Sunday, July 25, 2010

Let’s get Westover; he hates everything!

For a man of such intellectual sloth, Craig Westover manages to get a lot of ink as one of the go to guys for the gubmint = bad side of any argument. (I like Aaron’s spelling of the right wing version of government; I may recommend to the Board its inclusion in the next edition of the Cucking Stool stylebook.) Even if there is really no side.

Overhead at the Star Tribune op-ed editorial meeting:

We’re going to feature Margaret Anderson Kelliher this week in a piece on job creation in Minnesota. We need somebody to take the other side.

I’m not going to do it. You do it.

I’m not going to do it.

I know! Let’s get Craig; he hates everything!

Perfect. What didn’t I think of that?

Indeed he does hate everything gubmint, boys and girls, and he showed it off again in the Sunday Star Tribune. Apparently, seconded from the airless Pat Anderson campaign, where he is ordinarily employed writing airless press releases justifying the featherbed employment of Tony Sutton as the assistant state auditor when Anderson had the job before, Westover — our beloved Captain Fishsicks — repeats the central tenet of his belief system:

Gubmint cannot create wealth.

Craig Westover has a rosary with one bead.

He clacks the bead back and forth (although with a single bead, he may need to just whack it against his forehead repeatedly) any time he is asked to write something — and several times before retiring for the evening, too. It’s often accompanied by a gentle rocking to and fro.

However, having a one bead rosary makes a person — regrettably — prone to confirmation bias. Facts that seem to support the belief are accepted, while those that do not are rejected and, as the article at the link suggests, may even drive the believer further into belief, as a psychological defense mechanism.

It that Sticks, or what, Spotty?

Well, hello, grasshopper; you haven’t been around for a while! But yes, it does describe Westover pretty well.

Let’s consider this doctrinaire little riff from the Captain in his piece:

Demand for products at profitable prices motivates businesses to expand production (build more factories), hire more people, distribute greater wealth and thus increase general prosperity. Taxing the private sector to subsidize government-initiated projects funnels material, labor and capital into projects that only consume wealth.

The "demand" for light rail is predicated on a price (as is all economic demand). However, operating costs for the "highly successful" Hiawatha Line are about three times the revenue generated by the fare box. People demand light rail at approximately one-third the cost of providing it, but they are unwilling to pay the true cost of service.

The fifth-grade question is: "Given light-rail transit that operates at a 66 percent deficit, how many lines can we build before we run out of money?"

That’s the fifth grade question, all right, and the one that Westover would ask. But the follow up question to the fifth grader — or to Sticks — should be: we’ve been subsidizing the building and maintaining of roads since Roman times and continue to do it today; why didn’t that drive us into penury centuries ago?

That question is greeted with stony, huffy silence; somewhere down in a calcified little spot in his heart, even Westover has to recognize that transportation (just one facet of public infrastructure) contributes to the wealth of nations and the citizens that live in them.

The question above is one of the most self-revelatory things that Sticks has ever written; libertarians and fifth graders have an uncomfortably lot in common. Even King Banaian’s most hocus pocus economic models don’t come anywhere near telling us what the value of any investment, public or private, will be in the long term.

Thinking you can do it with arithmetic is so laughably ignorant, so fatuous and puerile that a proponent of the idea should be dismissed immediately and irrevocably from the public discourse.

But Sticks undoubtedly did very well on story problems in arithmetic in the fifth grade, because he just concentrated on the train leaving Cleveland and the one leaving Chicago and determining where they would collide, not stopping to consider the combination of private and public investments necessary to deliver the trains to their fate.

I’ll have more to say about this article, especially the part where Westover maintains that private expenditures are always good and productive, while public ones never are; we’ll call it Westover’s parable of the train and the salad shooter.

You know, Westover’s rosary may actually have two beads.

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