Audio Clips

06 December 2008

A True Dichotomy

We often hear commentators and journalists use the terms "conservative" and "liberal" or "right" and "left". If you're a Republican then you're probably labeled a conservative of the right wing of political philosophy. You also share the same office space as the Nazis according to many commentators who put fascism on the right wing. That's probably not where you expected to find yourself. If you're a Democrat you may find yourself being described as a liberal or a left-wing idealogue. The problem with these descriptions is that they aren't descriptive. They're whatever you view them to be in your own mind. If you ask 10 people to define conservative or liberal you'll get 11 different answers. It would probably be useful to start a conversation on what the actual ends of the political spectrum are.

The debate about the role of government has raged for centuries and millenia. Hobbes, Plato, Rousseau, Locke, Thoreau, Smith, Voltaire and countless others have debated with each other across time and we still haven't decided unanimously about how we should be ruled or rule ourselves. In spite of an elusive unanimity of opinion in that respect, there is a simple way to lay the ground work for the debate and that is to start by defining the terms we use. I would argue that Republicans and Democrats no more define the right and left ends of the political spectrum than orange and yellow define the ends of the color spectrum. They are closer to each other than the other colors and there are other colors that lay further to the right and left of them.

I would argue that the actual dichotomy in governance is, on the one side, complete totalitarian control over the populace by a governmental elite and, on the other side, complete atomistic every-man-for-himself individualism. With that in mind, it's easier to see that the differences between the Republicans and Democrats has less to do with the extent of government control than it does with where the government control is exercised. Democrats (for the most part) feel comfortable with using government coercion to achieve their ends of social equality, environmental policy, health care and other pet pork projects. Republicans (for the most part) feel comfortable using government coercion to achieve their ends of corporate welfare, agricultural subsidies and other pet pork projects.

I think that most people would agree that complete totalitarian control, someone dictating to you every action you are to take, is an undesirable circumstance. Who wants to be told where they can work, what they can buy, where they can live, who they can associate with, or thousands of other personal decisions? We derive our greatest pleasures and lessons from the choices that we make for ourselves. I believe most people would also agree that a completely individualistic society where there are no rules and no enforcement would be undesirable. Why would you want to live so that you were constantly in fear for your life and your property, never able to trust that the people you meet have similar beliefs regarding your personal well-being. What would keep people from committing theft, assault, deception, contract-breaking and any other hedonistic pursuit?

This is a more useful dichotomy to use. The real question now is: where along this spectrum do we find the best protection of individual human rights while providing enforcement of contract

Suggested reading
The 5,000 Year Leap by Cleon Skousen
What Social Classes Owe to Each Other by William Graham Sumner

02 December 2008

Voices of Liberty

A friend of mine invited me to participate in his blog Voices of Liberty. Please check it out. I'm excited about the opportunity for some debate.

Federal Government, Savior of Mankind?

Business Week has an article this week entitled "Can Obama Keep New Jobs at Home?" Several things stuck out at me while I was reading it.

The article starts by saying that Obama has promised to save or create 2.5 million jobs over the next two years. I wish I could make promises like that. Absolutely immeasurable and completely useless. No matter what happens he can say he has done his job. Even if we lose 500,000 jobs over the next 2 years he can say "Well our analysts estimate that without the steps we took we would have lost 3 million jobs, therefore we saved 2.5 million jobs." Nice. Hey Obama, if you're going to make meaningless promises, go for broke. Why not promise that you're going to save 50 million jobs over the next 2 years, or 100 million. Then, as long as there are 50 million people working in 2 years you can say that you accomplished your promise. That would really set you up for re-election. Who would want to vote out a president who saved 50 million jobs? Not me!

Another part of the article that I found interesting was this:
In fact, Obama does aim to get money into the hands of consumers, through extended unemployment benefits and aid to state and local governments that might otherwise lay off workers or raise taxes.
So this is how we're saving jobs? By giving money to the unemployed and making sure that government jobs don't disappear? Let's leave aside the unemployment question and say that people actually need that in the time that it takes to get a new job and just talk about the second half of the statement. How does saving government jobs help the economy? Let's be clear, EVERY government worker, federal, state or local, is a parasite on the economy. Now, don't get me wrong, we need some of those workers. We need police, army, fire, etcetera but let's not mince words, even those positions are a drain on the true economy. No government work ADDS to the economy. They may be set up to defend the safety of the economy as a necessary expense to make sure that capital is not destroyed, but they do not ADD to the economy. They are an expense that we taxpayers pay. Period. They are a drain to the actual economy and frankly, many of them shouldn't have their jobs. Many of their jobs are unnecessary and duplicative or more expensive alternatives to the private sector. So the fact that Obama views an infusion of money to state and local governments so they can spare those jobs as something that will improve the economy is disturbing. At most, those people will spend their salaries in the true economy and that will hopefully provide some jobs. A better alternative would be to eliminate all business taxes. Businesses don't pay taxes anyway, people pay taxes.

20 November 2008

Detroit's Whore

Most of you are under the mistaken assumption that the money you receive in your paycheck is actually yours. In case you are still stupid enough to believe that, this congressman will disabuse you of that notion (starting at :24 in the clip). You receive your paycheck only at the pleasure of the Congress. And don't you forget it.

19 November 2008

Power to Save the World

One of the largest problems facing us over the next several decades is meeting the growing demand for energy without bankrupting ourselves with the costs. I have absolutely no problem in principle with solar and wind energy. They are exciting alternatives that may eventually be able to produce the energy we need. As it stands right now though both of those alternatives are quite expensive. We do, however, have an alternative energy that we have been using for decades with great success: nuclear.

Journalist William Tucker has been investigating nuclear (or as he calls it, terrestrial) energy and shares several insights that seem to be lacking in the debate. Several of those insights relate to challenges faced by the alternatives: hydroelectric is about maxed out because the best dams have already been built, solar requires enormous land areas, wind is fickle and one turbine the height of the Trump Tower creates only 1/200th the electricity of a normal power plant. So while these alternatives may certainly provide greater potential in the future as we invariably apply our ingenuity to the problem, they certainly won't meet the needs of the next 20 or even 50 years because of the time and resources it will take to bring them online in a meaningful enough way to be noticeable. Nuclear, however, provides the electricity we need while being familiar and advanced enough for us to bring meaningful amounts of energy online over the next 20 years.

The term "nuclear" could practically be a Rorschach test. Most people envision mushroom clouds and the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Because of that, one of the most vocal proponents of nuclear energy may surprise you. Patrick Moore was one of the co-founders of Greenpeace and now finds himself at odds with many of his former compatriots because of his position on nuclear energy. He argues that nuclear has the ability to replace the majority of our fossil fuel base load energy production while having the added benefit of reducing the greenhouse emissions that concern environmental activists. And it's not a new or untried technology. Nuclear power is the source of 20% of our electricity needs and it has been powering our navy for decades. Its cost is roughly $.02 per kilowatt-hour which is comparable to coal and hydroelectric so we could bring plants online without seeing material changes to our power costs. The same could not be said of solar or wind power.

