bureaucracy to foster innovation, competitiveness, and wise consumer choices has never worked -- and it won't work now.


Source:

NPR transcript of Paul Ryan response, January 25, 2011.






March 19, 2014

As Venezuelan Economy Collapses, Socialists Urge Citizens to Hit the Beach and Party



VenezuelaProtestersBeachScene2014-03-06.jpg "Antigovernment protesters blocking a street in San Cristóbal, in western Venezuela, decorated their barrier like a beach scene." Source of caption and photo: online version of WILLIAM NEUMAN. "Slum Dwellers in Caracas Ask, What Protests?" The New York Times (Sat., March 1, 2014): A1 & A8.



(p. A6) CARACAS, Venezuela--President Nicolás Maduro declared an extended Carnival holiday season, betting that sun, sand and rum will help calm the worst civil unrest to sweep the oil-rich nation in more than a decade.

As some opposition leaders called to cancel the celebrations to mourn those who died in recent weeks during protests, Mr. Maduro's ministers publicly encouraged Venezuelans to hit the beach for the pre-Lent festivities.


. . .


Among those officials most visible to the public these days has been Tourism Minister Andres Izarra, who has been hitting tourist hot spots with a campaign called "Carnival 2014--The Coolest Holiday."

He said that officials were opening 180 tourist information centers for the long holiday weekend and increasing maintenance and trash pickup at beaches that are often covered with empty alcohol containers. Meanwhile, the transportation minister, Haiman El Troudi, said new bus routes would be added to get Venezuelans to the beach.



For the full story, see:

KEJAL VYAS and JUAN FORERO. "Venezuela Leader Fights Unrest With Fiesta; President Maduro Extends Carnival Celebration After Opposition Call For Mourning, More Protests." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., FEB. 28, 2014): A6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 27, 2014.)



VenezuelaSupermarketLine2014-03-06.jpg "PARTY LINE: Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro, reeling from weeks of protests, called for Carnival season to begin early, and his ministers urged Venezuelans to hit the beach. But the crumbling economy and food shortages created scenes such as the lines at a supermarket." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.


VenezuelaProtestersWearingCarnivalMasks2014-03-06.jpg "Opposition demonstrators wearing Carnival masks take part in a women's rally against Nicolás Maduro's government in Caracas on Wednesday." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.






February 10, 2014

Carnegie Said "Socialism Is the Grandest Theory Ever Presented"




More on why Andrew Carnegie is not my favorite innovative entrepreneur:


(p. 257) "But are you a Socialist?" the reporter asked.

Carnegie did not answer directly. "I believe socialism is the grandest theory ever presented, and I am sure some day it will rule the world. Then we will have obtained the millennium.... That is the state we are drifting into. Then men will be content to work for the general welfare and share their riches with their neighbors."

"'Are you prepared now to divide your wealth' [he] was asked, and Mr. Carnegie smiled. 'No, not at present, but I do not spend much on myself. I give away every year seven or eight times as much as I spend for personal comforts and pleasures."



Source:

Nasaw, David. Andrew Carnegie. New York: Penguin Press, 2006.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed pronoun, in original.)

(Note: the pagination of the hardback and paperback editions of Nasaw's book are the same.)






February 2, 2014

Carnegie "Spoke Positively of Socialism"



Carnegie is a mixed bag for several reasons. Here is one more:


(p. 256) "A MILLIONAIRE SOCIALIST. MR. ANDREW CARNEGIE PROCLAIMS IN FAVOR OF SOCIALISTIC DOCTRINES." So read the headline of the January 2, 1885 front-page story in the New York Times, occasioned by Carnegie's remarks "in favor of Socialism" at the December meeting of the Nineteenth Century Club. One of the guests at that meeting was John Swinton, the publisher of a rather obscure radical weekly named Swinton's. Swinton invited Carnegie to sit for an interview and again he spoke positively of socialism.


Source:

Nasaw, David. Andrew Carnegie. New York: Penguin Press, 2006.

(Note: the pagination of the hardback and paperback editions of Nasaw's book are the same.)






November 9, 2013

Entrepreneurial Spirit Values "Voyaging into the Unknown"



PhelpsEdmundWinner2006NobelPrize2013-10-24.jpg











"Edmund Phelps, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for economics." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ review quoted and cited below.



(p. C7) Edmund Phelps's "Mass Flourishing" could easily be retitled "Contra-Corporatism," for at its heart this fine book is an attack on that increasingly common "third way" between capitalism and socialism. Mr. Phelps cogently argues that America's current economic woes reflect a reduction in the innovative dynamism that generates economic success and personal satisfaction. He places little hope in the Democratic Party, which "voices a new corporatism well beyond Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal or Lyndon Johnson's Great Society," or in Republicans in the thrall of "traditional values," who see "the good economy as mercantile capitalism plus social protection and social insurance." He instead yearns for legislative solons who "could usefully ask of every bill and regulatory directive: How would it impact the dynamism of our economy?"


. . .


The book eloquently discusses the culture of innovation, which can refer to both an entrepreneurial mind-set and the cultural achievements during an age of change. He sees modern capitalism as profoundly humanist, imbued with "a spirit that views the prospect of unanticipated consequences that may come with voyaging into the unknown as a valued part of experience and not a drawback."


. . .


In . . . [the] new corporatism, the state protects both organized labor and politically connected companies. and the state has acquired a "panoply of new roles," from regulations "aimed at shielding companies or workforces from competition" to lawsuits that "add to the diversion of income from earners to those receiving compensation or indemnification." It is as if "every person in a society is a signatory to an implicit contract" in which "no person may be harmed by others without receiving compensation." But protection against all conceivable harm also means protection against almost all change--and this is the death knell of dynamism and innovation.


. . .


But what is to be done? The author wants governments that are "aware of the importance of the role played by dynamism in a modern-capitalist economy," and he disparages both current political camps. He has a number of thoughtful ideas about financial-sector reform. He is no libertarian and even proposes a "national bank specializing in extending credit or equity capital to start-up firms"--not my favorite idea.



For the full review, see:

EDWARD GLAESER. "How to Unleash the Economy." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Oct. 19, 2013): C7.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed word, added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Oct. 18, 2013, and has the title "BOOKSHELF; Book Review: 'Mass Flourishing' by Edmund Phelps; Innovative dynamism is the key to economic success and personal satisfaction, a Nobel-winner argues.")



The book under review is:

Phelps, Edmund S. Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2013.




Mass-FlourishingBK2013-10-24.jpg















Source of book image: http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/files/2013/08/Mass-Flourishing-cover.jpg









November 5, 2013

Entrepreneur Arik Achmon Stood Down Powerful Union to Keep His Company Alive



LikeDreamersBK2013-10-24.jpg














Source of book image: http://www.seraphicpress.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/like-dreamers.jpg





(p. C2) Mr. Halevi, an American immigrant who has worked as a journalist and analyst in Jerusalem for 30 years, has created a textured, beautifully written narrative by focusing on seven men -- and they are all men -- . . . , who served in the paratroop brigade that conquered the Old City of Jerusalem in the 1967 war.


. . .


. . . , the men Mr. Halevi has chosen are compelling. One is Arik Achmon, a secular liberal from a kibbutz who helped transform Israel's failing statist economy into a thriving capitalist one. Mr. Achmon helped found the first private domestic airline in Israel. The story of how he stood down the once-powerful Histadrut trade union federation to keep his company alive illustrates the enormous changes that Israeli society has undergone in the past three decades.



For the full review, see:

ETHAN BRONNER. "BOOKS OF THE TIMES; 7 Paratroopers and Paths They Took Through an Israel at a Crossroads." The New York Times (Thurs., September 26, 2013): C2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date September 25, 2013.)



The book under review is:

Halevi, Yossi Klein. Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation. New York: HarperCollins, 2013.



HaleviYossiKlein2013-10-24.jpg













"Yossi Klein Halevi." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT review quoted and cited above.







September 5, 2013

Venezuelan Socialists Seize Private Toilet Paper



(p. A6) CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Police in Venezuela say they have seized nearly 2,500 rolls of toilet paper in an overnight raid of a clandestine warehouse storing scarce goods.


. . .


The socialist government says the shortages are part of a plot by opponents to destabilize the country. Economists blame the government's price and currency controls.



For the full story, see:

AP. "World; Police Seize 2,500 Rolls of Toilet Paper." Omaha World-Herald (Fri., May 31, 2013): 6A.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





June 10, 2013

After Failing to Enslave Indians, Starving Jamestown Colonists Ate 14-Year-Old Girl



JamestownFourteenYearOldCannibalized2013-05-14.jpg








"A facial reconstruction of a 14-year-old girl whose skull shows signs that her remains were used for food after her death and burial." Source of caption and image: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



Acemoglu and Robinson in the long, but thought-provoking, opening chapter of their Why Nations Fail book, discuss starvation at the Jamestown colony. Only they don't mainly attribute it to a harsh winter or a slow rescue from England, as does the article quoted below (it is from the New York Times, after all).

Economists Acemoglu and Robinson (p. 23) instead criticize the colony's initial plan to thrive by enslaving natives to bring them gold and food. Eventually John Smith made the bold suggestion that the colonists should try to work to produce something to eat or to trade. The rulers of the colony ignored Smith, resulting in starvation and cannibalism.



(p. A11) Archaeologists excavating a trash pit at the Jamestown colony site in Virginia have found the first physical evidence of cannibalism among the desperate population, corroborating written accounts left behind by witnesses. Cut marks on the skull and skeleton of a 14-year-old girl show that her flesh and brain were removed, presumably to be eaten by the starving colonists during the harsh winter of 1609.

The remains were excavated by archaeologists led by William Kelso of Preservation Virginia, a private nonprofit group, and analyzed by Douglas Owsley, a physical anthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington. The skull bears tentative cuts to the forehead, followed by four strikes to the back of the head, one of which split the skull open, according to an article in Smithsonian magazine, where the find was reported Wednesday.

It is unclear how the girl died, but she was almost certainly dead and buried before her remains were butchered. According to a letter written in 1625 by George Percy, president of Jamestown during the starvation period, the famine was so intense "thatt notheinge was Spared to mainteyne Lyfe and to doe those things which seame incredible, as to digge upp deade corpes outt of graves and to eate them."



For the full story, see:

NICHOLAS WADE. "Girl's Bones Bear Signs of Cannibalism by Starving Virginia Colonists." The New York Times (Thurs., May 2, 2013): A11.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 1, 2013.)



The Acemoglu book mentioned above is:

Acemoglu, Daron, and James Robinson. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. New York: Crown Business, 2012.



JamestownBonesShowCannibalism2013-05-14.jpg "Human remains from the Jamestown colony site in Virginia bearing evidence of cannibalism." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.






January 20, 2013

Socialism Failed in Jamestown



(p. 226) Stephen Slivinski discusses "Economic History: The Lessons of Jamestown." In the years after the Jamestown settlement of 1607, the settlers often lacked food. "The company sent Sir Thomas Dale, a British naval commander, to take over the office of colony governor in 1611. Yet, upon arrival in May--a time when the farmers should have been tending to their fields--Dale found virtually no planting activity. Instead, the workers were devoted mainly to leisure and 'playing bowls.' . . . All land was owned by the company and farmed collectively. . . . The workers would not hope to reap more compensation from a productive farming of the land any more than the farmers would be motivated by an interest in making their farming operations more efficient and, hence, more profitable. Seeing this, Dale decided to change the labor arrangements: When the seven-year contracts of most of the original surviving settlers were about to expire in 1614, he assigned private allotments of land to them. Each got three acres, 12 acres if he had a family. The only obligation was that they needed to provide two and a half barrels of corn annually to the company so it could be distributed to the newcomers to tide them over during their first year. Dale left Jamestown for good in 1616. By then, however, the new land grants had unleashed a vast increase in agricultural productivity. In fact, upon returning to England with Dale, John Rolfe--one of the colony's former leaders--reported to the Virginia Company that the Powhatans were now asking the colonists to give them corn instead of vice versa."


