Conceited Planners

It was clear to anybody with a brain that the “Cash for Clunkers” program was going to have consequences that would hurt people. One is that charities, that benefit from tax-deductible used car donations, would be hurt because people stood to gain much more by trading the cars in for new ones. Another is that poor people would find it more expensive to buy low-end used cars, because many of them have been taken off the market by the program. The whole point of the program was to change people’s behavior! Of course some people will be made worse off by upsetting what had been mutually beneficial arrangements.

What’s amazing to me is this sort of denial of the possibility of significant unintended consequences:

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki says the program, which got a $2 billion boost Friday, will have a “negligible” effect on charities. Psaki says the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) was created to provide a “timely, temporary and targeted” economic stimulus and was not intended to divert vehicles from charities.

That’s priceless.

They didn’t intend it, so it will be negligible.

I think it’s a great representation of a major problem with these central planners, and those who support them. They consistently ignore the negative effects of their disruptions. They only look at the good effects that they intend, and choose to ignore the possibility that they might be doing significant harm. This magical, free lunch, thinking can be heard in almost every Obama

speech (e.g., millions of jobs created or saved, green economy, health care cost savings…). People are starting to realize that these things have real costs.

Not a moment too soon.

It was cheap to signal support for Candidate Obama. It’s costly to live under the policies of President Obama.

I’m glad the honeymoon is over.

My Representation

About a month ago, my congressman, Jay Inslee, sent out a mass self-promoting email bragging about his involvement in the health care bill that had just cleared the House Energy and Commerce committee with an all-important government plan option. His message claimed that he was interested in hearing my concerns, blah, blah, blah.

I did respond, for my own amusement, explaining why I thought his favored policies were bad.

Today, I got a response, probably picked from the “worried about too much spending” boilerplate. And, here’s part of my reply:

Congressman Inslee,

This was written by you or on your behalf:

“Our Nation spent over $2 billion dollars on health care in 2007, or more than $7,000 per person.”

It’s very depressing to learn that you don’t know the difference between a billion dollars and a trillion dollars.

But, it explains a lot.

I’m Not Joking

The other day, I discovered that Microsoft Research has created something called Project Tuva. The site is here.

They have made the 1964 Messenger Lectures series given by Richard Feynman available for free online, showcasing their new enhanced video player.

If you have any interest in physics, or smart people, or educational technology, or the world, I think you should check it out.

The video player seems well-designed to accomodate different learning styles. In addition to just watching the lecture, you can read the transcript, make time-stamped notes about what you’re watching, search for words in the lecture, read expert commentary synchronized with the video, and peruse “Extras” that allow further exploration of related artifacts (text, video, etc.) that open in a new window. All of this is available without looking too “busy” and distracting from the presentation. I can imagine this kind of thing making lots of great lectures and presentations accessible to the world and stimulating a great deal of learning.

Check it out. It’s pretty cool.