Of course, the most pressing concerns that people have are related to the radioactivity of the waste. There are several things that people should keep in mind when they consider this. First of all, the process that the radioactive material goes through as it sloughs off particles in order to balance out the number of neutrons eventually leads it to become a series of elements until it finally stabilizes as lead. (For a thorough and fascinating discussion on nuclear power and it's safety go to your library and check out "Power to Save the World" by Gwyneth Cravens) Within the first 40 years the material has only one-one thousandth the potency and radioactivity as it started with. We have the capacity to deal with this material. Particularly since we have changed the laws involved with what we classify as nuclear waste.

Years ago, the United States classified every by-product of the nuclear process as nuclear waste. This is ridiculous since a significant amount of potential energy is still in the rods after the first cycle. France, who leads the world in nuclear energy advances, recognized that about 98 percent of the by-product of the first cycle could be reused. As such, they recycle that 98 percent of the material for further use. France, after decades of nuclear production, has been able to limit their waste to fit into a single room in Le Havre. The United States has since changed the law and legalized the recycling of materials which will substantially reduce the difficulties that faced us in dealing with the waste. It can be easily and safely stored in the Yucca Mountains.

One of the other major concerns comes from the nuclear power plant failure of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. These two isolated circumstances are, in the case of Chernobyl, illustrative of the differences in technology and in the case of Three Mile Island illustrative of the success of American nuclear technology. Chernobyl was far and away one of the worst ecological and human disaster in human history. And yet, it was largely a result of incompetence in construction and management. Chernobyl was built without a concrete structure around the reactor, a safety feature that does exist in the American plants. In addition, the Soviets were using materials that are not used in America that actually helped to facilitate the chain reaction that occurred. Chernobyl is so different in style and structure from our plants that it is not helpful in comparison but rather in contrast.

Three Mile Island on the other hand was an unmitigated success. It proved that our systems worked. No one, worker or neighboring inhabitant, was killed or even made sick by the meltdown at Three Mile Island. The fail-safes worked and contained all the damage within a concrete barrier. The scare at Three Mile Island was exacerbated by the coincident release of Jane Fonda's movie "The China Syndrome". It came together and created a maelstrom of misinformation and mistrust that resulted in the complete cessation of nuclear power plant construction in this country.

No energy source is without advantages and disadvantages, but a reasoned debate in solving our country's energy issues should include a full and complete look at an energy source that has served us well without costing us a fortune or causing harm to our health. If we take the time to think things through rather than oppose nuclear energy in a knee-jerk fashion, I think we will find an intriguing solution to our problems.

15 November 2008

Hobgoblins and the Automotive Industry

I'm currently reading a biography of H.L. Mencken who was a political writer in the first part of the 20th century. He was a very perceptive chronicler of politics in America. One of my favorite Mencken quotes describes very well the current economic situation:
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with and endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
I believe that the automotive industry, through their lobbyists and campaign donations, are now providing politicians with yet another hobgoblin to frighten the populace. This hobgoblin, like others Mencken described, is imaginary.

The argument put forward is that if the American taxpayer doesn't pull out their wallet and fork over some money then the automotive industry in America will disappear and cause untold damage to the economy. This is the worst sort of blackmail and there are several flaws with their argument not the least of which is that GM, Ford and Chrysler no longer represent the sum total of the automotive industry in the United States. Over the past 20 years several foreign auto makers have set up factories here in the U.S. and now employ tens of thousands of people directly and tens of thousands more indirectly via their suppliers.

The argument goes along these lines: GM, Ford and Chrysler will undoubtedly fail unless they are given billions more in money from the taxpayer. If they fail then hundreds of thousands of people will lose jobs as the effect ripples through their suppliers and the businesses that supply the suppliers and so on. The problem with this is that it assumes that upon a liquidation of the assets, buyers who purchase the factories and all other assets will allow those assets to lie fallow. That is a ludicrous argument. There are plenty of investors who would be interested in purchasing those assets and putting them to work for the right price. They would only be kept from doing that by the government taking money from taxpayers and subsidizing these failing companies.

The bankruptcy process is valuable to our economic system because it puts assets in the hands of parties who have the capital and means to employ those assets more efficiently. GM, Ford and Chrysler have proven themselves incapable of employing those assets efficiently. For what possible reason would we give them money if they are unable to convince investors to give them more money?

10 November 2008

The Tooth Fairy Is Going to Pay a Fortune for My Dentures

In a sign of mass-delusion, one-half of homeowners polled told that they believe that their house has either increased in value or stayed the same. That's fascinating because it seems that it has been inescapable in the news for about 2 years now that the real estate market is hurting. I'm fascinated by Behavioral Finance and this is a great example of the disconnect that can happen when our money is involved. We all fall prey to these fallacies which is why I find it so interesting. How can it be that rational human beings can make these mistakes. Fascinating subject.

I love the line in the article about homeowners getting so attached to their homes that when a realtor gives them a realistic asking price it's like the realtor saying that the seller's kids are ugly. Ha ha ha! Not my kids though. They're above average. Just like everyone else.

You'll Pardon Me if I Ask For a Second Opinion

I'm reading a Business Week article about energy policy and Jigar Shah, founder of Sunedison, a solar company, recommends that the government be the example. He asserts that

if the government led by example and made its own buildings greener, thousands of jobs would be created, and "the net cost could be zero, because it will save so much energy."

This reminds me of T. Boone Pickens recently finding religion in the wind energy sector and evangelizing the benefits of wind energy. Oh, and by the way, Pickens just happens to own large investments in the wind energy sector.

Listen, maybe solar or wind is the way to go, but I think I'll look to other sources also to try and get an understanding of the best options. I don't go to the Ford dealer and ask which make of car I should get and expect him to say "Toyota". We shouldn't expect that someone in the solar industry is going to give us an unbiased opinion on energy policy either.

29 October 2008

Thanks for the Heads Up!

Saturday Night Live Understands It, Why Doesn't Washington?

How can it be that SNL can see through the noise and get to the crux of the matter and yet our politicians still feel like they have to bail out those "poor unfortunate" people who are getting foreclosed on. 94% of home-buyers are responsibly making their mortgage payments. Why are we catering to the 6% who aren't? Those of us who didn't make bad decisions with our money are constituents too. Why are we ignored? More pandering and scare-mongering. Arghhh!

And Now For Something Completely Different

Alright, enough of my complaining. Time for a little levity.