As quoted in:

Taylor, Timothy. "Recommendations for Further Reading." Journal of Economic Perspectives 24, no. 4 (Fall 2010): 219-26.

(Note: ellipses added by Taylor.)


The Slivinski article is:

Slivinski, Stephen. "The Lessons of Jamestown." Region Focus 14, no. 1 (First Quarter 2010): 27-29.






January 4, 2013

How Chavez Punished Those Who Opposed Him



(p. 196) In 2004, the Hugo Chávez regime in Venezuela distributed the list of several million voters who had attempted to remove him from office throughout the government bureaucracy, allegedly to identify and punish these voters. We match the list of petition signers distributed by the government to household survey respondents to measure the economic effects of being identified as a Chávez political opponent. We find that voters who were identified as Chávez opponents experienced a 5 percent drop in earnings and a 1.3 percentage point drop in employment rates after the voter list was released.


Source:

Hsieh, Chang-Tai, Edward Miguel, Daniel Ortega, and Francisco Rodriguez. "The Price of Political Opposition: Evidence from Venezuela's Maisanta." American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 3, no. 2 (2011): 196-214.







December 28, 2012

Chávez Supporters Feared Losing Government Jobs



ChavezSupporter2012-12-18.jpg "A Chávez supporter. The president runs a well-oiled patronage system, a Tammany Hall-like operation but on a national scale. Government workers are frequently required to attend pro-Chávez rallies, and they come under pressure to vote for him." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


After the story quoted below was published, Chávez (alas) was re-elected.


(p. A1) Many Venezuelans who are eager to send Mr. Chávez packing, fed up with the country's lackluster economy and rampant crime, are nonetheless anxious that voting against the president could mean being fired from a government job, losing a government-built home or being cut off from social welfare benefits.

"I work for the government, and it scares me," said Luisa Arismendi, 33, a schoolteacher who cheered on a recent morning as Mr. Chávez's challenger, Henrique Capriles Radonski, drove by in this northeastern city, waving from the back of a pickup truck. Until this year, she always voted for Mr. Chávez, and she hesitated before giving her name, worried about what would happen if her supervisors found out she was switching sides. "If Chávez wins," she said, "I could be fired."


. . .


(p. A6) The fear has deep roots. Venezuelans bitterly recall how the names of millions of voters were made public after they signed a petition for an unsuccessful 2004 recall referendum to force Mr. Chávez out of office. Many government workers whose names were on the list lost their jobs.

Mr. Chávez runs a well-oiled patronage system, a Tammany Hall-like operation but on a national scale. Government workers are frequently required to attend pro-Chávez rallies, and they come under other pressures.

"They tell me that I have to vote for Chávez," said Diodimar Salazar, 37, who works at a government-run day care center in a rural area southeast of Cumaná. "They always threaten you that you will get fired."

Ms. Salazar said that her pro-Chávez co-workers insisted that the government would know how she voted. But experience has taught her otherwise. She simply casts her vote for the opposition and then tells her co-workers that she voted for Mr. Chávez.

"I'm not going to take the risk," said Fabiana Osteicoechea, 22, a law student in Caracas who said she would vote for Mr. Chávez even though she was an enthusiastic supporter of Mr. Capriles. She said she was certain that Mr. Chávez would win and was afraid that the government career she hoped to have as a prosecutor could be blocked if she voted the wrong way.

"After the election, he's going to have more power than now, lots more, and I think he will have a way of knowing who voted for whom," she said. "I want to get a job with the government so, obviously I have to vote for Chávez."



For the full story, see:

WILLIAM NEUMAN. "Fear of Losing Benefits Affects Venezuela Vote." The New York Times (Sat., October 6, 2012): A1 & A6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article has the date October 5, 2012, and has the title "Fears Persist Among Venezuelan Voters Ahead of Election.")






November 30, 2012

DaVita Threw Out Medicine and Billed Taxpayer: Huge Medicare Fraud



DaVitaMedicareFraudDrewGriffin2012-11-29.jpg



























I saw this clip broadcast on Wolf Blitzer's "Situation Room" broadcast on 11/29/12 (if memory serves--it might have been the day before).

The clip shows the magnitude of the fraud, but also emphasizes that there were significant incentives for those who knew about the fraud to keep their mouths shut.

This is one huge case of over-billing, but over-billing happens all the time. Taxpayers could have used that money for other purposes. The opportunity cost is huge.



A link to the clip posted on CNN, is:

http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2012/11/29/company-accused-of-giant-medicare-fraud/?iref=allsearch

(Note: I believe the November 29, 2012 date in the image above is the date that Drew Griffin posted the clip to the CNN blog, not necessarily the date of the broadcast.)






November 18, 2012

"The Bulk of New Yorkers Do Not Have an Unlimited Appetite for Growing Their Own Kale"



McPhersonEnaUrbanGardener2012-11-11.jpg












". . . , Ena K. McPherson holds the key to three different community gardens." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.




(p. D1) There is some evidence, . . . , that the bulk of New Yorkers do not have an unlimited appetite for growing their own kale. Official counts of New York gardens are fragmentary. But John Ameroso, the Johnny Appleseed of the New York community garden movement, suspects that the number of present-day gardens -- around 800 -- may be half what it was in the mid-1980s.

In his long career as an urban extension agent for Cornell University, Mr. Ameroso, 67, kept a log with ratings of all the plots he visited. "I remember that there were a lot of gardens that were not in use or minimally used," he said. "Into the later '80s, a lot of these disappeared or were abandoned. Or maybe there was one person working them. If nothing was developed on them, they just got overgrown."

The truth, Ms. Stone said, is that at any giv-(p. D6)en time, perhaps 10 percent of the city's current stock of almost 600 registered GreenThumb gardens is growing mostly weeds. "In East New York, I can tell you that there are basically many gardens that are barely functioning now."


. . .


An honest census would reveal that many gardens (perhaps most) depend on just one or two tireless souls, said Ena K. McPherson, a Brooklyn garden organizer. She would know because she's one of them.

Ms. McPherson holds the keys to three community gardens in Bedford-Stuyvesant. (Ms. Stone appreciatively refers to these blocks as "the Greater Ena McPherson Zone.") And she serves on the operations committee for the nonprofit Brooklyn Queens Land Trust, which holds the deeds to 32 garden plots.

"In an ideal situation, we would have gardens with everyone in the community participating," Ms. McPherson said. "But in fact, a few die-hard people end up carrying the flag."


. . .


The original gardens followed the city's vacant lots, which by 1978 numbered 32,000. Mr. Ameroso, though trained in agronomy, pitched them as an instrument for community renewal. "How did you take back your block?" he said. "Put in a community garden and stop that dumping."

Ms. Stone, who laughingly (and earnestly) describes herself as a socialist, continues to embrace something of this mission. "All the people who are marginal in society -- and I'm not using that as a judgmental term, it's children, senior citizens, people on disability, the 47 percent -- these people are the main power people in the garden," she said.

These days, Mr. Ameroso espouses more of what he calls an "urban agriculture" model: a food garden with a dedicated farmers' market or a C.S.A. These amenities make stakeholders out of neighbors who may not like dirt under their nails and rural farmers who drive in every weekend.

"The urban-agriculture ones are flourishing," he said. "There's a lot of excitement. They're active eight days a week." But "community gardens, as such, where people come in to take care of their own boxes -- those are not flourishing."

It's almost a cliché to point out that this new green model seems to have attracted tillers with a different skin tone. "Back then," Mr. Ameroso said of his earlier career, "when we worked in Bronx or Bed-Stuy, it was mostly communities of color. Now when we talk about the urban agriculture stuff, it's white people in their 30s."

What explains this demographic shift?

"I have no idea," he said. "I'm still baffled by it, and I'm involved in it!"



For the full story, see:

MICHAEL TORTORELLO. "IN THE GARDEN; Growing Everything but Gardeners." The New York Times (Sat., November 1, 2012): D1 & D6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article was dated October 31, 2012.)






November 30, 2011

Venezuelans Flee Chávez's Socialism



VenezuelanHomicide2011-11-10.jpg"Street crime, such as a man's killing in Caracas last year, is high." Note the big-brother-sized image of Chávez surveying what his socialism has wrought. Source of quoted part of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



Those who favor socialism should observe Venezuela carefully and ponder whether they like what they see.



(p. A13) Gerardo Urdaneta moved to Houston from Venezuela for a job in 1998, the same year Hugo Chávez was first elected president. Mr. Urdaneta, an energy-shipping specialist, planned for a temporary stop and wouldn't even buy a house.

Thirteen years later, Mr. Chávez is still in power, Mr. Urdaneta is still here. He has been joined by thousands of other Venezuelans, and Houston shops now stock native delicacies like Pampero aged rum and guayanés cheese.

"There are Venezuelans everywhere," Mr. Urdaneta, 50 years old, said. "Before we were passing through. That's not the case anymore."

Waves of white-collar Venezuelans have fled the country's high crime rates, soaring inflation and expanding statist controls, for destinations ranging from Canada to Qatar. The top U.S. destinations are Miami, a traditional shopping mecca for Venezuelans, and Houston, which has long-standing energy ties to Venezuela, a major oil exporter.

There were some 215,000 Venezuelans in the U.S. in 2010, up from about 91,500 in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The number of Venezuelans living in Spain has quintupled in the same period to more than 40,000, and the number of Venezuelan-born Spaniards has more than doubled to 90,000.



For the full story, see:

ÁNGEL GONZÁLEZ and EZEQUIEL MINAYA. "Venezuelan Diaspora Booms Under Chávez." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., October 17, 2011): A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the following phrase, at the end of the quoted portion above, is in the online, but not the print, version of the article: "and the number of Venezuelan-born Spaniards has more than doubled to 90,000."



ZulianStafanoHoustonChocolateShop2011-11-10.jpg "Venezuelan exile Stefano Zullian owns a Houston chocolate shop." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.



VenezuelanHomicideEmigrationGraph2011-11-10.jpgSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.






June 13, 2011

The Importance of a Picture



Pictures can be doctored, especially in the days of Photoshop. But a visual image still makes a story more memorable, and maybe sometimes more believable. This was so for Winston Smith, the protagonist of 1984:


(p. 64) Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth. Just once in his life he had possessed--after the event: that was what counted--concrete, unmistakable evidence of an act of falsification. He had held it between his fingers for as long as thirty seconds.


. . .


(p. 67) . . . , in 1973, Winston was unrolling a wad of documents which had just flopped out of the pneumatic tube on to his desk when he came on a fragment of paper which had evidently been slipped in among the others and then forgotten. The instant he had flattened it out he saw its significance. It was a half-page torn out of 'The Times' of about ten years earlier--the top half of the page, so that it included the date--and it contained a photograph of the delegates at some Party function in New York. Prominent in the middle of the group were Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford. There was no mistaking them, in any case their names were in the caption at the bottom.

