Author Archives

Archive of the posts written by author : Henry Oliner.

Political Observations 2023 01 09

When the parties are this closely divided, small, sometimes extreme elements can exercise far more power than their numbers would justify.  The solution is either to win with larger margins to relegate extreme minorities to the sidelines or to secure strong party leadership that can control errant minorities.  The latter, at the moment, is like putting the toothpaste back in the tube.  We apparently are one of the few countries where the political parties exercise no control over who runs under the party label.

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Economic Thoughts 2023 01 08

Firewalls serve to restrain complex and tightly coupled systems; small recessions are preferable to systemic failures.  The political wish to avoid recessions by neutering small corrections only paves the way for greater failures.

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Seduced by Numbers

“Science cannot tell us how to value things,” Ms. Thompson says. “The idea of ‘following the science’ is meaningless.”

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Bagehot and the Fed

“The Federal Reserve and other central banks have done the opposite. They take any form of collateral and charge little to no interest, thus prolonging the presence of bloated and ill-managed enterprises, denying savers the benefits of prudence, destroying productivity, and burdening public balance sheets with the debts of functionally dead organizations.”

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Political Thoughts 2022 10 22

The independents increasingly decide elections but are muted in the primaries. We nominate candidates in the primaries that fare poorly in the general election, voting based on who they are not rather than who they are. This dynamic leads to political volatility.

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The Dangers of the Academic Bubble

Many of the departments of higher academia are plagued by a lack of intellectual diversity.  The atmosphere of ‘wokeness’ and cancel culture is just a form of intellectual McCarthyism.

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Republicanism and Aristocracy

The third aristocracy identified by McLaughlin is a cultural aristocracy embedded in media, entertainment, higher education, and increasingly in corporations and public school.  To the extent that this aristocracy projects values and rules that are in conflict with a large portion of the population, there is a reaction similar to the reaction to the previous political and economic aristocracies.

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Taming the News

Successful journalism is less likely to be measured by objective truth, clarity, and illumination than by clicks and shares. Clicks and shares are generated by outrage and fear mongering. If your first response to an article is outrage or vindication, put it aside for a few days; you are being played.

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Political Realities

Progress emanates from the work of a very few, unpredictably and contrary to conventional wisdom. The protection of freedom and individual rights for these few benefits us all more than the rights accruing only to the majority.

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The Evolution of Republicanism

We will always have elites in a technical world and we are free to choose the elites we respect.  What has happened is a segment of elites  does not return the respect, inviting contempt.  When these elites lose respect and this leadership becomes entrenched and unaccountable, the people or the new republicanism seek clumsy tools to influence these institutions.   This is a sound warning from the author.  

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Books That Changed My Views

ronically the system that recognized the permanence of human flaws, the Lockean influence on the American Constitution, has proven far less oppressive than the systems that believed in the malleability of human nature.

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Principles and Ideology

Principles are not accountable to ideologies; ideologies are accountable to principles.

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Radical Omnipotence

“I care less about whether the top personal income-tax rate is 39 percent or 36 percent than I do about whether we can pick one and stick to it for a few decades at least, and, more generally, about ensuring that we do not undertake big and disruptive changes to the policy environment without real consensus and careful deliberation. But instead of that conservative approach, every time a party achieves a temporary majority in Congress or control of the White House, its leaders promise revolution and a radical reordering of taxes, regulations, incentives, terms of trade, and everything else they can think of. “

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Covert Spending

“Subsidized credit is the coward’s way of spending money on friends and cronies, because spending-by-lending allows you to list these subsidies as “assets” on your books rather than characterizing them as spending.”

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Why are Stock Buybacks Bad?

When a company buys back shares they buy it from shareholders who willingly sell their shares to deploy their capital elsewhere. When they sell their shares the gain is subject to taxes, so it is not like a buyback generates no tax revenues (unless the shares are sold by non taxable endowments or non profits).

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Policies and Outcomes

“That is the great Democratic tax strategy: create tax subsidies for businesses and then, two elections later, complain that businesses take advantage of tax subsidies. “

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Biden has Become a Scapegoat

Our political elite took supply for granted.  They confused dollars with goods.  Demand stimulus is a very short term and limited tool.  If we get into debt to stimulate demand, what happens when we pay it back?  Debts are always repaid – one way or another- even if you are not a Lannister.

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Liberalism and Paternalism

“Strongman democracy is in practice very much like ordinary monarchy or dictatorship, and the strongman usually outlasts the democracy. It is democracy without liberalism.”

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The 2 Percent and the 80 Percent

“As is so often the case in our contemporary politics, what we are talking about matters mostly because it is a way of not talking about something else.”

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Is the Mass Shooter Problem Exaggerated?

“The problem with America isn’t that it is full of guns — the problem with America is that it is full of Americans.”

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