27 October 2008

Ted Stevens GUILTY

Ted Stevens, Alaska senator, has been found guilty of corruption charges for receiving gifts from people and companies and not reporting them to the Senate Ethics Committee. This is fantastic. This creep has been in the Senate for 40 years and has obviously used his position to line his pockets and remodel his home. I hope you find yourself in jail, Mr. Stevens. You've earned it.

23 October 2008

We Should Proceed With Caution, Not Reckless Abandon

2 UCLA economists have done some extensive research and believe that FDR's policies actually prolonged the Great Depression by 7 years. Lee Ohanian, one of the economists believes that it will not be repeated as long as the lawmakers don't "gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies." He explains briefly why it was such a long recovery when it should have been significantly shorter.

"President Roosevelt believed that excessive competition was responsible for the Depression by reducing prices and wages, and by extension reducing employment and demand for goods and services," said Cole, also a UCLA professor of economics. "So he came up with a recovery package that would be unimaginable today, allowing businesses in every industry to collude without the threat of antitrust prosecution and workers to demand salaries about 25 percent above where they ought to have been, given market forces. The economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies."

Please call your representative and senators and urge them to use caution in "treating" the economy. Our government has shown a distinct lack of competence in the past when it comes to the economy. I don't believe that they have gotten any more brilliant in the last 70 years. The economy has too many moving parts for any centralized organization to be able to manage it.

The Government Doesn’t “Share” in Losses, We Do

Apparently the Bush administration is considering a proposal to take $40 billion from taxpayers to buy foreclosures from banks and then reduce the amount owed by the home-buyer. (Is there anyone left in America who can't wait for this man to be out of office?)

According to an article at The the government will "share in any future losses on the new loans with lenders." Pardon me, Mr. Journalist, but you may want to rethink who is going to "share" in those losses. Government has NO money except what they take from you and me. So government won't be "sharing" in the losses, we will.

Every responsible citizen who did not choose to buy an overpriced house (roughly 97% of the population) will pay for every idiot who bought a house they couldn't afford. That's sure generous of us. Except that it isn't really generosity because the money will be taken from us at gunpoint. Generosity would be letting these people learn their lesson and returning to the rental market. Build up your down payment and try again later. Don't take money from me and my family because you were too lazy to figure out if you could afford the house payment. That's not my fault. I'm currently saving for my own down payment. Why should I have to put my own home purchase on hold to help you keep your home? Explain to me the fairness in that.

11 October 2008

Going on Vacation

I'll be gone for a week and a half so no updates until then. Here's a kleenex to dry your tears. Now stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about! I did add an Armstrong and Getty Clip called "Whip the Bankers". Enjoy!

09 October 2008

China Owns Us!!! Oh Wait...

I constantly hear fear-mongering from politicians and talking heads that China owns us and when they decide to "call in the debt" we are going to crash. First off, China owns $500 billion of a $10 trillion debt. That's 5%. Hardly a concerning amount. Japan actually owns more of our debt than China, but both countries are dwarfed by the biggest holders, the U.S. government and U.S. citizens. (There are still big problems with that scenario but that's another post.) So when you hear politicians, like John McCain in this video, and talking heads trying to scare you by saying that China owns us, recognize that they are just trying to scare you into accepting their proposal, whatever it is.

Secondly, China can't "call in the debt". That isn't how treasuries work. They have contractual maturity dates. If China doesn't want their bonds anymore they are free to sell them on the open market and, frankly, that would be an opportunity for us to buy them back at a significant discount. But they can't just walk up to us and demand that we give them back their money. That's not how bonds work. There is no provision for that in the contract.

Politicians are perennial fear-mongers. They want to scare you into voting for them. H.L. Mencken said: "The only way a reporter should look at a politician is down." That is reasonable advice for all of us. Particularly since most reporters seem to just fawn over politicians of one stripe or another and so are unreliable for unbiased information. Turn on your inner skeptic when you hear a politician speak.

05 October 2008

Beneficiary of the Recent Pork

According to Taxpayers for Common Sense one of the beneficiaries of an excise tax waiver I mentioned earlier is a company named Rose City Archery in Myrtle Point, Oregon. The provision of the bill was introduced by the two senators from Oregon. If you would like to express your disgust to senators Gordon Smith or Ron Wyden, two more shills for any bidder, just click on their names.

I've been disappointed by Gordon Smith in the past. His son committed suicide several years ago so he started a crusade to take $60 million from working families and give it to organizations who fight suicide. I don't mean this to sound heartless. I feel sorry for his loss and can't imagine what shock and sorrow I would feel if this happened in my family, but that doesn't justify him robbing taxpayers to assuage his sorrow or guilt. It is exactly this kind of emotionalism that our leaders constantly use to justify their theft of our money.

Defining Marriage

Those who know me know that I am pretty libertarian in my political attitudes. I don't believe in the using the government to force your philosophy on others. I believe that natural rights are the birthright of every person. So you may wonder why I am for Proposition 8 in California. I'll explain. I have no problem with people who choose a homosexual lifestyle having the same rights that I enjoy. I'm not going to come to you and harangue you for a lifestyle that I don't choose.

I am opposed to the redefinition of marriage because it it being used by homosexual advocacy groups as a step to teaching it to the children in school. THAT I have a problem with. I don't go into the schools to teach the Christian lifestyle and I expect that others not use the school system to promote their own lifestyle. Schools are for reading, writing, and arithmetic. It is not a laboratory for social change.

Massachusetts approved gay marriage not too long ago and now schools there are using that as the justification for introducing the concept of gay relationships to children as young as 5, as can be seen in the video above. I'm a live-and-let-live kind of guy, but the minute you start imposing your will on my family you're going to raise my hackles and we're going to have a confrontation. If you feel that it is okay for the government to use the school to effect social change then you had better be willing to accept the consequences of that when the powers-that-be change and are no longer in your corner.

I find it ironic that some people have no problem with our schools teaching what THEY agree with and then complain or find it appalling that groups like evangelical Christians or Catholics teach things in private schools that run counter to that person's beliefs. It's one way or the other. Either we respect each others' right to raise our children as we see fit or we believe that the government should enforce social teachings through school. If we're going to employ the government in that effort then the strongest party wins and the fight for control of government is on. And that is precisely the thing that the founders of this country fought against.

04 October 2008

Inside Every Cynic...

George Carlin, a world-class cynic, once said: "Inside every cynical person is a disappointed idealist." I find myself constantly fighting cynicism because I don't believe that it accomplishes anything. It's hard because I am constantly bombarded by decisions by our government officials that seem to benefit a select few who are capable of buying votes. I do, however, believe that almost everyone you come in contact with is trying to live their life free of government intrusion and is willing to help their neighbor if they see a need or if they're asked. That hope is what keeps me from just swallowing a bitter, bitter pill and viewing everyone's motives with suspicion. We desperately need, as a society, to believe in each others' best intentions and be forgiving of each others' trespasses. It is far easier to go through life assuming that everyone is trying their best to do what's right and occasionally they make mistakes, (Heaven knows that I do) rather than assume that everyone who crosses our path is deliberately out to offend, rob and beat us down. I don't want to live like that and I'm trying to surround myself with people who don't want to believe that either.

