Thursday, July 14, 2011

The New Commanding Heights

by Arnold Kling

In the early 1920s, the Russian economy was flagging, having been ravaged by years of war and political turmoil. In an attempt at revival, Vladimir Lenin initiated a series of controversial reforms, including permitting a bit of profit-making enterprise in some areas of the economy. This move naturally shocked many Bolsheviks, who had risked their lives in the Russian Revolution in order to advance communist principles. Eager to alleviate their concerns, Lenin addressed the communist-party faithful at a convention in 1922. He told them not to worry: The reforms were relatively modest, and the new Soviet state would always retain its control over what he called the "commanding heights" of the economy.

By "commanding heights," Lenin meant the critical sectors that dominated economic activity — primarily electricity generation, heavy manufacturing, mining, and transportation. Because these industries were the foremost drivers of employment, production, and consumption in Russia — and because they were the essential growth sectors in any economy of that era that sought to be called "modern" — government control of these particular sectors meant government dominance over the economic life of the nation. A communist government could afford to permit relatively free markets in less significant sectors, Lenin thought, because as long as it controlled those industries that formed the heart of the economy, it effectively controlled the whole.

Throughout much of the 20th century, communist and socialist parties around the world continued to see government dominance of these industries as a key goal. The commanding heights of the economy became crucial battlegrounds in the struggle between advocates of central planning and defenders of market economics.

Arnold Kling is an adjunct scholar with the Cato Institute and a member of the Financial Markets Working Group at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Nick Schulz is the DeWitt Wallace Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of

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In America today, few people champion government control of the industries Lenin saw as the commanding heights. On the contrary, these sectors have been largely deregulated, and market forces have, for the most part, been permitted to govern their development for decades. Defenders of the market might therefore imagine that they have won, and that the struggles that remain are peripheral debates.

But such a declaration of victory would be dangerously premature. Over the past few decades, our economy has undergone some fundamental changes — with the result that the fight for control over the commanding heights of American economic life is still very much with us. And it is a fight that, at least for now, the free-market camp appears to be losing.

The commanding heights of our economy today are not heavy manufacturing, energy, and transportation. They are, rather, education and health care. These are our foremost growth sectors — the ones most central to employment and consumption; the ones that, increasingly, drive our economy. And it is in precisely these two sectors that the case for extensive government intervention and planning, if not outright control, is dominant — and becoming ever more so.

If there is to be any hope of reversing this trend, champions of market economics must come to see these two sectors as the front lines in the battle for capitalism. At stake is not only an ideological or theoretical point, but also American prosperity. The historical record makes this clear: In the nations where it was practiced, government control of the old commanding heights of the economy made those industries less efficient and less innovative — bringing overall economic performance down with them.

Today, America risks following the same course. Looking to the coming decades, it will simply not be possible to maintain a genuine free market — or a thriving, innovative, growing economy — if our education and health sectors are controlled by the government. Champions of the market thus have their work cut out for them. First and foremost, however, they must come to understand the central place that education and health care occupy in America's economic life.


To discern where the heart of an economy lies, one must identify the sectors in which employment and consumption are focused, and in which growth is swiftest. In the case of our own economy, the data over recent decades clearly show the decline of the old commanding heights — manufacturing and heavy industry — and their replacement by "softer" sectors, especially health care, education, and government work.

Economists Michael Spence and Sandile Hlatshwayo recently devised a way of breaking the American economy into industries that produce tradable goods and services and industries that produce non-tradable ones. They calculated that, from 1990 to 2008, employment in the tradable sector edged up from 33.7 million to 34.3 million. Meanwhile, in the non-tradable sector — which covers most service-based businesses — employment rose from 88.3 million to 114.9 million. Thus the non-tradable sector accounted for nearly all of the job growth during this period.

We are accustomed to thinking that our country is in the midst of a long transition from an industrial economy to a "service" economy, and these figures would seem to confirm that perception. But the service economy is not what we often think it is. The images that most readily come to mind when we think of these sectors might involve retail sales, information-technology consulting, and financial services. But Spence and Hlatshwayo's work shows that, within the non-tradable sector, health care was easily the growth leader — increasing from 10 million to 16.3 million jobs, and accounting for almost 25% of total job growth in the past two decades. Government was second, growing from 18.4 million to 22.5 million jobs, and accounting for about 15% of total job growth. Of this expansion in government employment, nearly 70% was attributable to jobs in education. Today, the drivers of the American labor market are therefore clearly health, education, and government work; these sectors form the backbone of our post-industrial economy.

Over the past decade, this trend has only accelerated. Economist Michael Mandel has shown that, between February 2001 and February 2011, employment in the U.S. economy in health care, education, and government increased by 16%. This was not simply a function of a growing population and economy: During the same period, employment outside of those sectors decreased by 8%. Wage gains were similarly tilted toward health and education. "What we see," Mandel explains, "is that health and education (public and private) accounted for an amazing 75% of real wage and salary gains."

A similar picture emerges when one looks at changes in American spending and consumption patterns. Our examination of the most recent data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis concludes that spending on health care and education (public and private combined) accounted for 21% of gross domestic product in 2000 and roughly 26% in 2010. Education and health-care spending thus accounted for an astonishing 37% of the overall growth of the economy over the past ten years.

The recession of the past few years presents an especially clear picture of consumption patterns and priorities — for it is during such downturns that people must prioritize their spending, thus offering economists a sense of the relative degree to which Americans value certain goods and services over others. In the period between January 2008 and January 2009, for instance, Americans significantly reduced spending related to cars, as well their spending on clothing and food. At the same time, they increased spending on education, recreation, and, most of all, health care.

Several related factors have combined to produce this trend. When economists compare different sectors — particularly in terms of employment — they consider the relationship between demand for the goods those sectors provide and the productivity of those sectors in meeting that demand. If demand for a sector's product grows more rapidly than that sector's productivity can increase in order to keep up, employers in that sector will need to hire more workers to bridge the gap. Similarly, when demand grows less rapidly than productivity, that sector will experience relative shrinkage.

Changes in both demand and productivity across the economy have brought about the growing dominance of the health and education sectors. Relative changes in demand have chiefly been a function of rising incomes over many decades — a shift that has put many basic necessities (such as food, clothing, and shelter) more easily within the reach of more Americans. At the same time, this shift has provided Americans with more disposable income, which many people have chosen to spend on health care and education. This does not mean that people are spending less money in nominal terms than they once did on food, clothing, or manufactured items. What it means is that people spend a smaller proportion of their incomes on these commodities, since Americans now have significantly more money to spend than they used to.

This change is easiest to see when examining spending patterns over the very long term. Economic historian Robert Fogel compared how potential income was divided among broad categories of goods and services in 1875 with its distribution among the same categories 120 years later. He found the following:

The period Fogel examined is, obviously, an extremely long stretch over which to trace economic trends — spanning from roughly the beginning of the industrial era in America to nearly its end. But what Fogel confirmed in his research was that, across this wide window of time, the proportion of people's incomes spent on bare necessities diminished as their incomes rose. Meanwhile, more of Americans' wealth came to be devoted to health, education, and leisure.

It should be noted that Fogel's findings are expressed in terms of potential income — in other words, the income that someone could earn from working full time as an adult, including income that is implicitly taken as leisure. Thus, when Americans devote greater portions of time to leisure (as they now do, thanks to developments like a shorter work week and longer lives in retirement), this is expressed as a proportion of income — which tends to inflate the numbers for leisure in Fogel's calculations. Putting leisure aside, however, his consideration of how real income has been used by Americans over the past 12 decades provides more evidence in support of a crucial point: As our society has grown more wealthy, there has been a significant increase in the proportion of income that people choose to devote to education and health care; a significantly smaller share, meanwhile, has come to be devoted to basic necessities and durable goods.

Economists describe such trends in terms of "income elasticity of demand." This phrase refers to how the demand for a particular good responds to changes in the incomes of the people demanding that good. Some goods, like public transportation, show a negative income elasticity of demand — meaning that people consume less of them as they get wealthier. Others, like bread and butter, show an elasticity near zero — meaning people buy them at roughly constant levels regardless of whether they are rich or poor.

Fogel has shown that education and health care have particularly high income elasticities of demand. By his calculations, the long-term income elasticity of demand for each is roughly 1.6 — meaning that, if a person's potential income goes up by 1%, his spending on those services will rise by 1.6%. As people get wealthier, therefore, the relative portion of their incomes going to health and education will increase.

To illustrate the point, suppose, for example, that in 2030 potential income has increased over its 1995 level by 100%. If in 1995 we had $100 in potential income and spent $9 on health care (as Fogel's figures show), then in 2030 we will have $200 in potential income and spend $23 on health care. In other words, while potential income will have doubled, spending on health care will have increased by a factor of more than 2.5. Generally speaking, this is the trend that has emerged in education and health-care spending in recent decades — and all signs suggest that it will continue.

