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Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Great Depression: Part IV

Let's jump ahead in our on again off again trip down history lane. I promised a multi-part history of the Great Depression and that continues today. Let's just go forward into the 1930s before we return to the 1920s.
The money supply is the product of the monetary base times the money multiplier. Here are the sad pictures from the Great Depression. As you can see on the left, the money supply crashed and burned because on the right, the excess reserve and the currency holding ratios both increased and crashed the money multiplier. The Fed did nothing to the monetary base and the money supply fell by about 33%.

Here are similar graphs today. As the money multiplier has crashed and burned (on the left), the moneary base has increased like it was shot out of a cannon.
This is one of the main reasons why we have not slipped back to the 1930s. All you have to do is eyeball it to see. See?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The New Deal's Economic Legacy

The attached web site is a link to the Conference I was a part of last Monday as an invited guest of the CATO Institute. Also on the program was the very capable Hal Cole of the University of Pennsylvania and the very capable Price Fishback from the University of Arizona. Hal Cole's presentation starts at the 1:35 minute mark. I start at the 21:21 minute mark. Price Fishback's presentation starts at the 32:12 minute mark. The question and answer session starts at the 49:05 minute mark.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

This is why we love dogs and kids.

Merry Christmas to all!

This annual editorial from the Wall Street Journal is what Christmas is all about.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Don't look for recovery until this turns around.

And I don't mean by spending on winterizing your house or "pimp'in" your ride.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thinking like Joe Jihadi...Like any good lawyer would tell you...never prosecute a case you would not defend.