03 October 2008

This May Come As a Surprise to Obama Supporters

Neither presidential candidate supports the concept of gay marriage. I know a few Obama supporters who may be surprised by that fact.

Biden's Definition of Patriotism

Patriotism has NOTHING to do with taxes Mr. Biden. To think that paying higher taxes is a matter of patriotism is insulting and ignorant. To take that to its logical conclusion would require us to turn over our entire paycheck to the government to show how much we love our country. That is stupidity and jingoism of the most dangerous kind. Governments were formed by men to provide mutual protection. Governments exist to serve the people, not the other way around.

New Investment Strategy

Senators Obama and Biden apparently are proposing that bankruptcy courts be given the authority to adjust the principal that is owed on a house. So let me get this straight, we are going to allow the bankruptcy court to adjust downward the principal that a person owes to the bank. Hmmm. I'm sensing an opportunity. How about I buy a house I can't afford, declare bankruptcy and get the court to adjust down the amount I owe on it. Sounds fair to me. Forget that the true owner of the house is the bank, until it's paid off. Why should we care about the shareholders of the bank? They don't deserve consideration. Only poor, stupid homeowners should be considered. Now, if Biden is proposing that the downward adjustment can only happen if the bank is amenable then I'm fine with it. But if we start giving preference to the debtors then it's going to get harder and harder to find banks who are willing to loan money if, in bankruptcy, they are no longer entitled to the true amount owed.

Budget Neutral?

Sarah Palin called Senator McCain's proposal to create a $5,000 tax credit that can be used to purchase health insurance "budget neutral". I believe that she is implying that it would have no impact on the budget. I'm not sure how you can come to that conclusion. Leaving aside the idea of whether or not it would be a good idea, you can't say that a tax credit to the taxpayer is "budget neutral". How can it be? If you are providing a way to allow the taxpayer to pay $5,000 less in taxes then the government is going to feel that $5,000 in its revenues. Adjustments are going to have to be made somewhere. Either you lower your budget costs or you increase taxes elsewhere, but you can't say that it's budget neutral. It will certainly impact the federal budget.

Intriguing idea though.

"Simple Fairness" or Dangerous Trend?

In the VP debate the other night Senator Biden was arguing that by raising the taxes on those who make more than $250,000 per year we were just being fair. It was "simple fairness" to take more money from people who have achieved a higher standard of living. I really dislike this line of reasoning. Let's be clear, I make nowhere near $250,000 per year, but I would like to get there eventually and the idea that if you work hard and achieve your goals the government is going to be more punitive in your taxes is outrageous. Biden would have the people at the top end of the income spectrum paying a greater and greater portion of the government bill. How is that "simple fairness"? My concern is that if we reach a point that more than 50% of the voting public are effectively paying no taxes then we will have reached a tipping point for those people to demand more and more of those who have worked hard. "Simple fairness", Mr. Biden, is for every American to pay a share of the costs. To do otherwise is not fairness, it is repressive and tyrannical.

02 October 2008

Classic VP Debate Clip

We Report, Media Misguides

Okay, so this morning I was glancing through H.R. 1424, the bailout bill that is in the news, and I am going to just point a few things out and let you decide whether your representatives are looking out for your best interest or if they are using the public's panic to bend the taxpayer over and spank them. Here are just a few of the highlights added to the bill.




Subtitle B--Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008





I'm not going to even debate on the merits on providing tax exemptions to people who make arrows
consisting of all natural wood with no laminations or artificial means of enhancing the spine of such shaft (whether sold separately or incorporated as part of a finished or unfinished product) of a type used in the manufacture of any arrow which after its assembly measures 5/16 of an inch or less in diameter, and is not suitable for use with a bow described in paragraph (1)(A).
Let's face it. Some chap in one of these representatives' district makes arrows that match this description, made a campaign contribution and asked for a tax break. Now he's getting his payback. Is this really the government you're asking for? If it's not, then contact your representative and senators when you find out about these things and be more proactive in learning about the bills that are being debated and passed.

29 September 2008

Obama - The Race Card in Diplomacy

McCain - Unreliable and Disloyal

Chicago Politics to Haunt Obama?

Is the Fair Tax Better For You?

The Fair Tax website has a feature that I hadn't noticed before. It's a calculator that can help you figure out if the Fair Tax is better for you than your current tax situation. I'll be honest and say that it only increased my spendable income by 1.89% but the reason I want the Fair Tax is that I can control when I'm taxed. If I choose to save then I'm not punished for it. I believe that it will increase the incentive for people to save money which is a good thing.

Genetically Modified Food

I just posted a short bit from A&G on genetically modified food. Funny stuff!

28 September 2008

It Took Longer Than I Anticipated

56 minutes 14 seconds. I didn't think it would take that long for McCain to invoke Reagan's name. Good thing I didn't take the under on that bet.

Another Obama Racket - Early Childhood Education

Obama just mentioned that he wants to increase spending on early childhood education. I'm sure he wants that because it's been working so well so far. Or maybe it's because it's not working and that if we give them more money they'll figure out how to do it right. Or maybe it's because the NEA and every other teachers union on the planet is sending money to him. Whatever the case may be, we don't need the government taking our kids any earlier than they already are. Parents do the job significantly better than the preschool educators do. Why do we feel that we need to take money from workers so that the government can get the kids in a classroom one year sooner? Parents, please stand up and demand your child's time back. Don't abdicate them to the school system when they're 4 years old. They need you at that age, not a babysitter.

It's Not a Dividend, John

Senator McCain just called the $3,500/child tax credit a "dividend". To be exact he said "I want to double the dividend from $3,500 to $7,000 for every dependent child in America." Listen, we have got to stop using words incorrectly. Failure to tax someone is not the equivalent of a dividend. It just means that government is not taxing you as hard as they were. A dividend is a completely different thing, it is a portion of the profits that is returned to shareholders.

I know it sounds like a simple case of semantics, but words mean something and if we allow our leaders to water down words or replace words that scare people with words that people like just so they can get people to do what they are proposing then that is a problem. Stop playing with words and just say it flat out. Say: "We are going to tax families less so that they can raise their children." Stop calling it a dividend. A dividend implies that government is giving us something. Government doesn't give us money. They just stop taking as much as they were previously. If the government IS giving Person A money then it's only because they took it from Person B first and trust me, Person B doesn't feel like it was a dividend.