But the growing centrality of education and health care is not only a function of public preferences and demand. Another important factor, especially to the two sectors' growth within the labor market, is the fact that it is more difficult to squeeze labor costs out of those industries than it is in, say, manufacturing or agriculture. After all, most factory work does not require deep knowledge or complex judgment. As a result, engineers are constantly developing machines that can substitute for humans in manufacturing. Furthermore, as countries like China and India become more integrated into the global economy, an ever-larger pool of low-skill labor becomes available. The need for manufacturing labor in the United States is therefore reduced; the relative cost of manufacturing output is thus held down.

Compared to manufacturing, the delivery of services in education and health care today is relatively labor intensive. Teachers and doctors require much more training than do manufacturing workers. Everyday work in education and health care generally involves more judgment and complex decision-making than are required on a production line. These higher-level tasks are not as easily handed over to machines or outsourced to low-skilled workers abroad.

Education and health care are also more resistant to the productivity increases that have dramatically altered the manufacturing sector. Factory automation, for instance, can swiftly raise the number of widgets produced per worker; office automation has vastly streamlined supply-chain management, inventory control, and accounting. But increasing the number of operations per surgeon, or the number of essays graded per teacher, is much more difficult. Hence, productivity growth in health care and education lags behind that in other industries.

As a rule, this means that health care and education tend to be less efficient. As increased productivity has led to wage growth in other, more efficient industries, the inefficient sectors must maintain competitive wages. But without the commensurate productivity gains, they experience cost growth, an effect named "Baumol's Cost Disease" (after the economist William Baumol, who identified it in the 1960s).

Baumol's famous illustration of this phenomenon compared classical musicians with auto workers. It takes just as many musicians to play one of Mozart's symphonies today as it did a half-century ago, but it takes far fewer auto workers to produce a car now than it did then. As a result, manufacturing has become much more efficient — employing fewer people, but paying each of them somewhat more. Orchestras can't employ fewer people, but they do have to pay each of their employees more than they used to — if only to keep up with the rest of the economy, lest their musicians run off to become auto workers.

The result is that, over time, costs in less efficient industries — like the fine arts, but also health care and education — will increase in relation to costs in more efficient industries. And these increasing costs, as well as rising demand for the services these sectors offer, have combined to place both education and health care at the commanding heights of today's economy.


If it were true only that health care and education are increasingly important sectors of our economy, there would be little cause for concern. Indeed, societies ought to desire economies that are strong and flexible enough to hum along as new technologies and other developments cause industries within them to rise and fall. The problem, rather, is that both health care and education are increasingly government-dominated industries. And this domination produces two ill effects that exacerbate the changes these sectors are already undergoing: Government's influence artificially increases the demand for health care and education (by significantly subsidizing both), and it makes both sectors even less efficient than they would be otherwise (by heavily regulating them and shielding them from market forces).

In most industrialized countries, more than 80% of health-care spending is now paid for by third parties, primarily government, leaving about 20% to be paid directly by consumers. In the United States, however, only about 10% of health-care spending is paid for by households out of pocket. About 50% is directly paid for by government, mainly through Medicare and Medicaid. And about 35% comes from private health insurance, which is heavily subsidized by the government through the income-tax exemption for employer-provided coverage. The result is that patients rarely need to factor in cost when making choices about medical treatment, since someone else is footing almost all of the bill.

Removing cost as a consideration certainly increases the demand for medical services, although it is difficult to calculate precisely how much. In 1971, RAND began a 15-year study to examine the effects of free medical care on both health-care consumption and participants' actual health quality. To date, the experiment is the only major controlled study of health-care spending behavior in America. And its findings clearly demonstrated that households tend to reduce consumption of medical services when they shoulder a greater share of the cost. Families whose coverage included cost-sharing components (like co-insurance) used between 20% and 30% less medical care (depending on the extent of their co-insurance). Moreover, as the RAND study put it, "In general, the reduction in services induced by cost sharing had no adverse effect on participants' health."

As for education in the United States, government directly provides most schooling from kindergarten through 12th grade through the public-school system that now educates about 90% of American children. Through various tax benefits, it also subsidizes some educational expenses for parents who choose to have their children educated outside of that system. In addition, there are large public universities where many students pay less in tuition than the cost of their education, pushing enormous expenses onto the taxpayer. Finally, the federal government subsidizes college education to a massive degree even in private colleges and universities, with generous student-loan guarantees and other financial-support programs.

Government also has enormous influence over the supply side of health care and education. For instance, in primary education — again, because most children attend public schools — states and localities employ the great majority of educators. Government schools face little market pressure to improve productivity, and it is difficult to change outmoded practices and fire incompetent teachers.

Another way government shapes work-force supply (and, for that matter, demand) is through its support for credential requirements. The salary scales for government employment often automatically reward people for obtaining additional educational credentials; given the massive number of jobs in the government sector, as well as the high demand for them, this helps to stimulate the demand for post-graduate education. Requirements for credentials also restrict the supply of teachers in public schools: Even though there is reason to doubt the practical classroom value of teacher education provided at the college level, a degree in education is required for employment by most public-school systems.

The entry of new providers into the health-care sector is similarly regulated, primarily through government-mandated licensing requirements. Not surprisingly, these requirements are often manipulated by incumbent practitioners in order to restrict supply. They can make it impossible for health-care providers to improve efficiency by substituting on-the-job training for formal educational credentials. Such restrictions might make sense in the case of many physicians and nurses, but they extend to every variety of service provider in health care in ways that often undermine cost effectiveness and efficiency. For example, several years ago, the state of Maryland increased the education requirements for licensed physical therapists, insisting that anyone entering the profession hold a doctorate. This sort of requirement benefits degree-granting institutions and works to the advantage of the incumbent physical therapists, but comes at the expense of consumers.

We are left to wonder how much of the salary gap between workers with college degrees and those without is artificial. We cannot tell how salaries would be determined if government did not set its own pay scales based on educational attainment (thereby setting a standard that private employers must compete with); we cannot calculate precisely where pay levels would be if government did not enforce licensing restrictions in health care, education, and other industries. Still, it is not difficult to imagine that, if a dynamic and free market were allowed to flourish in education and health services, there might be more apprenticeships and fewer degree factories; one can easily see how salaries might be determined more on the basis of performance than of educational attainment. But because there is no true free market in these industries, the usual methods we have for evaluating such patterns simply do not suffice.

The inability to apply the usual standards and measures of our market economy to health care and education points to a broader problem with government's domination of our new commanding heights. The unique characteristics of these sectors — and especially the fact that they are subject to so much government influence and control — make it very difficult to assess them using the terms in which we usually describe our economy. It is therefore nearly impossible to compare them to other sectors, to distinguish success from failure, and to make informed consumer choices.

In health care, education, and government work, concepts like economic value, efficiency, productivity, and consumer preferences are obscured. And as these sectors continue to grow more central to our economy in the years ahead, our broader economy will therefore become more difficult to analyze and understand in traditional market terms.


To be sure, part of this shift is inherent to the nature of the "softer" sectors that now make up the commanding heights of American economic life. The "products" of education and health care are less tangible than those of heavy industry or agriculture, making them more difficult to measure and quantify. We can quantify the inputs — the workers and equipment used in medical procedures or in teaching — but their effects on outcomes are notoriously difficult to judge.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Kenneth Arrow is usually credited with first noting the information asymmetries that characterize health care — for instance, the basic fact that it is often difficult for a consumer to know whether the treatment provided by his physician is correct. Doctors, after all, have expertise that patients lack. Similarly, in education, consumers typically have to trust that the educators involved in selecting a curriculum, and the teachers who are delivering it, know what they are doing. But it is not simply that consumers may lack knowledge about the value of educational or medical services: The providers themselves suffer from biases and large gaps in their knowledge. Thus, economic decisions and the allocation of both private and public resources in these sectors are often poorly informed.

Many careful studies show little or no value added from increased health-care expenditures or additional resources devoted to education. It is true, of course, that people in the United States, and indeed all over the world, are healthier today than they were one or two generations ago; the average lifespan appears to be increasing at a rate of about three months per year, or about 2.5 years per decade in this country. And it's not just longevity: Overall health quality throughout one's life has improved as well. Robert Fogel has shown that the quality of life of people in their sixties is much improved in recent decades. The average number of chronic illnesses for those over age 65 has fallen dramatically. And these improvements in longevity and general health have had an enormous impact on well-being. Economists Kevin Murphy and Robert Topel estimated the economic value of the measurable improvements in health in the United States from 1970 to 2000 at about half of the value of the increase in GDP over that same time period.

