“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”

Tom Van Dyke

Tom Van Dyke, businessman, musician, bon vivant and game-show champ (The Joker's Wild, and Win Ben Stein's Money), knows lots of stuff, although not quite everything yet. A past inactive to The American Spectator Online, the late great Reform Club blog, and currently on religion and the American Founding at American Creation, TVD continues to write on matters of both great and small importance from his ranch type style tract house high on a hill above Los Angeles.

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70 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    So T Day is a reason to link a hilarious clip to partisan politics?Report

    • Tom Van Dyke in reply to greginak says:

      Since yr hard-core lefty is only happy when he’s unhappy [see today’s comments], I wanted to give ’em a post to be thankful for.  And this is the thanks I get.

      But I’ll take it down until tomorrow in a little bit, Greg, because I luvya, babe.Report

  2. Copernicus says:

    It must have been an act of mass Turkecide–Turkeys are great fliers.Report

  3. Fnord says:

    A passing yet timely thought as we survey the Western world’s welfare state: What was thought to be 50 years of flight has turned out merely to have been free fall.

    Didn’t we have a graph on the front page last month (debunking an attack on capitalism, at that time) that addresses this issue?Report

    • Liberty60 in reply to Fnord says:

      At first I was intimidated by the link to Instapundit and the Cato Institute; I feared challenging a pundit whose sharpest witticism is “heh, indeedy”.

      However, I hve to admit some puzzlement, regarding the imminent doom of the Western welfare state- have I missed the news about Canada, Australia, Japan, Norway, Finland and Sweden?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Liberty60 says:

        Canada’s birthrate: 1.58

        Australia’s birthrate: 1.78

        Japan’s birthrate: 1.39

        Norway’s birthrate: 1.77

        Finland’s birthrate:1.73

        Sweden’s birthrate: 1.67

        (All numbers come from here, middle column.)Report

        • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

          The only reasonable conclusion is a large throbbing program of vigorous central government “stimulation.”Report

        • Liberty60 in reply to Jaybird says:

          See?  I knew I shouldn’t wade into these waters!

          Clearly, their low birthrate explains that their current prosperity is a mirage, that they are actually on the brink of disaster and chaos and starvation.

          From your link, we can clearly see that Niger (7.68), Uganda ( 6.73) and Mali (6.54) are poised to burst forth into worldwide hegemony and superpower status.

          Suck on that, you Canadian hosers!Report

          • superdestroyer in reply to Liberty60 says:

            The question is how does a high social-spending country pay for all of the social spending when a large percentage of the population is retired and the number of young workers keeps going down.

            Economist and demographers know that countries like Japan cannot continue.  Just look at the stagnant economy that Japan has had for 20 years.Report

            • Well, the usual answer is “productivity gains”; which is what let us go from a worker:retiree ratio of 16:1 when Social Security began to the current 3:1.  Now, if you want to argue that there is some reason that adequate productivity gains will not be possible in the future — eg, resource depletion in general or energy depletion specifically — then you can do that.  But the ratio by itself is not a guarantee that things have to fail.Report

        • Murali in reply to Jaybird says:

          For some perspective, singapore’s is 1.10. Our population growth is driven entirely by immigrants.Report

        • Fnord in reply to Jaybird says:

          If your hypothesis is that welfare spending causes lower birth-rates, I’m not sure I buy that.  Most of the first world is sub-replacement, sure, but is that actually caused by the welfare state?  Norway, near the top of the list, is one of those famous Nordic social democracies, while Japan is at the bottom and I don’t associate it with being a big spender.Report

          • Murali in reply to Fnord says:

            Japan is a big spender. Singapore is even lower down on the list and it is an even smaller spender than the US or Japan.

            I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the fertility rate in first world countries with nuclear families is largely going to be driven by how affordable housing is relative to the average person’s career trajectory.

            Given that I am unlikely to be in a position to sire children while staying a few rooms away from my parents, I will have to wait till I move out. If I can’t afford my own place until I’m in my 30s, then, I have to wait till I’m in my 30s.Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Fnord says:

            Objections to JB’s evidence are overruled, since it’s not disputed.  He has not yet made an argument based on them, although it sounds ominous.