Obama Doesn't Get It

I'm watching the debate right now on Hulu and Obama and McCain are trading barbs about the economy. McCain just brought up the need for people taking responsibility for their decisions. Obama responds by saying that he agrees and then meanders toward an answer that ends with people who are suffering and taking out debt to pay their mortgage payment. You see Senator, THAT is the problem. If you can't pay your mortgage, then you shouldn't HAVE a mortgage. People who lose their homes are not going to be living on the street. They will cease to be homeowners and become renters. Whoop-de-freakin'-doo. Learn your lesson. Don't take on a loan that you can't pay. Don't take a "creative" loan. And finally, TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for the fact that you made a poor decision in buying a home when you did. Stop asking the taxpayer to buy your way out the problem.

Renting vs. Buying

My dad emailed me a fascinating article on buying vs. renting and it reconfirmed in my mind why we are renting for the time being. I have run the numbers and it make far more sense to invest the difference between what I pay in rent and what I would be paying in mortgage and then buy a house outright at some point than to buy at current prices. Read the article and let me know what you think. I'm curious.

20 September 2008

All Beliefs Welcome, Unless They Don't Match Mine

Wendy Doniger, a History of Religions professor at the University of Chicago School of Divinity, wrote a brief article for the Washington Post and made a couple of statements that had me rolling my eyes. To start with, anyone who knows me knows that I really don't like McCain and I frankly don't know enough about Sarah Palin of any substance to be able to make a judgment about her. (I've heard plenty from the media, but who knows if it's true. I mean, it is the media, right?) However, I have found it quite amusing to talk to and hear from people who are practically apoplectic in their reaction to Palin. Ms. Doniger struck me as epitomizing the attitude of these people when she wrote:

Her greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman. The Republican party's cynical calculation that because she has a womb and makes lots and lots of babies (and drives them to school! wow!) she speaks for the women of America, and will capture their hearts and their votes, has driven thousands of real women to take to their computers in outrage. She does not speak for women; she has no sympathy for the problems of other women, particularly working class women. (italics added)

So now we find that radical-feminists can define who is and isn't a woman. Apparently it has nothing to do with chromosomes, it has to do with your beliefs. And if you don't believe the same thing that Ms. Doniger does then you are no longer a woman. I'm not sure what you are since you're also not a man. In fact, since you're neither man nor woman you must be subhuman. Perhaps you're best purpose in this life is to serve those who are, obviously, more intelligent than you. (I would imagine that the only purpose men serve in Ms. Doniger's world is to propagate the species, and that only because of some cruel trick of nature.)

Since Mrs. Palin does not conform to the type of woman that Ms. Doniger approves of then she cannot, indeed, does not, in Ms. Doniger's words, speak for women. Never mind that many women out there live lives very similar to Mrs. Palin's. They raise families. They keep their children in spite of life-impacting problems. They struggle through the consequences of their children's choices. They hunt. They play sports. They nurture. They serve. They try to make the world safer for their children. They go to church. They love their husbands. They love their children. Sounds downright subversive doesn't it?

Which brings me to a couple of other interesting arguments from Ms. Doniger. She again argues that Sarah Palin is a hypocrite.

...the hypocrisy of her outing her pregnant daughter in front of millions of people, hard on the heels of her concealing her own pregnancy (her faith in abstinence applying, apparently, only to non-Palins), is nicely balanced by her hypocrisy in gushing with loving support of her teenage daughter after using a line-item veto to cut funding for a transitional home for teenage mothers in Alaska.

This contains a common fallacy: because people are going to have sex anyway, abstinence-education cannot possibly serve any purpose. The fact of the matter is that the only way to prevent STDs and pregnancy is to abstain from sex. If we are not telling our children this then we are doing them a disservice. This doesn't mean that those of us who believe in teaching abstinence are any less compassionate to those who make poor choices. They need support and help, but if we lie to them and tell them that condoms and/or the pill are going to miraculously protect them from disease and pregnancy then we are fools indeed and we have set them up for failure in life. So the fact that Sarah Palin can teach the value of abstinence and still love her daughter in the face of a poor choice is not a contradiction at all. It is the human condition. Who among us has NOT failed to heed good advice and had to pay the consequences?

And let's get one more thing straight. Sarah Palin "outed" her daughter's pregnancy for one reason and one reason only. She's running for Vice-President. If she hadn't mentioned it early, the press would have found out and hounded her relentlessly for being a hypocrite for trying to hide her daughter's pregnancy. She was in a no-win situation and the only way to get out in front of a problem like this is to shine a light on it. If you try to hide something you'll get burned for it.

I also love the dig that she "hid" her own pregnancy. Is the failure to tell someone that you're pregnant "hiding" your pregnancy? If that's the case then my wife and I have "hidden" our last 5 pregnancies. That is, until we felt like "unhiding" them. What a silly argument. Is this the level of teaching that the University of Chicago pays for?

It is also not hypocrisy to veto spending on transitional housing for teenage mothers. Issues such as these should be solved on a local level and not funded by taking money out of taxpayer wallets. As a society we need to stop compelling charity by stealing money from taxpayers. The government has been resorting to this for generations now and it hardens peoples hearts to those in need because it creates a feeling of resentment toward those who are on the receiving end of the tax lottery. We are, by nature, still a giving people. We give more of our income privately than just about any nation on earth, but I'm afraid that we're losing that sense of caring because it is being taxed out of us. The more that the government takes, the less we have in discretionary funds to be able to help others. And when charity is forced and given third-party by the government who took it from us, it detaches us from the recipient and we feel no sense of obligation toward that recipient. In fact, we come to resent them and wish them evil. The fact that Sarah Palin vetoed a transitional home for teenage mothers has absolutely nothing with how she may feel about teenage mothers. To say otherwise is to be disingenuous and judgmental.

P.S. I'm still not voting for McCain.

16 September 2008

Nineteen Neglected Consequences of Income Redistribution

I am currently reading Robert Higgs' book Against Leviathan and it is very well-written. Robert Higgs is a Ph.D. economist from Johns Hopkins University and has been a proponent of limited government for decades and this book captures several dozen of his essays. I just finished "Nineteen Neglected Consequences of Income Redistribution" and I really enjoyed it. Several of the ideas behind it were things that I had already thought of (loss of independence, perpetuation of dependence on the government from generation to generation, bureaucrats entrenching and seeking larger and larger budgets, etc.), but others were forehead-slapping eye-openers.

For example, it hadn't occured to me that all the money and labor that goes into lobbying for those dollars is money and labor that is not going into creating goods and services that will be valued by consumers or make our jobs easier by increasing productivity. Also, all the money and labor that is going in to avoiding taxes to the best of our ability and all the jobs in the tax-preparation sector of the economy are distracting effort from creating goods and services that could benefit society.