"This report is republished with permission of STRATFOR

The Jihadist Strategic Dilemma
December 7, 2009

By George Friedman
With U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement of his strategy in Afghanistan, the U.S.-jihadist war has entered a new phase. With its allies, the United States has decided to increase its focus on the Afghan war while continuing to withdraw from Iraq. Along with focusing on Afghanistan, it follows that there will be increased Western attention on Pakistan. Meanwhile, the question of what to do with Iran remains open, and is in turn linked to U.S.-Israeli relations. The region from the Mediterranean to the Hindu Kush remains in a war or near-war status. In a fundamental sense, U.S. strategy has not shifted under Obama: The United States remains in a spoiling-attack state.
Related Special Topic Page
• The Devolution of Al Qaeda
As we have discussed, the primary U.S. interest in this region is twofold. The first aspect is to prevent the organization of further major terrorist attacks on the United States. The second is to prevent al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups from taking control of any significant countries.
U.S. operations in this region mainly consist of spoiling attacks aimed at frustrating the jihadists’ plans rather than at imposing Washington’s will in the region. The United States lacks the resources to impose its will, and ultimately doesn’t need to. Rather, it needs to wreck its adversaries’ plans. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the primary American approach consists of this tack. That is the nature of spoiling attacks. Obama has thus continued the Bush administration’s approach to the war, though he has shifted some details.
The Jihadist Viewpoint
It is therefore time to consider the war from the jihadist point of view. This is a difficult task given that the jihadists do not constitute a single, organized force with a command structure and staff that could express that view. It is compounded by the fact that al Qaeda prime, our term for the original al Qaeda that ordered and organized the attacks on 9/11 and in Madrid and London, is now largely shattered.
While bearing this in mind, it must be remembered that this fragmentation is both a strategic necessity and a weapon of war for jihadists. The United States can strike the center of gravity of any jihadist force. It naturally cannot strike what doesn’t exist, so the jihadist movement has been organized to deny the United States that center of gravity, or command structure which, if destroyed, would leave the movement wrecked. Thus, even were Osama bin Laden killed or captured, the jihadist movement is set up to continue.
So although we cannot speak of a jihadist viewpoint in the sense that we can speak of an American viewpoint, we can ask this question: If we were a jihadist fighter at the end of 2009, what would the world look like to us, what would we want to achieve and what might we do to try to achieve that?
We must bear in mind that al Qaeda began the war with a core strategic intent, namely, to spark revolutions in the Sunni Muslim world by overthrowing existing regimes and replacing them with jihadist regimes. This was part of the jihadist group’s long-term strategy to recreate a multinational Islamist empire united under al Qaeda’s interpretation of Shariah.
The means toward this end involved demonstrating to the Muslim masses that their regimes were complicit with the leading Christian power, i.e., the United States, and that only American backing kept these Sunni regimes in power. By striking the United States on Sept. 11, al Qaeda wanted to demonstrate that the United States was far more vulnerable than believed, by extension demonstrating that U.S. client regimes were not as powerful as they appeared. This was meant to give the Islamic masses a sense that uprisings against Muslim regimes not dedicated to Shariah could succeed. In their view, any American military response — an inevitability after 9/11 — would further incite the Muslim masses rather than intimidate them.
The last eight years of war have ultimately been disappointing to the jihadists, however. Rather than a massive uprising in the Muslim world, not a single regime has been replaced with a jihadist regime. The primary reason has been that Muslim regimes allied with the United States decided they had more to fear from the jihadists than from the Americans, and chose to use their intelligence and political power to attack and suppress the jihadists. In other words, rather than trigger an uprising, the jihadists generated a strengthened anti-jihadist response from existing Muslim states. The spoiling attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as in other countries in the Horn of Africa and North Africa, generated some support for the jihadists, but that support has since diminished and the spoiling attacks have disrupted these countries sufficiently to make them unsuitable as bases of operation for anything more than local attacks. In other words, the attacks tied the jihadists up in local conflicts, diverting them from operations against the United States and Europe.
Under this intense pressure, the jihadist movement has fragmented, though it continues to exist. Incapable of decisive action at the moment, it has goals beyond surviving as a fragmented entity, albeit with some fairly substantial fragments. And it is caught on the horns of a strategic dilemma.
Operationally, jihadists continue to be engaged against the United States. In Afghanistan, the jihadist movement is relying on the Taliban to tie down and weaken American forces. In Iraq, the remnants of the jihadist movement are doing what they can to shatter the U.S.-sponsored coalition government in Baghdad and further tie down American forces by attacking Shiites and key members of the Sunni community. Outside these two theaters, the jihadists are working to attack existing Muslim governments collaborating with the United States — particularly Pakistan — but with periodic attacks striking other Muslim states.
These attacks represent the fragmentation of the jihadists. Their ability to project power is limited. By default, they have accordingly adopted a strategy of localism, in which their primary intent is to strike existing governments while simultaneously tying down American forces in a hopeless attempt to stabilize the situation.
