Friday, September 30, 2011

Murder, Justice, or War?

Let's try this from a sliding argument.  Obviously no one would accept the government dropping a bomb in the middle of a crowded neighborhood in Chicago to kill a housewife.  How about a drug dealer driving down the highway in traffic?  No?  Driving alone with no one around?

What if it was a Mexican Drug Lord, responsible for slaughtering dozens of people and we knew he was in a house in downtown El Paso, TX.  Drop the bomb?  What if you were pretty sure the neighbors weren't home?

What if he were in a crowded barrio in Mexico?  That's like, out of the country and stuff so it's not murder.  Convicted, well, no, but we're almost certain that he's the guy that killed all those people.

Not a drug lord, but a terrorist.  Well, not like a convicted terrorist or anything, but we're pretty sure that he was behind a couple of unsuccessful terror plots.  And he's on video saying death to the infidels and everything.  Still murder.

Enough hypotheticals.  An American born Muslim cleric in Yemen, a country we have never been engaged in armed conflict against, was killed today when US planes dropped bombs on a convoy of vehicles suspected of carrying this person that we suspect is the mastermind behind several ultimately unsuccessful terror plots.  Is he a criminal, quite likely, is he an enemy combatant?  That would make you think there was a declared war we were fighting.  There is not.  Unlike the conflicts continuing in Iraq and Afghanistan, this military action took place in the country of Yemen.  There is no declared war against an armed force in Yemen.  Also unlike those previously mentioned countries, the military action in Yemen and in Libya aren't featured nightly on every network news show.  Most people don't even realize the full extent of our involvement in either country. 

My issue is that once again our government isn't following it's own laws with regard to how it handles criminal actions.  Using the military as a criminal justice wing of our Executive Branch goes far far beyond the scope of what our laws allow.  When will they test those limits again?  When will we say anything about it?  When it happens in the crowded Mexican barrio?  So far we haven't raised too much of a fuss about shipping weapons to arm the drug gangs down there.  Surely we'll say something if they do it here, but hey...maybe that person too will deserve to die. 

And really?  By then, will anyone be brave enough to challenge the authority?  Why am I suddenly reminded of Jack Nicholson, sitting on the witness stand, proudly proclaiming that yes, he did indeed order the code red and he did it to protect our sorry asses.

Compulsory Benevolence

Inevitably when I tell someone that I refuse to support a welfare state, that I refuse to support a system that mandates that people be provided with something that I must purchase, I'm accused of being heartless.  "You just don't care."  "How can you want children to suffer without insurance."  I am not Hank Reardon.  Guilt will not persuade me to support that which I know is wrong.  Compulsory benevolence is neither right nor is it especially benevolent to the people you claim to want to help. 

When you strip a person of their independence, when you offer them a minimum standard, you make it much more difficult for them to WANT to strive to achieve more.  Take my example in the Section 8 article I posted a month ago.  You have a situation where the economic incentive to do more creates a penalty.  In Entitlement Society, I discussed where this is leading us to as a nation.  Most of my early posts were in fact, devoted to the power of incentivizing success and the converse, offering a prize for failure.  To be fair, I think it's equally important to allow businesses to fail as well.

I haven't spent as much time on the issue of force, however.  And it's something that many of the well-intentioned actively seek to ignore.  They don't want to think about what actually happens when you pass a law requiring someone to give up that which they have earned in order to give it to those who did not.  Well, you need to stop and think about it. 

Let's say one day you go to a church.  They let you in and smile and give you a seat and a song book.  A little old lady may even give you a hug.  Well, if this church works like the United States government, then come collection time the plate comes around and you politely smile and shake your head.  That won't do.  You're taken at gunpoint to the back where your wallet is taken and searched.  If you don't have enough, they call your bank.  Still not enough, they call your employer.  Don't worry, the money will be put to good use, and you may even derive some benefit from it.  It will be less benefit than the amount deserves, but we've all got to pay our fair share.

Think I'm wrong.  Tell me about it.  If you don't pay your taxes, first they send you a demand, followed by a bank garnishment, followed by a payroll garnishment.  Actively seek to avoid these things and you are taken and placed in a cell and held sequestered for a period of years or until a ransom is paid to free you from captivity.

Think I'm right, tell me about that too. 


I've been contacted a number of times about the difficulty in leaving comments.  I've tried contacting those hosting service for this blog and am working to resolve the issue.  The most common issue is people trying to leave comments from mobile devices.  As soon as I have a solution, I will let you know, but please keep trying at it.  Thanks to everyone who've contacted me about the problem.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pardon Me For Being a Bit Concerned

Some background first and be patient, because I cannot reach the eloquence of Professor Hayek in his Road to Serfdom.  The essential premise is that central planning will ultimately progress to totalitarianism, by one of several paths.  One way in which we could lead to totalitarianism is that the people will rise up and demand it.  Nooooo, couldn't happen.  In support he points to several facts.  Among those is that Adolf Hitler may not have been elected, but his party was overwhelmingly elected and even his opposition party wound up appointing him at the demand of the populace.  (BTW, Benito Mussolini's Fascist Party was also duly elected)

Ok, but Why would anyone choose dictatorship?  The problem with socialism (corporatism and crony capitalism as well) is that there are limited things that can be done, and those in charge of the central planning must allocate limited resources in the "best possible manner."  People and industries will compete for their group to be allocated more resources, given a larger share.  This will either lead to gridlock, the inability to make any decisions (sound familiar?) or massive corruption and vote buying.  <cough cough>

In response the populace demands order, demands that things be done and that rules be suspended, power be ceded to a specialized group....a Super Committee, if you will.  Ultimately this too could fail or fail to produce results fast enough.  Then someone floats the idea of suspending elections or operating outside of Democracy, just until we pass this crisis or that crisis. 