In addition, Higgs makes an excellent point that the redistribution of wealth creates an animosity from the taxpayer to the recipient because the recipient comes to be seen, probably rightly so, as a moocher. So instead of the compassion that was a hallmark of charitable and fraternal organizations in the past, there is a resentment because the money was taken away at gunpoint. The loss of opportunity to voluntarily help someone is more detrimental than I think people realize. I believe it leads to a coarsening of society because people think "Hey, I've already paid enough in taxes to pay for that problem. Take it up with the government." That isn't a positive development.

15 September 2008

A Pretty Simple Concept

I'm reading Ron Paul's book Revolution and I always find it enlightening how simple the principles of the Constitution are. He is talking about Thomas Jefferson's view of the importance of adhering to the limits that are explicitly laid out in the Constitution. Let me share a passage.

Jefferson's approach to the Constitution - which he adamantly believed could be understood by the average person and was not some secret teaching that had to be divined by immortals in black robes - was refreshingly simple. If a proposed federal law was not listed among the powers granted to Congress in Article I, Section 8, then no matter how otherwise attractive it seemed, it had to be rejected on constitutional grounds. If it were especially wise or desirable, there would be no difficulty in amending the Constitution to allow for it. And according to Jefferson we should always bear in mind, to the extent possible, the original intention of those who drafted and ratified the Constitution: "On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed." (Ron Paul, Revolution, p. 45)

Seems simple enough doesn't it. If we have questions then stick to the intent of the people who passed it. If we decide that they are mistaken on some point then there exists a means by which to amend the Constitution. Instead we just trust our leaders to make laws that will benefit us because it's easier than abiding by a long-dead document. We can't trust our leaders. It is too easy to acquire a taste for power.

Confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism. Free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence....In matters of Power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution. (Thomas Jefferson)

The only way to maintain our God-given freedoms is to make our leaders abide by the limits that are expressly listed in the Constitution. Otherwise, why do we bother to have the document? Let's finish the charade and burn it in that case.

14 September 2008

Lipstick on a Pig

So apparently the McCainiacs are up in arms claiming that Obama referred to Sarah Palin as a pig. For anyone who hasn't seen it here is the video. To claim that he is referring to Palin seems to me to require the most obtuse reasoning. Is this really the level of political debate that we're going to have? Is this the best that McCain and his lackeys can come up with? Give me a break. Why don't we stop talking about drivel and start addressing the actual problems that we're facing like a multi-trillion dollar bullet headed right between our eyes in the form of entitlement spending for tens of millions of baby boomers. Lipstick on a pig. Indeed.

12 September 2008

New Sign of the Apocaplyse

I tend to dislike it when government steps in and regulates us to death, but the reality is that some things need to be controlled and this is just one example of an area of human activity that government needs to lay down its iron fist and squash. It is an outrage that Ms. Clemens feels qualified to massage horses. What training has she had that would qualify her for the job? What assurances do the horses have that she won't push too hard on the deep-tissue massage? How can we know, as a society that she won't be causing wholesale harm to horses nationwide unless she is licensed and registered? Equine-Americans have a right to the protections guaranteed under the Constitution. This is a clear and present danger to the safety of horses everywhere and I won't rest until we have enough equine massage regulations on the books to choke a horse.

Seriously. We have have regulations against equine massage?! And we don't think that government has gotten too overreaching?

10 September 2008

If you want to check out the political claims and accusations that are happening and will continue to happen throughout the presidential race be sure to check out FactCheck. It is a fantastic resource.

La la la la, I Can't Hear You!

Armstrong and Getty read some interesting statistics (see A&G - Real Estate Delusion in the audio bites above) about what we believe is going on in the real estate market vs. what's happening to the value of our own home. The majority of people believe that in the last year the value of their home has gone up. That's is laughable. This is some special kind of self-delusion. The interesting thing is that those same people believe that everyone else's real estate has, for the most part, gone down over the last year. What!?

This reminds me of the congressional polls. Congress has lower approval ratings than syphilis and yet we keep voting them back in. It's the idea that "Well sure congress is awful, but not my guy. He's really fighting for me!" No he's not. He's one of Them. Maybe you need to look at his voting record!

08 September 2008

You Call This a Depression?

Armstrong and Getty, probably my favorite radio show, shared a great article from Newsweek to put the current economic environment in perspective. You can catch the clip at the top of the page.

06 September 2008

Non-Interventionism vs. Isolationism

I find it amusing when Group A tries to tell Group B what Group B's beliefs are. The neo-con fascists would have us believe that anyone who questions the presence of U.S. military in 130 different countries is an isolationist who wants people in other countries to starve to death and hates liberty. And they probably beat their children. They claim that these "isolationists" want to just hole up in their homes, put their fingers in their ears and say "La la la la la, I can't hear you. I don't want to deal with you." Isolationism is a far cry from the non-intervention that many conservatives favor.

Non-interventionists don't believe we should be using our national blood and treasure to police the world. It does not mean that we are pacifists, it simply means that war is so disruptive to freedom that it should only be a last resort. We believe in the counsel given by George Washington:

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to domestic nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.

Thomas Jefferson further explained what the U.S. role should be:

...peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.

Non-interventionists have a rich and respected tradition. However, neo-cons have hijacked the military tradition of the U.S. and have intimidated non-interventionist into submission by calling them cowards and unpatriotic traitors. Non-interventionism has been redubbed isolationism in spite of the fact that non-interventionism calls for robust relations with all countries. We should stop being bullied by those who would question our patriotism and initiate a debate as to why we need to have "the highest level of military spending since the end of World War II" when we're not fighting World War II.

Maybe we do need that level of spending. Maybe we do need troops in 130 countries. Maybe there's a reason they need to be garrisoned in countries for more than half a century at the cost of trillions of dollars. But right now we're not even having the debate. Right now the debate is how much more intervention should we do. Why don't we discuss whether we should cut back our intervention in other countries' governments. Instead we get people like Rudy Giuliani calling Ron Paul an America-hater because Paul asks about the consequences interventionism may bring about. People like Giuliani and the neo-con base are cowards because rather than discuss the issue they resort to thinly-veiled ad hominem attacks and wave dismissively with their hands that anyone who questions their assumptions is to be ignored. Talk about isolationist.

05 September 2008

It's Not the World's Oldest Profession, But...

Well, the prostitutes are out in force and money is changing hands faster than you can say "Goodbye Sweet America!" For the past two weeks we have been subjected to the circus that is the two-party convention system. And thank goodness for it! It is such a convenience to have all the politicians gathered so tightly together so that the lobbyists don't have to walk too far to hand out their checks and whine like two-year-olds that their industry just isn't capable of making it unless the politician steals some money out of your pocket to give to them. It's times like these that I nearly lose my steel-like nerves and just start calling and cussing out random congressmen. (I also sometimes wish there were an even lower lower-case lettering system so I could write "congressmen" with a lower-lower-case "c".)