The point was that at both trials all three men had confessed that on that date they had been on Eurasian soil. They had flown from a secret airfield in Canada to a rendezvous somewhere in Siberia, and had conferred with members of the Eurasian General Staff, to whom they had betrayed important military secrets. The date had stuck in Winston's memory because it chanced to be midsummer day; but the whole story must be on record in countless other places as well. There was only one possible conclusion: the confessions were lies.



Source:

Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. New York: The New American Library, 1961 [1949].

(Note: ellipses added; italics in original.)


By Canadian law, 1984 is no longer under copyright. The text has been posted on the following Canadian web site: http://wikilivres.info/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four





June 9, 2011

"Progress Depended on the Empirical Habit of Thought"



In the passage below from 1984 Orwell presents an underground rebel's account of why the authoritarian socialist dystopia cannot advance in science and technology.


(p. 155) The world of today is a bare, hungry, dilapidated place compared with the world that existed before 1914, and still more so if compared with the imaginary future to which the people of that period looked forward. In the early twentieth century, the vision of a future society unbelievably rich, leisured, orderly, and efficient--a glittering (p. 156) antiseptic world of glass and steel and snow-white concrete--was part of the consciousness of nearly every literate person. Science and technology were developing at a prodigious speed, and it seemed natural to assume that they would go on developing. This failed to happen, partly because of the impoverishment caused by a long series of wars and revolutions, partly because scientific and technical progress depended on the empirical habit of thought, which could not survive in a strictly regimented society.



Source:

Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. New York: The New American Library, 1961 [1949].

By Canadian law, 1984 is no longer under copyright. The text has been posted on the following Canadian web site: http://wikilivres.info/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four





June 6, 2011

Chinese Government Created Real Estate Bubble in a Dozen Ghost Towns Like Kangbashi Area of Ordos



KangbashiRealEstateBubble2011-06-02.jpg"As China's roaring economy fuels a wild construction boom around the country, critics cite places like Kangbashi as proof of a speculative real estate bubble they warn will eventually burst." Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below. Source of caption: online version of the NYT slideshow that accompanied the online article quoted and cited below.


The October 19, 2010 New York Times front page story (quoted below) on the Ordos ghost town in China, was finally picked up by the TV media on May 30 in a nice NBC Today Show report.

It should be clear that the Chinese real estate bubble will burst, just as real estate bubbles eventually burst in places like Japan and the United States. What is not clear is what the effects will be on the Chinese and world economies.


(p. A1) Ordos proper has 1.5 million residents. But the tomorrowland version of Ordos -- built from scratch on a huge plot of empty land 15 miles south of the old city -- is all but deserted.

Broad boulevards are unimpeded by traffic in the new district, called Kangbashi New Area. Office buildings stand vacant. Pedestrians are in short supply. And weeds are beginning to sprout up in luxury villa developments that are devoid of residents.


. . .


(p. A4) As China's roaring economy fuels a wild construction boom around the country, critics cite places like Kangbashi as proof of a speculative real estate bubble they warn will eventually pop -- sending shock waves through the banking system of a country that for the last two years has been the prime engine of global growth.


. . .


Analysts estimate there could be as many as a dozen other Chinese cities just like Ordos, with sprawling ghost town annexes. In the southern city of Kunming, for example, a nearly 40-square-mile area called Chenggong has raised alarms because of similarly deserted roads, high-rises and government offices. And in Tianjin, in the northeast, the city spent lavishly on a huge district festooned with golf courses, hot springs and thousands of villas that are still empty five years after completion.


. . .


In 2004, with Ordos tax coffers bulging with coal money, city officials drew up a bold expansion plan to create Kangbashi, a 30-minute drive south of the old city center on land adjacent to one of the region's few reservoirs. . . .

In the ensuing building spree, home buyers could not get enough of Kangbashi and its residential developments with names like Exquisite Silk Village, Kanghe Elysees and Imperial Academic Gardens.

Some buyers were like Zhang Ting, a 26-year-old entrepreneur who is a rare actual resident of Kangbashi, having moved to Ordos this year on an entrepreneurial impulse.

"I bought two places in Kangbashi, one for my own use and one as an investment," said Mr. Zhang, who paid about $125,000 for his 2,000-square-foot investment apartment. "I bought it because housing prices will definitely go up in such a new town. There is no reason to doubt it. The government has already moved in."

Asked whether he worried about the lack of other residents, Mr. Zhang shrugged off the question.

"I know people say it's an empty city, but I don't find any inconveniences living by myself," said Mr. Zhang, who borrowed to finance his purchases. . . .



For the full story, see:

DAVID BARBOZA. "A City Born of China's Boom, Still Unpeopled." The New York Times (Weds., October 19, 2010): A1 & A4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary is dated October 19, 2010 and has the title "Chinese City Has Many Buildings, but Few People.")




KangbashiRealEstateGraph2011-06-02.jpg















Source of graph: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.
























May 18, 2011

"For the First 40 Years of Indian Independence, Entrepreneurs . . . Were Looked Down Upon"



(p. 8) Saurabh Srivastava, co-founder of the National Association of Software and Service Companies in India, explained that for the first 40 years of Indian independence, entrepreneurs here were looked down upon. India had lost confidence in its ability to compete, so it opted for protectionism. But when the '90s rolled around, and India's government was almost bankrupt, India's technology industry was able to get the government to open up the economy, in part by citing the example of America and Silicon Valley. India has flourished ever since.

"America," said Srivastava, "was the one who said to us: 'You have to go for meritocracy. You don't have to produce everything yourselves. Go for free trade and open markets.' This has been the American national anthem, and we pushed our government to tune in to it. And just when they're beginning to learn how to hum it, you're changing the anthem. ... Our industry was the one pushing our government to open our markets for American imports, 100 percent foreign ownership of companies and tough copyright laws when it wasn't fashionable."

If America turns away from these values, he added, the socialist/protectionists among India's bureaucrats will use it to slow down any further opening of the Indian markets to U.S. exporters.



For the full commentary, see:

THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN. "It's Morning in India." The New York Times, Week in Review Section (Sun., October 31, 2010): 8.

(Note: the online version of the story is dated October 30, 2010.)






April 12, 2011

Socialism Is "Morally Corrupting"



On balance, Stephen Pollard believes that Claire Berlinski's book on Thatcher is poorly written. But he does believe that Berlinski got one important point right:


(p. 22) She is quite right, . . . , to stress that Thatcher's crusade against socialism was not merely about economic efficiency and prosperity but that above all, "it was that socialism itself -- in all its incarnations, wherever and however it was applied -- was morally corrupting."


For the full review, see:

STEPHEN POLLARD. "Thatcher's Legacy." The New York Times Book Review (Sun., January 18, 2009): 22.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Norte: the online version of the review has the date January 16, 2009.)


Book reviewed:

Berlinski, Claire. There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters. New York: Basic Books, 2008.






February 8, 2011

Socialism Cut Venezuelan GDP, So Chavez Rejected GDP



VenezuelaGDPgraph2011-02-05.gif
















Source of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. A15) President Hugo Chávez wasn't pleased with data . . . that showed the Venezuelan economy tumbling into a recession. So the populist leader came up with a solution: Forget traditional measures of economic growth, and find a new, "Socialist-friendly" gauge.

"We simply can't permit that they continue calculating GDP with the old capitalist method," President Chávez said in a televised speech before members of his Socialist party . . . . "It's harmful."

Mr. Chávez's comments came shortly after data showed Venezuela's gross domestic product -- a broad measure of annual economic output -- fell 4.5% in the third quarter from the year-earlier period. It was the second consecutive quarterly decline, and observers have questioned how Mr. Chávez will be able to generate growth without high oil prices.


. . .


"It's hard to say if [Mr. Chávez] is serious or not," said Robert Bottome of publisher VenEconomía. "They've already tampered with the way they compute unemployment and how they determine how much oil [state oil company] PdVSA exports. So why not tamper with the economy figures as well."



For the full story, see:

DAN MOLINSKI and DAVID LUHNOW. "Chávez Discounts Accuracy of GDP." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., NOVEMBER 20, 2009): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)





January 20, 2011

Economic Importance of Inarticulate Knowledge Undermines Case for Central Planning



(p. 78) . . . the intelligence of humans, though immensely strengthened by articulation, nonetheless contains a large component of tacit understanding by individuals who know more than they can say. If this is also true with respect to the sorts of knowledge relevant to our economic activities, then no comprehensive planning agency could obtain the sort of knowledge necessary for economic planning, for it would lie buried deep in the minds of millions of persons.


Source:

Lavoie, Don. National Economic Planning: What Is Left? Washington, DC: Cato Institute, 1985.

(Note: ellipsis added.)






September 23, 2010

French Utopian Planned Community Goes Up in Flames



VilleneuveGrenobleFranceUtopia2010-09-01.jpg"The planned neighborhood Villeneuve, in Grenoble, has slowly degraded into a poor district before it finally burst into flames three weeks ago, with a mob setting nearly 100 cars on fire." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. A7) GRENOBLE, France -- A utopian dream of a new urban community, built here in the 1970s, had slowly degraded into a poor neighborhood plagued by aimless youths before it finally burst into flames three weeks ago.

After Karim Boudouda, a 27-year-old of North African descent, and some of his friends had robbed a casino, he was killed in an exchange of automatic gunfire with the police. The next night, Villeneuve, a carefully planned neighborhood of Grenoble in eastern France, exploded. A mob set nearly 100 cars on fire, wrecked a tram car and burned an annex of city hall.


. . .


Villeneuve, or "new city," emerged directly out of the social unrest of the May 1968 student uprising.

People committed to social change, from here as well as from Paris and other cities, came to create a largely self-contained neighborhood of apartment buildings, parks, schools, and health and local services in this city of 160,000 people, at the spectacular juncture of two rivers and three mountain ranges at the foot of the French Alps.



For the full story, see:

STEVEN ERLANGER. "Grenoble Journal; Utopian Dream Becomes Battleground in France." The New York Times (Mon., August 9, 2010): A7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review is dated August 8, 2010.)





July 10, 2010

Former French Student Protest Leader: "We've Decided that We Can't Expect Everything from the State"



DynamismEuropeAndUnitedStatesGraph.gif
















Source of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.




(p. A16) "The euro was supposed to achieve higher productivity and growth by bringing about a deeper integration between economies," says Simon Tilford, chief economist at the Centre for European Reform, a London think tank. "Instead, integration is slowing. The lack of flexibility in labor and product markets raises serious questions about the likelihood of the euro delivering on its potential."

Structural changes are the last great hope in part because euro zone members have few other levers for lifting their economies. Individual members can't tweak interest rates to encourage lending, because those policies are set by the zone's central bank. The shared euro means countries don't have a sovereign currency to devalue, a move that would make exports cheaper and boost receipts abroad.

The remaining prescription, many economists say: chip away at the cherished "social model." That means limiting pensions and benefits to those who really need them, ensuring the able-bodied are working rather than living off the state, and eliminating business and labor laws that deter entrepreneurship and job creation.

That path suits Carlos Bock. The business-studies graduate from Bavaria spent months navigating Germany's dense bureaucracy in order to open a computer store and Internet café in 2004. Before he could offer a Web-surfing customer a mug of filter coffee, he said, he had to obtain a license to run a "gastronomic enterprise." One of its 38 requirements compelled Mr. Bock to attend a course on the hygienic handling of mincemeat.