Nonetheless, although there is no doubt that health has improved considerably over time, it is not clear how much of this gain can be attributed to health care. Indeed, much of the improvement comes from better nutrition, less dangerous work environments, better sanitation, and other public-health measures, as well as more informed and health-conscious citizens. The marginal impact on health outcomes of increased spending on medical procedures appears to be low. Numerous studies, including the RAND health-care experiment, find no significant effect on outcomes for more intensive medical treatment in similar groups of patients. The Dartmouth Atlas project has documented large differences in health-care spending through Medicare across different regions of the country, with no apparent effect on outcomes.

A similar pattern prevails in education. Looking at population averages, the correlation between schooling and earnings is unmistakable. Regions and countries with higher average levels of schooling have higher per capita incomes. Work by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz has recently shown that, within the United States, the gap in average earnings between workers with college education and those without is large and apparently growing.

But this correlation does not demonstrate causation, and the true impact of spending on outcomes in education is as elusive as it is in health care. In 2006, the United States spent close to 40% more per student on K-12 education than the average of the 34 developed nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Yet according to student-performance rankings in science, reading, and math, the U.S. ranks far below the OECD average. And in higher education, Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger have found that, controlling for factors that could be observed prior to college attendance, the actual choice of college (i.e., the choice between a very expensive and a far less expensive school) makes little or no difference in subsequent earnings.

This is true even of education programs specifically meant to compensate for the many obstacles — poor home or community environment, low income, neglect, a lack of early-childhood schooling, and so forth — that are often blamed for gaps in later income attainment. Summarizing a large body of research, James Heckman wrote in 2005,

[C]lassroom remediation programs designed to combat early cognitive deficits have a poor track record. Public job training programs and adult literacy and educational programs, like the GED, that attempt to remediate years of educational and emotional neglect among disadvantaged individuals have a low economic return, and for young males, the return is negative.

In both education and health care, then, our faith in the value of expensive interventions is not reliably supported by the evidence. And as these sectors absorb larger shares of employment and spending, and become increasingly central to our economy, aggregate productivity measures will become more problematic — making our understanding of the economy at large ever more hazy.

Naturally, there are also difficulties in measuring the value of complex durable goods in other sectors of the economy. It can be hard to compare, for instance, the value of this year's cell phone that includes a five-megapixel digital camera with last year's model that included only a three-megapixel camera. For these goods, however, consumer preferences offer vital guidance concerning value. The willingness of consumers to pay more for goods with certain features provides a clue as to the true value of those features.

But in the cases of health care and education — in large part because of the dominance of government in these sectors — the prices of various "features" are often barely related to consumer preferences. With much of health-care and education spending paid for by third parties (and ultimately subsidized by government), consumers generally do not make decisions based on perceived relative value. The medical patient, instead of asking which medical procedure offers the greatest value, asks only whether the recommended procedure will be covered by insurance — a decision made by insurance-company or government bureaucrats, who have little sense of what is most important to the patient. The parents of a student in an elementary school are not responsible for choosing the school's teaching methods; as "consumers," they have no say in — and indeed, no way of knowing — whether the costly programs they pay for with their tax dollars are in fact producing good "value" in the form of their child's education.

The result is that, in the sectors of education and health care, the preferences of policymakers — not of consumers — become the driving economic forces. And as these sectors become the new commanding heights, policymakers — rather than consumers and producers — will come to dominate more and more of our nation's economic life.

Under these circumstances, the supposed inadequacy of market economics will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Markets can work in education and health care, but only if governments allow them to. This means that, for the champions of free enterprise, introducing market principles and mechanisms into health care and education must become a top priority in the years ahead.


Unfortunately, these would-be champions have a lot of work to do. As the advocates of state control over education and health care have steadily ascended the new commanding heights, advocates of markets have been flat-footed. Why?

In August 2008, Philip Klein wrote a perceptive article in the conservative American Spectator magazine. Addressing his compatriots on the right, and astutely anticipating the coming political dramas, Klein argued that his fellow conservatives needed to start "learning to care about health care." "While the right has been effective at mobilizing support among its activist base on issues such as guns, taxes, and judges," Klein wrote, "when it comes to health care, conservatives who aren't involved in public policy for a living tend to tune out."

As a generalization, it's difficult to deny Klein's point. The academic and professional public-policy communities have long contained conservative and libertarian scholars doing serious and thoughtful work on health care. But, broadly speaking, the most politically active advocates of free enterprise have usually been uninterested in the details of health-care policy.

Klein was concerned that apathy would ultimately translate into political defeat and greater state involvement in the nation's health-care system. The passage of Obamacare seemed to validate his concern (although the drawn-out fight over the law helped galvanize conservative activists and the Tea Party movement). That struggle has certainly made conservatives a little more interested in health care, but they have a lot of catching up to do. Most conservative politicians and activists still know little about the details of health policy, and still struggle with profound apathy. As one right-leaning policy wonk quoted by Klein put it, most of his fellow libertarians and conservatives "find health care a sort of squishy, bleeding-heart kind of issue that doesn't interest them very much."

What has been true of health care has also often been true of education — an issue most conservative politicians have struggled to speak about. Market-minded conservatives have tended to dismiss both as "soft" issues with little relevance to the kind of "hard" economics that moves them most.

As with all generalizations, there are exceptions. But it is telling that, when George W. Bush sought to distinguish himself from traditional conservatives — going so far as to brand himself a "compassionate conservative" — his campaign focused on his interest in education policy. And when prominent conservative politicians (including Bush) have shown a serious interest in health care and education, they have usually advanced policies that ceded control of the new commanding heights to critics of the market. Rather than looking for ways to bring market principles to these arenas, they have accepted the premise that "reform" of these sectors must require exceptions to their usual belief in the benefits of markets.

Bush, for instance, pushed through a major expansion of the health-care entitlement system with his Medicare prescription-drug plan. And his signature domestic-policy achievement, the No Child Left Behind Act, marked a significant expansion of the federal government's role in K-12 education. Mitt Romney took a similar approach to health-care reform as governor of Massachusetts. He opted for greater government involvement in the state's health-care sector through an ill-considered system of mandates, price controls, and subsidies. The result has been, as the Wall Street Journal reports, that the state's total health-care spending as a share of its budget has gone from 30% in 2006 (when the law was enacted) to 40% today.

Thinkers on the left have long seen these subjects more clearly. Consider the insights of the great social scientist Daniel Bell — who, while difficult to categorize politically, once famously described himself as "a socialist in economics." In his prophetic book The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, Bell predicted that, over time, "there will be an enormous growth in the 'third sector': the non-profit area outside of business and government which includes schools, hospitals, research institutes, voluntary and civic associations, and the like" (emphasis added). Bell published this forecast in 1976, when the Cold War fight over the political control of the old commanding heights was still raging. It is safe to say that Bell and other economic progressives had a better understanding of how the new commanding heights of the economy would emerge over time than have their more conservative counterparts.

But while advocates of market control (as opposed to political control) of the economy's commanding heights may have been slow to recognize the importance of education and health care, they may now finally be starting to catch up. The events of the past few years seem to have made the public increasingly wary of America's looming fiscal challenges. This is prompting renewed scrutiny of the nation's health-care entitlement programs, especially Medicare and Medicaid. It is also emboldening a number of reform-minded legislators and executives to propose changes to programs that were once thought politically untouchable. For its part, the passage of Obamacare has caused more conservatives to think seriously about the structure of our entire system of health insurance and medical care.

Meanwhile, as concerns over federal finances have mounted, there has been an increasing awareness of the budget crises facing states and municipalities. The states' problems include underfunded public-employee pensions, particularly for teachers, as well as the ever-increasing costs of Medicaid.

It is worth examining the recent contretemps in Wisconsin — the fight over Governor Scott Walker's efforts to eliminate some collective-bargaining privileges for public employees — through the lens of the broader battle over the new commanding heights. On one level, the Wisconsin situation was a squabble about mundane questions of salaries and benefits. On another level, however, it was a more fundamental struggle over political control, with the state's teachers' unions struggling to maintain their power over the commanding heights of education. Walker, for his part, was trying to restore that power to citizens and free markets.

It is clear that such struggles will continue in the coming years, so that health care and education will increasingly be front and center in our economic debates. This is as it should be. But defenders of the market can waste no time in preparing themselves accordingly.


The growing economic significance of health care and education makes the question of their ultimate control — whether by government or the market — one of deep national importance. It is no exaggeration to say that the struggle for power over these sectors will be the focal point of American domestic politics in the 21st century.

The fight over the relative merits and demerits of Obamacare leading up to its passage last year highlighted the inadequacy of our current political debates about the new commanding heights. Champions of the law pointed to its distributional effects — broadening access to health coverage for those without employer-provided insurance, for example. Critics focused mostly on excessive costs or fears of rationing — worthy concerns, to be sure. But there was very little attention paid to what greater government control of the health sector would mean for the adaptive efficiency of the health-care system — the ability of providers to generate and use new techniques, business models, services, and technologies to keep quality high and costs low.