Here's the latest prostitution ring. Detroit's three car companies are approaching congressmen and saying that they need subsidized loans totaling $50 billion. So let me get this straight. You ran your business so ineptly that you can't compete with better-run businesses because you're stupid? And I should give you money because....? Oh wait, that's right, you're not asking me to give you money, you're asking my congressman to put a gun to my head and take money from my wallet to give to you. That sounds fair. And reasonable.

If you can't compete as the company you are, then you better look to investors and sell them on why they should invest more or look to merge with a competitor to get better economies-of-scale and weed out the garbage that isn't working. You shouldn't steal money from families who are struggling to make ends meet because you're such an incompetent nincompoop.

Where are my blood pressure pills?

01 September 2008

Economics and Scarcity

I was reading my Freeman this month and I read one of the best explanations of how scarcity works in economics and why economists tend to not be worried about running out of resources. Steven Horwitz makes the point that the true resource is the end result, not the means that got you there. Let me explain what I mean by using one of his examples.

He makes the point that when we first started communicating via telephones, copper was the conduit for the human voice. However, copper is quite expensive. Eventually, the discovery of fiber optics led the way to more efficient and cheaper means of communicating. Mr. Horwitz' point is that copper and sand are not the true resources in this scenario, but rather the "ability to convey voice and data". The thing that people wanted to accomplish was to be able to speak over large distances. Human ingenuity found a means of doing it and with time has found more efficient and cheaper means.

This is the genius of the free market. Given a desire, "to create light in the home" or "to cook a meal in 90-120 seconds" for example, humans will find a way to transmit light, like we have with the light bulb, or cook a meal in record time, like we have with the microwave. We will continue to find more efficient and cheaper means of accomplishing human goals because that's what we do. We don't sit still. We look for solutions to the problems that we run into. And we use the means at our disposal to do it.

27 August 2008

What?! We Have To Show Up to Work?

If you haven't read Breach of Trust by Tom Coburn I urge, nay, I beg you to go read it. It is about his time in the House of Representatives and how, after the Republican Revolution, the congressmen who came in on a wave of popular sentiment to cut back government largess ended up becoming no different from the bums they had replaced. Ever since reading that book about 7 years ago I have been an admirer of Tom Coburn. He is a man of principle and integrity. He ran for the House on the promise that he would serve no more than 3 terms. At the end of his 3 term, people came to him about running for a 4th term and he refused to go back on his word and instead returned to his medical practice, as promised. He has since run for and won a Senate seat. I check his Senate website when I can and I invariably find the most interesting things. Such as this.

It seems that every year we pay for thousands of hours of work that government employees don't actually do. I have this antiquated notion that under almost any circumstance imaginable, I should only be paid for the work that I do. Maybe that's why I didn't go to work for the federal government. I'm over-qualified just with that one simple character trait. People who steal taxpayer money should be punished severely. It betrays a public trust. We are told to pay our taxes under threat of violence. (If you doubt it, just stop paying.) But many of us feel like we should do our part to pay for legitimate government purposes. When a government employee takes money that otherwise would be in the pocket of a working American then they deserve harsh measures. As a federal employee you're already sponging off surviving off the sweat of another's brow so you have a particular responsibility to be prudent in the use of that money, including the representation of the hours you are working. It seems like a simple thought to me. It may be too simple for those employees who lie about their hours.

Where is that blood pressure medication?

Homelessness in San Francisco

For those of my friends unfamiliar with Armstrong and Getty, they are a couple of talk radio guys out in Sacramento and they talk politics and pop culture and crack me up. Anyway, they recently we talking a little about some changes that San Francisco is making regarding the homeless. SF has been asking people not to give to the bums because they already have access to over $200 million worth of services in the city. I've uploaded some of the commentary and laughed out loud at what Joe Getty labeled one of our most cherished freedoms.

20 August 2008

Homer Simpson, Nuclear Guardian and Hero of the Hour

I believe in expanding our alternative energy sources and I believe that we can produce energy cheaper than the energy being produced through fossil fuels. Of course, the easiest way to do that is to expand our nuclear power production but there is quite a bit of ignorance about nuclear energy and radiation. When you say "nuclear" people usually think of one of two things: mushroom clouds or Chernobyl. Let's talk for a minute.

First off, we've been producing nuclear energy all over the world for decades now and we have yet to have a rogue power steal weapons-grade plutonium. The people who want weapons-grade plutonium (rhymes with shyran) will just get it themselves through building their own centrifuges. The odds of a terrorist element accumulating enough plutonium and then having the know-how to build a nuclear weapon are vanishingly small. Plus, if we decided not to do things out of fear of misuse, as Patrick Moore (co-founder of Greenpeace and nuclear advocate) points out, we never would have harnessed fire.

Second, Chernobyl was a completely different design from the design used by western nations. Our system is significantly better, as Three-Mile Island illustrates. (Some of you who are familiar with my sense of humor might think that that last sentence was sarcasm. Shame on you.) Actually Three-Mile Island was indeed a success. No one, not one person, was harmed as a result of Three-Mile Island. All the fail-safes functioned like they were supposed to and isolated the reactor and kept it from being a danger. Even more fortunately, our designs are much improved since then. France has been producing about 80% of their power using nuclear power. It is extremely cheap per kilowatt hour produced when compared to other alternative energy sources like wind or solar. Let's stop being afraid of Jane Fonda and start using our brain.

13 August 2008

Gold Standard

I was rereading an article by Gerald O'Driscoll, Jr. from the November 2007 Freeman entitled "Subprime Monetary Policy" and I was struck by a quote by Mr. Greenspan from 2002.

Although the gold standard could hardly be portrayed as having produced a period of price tranquility, it was the case that the price level in 1929 was not much different, on net, from what it had been in 1800. But, in the two decades following the abandonment of the gold standard in 1933, the consumer price index in the United States nearly doubled. And, in the four decades after that, prices quintupled. Monetary policy, unleashed from the constraint of domestic gold convertibility, had allowed a persistent overissuance of money. As recently as a decade ago, central bankers, having witnessed more than a half-century of chronic inflation, appeared to confirm that a fiat currency was inherently subject to excess.