The strategic dilemma is this: The United States is engaged in a spoiling action with the primary aim of creating conditions in which jihadists are bottled up fighting indigenous forces rather than being free to plan attacks on the United States or systematically try to pull down existing regimes. And the current jihadist strategy plays directly into American hands. First, the attacks recruit Muslim regimes into deploying their intelligence and security forces against the jihadists, which is precisely what the United States wants. Secondly, it shifts jihadist strength away from transnational actions to local actions, which is also what the United States wants. These local attacks, which kill mostly Muslims, also serve to alienate many Muslims from the jihadists.
The jihadists are currently playing directly into U.S. hands because, rhetoric aside, the United States cannot regard instability in the Islamic world as a problem. Let’s be more precise on this: An ideal outcome for the United States would be the creation of stable, pro-American regimes in the region eager and able to attack and destroy jihadist networks. There are some regimes in the region like this, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The probability of creating such stable, eager and capable regimes in places like Iraq or Afghanistan is unlikely in the extreme. The second-best outcome for the United States involves a conflict in which the primary forces battling — and neutralizing — each other are Muslim, with the American forces in a secondary role. This has been achieved to some extent in Iraq. Obama’s goal is to create a situation in Afghanistan in which Afghan government forces engage Taliban forces with little or no U.S. involvement. Meanwhile, in Pakistan the Americans would like to see an effective effort by Islamabad to suppress jihadists throughout Pakistan. If they cannot get suppression, the United States will settle for a long internal conflict that would tie down the jihadists.
A Self-Defeating Strategy
The jihadists are engaged in a self-defeating strategy when they spread out and act locally. The one goal they must have, and the one outcome the United States fears, is the creation of stable jihadist regimes. The strategy of locally focused terrorism has proved ineffective. It not only fails to mobilize the Islamic masses, it creates substantial coalitions seeking to suppress the jihadists.
The jihadist attack on the United States has failed. The presence of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has reshaped the behavior of regional governments. Fear of instability generated by the war has generated counteractions by regional governments. Contrary to what the jihadists expected or hoped for, there was no mass uprising and therefore no counter to anti-jihadist actions by regimes seeking to placate the United States. The original fear, that the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan would generate massive hostility, was not wrong. But the hostility did not strengthen the jihadists, and instead generated anti-jihadist actions by governments.
From the jihadist point of view, it would seem essential to get the U.S. military out of the region and to relax anti-jihadist actions by regional security forces. Continued sporadic and ineffective action by jihadists achieves nothing and generates forces with which they can’t cope. If the United States withdrew, and existing tensions within countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan were allowed to mature undisturbed, new opportunities might present themselves.
Most significantly, the withdrawal of U.S. troops would strengthen Iran. The jihadists are no friends of Shiite Iran, and neither are Iran’s neighbors. In looking for a tool for political mobilization in the Gulf region or in Afghanistan absent a U.S. presence, the Iranian threat would best serve the jihadists. The Iranian threat combined with the weakness of regional Muslim powers would allow the jihadists to join a religious and nationalist opposition to Tehran. The ability to join religion and nationalism would turn the local focus from something that takes the jihadists away from regime change to something that might take them toward it.
The single most powerful motivator for an American withdrawal would be a period of open quiescence. An openly stated consensus for standing down, in particular because of a diminished terrorist threat, would facilitate something the Obama administration wants most of all: a U.S. withdrawal from the region. Providing the Americans with a justification for leaving would open the door for new possibilities. The jihadists played a hand on 9/11 that they hoped would prove a full house. It turned into a bust. When that happens, you fold your hand and play a new one. And there is always a hand being dealt so long as you have some chips left.
The challenge here is that the jihadists have created a situation in which they have defined their own credibility in terms of their ability to carry out terrorist attacks, however poorly executed or counterproductive they have become. Al Qaeda prime’s endless calls for action have become the strategic foundation for the jihadists: Action has become an end in itself. The manner in which the jihadists have survived as a series of barely connected pods of individuals scattered across continents has denied the United States a center of gravity to strike. It has also turned the jihadists from a semi-organized force into one incapable of defining strategic shifts.
The jihadists’ strategic dilemma is that they have lost the 2001-2008 phase of the war but are not defeated. To begin to recoup, they must shift their strategy. But they lack the means for doing so because of what they have had to do to survive. At the same time, there are other processes in play. The Taliban, which has even more reason to want the United States out of Afghanistan, might shift to an anti-jihadist strategy: It could liquidate al Qaeda, return to power in Afghanistan and then reconsider its strategy later. So, too, in other areas.
From the U.S. point of view, an open retreat by the jihadists would provide short-term relief but long-term problems. The moment when the enemy sues for peace is the moment when the pressure should be increased rather than decreased. But direct U.S. interests in the region are so minimal that a more distant terrorist threat will be handled in a more distant future. As the jihadists are too fragmented to take strategic positions, U.S. pressure will continue in any event.
Oddly enough, as much as the United States is uncomfortable in the position it is in, the jihadists are in a much worse position.
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Friday, December 11, 2009