It is not surprising that the debate among the political class focused on questions of allocation. Much of politics is a scramble for existing resources, and so political fights often boil down to questions of control over a fixed set of goods and services. But the long-run success of a health-care system — or any economic sector, or an entire economy — has much more to do with questions of adaptation, new technology, and innovation than with the allocation of fixed resources. The more that we allow our economy to be governed by politics rather than market forces, the more inclined we will be to forget that fact, and so to see our dynamism and prosperity diminish.

If the century-long battle over Lenin's old commanding heights should teach us anything, it is that the extent of government control over the key sectors of a nation's economy matters tremendously to that nation's eventual success. That lesson should be foremost in our minds as we commence a long and arduous struggle over the American economy's new commanding heights.

Patriotic Taxation or Unpatriotic Redistribution?

Patriotic Taxation or Unpatriotic Redistribution?

by Doug Bandow

The unruly Democratic coalition can unite around little other than raising taxes. Only with higher revenues can the various interest groups carrying the Democratic banner enrich themselves at public expense.

Not surprisingly, few people who actually work and pay taxes are enthused about turning more of their money over to Washington. So big-spending pols have to resort to increasingly creative arguments for pushing up the government's take.

The campaign to fill government coffers naturally has focused on the "rich." (Luckily, I guess, I don't qualify under anyone's definition!) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is pushing a resolution declaring that "it is the sense of the Senate that any agreement to reduce the budget deficit should require that those earning $1,000,000 or more per year make a more meaningful contribution to the deficit reduction effort."

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. A former special assistant to Ronald Reagan, he is the author of Foreign Follies: America's New Global Empire (Xulon).

More by Doug Bandow

Offering more than boilerplate rhetoric is former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who proposed returning to a top income tax rate of 70%. Still, he could have gone higher: the top rate once ran 91%, before President Jack Kennedy's across-the-board rate cuts.

A more peculiar advocate for higher taxes is "Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength." The group has a website and its members wrote an open leader urging the president and congressional leaders "to put our country ahead of politics." How? By increasing taxes on incomes greater than a million dollars.

Argued PMFS, "Our country faces a choice — we can pay our debts and build for the future, or we can shirk our financial responsibilities and cripple our nation's potential." There's no discussion of cutting spending, which has exploded in recent years. Rather, argue these "patriotic millionaires," a decade ago Congress "made a mistake. You decided our country needed less money, and millionaires like me needed more." The obvious answer: "Please do the right thing for our country. Raise our taxes."

Actually, tax cuts don't reduce money for "our country." Tax cuts reduce money for the government. The two are not the same.

If there is one truth in life, it is that Washington spends far more money than it should. Indeed, Uncle Sam squanders money on a grand scale. There is the usual waste, fraud, and abuse. The redundant and ineffective programs. The pork used to reelect legislators. The consistent refusal of the governing establishment to treat the taxpayers' money as anything other than a great common pool to use for political advantage.

The greatest waste of money is not inadvertent inefficiency, but intentional redistribution from the economically productive to the politically influential. Why billions in pork? Why tens of billions in corporate welfare? Why hundreds of billions in subsidies for rich foreign allies? Why more than a trillion in middle class welfare?

The deficit is too high because the government spends too much, not because Washington collects too little. In the decade following the Bush tax cuts federal revenue actually rose, just not as much as it would have otherwise. As a percentage of GDP federal tax revenues, despite the Bush tax cuts, continue to run around the historical average of 18%.

From 2001 to 2011 a projected surplus of $5.6 trillion turned into a real deficit of $6.1 trillion. Noted the Heritage Foundation's Brian Riedl, the "tax cuts were responsible for just 14% of the swing." A similar analysis by the Tax Foundation's Scott Hodge figured that number at 16%.

The biggest factors by far were increased spending and lower economic growth. Today's huge deficit is almost entirely due to them, as the impact of the Bush tax cuts continues to diminish. There are many people to blame for exploding deficits, but not because they reduced income tax rates.

The future is even clearer. Over the last 40 years revenues have averaged about 18% of GDP. The Congressional Budget Office projects that tax collections will run about 18.2% of GDP in 2020, even if the Bush tax cuts are preserved. In the past, outlays averaged 20.3% of GDP. The CBO expects that to go to 26.5% without action. Spending is the problem.

But the issue is not partisan. Republicans bear equal responsibility with Democrats — the Medicare drug benefit was a budget-buster just like health care "reform," and the misguided Bush administration wars have turned into unfunded liabilities. However, the answer is not handing more of people's earnings over to the same legislators who have so prodigiously wasted past monies.

The "patriotic millionaires" would do more good if they campaigned to stop legislators from gaily wasting taxpayers' dollars day in and day out. Only politicians would benefit from a tax hike like that suggested by PMFS.

Still, if the "patriotic millionaires" really believe the government collects too little money, they should personally contribute more. The organization argues increasing taxes "is both an ethical and patriotic decision," but there is nothing ethical or patriotic about taking other people's money. Real fiscal patriots would give more of their own cash.

Earlier this year Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), ranking member of the Finance Committee, wrote the PMFS coordinator to helpfully point out that "For those that are interested in making voluntary contributions to pay down the national debt, the process is both easy and advantageous." Voluntary payments to reduce the debt came to only $3.1 million in 2010, leaving much room for the "patriotic millionaires" to help out.

The PMFS responded rather churlishly, denouncing the idea of allowing people to "opt out" and noting that the government even used rationing during World War II. But the biggest problem, argued PMFS, is that "we are a very small group. If there were even the remotest chance of making a noticeable dent in the problem by acting alone we would have done it already." So it appears that there are virtually no "patriotic millionaires" ready to give politicians more money to waste. Rather, the PMFS apparently represents a few "unpatriotic redistributionists" who mostly want to take more of other people's money.

In support of raising taxes the PMFS members contend that "We have been more fortunate than most people." But they also likely pay more taxes than most people. In 2008, the last year for which the figures are available, the top 1% of earners paid 38% of total income tax levies; the top 5% paid 59%. The top quarter paid 86%.

These numbers generally have been increasing over time. They rose after the 1986 Reagan tax reform, which kicked many poorer people off the income tax rolls entirely. The shares of taxes paid by wealthier Americans also rose after the Bush tax cuts.

In contrast, the share of income taxes paid by the bottom 50% started out below 10% and fell steadily over time, to less than 3% in 2008. In fact, federal policy, particularly the earned income tax credit and child credit now mean that almost half of filers pay no income tax. Virtually no one in the bottom income quintile and only a minority in the next quintile owe anything.

Never mind, says PMFS. Member Paul Egerman argued that "If our country is really broke, then we can't afford to give tax cuts to people like me." However, tax cuts give nothing. Rather, they allow people of all income levels to keep more of their own money, money usually earned through hard work, risk-taking, investment acumen, and/or entrepreneurial insight.

Yet the worst blindness is the failure to address what additional revenues would be used to finance. To Sen. Hatch's argument that the deficit reflects overspending, replied PMFS: "This is quibbling over semantics. Deficits result when spending exceeds receipts. Whether that happens because spending is too high or receipts are too low is a matter of perspective and priorities."

It is a matter of perspective and priorities, which must be addressed. If the U.S. was locked in a struggle for national survival, then one might call on the American people for a maximum sacrifice. But the exploding deficit reflects old-fashioned tax-and-spend politics. Hiking taxes would reward those responsible for America's current financial travails.

So the "patriotic millionaires" shouldn't wait on others to join them. If they believe there is an "ethical and patriotic" obligation to pay more, they have a duty to act. Right now.

The easiest step, as suggested by Sen. Hatch, would simply be to give money to reduce the national debt. But that should be just a start.

So-called economic patriots should routinely inflate their income tax liabilities. Whether they are patriotic billionaires, millionaires, or even thousandaires, they should engage in a little creative accounting. One of the virtues of America's outrageously complicated tax system is the fact that it offers many opportunities for paying more to the government.

Pick up the 1040. Don't claim dependents, irrespective of how many children one has. Take the standard deduction instead of itemizing.

Claim extra interest, dividends, and miscellaneous income. Maybe even toss in some nonexistent alimony.

On the Schedule C make up income and don't claim expenses. Do the same with capital gains. What self-respecting "patriotic millionaire" would take advantage of unfair loopholes in order to deny Uncle Sam needed revenue?

Finally, inflate taxes owed. Don't take any credits and toss in some "additional taxes" at the end. The IRS might be a bit perplexed about how the numbers were derived, but the agency isn't likely to turn down extra cash.

This strategy can be repeated year in and year out. "Patriotic millionaires" should do the same for their state and city taxes. Those governments also need money, lots of it!

There is much wrong with America's tax system. The personal income tax is complex and intrusive. High corporate tax rates place the U.S. at an international disadvantage. Excessive capital gains taxes discourage investment.

But one thing is not a problem: paying the government too little.