I know, you're saying to yourself...but none of this is happening.  I mean, yeah, we have gridlock and we have corruption...and yeah, to get past that gridlock we've made this supercommittee charged with setting budgetary and tax policy, but that's just for the greater good.  And no one is going to talk about suspending elections (at least, no one credible).

First, read this article on how our biggest problem is that voters are dumb:

and pay attention to the comments.  These are your fellow citizens.

Then we have this gem...,0&passthru=MGU3YjMxNDdlN2UyMjM2MTNhZGZjNDE2MjE2NjE2Nj

discussing how a little less democracy could really help us out of this jam, but really, it's only for this little bit...really...cross my heart.

And finally, the Governor of one of our united States, Bev Perdue says the following: 

"You have to have more ability from Congress, I think, to work together and to get over the partisan bickering and focus on fixing things. I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won't hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that. The one good thing about Raleigh is that for so many years we worked across party lines. It's a little bit more contentious now but it's not impossible to try to do what's right in this state. You want people who don't worry about the next election."

Read more:

The title page of the article suggests she was joking...and I PRAY that she was...but I'm afraid that I don't have a whole lot of faith in that proposition. 

Are we indeed on the road to serfdom?  Is there any way off?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Candidate Profiles: Herman Cain and Rick Perry

One on the rise, the other sliding away.  A week ago you'd have said that Herman Cain would be the one sliding away.  You'd have been wrong.  Today he shows up at the top of a new Zogby poll of likely Republican Primary Voters.  So, I wanted to spend a little time reviewing what I know about each and why I'm decidedly happy with the recent shift in polling.

Ricky Perry

Not to be confused with Ricky Bobby of Talladega Nights fame, Mr. Perry has run a less than dazzling campaign since joining the race.  Instead of showing people who he was, he's tried to do what only skilled politicians are successful at doing (think Bill Clinton), showing people what they think they want.  He's backed off his claims of Social Security being a ponzi scheme (despite substantial evidence that it more closely resembles this than a pension program).  His fiery rhetoric aside, Mr. Perry has just appeared unprepared.  A subpar showing at this first major debate was followed by a worse outing in last week's Florida debate. 

On the issues....well, Rick likes to point to Texas and it's recent history with job creation, and it is a remarkable story, but I'm really not ready to give him credit for all of that.  Many of the decisions that have lead to the Texas story happened long before Mr. Perry took office.  (on a personal note, I adhere to Gary Johnson's belief that politicians should NOT create jobs.  At best they should work toward creating conditions beneficial to job creators and job takers).

Rick also claims to be a fiscal conservative, but without really taking a firm stance anywhere to back that up.  His website is seriously devoid of anything beyond generic pandering to an uninformed electorate. 

On the plus side he has very nice hair.

Herman Cain

Herman didn't make my initial review of candidates, but fortunately, he's stuck it out in this race and has steadily risen to a position of viability.  I really wish he'd gotten more visibility and attention from journalists and myself.  Well, I've spent a good bit of time in the past 5 days "getting to know" Herman Cain.  From a political checklist the man has it all:

Academic achievement - Check.  Morehouse B.S. in Mathematics and a Masters in Economics from Purdue along with a host of honorary degrees.

Business Experience - Check - CEO of a a successful pizza chain and sat on the board of several big name companies. 

Great Story - two time cancer survivor, with all of the courage and determination that that demands.

Politically Aware - Herman Cain is often credited with being one of the leading factors beyond the demise of HillaryCare in 1994.  For the past several years he has hosted a radio show in Atlanta and been a guest commentator on a variety of political talk shows.

Where does he stand?

Mr. Cain belongs to the faction that promotes the "Fair Tax."  Unlike other promoters of what amounts to be a national sales tax (in lieu of any income tax), Mr. Cain recognizes that people aren't ready to dive right in.  So, what he proposes is a transition via what he calls the 999 Plan.  It sounds like a cheese pizza promotion, doesn't it?  Fortunately, this plan actually has some real meat to it.  What he's proposing is to eliminate tax brackets and all tax deductions.  No more tax credits for corporate jets or tax subsidies for giant oil companies.  In exchange, we institute a flat income tax rate of 9% across the board.  Businesses also pay a 9% tax rate on profits.  Finally a 9% sales tax to ease the transition to the "Fair Tax."

On other political issues Mr. Cain stands toe to toe with many republicans, with maybe a slightly more libertarian bent.  He's certainly not ideal in those regards, but a good bit better than Perry and more "real" than Romney, Perry, and Bachmann combined.  In a world that deems Gary Johnson and Ron Paul un-nominatable if not un-electable, Herman Cain stands out as a really good option for those wanting to avoid 4 more years of the same old thing.

New First Rule of Journalism?

Accuracy is not as important as perception.

That, according to Karen Hunter in her attacks on the Associates Press this Sunday after they transcribed the President's speech using his chosen dialect and grammatical devices instead of just reprinting the speech as written. 

"I teach a journalism class, and I tell my students to fix people's grammar, because you don't want them to sound ignorant," she said. "For them to do that, it's code, and I don't like it."  You'll be surprised to learn that she's not alone in her methodology.  I for one would prefer uniform treatment of speeches and quotes, aiming for the factual instead of the fanciful translation as some beat writer "fixes" the statements.

This all reminds me of an old Daily Show promo, back when it was hosted by Craig Kilborn and tremendously funnier.  The tag line of the promo was "When news breaks, we fix it."

Monday, September 26, 2011

At Least Their Cameras Aren't in Our Homes Yet.......Are they?

The first time I read George Orwell's 1984 I was 13 years old.  The entire concept gave me the creeps.  But it was just an interesting work of fiction.   No one would really want to maintain this level of control over the populace.  I read it again in college and this time I saw where people might want the control, but really, people wouldn't stand for it.  Recently I've felt the urge to read it for a third time. 