The Fed is taking heat.

There is now a populist movement that is gaining steam that wants to make the Fed a political institution. It does not appear to be going away. This is very troubling. Give Congress control of the money what happens. Read more
here and here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pearl Harbor...68 years ago.

The process of destroying Imperial Japan began on this day 68 years ago. Both Roosevelt and Truman were intent on destroying Imperial Japan so it could never again threaten the world. It was the same with Nazi Germany. That was the right prescription. How often today do you hear the same tone about Al Qaeda or the Taliban? It is not even called the "war on terror" any more. That was a "bumper sticker" as Randy Parker Schmuck Hall of Shame member John Edwards called it. You call it want you want. Let them chop your head off. Not me baby. It is the war on terror and they need to be destroyed because that is what they want to do to you, unwashed infidel that you are.

P.S. Truman was CORRECT in dropping the bomb on Japan. Here at the University there are any number of conferences and seminars on how the U.S. was wrong to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Psshaw! is what I say to that. Army planners were looking at over 1 million + casualties to invade Japan. If you were a G.I. back then you were being shipped from Europe to Asia knowing your odds of seeing 1946 were slim, never mind 1947 and beyond. When Truman dropped the bomb many G.I.s wept...because they knew they were going to live. Look one of them in the eyes and tell him Truman was wrong. I bet you get a spirited answer.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

Read Jim Hamilton and you know what to think...

From the November 25 entry of

One of the ways I have suggested for personalizing this issue stems from the observation that $1 trillion is approximately the total personal income tax receipts collected by the U. S. federal government in 2006. So, to calculate what another trillion in deficits means for me personally, I take the amount I paid in federal income taxes that year and double it; $10 trillion in new debt will require 10 years at that higher rate to pay off. It's going to be a real problem for any politician who tries to service the growing debt burden by raising taxes. That's why I see troubles ahead for managing the federal cash flow.

But Paul feels I'm using an inappropriate metric:

Krugman says: "Jim gets scary numbers about the debt burden by assuming that we'll have to pay off the debt in 10 years. But why would we have to do that? Again, the lesson of the 1950s-- or, if you like, the lesson of Belgium and Italy, which brought their debt-GDP ratios down from early 90s levels-- is that you need to stabilize debt, not pay it off; economic growth will do the rest."

Normally, you'd think that putting off repaying a debt does not make it any smaller. The federal government can (with my wallet) pay the trillion today, or it can wait 10 years to pay one trillion plus 10 years' interest, or wait 20 years to pay one trillion plus 20 years' interest. The present value of the service cost on one trillion dollars in debt is exactly one trillion dollars today, no matter how long you put off paying (emphasis added). My comments on how much a trillion really is are perfectly appropriate for discussion of any repayment timetable.

Is it possible that some time within the next five years, the U.S. Treasury will run an auction in which there are not enough bids to roll over the debt? My answer is yes.

Is inflation coming? Three short pieces from Allan Meltzer you should read.

From our good friends at the American Enterprise Institute....If you look at the political history of the Fed and the political pressure they will face to not tighten when the economy begins to recover, it does not look good for the future price level and its rate of change. Let's hope the Fed officials who claim they will increase the fed funds rate with the same "alacrity" they reduced it are as tough as they talk when the time comes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

One look says a lot.

From Nick Schulz at The American Enterprise Institute Blog by way of W. Douglas McMillin....

Here is the listing of cabinet members by administration with previous private sector experience. It includes secretaries of State, Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, Interior, Labor, Transportation, Energy, and Housing & Urban Development, and excludes Postmaster General, Navy, War, Health, Education & Welfare, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security—432 cabinet members in all.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The world gets more and more curious.

It is the community reinvestment act and other government nonsense that put subprime and Alt-A paper on bank's and Fannie and Freddie balance sheets that gave us the mess we are in. If you want to hunger strike over it, as one anorexic super model put it, "nothing tastes as good as being skinny looks".

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Football in the South. Yes it is different than yankee football.

To Keep Their Prime Seats, Fraternities Embrace an Old-Fashioned Rite; Khakis and Bourbon


Each Sunday, Peyton Alsobrook, a 19-year-old freshman at Auburn University, gets together with his Alpha Tau Omega fraternity brothers to compare notes on the women they take on dates to Saturday football games.

Those who seem bored are eliminated from further consideration, he says, along with any who might talk too much during a close game "because they're from up North or something." As the all-important Alabama game approaches, Mr. Alsobrook says he's narrowed his list of potential dates to four. The winner, he says, will get a coveted ticket to the big game and, beyond that, special treatment that might include candy or even "actual flowers."