It would be nice if all millionaires were patriotic. But love of country does not mean campaigning for increased taxes that would spark even more greedy raids on taxpayers. The best way for everyone to demonstrate their commitment to America would be to battle against the non-stop special interest looting that occurs in Washington.

The Intransigent Meet the Unserious

The Intransigent Meet the Unserious

by Michael D. Tanner

Last Friday, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi held a press conference to announce that House Democrats should oppose a debt-ceiling agreement that included any cuts in Medicare or Social Security. Meanwhile, over in the Senate, Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) and Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) announced that they would filibuster any deal that included changes to those programs, and possibly Medicaid as well.

So, of course, you saw the deluge of media stories blaming Democratic intransigence for threatening to throw the country into default. Neither did I.

Republicans have clearly drawn a line in the sand, opposing any tax increase. But Democrats have been even more unbending, resisting any serious structural reform of entitlements or deep spending cuts, while insisting on huge tax hikes as part of any deal.

Why the insistence on tax hikes? Democrats know that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, tax revenues will return to their historic average of 18 to 19 percent of GDP by the end of the decade. They know this will happen even if the Bush tax cuts are extended and the alternative minimum tax is fixed. The only reason, therefore, for tax increases would be to enable more government spending.

The president is now calling for a "big" deal that would reduce the debt by $4 tillion over ten years, while we'll borrow more than a third of that this year. Â In fact, over those ten years, we are expected to run up more than $13 trillion in new debt.

It's also important to remember that the president is not offering $4 trillion in spending cuts. The deal he has proposed includes more than $1 trillion in tax hikes. Another $1 trillion is assumed savings on interest payments. Thus, what is really on the table is barely $2 trillion in actual spending reductions. What the president is really offering is closer to $2 in spending reductions for every $1 in tax hikes, not the 4:1 ratio reported by the media. Moreover, that is over ten years, meaning the cuts would actually be just $200 billion per year. We will pay more than that this year in interest on what we have already borrowed.

As minimal as these cuts are, they are actually even less than they appear. Most people assume that a spending cut means spending less next year than we spend this year. Then again, most people don't understand Washington. Washington operates under "baseline budgeting," meaning that if Congress plans to spend $2 billion more on a program than it spent this year, but only spends $1 billion more, that is a $1 billion "cut." Thus, the $2 trillion in spending "cuts" currently being discussed would actually allow government spending to increase by $1.8 trillion.

Of course, the president also has expressed a willingness to put Medicare and Social Security on the table, despite opposition from the Democrats in Congress. But here too the proposals are far less than they appear. They would do nothing to change the structure of these programs, instead offering a grab bag of future benefit trims that may or may not ever occur, such as further squeezing reimbursements to hospitals and physicians.

So the deal that the Republicans are currently offering would actually allow federal revenue, federal spending, and the national debt all to increase over the next decade. They have abandoned structural changes to entitlement programs — anything like Paul Ryan's Medicare reform is off the table — and appear to have dropped calls for a balanced-budget amendment or a spending cap.

This is radical? This is intransigence? If only.

Cuba: Enriquecimiento de Fidel basado en desinformación de los cubanos
“Desde que Fidel tomó el poder, el país quedo paralizado en el tiempo. Y como sabemos, lo que no mejora, empeora. Esa es la triste realidad de una Cuba que camina sobre la base de la desinformación.”

Samuel Angel

La Cuba que visite en días pasados no refleja la información de la Revista financiera Forbes que en el año 2006, mostraba la fortuna del dictador Cubano Fidel Castro en 900 millones de dólares, ubicándolo en el séptimo puesto entre los mandatarios más ricos del mundo.
Por supuesto que los cubanos no saben esto y toda información que pueda tocar sus puertas que no convenga, será mostrada como producto del “imperio yanqui”. Sin embargo la miseria que inunda la isla por doquier haría que cualquier información real conocida por el pueblo que sufre, se convierta en una bomba de tiempo para los intereses de los Castro.
En el país de la desinformación, gracias a Fidel, los cubanos viven con pavor de lo que el régimen haga. Claro, si se dieran cuenta que no tienen por qué aguantarse la miseria que les brinda Fidel y su régimen, podrían cambiar de vida así como lo están haciendo en medio oriente varios países.
Fidel no permite que la gente tenga celulares, tener un celular cuesta el equivalente al salario mensual para un cubano raso. Que entre otras cosas es de 10 dólares mensuales, como todos comprenderán, nadie vive de eso, pero todo sea por la revolución, la revolución económica personal de Fidel. O come o habla por celular, ¿qué escogería usted?
Por supuesto, los que tienen celular no tienen plan de datos, los cubanos no saben bien qué es eso. Es decir, no tienen la posibilidad de educarse, realizar transacciones, aumentar su productividad y tantas otras cosas que para el mundo en la actualidad son parte de la vida cotidiana a través de la tecnología. Claro, los que tienen celular no pueden llamar porque también les cuesta un ojo de la cara.
Como me decía un taxista cubano: “en sus países conocen a las personas que están en la miseria, porque viven en la calle pidiendo dinero, en Cuba, los indigentes están dentro de las casas, y son todos”.
Es increíble el nivel de obras inconclusas o con andamios llenos ya de vegetación, producto de la parálisis económica de ese país, sumergido en el socialismo, improductivo, esclavizante y adormecedor.
Las librerías de la Habana contienen únicamente literatura guerrillera, resulta fácil encontrar el bestseller “la Guerra de Guerrillas”, escrito por el Che. Literatura que se llevan los incautos jóvenes turistas europeos, que confunden al Che con Tarzan y a Fidel con una especie de Moisés en decadencia.
La pobreza en Cuba está por doquier y el principal afectado es el pueblo cubano, a quienes se les ha infundido por parte de Fidel una especie de creencia en que son mártires del socialismo, santos de la guerrilla. A costa de cuyo sufrimiento en medio de la desolación del país, deben aguantar las migajas que el régimen les tira al piso.
Los vendedores del órgano informativo del régimen, el Granma, son personas de la tercera edad, que entregan el periódico a cambio de cualquier moneda, caminan por las calles de la ciudad descompuestos, hambrientos y solitarios. Sacados de un cuento de terror, esos ancianitos sufren física hambre mientras son usados por el régimen para entregar a los turistas el periódico que alaba las maravillas del régimen de miseria en el que viven.
Como nadie vive de 10 dólares al mes, se ha generado toda una economía informal, basada en el contrabando de puros, prostitución y abuso de cobros al incauto turista. Claro, todas las anteriores son prohibidas por el régimen, pero, ante el conocimiento de su ineptitud y buscando no gobernar sobre cadáveres, todo lo permite de manera solapada.
Si alguien se expresa de manera contraria a Fidel y su régimen comunista, es llevado a las mazmorras al estilo de los antiguos esclavistas. La policía traída de oriente a la ciudad de la Habana es más obediente ya que, al provenir de la provincia, su ingenuidad de sentirse traído a la ciudad, los hace ser presas fáciles, obedientes ciegos a Fidel.
Los músicos que pululan en la Habana tocan de manera maravillosa repertorios de los cincuentas, paralizados en la historia, estos artistas deben supeditar su arte a las ideas del régimen. No salirse del Guantamera de Martí es una regla y bailar al ritmo del son cubano como si fueran libres debe ser su mayor puesta en escena.
Los automóviles de los años 40s y 50s que transitan por las calles Cubanas y que se han vuelto un icono del país, en realidad están allí, ante la imposibilidad del régimen de permitirle al pueblo escoger lo que más quiera, cambiar de auto o mejorar año tras año, eso, gracias a Fidel, no existe en Cuba.
Desde que Fidel tomó el poder, el país quedo paralizado en el tiempo. Y como sabemos, lo que no mejora, empeora. Esa es la triste realidad de una Cuba que camina sobre la base de la desinformación.

Cómo obtuvo Calderón la Presidencia

Cómo obtuvo Calderón la Presidencia (o cuando los priistas no eran un peligro para México)

“La izquierda era un peligro para México en 2006 y lo será en 2012 si llega al poder, aunque lo haga de la mano del PAN. La suma de un mal mayor y un mal menor no hacen un mal menor y menos un bien ¡Obvio!”