In many cities you can't exit your home without being on one camera or another.  The poorly named Patriot Act allows our government to secretly record phone calls without warrants or through warrants obtained through secret courts.  The fourth amendment is suspended the moment you walk into government buildings, airports, train stations, or even down the sidewalk of many cities.  Even driving your car you are being monitored electronically by speed cameras, red light cameras, traffic monitoring cameras.  As this article describes, schools may even be monitoring students through cameras installed on their laptops.

So, yes, it appears that the cameras might already be in our homes.  Hell, about the only place we have privacy or the expectation of it left is with our Doctors, Priests and Lawyers.  Government has been working on the lawyer angle for years.  Federal and state agencies continuously attempt to further regulate the practice of law, often in violation of State Constitutional provisions that reserve the regulation of the practice of law to specialized bodies, such as the Supreme Court or State Bar associations.

Now we learn of a proposed rule implementing obamecare (also laughingly known as the Affordable care act).  There are several areas of concern with this proposed regulation which requires insurance companies to turn over health records and business information to the Government.  Obviously loss of patient privacy is the first concern.  What the government has in the way of information about its citizens it will not hesitate to use against you.  Additionally, they do not exactly have the most stellar track record when it comes to data security.  And really, with either being immune or insulated from the financial strain of litigation as an insurance company would not be, the Government isn't as highly motivated to pursue data security either.

Similar to many other forms of tyranny, these have come about at our own request.  The desire for security on the streets, for safety in our commutes, for fair arbiters in traffic accidents, for revenue for our cities to build new schools and jails, for safety in the skies and safety from terrorists, for all of these reasons did we ask for this invasion into our privacy.  Let us pray it is not too late to ask that it be removed.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Suffer From Mild Asthma, Some Advice

Stock up on a year's worth of OTC inhalers now.  Because you're going to be forced to get a more expensive prescription variety after December 31.  Maybe once we vote this ass clown out of office we can buy the best product on the market for our specific needs instead of having the government pick which products we can buy.

More from The Weekly Standard

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Gaffes That Get Ignored

Not a month of the Bush Presidency went by without a segment on one of the networks' national news shows poking fun at this or that stumble-tongued blunder of our former President.  From mispronunciating (<--- intentional) the name of a visiting foreign dignitary to "irregardless" to his annoying pronunciation of NUCLEAR (he pronounced it NUCULAR) the man was constantly lampooned.

Our current president has been on a tear as well.  The self proclaimed "smartest guy in the room" has in just the last 2 weeks claimed that Abraham Lincoln founded the Republican Party and that the US Government built an Intercontinental Railroad.  Now, what I'm assuming he meant was the Transcontinental railroad.  Given that, I'm not sure that's a comparison he wants to bring up in the context of the US engaging in large infrastructure projects.  You see, the Transcontinental Railroad was completed by what amounts to imported slave labor from China.

Michael Moore Made Me Sick Again

Not satisfied with the last round of vomit inducing rhetoric, Michael Moore once again brought his special brand of fruitopia socialism to the airwaves.  This time he was on Keith Olbermann's Countdown show in exile on Algore's Currentv.  For those of you who have never heard of this show or the network, it's ok.  Neither has 99.999% of the rest of the country.  Were it not for Matt Drudge, no one would have ever known Jabba the Moore had opened his mouth.

What Mikey had to say was that we really need to expand the redistribution of wealth and capital in this country and that we can either do it peacefully now or when the riots begin.  There is no doubt to him that this needs to happen, after all, the wealth holding criminals of this country have no true right to the money they possess.

You say you want a revolution....

More on Societal and Economic Darwinism

We touched on this a little in yesterday's discussion, but I wanted today to review the idea of "Too Big To Fail."  This notion that any one company and the services it provides is too important to allow the business to fail is anathema to a free market.  If businesses are not allowed to fail then they take larger risks than is prudent.  Let me see if I can break this down a little simpler.

If you're saving for retirement in a 401(k) or picking mutual funds, most advisors will tell you to spread out over different types of funds.  This means that while you should pick some higher risk funds because of the greater return, you should also balance those with some "moderate growth" (safer bets) and the safest funds that offer little return, but little risk as well.  But let's say the government agreed to completely indemnify you for all investing losses, why would you pick those safer stocks?  You'd go all in on the riskier investments. 

So, you have banks that are too big to fail.  They know this and thus are more free to make risky investments.  The government actually encourages this behavior.  Why?  Risky investments generate economic activity, economic activity will partialy inflate GDP.  Inflated GDP leads to more consumption, consumption begets further economic growth and conceivably this cycle could get us out of this particular recession.  The problem is that once again, we've done it on the backs of a bubble and when the next bubble pops it may be more painful than this one. 

Should we let vital businesses fail? 

This question assumes that any one business entity is vital.  Failure a business entity in a free market economy is NOT the end of the world.  It's an opportunity.  When a business fails in a market where there is still demand, innovative new companies WILL come to replace the old.  Additionally, it's not as if the failed banks assets dissipate into nothingness, they are liquidated and carried forward by a successor company. 

What happens when the government bails them out instead is that money is taken from a productive segment of the economy and used to prop up a failing segment.  Keeping in mind that the segment is most likely failing because of a lack of innovation or market adaptation.  Those practices, instead of being eliminated with the failure of a business or businesses are instead VALIDATED.  In other words, instead of companies adapting and evolving to do better, they're encouraged to continue the same risky behavior that caused the most recent collapse. 

More later...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Happy Birthday Mom!

In honor of my mother's birthday, I am reposting one of my earliest and most viewed articles to date.


My parents loved me more....

Despite it's faults, we still live in THE greatest nation in the world. We have more freedoms than most. We have opportunities to succeed when many others do not. There are some who want to, in the name of fairness or equality take away those freedoms. From those wanting to regulate our behavior to suit their morality to those who choose to regulate our behavior through penalizing success. They don't call it penalizing success of course, it's a tax, to raise revenues that our government needs...Why does our government need more revenue? Probably so it can continue to regulate/control the People. Our President once famously said that (and I'm paraphrasing), even faced with the surety that raising a certain tax rate would REDUCE tax revenues, he would do so in the interest of fairness.