Mr. Bock closed his store in 2008. Germany's strict regulations and social protections favor established businesses and workers over young ones, he said. He also struggled against German consumers' reluctance to spend, a problem economists blame in part on steep payroll taxes that cut into workers' takehome pay, and on high savings rates among Germans who are worried the country's pension system is unsustainable.

"If markets were freer, there might be chaos to begin with," Mr. Bock said. "But over time we'd reach a better economic level."

Even in France, some erstwhile opponents of reforms are changing their tune. Julie Coudry became a French household name four years ago when she helped organize huge student protests against a law introducing short-term contracts for young workers, a move the government believed would put unemployed youths to work.

With her blonde locks and signature beret, Ms. Coudry gave fiery speeches on television, arguing that young people deserved the cradle-to-grave contracts that older employees enjoy at most French companies. Critics in France and abroad saw the protests as a shocking sign that twentysomethings were among the strongest opponents of efforts to modernize the European economy. The measure was eventually repealed.

Today, the now 31-year-old Ms. Coudry runs a nonprofit organization that encourages French corporations to hire more university graduates. Ms. Coudry, while not repudiating her activism, says she realizes that past job protections are untenable.

"The state has huge debt, 25% of young people are jobless, and so I am part of a new generation that has decided to take matters into our own hands," she says. "We've decided that we can't expect everything from the state."




For the full story, see:

MARCUS WALKER And ALESSANDRA GALLONI. "Europe's Choice: Growth or Safety Net." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., MARCH 25, 2010): A1 & A16.





April 17, 2010

Web Site Dares to Satarize Chávez



RavellGrazianiVenezuelaSatire2010-04-17.jpg"Juan Andrés Ravell and Oswaldo Graziani two of the creators of the Web site El Chigüire Bipolar, or Bipolar Capybara, at their office in Caracas, Venezuela. They drew inspiration from American shows like "The Colbert Report" and Web sites like The Onion." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. 8) CARACAS, Venezuela -- This may be a perilous time to operate a Web site focused on politics here, given President Hugo Chávez's recent push for new controls of Internet content. But one plucky Venezuelan satirical site is emerging as a runaway success in Latin America as it repeatedly skewers Mr. Chávez and a host of other leaders.

Named in honor of the capybara, the Labrador retriever-sized rodent that Venezuelans are fond of hunting and eating, the 2-year-old Web site, El Chigüire Bipolar, or Bipolar Capybara, is rivaling or surpassing in page views leading Venezuelan newspapers like the Caracas daily El Nacional.

The rise of Chigüire Bipolar, which has already drawn the wrath of state-controlled media here, and a handful of other popular Venezuelan sites focused on politics is taking place within a journalistic atmosphere here that international press groups say is marked increasingly by fear, intimidation and self-censorship.


. . .


Mr. Ravell and Mr. Graziani, who earn a living as freelance television producers and scriptwriters, finance Chigüire Bipolar out of their own pockets and with a meager revenue stream from advertising and sale of T-shirts printed with their logo.

They produce the site with a third Venezuelan partner based in Miami, Elio Casale, in a chaotic flurry of e-mail, instant-messaging and BlackBerry text messages.

"We don't actually talk to each other that much," Mr. Ravell said.

In an interview, Mr. Ravell said he remained hopeful that Chigüire Bipolar was opening the way for more multifaceted debate in Venezuela instead of representing a final burst of expressive ebullience online in a scenario in which Mr. Chávez might succeed in exerting control over a medium that until now has largely escaped his sway.

"Satire," he said, "always evolves to resist the attempts to extinguish it."




For the full story, see:

SIMON ROMERO. "A Satirical Site Skewers Chávez and Politics." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., March 21, 2010): 8.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version is dated March 20, 2010 and has the title "A Satirical Site Skewers Chávez and Politics.")





February 18, 2010

Socialist Chavez's Thugs Destroy Venezuelans' Economic Freedom



VenezuelanNationalGuardPriceInspection2010-01-24.jpg "A member of the National Guard stands guard during a inspection of prices at a store in La Guaira outside Caracas Jan. 12." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. A8) CARACAS -- President Hugo Chávez's decision to devalue Venezuela's currency in order to shore up government finances could backfire on the populist leader if the move leads to substantially higher prices and extends an economic downturn.

Just days after Mr. Chávez cut the value of the "strong bolivar" currency, some businesses were marking up prices. Shoppers jammed stores to stock up on goods before the increases took hold.

Amelia Soto, a 52-year-old housewife waited in line at a Caracas drugstore to buy 23 tubes of toothpaste. "Everywhere I hear that prices are going to skyrocket so I want to buy as much as I can now," she said.

Airlines have doubled fares; government officials said they were looking into reports that large retail chains were also increasing prices.


. . .


The price increases are setting the stage for confrontations with authorities following Mr. Chávez's orders to shut down retailers that raise prices.


. . .


The higher prices for consumer goods represent a huge liability for a country facing 27% inflation, one of the highest levels in the world.




For the full story, see:

DARCY CROWE and DAN MOLINSKI. "Prices in Venezuela Surge After Devaluation." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., JANUARY 13, 2010): A8.

(Note: the online version of the article has the title "Venezuelans Rush to Shop as Stores Increase Prices.")

(Note: ellipses added.)





February 17, 2010

Socialist Chávez Quashes Free Speech in Venezuela



Here is evidence of the continuing relevance of Hayek's The Road to Serfdom:


(p. A5) CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- A cable television channel that has been critical of President Hugo Chávez was taken off the air on Sunday after defying new government regulations requiring it to televise some of Mr. Chávez's speeches.

Venezuelan cable and satellite television providers stopped transmitting the channel, Radio Caracas Television, after it did not broadcast a speech by Mr. Chávez on Saturday at a rally of political supporters.


. . .


. . . the cable channel, known as RCTV, said the telecommunications agency "doesn't have any authority to give the cable service providers this order." It said in a statement, "The government is inappropriately pressuring them to make decisions beyond their responsibilities."

The channel switched to cable in 2007 after the government refused to renew its license to broadcast on the regular airwaves.



For the full story, see:

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. "Cable TV Station Critical of Chávez Is Shut Down." The New York Times (Mon., January 25, 2010): A5.

(Note: the online version of the article has the date January 24, 2010.)

(Note: ellipses added.)


Reference for Hayek book:

Hayek, Friedrich A. Von. The Road to Serfdom. Chicago: Univ of Chicago Press, 1944.





January 15, 2010

The Decline of Motive Power in Socialist Venezuela



VenezuelaEnergy2010-01-10.jpg"In Venezuela, which faces power shortages, blackouts have spurred protests like this demonstration in Caracas." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. A11) CARACAS -- Venezuela, a country with vast reserves of oil and natural gas, as well as massive rushing waterways that cut through its immense rain forests, strangely finds itself teetering on the verge of an energy crisis.


. . .


The government has forced draconian electricity rationing on certain sectors, which could make matters worse for an economy already racked by recession. Critics say the socialist government is trying to snuff out capitalist-driven sectors with the rationing, while allowing government-favored industries in good standing to continue with business as usual.

Shopping malls, which analysts say use less than 1% of the power consumed in Venezuela, have nonetheless been a main focus for the government.

Malls have been told most stores can only be open between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m.

"In a certain way, Chávez is attacking capitalism with the orders on shopping malls," said Emilio Grateron, mayor of Caracas's Chacao municipality, a bastion of those opposed to Mr. Chávez. "By limiting the hours we can go to malls, he is trying to slowly take away liberties, to create absolute control over things such as shopping."

In Venezuela, whose capital Caracas is consistently ranked among the world's most dangerous cities, residents see shopping malls as one of few havens in the country.

The government's rationing efforts are also hitting metal producers. Their production has already been cut as much as 40%. Mr. Rodriguez, the electricity minister, said they may have to be completely closed to save more electricity.




For the full story, see:

DAN MOLINSKI. "Energy-Rich Venezuela Faces Power Crisis." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., JANUARY 8, 2009): A11.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





February 11, 2009

Socialist Guyanese Government Welcomed Jonestown



(p. W3) We expect our killing fields to be marked a certain way, and with at least a certain rhetoric of rectitude. At Jonestown, in Guyana, there are no markers, no memorials noting what took place, no manicured clearings to mark how the site looked 30 years ago, when more than 900 Americans died there in a still hard-to-imagine moment of mass suicide and outright murder.

. . .

The Guyanese government had tried to develop a new and proud independent identity for the country that would serve as a model for postcolonial development -- and initially welcomed Jim Jones as a blow to the American forces of imperialism. After the massacre, the country's leaders opted to absolve themselves of the events, pointing to the Americans as if they had landed from Mars.

. . .

The idea of colonizing the interior, whether it be for its mineral promise or for imagining a new social reality and set of possibilities for future generations, has long enchanted -- and frustrated -- post-independence Guyanese politicians.

No political leader was more adept at exploiting the idea or realizing its failure than Forbes Burnham, who led the country from independence in 1966 until his death in 1985. His aspirations to create a unique Guyanese path to socialism -- through a top-heavy program of massively nationalized industry and agriculture in the interior -- aggressively chased off foreign investment.

Mr. Burnham welcomed not only Jim Jones but other soi-disant radical movements into Guyana, turning the country into an ideological Disneyworld for the charismatic and the disaffected in the late '70s. After the Jonestown massacre, he hatched a clandestine scheme with a Christian evangelical group associated with Billy Graham's son Franklin to repopulate the site with anti-Communist Hmong tribesmen exiled from Laos. Like most of Mr. Burnham's pipe dreams of developing the bush, it failed.

In 1978, Mr. Burnham's unpopularity was growing and his overconfident austerity economy was failing. Guyanese-style socialist development meant not only nationalization of foreign companies but strict laws against exports, which led to crippling food shortages.




For the full commentary, see:

ERIC BANKS. "Essay; The Legacy of Jonestown; Thirty years after the murder-suicides in Guyana, the country struggles with memories of the event." Wall Street Journal (Sat., DECEMBER 13, 2008): W3.

(Note: ellipses added.)






January 30, 2009

"Atlas Shrugged is a Celebration of the Entrepreneur"


RandAynStamp.jpg








"The art for a 1999 postage stamp." Source of image: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. W11) Many of us who know Rand's work have noticed that with each passing week, and with each successive bailout plan and economic-stimulus scheme out of Washington, our current politicians are committing the very acts of economic lunacy that "Atlas Shrugged" parodied in 1957, when this 1,000-page novel was first published and became an instant hit.

Rand, who had come to America from Soviet Russia with striking insights into totalitarianism and the destructiveness of socialism, was already a celebrity. The left, naturally, hated her. But as recently as 1991, a survey by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club found that readers rated "Atlas" as the second-most influential book in their lives, behind only the Bible.

For the uninitiated, the moral of the story is simply this: Politicians invariably respond to crises -- that in most cases they themselves created -- by spawning new government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to create more programs . . . and the downward spiral repeats itself until the productive sectors of the economy collapse under the collective weight of taxes and other burdens imposed in the name of fairness, equality and do-goodism.

. . .

Ultimately, "Atlas Shrugged" is a celebration of the entrepreneur, the risk taker and the cultivator of wealth through human intellect. Critics dismissed the novel as simple-minded, and even some of Rand's political admirers complained that she lacked compassion. Yet one pertinent warning resounds throughout the book: When profits and wealth and creativity are denigrated in society, they start to disappear -- leaving everyone the poorer.



For the full commentary, see:

STEPHEN MOORE. "DE GUSTIBUS; 'Atlas Shrugged': From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years." Wall Street Journal (Fri., JANUARY 9, 2009): W11.