As the Southeastern Conference solidifies its place as the most prestigious in college football—it has produced the last three national champions—the profile of its games and the growing scarcity of tickets have taken a toll on some of the most genteel (some might say antiquated) traditions of college football in the deep South. The University of Mississippi has already banned the waving of confederate flags, replaced a mascot that reminds some of a plantation owner and this week told its marching band to stop playing a song that ends with the words "the South will rise again."

This season, another old Southern football tradition has found itself in the crosshairs. Fraternities, which have long been given some of the best seats in the stadium at schools like Auburn, are facing the prospect of losing the privilege. To avoid this, they're taking a page from their fathers and grandfathers before them: Putting on coats and ties and showing up with a date.

The pressure is coming from alumni and other fans who think these tickets aren't being used, or who don't like the way the fraternity members behave. At Alabama last season, where season tickets cost up to $3,250 and the waiting list can take years, alumni were incensed by the empty seats in the student section, even at nationally televised games. At last year's Kentucky game, the school says nearly 30% of the 15,000 student tickets weren't used.

After Auburn's opening home game, Clinton Patterson, a computer-engineering graduate student, complained in a letter to the editor of the Auburn Plainsman that the "frat guys" in the student section "appear to make up the most obnoxiously vocal, occasionally violent and openly inconsiderate part of the student section." He went on to describe how "belligerently drunk" fraternity brothers cursed at their own team and engaged in a pushing match.

These complaints have prompted some schools to put students on notice. Alabama has started scanning student ID cards at the gates and preventing students from buying tickets in the future if they don't use, transfer or donate their seats at least three times a season. Auburn's athletic department recently devised a system in which student organizations, including fraternities, receive "spirit points" for attendance and good behavior, and have to meet quotas to keep their blocks of rows in the student section.

For the fraternities who've long held some of the best seats, and who continue to use this privilege to recruit new members, the best way to ensure that the seats are occupied, and that people at least try to mind their manners, is to encourage their members to scare up dates.

Some fraternities at Auburn say they are "strongly encouraging" their pledges to bring at least one female with them to every game. Short of inviting an entire sorority to sit in the section (which is rumored to have happened on occasion) they say it's the simplest solution.

But for modern frat guys who hail from "generation text," the act of taking a date to a football game doesn't come as naturally as it might have to their fathers.

According to several sophomore members of Auburn's Sigma Nu chapter, the best quality to look for in a date is that she makes a good "babysitter" (read: she will take care of you if you get too drunk). Others say the best dates won't mind doubling as bourbon-transportation vehicles. (Taping a flask to a date's leg is, by many accounts, another age-old Southern football tradition.)

Sam Poteat, a senior in Alpha Gamma Rho who says he usually tries to lock down a date before Wednesday, believes "there are two kinds of girls who don't know about football—the ones who want to learn, and the ones who don't."

Mr. Poteat, a finance major, prefers the former, he says, because it at least gives him something to talk about. Of course, too much football knowledge isn't always a great thing: At a game several years ago, he says, his date surprised him by calling out plays, predicting which way the ball would go and explaining why certain penalties were being called. "It was emasculating," Mr. Poteat recalls. "At a certain point I was asking her, 'What happened there?' "

Women who would be dates say they have their own calculus. Men who might ignore them, abandon them after the game or fail to hug them at touchdowns (another tradition) are to be avoided. Frat guys who get so drunk that they can't make it to the game, pass out during the game or are tossed out by security, can be blacklisted. But Auburn senior Allison DeBerard, who says she's spent entire summers stocking up on cute orange dresses, says that because fraternities control the prime seating and throw the best tailgate parties, many women who love football games have no choice to put up with some less-than-gentlemanlike behavior from their dates. "It happens," she says.

No matter what happens to the tradition, many Southern students, both men and women, say the tradition is worth maintaining. It's a relic of an era in the South when students dressed more formally and football games were accompanied by parties with fine china.