            Thx for the replies.  The metaphorical turkeys—and best-laid plans of mice and men—are splatting all over the Western World.  Oh, the humanity…

            …and all the passengers screaming around here…”.Report

          • superdestroyer in reply to Fnord says:

            As taxes, housing, and insurance costs rise relative to incomes, people face the choice of either having children and being poor or avoiding pregnancy and maintaining a higher standard of living.

            Most of the people in the west are not willing to take the lower standard of living that is required to have children.  Also, social spending in a diverse countries means that poor people have more children and thus, the middle class and above have to spend even more to avoid the poor.  Look at the price of private schools in DC, SF, NYC, Baltimore that the upper middle class have to pay to avoid having their children attend lousy public schools.Report

        • North in reply to Jaybird says:

          Jay I’ll note in passing that all of the countries on that list (except Japan) have vibrant and highly active immigration system so a sub replacement level birthrate merely means they’re skimming the cream off the third world populations to make up the difference. From my viewpoint this is an unambigously good thing.

          Now Japan, well they’re going to have to hope their robots can come through or else they’re going to have to join the club and permit immigration. Or I suppose we’ll get to see what actually happens with a first world country with actually declining populations.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to North says:

            I do not know about European immigration apart from what I have read… but it seems that European immigration is similar to American/Canadian immigration insofar as there are a lot more unskilled laborers (and/or refugees) immigrating there than, say, skilled laborers.

            Don’t get me wrong. I see people as a positive good… but as has been pointed out elsewhere, replacing one retiring accountant with three young and healthy house painters is not particularly sustainable.

            But maybe the stuff I’ve been reading about European immigration is particularly excitable.Report

            • Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

              Jay, I’m of two minds on this population thing. On one hand, I’m not sure it matters terribly. It seems like we have a few centuries now of population rising periodically and a lot of very smart people saying, “We’re going to all be starving to death in 50 years!!!”, followed by periods of population shrinking and lots of smart people saying, “We’re going to vanish off the face of the earth in 50 years!!” For some reason, I suspect most people are smart enough to know when it’s a good idea to breed and plenty will breed whenever they damn well choose anyway. So, I’m not worried.

              On the other hand, is something I’ve been thinking about ever since noticing how overloaded and frustrating the Paris subway system is- it seems to me that most big structures that a society will create to support the needs of its populace will be inadequate within about a generation, either because of population growth or population shrinkage, and that either way, they will give people the sense of societal failure. There’s a certain unease that one feels in areas where the population is too small for the institutions and a similar unease in areas where the institutions are too small for the population. They seem to be failing somehow. I don’t know how important that is, but damned if I’ve ever read anyone who studied it.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

                I don’t see it as a “we’re all” but a question of cultural stuff.

                I see certain cultures as, yes, superior to others. There is a problem, however, with these cultures I see as superior: They don’t have many children. This means that they pretty much have to rely entirely on “missionary” work to get people to join up with them.

                I don’t have much hope for that, really.

                So these cultures strike me as likely to degrade and go away to be replaced by “fitter” cultures.Report

              • Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

                What part of the DNA sequence encodes culture?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

                The part of the DNA that exists carries the culture that its host has picked up.

                The DNA that does not exist because its parents used 100% effective birth control does not carry culture at all.Report

              • Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

                Right, but babies are born without culture, so parents are missionaries as much as missionaries are missionaries. How about this- if a baby is born into a community of pizza cooks and pizza eaters with parents who detest pizza, how long will it take for that child to seriously question his parents’ beliefs and maybe be converted by the surrounding community?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                There are Jews who still avoid Italian food because of the meat/cheese thing. Even today! (This is why there are so many Kosher/Halal Chinese restaurants.)

                The kid is most likely to get his or her culture from his or her parents and there are a lot of things out there that don’t have the obvious upsides of deliciousness or stronger orgasms… co-operate/co-operate as opposed to defect/defect, for example.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Rufus F. says:


                One quibble and one riff.