(Note: ellipses added.)




October 19, 2008

McCraw on the Nature of Schumpeter's Defense of Socialism


McCraw on the third part of Schumpeter's Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy:

(p. 359) In answer to the question that opens Part III, "Can socialism work?" Schumpeter responds with the provocative statement, "Of course it can." But a close reading of the subsequent text reveals that he actually means, "Of course (p. 360) it can't," at least in comparison with capitalism. He is now writing in full ironic mode, like the satirist Johnathan Swift. "A Modest Proposal"---Swift's famous pamphlet of 1729---had suggested that problems of famine and overpopulation could be met by one simple step: feeding children from poor families to the rich. His proposal, Swift argued, was "innocent, cheap, easy and effectual."

Schumpeter's Swiftian approach to socialism recalls to mind the delight he took as a young man in Vienna's coffeehouses, where political and artistic discussion often continued well into the night. In this kind of setting, no proposition was too absurd or too subtly hedged with conditions and exceptions . Speakers won admiration for their sarcasm and wit, no less than for the cogency of their arguments. To puncture a point of view while seeming to recommend it was especially delicious.



Source:

McCraw, Thomas K. Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2007.




September 12, 2008

Keynes Was Relying on the Invisible Hand of the Market in 1946


AusterityBritainBK.jpg









Source of book image:
http://www.tbpcontrol.co.uk/TWS/CoverImages_0/074/757/0747579857.jpg

(p. B7) As Mr. Kynaston sets his scene, what immediately becomes clear is that the recent past is not so recent. "Britain in 1945. No supermarkets, no motorways, no teabags, no sliced bread, no frozen food. ... No launderettes, no automatic washing machines, wash day every Monday, clothes boiled in a tub, scrubbed on the draining board. ...Abortion illegal, homosexual relationships illegal, suicide illegal, capital punishment legal. White faces everywhere." And with all those white faces was the single overwhelming, blanketing fact of deprivation, a bare-bones existence. Britain had just prevailed in a struggle for its very survival, but victory never looked so grim.

. . .

The Labor Party won the 1945 election in a landslide on a promise of national planning. The debate now was how far to take socialism, with the Laborites divided between the hell-bent nationalizers and the more market-oriented Keynesians. In 1946 Keynes himself admitted (though privately) that "I find myself more and more relying for a solution of our problems on the invisible hand" of the market, "which I tried to eject from economic thinking 20 years ago."

. . .

Almost invisible in Mr. Kynaston's sparkling panorama is a sign of what was to come. One Conservative politician was out of step not only with Labor's policies but even with the prevailing views of her own party. Margaret Roberts was just about alone in condemning the welfare state as "pernicious," destructive of the national character. In 1951, a year after Labor's second postwar electoral victory, she got married. Her husband's name was Thatcher.



For the full review, see:

Barry Gewen. "Books of The Times - In Postwar Britain, the Grim Face of Victory." The New York Times (Thurs., June 12, 2008): B7.

(Note: ellipses within the Kynaston quote are in the original; ellipses between paragraphs are added.)




August 20, 2008

FDR Turned Schumpeter into a Fan of Ludwig von Mises


From McCraw writing about Schumpeter:

(pp. 318-319) The New Deal struck him as still another prelude to authoritarianism. He became convinced that Roosevelt's program represented a step toward either fascism or socialism, and in either case potential dictatorship. He wrote a friend that Roosevelt was like a child mindlessly breaking a machine because he didn't understand its design. The president "is going to turn me into a fan of [Ludwig von] Mises," his classmate at the University of Vienna who had become a free-market fundamentalist and an opponent of almost all government intervention.


Source:

McCraw, Thomas K. Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2007.




June 19, 2008

In Many Capitalist Companies "People Think They're Involved in Socialism"


Empirical comparisons between capitalism and socialism are in some ways unfair to capitalism, because many capitalism managers act as though they believed in socialist ideas. The difference in productivity and economic growth would be even greater, if capitalist managers consistently acted as though they believed in capitalism. Consider the following, from a portion of Execution written by Larry Bossidy:

(p. 73) Larry: When I see companies that don't execute, the chances are that they don't measure, don't reward, and don't promote people who know how to get things done. Salary increases in terms of percentage are too close between top performers and those who are not. There's not enough differentiation in bonus, or in stock options, or in stock grants. Leaders need the confidence to explain to a direct report why he got a lower than expected reward.

A good leader ensures that the organization makes these distinctions and that they become a way of life, down throughout the organization. Otherwise people think they're involved in socialism. That isn't what you want when you strive for a culture of execution. You have to make it clear to everybody that rewards and respect are based on performance.



Source:

Bossidy, Larry, Ram Charan, and Charles Burck. Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done. New York: Crown Business, 2002.

(Note: in the book, the quotation is presented as being Bossidy's.)




April 27, 2008

Hitler's Critique of American Materialism



Here are some musings by Hitler, in which he compares Germany under Hitler's National Socialism, with America. The musings are dated August 1, 1942, and are quoted in the article cited below:


(p. 3) I grant you that our standard of life is lower. But the German Reich has 270 opera houses - a standard of cultural existence of which they over there have no conception. They have clothes, food, cars and a badly constructed house - but with a refrigerator! This sort of thing does not impress us.


For the full story, see:

MARC D. CHARNEY. "Ideas & Trends; Well, at Least He Liked Our Cars." The New York Times, Section 4 (Sun., April 3, 2005): 3.




April 26, 2008

"Isn't This a Teeny-Weeny Bit of Socialism?"


(p. 12) FROM the very beginning of the nation's modern social welfare system -- even before Michael Moore began to explore the issue -- there was a tension in it: What should the government be expected to provide? What should be left to the individual? How much government is too much?

The questions were asked even in 1935, not exactly a time to instill confidence in the resilient power of private markets. Senator Thomas Pryor Gore, Democrat of Oklahoma, put it bluntly when Frances Perkins, the secretary of labor, testified on Capitol Hill that year about President Franklin D. Roosevelt's plan for a new program called Social Security.

''Isn't this socialism?'' Senator Gore demanded. When Ms. Perkins denied it, he asked again: ''Isn't this a teeny-weeny bit of socialism?'' In recent days, on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail, a new version of that debate has been flaring, this time around an issue that the New Dealers decided (perhaps wisely) to put off for a later date: health care.


For the full commentary, see:

Robin Toner. "IDEAS & TRENDS; Less, Less, Less! More, More, Moore!" The New York Times, Week in Review section (Sun., August 5, 2007): 12.




March 10, 2008

Kibbutzim Abandon Socialism

 

     "Once for communal use, the Kibbutz Yasur swimming pool is now run as a private business."  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A1)  KIBBUTZ YASUR, Israel -- For much of Israel's existence, the kibbutz embodied its highest ideals: collective labor, love of the land and a no-frills egalitarianism.

But starting in the 1980s, when socialism was on a global downward spiral and the country was mired in hyperinflation, Israel's 250 or so kibbutzim seemed doomed. Their debt mounted and their group dining halls grew empty as the young moved away.

Now, in a surprising third act, the kibbutzim are again thriving. Only in 2007 they are less about pure socialism than a kind of suburbanized version of it.

On most kibbutzim, food and laundry services are now privatized; on many, houses may be transferred to individual members, and newcomers can buy in. While the major assets of the kibbutzim are still collectively owned, the communities are now largely run by professional managers rather than by popular vote. And, most important, not everyone is paid the same.

. . .

(p. A4) The kibbutzim were once austere communes of pioneers who drained the swamps, shared clothes (and sometimes spouses) and lived according to the Marxist axiom, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."

Today, most are undergoing a process of privatization, though kibbutz officials prefer a more euphemistic term: renewal.

. . .

Mr. Varol was born on a kibbutz in the far north, but he left at 18. He is at peace in his new home, but bitter about the past. "My parents worked all their lives, carrying at least 10 parasites on their backs," he said. "If they'd worked that hard in the city for as many years, I'd have had quite an inheritance coming to me by now."


For the full story, see:

ISABEL KERSHNER.  "The Kibbutz Sheds Socialism And Regains Lost Popularity."  The New York Times  (Mon., August 27, 2007):  A1 & A4. 


(Note:  the online version of the article had the title: "KIBBUTZ YASUR JOURNAL; The Kibbutz Sheds Socialism And Regains Lost Popularity.")

(Note:  ellipses added.)


     "The dining room in Kibbutz Nachshon charges members $4 per meal. While kibbutzim once paid all members equally and provided food, today many have adopted a system of varying wages and require payment for many services."  Source of caption and photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

 




January 31, 2008

"Liberty and Life"

  

(p. 8)  At the time of last month's referendum on Mr. Chávez's efforts to remake the Constitution to his liking, I got to know some of the "chamos," as the student activists are known. What struck me was not only how effective they were, but how different their movement was from almost all its many antecedents in the region.

Most important, the Venezuelans are not calling for socialist revolution, but for liberal democracy. Instead of vindicating the statist ideologies of the 20th century or the romantic passions of the 19th, they have embraced classic 18th-century humanism.

. . .

Will they make up a new political party? Can they remain united? Their enemy is formidable, and the chances of a violent or even tragic conclusion are very likely. But against the Chávez slogan, "Socialism or Death," they have their own: "Liberty and Life." In the battle of words they might have the upper hand. Perhaps they can take hope from a line by the Mexican poet-diplomat Octavio Paz: "We must give back transparency to words." 

 

For the full commentary, see: 

ENRIQUE KRAUZE.  "Humanizing the Revolution."  The New York Times, Week in Review section (Sun., December 30, 2007):  8. 

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 




January 20, 2008

Qaddafi's Nomadic Defense of Socialism

 

   Inside a nomad tent near Kabul.  Source:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below. 

 

(p. A4)  In some instances, politicians seek to use nomadic traditions to justify their policies, just as American politicians try to exploit nostalgia for America’s rural past to justify farm subsidies, said Robert Rotberg, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, who studies failed states in Africa and Asia.  “Take Qaddafi in Libya,” he said, referring to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.  “He would say, you Westerners don’t understand us because we have a nomadic ethos that is essentially socialist, and so we have to nationalize our country’s oil industry to be true to our tradition.”

 

For the full story, see: 

ILAN GREENBERG.  "Memo From Almaty; Ancient Nomads Offer Insights to Modern Crises."  The New York Times   (Weds., August 8, 2007):   A4. 

 




November 1, 2007

Pulling Teeth Slowly

 

   Source of book image:  http://mitpress.mit.edu/images/products/books/0262113023-f30.jpg

 

Many years ago, I read János Kornai's The Road to the Free Market, which gave Kornai's advice on how Eastern Europe could best make the transition from communism to the free market.  What I remember most from the book, is his discussion of whether it is more humane for the transition to be quick or gradual.  He answers the question by asking another:  if you need to have a tooth pulled, is it more humane for it to be pulled quickly or gradually?

 

(p. B15) . . .,  Mr. Kornai's books and lectures in Europe, North America and Asia established him as one of the leading scholars of socialist economics and an expert on the difficult transitions that many countries face when they move from socialism to a more democratic and capitalist system.   . . .

At one point in 1974, under the more relaxed rule of János Kádár, when Hungary was the "most cheerful barrack in the camp," Mr. Kornai and his wife decided to build their own home. Over the course of several months, they personally confronted the corruption, endemic shortages and shoddy construction materials that were so common in Eastern Europe. A year later, on a trip to India, Mr. Kornai was faced by idealistic young Maoists whose concern for the desperately poor reinforced their support for socialism. Mr. Kornai responded to them by arguing, as he puts it here, that "rationing systems that spread misery equally may assuage feelings of injustice for a while, but they will not solve anything."