Rebekah Blakeslee, a lawyer in Jackson, Miss., who attended Mississippi, says that for her, the tradition dates back to times of war, when students wore their finest to football games to honor their classmates who were on the battlefield. At the school's recent game against Auburn, she stood in the visitors section in an elegant red coat and gold-hoop earrings while teetering on high-heeled black boots. "My feet are killing me and I hear the chuckles in the back, but I'm gonna stick it out," Ms. Blakeslee said.

"It's a tradition of Southern chivalry," said Mr. Poteat, the finance major. "It's what's always been done. We're trying to build better men."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Why the hell not?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Israeli snipers wait until they are sure the trigger is pulled.

Once again, if you are a more sensitive viewer, don't click the play button.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Political Correctness turns deadly.

When you are more afraid of offending someone than you are afraid of your enemy, this is what happens.

Barro on the Great Depression and the impact of fiscal policy.

I invited Robert Barro to be a participant in my second book on the economics of the Great Depression along with Ben Bernanke, Lee Ohanian, Peter Temin and others. He never answered my letter. Such is life on the D list for both me and Kathy Griffin (although I have yet to have plastic surgery). Here Barro talks about lessons of the Great Depression and makes no mention of the gold standard. How odd? Then he goes on to explain what we know about the impact of government spending and how it is measured. This is where we really should pay attention.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month...WWI ended.

This very moment back in 1918 WWI ended. The carnage was unimaginable. The fighting lasted until the very last minute. Why? The beginnings of the Great Depression had begun.

Barney Frank to the rescue.

Never did I ever think of Barney Frank as being a savior. But apparently he is the best field commander there is in stopping Ron Paul from taking over the Fed.

Give this man the Pulitzer Prize.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Important dates in history: The Berlin Wall comes down.

Ronald Reagan had the guts to say what was true. The Soviet Union was an "evil empire". He caught hell for that. It makes those who derided him for it look like the fools that they are.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fun at the University of Tennessee.

If you have never seen a big time college football game, like with 104,000 folks at UT, then put that on your bucket list. Then go out and have dinner at some place nice. Make a point with a martini in your hand. Just make that point before you start drinking it.....

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Neat graph from James Hamilton.

Here is a graph of the breakdown of GDP: Housing is Up! But business investment remains stuck in free fall. The employment picture will not brighten until that component turns around. Consumption was 2.4% of the 3.5% growth and 60% of that was from the purchases of automobiles and parts.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

House kicks out a health bill.

Here is the House bill if you are so inclined:

Here is page caps deductibles at $1500 per individual and cost sharing at $5000. I once had a health insurance policy with a $20,000 deductible to protect myself against any catastrophic event. That's what insurance is supposed to do. It had $5 million in coverage and did what I needed it to do. If you wanted such policy now...too bad Bozo, you have to take this. If you want auto insurance where some dude checks your oil and tire pressure every morning and warms/cools your car and brings you coffee, you can get it but man will it cost you.
High deductible policies are out the window now, not in the choice set. Pay up sucker.

Just a few short years ago...

This photo shows our current Secretary of State holding up the details of her health care plan back in 1993. Let me gently remind any who will of the main provisions of that plan was to make it illegal and punishable by incarceration if you received outside attention from your personal doctor, even if you paid for it with your own money. That's right, they were going to lock you and your doctor up if any services were received outside the guidelines and auspices of the system. We're talking the big house. Back then Carnival Cruise Lines was outfitting ships for medical cruises 201 miles off the coast of the US outside of the jurisdiction of US laws. Take a cruise, see the doctor, have lunch, do some gambling, come back tomorrow.
Make no mistake. One of the hidden desires of Nancy and Harry is to insure you have no different health care experience than anyone else. Even if you have the money to pay for it. I'm not talking about getting in line for organ transplants, I'm talking the whole enchilada. It is not just "let's cover everyone and take care of our fellow citizens' needs." Nope, it is "you should not have more than the next person" even if you work for it and they lay around and smoke crack. No other economic good is viewed in the same way and it is total and utter rot.

Randy Parker Hall of Fame: Democrats who just say no to the public option.

All Star Line Up: Conrad of ND***Landrieu of LA***Lincoln of AR***Bayh of IN***McCaskill of MO. They have the guts to reject "command and obey" economics.