                Quibble–despite population ups and downs historically, there’s never been a growth trend like the one since the beginning of the industrialized era.  That truly is something new under the sun.  Whether that trend (whose curve is currently decreasing in steepness) will truly take us past the point of sustainability is still an open question (and I’m something of a technological optimist on that point), but I don’t think it’s easily dismissible.  On the other hand, we see that the most developed countries have close to zero or even negative population growth rates when immigration is abstracted away, so perhaps your point holds.

                Riff–you make a good point about infrastructure.  What makes some infrastructure so sticky is its capital cost.  In that sense, cell phones are a huge advance over landlines, for example.  It’s easier to move a cell tower from an underutilized place to a higher demand place than to move hundreds or thousands of miles of landlines.  Unfortunately it’s not so easy to send our feces through the ether, so we still need to maintain many miles of sewer lines, even if they are so little used we could never (now) justify building them from scratch. (Although it might be economically efficient in some case–e.g., certain areas of Detroit with radically low population density–to cap them and install septic systems at public cost.)

                Along those lines I’ve lately been thinking about energy production, and ways that we can take more and more of it off-grid or at least produce it relatively locally through small–much cheaper–facilities.  Not that I have any patience with “buy local” logic, but just that the lowered capital costs–if the concept is technologically feasible–could create the kind of flexibility to reduce the severity of the problems you’re noting.Report

              • Rufus F. in reply to James Hanley says:

                That’s interesting. Two questions: What is ‘buy local’ logic? Why do you have little patience for it? (Seriously- I’ve seen the phrase on bumper stickers but don’t know the logic behind it.)Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Rufus F. says:


                See Erik’s comment here on buy local. I’m in full agreement with him.

                As I see it, the buy local movement has two main threads, one about goods and the other about food. The goods thread is that we should buy locally so that the money stays in the local economy, presumably helping it to thrive. Sometimes people propose the use of local currency. Of course those communities that propose to keep all their money in their local economy would be royally screwed if every other community did that.–these folks don’t realize how many dollars flow into their community from elsewhere, and how hard they’d be hit if everyone followed this model. Essentially they’re implicitly arguing against the benefits of trade. (I could go on at length here about the difficulty of defining what’s “local enough,” and the meaninglessness of political boundaries vis a vis the gains from trade, but I’ll resist.) As economist Russ Roberts likes to say, “self sufficiency is the road to poverty.”

                The food angle of buying local is less about boosting the local economy, and more about a mixture of environmentalism and concerns about “food security.” The environmentalist concern stems from the extensive use of transportation to move foodstuffs (a dairy near me here in Michigan ships all of its product to George, for example) and the not-always-environmentally-friendly practices of industrial-scale agriculture. As to transportation, assuming we’re not going to sacrifice things like bananas and oranges, transportation is actually less energy intensive than local production. As to industrial-scale agriculture, to a large extent that’s a problem of American agricultural policy–it’s not necessarily the outcome that a less manipulate market might produce (although there’s no doubt about the economies of scale of producing, say, corn or soybeans, where there’s no economic logic to buying a combine to operate an 80 acre farm).

                The food security arguments I can’t quite parse; they seem to be based on a belief that the international transportation creates instabilities and risks, and that local production is more reliable and dependable. I can’t quite parse it because it seems so fundamentally illogical to me. We know that local agricultural disruptions occur with regularity around the world, mostly due to weather, sometimes to political violence. And we can that see famines happen where local disruptions coincide with poor connections to distribution systems, and don’t happen when local disruptions occur in places that are well-connected to distribution systems. (One of the most fascinating things I heard recently was about Wal Mart’s capacity, based on their thorough records of sales, to predict what supplies people would need and want after a weather disaster (those needs and wants both differ according to type of disaster and locale–southerners, for example, want Strawberry Poptarts; not just Poptarts, but strawberry flavored ones), and to get those things there quickly with their highly efficient distribution system.

