Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Government Competition

Many economists argue that governments are not efficient. This claim originates from the idea that governments are sovereign and do not have to compete with anyone in order to remain in business (power). The more that I thought about this the more I realized that this argument has many weaknesses. As I thought about history I realized that government after government has had to compete in order to survive. They have had to compete militarily, they have to compete economically with rival powers, they have to compete diplomatically with both friend and foe, and they have to compete domestically to keep their citizens happy and in place. Democracy has added a whole new aspect of this competition by creating electoral systems that force politicians within a government to compete for the broad public support necessary to get and maintain office. How about we investigate each of these areas and their implications a little more fully?

The first thing that I think of when I think of government competition is the fact that governments have to fight wars. If a government cannot create a military force that is powerful enough to withstand the forces of opposing nations, then they will have to either rely on a protector, or submit to the will of their more powerful opponent. This was much the case with Western Europe during the cold war. France was one of the few Western European countries that was able to maintain a relative separation between itself and the United States because 1) the US would protect them from the Soviets automatically by protecting Germany, and 2) France developed its own nuclear arsenal independent of the United States, which allowed France to be a player independent of American or Soviet nuclear power. The United Kingdom on the other hand has been forced repeatedly to yield to American's view of how they should conduct their foreign policy. By hitching their wagon to the American star they have been able to ride the wave of American domination into the 21st century, but they often are forced to side with America for example on issues such as Iraq. This is evidence that governments have to compete militarily in order to survive independently. It could be said that the only inefficient government, militarily speaking, would be the government that has a monopoly on military power in the world, and although the United States is currently considered the world's greatest super power it still has to compete with Russian nuclear weapons, and China's sheer numbers. This means that most governments at present and throughout history will have to compete militarily creating efficient military outcomes for their home nations.

The second area of competition is economic competition. I want to approach this from a national as well as from a state level. Many people, especially in the United States, feel that the government has no incentive to create efficient economic outcomes, but I would like to analyze those claims and point out the incentives that government does have to create efficient economies. Let's start at the state level. State governments operate on a much smaller scale than the federal government which means they are able to focus on more local details. Many people see the US federal system as a huge strength built into the constitution by the founding fathers, and I agree. The states are able to focus on local issues and to apply solutions that work for them that might not work in other states. With the local populace in more control of government states are better able to compete with their neighboring states to create environments in which businesses can thrive. The reason for this competition is simple, tax revenue. Each state wants to have the best climate for business so that that they can attract more business thus raising their tax income. If a state becomes too inefficient then a neighboring state will provide a better environment and businesses will move to the efficient state. This forces individual states government to create efficient economic outcomes. At the national level we are beginning to see this same effect. Nations are becoming more and more economically interconnected through globalization and this means if your country can't do something efficiently someone else can. We see this in the outsourcing that is taking place right now. Companies are moving to areas that are more efficient for them. This means that the US will have to create a competitive environment in order to keep companies in the US.

Another argument about Federal government inefficiencies are tenderly called "pork barrel." Pork barrel is when senators and representatives tack special government funding or projects on to legislation in order to secure their vote. Basically it's a bribe from the party that wants the legislation to pass to the congressman/women voting for it. Many people see this as inefficient because it creates unnecessary spending that is not good for the nation as a whole and only benefits one constituency. This is true in some regards, but in other aspects is could be efficient because senators and representatives will be competing for the federal spending in their areas. With different congressmen/women competing for these limited resources, they should technically be able to find the most efficient outcome. This means that states which need the funding will do what they have to, to get it.