Leopoldo Escobar

El periodista Ciro Gómez Leyva le preguntó a Felipe Calderón si Enrique Peña Nieto le parecía un peligro para México. Con ello el periodista aludió al señalamiento de ser un peligro para México que Calderón lanzó contra su rival Andrés Manuel López, durante la contienda electoral de 2006.
Al responder, esta vez Calderón no fue claridoso como hace 5 años, sino ambiguo. Pero eso es en público, pues en corto Calderón sigue insistiendo en que lo peor que le podría pasar al país en 2012 es el triunfo electoral del PRI y en que, por tanto, lo único que podría impedir tal escenario es una alianza electoral entre su partido (el PAN) y la izquierda. Y con los malos resultados para PAN y PRD en los comicios locales del Estado de México, que esta vez marcharon separados, Calderón y los partidarios de la alianza la suponen ahora más necesaria y más viable.
Pero hubo un tiempo en el cual a Calderón los priistas no le parecían un peligro para México. La historia que hoy los calderonistas quieren sepultar bajo una montaña de olvido es que Calderón no sólo pudo tomar posesión de su cargo como Presidente de la República gracias a los priistas, sino que además gracias a ellos (o una parte de ellos) pudo ganar la elección.
Y esos votos decisivos provinieron de los muy priistas seguidores de Elba Esther Gordillo, Enrique Peña y Eugenio Hernández, entre otros prominentes personajes del PRI, quienes en forma soterrada pero efectiva promovieron el voto útil a favor de Calderón, para impedir que la izquierda se hiciera del poder.
Cuando El Peje parecía una calamidad inexorable
Un par de semanas antes de la elección presidencial de 2006, parecía muy difícil que Calderón pudiera derrotar a López, si bien la distancia de las preferencias electorales se habían venido acortando y había un “empate técnico” o…casi.
La última encuesta mensual (correspondiente a junio de 2006) de Mitofsky daba 35% de los votos para López, 32% para Calderón y 28% para Roberto Madrazo.
La encuesta de Reforma publicada el 23 de junio de 2006, 9 días antes de la elección, concedía 36% a López y 34% a Calderón.
Pero el 2 de julio Calderón se impuso por una diferencia de apenas 0.52% de los votos (235,329 en cifras absolutas). De “panzazo”, pero ganó. Mas ¿cómo lo hizo?
Encuestas de Mitofsky
Andrés Manuel López
Felipe Calderón
Roberto Madrazo
Patricia Mercado
Roberto Campa
López y sus secuaces gritaron que la no correspondencia entre resultados y encuestas era “prueba” del “fraude”. Pero si las encuestas previeran exactamente los resultados, entonces nos ahorraríamos las elecciones. Calderón ganó legal, limpiamente. No hubo fraude alguno y es el momento que seguimos esperando las evidencias de la supuesta defraudación de 2006, ese otro mito izquierdista.
Lo que sí es cierto es que con los puros votos de los simpatizantes del PAN Calderón no ganaba y López hubiera arrasado. Calderón necesitó casi 5 puntos porcentuales más de lo que podrían aportar los simpatizantes panistas. La prueba es que mientras Calderón obtuvo 14,921,749 votos, los disputados panistas obtuvieron apenas poco más de 13 millones de votos. Casi 2 millones de ciudadanos dividieron sus votos entre diferentes partidos. Pero esta operación no fue del todo espontánea, aunque su inducción tampoco fue ilegal o ilegítima.
Entra Elba al quite…pero no basta
Si la elección presidencial hubiera sido en enero, febrero o marzo de 2006, Calderón habría perdido. Estaba estancado en un máximo de 31% de las preferencias. A finales de febrero situación era desesperada y entonces Calderón pactó alianzas terminó de amarrar la alianza con Elba Esther Gordillo.
Toda la estructura del Partido Nueva Alianza -que respondía a Gordillo (mientras ella formalmente seguía en el PRI)- aprendió la consigna: votar por Calderón para presidente (y no por el candidato de la PANAL que era Roberto Campa) y votar por los candidatos del partido para los demás cargos. Por eso en la elección mientras que los diputados del PANAL obtuvieron 1.8 millones de votos, su candidato presidencial apenas consiguió 400 mil. Gordillo y su partidarios aportaron 1.4 millones de votos a Calderón.
En las encuestas de abril se empiezan a sentir los efectos benéficos de estas maniobras. Pero los votos del PANAL no bastaban para derrotar a López y para que triunfara Calderón. Por eso en abril diferentes operadores políticos experimentados, que no pertenecían ni al PAN y al PRI, pero que tenían buenas relaciones con políticos de ambos partidos, emprendieron una labor para convencer a ciertos gobernadores priistas a promover el voto útil en favor de Calderón en virtud de que ni Roberto Madrazo tenía real probabilidad de ganar y de que López efectivamente era una formidable amenaza para México. Gordillo por su parte también cabildeó con gobernadores priistas.
La labor se centró especialmente en los gobernadores de Campeche, Durango, Hidalgo, México, Nuevo León, Sonora y Tamaulipas. Estos mandatarios accedieron, pero advirtieron que no serían muchos los votos que podrían lograr para el candidato panista, pues la promoción no podía ser abierta, so riesgo de provocar un cisma en el PRI.
Resultados de votaciones para Presidente de la República (2000 y 2006) y diputados federales (2009)

V. Fox
F. Labastida
C. Cárdenas
2000-2006 (PRI)
2003-2006 (PRI)





Nuevo León











Nuevo León




F. Calderón
R. Madrazo
A. López






Nuevo León



Los candidatos del PRI a diputados federales obtuvieron 1.4 millones más de votos que los que obtuvo su candidato presidencial. No todos esos votos fueron para Calderón, pero sí la mayoría y gracias a las promociones soterradas de los gobernadores priistas ganados a la causa del voto útil.
Como se aprecia en la tabla, esos gobernadores no pudieron mantener para el candidato presidencial priista ni siquiera los votos obtenidos en 2003 (a pesar de que las elecciones intermedias son de menor participación electoral que las presidenciales), para no hablar de los votos de 2000. La transferencia de votos priistas al candidato panista Calderón fue del orden de entre 600 mil y 900 mil. Y por cierto, nadie obligó a esas personas a votar así, porque en la soledad de las urnas podrían haber votado de otro modo si esa hubiera sido su convicción. Simplemente parte del liderazgo político consiste en tener autoridad moral y capacidad de persuasión sobre los seguidores.
Sea por las motivaciones que sea, muchos priistas actuaron responsablemente en 2006 y ayudaron a impedir la catástrofe que habría significado que la izquierda llegara al poder. Por eso ahora resulta tan hipócrita que se tome a los mismos que ayudaron a Calderón a llegar al poder como “un peligro para México” ¿No es acaso absurdo hasta el ridículo que el “peligro para México” haya sido vencido con el apoyo de otro “peligro para México”? En realidad lo que dicen los que antes veían en la izquierda un peligro para México y hoy lo ven en los priistas es: la única manera en que no haya peligro para México es que nosotros estemos en el poder…por siempre…
El único “peligro para México” es la izquierda. Las demás opciones políticas simplemente son no deseables por cuanto están infectadas por el intervencionismo estatal, el programa de la “justicia” redistributiva y el colectivismo edulcorado y difícilmente lograran que nuestra nación supere la pobreza y el subdesarrollo. Esas opciones debemos considerarlas males menores en diferente grado, las cuales son preferibles frente al mal mayor que es la izquierda, claro, en tanto no surja la opción de poder deseable, que no es otra que la liberal.
La izquierda era un peligro para México en 2006 y lo será en 2012 si llega al poder, aunque lo haga de la mano del PAN. La suma de un mal mayor y un mal menor no hacen un mal menor y menos un bien ¡Obvio!

Desafíos del liberalismo clásico en una era de información

Crítica, conversación y creatividad: Desafíos del liberalismo clásico en una era de información

“La evolución de las tecnologías de comunicación tenderá a revolucionar nuestros métodos de generación de contenidos. Quizás deberemos emprender la formulación general de un liberalismo con aceptabilidad pública. Por ahora, dados los riesgos que impone la atracción pública hacia la vanidad de redención absoluta, en la defensa de la crítica y la conversación debemos contemplar todo aquello que permita avanzar los fines de la libertad.”

Roberto Salinas León

El presente texto forma parte de la colección "Facetas Liberales: Ensayos en honor de Manuel F. Ayau", editado en 2011 por la Universidad Francisco Marroquín y coordinado por Alberto Benegas Lynch (h) y Giancarlo Ibargüen. Asuntos Capitales reproduce este ensayo con autorización tanto del autor como de los coordinadores de la obra.
[Nota sobre el autor]
“Modern civilization will not perish unless it does so by its own act of self-destruction. Only inner enemies can threaten it. It can come to an end only if the ideas of liberalism are supplanted by an anti-liberal ideology hostile to social cooperation.” Ludwig von Mises
Los grandes avances tecnológicos en el mundo de las comunicaciones han generado una explosión de nuevos contenidos y medios más sofisticados para transmitir ideas. En este sentido, el futuro de la información conlleva una gama de nuevas tecnologías que facilitarán enormemente la producción y, sobre todo, la difusión de contenidos y conocimientos. Ciertamente, la causa de consolidar una sociedad abierta, junto con la de articular una defensa efectiva de la libertad y de los principios del liberalismo clásico, también disfrutará de una mayor disponibilidad de tecnologías de comunicación, sin los costos de transacción -como la distancia, el tiempo o las fronteras nacionales, por ejemplo- que tradicionalmente han estado asociados a esta labor. Sin embargo, aún no existe un mecanismo ideal, una “camisa de fuerza dorada”, que limite la naturaleza de contenidos potencialmente transmisibles.[1] Las ideas tienen consecuencias; buenas o malas, liberales o anti-liberales, radicales o en el centro. El reto permanente de defender una sociedad abierta, de exponer de manera convincente los argumentos del liberalismo clásico, sigue siendo una tarea de máxima relevancia para el futuro de la libertad y la conversación civilizada.