                I hope I coherently explained both what buy local means and what are my objections to the approach. None of that, of course, is to suggest that people ought not buy local. They should spend their money as they please (and who in their right mind can resist going to the local farmer’s market).Report

            • North in reply to Jaybird says:

              I’d say the stuff you’ve been reading is badly overexcitable. I’d also note that your impression is based on incorrect assumptions. My own impressions have been that the west is importing accountants and making them work as painters because their credentials are not transferrable.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to North says:

                The U.S. is also importing planeloads of scientists and engineers (which is good, since we can’t convince enough of our own kids to take math and science seriously).Report

              • Jaybird in reply to North says:

                Perhaps that’s much of the case… but when it comes to the Southwest, it seems that the lion’s share of the immigrants are exceptionally skilled when it comes to more manual-type labor without having a whole lot of the white-collar immigrants showing up as well.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:


                I imagine there’s a lot of white collar immigrants in the city–I think they just aren’t as noticeable because they don’t tend to stand on street corners looking for day laboring jobs.

                Not that there aren’t more labor-level immigrants than highly educated and technically skilled ones, but the ratio between grunts and execs has always been pretty high, I would think.   And having lots of manual labor available can be a <a href”http://www.ksby.com/news/vineyard-owner-says-hiring-citizen-workers-was-failure/#!prettyPhoto/0/”>good thing</a>.

                I’m not arguing that we have the best of all possible worlds, just that I don’t think there’s great reason to worry.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to James Hanley says:

                Oh, I’m not worried. I have a vasectomy.

                If I didn’t, however, I might be.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

                You would be worried about your children’s future as they try to compete against unskilled labor?

                I suspect I’m reading you wrong, but that’s the best I’m getting out of your comment at the moment.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                No, it’s that I think that things are going to start getting very bad in a few generations. Very bad indeed.

                The next 30 or so years will be fine, however.Report

          • James Hanley in reply to North says:


            FYI, re: Japan. Whether anything will come of it is hard to say.Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to North says:

            The great Eurostate turkey drop is related to demographics, sure.  I would think a robust economy with a younger workforce could accommodate even overly generous provisions for the poor and/or elderly.  In the short term.

            It was never in question that the Eurostate social safety net—hammock—was groovy.  The question was who pays for it.

            In the current crisis, there just aren’t enough Germanys to go around.Report

            • I agree.  As I always tell my students, the solution to our Social Security funding is simple–kill off old people and open the immigration spigot wide open.  That should get us through my lifetime anyway, and that’s all I’m really concerned about, right?Report

              • greginak in reply to James Hanley says:

                The baby boom generation is a one time hump in the number of old folk. There are a bunch of adjustments we  can choose from to make SS get over that hump and then we are fine for the future. SS funding is not a difficult problem per se.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:


                I agree, which is why SS doesn’t worry me (now Medicare, that’s another issue altogether).  My approach is just a tongue-in-cheek way of making your more lucid argument.Report

              • Works for me, James.

                Oft forgot is that in a nationalized health system, old people are liabilities and nothing but.  At least in a market-based system like Medicare [albeit gov’t subsidized], they’re still customers.


              • greginak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Wow…tom that is some impressive bs. I mean you have an article from a paper. That proves your point. Infant morality stats..screw um…Number of people without insurance…huh wha that…..bankruptcies due to medical bills…never heard of that. And i’m sure the reason we haven’t heard about old people being stuffed in mass graves in Canada and western europe and japan and etc is liberal media bias.


              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to greginak says:

                Get out of the ’90s, Greg. The Eurostate is going splat and you’re still talking the same crap.  You’re not even in the zone of the OP, and this is the thanks I get for delaying it a day out of deference to your sensibilities.

                And yes, the “article” is probative: you just can’t wave it away.  Well, actually you can, because you just did.  But it’s not just an “article,” brother, it’s the facts.

                From the lefty paper, the same story:


                Now deal with it, or hush.  And BTW, it’s about impossible to get clean infant mortality stats, because we measure these things differently in America.