 

For the full review, see:

JOSHUA RUBENSTEIN.  "BOOKS; Critic Behind the Curtain."  The Wall Street Journal  (Tues., January 30, 2007):  B15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

 

The book reviewed, is: 

János Kornai.  By Force of Thought.  (MIT Press, 461 pages, $40)

 

The earlier book by Kornai, that I read and liked, is:

Kornai, Janos. The Road to a Free Economy: Shifting from a Socialist System, the Example of Hungary. New York: W.W. Norton, 1990.

 




October 9, 2007

Latin America Discourages Entrepreneurs

 

LatinAmericanCompetitivenessGraph.gif   Source of table:  online version of the WSJ article cited below.

 

(p. A18) Economist Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950) may be best known for his innovative work showing the link between entrepreneurial discovery and economic progress.

But as Carl Schramm, president of the Kauffman Foundation of Entrepreneurship has pointed out, Schumpeter's insights about risk-takers didn't make him an optimist.

In a speech last year to European finance ministers in Vienna, Mr. Schramm explained Schumpeter's fears: He "worried that entrepreneurial capitalism would not flourish because the bureaucracies of modern government and big corporations would dampen innovation -- the process of 'creative destruction' would be too ungovernable for a modern, Keynesian-regulated economy to tolerate." As a result, Mr. Schramm said, Schumpeter thought that "the importance of entrepreneurs would fade over time as capitalism sought predictability from governments who would plan economic activity as well as order social benefits."

Mr. Schramm's comments caught my attention because they so accurately describe Latin America. There the entrepreneur has been all but run out of town by the bureaucracies that Schumpeter feared. Growth has suffered accordingly.

The World Bank's annual "Doing Business" survey, released last week, demonstrates the point. The 2008 survey, which evaluates the regulatory climate for entrepreneurs in 178 countries, finds that Latin America and the Caribbean was the slowest reforming region this year and that it "is falling further behind other regions in the pace" of reform.

. . .

The most important lesson for Latin America from the World Bank's report is that its competitors around the world are working to unleash entrepreneurial spirits, and doing nothing is not an option. As Mr. Schramm told his Vienna audience, "Schumpeter saw what a century of evidence would prove: Socialism has not sustained economic growth." Now, if only more Latin American policy makers would catch on.

 

For the full commentary, see: 

MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY.  "THE AMERICAS; No Room for Entrepreneurs."  The Wall Street Journal   (Mon., October 8, 2007):  A18.

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 




September 2, 2007

The End of "the Road to Socialism"

 

     The frenetic pace of productive work at a Chavez socialist farm cooperative in Santa Barbara, Venezuela.  Souce of photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below. 

 

(p. A1)  Mr. Chávez’s supporters have formed thousands of state-financed cooperatives to wrest farms and cattle ranches from private owners.  Landowners say compensation is hard to obtain.  Local officials describe the land seizures as paving stones on “the road to socialism.”

. . .

(p. A10)  But while some of the newly settled farming communities are euphoric, landowners are jittery.  Economists say the land reform may have the opposite effect of what Mr. Chavez intends, and make the country more dependent on imported food than before.

The uncertainties and disruptions of the land seizures have led to lower investment by some farmers.  Production of some foods has been relatively flat, adding to shortages of items like sugar, economists say.  

 

For the full story, see: 

SIMON ROMERO.  "Clash of Hope and Fear As Venezuela Seizes Land."  The New York Times  (Thurs., May 17, 2007):  A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

 




June 2, 2007

Communist Dictator Chavez Destroys Freedom of the Press in Venezuela

 

   Supporters of freedom in Venezuela protesting communist dictator Chavez's shutting down the television network that dared to criticize him.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article that is quoted and cited below. 

 

My Wabash College economics professor, Ben Rogge, used to say that political freedom ultimately depended on economic freedom:  how could you depend on a socialist government to provide a printing press to those who seek to undermine socialism?

(In his article "The Case for Economic Freedom" published in his Can Capitalism Survive? Rogge gives credit for the argument to his friend Milton Friedman in his Capitalism and Freedom, which was based on lectures given at Wabash.)

Well, if there is a heaven, I can imagine Rogge there, reading the following passages, and reacting with his sad, knowing, half-smile.

 

(p. A3)  CARACAS, Venezuela, May 27 — With little more than an hour to go late Sunday until this country’s oldest television network was to be taken off the air after 53 years of broadcasting, the police dispersed thousands of protesters by firing tear gas into demonstrations against the measure.

. . .

The president has defended the RCTV decision, saying that the network supported a coup that briefly removed him from office in 2002.

RCTV’s news programs regularly deride Mr. Chávez’s Socialist-inspired transformation of Venezuelan society. “RCTV lacks respect for the Venezuelan people,” said Onán Mauricio Aristigueta, 46, a messenger at the National Assembly who showed up to support the president.

Mr. Chávez has left untouched the operations of other private broadcasters who were also critical of him at the time of the 2002 coup but who have changed editorial policies to stop criticizing his government. That has led Mr. Chávez’s critics to claim that the move to allow RCTV’s license to expire amounts to a stifling of dissent in the news media.

“The other channels don’t say anything,” said Elisa Parejo, 69, an actress who was one of RCTV’s first soap opera stars. “What we’re living in Venezuela is a monstrosity,” she said at RCTV’s headquarters on Sunday, as employees gathered for an on-air remembrance of the network’s history. “It is a dictatorship.”

 

For the full story, see: 

SIMON ROMERO.  "Dueling Protests Over Shutdown of Venezuela TV Station."  The New York Times  (Mon., May 28, 2007):  A3.

(Note: the excerpts above are from the updated online version of the article that appeared online under the title: "Venezuela Police Repel Protests Over TV Network’s Closing.")

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 

On 5/28/07 CNN broadcast a Harris Whitbeck report on students protesting the Chavez censorship under the title "Hear No Evil, See No Evil."

 

   Monica Herrero protests Chavez closing down the television network that dared to criticize his government.  Source of photo:  screen capture from the CNN report at http://www.cnn.com/video/partners/clickability/index.html?url=/video/world/2007/05/28/whitbeck.chavez.tv.affl

 




April 1, 2007

Better than Socialism, but Not Free Market Enough: More on Why Africa is Poor

 

     Voters in line to vote for President in Senegal on 2/25/07.   Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

 

My old Wabash professor Ben Rogge used to say that rulers liked to build pyramids to proclaim their glory.  He mentioned the Egyptian pyramids, and he mentioned the whole government-created capital city of "Brasilia" in Brazil. 

When rulers in a poor country invest a lot of tax money in infrastructure, such as roads, how much of that is due to their belief in mistaken economic theories, and how much to their wanting to build their own version of the pyramids? 

In either case, at least it can be said that the people probably benefit more from their taxes being used to build roads, than from their taxes being used to build pyramids.  At least the roads can be complementary to transporting goods, and to the mobility of labor. 

But the people would benefit even more if they could keep the tax money to use for their own purposes.

 

(p. A3) DAKAR, Senegal, Feb. 25 — Moudou Gueye was confident that Senegal’s presidential election on Sunday would turn around his fortunes, at least in the short term.

Seven years ago he voted for Abdoulaye Wade, a rabble-rousing professor who, after decades in opposition to Socialist Party rule, sailed into office buoyed by the votes of frustrated young people like Mr. Gueye, who is now 32. They hoped that Mr. Wade, a free-market liberal, would transform this impoverished nation’s economy, which had been stunted by generations of ineffective central planning.

. . .

. . .   Senegal has had relatively robust economic growth that has hovered at around 5 percent over several years (it was lower last year, owing in part to high fuel prices, according to government officials), compared with the 1 percent achieved during much of the Socialist era, and dozens of huge public works projects.

While in some ways the country is better off, economic growth and a building binge have not produced large numbers of jobs in a country struggling to make the transition from an agrarian society based largely on peanut farming to one that harnesses the wealth of a global economy.

. . .

Countering criticism that Mr. Wade is too old to serve another term — his official age is given as 80, but many people suspect he is older — his daughter, Sindiély, who has worked as a special assistant to the president, said he was as sharp and agile as ever.

“It is not a question of age,” Ms. Wade said as she waited to cast her vote in downtown Dakar. “It is a question of dynamism and ideas and what you have planned for your country.”

Along Dakar’s seaside roadway, young men marveled at the cars whizzing below a brand-new overpass, one of Mr. Wade’s long-anticipated public works projects.

Pap Ndiaye, an 18-year-old street vendor who sells baby clothes to people stalled in traffic, said the newly completed road was a sign that the country was moving in the right direction.

“Wade has done a lot for this country,” Mr. Ndiaye said. “Our hope is that he will stay and finish his work.”

Less than a mile away, the road abruptly ends with a bright yellow sign that says “déviation,” or detour. With a hard turn to the right, drivers pour off the broad new highway, and back into the tangled, chaotic streets of one of Dakar’s oldest and poorest neighborhoods.

 

For the full story, see: 

LYDIA POLGREEN.  "Senegalese Vote Hinges on Views of Economic Growth."  The New York Times  (Mon., February 26, 2007):  A3.

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 




March 25, 2007

Instead of Shrugging, Atlas Sometimes Moves to the United States

 

VenezuelaProfessionalsExitGraph.gif   Source of graphic:  online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

 

(p. A10)  CARACAS, Venezuela -- Oil-rich Venezuela has experienced the kind of economic boom in recent years that should be flush with job opportunities. But an increasing number of professionals, many of them from the oil industry, are looking abroad for work, driven away by President Hugo Chávez's effort to extend state control over the economy, and by inflation verging on 20%.

Since his re-election in December, Mr. Chávez has pursued an agenda of "21st Century Socialism," painting a future of "communal cities" and state-run cooperatives dedicated to production, not profit.

. . .

Still, at the U.S. Embassy call center for visas in Caracas, the lines have been jammed since Mr. Chávez announced in early January the nationalization of the electricity industry and Venezuela's largest telecommunications firm. "It doubled practically overnight," said a U.S. diplomat.

The number of Venezuelans receiving U.S. legal permanent residence more than doubled from 2000 to 2005, when 10,870 got their green cards. In that period the overall number of green cards increased by a third. During that period the number of Venezuelan-born U.S. residents increased 42%, to 151,743, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

. . .

Any opposition-minded oil workers still left at PdVSA face a difficult environment. During the presidential campaign last year, PdVSA President Rafael Ramirez told company executives to join Mr. Chávez's political movement or hit the road. In 2003, Mr. Chávez sacked around 20,000 PdVSA staffers -- about half the company's work force -- for walking off the job, calling them "terrorists." A majority of them were the managers, accountants and field engineers who turned the state oil venture into a world-class oil company during a period of robust expansion in the 1990s.

Many found work elsewhere, including in Mexico, Canada and Saudi Arabia, at a time of high demand for experienced oil workers.

The lost expertise has taken a toll on PdVSA, the country's largest single employer. Its share of the global market for crude oil supply is shrinking, and accidents and outages are on the rise. Analysts say the cost to PdVSA of producing a barrel of oil has nearly doubled in the past five years to more than $4.50.

 

For the full story, see: 

PETER MILLARD.  "Professionals Exit Venezuela; Chávez's Grip on Power Drives Out Oil Experts; Support Hugo or You Go."  The Wall Street Journal  (Thurs., February 15, 2007):  A10.

