April 29, 2010

Who gets to play God?

Donald B. Hawthorne


Now, what we're doing, I want to be clear, we're not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that's fairly earned. I mean, I do think at a certain point you've made enough money.

What does "success fairly earned" or "enough money" mean?

Who defines "success fairly earned" or "enough money"?

What if different people define "success fairly earned" or "enough money" differently?

Who defines the consequences of having more than "enough money"?

Who enforces such consequences?

If anyone thinks the definition or consequences of "enough money" is unjust, to whom do they turn for relief?

In other words, who gets to play God?

Any way you cut it, implementing policies consistent with Obama's words will require coercive actions that diminish liberty. There seems to be a certain amnesia about the coercive nature of government. Of course, it might be reasonable to say there is no amnesia for people who never recognize coercion because they have always sought power more than they have loved liberty.

On a more practical level, Nobel Laureate Hayek wrote about the impossibility of efforts to centrally plan such "solutions" in the first place in his seminal 1945 paper entitled The Use of Knowledge in Society. Glenn Reynolds referenced the paper in a recent editorial:

...The United States Code - containing federal statutory law - is more than 50,000 pages long and comprises 40 volumes. The Code of Federal Regulations, which indexes administrative rules, is 161,117 pages long and composes 226 volumes.

No one on Earth understands them all, and the potential interaction among all the different rules would choke a supercomputer. This means, of course, that when Congress changes the law, it not only can't be aware of all the real-world complications it's producing, it can't even understand the legal and regulatory implications of what it's doing.

There's good news and bad news in that. The bad news is obvious: We're governed not just by people who do screw up constantly, but by people who can't help but screw up constantly. So long as the government is this large and overweening, no amount of effort at securing smarter people or "better" rules will do any good: Incompetence is built into the system.

The good news is less obvious, but just as important: While we rightly fear a too-powerful government, this regulatory knowledge problem will ensure plenty of public stumbles and embarrassments, helping to remind people that those who seek to rule us really don't know what they're doing.

If that doesn't encourage skepticism toward big government, it's hard to imagine what will.


Michelle Malkin: Barack Obama, America's Selective Salary Policeman - "At some point, you have made enough money" is not a maxim that Obama's team of rich CEO's and well-paid bureaucrats has ever observed.

J.P. Freire: Obama made $5m in 2009 and tells us we've made enough?


Kyle Wingfield: Exactly who 'makes enough money' in Obama's eyes?

..."I want to be clear, we're not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that's fairly earned. I mean, I do think at a certain point you've made enough money. But part of the American way is you can just keep on making it if you're providing a good product or you're providing a good service. We don't want people to stop fulfilling the core responsibilities of the financial system to help grow the economy."

The second sentence is the one that defines "fairly earned" for Obama. The man who as a candidate spoke of "spreading the wealth around" has found a matter he considers within his pay grade: other people's pay.


Neo-Neocon: Obama and Sowell on who can tell when people have made enough money?

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Who defines "enough money". I have known a few truly wealthy people and they would acknowledge that they "have enough money". Still, they want to go on. It is not greed, it is "being in the game". The amount of money is a way of keeping score. Sort of the way Bill Gates might say to Warren Buffet, "I beat you this year".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at April 29, 2010 3:08 PM

The fallacy which which the Left attempts to cover its envy and frustrated greed is the idea that people who earn money are taking it from someone else who deserves it more. There is a reason for the word "earn". Money is earned by creating value for other people, which induces them to offer money to the earner. There is no such thing as a static pie of wealth or income subject to the redistributionist whims of self-anointed elitists.

But those who seek political power in order to enrich themselves spread that meme in order to demonize the earners and rationalize their quest to use political power and the force of government to seize the wealth they earn. In their blind ambition, they forget the fact that earners have the option to stop creating value for them to seize. This is why all Socialist regimes end up creating only misery.

Posted by: BobN at April 29, 2010 3:27 PM

I always thought that -every- law and regulation should have an automatic 'sunset' provision with a length determined by how well the vote that enacted it passed.

or instance, if a law passes with a 6:4 vote, it should only last for five years before it must be renewed. If it passed 9:1, it could last up to twenty years.

This would facilitate a massive reduction in cruft in the legal code, allow rewording of laws that have unclear language, and force legislators to focus on the core of governance instead of carving-out innumerable tweaks and exemptions over time.

Now that technology is capable of handling this sort of thing, it's time to load the whole book of laws into a database that is web-accessible. It could track changes over time, issue notices of laws that were going to 'expire', and track votes in committee and on the floor. Also, testimony from hearings and links to statistics could be footnoted-in, to allow easy research into the issues.

Posted by: mangeek at April 29, 2010 4:22 PM

Well, let me speak as to perhaps where the line is......

Right now, and in the past few weeks we have some clear evidence of the line - maybe you are not watching???

1. The coal mine disaster - by a company which wanted to make those few extra dollars but not spend the money on those upgrades.