              • Tom’s comment on different ways of tabulating infant mortality led me to do a bit of googling, which led to this article. Sourcewatch is dubious about the organization that published this piece, but at a quick reading it seems fairly argued. It doesn’t make any claims about America being #1, for example, but cogently explains difficulties in cross-national comparisons of infant mortality rates, and the doubtfulness of life-expectancy being closely correlated with health care systems. I knew a little of this before, but not all of it. Very interesting (for those of us who odd enough to like methodological discussions).Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Yah, I spent a few hours on it one day, James.  I don’t just make stuff up.  I know what’s waiting for me.  😉Report

              • Tom,

                I hope I didn’t come across as implying I thought you might be making it up.  Your comments just stimulated me to get a little better grip on what the specific methodological problems were in the cross-national statistics (and for that I’m appreciative).  I think I’ll use that article in my research methods class, too, when I discuss measurement issues, so it’s a double-win for me.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Honestly, it never entered my mind, James, but thx.  It was a PSA: I’m quite happy for anyone to double-check my claims for themselves. [Rather than, you know, just fire off something that casts aspersions on my gentlepersonhood.]Report

              • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:

                Infant morality

                I’m not sure how a national health care service helps with that issue.  😉Report

            • Liberty60 in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              “In the current crisis, there just aren’t enough Germanys to go around.”

              So we agree- more countries should model themselves upon the German example.


              I was going to leave it at that, but snark get tiresome after a bit.

              If I am reading your argument correctly, you state that the social welfare model in Europe is collapsing, and imply that a more market oriented model would have prevented this.

              If that is your argument,what do you make of the relative robustness and prosperity in the nations I entioned at the outset? The Scandinavian countries have had the worlds most famous social welfare system since WWII, and I haven’t heard of their imminent demise.



              • Jaybird in reply to Liberty60 says:

                If that is your argument,what do you make of the relative robustness and prosperity in the nations I entioned at the outset?

                We should probably do more to make sure that they think that being relatively robust and prosperous is worth the effort.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Liberty60 says:

                Mr. Liberty, the question is what you make of the current Eurostate splat.  Is it the inevitable norm and your exceptions are presently exceptions?

                I didn’t actually expect Eurostate romanticizers to actually confront the current crisis, and so far they have been true to form, instead repeating their decades-old boilerplate about how wonderful it is.

                Sure, it’s wonderful as long as somebody else pays for it.

                Things are changing, if you read the papers, and the problems are not going away because they’re structural.  Your comment comes closest to reality, I suppose, so props.


              • Liberty60 in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I just find it odd that someone looks at the dozen Eurostates, some of which are doing poorly, some of which are doing well, and concludes that the “Eurostate” model is failing.

                I am honestly not enough of an economist to know why Greece is failing but Germany is succeeding.

                But I think it would be a very valuable lesson if we could study how Germany and Greece are different, and glean a lesson in how to be more like Germany and less like Greece.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Liberty60 says:

                And perhaps there’s something wrong with the Eurostate scheme, Mr. Liberty, and it’s splatting on the sidewalk as we speak.  The reasonable fellow would allow for that possibility.

                I would say that some societies can work under a number of schemes, although Jaybird points out the longer-term immigration problem, where a German exceptionalism is to be peopled by Turks.

                But that points to culture, and in the American context, not only are we all the world—PIGS [Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain] as much or more than Germans or Scandinavian, plus Asian, African, Latin American—but have our own USA-ness as well.

                It’s more complicated than schemes and technocracy.


              • wardsmith in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                TVD, you forgot Ireland. They really are PIGIS (so far). The BIG splat will occur when it spells something more ominous, with an F in the mix. Hungary is also already splat. BTW like the new term, self-explanatory. 🙂Report

              • Thx, WSmith. When will the Eurostate work?  When PIGS fly.Report

              • Kimsie in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:


                you say more than you mean.