Well I'm getting bored with this topic and I'm sure that anyone who has made it this far in my post is also bored so I'm going to stop my rant now, and just sum it up like this. The question should not be "Are governments competitive?" The question should be "What things are governments competitive in?" When we find answers to those questions then we find answers to the things that government could be responsible for and effective at providing.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Does everyone remember November 12, 1938? For those of you who don't I'll give you a quick refresher. Jewish shops across Germany were vandalized by NAZI. They left a wake of shattered glass and dreams across the streets of that great nation. The glass shone in the moonlight giving the night the name "Kristallnacht" (Crystal Night). Shortly after in 1939 Jews in Germany were forced to wear little yellow stars marked "Jude". This was meant to mark them as Jews and to let everyone around them know that they could persecute them. Arizona's recent legislation seems to be just a step short of that. You don't have to wear a star on your clothes, but if you look like you are Hispanic you had better have your ID on you because they now have the right to stop you based on the way you look (ie the color of your skin). To me this is preposterous! I grew up in Arizona so I'm quite familiar with the debate about immigration, and many of the justifications for discrimination against immigrants sound just like the excuses the NAZIs used to execute millions of Jews. "They are taking are jobs" (The Germans were also going through a recession). "This isn't their country anyway." "They are endangering us." I think you get the point! Now I'm not saying that Arizona is going to start hauling all the Hispanics off to concentration camps, but what I am saying is that the NAZIs didn't start out saying they were going to murder millions of Jews, instead they started labeling them, then they started boycotting them, then they started locking them up and killing them. I've heard people in the past try and compare President Obama with Hitler (stupid comparison by the way). Well if you want something to compare with the NAZIs here it is. Sadly I think many of those calling Obama the next Hitler are going to be supporting this legislation instead of opposing it. However, I hold out hope that there are enough good Americans who will stand up against tyranny and protect the rights of those who are being oppressed. I would love to elaborate on this topic, but I don't think there is anything more to say. This is wrong and someone needs to do something about it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Partisan Politics

I was watching TV the other night and couldn't find anything on so I was channel surfing and happened to stumble across President Obama talking with the Republican caucus. It was interesting to listen to them talk. President Obama made some great points about how we need to stop fighting things just because they originate in the other party. He actually called out one of the republican congressmen who asked a question because instead of actually asking a productive question the congressman used the chance to talk as a chance to talk about his own agenda and bash the other party instead of making progress.

I definatly felt like that was a great point and allthough I haven't done justice in explaining it president Obama did a great job explaining it (and he wasn't even using a telepromter). One thing that President Obama didn't address was the examples from within his own party where the Democrats focus things on sticking to party lines instead of working to solve problems.
After watching this I realized that our politicians know the answers to a lot of our problems and the could solve the much more quickly and effectively then they do, but instead we have given them too many incentives not to work together. My question then is how to we create more incentives for them to work together then to disagree and fight?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Foreign Policy

So I've decided to wait a little while before posting anything more about health care. I did find an article in the New York Times that explains a good overview of the current proposal and which ideologies the parts of the proposal support. The link is:

Anyway, I'd like to move on to a new topic that will probably cause some trouble and discussion with in my circle of friends (I like doing that). The topic that I would like to discuss is the Obama administration's foreign policy. In order to discuss this I need to lay some background.

In the 20th Century the United States emerged as the dominant economic power in the world. The first half of the 20th Century saw wide spread support for isolationism in the US. This desire to remain un-entangled in world affairs caused the US to delay entry into the World Wars. Once the Second World War ended the US chose to stay involved in world affairs.

At that point in time the US GDP was about 50% of world GDP. In other words the US was producing half of the stuff in the world. It was at this point that the US began to assume its role as a great power. The next half of the 20th Century was basically a power struggle between Soviet Communism and American Capitalism. One important thing to note is that through the Cold War the US was always ahead of the USSR economically.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union the US has taken the role of the global leader. US GDP is now only 21% of world GDP, but has only 5% of the world’s population (data from CIA World Factbook 2008). This drop in US GDP as a percentage of World GDP is due to an increase in other nations industry (not a decrease in American industry), but still shows that that US maintains a significant economic advantage over the rest of the world. If you look at NATO, its member states' 900 million people account for only 13 percent of the world's population but 45 percent of global GDP. In other words that West still dominates the world economically, lead by the United States. I would also like to point out that NATO still controls the same percentage of world GDP that the United States did at the end of World War II.

These economic factors give the United States and NATO some advantages and disadvantages in the world. By having such a large lead on the rest of the world NATO can bring significant economic and military power to bear against any foreign powers. It can also bring significant aid to the developing world in order to open new markets for its good and collect natural resources found in other nations. This power means that NATO is automatically entangled in world affairs. With globalization continuing to interconnect the world in a web of trade and international production the powerful economies of the world become more and more connected and dependent on one another. An example of this is that the United States consumes 23% of the oil produced in the world, while only producing 10% of the world’s total oil (CIA World Factbook). 10% might seem insignificant but the US is the 3rd largest oil producer in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Russia. This shows that although the US produces a large amount of oil we consume a significant amount more. The fact that we require more oil than we can produce shows that we are connected to global markets in order to maintain our current standard of living. This is a simplified explanation of the interconnections that exist between the US and the world, but I don’t want this post to drag on for too long.