Colombia: Las cifras verdaderas sobre la violencia en el país

Colombia: Las cifras verdaderas sobre la violencia en el país – por William Calderón

Mientras los consultados en las más recientes encuestas se muestran pesimistas en temas tan sensibles como la seguridad, la salud y el empleo, nadie se explica cómo el presidente Santos mantiene tan alta su favorabilidad en las mediciones de opinión. La pregunta se la trasladamos, en La Hora de la Verdad, de Súper, al encuestador Jorge Londoño, de Gallup, quien se salió por la tangente y se despidió sin darnos una respuesta satisfactoria.

En la prensa costeña no se apagan todavía los ecos del rifirrafe que mantuvieron, en Montería, el Presidente de la República y la gobernadora de Córdoba alrededor de las cifras sobre los muertos y heridos que deja la violencia en esa región del litoral atlántico. La mandataria salió airosa al demostrar con datos institucionales que su información no era producto de la imaginación, como lo sugirió el doctor Santos. Tras la visita presidencial, El Meridiano de Córdoba abundó en información gráfica y escrita sobre las víctimas de la ola criminal y en un editorial exigió al gobierno central resultados para frenar la violencia.

La ofensiva de los terroristas en el sur

El pasado fin de semana, en el sur del país, los insurrectos activaron cargas explosivas en Cali y Buenaventura. Hubo asaltos en Argelia y Jambaló, Cauca, con saldo de muertos y heridos, a pesar de las advertencias que había recibido el gobierno por parte del senador payanés Aurelio Iragorri, a quien también tildó de mentiroso el presidente Santos, en otro desafortunado consejo de seguridad. En San Vicente del Caguán hubo masacre durante el fin de semana. En el departamento del Magdalena –como lo registró el diario que lleva su nombre—se registraron en junio último 56 asesinatos, 30 de ellos ocasionados con armas de fuego. La violencia también hizo presencia en Arboletes, Antioquia; entre las víctimas figura un periodista. Cabe recordar que la guerrilla regresó al Chocó, de acuerdo con una denuncia del gobernador Malcom Ali Córdoba.

Alarmante ola de inseguridad imperante en Colombia

El Diario del Otún, de Pereira, la tierra natal del ministro de Defensa, Rodrigo Rivera, publicó durante el “puente” festivo un inflamado editorial dando cuenta de la alarmante ola de inseguridad imperante en Colombia. Entre los hechos perturbadores enumerados dejábamos por fuera el regreso del boleteo, la extorsión y el secuestro en Arauca (según Salud Hernández) y los Llanos orientales (de acuerdo con María Isabel Rueda). Y al departamento de Nariño regresó el ELN. Sin embargo, después de este inventario el almirante Cely dice otra cosa muy distinta en El Tiempo. Como que estamos en el gobierno del “tapen, tapen”. El ministro Rivera sostiene que quienes están perpetrando los asaltos y asesinatos de oficiales y suboficiales de la fuerza pública son unos chichipatos. Lo que preocupa es que “esos pobres chichipatos” tengan al país perplejo con la inseguridad que se vive en la nación, ola que se trató de disimular con la innecesaria rueda de prensa ofrecida por el Presidente, en la base militar de Catam.

Venezuela: La hora final –

Venezuela: La hora final – por Pompeyo Márquez

Marx encontró una bella metáfora para referirse a ese proceso sociopolítico, cultural y económico que va tejiendo nuevos escenarios históricos casi siempre a redropelo de la voluntad de los hombres y a veces, incluso, contra su expresa voluntad. Engañando a tirios y troyanos y usando los más equívocos, falsos y trastornados mensajeros. Lo llamó “el viejo topo”. Y al trabajo que realiza en el subsuelo de la conciencia colectiva hasta derrumbar todas las falsas certidumbres para permitir el nacimiento de una nueva sociedad lo llamó “su trabajo de zapa”.

Súbitamente y de la manera más insólita, pues nadie se lo había siquiera imaginado, el viejo topo hace su trabajo de zapa bajo el resquebrajado cuero seco de esta Venezuela petrolera.

Y para terminar de derrumbar el tinglado fantasmagórico de esta sedicente revolución bolivariana y permitir que emerja del trajinado subsuelo de nuestra sociedad la nueva sociedad moderna y globalizada que exigen las circunstancias, se sirve del falso mensajero: un teniente coronel con aspiraciones de eternidad al que el destino, en una siniestra jugarreta, le desemboza de un solo tajo la dolorosa fragilidad de su existencia. La historia lo pilla en offside: fuera de juego. Con su revolución en el cartapacio.

Pertenezco a aquellos que creyeron que Hugo Chávez, en esta particular circunstancia, se desempeñaba en el rol de lo que Molière llamara “le malade imaginaire”, el enfermo imaginario. Bajo la mise en scène de Fidel Castro y la producción estelar del G2 cubano.

En un operativo que llamé “misión resurrección”. Consistente, tal como lo ha hecho el mayor de los Castro, en desaparecer de la faz del planeta, provocar conmoción pública y reaparecer al filo de la desesperación colectiva para ser recibido en gloria y majestad como el hijo pródigo, ya al borde de la histeria. Tiempo suficiente, además, para volver a empaquetar la mercadería: un lifting, una cirugía estética, un new look para ver si engañaba a Cronos, el Dios del tiempo, el implacable. Ha sido el recurso con el que su íntimo amigo y compañero de aventuras Muammar Gadaffi ha refrescado su imagen, hasta ahora, cuando los dioses del desierto le vuelven la espalda.

La realidad parece desmentirme. La realización de la asamblea cumbre de la organización con que el segundo de Fidel Castro imagina el futuro sin la OEA, el CELAC, pautada para el 4 y 5 de julio en la isla de Margarita, jugada maestra de los bolivarianos y del lulista Foro de Sao Paulo con la que pretenden desbancar a los Estados Unidos y al Canadá del tablero político latinoamericano, ha sido cancelada el pasado miércoles 29 de junio. La razón clama a los cielos: Chávez está enfermo. Y no de cualquier minucia propia de personajes estresados – empresarios, artistas, periodistas, productores de televisión, políticos derrotados y jugadores de bolsa – tales como una gastritis, colon irritable, mareos súbitos, torsiones musculares, obesidad y desmayos causados por la acumulación de acosos existenciales. De ninguna manera. Chávez padece de cáncer. Por ahora, según se deduce de las informaciones que traspasando el espeso muro del secretismo propio de regímenes totalitarios han llegado a los medios nacionales e internacionales, no padece de un cáncer terminal y devastador, como los que suelen llevarse a los simples mortales en pocos días con la silbante ráfaga de un guadañazo. Pero no nos llamemos a engaño: un cáncer es un cáncer. No existe un cáncer benigno – ejemplar oxímoron -, como esos malestares que se guardan en el portafolios y nos sorprenden el día de mañana llegando a la oficina. Una acidez pertinaz e insoportable después de días de alcohol, sexo y fatiga.

Nadie ha dicho que el cáncer de Chávez, supuestamente de próstata con algún nivel de metástasis en otros órganos vecinos – se habla del hígado y del páncreas, incluso de sus huesos -, se lo llevará al otro mundo de un día al otro. Conozco a muchos que han sobrevivido años y años con un cáncer, de los aviesos y traidores.

Pero al día de hoy y a pesar de esa certidumbre debemos reconocer que casi todos quienes sufren de cáncer se invalidan para las grandes aventuras psíquicas, físicas y corporales a las que se sentían llamados. En la inefable pantalla espiritual de sus vidas se asoma la persistente, la tenaz, la aviesa sombra de la más antigua, más amarga y más extenuante de las certidumbres: la de la inmediatez inevitable de la muerte. En esos casos, ese tenue velo de la eternidad con el que convivimos en la sana inconsciencia cotidiana, se rasga como con un relámpago. Murieron las ilusiones.

Esto le, nos sucede, además, en el peor y más angustioso de los momentos del proyecto vital que ha convertido en esencia de su vida desde sus tempranos días en la Academia Militar. Le sucede cuando la llamada revolución bolivariana se derrumba en pedazos sin haber dejado a su paso una sola institución, una sola obra, una sola realidad imperecedera.

Como suele suceder con regímenes autocráticos sustentado en atributos absolutamente personales y azarosos del autócrata. La única que pudo sobrevivirle, la Constitución, ha sido envilecida, atropellada y ultrajada por sus mismos creadores.

