Friday, August 10, 2012

Wendy, Michael, and Milton -OR- Thrones and Theories in the Sky

Wendy's sibling sits on a toilet atop Mt. Whitney in California, August 2002. The view (looking out from the toilet) is almost due west looking over the western side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and includes parts of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. To the north is Yosemite National Park.

The images in this entry were given to me by my good friend Wendy. They were taken on some of her sundry travels in California, North Africa (Morocco) and the Middle (Near?) East (Jordan and Yemen). I am interspersing those pictures with excerpts / summary of an excellent Michael Lind piece.

Here is another undated photo of that toilet atop Mt. Whitney. It was taken probably in the early 2000s. My understanding is that this toilet is no longer there.

Mt. Whitney is the highest point in California and in the Lower 48 U.S. at just about 14,500 feet -- it's either 14,494' or 14,505', depending on the survey used. It's higher than (but certainly not as spectacular as) Mt. Rainier.


Salon, a mostly crappy online publication, just published another great piece by Michael Lind (whom I have mentioned on a number of times on this blog). Specifically, on the occasion of the late Milton Friedman's 100th birthday (July 31, 1912), Lind wrote about the unintentional legacy left by the libertarian economist godfather of the Chicago School of Economics.

In particular, Lind wrote that Friedman, who died in 2006, ended up doing progressive Democrats a big favor both by accepting the legitimacy of certain basic components of the welfare state and by suggesting an alternative framework to replace all means-tested welfare programs that has consistently been rejected by the American public.

Goats climbing an Argan tree on the road to the seaside city of Essaouira, Morocco, March 2009. Wendy wrote in her e-mail to me that the goals like to eat the nuts produced by these trees. She also said, "I went to Morocco with the sole purpose of seeing this."

As an aside, the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, most notably, the Anti-Atlas, are really the same chain as the Appalachians of the Eastern U.S. -- formed in the Alleghanian orogeny approximately 300 million years ago, though they are more rugged due to more recent uplifts.


This framework involves use of a negative income tax (NIT) in the form of refundable tax credit from the Federal government as well as a series of other vouchers for various purposes (e.g., health care and schools) to be paid from tax revenues in amounts designated by the government for particular purposes designated by the government. The voucher idea also inspired the long-running failed efforts by rightwingers to privatize Social Security and now Medicare.

Wendy atop an arch in Wadi Rum (also called the Valley of the Moon) in Jordan, July 2008

This rejection by the public is remarkable because the typical American voter almost never misses a chance to vote against their own economic well-being in the name of freedom or Jesus.

Wendy in a most unusual pose somewhere in eastern Yemen, 2008. Yes, she said I could post this picture.

Last year, Wendy worked for 2 months in Kenya for the U.N. helping refugees. She is an amazing and wonderful person.


My favorite paragraphs:

"Voucher schemes do not replace 'bureaucracy' with 'markets.' They merely replace a single public provider -- a public K-12 system, say -- with a handful of government contractors in a phony, rigged market created by government.

"Nor do voucher schemes necessarily reduce government bureaucracy. On the contrary, they may require government to hire new bureaucrats, in order to supervise both the recipients of vouchers and the voucher-funded government contractors, to prevent them from gaming the complicated system."

Editor's Note: I would suggest it's time to call in some rightwing thinktank "libertarian" corporate whore -- James K. "Dow 36000" Glassman would do nicely -- or get the WaHoPo editorial board to write a "powerful" unsigned editorial on the need for "market-based entitlement reform" to do the bidding of the corporate oligarchical overclass.

Wendy and her dad in Bavarian lederhosen costumes in Yosemite National Park with Half Dome in the background, April 2010.

Friedman also proposed in 1943 a progressive consumption tax. Such a tax is calculated by subtracting savings from income, and treating what remains as consumption to be taxed. Lind notes that India and Sri Lanka tried this approach and it was quickly rescinded because of the outrage over the "sticker shock" that results once a year. (I'm not sure how this relates to the British effort at a poll tax in 1989 and 1990.)

Lind then notes that all developed countries EXCEPT the U.S. use a value-added tax (VAT) "which has the merits of a sales tax (it is indirect) while avoiding its defects (cascading taxes). A value-added tax with a rebate to make it less regressive is the functional equivalent of Milton Friedman's progressive consumption tax."

Wendy atop Goat Mountain in Kings Canyon National Park, 2009. She and her dad had reached the top of the mountain.

Good stuff this article. But as usual, judging by the lack of comments and the idiotic content of the comments that there are, this level of discourse is lost on the typical Salon readers.

OK, I guess that's all for now. I'm still waiting for a needed drenching rainfall and the regional moderate-to-severe drought continues apace. It also reached 95F at KDCA today, the 27th time this season of 95F or higher -- just one shy of tying the 1980 record of 28 days. But I'll refrain from weather and/or political discussions in this entry. I plan to update this blog perhaps again on Friday or over the weekend.  

Oh, yes, before I sign off, I would like to note that I also went to the gym tonight for the second day in a row.


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