Don't believe me?

Fairness. Some will point out that I had an advantage over those "less fortunate" in that I went to school and graduated from college. I will counter that I did those things because my parents set that expectation of me. Then they worked their butts off to make sure I had the opportunity to do just that. In the cosmic scheme of things, is it fair that my parents loved me more than your parents loved you? Probably not. When you break it down, however, you'll recognize that my "advantages" were the results of hard work. My hard work, my parents hard work, their parents hard work. We work hard in our lives, not only for our own benefit, but also to benefit those we care about. When we achieve the success we reach for, we find that not only are we supporting our loved ones, but a bloated government as well. Because, we all have to pay our "fair" share.
That my parents loved me and provided for me and made me believe that I could do ANYTHING, is this a reason to penalize me with higher taxes? How does this help make life more fair? How does a penalty for success make you try harder? If only the government could make your parents love you as much as mine loved me. Wait, no. That isn't the way of modern governance. What we need is a way to make my parents love you and provide you with as many opportunities as they provided to me. It's only fair.

Happy Birthday to a Mom who gave me everything when she gave me love.  Thank you.

The Theory of Evolution of Society

What if we had to do that last 2 centuries over?  What if today's society had to conquer the frontiers, industrialize the nation, fight the Great War, confront the atrocities of the Holocaust?  Could we do it today?  20 years ago I would say yes, 10 years ago I believe we could have made it through somehow, today...I just don't know.

We're changing in fundamental ways as a society.  There is still an abiding decency at the core of us, most of us.  There is also a lethargy, an unwillingness to do for ourselves and others, to challenge those things we know are wrong because it's easier for it to be someone else's problems.

We've discussed these symptoms before and the cause is a constant topic, but today, we're going to step through some examples of my theory and see if we can't better illustrate causation. 

Entitlements -

For some members of our society, entitlements have pushed them into making a living more as breeders than producers.  Instead of children, they give birth to livestock that produce SSI checks, food stamps, and other handouts.  The safety net, instead of being used as a stepping stone is being used a market for falsely disabled children.  One example is a woman in Western PA who has 8 children, all of whom now test for Mental Retardation.  She receives SSI money for their care, but turns the care of them over to the state public schools instead of private care.  She has no involvement outside keeping them in her home.  (If they were gone so would be the money).
Now, let's follow these children, who, while certainly challenged, given a loving supporting environment would stand a chance in this life.  Instead, they have no chance.  The state will babysit them for a time, then turn them loose on the world to have their own children and repeat the only cycle of life they know.  (That is, if the mother doesn't turn the females out first to breed more live stock for the SSI farm she's started).

So, here the social safety net that we're so proud of, instead of supporting it, encourages a type of abuse of the system that is self-replicating and is growing at an unsustainable pace.  Government statistics available via the SSA Policy Center show that the growth rate of SSI and SSDI payouts greatly outpace the Cost of Living Adjustments over the past 20 years.

In this example, the financial costs while staggering, do not even come close to the human tragedy here.  This breeder (mother isn't appropriate) is stripping her children of any chance of a future.  Instead of pushing for her kids to succeed she rejoices in their failures because for her, it means more money.  She has turned her offspring into farm animals, slaves, stock.

Corporate Welfare -

Corporations respond in a similar way to people to the concept of money for nothing.  In many ways, without the demand to innovate necessary in competitive markets they become just as stagnant as the breeder in my previous example.

Starting and running a successful small business is hard.  Better than 50% of small businesses fail within the first 5 years according to research at the Small Business Administration.  Those that do succeed are forced to compete for customers.  They do this through offering innovative products or an innovative product delivery system or simply competing on price.  Ultimately, however, unless they continue to innovate, improving product, service, delivery, or price then they too will fail.  What then happens when instead of competing you receive assistance from an omnipotent source?  If you remove market forces, if you remove the threat of failure, then you are in essence discouraging continuing product, service and price innovation.  If you then erect barriers for future entrants in the field you further weaken the motivations for a business to improve upon itself. 

Consider this in the light of highly subsidized and regulated industries such as health care, health insurance, green energy, energy production, law, accounting.  What marks these fields?  Costs have far outpaced available capital.  While some technological innovations have come about, price and delivery innovations are unheard of.

Compare that to a less regulated, subsidized field such as personal computing.  Moore's law still stands after 25 years.  Processing power continues to grow in leaps and bounds while price, service and delivery innovations have continued to expand the markets. 

Would this have happened if the government had mandated that every American buy an Apple II in 1985?  PC Makers would have gone out of business and with a mandated stream of customers innovations from Apple would have been slow.  Barriers to entry would have kept newcomers like AMD, ARM, nVidia and Intel out of the Personal Computing space. 

It's happening again in the area of banking and investing.  The government continues to encourage lending to grow the economy.  People need more and more money to overcome the barriers Government has erected to enter business.  Banks are hesitant to take risk for so little reward.  With interest rates near 0% what good to risk your money when you have so little to gain from it...and, if you resist long enough the government will back your loans and you risk nothing!

To be continued....

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Own Buffett Rule

No, it's not skip the station without the sneeze guard.

No, my Buffett rule would be to eliminate double taxation of income for business owners.  Or, in the interest of fairness, let's double tax wages too.  Wages are personal profits, then, when you distribute that income (i.e. deposit the check) it gets taxed again as income!  That's essentially how it works for business owners, large and small.  Corporate revenues are taxed, then distributions from the corporation to the owners are taxed again.