The previous paragraph demonstrates that the US is dependent on the rest of the world to maintain our current standard of living. To keep things the way they are the US has to maintain stability in the world. If other nations around the world were to become hostile towards the US then it would be impossible to maintain the current economic arrangements. Now I’m not trying to say that the US is preventing the world from changing, what I’m trying to say is that the US is trying to keep the world in a state of peaceful transition. The world will keep changing, and what the US is trying to do is to keep that transition from becoming an explosion. This point could be argued by many who feel that the US is simply continuing to repress the rest of the world and exploit 3rd world nations to maintain its high status, but that is a discussion for another time. I am simply trying to make the point that it is in the interest of the United States to make sure the world stays relatively peaceful and predictable.

As I have shown above the US and the West hold a significant amount of the world’s production. In other words we are the “haves”. We have a lot of stuff. But where there are “haves” there are also “have nots”. The “have nots” are those in the world who do not share a significant percentage of the worlds wealth. And when 13% of the population holds 43% of the wealth then there are bound to be people who feel they have been treated unfairly or cheated and repressed. These people often become angry and when they feel they have little left to live for they rise up and fight off those they see as their oppressors. Some of these “have nots” are the terrorists who we are currently fighting in the Middle East, as well as terrorists around the world.

Now although the US holds a significant advantage over them economically we are badly out matched when it comes to population. Like I stated earlier, the US has only 5% of the world’s population. So suppose we subtract the population of our NATO allies from the “have nots”, then we still are facing a 5/87 ratio of friendlies to potential hostiles. Does this ratio bother you? If it doesn’t, then it should (here is where I get controversial).

According to the George W. Bush doctrine a country is either “with us or against us.” This policy pitted many of our NATO allies against us when we invaded Iraq without providing enough proof that the action was necessary. If we were to pit our allies against us the ratio would actually become about 5/95. Now that is downright scary! We as Americans like to think that we are invincible. We remember our victories over the past century and dilute ourselves with visions of our own greatness. Well I would like to remind everyone that “Pride cometh before the fall.” There is no way in my mind regardless of technological advantages that 5% of the world’s population could confront the other 95% of its population. Now I’m not saying that President Bush caused our allies to turn against us, or to want to go to war with us, but he defiantly hurt our relationships, and made it difficult to get NATO involved in our Middle Eastern wars. I personally am of the opinion that it will be impossible for the United States to maintain its power without the help of our allies in NATO.

At this point many of you are probably saying, “Why should we listen to a bunch of Europeans sitting across an ocean, when they don’t understand our needs?” This argument makes sense unless you consider the fact that without their help we face difficulties that we may not be able to overcome by ourselves.

I’ve heard many people say that President Obama hasn’t done anything since he came into office. Well I would like to point out that there is a reason he won the Nobel Peace Prize. He hasn’t just been sitting on his can. Some argue that he shouldn’t have won the prizes because we are still involved in 2 wars and with the same breath they condemn him for not acting and defending America. It’s actually been quoted to me from a few of my professors that President Obama has issued more Predator air strikes then President Bush (I don’t have a source on this other than my professor). So if you’re concerned that he isn’t willing to pull the trigger put your fears to rest, because in spite of what Fox News wants you to believe he is willing to act. So if he is willing to fight then how could he have won a Peace Prize? Well that is simple. America’s allies are once again America’s friends. President Obama and his administration have been able to win back our friends in Europe. They have given diplomatic options to the Iranians, and they have created a plan for Afghanistan that is more feasible then the plan to create a stable democracy.

Anyway my point with this post isn’t to convince anyone that they have to like President Obama. It is simply to point out that he is willing to act and he has won back our friends. America does not stand alone any more. Had John McCain won the election it is highly likely that the Bush policies would have continued and that our allies overseas would still be standoffish towards us and our foreign policy. But now we can move forward with confidence and with friends to face the challenges of the 21st century. These challenges will be difficult and will require much from us, but it will be much better to walk the path with friends by our side, and you can thank the Obama administration for that.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

No One Deserves It

Well its been a while since I last posted, but I decided that I wanted to add a follow up to my last post. First I want to say that I recognize that a big reason why people have car insurance is to pay for the damage they cause someone else's vehicle. This fact does not however weaken my argument, that the purpose of auto insurance is to make sure that damages to ones own car are repaired. If you get in a car accident then the person you hit wants to make sure that you can pay for their vehicle to be fixed so they are willing to make a law that requires all drivers (including themselves) to pay for car insurance.