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 




August 22, 2006

Eleven-Year-Old Crippled for Life by Mao Supporters


  Source of book image:  http://www.holtzbrinckpublishers.com/henryholt/Search/SearchBookDisplayLarge.asp?BookKey=1524294


(p. B29) This improbable journey, from Maoist orthodoxy to the entrepreneurial quasicapitalism officially described as “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” is the main theme of “Chinese Lessons,” but Mr. Pomfret, a reporter for The Washington Post, gives his tale a twist.  He tells it not only through his own experiences as a student and journalist but through the life stories of five university classmates, who suffered through the Cultural Revolution as children, found inspiration and hope in the growing democracy movement and lived to see a China that neither they nor their parents could have imagined.  . . .

All the lives Mr. Pomfret explores are extraordinary, and each sheds its own light on recent Chinese history.  Perhaps the most endearing of his characters is Guan Yongxing, better known as Little Guan, who as an 11-year-old suffered social ostracism after accidentally using a piece of paper with “Long Live Chairman Mao!” on it to wipe herself in the bathroom.

After classmates threw her to the ground, no doctor would treat her dislocated shoulder, leaving her crippled for life.  Her father’s job as a schoolteacher made the Guan family a prime target for abuse, and Little Guan, rather than endure ridicule and torment at school, picked cotton and sprayed fertilizer on the fields, her back constantly burned by chemicals leaking from the tank on her back.  Tough, determined and highly intelligent, she survives and eventually prospers in the new China.

. . .

Zhou Lianchun, called Book Idiot Zhou by a contemptuous Communist Party official, meted out insults and torture as part of a Red Guard brigade.  “I did what I was told and, being 11, I liked it,” he tells Mr. Pomfret.

. . .

More even than sex, students want just a little bit of the good life that seems to be in reach as China’s rulers relax their economic policies.  To get it they master a strange kind of doublethink, pledging allegiance to the party and Communist ideals while scheming to start a business.

Book Idiot Zhou, a history teacher by day, jumps into a business partnership to process urine for the pharmaceutical industry.  “Several days a week, he taught Marxism, Leninism and Maoist thought and railed against the exploitation of the capitalist class,” Mr. Pomfret writes.  “The rest of the time he spent as a budding entrepreneur, employing dozens at rock-bottom wages, working the system to enrich himself, his partners and his family.”

. . .

His classmates have done well.  But their lives, and the China described in “Chinese Lessons,” bear a heavy load of suppressed grief, terrible compromises and boundless cynicism.  At a new drive-in called the Happy Auto Movie Palace, Mr. Pomfret notices something strange about the concrete slabs underneath his feet.  They show the marks of tank treads.  The drive-in owner bought them after the government repaved Tiananmen Square.

This strikes Mr. Pomfret as bizarre, but not the owner.  “It was a good deal,” he says.

 

For the full review, see: 

WILLIAM GRIMES. "Books of The Times; Twisting Along China’s Sharp Curves." The New York Times (Fri., August 4, 2006):  B29.

(Note: ellipses added.) 





July 31, 2006

"Capitalism has Not Corrupted Our Souls; It has Improved Them"


Source of book image:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0226556638/sr=8-1/qid=1153708722/ref=pd_bbs_1/104-2835260-2878345?ie=UTF8

 

Deirdre McCloskey's unfashionable,  contrarian and compelling manifesto in favor of what she calls the bourgeois virtues starts with an uncompromising "apology" for how private property, free labor, free trade and prudent calculation are the fount of most ethical good in modern society, not a moral threat to it.

The intelligentsia -- in thrall for centuries to religion and now to socialism -- has for a long time snobbishly despised the bourgeoisie that practices capitalism.  Ms. McCloskey calls such people the "clerisy."  Their values and virtues, like those of the proletariat and the aristocracy, are widely admired.  But almost nobody admires the bourgeoisie.  Yet it was for anti-bourgeois ideologies, she notes, that "the twentieth century paid the butcher's bill."

As Ms. McCloskey explains:  "Anyone who after the twentieth century still thinks that thoroughgoing socialism, nationalism, imperialism, mobilization, central planning, regulation, zoning, price controls, tax policy, labor unions, business cartels, government spending, intrusive policing, adventurism in foreign policy, faith in entangling religion and politics, or most of the other thoroughgoing nineteenth-century proposals for government action are still neat, harmless ideas for improving our lives is not paying attention."  By contrast, she argues, "capitalism has not corrupted our souls.  It has improved them."

 

For the full review, see:

MATT RIDLEY.  "Capitalism Without Tears; Fashionable thinkers sneer at the free market and its practitioners, but economic liberty may actually be a force for personal goodness."   The Wall Street Journal  (Sat., July 22, 2006):  P10.

(Note:  in the passage above, I took the liberty of correcting a misspelling of "Deirdre.") 

 

The full citation to the McCloskey book is: 

McCloskey, Deirdre N.  The Bourgeois Virtues:  Ethics for an Age of Commerce. Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 2006.  (616 pages, $32.50)





May 16, 2006

British Pull Own Teeth Under Public Dental Care


KellyWilliamToothless.jpg "William Kelly, 43, extracted part of his own tooth, leaving a black stump. He plans to pull one more."  Source of caption and image:  online version of NYT article cited below.

 

ROCHDALE, England, May 2 — "I snapped it out myself," said William Kelly, 43, describing his most recent dental procedure, the autoextraction of one of his upper teeth.

Now it is a jagged black stump, and the pain gnawing at Mr. Kelly's mouth has transferred itself to a different tooth, mottled and rickety, on the other side of his mouth.  "I'm in the middle of pulling that one out, too," he said.

. . .

But the problem is serious.  Mr. Kelly's predicament is not just a result of cigarettes and possibly indifferent oral hygiene; he is careful to brush once a day, he said.  Instead, it is due in large part to the deficiencies in Britain's state-financed dental service, which, stretched beyond its limit, no longer serves everyone and no longer even pretends to try.

Every time he has tried to sign up, lining up with hundreds of others from the ranks of the desperate and the hurting — "I've seen people with bleeding gums where they've ripped their teeth out," he said grimly — he has arrived too late and missed the cutoff.

"You could argue that Britain has not seen lines like this since World War II," said Mark Pritchard, a member of Parliament who represents part of Shropshire, where the situation is just as grim.  "Churchill once said that the British are great queuers, but I don't think he meant that in connection to dental care."

Britain has too few public dentists for too many people. At the beginning of the year, just 49 percent of the adults and 63 percent of the children in England and Wales were registered with public dentists.

And now, discouraged by what they say is the assembly-line nature of the job and by a new contract that pays them to perform a set number of "units of dental activity" per year, even more dentists are abandoning the health service and going into private practice — some 2,000 in April alone, the British Dental Association says.

. . .

The system, critics say, encourages state dentists to see too many patients in too short a time and to cut corners by, for instance, extracting teeth rather than performing root canals.

Claire Dacey, a nurse for a private dentist, said that when she worked in the National Health Service one dentist in the practice performed cleanings in five minutes flat.

Moreover, she said, by the time patients got in to see a dentist, many were in terrible shape.

"I had a lady who was in so much pain and had to wait so long that she got herself drunk and had her friend take out her tooth with a pair of pliers," Ms. Dacey said.

Some people simply seek treatment abroad.

 

For the full story, see:

SARAH LYALL.  "In a Dentist Shortage, British (Ouch) Do It Themselves."  The New York Times, Section 1  (Sun., May 7, 2006):  3. 

(Note: ellipsis added.)




May 1, 2006

Remembrances of Galbraith (and Buckley and Demsetz and Drucker)


John Kenneth Galbraith passed away a couple of days ago, on Sat., April 29, 2006 at the age of 97.   (see:  "Economist, Writer Galbraith Dies at 97."  Omaha World-Herald (Sun., April 30, 2006):  11A)

I remember at a Republican Convention in Miami (1968 I think) when one of the networks had the late Frank Reynolds sitting with Galbraith and William F. Buckley, Jr., to provide occasional commentary on the scene.  On this occasion, Galbraith was going on and on about how all of the Republicans had arrived at the convention in their yachts.  Buckley sat by, nodding, in uncharacteristic silence.  Finally, with a few seconds until they needed to break away, Buckley slowly and deliberately drawled at Galbraith something like the following:  'And John, when you visit your friends in Hyannis Port, I trust that you find the accommodations adequate?'   As they cut to commercial, you could hear Reynolds, and others in the background, convulsed in laughter.

Actually Buckley and Galbraith were friends, for several years skiing together in Europe.  Apparently Galbraith was an indifferent and very slow skier, leading Buckley to observe that Galbraith looked as though he was skiing up the slope backwards.   (I read this many years ago, but, alas, do not remember where.)

 

David Levy and I once wrote a paper in which we measured the writing quality of articles by many important economists.  When we presented the paper to the meetings of the American Economic Association, Galbraith was the discussant of our paper.  For his comments, he basically recycled an old paper he had written on writing economics, and showed no signs of having read our paper.  But he did seem to enjoy our mentioning that by our measures, he turned out to be one of the best writers in the profession.  My memory is that at one point, just before or just after the formal proceedings, he actually patted me on the back.

 

Galbraith wrote many books.  One that I enjoyed, and learned from, was his account of the stock market crash of 1929.

 

Perhaps his most famous book was The New Industrial State, in which he argues that some of the larger firms in the United States form what he called the "technostructure."  The technostructure firms were widely held, by many stock owners, few of whom had the incentive or power, to closely monitor whether the firms' managers were serving the stock owners by maximizing profits.  As a result, the technostructure firms' managers were free to pursue other goals, such as their own power.  (Galbraith was OK with the assumption that firms outside the technostructure were maximizing profits.)  

Harold Demsetz tested this hypothesis by comparing the rate of profit of firms in and out of the technostructure, reasoning that if technostructure firms were not maximizing profits, we would expect their profits to be lower than those of other firms.  He found that there was no difference between the rate of profits of the so-called 'technostructure' firms, and the non-technostructure firms.  Demsetz's conclusion was that there was no distinguishable technostructure, and no new industrial state. 

I tell my classes that if we don't throw entrepreneurs such as Michael Milken in prison, they can provide us with the means to keep CEOs pursuing shareholder value (profits) as their goal.  The way it would work would be that if CEOs start pursuing something else, their firm's stock price falls, and the firm becomes an attractive take-over target for someone like Milken.

I also point out that if firms maximize profits, a lot of rich people benefit, but that a lot of average people benefit too---Drucker emphasized that roughly half of the value of stock equity in the United States is held by worker pension funds.

 

I did not agree with Galbraith's efforts to grow the government, but he was witty, and urbane, and intelligent.  The intellectual scene was more interesting, and fun, with him than without him.  He will be missed. 

 

Some references to publications mentioned in, or supporting, the discussion above:

Demsetz, Harold. "Where Is the New Industrial State?" Economic Inquiry 12, no. 1 (1974): 1-12.

Diamond, Arthur M., Jr., and David M. Levy. "The Metrics of Style: Adam Smith Teaches Efficient Rhetoric." Economic Inquiry 32, no. 1 (1994): 138-45.

Drucker, Peter Ferdinand. The Unseen Revolution:  How Pension Fund Socialism Came to America. 1st ed: Harpercollins, 1976.

Galbraith, John Kenneth. The Great Crash 1929. Houghton Mifflin Co., 1961.