I've always admired Mr. Buffett's business acumen, but I've lost a LOT of respect for his honesty in light of his entry into this debate.  He claims to pay a lower percentage of tax on income than his secretary a fact that is only true if you compare his investment income from dividends or capital gains to her income from wages.  Apples to Oranges comparisons from someone who should know better strike me as dishonest.  Additionally Mr. Buffett has demanded that he be charged a higher tax.  Again, completely dishonest.  He is not demanding that he pay more, he's demanding that others who do not feel the same way pay more.  Should he wish to pay more, he knows damn well that his money will be accepted by the Treasury Department.

What is Fair?

I think I had a better understanding of fairness as a child than the president does as the political figurehead of our country. 

Lets say as a child you go around and gather all the crayola crayons you want from the various places they tend to gather, drawers, toy chests, pencil boxes, etc.  You then gather your favorite coloring book and stake out a section of living room floor, settling in for a nice relaxing coloring marathon.  Suddenly your little brother spots you and demands equal access to the tools you've painstakingly gathered.  Mom, desirous of peace and perhaps unaware of your labors, instructs you to share.  Sharing may even be the right thing to do, but you know that it wasn't fair. 

I'm not saying the above didn't happen to me a few times and I certainly make no claim that I wasn't the recipient of such parental welfare programs, but I will say that my mom did me a great favor of not trying to tell me that something was fair when I knew it wasn't.  Instead when I would raise my "That's not fair" whine, she would calmly instruct me that life wasn't fair. 

So, here I am, a little bit older, bristling at the notion of fairness that is being pushed upon us.  No confiscation of wealth or production to pay for services that I neither requested nor received benefit from is fair.  I realize that some people feel it is necessary, but quit telling me it's fair.

Fair IS every person pulling their own weight, providing for themselves and for those whom they choose to provide for.  Fair IS NOT confiscating my property to pay for things I would not choose to support.  Fair IS allowing a productive concern to realize its gains and reinvest in its future.  Fair IS NOT confiscating the production of an efficient business to subsidize an inefficient business thus eliminating the Darwinian impulse to adapt. it so often does, this bit of stream of consciousness has led me to a future topic:  Darwin and Free Markets.

Until next time...

Monday, September 19, 2011

The One Percent Solution

Mr. obama once again trotted out the idea of raising taxes this weekend.  Instead of allowing people and business owners to keep more of what they produce and earn the president has once again declared that the people who contribute the most in the way of jobs, capital, and ideas should subsidize those who choose not to engage.  Some of us have different ideas on how to solve our countries solvency issues.  It does not involve greater theft from its citizens.  Instead it involves slowly scaling back excessive expenditures.  Reducing actual spending, not just the rate of growth of government spending, but true budget cuts of as little as 1% per year, mixed with an economic policy of refraining from engaging in economic policy decisions best left to individuals will have our country's budget deficit erased in 7 years or less.  Assuming modest growth we could be paying down our national debt in real and substantial ways in less than a decade. 

Facing Reality Head On

Instead of letting it continue to sneak up on us, instead of letting reality kick our asses, why not turn about and face reality head on?  The reality is that we can't sustain a system of boom bust faux capitalism.  We can't afford to continue making a mockery of the concept of a free market. 

We live in a world and a reality of finite resources and we must decide who is to control the decisions regarding distribution of said finite resources.  Granted, the pool of resources is vast, but it DOES have limits.  Will we allow the distribution of finite resources to be directed by central planners in government or should we allow individuals to decide for themselves which of the resources they wish to pursue, to set their own priorities for the distribution of their labors?

The downside to leaving these decisions to the individual is that some will make poor choices or, due to handicap, have to rely on others for sustenance. 

The downside to centrally planning the redistribution is that the central planning board may prioritize in a way that violates your values.  It will likely violate a lot of peoples' values.  So, those with shared values will band together to try to influence the planners.  In all honesty, you wind up first in a situation much like we have today, with the country being run out of Washington with industry groups lobbying the central planning board of our day (Congress) for favorable treatment for their industry. 

According to F. A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, this is also how the National Socialist Party in Germany came to power in the early part of the 20th Century.  We don't need to go back there. 

The upside to allowing individuals the Liberty of prioritizing their own life is that you hamstring the central planning board.  You give it no power to direct the economic and social lives of the citizens, meaning industries will not gang up to buy favor, but will instead be forced to compete for the individuals favor with their goods and services.  If people are assured that they can keep the fruits of their labor and understand that there are real consequences for their failure to participate, you ensure greater participation in the market economy. 

The upside of central planning is that your decisions are made for you.  Thinking is hard, you know?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Reality Bites Us on the Ass Again

For the past 100 years we've been going through a series of boom/bust cycles.  Monetary policy and fiscal restraint will push the economy up, mostly fueled by speculative bubbles (the cause of which we've discussed before, and will again shortly).  Those bubbles can't last, then reality will bite us in the ass and we come tumbling back down.  Our monetary and fiscal policy again shift, interest rates depressed money supply inflated, regulations tweaked, taxes subsidized or eliminated in certain corners and economic activity once more takes the path of lease resistance and forms a new bubble. 

And we ride that bubble like it's solid ground, until it too is forced to face reality and pops. 

We've been riding these boom/burst bubbles for a century or better.  So much so that we've even allowed ourselves to believe that this is just the natural order of things.  We call it part of the business cycle.  Things go up, then they come down, then they go up again.  The roller coaster ride is created by artificial ups, which cause plunging downs. 

And now, here we are.  A major bubble has burst, a bubble caused by federal incentives to lower mortgage standards, the federal reserve artificially keeping interest rates too low, and banks with no fear for the consequences of their actions because they're too big to fail.  Reality has taken a huge chunk out of our asses.  What are we doing.  Well, interest rates are being forced artificially to ZERO.  Banks and businesses who failed were bailed out.  A new layer of regulation is in place, and our government is trying desperately to create a new bubble in "green technology."  Something that is too far from prime time and not being encouraged to innovate.  What do you mean???  The government is pouring money into those companies for R&D.  Exactly.  Why innovate if the government is just going to give you what you should be earning?  But, I digress...