The second point that I wanted to make has to do with welfare in general, but I think it has specific application to universal health care. The basic argument comes from the Book of Mormon, but similar arguments can be found in other books of scripture including the Bible. In Mosiah chapters 2-5 King Benjamin explains to his people that none of them deserve to be saved in the kingdom of God and that no matter what they do they can never pay God back for the blessing of salvation. Because they are in debt to God for their salvation they should not turn away the beggars, but instead they should give of their own possessions to help the beggars.

Basically what I'm saying is that just because some people will abuse the system and don't deserve financial help doesn't mean that we shouldn't help them. According to the gospel of Jesus Christ we should serve even those who we feel don't deserve it because none of us deserve salvation (the baptists really get this).

The only real argument that a religious person could make against this point is that by providing universal health care you are not actually helping these people. Some would argue as an economist and say that it is best to allow free markets to take care of people, and then they will end up the most well off. Others might say that the current welfare system only creates dependency on the government and does not help people to overcome their circumstances, but instead it perpetuates their circumstances. I see this as a valid argument against the current government policies and a good argument for reform. What bothers me is that many Mormons simply say we should not have universal health care, and that the poor will just abuse the system and so we shouldn't have to pay for them to get medical care. This argument recognizes the weaknesses in the system and its need for reform, but it also shows an unwillingness by many to "impart of their substance to the poor."

Based on the arguments presented I would suggest that Mormons become politically active in the debate about health care reform. At present most republican congressmen have decided that they will have nothing to do with health care reform. Since they have with drawn their support for any reform they have forced the administration to opt for a plan that in the minds of many will only increase dependence on government and will not improve the current situation. Basically what I am saying is that doing nothing in the case of health care is not a good option for any that understand the principles taught by King Benjamin. Instead we should actively seek to promote a plan that would allow people to receive the medical and welfare support that they need while still helping them to regain their independence.

I think for my next post I will through out a couple of ideas about policies that might be affective. I have to admit that this one might be over my head. The implications of health care and welfare policies make it difficult to come up with a comprehensive policy that can be supported by all Americans. In other words, it will be difficult to come up with a plan that will meet the requirements stated above and still be feasible as legislation, but I'm getting excited about the challenge and you can be looking for my ideas in the next few posts.

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Car Before My Life

So I think I have found a good way to express how I feel about universal healthcare. I'm not sure if I support the current plan, but I do think that universal healthcare is a good thing. My line of thinking goes like this. We require people to have car insurance. Why do we require car insurance? Because if we get in an accident then we want to make sure that the car can be replaced.

So if we support car insurance why are we so against governtment mandated healthcare to fix our bodies if they break. It's true that if we didn't require insurance and people just saved enough money they could pay for their medical costs, but if that is true then why don't we do that with car insurance? Why don't we just tell people that they should save some money incase they get in a car accident? Then if they don't get in an accident they can use that money for what ever else they want. The reason we don't do that is because nobody thinks they will be the one who will get in an accident untill its to late. So we require people to protect their cars with insurance.

Now let's look at health insurance. If we follow the same logic as with car insurance we will see that if people are not required to save the money for health care then they won't and a person's body is much more important than their car. So before anyone tries to convince me that we shouldn't require healthcare for all Americans and offer them an adordable option, then you have to convince me that we should no longer require car insurance.

As I said before I don't know that I agree with the current health care bill as is, but I do support health care for all Americans, and Republicans need to get off their high horse and stop rejecting the idea of requiring health care in the name of economic efficiency and realize that somethings are more important than efficiency, and if a car is important enough to require insurance than a person should also be considered that important if not more important.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What We Think We Know

So I’m sitting in my health education class and the professor starts talking about what causes stress.  I could write a whole blog post about what causes stress for a college student, but that’s not what I’m going to do right now.  Instead I want to look at how the students responded to this topic.

So the professor asks us what we think causes stress.  We spout off a bunch of answers.  Then he asks what causes stress for males.  We start to list off things and I hear causes like, “Money,” “Competition,” “Future.”  The list continued, but I noticed that the people giving answers tended to be males.  After we had discussed this question the professor asked what causes stress for women.  Once again the responses started to flow.  People said things like “Roommates,” “Relationships,” “Tests.”  The interesting thing about these answers is that, once again, I heard them coming from males.  So why do guys think they know how girls think?  Sometimes I think that I know why girls act the way that they do or why they behave the way they do (I think this way less now that I have a real relationship), but why is that? 

I don’t know that I have a good answer to this question, but maybe it’s just something that we can all think about (especially we males).  Maybe we should try to find out more about what other people are thinking before we pass judgment about why they are the way they are.  This can even apply to the people who we think we know best.