Sunday, November 24, 2013

Who Is John Galt? (Continued)

The following crossed my desk this morning.......

Swiss Voters Reject Strict CEO Pay Limits in Referendum
By Catherine Bosley - Nov 24, 2013 9:28 AM MT 

Swiss voters rejected a proposal to limit executives’ pay to 12 times that of junior employees, a measure that would have gone further than any other developed nation. 

The measure was opposed by 65 percent of voters, the government in Bern said today. Polls, including one by consulting firm gfs.bern, had signaled that outcome as probable. Voter turnout was 53 percent, the highest in three years.

Switzerland is home to at least five of Europe’s 20 best-paid chief executive officers.  
“It’s a big relief,” Valentin Vogt, president of the Swiss Employers’ Association, said in an interview on Swiss national television SRF. “It’s a signal that it’s not up to the state to have a say in pay.” 

Switzerland is the home to at least five of Europe’s 20 best-paid chief executive officers. Opposition to excessive pay has stiffened among the traditionally pro-business Swiss following the government bailout of UBS AG (UBSN), Switzerland’s biggest bank, in 2008 and a plan -- later scrapped -- by Novartis AG (NOVN) to pay outgoing Chairman Daniel Vasella as much as $78 million. 

Swiss voters approved the so-called fat-cat initiative that gave company shareholders a binding vote on managers’ pay and blocked golden handshakes and severance packages in March. 

While polls after that vote suggested the 1:12 initiative could pass, support waned, in part because of opposition by company executives, such as Roche Holding AG (ROG) CEO Severin Schwan and ABB Ltd. (ABBN) chief Ulrich Spiesshofer, who said it would crimp competitiveness and damage the economy. 

‘Absurd’ Proposal
Speaking at a news conference in Bern, Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann said the intended pay curbs were “absurd,” welcoming the voters decision. “We know there would have been lots of ways to circumvent the restrictions,” he said. “Switzerland stays attractive as a business location.” 

Today’s vote highlights discontent with managers in Europe, where unemployment soared to a record and banks have received taxpayer-funded bailouts. In Spain, the country’s Socialist party is proposing similar measures. 

“Today we’ve lost,” Young Socialist party leader David Roth told SRF. “But we’ll continue to fight long term.” 

Among the group’s initiatives is one for a national minimum wage. A date for the vote hasn’t been set. 

Supporters of the 1:12 initiative said it only would have affected 0.3 percent of all Swiss companies and 3,400 managers. Switzerland is home to Europe’s largest drugmakers as well as the headquarters of the world’s largest oil traders Glencore Xstrata Plc (GLEN) and Vitol SA. 

Growing Discontent
Switzerland is the world’s second-most competitive country behind the U.S., according to an annual ranking published by IMD’s World Competitiveness Center. The Swiss also have the highest gross average monthly wage in Europe at about $7,766, the most recent UN data shows. 

The measure would have been “a much stricter rule than in other countries,” said Robert Pozen, a senior lecturer of business administration at Harvard Business School. Pozen commented before the results were announced. 

Reining in huge executive payouts has found appeal outside Switzerland. Nearly three quarters would support the 1:12 ratio in Germany, according to a poll by GfK commissioned by the newspaper Welt am Sonntag. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party bloc agreed in a coalition draft accord to tighter limits on executive pay, Bild am Sonntag reported today. 

Switzerland ranks higher in income equality than the average of 34 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, according to OECD. The gap between the wealthiest 10 percent and the poorest is smaller than in Japan, the U.K., the U.S. and Canada, the OECD data showed. 

Ballot initiatives are common in Swiss politics, on issues ranging from healthcare to European Union membership. At least 100,000 signatures are needed for an initiative to come up for a national vote. Most voters cast their ballots by mail. 

This utopian scheme is no different in principle from those that already have created "minimum" wage laws, and then hiked the pay beyond market rates. Sadly, Berkeley and Boulder must be paying attention.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

"No you can't. Period."

This weekend I was planning to write about why Obama's Friday royal dispensation that cancelled health care policies could now arise reborn like Lazarus from the White House crypt when I read the following essay by the insightful and brilliant Andrew McCarthy. I can't top that, and won't try.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Obama and Consciousness

In his syndicated column of November 7, 2013, the brilliant Charles Krauthammer has written of “Rhetoric v. Reality.”

Quoting The New York Times headline “Obama to campaign to ensure health law’s success,” Dr. Krauthammer asks, “Campaigning to make something work? How does that work. Presidential sweet talk persuades the nonfunctional Web portal to function?”

Obviously not.

Psychiatrist Krauthammer’s next sentence—“This odd belief that rhetoric trumps reality [my emphasis] leads to strange scenes”—is the theme of his essay. It is reinforced by the observation that Obama proponents don’t live “in the real world,” and by Krauthammer’s statement that the president and his minions entertain a “bizarre belief in the unlimited power of the speech.”

Putting aside that Dr. Kauthammer seems to be careful not to diagnose Obama and his followers as delusional, there is a more fundamental—and frightening—explanation of the president’s behavior, not just regarding Obamacare but more broadly much of what else he has done and not done.

President of the United States Barack Obama suffers from the ultimately fatal disease of Primacy of Consciousness.

For Barack Obama, the tree does not fall in the forest if he’s not there to see and hear it.

If he wants to believe, for whatever reason, Americans can keep their insurance and physicians, then they can—even if in the real world they can’t.

If he denies having said they could, he didn’t say that—even if in the real world he did.

There are too many other such examples, and in suffering from Primacy of Consciousness Obama necessarily rejects Primacy of Existence—or, one could say, he rejects reality.

The late Ayn Rand expressed the crucial distinction between the two and their centrality to living in the real world rather than in an amorphous never-never land:

The basic metaphysical issues that lies at the root of any system of philosophy [is] the primacy of existence or the primacy of consciousness.

The primacy of existence (of reality) is the axiom that existence exists, i.e., that the universe exists independent of consciousness (of any consciousness), that things are what they are, that they possess a specific nature, an identity. The epistemological corollary is the axiom that consciousness is the faculty of perceiving that which exists—and that man gains knowledge of reality by looking outward. The rejection of these axioms represents a reversal: the primacy of consciousness—the notion that the universe has no independent existence, that it is the product of a consciousness (either human or divine or both). The epistemological corollary is the notion that man gains knowledge of reality by looking inward (either at his own consciousness or at the revelations it receives from another, superior consciousness).

The source of this reversal is the inability or unwillingness fully to grasp the difference between one’s inner state and the outer world[1] (i.e., between the perceiver and the the perceived (thus blending consciousness and existence into one indeterminate package-deal). This crucial distinction is not given to man automatically; it has to be learned. It is implicit in any awareness, but it has to be grasped conceptually and held as an absolute.[2]

Despite Obama’s unwillingness or inability to recognize what has happened before his eyes, the private health insurance market has crashed in the real-world forest.

[1] My emphasis.
[2] “The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made,” Philosophy: Who Needs It? (1982), 29.