The point here is that we're trying to do once more the same thing we've been doing for years, we're trying to blow up a bubble so we can again justify the combination corporatist/socialist system that has been foisted on us. 

I say we strip the regulations.  We can't though, because we have to ensure that the banks behave.  Survival instincts would help them behave as well, except for one thing.  We've classified them as too big to fail.  If we let them fail, the survivors will behave, without the need of over-burdensome regulation.  The same can be said for other areas of over-regulation.  The regulations are self sustaining.  Their very existence makes their existence necessary.

Reality will continue to be a problem.  It's taking larger and larger bites out of our collective asses.  Until we realize that the Collective Ass does not exist and that as individuals we must be free to set our own agendas, make our own decisions, fail and succeed on our own decisions then the bites will be more and more painful, causing more and more harm to our nation.  We didn't become a great nation by strangling individual liberties.  We won't get back to being one until we stop.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Liberty and the Unlawful Assignment of Rights

I think if I hear once more that we live in a democracy and that majority rules allow a majority of people to vote to give up rights that do not belong to them, then I do believe that I will finally go completely bald as I pull the last remaining hairs from my head.

If I were to set up a shop down the street and sell your property without your consent, I would be violating your rights, wouldn't I?  Of course.  Well, what if I got the majority of the city to say that I could sell your property at my store?  I mean, majority rules. 

What if the duly elected government decided to violate your rights?  What if we needed a new hospital built and it made the most sense to build it on your family's land; the land that had been passed down in your family for 200 years, the land where your grandfather and his grandfather were born, raised, and died.  What if were a road that was needed?  It's ok, they'll dig up gramps and move him.  And you'll get "market value"  (which is bullshit, because the only market for your land is your market and by forcing you to sell it below any price you demand is not allowing for market value).

So....what if it were a shopping mall?  Wal-Mart?  Jail?  Nissan Factory?  What if they just wanted to take it and turn it into a parking lot? 

What's to stop them? 

Our Constitution?  I'm afraid this is all that's left of our last line of defense against the tyranny of a well-meaning majority.

This Sums it Up Nicely

This was shared with me this morning.  Please enjoy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I normally don't condone talking like a teenage girl walking out of a Glampire Movie, but I've just got to say....

O. M. G.

The president's Re-Election Campaign Committee has unveiled this Orwellian website where you can report people who talk bad about Mr. Poutyface.  I seriously feel like self-reporting every day.  It can only help my traffic. 

I wonder if people reported on this website get visits from the Secret Service or maybe some good ol' fashion Chicago thuggery.  The president's buddy Andy Stern has plenty of experience with intimidating opponents.

Feel free to report me, I'll let you know if I spot any black helicopters circling my home at night.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Bi-Polar Tax Debate

If a tax on cigarettes encourages people to smoke less and a tax on fossil fuels encourages us to use less, then it stands to reason that a tax on income will encourage us to earn less.  Why is this so hard to understand?  If you do something to discourage behavior in some fields, how can you then expect it to expand behavior in other fields?

If you take my money and give it to people who do not work; if you take money from a profitable business to bail out a failing business what you have done is much closer to issuing fines against safe drivers to reward speeders or tax non-smokers to subsidize the cost of cigarettes. 

Sorry, I know common sense has no place in politics.

Well Said Senator...

You'll support my right to murder unborn children, but not my right to choose my own lightbulb or toilet?  When you put it in these terms....

Monday, September 12, 2011

More Failed Ideas

Since it hasn't worked in the past, and trying twice as much stimulus failed last time, let's drain more from the most productive members of our society and give it to those who have done nothing to earn it.

Good thinking Mr. 0

Friday, September 9, 2011

For Someone Allegedly so Smart....

Despite my contempt for the man and irritability for interrupting the buildup to the NFL kickoff, I decided this morning to go in and read the official transcript for the president's speech last night. 

Man did he ever say things I could agree with! For example "...the only solution to our economic challenges is to simply cut most government spending and eliminate most government regulations."  Amazing!!!!  Unfortunately, taken in context, he was bashing this beautiful idea.

Mr. obama did pose some interesting questions though.  Where would we be if the government hadn't spent millions to build roads and bridges and airports?  Where would we be if they hadn't developed the internet?  Where would we be without our third class public education system?

I loved this line: 

"No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. We have been, and always will be, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all; a nation with responsibilities to ourselves and with responsibilities to one another. Members of Congress, it is time for us to meet our responsibilities. "

Let me just take a moment to refute.  Bullshit.  No SINGLE individual did anything, but don't for one minute believe that our greatness comes from collectivism.  It is the spirit of individuality, the freedom and opportunities to separate themselves from the pack and innovate to improve their own lives that has led to the greatest innovations in our history. 

The president spoke of the internet.  Yes, it was developed by the defense department and further used by universities and researchers, but the technology was relatively stagnant until it was opened up to commercial use.  Individuals, seeking to profit themselves and their families are what propelled the internet into the economic giant that it has become. 

Roads?  Airports?  Private parties would have built them, and we'd pay for what we use instead of paying in Texas for roads to be built in Alabama.  Let me paint you a picture.  I lived for several years in the Dallas Metroplex.  It is absolutely, one of my favorite places in the world.  The roads are decent, crowded at times, but decent.  The Metroplex is a great area though, to illustrate my point about public vs. private investment.  You see, Dallas needed a LOT of new roads.  It has grown in populations by leaps and bounds since the late 90's and the infrastructure was sorely tested. 

