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Rob Salkowitz

re: socializing risks. One thing conservatives have absolutely correct is that incentives matter. Socialism is at its worst when it focuses exclusively on how wealth is distributed and forgets how wealth is created (by people who are so interested in getting rich and making a better life for themselves and their families that they take risks, come up with new ideas, borrow money, hire people, and shout from the rooftops about their great new ideas). When you confiscate money earned through this legitimate process, you discourage people from innovating and taking risks, and you cut society off from the manifest benefits of prosperity. I assume I'm preaching to the choir here, but I've heard there is some doubt that liberals actually understand and believe this stuff, so I figured it was worth saying.

The problem is, it's hard to give people incentives to not become old or sick. These are mostly beyond people's control, and the costs associated with these conditions are often too high for individuals to bear. Of course people should save for retirement and buy private insurance, but the plain economics are that many, many people can't afford to. No matter how much incentive you try to provide for good behavior by increasing the risks associated with poor planning, it's beyond the abilities of the majority of people to do what you want them to.

The question then becomes, what's the social benefit of offsetting these particular kinds of risks so that we don't have old and sick people dying in the streets or bankrupting themselves and their families, as opposed to the drawbacks of creating perverse incentives that cause people to abdicate personal responsibility to the government?

It's not an ideological question - it's a calculation. Most of the time, the benefits favor individual initiative and risk-taking, despite the downside of unequal outcomes. For stuff like aging and illness, my calaculation is that it's better to mitigate these risks even if it means forcing those who behave well (e.g., work, save, plan ahead) to subsidize those who don't. There are simply too many people who would behave well if they could, but can't.

Rob Salkowitz

By the way, we already have voluntary privatization. It's called a 401(k) or SEP-IRA, and it's a great thing!


That's actually rather enticing. Lash me to the mast!

But the SEP-IRA line being voluntary privitization, no. If one could put one's own mandatory FICA contribution into one's own account, that's voluntary. Not many can or want to kick 15% into the community pot and then start putting into their own.

Remember, social security is a very bad deal, Return on Investment wise, even for the schlub who works all his life at minimum wage. Privitization would be far better for almost everyone. I mean, way, WAY better, like eliminate-poverty-in-one-generation better.

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November 2008

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Seen at low tide

  • American White Pelican
    Saw 30 in one flock on a weptember evening while fishing
  • Hummingbird
    Finally, my first hummingbirds. Saw them on a fire bush in Crystal Beach, FL. My rental's neighbor's yard is all xeriscaped, which is ugly to me but just fine with the little hummers. At first, I thought they were the biggest hornets I'd ever seen.
  • Flamingo!
    One of these dudes flew right over my house. I couldn't believe it. And please don't tell me it was a roseated spoonbill because it was a frickin' flamingo, dude! Huge and pink and right there above me. I was like so freaking out, you know?
  • Falcon!
    Don't see these guys too often. Wish we did. Bet the morning doves don't.
  • Black Skimmer
    These beauties are getting scarce, but one flew by yesterday at low tide on the hunt for minnows.
  • Dead sea turtle
    cool, but smelly
  • Reddish Egret
    These have been hanging out around the pool quite a bit lately. Must be a new group of adolesent birds -- the youngsters like to hunt where the water is clear, and it takes them a day to figure out there are not now and never will be fish in the swimming pool no matter how clear the water.
  • Sand Piper
  • Brown Pelican
    I saw a flock of about 200 of these at Disappearing Island yesterday, just south of Anclote Island on the west coast of FL. Good to see such a large flock.
  • Wood Pecker
    They've developed a sudden interest in the orange tree, which just went into bloom.
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