Galbraith, John Kenneth. The New Industrial State. Houghton Mifflin, 1967.

Kornbluth, Jesse. Highly Confident: The Crime and Punishment of Michael Milken. William Morrow & Co., 1992.

 

 NewIndustrialStateBK.jpg     Source of book image: http://www.whatihaveread.net/biblio/book_1458.html





March 20, 2006

Fascism's "Most Notable Achievement Was that It Survived as Long as it Did"





Source of image of book cover: Amazon.com.




Some experts on National Socialism have concluded that its economy was not as efficient as usually believed. According to a recent expert, facism also was not a very efficient economic system (in spite of its oft-mentioned reputation for the trains running on time):


(p. B36) Yet for all the personality cult, the regime's most notable achievement, as Mr. Bosworth sees it, was that it survived as long as it did. Virtually irrespective of where it set its sights -- culture, science, economics, let alone the military -- its performance persistently fell short of its discredited Liberal predecessor's.




Note: in the review, "liberal" refers to 19th-century liberals. E.g.:


(p. B36) Like their 19th-century peers from Belgium to Romania, Italian Liberals yearned for a common flag, parliament, economy, identity, even empire. To a point, the truths held to be self-evident north of the Alps worked in Italy, too. But the transition to constitutional government was a work in progress, where progress needed all the help it could get.

By 1914, it was clear that it would take more than a constitutional monarchy, a railroad, a gold-based currency and African colonies to overcome the limits imposed by geography, culture and history. Eager to play with the big powers, Italians were not only poor, illiterate and economically underdeveloped, they were also allergic to any state, modern or otherwise. This would include dictatorship.



For the full review, see:

DAVID SCHOENBAUM. "Books of The Times | 'Mussolini's Italy'; Where Fascism Was Stylish and Vicious, if Ineffectual." The New York Times (Fri., March 3, 2006): B36.


The book is:

R. J. B. Bosworth. MUSSOLINI'S ITALY: Life Under the Fascist Dictatorship, 1915-1945. Penguin Press, 2006. Illustrated. 692 pages. $35. ISBN: 1594200785


BosworthJB.jpg R.J.B. Bosworth. Source of image: NYT book review quoted and cited above.





February 22, 2006

Solow's Wit (But Not Wisdom): Treat Schumpeter "Like a Patron Saint"


(p. 195) As Robert Solow wrote acidly in 1994, commenting on a series of papes on growth and imperfect competition, "Schumpeter is a sort of patron saint in this field. I may be alone in thinking that he should be treated like a patron saint: paraded around one day each year and more or less ignored the rest of the time."

Schumpeter was a most unwelcome guest at the neoclassical table. Yet it was hard for the mainstream to reject him out of hand, since Schumpeter was such a celebrant of capitalism and entrepreneurship. He thought it a superb, energetic, turbulent system, one that led to material betterment over time. He hoped it would triumph over socialism. He just didn't believe it functioned in anything close to the way the Marshallians did, and he was appalled that economists could apply an essentially static model to something as profoundly dynamic as capitalism. Schumpeter wrote presciently, "Whereas a stationary feudal economy would still be a feudal economy, and a stationary socialist economy would still be a socialist economy, stationary capitalism is a contradiction in terms." Its very essence, as the economic historian Nathan Rosenberg wrote, (p. 196) echoing Schumpeter, "lies not in equilibrating forces, but in the inevitable tendency to depart from equilibrium" every time an innovation occurs.


Source:

Kuttner, Robert. Everything for Sale: The Virtues and Limits of Markets. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.





February 10, 2006

Solzhenitsyn Endures: The Return of "The First Circle"


    Source of book image:   Amazon.com.


I remember Ben Rogge recommending The First Circle, decades ago when it first appeared in English. It is a powerful, courageous, wise work, bearing many lessons. As you read the book, you keep hoping you can find someone to blame for the evil that is happening. But as Solzhenitsyn works his way up the bureaucracy, each bureaucrat has a plausible motive for his part in evil; one motive, for example, is the protection of the bureaucrat's family. Only when you reach Stalin, do you find someone who you can really despise. But he seems borderline crazy, so even he is not a totally satisfying villian.

The book can be seen as illustrating a point that Rogge often made: socialism is not bad because it is run by bad people; it is bad because it provides ordinary people incentives to do bad things. (These are not his words, but I believe they capture his point.)



Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. Source of image: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A1) MOSCOW, Feb. 8 -- A grandfatherly figure, his bearded face wrinkled into a smile, peers down from billboards around town.

It is surprise enough that the man is Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, the once-exiled writer, Nobel Prize winner and, of late, octogenarian scold. It is even more so that the billboards advertise his adaptation -- broadcast on state television, no less -- of one of his fiercely anti-Soviet novels, "The First Circle."

Solzhenitsyn has been called the conscience of the nation, but his reputation has risen and fallen as tumultuously as Russia itself since the collapse of the Soviet Union. "First Circle" has once again placed him on the national stage, reaching an audience that would have been inconceivable to him four decades ago, when he smuggled the book out of the Soviet Union.


For the full article, see:

STEVEN LEE MYERS "Toast of the TV in Russian Eyes: It's Solzhenitsyn." The New York Times (Thurs., February 9, 2006): A1 & A3.



A scene from the Russian mini-series version of The First Circle. Source of image: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.




January 24, 2006

"Sachs Aid Model Has Financed Tyranny": More on Why Aftrica is Poor


Famine in Niger is no surprise -- desert wastes, locusts and decades of Marxist rule keep it second-to-last on the world poverty list. Famine in the fertile climes of southern and eastern Africa, however, seems more shocking. But there's a common thread: centralized state rule -- incompetent at best -- marked by corruption and sustained by aid. These are the shackles that keep Africans poor: It would be nice if EU and U.S. trade barriers were removed at trade talks in Hong Kong this week, but exports are a distant notion to the 75% of Africans who live off the land.

Niger is little-blessed by nature, but it has also spent its postcolonial era trying various forms of failed government, with Marxism reigning longest. A quarter of the population -- 2.5 million people -- faces starvation. Yet more temperate southern and eastern African countries are on the edge of famine, too, with 10 million affected in southern Africa alone. Again, we find the same economic profile: Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho all lack economic freedom and property rights; all have economies mismanaged by the state; all depend on aid. All these countries have a history of utopian schemes that failed to produce everlasting manna. State farms, marketing boards, land redistribution, price controls and huge regional tariffs left few incentives or opportunities for subsistence farmers to expand. Despite torrents of aid, these cruel social experiments could not turn sands verdant or prevent the granaries of southern and eastern Africa from rotting.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi believes that allowing Ethiopians to own their land would make them sell out to multinationals. He seems to have overlooked a basic market principle: It demands a willing seller and a willing buyer at an agreed price. If that price is worth selling for, the farmer might have some money to reinvest elsewhere; if that price is worth buying for, the purchaser must have plans to make the land profitable. If there is no sale, owners might have an incentive to invest in their own land and future, having, at last, the collateral of the land on which to get a loan. After decades of socialism, Ethiopia's agricultural sector -- the mainstay of the economy -- is less productive per capita than 20 years ago when Band Aid tried to defeat famine. Although 60% of the country is arable, only 10% has been cultivated. Ethiopia is entirely dependent on donations; but instead of grasping reality, Mr. Zenawi, a member of Tony Blair's "Commission for Africa," is forcing resettlement on 2.2 million people.

In Zimbabwe, the murderous kleptocrats of Robert Mugabe's regime deny that land seizure has pushed their rich and fertile country into famine: Some three million people face starvation today.

. . .

African leaders must be pushed to reduce economic intervention, free financial markets, remove bureaucratic obstacles to setting up businesses, establish property rights and enforce contract law. These are the forces that release entrepreneurial energy. But the ruling cliques will do none of these unless forced to do so as a condition of aid. The Sachs aid model has financed tyranny and corruption for 40 years, leaving Africans destitute. The world trade meeting in Hong Kong will hear cries for "Trade Justice" for Africa, representing more protectionism and more state-run, aid-fueled schemes. What we really need is economic freedom and the rule of law at home: We are perfectly capable of improving our own lot if only allowed to do so.


For the full commentary, see:

FRANKLIN CUDJOE. "The Terms of Trade: Africa Needs Freer Markets -- and Fewer Tyrants." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., December 14, 2005): A20.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: The WSJ identifies Mr. Cudjoe as "director of Imani, a policy think tank in Ghana.")




January 11, 2006

Ben Rogge on Bread, Capitalism and Free Choice


'I believe that capitalism is the system that produces the wholesome bread, and socialism is the system that produces the moldy bread,' Ben Rogge used to tell us. 'But,' he would continue, 'even if I was wrong, and if it was the other way around, and it was capitalism that produced the moldy bread, and socialism that produced the wholesome bread, I would still choose capitalism. I would choose it because capitalism is the system of free choice.'

But most of us are not like Ben Rogge. Most of us are more like Deng Xiaoping, whose most famous saying is 'It does not matter whether a cat is black, or white, as long as it catches mice.' Contra Rogge, he cared only about which economic system produces the goods.

Personally, I believe Rogge was right. But I also believe that if capitalism is to survive, it will only be by continuing to convince the far more numerous Deng Xiaopings of the world.





November 5, 2005

Gradualism Doomed to Failure


Perhaps these observations are relevant to the claim by what I call the "left Schumpeterians" (e.g., Tom Friedman) that a substantial labor safety net is necessary for creative destruction to work.

(p. 271) In Warsaw, from 1978 onward, he had directed what became known as "the Balcerowicz group," a long-running study group that was devoted to analyzing the "problems" of socialism and the question of how to reform the Polish economy. It focused on such basic questions as property rights, the proper role of the state in the economy, inflation, and what was increasingly becoming the true hallmark of socialism-shortages. All of this convinced Balcerowicz that "gradualism" was doomed to failure. Unless enough changes were combined and applied rapidly, the necessary "critical mass" would not be reached. Unlike many economists, he also dabbled in social psychology. He was particularly impressed by the theory of cognitive dissonance. As Balcerowicz summed up its significance for economic reform: "People are more likely to change their attitudes and their behavior if they are faced with radical changes in their environment, which they consider irreversible, than if those changes are only gradual."

Source:

Yergin, Daniel, and Joseph Stanislaw. The Commanding Heights: The Battle Between Government and the Marketplace that is Remaking the Modern World.. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.




October 27, 2005

Nazi Economy Was Not Efficient



A common view of National Socialism is that it was evil, but efficient. A recent book by Richard J. Evans challenges the "efficient" part of the common view. Here is a relevant paragraph from a useful review of Evans' book:


(p. B5) The Nazi machine, as Mr. Evans describes it, moved forward with a good deal of creaking and squeaking. The economy was no exception. On many fronts, the Nazis managed nothing more than to bring the economy back to the status quo that existed before the Depression. As late as January 1935, one estimate put the number of unemployed at more than four million, and food shortages were still a problem in 1939. Workers put in longer hours simply to stay even.


For the full review, see:

WILLIAM GRIMES. "The Radical Restructuring of a Germany Headed to War." The New York Times (Weds., October 26, 2005): B8.

The reference to the book is:

Richard J. Evans. The Third Reich in Power: 1933-1939. The Penguin Press, 2005.





HP3D5006CropSmall.jpg


















The StatCounter number above reports the number of "page loads" since the counter was installed late on 2/26/08. Page loads are defined on the site as "The number of times your page has been visited."


View My Stats