Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Pair of Rarities

I had the pleasure in the last several days of viewing two birds which are both very uncommon in my part of Pennsylvania. The first find was a Wilson's phalarope discovered in a pond near the town of Hershey.

The phalarope is not only rarely seen in south central Pennsylvania but is also very unusual in that the female is the more brightly plumaged of the two sexes and leaves to the male the tasks of nest-building, incubating the eggs, and raising the young. I don't know if this is what people mean by "transgendered," but it's certainly unusual behavior in the animal kingdom, and one wonders how this sex-role switch ever came about. They also have an odd way of feeding. They'll sometimes paddle quickly in a tight circle in the water causing insects and other food items to be drawn to the surface where they can be easily caught and eaten.

The second bird is an Upland sandpiper found in a grassy, reclaimed landfill in southern York County. The Upland sandpiper is related to the shorebirds one sees on beaches and mudflats, but it itself is rarely seen near water. Instead, this is a bird of dry, grassy, upland fields. They're very uncommon in Pennsylvania and especially so in the south-central part of the state.

The Upland sandpiper gives a unique call that sounds almost exactly like a "wolf-whistle," which is a little disconcerting when you hear it because it doesn't sound like something that would come from a bird.


Heading South

While Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and their merry band in Congress continue their transformation of America and rub their hands in anticipation of transformations yet to come, others are much less sanguine at the direction in which they are taking the country. The Ludwig von Mises Institute is an organization of political libertarians who are growing increasingly dismayed at the rapid growth of the state and some are so exasperated that they're now talking seriously about expatriation.

Libertarians are people who believe that government should be minimally intrusive in people's lives, including their economic and moral lives, and that the Obama administration has greatly accelerated a process of state expansion that has been ongoing since WWII.

In an article sent along by brother Bill, libertarian Lew Rockwell writes:

[T]he rise of emigration, expatriation, and citizenship renunciation is a trend that is not going away. It is rising and will get more significant. In some ways, it is completely expected. When regimes overcontrol, overtax, overregulate, they gnaw at the innate sense of the right to be free. When this gets worse and worse, people tend to look around for better environments.

We've all known people who talk about it openly. It is becoming cocktail conversation, the once unthinkable now standard fare. It's not just an impression. State Department records show that 502 people gave up citizenship in just the last quarter of 2009. That is more than twice the total for 2008. That might not seem like a lot, but what stands out here is the trend line, which is soaring. I also hear reports of year-long bureaucratic delays in approval, and, of course, plenty of people leave without permission.

What does Rockwell attribute this exodus to? Take a look:

Far more frightening is the sense that financial calamity is around the corner. A look at the data seems to suggest that. Vast reserves are sitting in the banking system, waiting to be unleashed to create what could be total destruction of the dollar. The deficit is rising so fast that it is hard to chart.

The jobs situation is terrible, especially for young people (and adults often make decisions based on what is best for their kids' future). Personal income is falling and falling. Investment is not recovering after its cliff dive in 2009. The social-welfare state is broke. Private debt is rising even though lending has not restarted.

The policies of the fiscal and monetary authorities are absolutely terrifying. The Fed is keeping rates at zero. The government is spending and spending beyond belief. Tax receipts are falling as never before, unleashing the greedy hand of the predator state to extract every last dime.

And look at what the US Congress and president are doing about this terrible mess: they are working to socialize healthcare, start a war with Iran, impose tariffs on China, and otherwise tax, regulate, inflate, and control more more more. An economy that is heavily capitalized and driven by the entrepreneurial spirit can stand a surprising amount of abuse. But that reserve capital is being drained away into new bubbles, and the entrepreneurial spirit is being crushed at every turn.

Based on all these facts, the sense of impending doom is hard to avoid. And consider that most people are thinking only about today, this month, and this year. But among the rich and entrepreneurial we find a class of people who specialize in thinking outside the box, and for the very long term. It is among the ranks of these people that we are seeing the renunciation trend take hold. The smart money is giving up on the US political system.

Whether Rockwell is correct or not I certainly can't say, but it would be interesting to know whether he himself is preparing to leave. In any event, if the geese that lay the golden eggs in our economy all start migrating south the U.S. will be pretty much dead in the water as a vibrant haven of prosperity and freedom. It will instead start to resemble one of those European basket-cases like Greece or Portugal, or maybe even Mexico.

That's not the hope and change that most Americans voted for.