                Surely you’ve heard of mortgage pig being underwater?Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Liberty60 says:

        Mr. Liberty60, quite right to be intimidated by links to Cato Institute and Instapundit’s survey of the crash-and-burn of the Eurostate dream.  WD.

        They oblige you to argue in the real world for your ideology.  I understand your discomfort completely.

        I appreciate you clicking on the links.  The journey of 1000 miles begins.  Cheers, although it won’t be all cheery.

        • greginak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          My God Tom do you realize what you have just proven. Greece is in deep scata ( thats the Greek for shit BTW). Greece is the oldest democracy in the world and quite and inspiration for our Founders. Therefore, and ipso facto, democracy itself is a failure. You’ve blinded me with science.Report

  4. Mike Schilling says:

    And here I thought I’d be able to join forces with Tom in saluting one of the great sitcoms ever.

    Maybe some other holiday.Report

    • I’m sure we agree about puppies too, Mr. Schilling.  I do not write about puppies although perhaps I should. Do put me down in favor of them, though.

      This ain’t about that.  Take the floor or leave it clear, sir. This I ask.


      • Mike Schilling in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        I’m sure we agree about puppies, too, Mr. Schilling.

        Perhaps.  Red sauce or white?Report

        • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          Thx for disrupting yet another thread, Mr. Schilling. Your record is near-perfect.

          The answer is red, of course, you ninny. We are not savages, afterall.

             Amount  Measure       Ingredient -- Preparation Method
           --------  ------------  --------------------------------
              3      kg            dog meat 
              1 1/2  cups          vinegar
             60                    peppercorns -- crushed
              6      tablespoons   salt
             12      cloves        garlic -- crushed
                1/2  cup           cooking oil
              6      cups          onion -- sliced
              3      cups          tomato sauce
             10      cups          boiling water
              6      cups          red pepper -- cut into strips
              6      pieces        bay leaf
              1      teaspoon      tabasco sauce
              1 1/2  cups          liver spread
              1      whole         fresh pineapple -- cut 1/2 inch thick
           1. First, kill a medium sized dog, then burn off the fur over a hot fire.
           2. Carefully remove the skin while still warm and set aside for later (may be
          used in other recpies)
           3. Cut meat into 1" cubes. Marinade meat in mixture of vinegar, peppercorn,
          salt and garlic for 2 hours.
           4. Fry meat in oil using a large wok over an open fire, then add onions and
          chopped pineapple and saute until tender.
           5. Pour in tomato sauce and boiling water, add green pepper, bay leaf and
           6. Cover and simmer over warm coals until meat is tender. Blend in liver spread
          and cook for additional 5-7 minutes.

          I’ve found 4 minutes is plenty long enough. Nothing worse than overcooked dogmeat, although it’s become a specialty around here lately.


        • Scott in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          Eat them? Are you a savage? They are really only fit for making coats. I’m trying to finish my Akita winter coat.Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Scott says:

            Oh, Scott, must I play Judge Judy on everything?  Of course you eat the doggie leftovers after you skin him, be you a savage or not, see above.  It’s just plain sense.

            Geez, I even have to play Rachel Ray around here.

            [No doubt Mr. Schilling tastes like chicken, but I absolutely refuse to furnish a recipe.  You’re on your own on this one, dude, although I might be able to supply an address…]Report

            • What wine would you recommend with that?

              (Oh, and as a person who actually has skinned a cat, I advise everyone to stick to dog.)Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to James Hanley says:

                Ouch, James, TMI.  While we’re in the mood for sharing, we had a fur-fluff in our dorm room we called Fluffy.  Turned out my roommate had been an undertaker, and yes, it turns out I had a cat in college.

                I used to pet him.  Before, not after, mind you.  You get the picture. True story.

                We’ll get back to the actual topic in future posts; this was just a door-opener anyway. Meantime, this is a promising line of inquiry. I keep asking where to get a decent piece of horsemeat in America, and we should attend to the first things first.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                What wine would you recommend with that?

                A nice malbark.Report

          • RTod in reply to Scott says:

            This is my favorite Scott line ever. Awesome.Report