Instead of taking out public debt in the form of bond issuances, or instituting new taxes, they tried something old yet innovative given today's realities.  They worked with a private company to build a widespread series of traffic corridors.  The construction and maintenance of these corridors was privately funded.  In exchange for a grant of the land from the State the private organization agreed to build and maintain the roads for a period of years at which point they would revert to State ownership and responsibility.  Let me tell you, these were some of the safest, best designed roads in the city.  They were always well maintained, included courtesy patrols, monitoring, and congestion control.  And, if you lived in the area and didn't want to use them, you never had to pay for them. 

Now, let's talk about government subsidies for airports.  Until recently, the federal government was paying for airports in areas that saw so little traffic as to be commercially unviable.  Millions of dollars each year were spent so that fewer than 10,000 people could take flights from remote areas.  I realize that there were more than 10,000 people in these remote areas, but fewer than 10,000 people actually utilized these airports.  In comparison, more than that fly out of DFW airport every day.  The ridiculousness of the situation was such that airlines would fly their normal routes with entirely empty planes in order to receive the government handout.

So, with all due respect Mr. president, I'll take a free market and the individual spirit of Americans over your jaded collectivist views any day. 

The last part of the speech that I'll touch on is what Mr. obama calls the American Jobs Act.  Details are sketchy, but what we are told so far is that it's more government stimulus.  $474 billion in spending.  That means $474 billion in money that will be printed now and stolen from the private sector later.  As part of this, he wants to eliminate tax loopholes for the wealthy and for corporations.

You might be surprised that I'm ALL for eliminating tax conjunction with lowering the overall tax rate. 0% for Individual Income Tax sounds just about right to me.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Corporatism IS Socialism

The signs said it, the chants were all proclaiming it.  The first Tea Party-based rally I ever attended was filled with assertions that our President was taking us down the road to Socialism.  With many of them, however, if you asked about social security or medicare they'd tell you that that was their right and you couldn't take it away.  Well, that's actually not even the most glaring way in which they were...not mistaken, because they're right...just incomplete in their assessment of our current economic condition.  We've been a socialist society for years. 
So, let's take a look at Socialism.  The idea is that a group of central planners can set market conditions from the outside that are "fair" to all participants and stimulate growth.  The problem is that it just doesn't work.  When you attempt to set by fiat, you take away the incentives to production.  No one or nothing produces to capacity.  The primary problem is that it leads to fascism.  Nobel Prize winning economist Ludwig von Mises and fellow Austrian FA Hayek have both discussed this issue in depth.  The Road to Serfdom, Hayek's seminal work discusses Democratic Socialism that led to the fascist regimes in Germany and Italy in the run-up to World War II.

The form of socialism we have followed is a bit more deceptive, but it amounts to the same thing.  Instead of boards of bureaucrats making all economic decisions, which ultimately leads to the appointment of a totalitarian system, we've used a combination of congressional grants to bureaucrats and the use of subsidies and incentives to drive economies through certain favored industries and favored companies.  It's quite laughable to suggest that our current economic condition has anything to do with Capitalism run amok.  Sadly, it is entirely the opposite that is true.  Capitalism was strangled, snuffed out, and buried in the early 20th century.  Small vestiges remain, usually in new industries formed by entreprenneurs, but the lure of regulating competition, subsidies, and planning usually quashes it in relatively short order. 

Well, if Capitalism is so great, why do businessmen support Government intervention so often.  Two words come to mind:  Profit Motive.

In a capitalistic system when you have a business idea that is profitable, it draws competition.  Increased supply of the good or service brought about by competition lowers profits.  So, with the expansion of powers available to the Federal Government, businesses can seek protection for their profits by supporting government regulation of their industries.  This erects what are known as barriers to entry.  It makes the initial cost of getting into a particular industry higher and slows the rate in which competition can impact their profits.  The types of regulations can be anything from licensing requirements, forced unionization, permitting requirements, reporting mandates, capitalization mandates, government subsidies, mandates that products follow a certain patented methodology, or by restricting access to materials.  These restrictions on competition, restraints on trade, barriers to entry, and other government supported monopolies form up what is known as Corporatism.  Basically it's a combination of government and government sponsored corporate planning. 

We can't get capitalism back.  Even if all the old regulatory schemes, bureaus, boards, and planning authorities were wiped out.  They'd just come right back.  So long as our Government has the authority to shape so much of our economic life, so long as they have unchecked authority to pass any regulation, mandate or tax, then there will be corporations and individuals who will pursue these to maximize their profits.  On this front I have good news and bad news. 

The Good News is that our Founding Fathers drafted a Constitution that limited the power of government to impact every economic aspect of our lives. 

The Bad News is that we've been ignoring these limitations for so long that the vast Majority of people have no idea that they ever existed in the first place.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Love Your Country, Not Your Government

I was recently engaged in a debate with a fellow libertarian on the subject of the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance.  His point was well taken that devotion to the government was not a laudible trait.  I guess I've just never viewed these as devotional, but in all honesty, they are.  His question to me, and mine for you:  Should we pledge allegiance to a government? 

For me the answer is no.  I pledge allegiance to the concept of liberty, I respect our national anthem for what it represents, the same as I respect our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines for the sacrifices they make, even though I may not agree with the decisions of the people who send them to war.  I love our Country, the union that we've created, the ideals upon which we were founded.  I do not love the Government. 

Our Nation consists of the political boundaries, it's citizens, the founding ideals and the overall character of its people.  This, I find a lot to love about.  The Government consists of a massive bureaucracy, restraints on individual liberty, a drain on productive capacity, and a poisonous, rancorous enablement of dependency, meant not to enrich the lives of its citizens but only to prolong and enrich its own existence. 

In the Government I find nothing to love.  To the Government I will never pledge allegiance. 

Don't confuse Patriotism for blind obedience and acceptance of your Government.  Nor is it supporting the actions and excuses it makes around the world.  Patriotism is standing up for the ideals that made our country great to begin with.  Patriotism is standing up for true liberty, even if that means facing down your government.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Minimum Wage Foolishness

The vast majority of people agree with the idea that people should be paid enough live on.  I totally agree.  It's just the greedy corporations who want to pay people what their services would be worth in an open exchange of cash for services.  People just can't survive on that and it's the responsibility of the job providers to make sure that they compensate people enough so that they can have a "living wage."