2. The giant oil disaster right now - where the Oil lobby and companies wanted to make a penny more or so per gallon, so lobbied to make sure regulations would not make them install the proper fail safe acoustic valve.

3. The story released last week where Wellpoint (blue cross) uses a computer program to cancel the insurance coverages of our moms, wives and daughters who are diagnosed with breast cancer.

4. The collapse of a KY Coal mine, happening as we speak, which also had hundreds of deficiencies in terms of safety....for a couple extra bucks of profit.

So there is part of your answer. If the money you are stealing (making) endangers the lives and livelihoods of others or the environment or the quality of life for others, you just might be making too much........

It's not playing God. It's common sense and balance. In the end, money and prosperity and "happiness" are about achieving a balance and a win-win situation. If your "success" is based on the failure of millions of others, you are the Devil.......simple as that.

Money does not come from the sky. People have to produce goods and services for it. Wall Street is welcome to a small commission for making deals and putting financing together. But, they have recently taken the entire economy of much of the world down due to wanting the entire pie.

That, clearly, is too much.

Are you somehow unable to see that line?

Posted by: Stuart at April 29, 2010 4:31 PM

BobN writes:

"The fallacy which which the Left attempts to cover its envy and frustrated greed is the idea that people who earn money are taking it from someone else who deserves it more."

It seems to be a popular socialist idea that the quntity of money is finitie. If you make more than someone else, you have taken "their piece of the pie". The American idea is to make the pie bigger.

So far as I know, English is the only language which expresses the idea to "make money". For instance, in Spanish you "get money". In Greek you "catch money".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at April 29, 2010 7:29 PM

You're right Stuey, we need government to handle things for us. Like they've done for the black community for the last 50 years, rendering them worse off than they were at the start. Or, like Katrina, they will be there for us. They can take care of us just like they run the post office, run social security.
To buy into your stupid f'n orthodoxy that is the basis for moronic liberalism, you really need to believe that you can deceive mother nature, on a consistent basis. You can pay people for not working, and, miraculously they will want to work for their pay. You can tell people they were really discriminated against which is why they didn't get a job, and then they will try to work harder to get a job. You pay them more for each illegitimate child they pump out, and they will pump out less. Every idiotic liberal program is an abysmal failure because at its root they provide perverse incentives. Which is why you liberals are just a bunch of moronic perverts. You're too stupid to ever get it.

Posted by: Eric M at April 29, 2010 7:41 PM


You are nnot talking to a bunch of "left loonies" here.

"But, they (Wall Street) have recently taken the entire economy of much of the world down due to wanting the entire pie."

This is true on only the most superficial of levels. You make it sound as though the Wall Street minions have kept all of the money. For years they generated profits for almost all of the pension funds, the "widows and orphans" of all sorts. They made mortgages so affordable that people bought more than they could actually afford. So, everyone benefited for a number of years. Now, someone has to be blamed. It is an over simplification to think that there is one small group of evil citizens and that they can be "rooted out", after which all will be as it was.

An aside, I know real estate brokers who went to jail in the early 90's for mortgage "fraud". What they did that got them jail time was completely legal by 2001. If not completly legal, it was completely tolerated.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at April 29, 2010 8:07 PM

As if the government had proven its ability to prevent any such things from happening. More often than not, government causes disasters, even when it isn't trying to.

Are individuals and businesses responsible for the nightmare economic and social conditions in New York, Detroit, Newark, Los Angeles?

Did not government programs destroy African-American families and create crime and drug-ridden slums?

Is not the entire carbon tax scheme designed to funnel huge amounts of money to Democrat politicians and their supporters at Goldman Sachs and other corrupt businesses in their coalition?

Is there any correlation between the disasters cited by our least favorite Lefty and what anyone in any of the implicated companies earns? In fact, the causes of the disasters he relates are not yet known to anyone and are still being investigated. Only a dishonest agitator pushing his agenda would jump to conclusions about earnings and these incidents. But that is what this clown is.

Posted by: BobN at April 29, 2010 8:26 PM

Well, it's really strange that BP with all the money in the world has cried for Obama to come and save them from themselves! That is the old story - privatize the profits, socialize the losses.

Now, if you really support free markets, BP should just close up shop and we should get all their money put into the US Treasury for the priceless pain and destruction they will cause to our ecosystem. But that is not the way it works. These corporations play the God with no soul....otherwise known as Satan.

Eric, your rants cannot be understood, and even if they could, are not worthy debates deserving a response. If you actually can make a real world point, make one. Otherwise, enjoy your ranting. I don't even think the righties here enjoy anti-intellectual BS.

Faust, Wall Street did not make mortgages affordable...your trusty government did, by lending money to banks at low rates and by guaranteeing those mortgages. Wall Street made money off the "skim" and the "float".

Sure, that's a generalization...but close enough. They basically stole all our money.

And, no, they didn't make money for pension funds. That money was made by productivity gains in the actual companies held in stocks.