En un país que siente animadversión congénita por el orden constitucional y se lo ha pasado pergeñando constituciones – ya van 27, mientras Estados Unidos tiene una con enmiendas e Inglaterra simplemente carece de ella – difícilmente le sobrevivirá más de algunos meses.La asamblea nacional – sea escrito en minúsculas dada su bajeza – es infinitamente más venal, corrupta y despreciable que todas las que la precedieran en estos doscientos años de vida legislativa. Incluso la de Cipriano Castro, sobre la que Rómulo Gallegos escupiera su juvenil y corajudo desprecio hace más de un siglo. Y el partido que se sacó de la manga en medio del aluvión social que lo arrastrara al Poder, el PSUV, se volverá escenario de una guerra a dentelladas por la herencia de los despojos. En suma: estos trece años de despilfarro, desorden, odios, enfrentamientos y esperanzas yacen por los suelos. Tanto, que uno de sus más importantes artífices, el teniente Diosdado Cabello, se ve en la obligación de señalar que sin Chávez, no queda, no quedaría, no quedará absolutamente nada. Como exclama el croupier cuando detiene las apuestas: fin de partie. Para comprender la magnitud de la confesión me imagino un solo escenario: ¿Stalin exclamando que sin Lenin se acabó la revolución bolchevique? Imposible.

Aún así, haberse mantenido firmemente montado sobre el alebrestado cimarrón que lo respalda no es poco para un ágrafo teniente coronel al que en la academia militar menospreciaban sin miramientos apodándolo “el loco Chávez”. Haber enfebrecido a un pueblo rebajado a pasto de sus ambiciones ha sido una proeza que pasará a la historia. Como tambiél pasará el hecho insólito y condenable de no dejarle un techo, un pan, un abrigo a pesar de haber contado en una década con la mayor fortuna jamás conocida en la historia de Venezuela desde su descubrimiento. Ni siquiera le entrega una auténtica Nación en la que cobijarse. Sólo un recuerdo vaporoso y difuso que el viento irá esparciendo en el olvido como el sueño de una larga, interminable, pesadillesca noche de verano. Pues todo lo que sobrevive en instituciones, en infraestructura, en desarrollo económico, cultural y social ha sido obra de los cuarenta años que lo precedieran. Y que el más feroz de los embates no ha podido terminar por destruir.

Es esencial que las élites lo comprendan y se preparen a actuar en concordancia: Venezuela, desde el 10 de junio de 2011, día en que se le operara en La Habana de un absceso pélvico producto de una prostatectomía, ya es otro país. Chávez no está muerto ni posiblemente lo estará en años. Le ha sucedido algo peor, porque es menos glorioso: se nos ha vuelto súbitamente inútil, obsoleto. Temeroso, frágil y quebradizo. Ya es tarde para parapetar de urgencia una nueva realidad pariendo de la noche a la mañana una revolución armada, socialista, bolchevique, heroica e impoluta como la que naciera en la Sierra Maestra y muriese a poco andar de un brutal totalitarismo caudillesco y autocrático. Tal como lo pretende Adán Chávez, patética y lamentable parodia de Raúl Castro, el comunista de la familia. Nunca segundas partes fueron buenas.

La oposición debe descifrar las claves de este nuevo país.

Y observar con atención al estado de excepción que se agudiza tras este providencial suceso. Un atentado del destino ha fracturado las bases del Poder caudillesco que sostenía la farsa revolucionaria. Desde luego, y visto en la gran perspectiva del Poder y la Historia, no se trata de mantener la ficción electoral sometiéndola al estrés del apuro y la precipitación. Se trata del aprehender y comprender en toda su magnitud el momento crucial que vivimos, el Kairós (καιρός) que llamaban los griegos: ese instante único e irrepetible por el que se nos cuela lo nuevo, lo inédito en la historia. El problema, así como el desafío, son trascendentales. Se trata de asumir la responsabilidad del Poder y asegurarle a la Nación el futuro cuyas portones acaban de ser abiertos por el viejo topo. Lenin exigió en sus tesis de abril de 1917, cuando la parodia democrático burguesa intentaba gatear, “todo el poder a los soviets”.

Llegó la hora de exigir “todo el Poder a la Democracia” y proceder de inmediato al delicado montaje de la transición a la nueva Venezuela.

Dios quiera que sea por medios electorales. Y que el fantasma del golpe de Estado que estará rondando las cabezas de los más afiebrados de entre los huérfanos de Chávez, ultima ratio de una revolución que se desbarranca, sea impedido por la sensatez de nuestras élites civiles y uniformadas. La Patria lo demanda. La decisión está en nuestras manos.

Venezuela: Centro operativo de terrorismo

Venezuela: Centro operativo de terrorismo – por Adolfo R. Taylhardat

La semana pasada el Comité de Seguridad Nacional de la Cámara de Representantes del Congreso de los Estados Unidos inició una investigación acerca de las actividades de apoyo al terrorismo que tienen lugar en América Latina. En una audiencia de ese Comité, en la cual participaron congresistas y expertos en cuestiones de terrorismo, trascendió que elementos vinculados al Hezbollah y ciudadanos venezolanos de origen árabe participan en labores de reclutamiento y entrenamiento para la realización de ataques terroristas y que una base central operativa para esa actividad se encuentra en la Isla de Margarita.

La investigación en el Congreso de los Estados imprime al tema un carácter sumamente delicado y coloca a nuestro país en una posición comprometedora porque el asunto está siendo considerado como una situación que podría constituir “una seria amenaza para la seguridad de los Estados Unidos”.

Según los expertos que participan en esa investigación, en América Latina se encuentran activos alrededor de 80 operativos de Hezbollah, principalmente en Venezuela y Brasil.

Roger Noriega, quien hasta hace poco desempeñó el cargo de Secretario para Asuntos Latinoamericanos en el Departamento de Estado y participa en la investigación como uno de los expertos en el tema, señaló que régimen venezolano “tiene un récord de apoyar a narcoterroristas colombianos, ha cooperado con Irán para proveer apoyo político, financiamiento o armas a Hezbollah, Hamas o la palestina Jihad Islámica en este hemisferio y otras partes” Afirma además que la isla de Margarita “ha eclipsado a la infame área de la Trifrontera – la región donde Brasil, Argentina y Paraguay coinciden en Sur América- como el principal refugio y centro de las operaciones de Hezbollah en las Américas”.

Según informaciones proporcionadas durante la audiencia “Uno de los líderes claves de Hezbollah, es el segundo funcionario en importancia en la embajada de Venezuela en Siria”, el venezolano originario de Líbano, Ghazi Atef Salameh Nassereddine Abu Ali, quien supuestamente dirige, “junto a dos de sus hermanos, una red de lavado de dinero y reclutamiento, que entrena operativos para expandir la influencia de Hezbollah en Venezuela y en toda América Latina”. Nassereddine figura, desde el año 2008 en la lista de personas que apoyan el terrorismo internacional elaborada por el Departamento del Tesoro de los Estados Unidos. También se afirmó en la audiencia que Oday, el hermano menor de Nassereddine, “ha establecido en Venezuela “una base en la cual se organizan operaciones de entrenamiento en la Isla de Margarita, y actualmente está reclutando seguidores a través de los Círculos Bolivarianos en Barquisimeto”.

Ya el periodista español Antonio Salas, en su libro “El Palestino”, publicado recientemente, había ofrecido testimonios acerca de la existencia en Venezuela de campos de entrenamiento en los cuales las FARC, ETA, Hezbollah y otros grupos terroristas realizan actividades de entrenamiento de sus efectivos. Según Salas, quien se hizo pasar como un palestino-venezolano partidario de la jihad y logró penetrar esos grupos, solamente en los alrededores de Caracas existen seis campamentos de entrenamiento de terrorismo. Los testimonios de Salas están respaldados con una serie de fotografías y videos, que están disponibles en Internet.

El libro de Salas habría sido notitia criminis más que suficiente como para que la fiscalía emprendiera una investigación sobre esas graves y comprometedoras revelaciones. Sin embargo, como ocurre siempre con situaciones que involucran al régimen, el tema ha sido olímpicamente ignorado por las autoridades que deberían tomar cartas en el asunto.

Seguramente la investigación del parlamento norteamericano recibirá el mismo tratamiento, sazonado con calificativos peyorativos y hasta soeces, como es la conducta habitual del régimen.

Sin embargo, no está lejos el momento en que la actual administración tendrá que rendir cuenta a los venezolanos y a la comunidad internacional por esta conducta que constituye una grave falta a los compromisos internacionales del país. Además infringe decisiones expresas del Consejo de Seguridad de las Naciones Unidas e involucran a Venezuela como país y a personeros del gobierno en actividades contrarias a la esencia fundamental de nuestra nación, implicándola en situaciones que por su propia naturaleza generan riesgos claros e inminentes para la soberanía nacional.

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