**In retrospect perhaps I should have posted a giant flashing light with a sarcasm warning. 

No matter that without this mandate an employer could hire an average of 10% more people for every person they do hire if they paid the actual value of the services provided.  No matter that minimum price controls are shown to negatively effect an entire market segment when instituted.  Nevermind that producers forced to pay a minimum wage hire fewer people pass higher costs to their customers and offer fewer benefits to the workers they hire.  Finally don't worry that most economists agree that using a minimum wage to help part of a segment of population ultimately hurts more of that segment than it helps.  How can that be?

The largest percentage of people who actually earn the minimum wage are young minorities.  Employment rates specifically amongst this population segment have dropped following EVERY increase in the minimum wage and have not risen to the level of the highest rate of employment under the previous lower wage mandate.  So, the more the minimum wage is increased the HIGHER unemployment for young minorities increases, and while the rate may come down, it does not reach the previous lows.

For more interesting reading on this subject, I would recommend the works of Walter Williams, a best-selling author and economist.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Serious Creepiness...Maybe it's Mansonesque?

Take a close look of this screen grab from FEMA's website late last week....

Hey guys, don't think of us as the Big Bad Government, we're just your "Federal Family."  Yeah, that's probably bile you're tasting right now.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How We Gave It Away...


Once, we were a free society. I'm sorry to be the one to break the news to you, but we are not anymore.

When the government has the authority to seize your property, to bind you into military service, or take at threat of confinement substantial portions of your income, you are not free. You may be more free than most people in most other countries, but you are not free.

Let's go back in time for a moment.  Our country had just thrown off the shackles of a government that thrived off of its citizens and wanted to make a government that was by, of, and for the people of this nation.  They understood that Government had a tendency to grow to be by, of and for itself.  So, they devised a Constitution that was designed to LIMIT the power of the central government.  They knew that other limitations, other rules and such might be required that the Constitution didn't allow the Central Government to do, but it did allow State and Local Governments to do these things.  They also understood that times would change and that Constitution may need to change with those times.  This part is neat.  What they did was, they built in a little mechanism for us to change it!  They didn't make it easy, but it probably shouldn't be easy to manipulate the main limitation on government in our land. 

So, what's happened?  The Constitution has been changed a couple of times.  Since it's adoption, there are a total of 27 amendments, 10 of which were passed almost immediately and 1 having been repealed by another of the amendments.  So, obviously it can happen.  Let's talk about that amendment that was passed and repealed by a later amendment.  That of course is known as the time of Prohibition. 

Prohibition is the common name for the time when our country banned the manufacture, import, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages.  Well, why did they need a constitutional amendment for that?  Couldn't Congress just pass a law?  The answer is no.  Congress could not pass a law to ban alcohol.  It did not have the authority. 

Wait wait wait, if Congress couldn't ban do they ban drugs, pollution, or force us to buy health insurance?  Well, there certainly was no Constitutional Amendment that allowed it.  What happened is that we stopped paying attention.  The Press stopped being the watchdog.  The Government stopped being by, of and for We the People.  The Government has known for 222 years that they could never get you to trust them. Less than 25% of people in this country actually TRUST the government. They've found a better way to get you to agree to what they do. They have gotten you to DEPEND on them.

It started with little things that Congress would do and not get challenged on, then they would expand on that.  Then they latched onto this theory of the "living Constitution."  It's great, it changes with the whims of fate and time.  No longer do we have to modify the actual words of the document, we just reinterpret them based on what we feel it means to us today. 

How does this make us less free? 

I'll draw you a map.  Congress wants to impose a massive penalty on anyone who doesn't buy a Chevy Volt.  If you don't buy one they will conscribe you to serve in the military and send you to a war zone where you will most likely be killed.  

**So, my wife has asked me for some concrete examples of what are some federal mandates that have been passed down that are more realistic.  Aside from stating that if the challenge to Obamacare fails and the government forcing people to participate in the Health Insurance racket ensues, nothing will stop the above example from happening, I would point out these few things:

By instituting a draft, our government requires that all men register to be eligible for the draft.  The Draft is where the government forces you to join the armed forces, puts you in a war zone, usually in a foregin country and fighting against enemies who's existence only through the most tenuous stretch threatens any fragment of our nation, fighting for a government who has treated the basic life and liberty of it's young men with absolutely no regard.  Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness be damned, we've got a war that while it means nothing, we absolutely have to win it.

Some other...extra-constitutional mandates?  How about forcing through economic pressures states to change their laws to reflect the will of the federal government?  Mandating that all public school lunches offer flavored milk to students?

Then there's the way we go to war, by Presidential Decree.  Nothing in the Constitution allows for Congress to give up this responsibility.**

Obviously the actual Constitution doesn't grant them this power.  However, under the theory of the Living Constitution, they could be granted this power because hey, that's just the times we live in bro.  Now, under the traditionalist way of viewing the Constitution, they could still do this, but only after 38 States agreed to allow it.

51 Senators and 218 Representatives


The Majority of Both Houses of 38 out of 50 States' Legislatures must approve it. 

Which process makes you feel safer?

**I asked a recent law school graduate today, where in the Constitution the Government had the authority to pass a law mandating car manufacturers achieve certain fuel economy standards.  She pointed me to the usual suspects of the General Welfare and Commerce Clauses.  I gave her some homework, I'll give it to you too.  After reading the Constitution with the foreknowledge that in the time it was written, when powers were "Enumerated" as they are in Article 1, that list is exhaustive and not just a "startiing off point" as some have interpreted them today, can you determine whether or not our Government is still bound by what was designed to be our primary protection against abuse?