But recently those Wall Street banks DID break a lot of the pension funds...by selling them products that were known to be bad.

A sick world we live in, my friends. And even sicker when you have folks here defending the strong as opposed to standing with the weak and preyed upon.

Posted by: Stuart at April 29, 2010 8:45 PM

So Stuart,d'ya think Obama believes Oprah has "made enough"?Oh,uncomfortable question?

Posted by: joe bernstein at April 29, 2010 10:49 PM

"So Stuart,d'ya think Obama believes Oprah has "made enough"?"

And what about Bill Ayers' brother and the other cronies (possibly including the President himself, in the form of a "blind" trust) who stand to make billions on an absurd "carbon exchange" if the mega fraud known as cap-and-trade is passed?

At what point will they have made enough? What is the plan to take away from them what is "too much" (there is no question that they will have way too much) and who decides when that level has been reached?

When the president leaves office in two or six years, he stands to make tens of millions, probably hundreds of millions, in speaking fees and book deals.

At what point will he have made enough? And who says what is "enough"?

Posted by: Monique at April 29, 2010 11:14 PM

You folks seem to have a very hard time with basic conceptual thinking! As I often see, "conservatives" (who are, in reality, not conservative at all), lack the ability to see things on a sliding scale - it's got to be black or white....as in Moniques cut and paste definitions of various "isms".

But the real world does not work that way, as any successful person knows from experience.

How much is too much? The simply answer to that is why we have a progressive tax system! That means we have built in "governors" or pressure relief valves which basically say their is no limit to what you can make, but that you have to pay some of it in taxes and fees to benefit our country.

It works pretty well, which is why every advanced country on the planet uses a similar system.

Taking one comment out of context and harping on it is so "Anchor Rising", but let me put my own spin on it.

First of all, the President is addressing Wall Street Reform, an area where it is somewhat normal for the President of a non-profit (Grasso) to make 100 million dollars in severance pay...AFTER he makes tens of millions in regular pay.

Wall Street makes a LOT of their money by snowing (lying) to you and I and our representatives. They give out hundreds of billions in bonuses......basically out of our money...either as taxpayers or investors.

So, yes, there is a point of ridiculousness! The way that is dealt with is usually taxation and some regulation. Make companies be very responsible.....no billions in bonuses unless the stockholders and investors got their money first!

Look at it this way, my friends. If we lived in Naples, Italy we'd likely not care that crooks (the Mafia) are responsible for all the trash (waste management) because they actually do the job and only take a tiny portion of our money....they basically skim a percent or two.

But if the mob, as with Wall Street, took 1/2 of our money or took ALL of our money, we would probably say or think "How much is too much?".

It's a pretty simply concept. Can y'all honestly not understand it?

Posted by: Stuart at April 30, 2010 8:39 AM

Umm, you think God tells you when you have enough money? Seek help: those voices in your head are very likely the result of a psychological condition.

Seriously though, you seem to be confused about the right of the federal government to levy funds.

Taxes should be proportioned to what may be annually spared by the individual. --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1784.
Posted by: Russ at April 30, 2010 1:43 PM
A sick world we live in, my friends. And even sicker when you have folks here defending the strong as opposed to standing with the weak and preyed upon.

Hear, hear, Stuart.

Experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to...the general prey of the rich on the poor. Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787.
Posted by: Russ at April 30, 2010 2:44 PM

How fascinating that liberty is defined by some here as defending the strong at the expense of the weak. Clearly some people do not understand the true nature of liberty, including the personal responsibility that comes with it. They also don't get the American founding principles of self-governance and why government exists at our consent, not the other way around.

For example, isn't it interesting that the same people who worry about people making too much money are the same ones who block inner city kids from having the liberty, the freedom of choice, to get a quality education? Who is preying on whom?

For example, who actually believes that a local charity - funded by the generosity of local people who may have made "enough money" and operated by local people who actually know or can find out about the local needy people they are serving - can better deliver needed services to those people than unelected, unaccountable, nameless, faceless bureaucrats in faraway Washington, D.C. who are applying the same rules and regulations across multiple geographical situations about which they have no personal knowledge?

What is missing in many of these earlier shallow comments is an understanding of how big government - whom some foolishly think is the pathway to justice for the "little guy" - only incentivizes big corporations, big unions and other powerful organizations to feed at the trough to buy government favors at the expense of those unable to pay for a place at the trough. This leads to what some call crony capitalism where transparent competition in the marketplace is trumped by the non-transparent buying of legal or regulatory favors that benefit the few at the expense of the many.

Now THAT is truly the definition of the powerful preying on others.

Posted by: Donald B. Hawthorne at April 30, 2010 4:57 PM

David S & OldTimeLefty

I've been noticing the height of the Bay's tides over the last few days. Very high. The current has been strong and the low tides exposing much. All result from the full moon. Notice also the reappearance of one whom we have in the past associated with those occurences. Lock your doors.

Posted by: Phil at May 1, 2010 7:00 AM
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