So why is it so difficult for us to believe that getting back to a gold standard would be beneficial? It has been the strongest bulwark again government dilution of our currency. By forcing government to abide by a currency that is limited to a fungible and tangible good that is subject to dilution through government efforts and subterfuge. Inflation is caused by the presence of more dollars chasing the same number of goods and services. The only way that can happen is when the money printing agency introduces more of the currency into the system. Since we have no limitation to the currency that can be introduced, we essentially have an unlimited potential for inflation. Inflation is a hidden tax on the American people and the only way we can prevent it is to demand that the Congress return to a gold-backed currency. As long as the Federal Reserve has the discretion to introduce currency in whatever amount they deem appropriate we will continue to be taxed by their inflation. Pure and simple.

By the way, take some time to read the article. It is a great explanation of how the subprime mortgage mess came about.

12 August 2008

T. Boone Pickens Comes Bearing Gifts. Ruh Roh!

For those unfamiliar with T. Boone Pickens he is a self-made billionaire from the oil industry. He is now on a crusade to save the US from its oil addiction. I believe that Pickens is cynical in his approach. He has heavily invested in wind and natural gas and now is on a PR campaign to try to get Americans to create a tax-subsidized plan that would create the world's largest wind farm and rely heavily on natural gas.

Now, don't get me wrong. I have no problem with people looking for opportunities in the market, but that fact is that Pickens wants to have the tax-payer subsidize his little odyssey. My only question is this: If it's such a great idea, why can't it happen on its own merits? Why does it need money out of my family's pocket to work. It's like the sports team owners who say that the stadiums they need will be such a benefit to the city that the taxpayers should subsidize the construction.

If it's such a great idea, why don't you put your own money where your mouth is and take the risk. You shouldn't need to put a gun to my head and force me to pay taxes to fund your scheme Mr. Pickens. And frankly, that's what you're asking for.

See also "Pickens Plan Is Based on Ignorance" and "Pickens's Slim Economics".

09 August 2008

New Feature on My Blog

I've added a widget to the top of the blog so I can post audio clips that I think you'll find interesting. Just as a starter I've added one of my favorite clips from the Laura Ingraham Show. It's from a few years ago but it still cracks me up. Stay tuned for some new posts in the near future.

05 August 2008

The War of Ideas Loses a General

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Russian nobel prize winning author who was exiled from his country because he dared to speak up about the gulags. He gave a great speech at Harvard entitled "A World Split Apart" which I have read multiple times. It is a bold challenge for us to stand up and defend the western tradition and our own faith in God and not give into the socialist trend imbued with godlessness that he saw destroy his own country. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn died on August 3rd. Take some time to read his speech and enjoy his thoughtful challenge.

03 August 2008

Free Broadband for Everyone!!!

In a new article in Business Week this week the chairman of the FCC, Kevin Martin, argues that broadband access is so vital to American Freedom and Success that we should give it to people "at absolutely no cost." Let me take this apart a little bit.

First off, I question the premise that broadband is vital to economic success. I realize that it is a valuable tool particularly in business. I have it at work. It is valuable to me at work so we pay for it. People who are not currently paying for it feel that it is not worth the added expense for faster data transmission. That is their right to make that assessment. Who are we to tell them that they're wrong. Now, some may say that there are those who want broadband but can't afford it to which I say, just wait, it keeps getting cheaper. I'm paying the same price for broadband that I was paying for 56k service 10 years ago. Everyone in the country didn't have access to electric light the day after Edison invented it. It took decades to get the infrastructure in place to turn us into an electrical society. It took decades for the car to become a common household good. In 1971 only 1% of the population had a microwave oven. By 1986 that had grown to about 25% and now, nearly 40 years later, practically every graduating high school senior gets one to take to college.

It takes time to distribute technology and infrastructure through a country as large as ours. The article makes the point that there are other developed countries where a greater percentage of people have access to broadband. I believe it, but how many of those countries are as vast with populations as widespread as ours. The problem is taking care of itself without the FCC "giving" broadband to people for free. Let's talk about that.

It never ceases to amaze me at the ignorance or deceit of bureaucrats when it comes to economic principles. Where does Mr. Martin believe this manna from heaven in the form of broadband for everyone is going to come from? Is it growing in the ground as we speak without us having to do anything? Of course not. The infrastructure has to be put in place by human beings who have to be paid for their time and effort. The maintenance and upgrade of that infrastructure is performed by human beings who will have to be compensated. So where is the money going to come from to pay for that effort? Why, you and me of course. Capital can only be created through human sweat and ingenuity. Government cannot pay for anything except with money that it has first taken from you and me. At the very least Mr. Martin should be honest and say "We believe that broadband is so important that we are going to take money from people in the form of taxes and give it to other people to make broadband available to everyone. Then we will continue to take money from those same people and continue to give it to these other people so that the broadband is always there." That would be a refreshing breath of honesty. To say anything else shows a gross ignorance of the realities of life. I hope our FCC chairman isn't that ignorant. Then again, he is a bureaucrat.

15 July 2008

Not In My Back Yard

I had a conversation with a friend of mine over the weekend and I asked about a particular ballot initiative that had been making its way through the process in Oregon to be voted on. It is an initiative that would limit the percentage of a judgment that could go to the plaintiff's attorney. Naturally, attorneys are indignant that peoples' right to make contract should be tampered with. How dare we insinuate ourselves into the relationship between a client and their attorney! Whatever amount we deem necessary, we should be able to charge the client!

Now, first off, don't get me wrong. I believe that attorneys SHOULD have the ability to contract with a client for whatever the client wishes to do. If a client deems the attorney worth 90% of the judgment then so be it. That is a founding principle of contract law. I simply find it ironic that after decades of lawyers restricting contract law for every other profession in the country the lawyers find themselves the target of the same regulations.

For example, in my profession there are maximums that can be charged to a client in commission. This is the result of decades of regulations that have come through attorneys (see Elliot Spitzer) being outraged, outraged I tell you, at the "criminal" rates that were charged to clients.

Attorneys sue Microsoft because they believe that Microsoft has a monopoly on operating system software. (I'm not here to argue whether they are a monopoly or not, that's another discussion. They're not, by the way.) And yet, my ability to purchase Microsoft products is just as much a part of contract law as me signing a contract to hire a realtor. So lawyers feel free to butt into my ability to contract with Microsoft to purchase their operating system, but see no hypocrisy in preventing oversight on their own contracts.

It reminds me of the poem First They Came:

In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;

And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;

And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;

And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.

It is difficult to recognize our own biases which is why it is so important that we be aware that we may be biased. That step will at least help us recognize that intellectual honesty demands we evaluate the origin of our judgments and ask ourselves if we are consistent in them.

Workers vs Owners

I particularly enjoyed Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's quote:

Labour believes in turning workers against owners; we believe in turning workers into owners.


Margaret Thatcher's Impact on History

For those who haven't subscribed yet, Hillsdale College has a FREE publication called Imprimis. This month's article is about Margaret Thatcher and her partnership with Reagan and the impact they were both able to have in a 10 year period. I found it inspiring as John O'Sullivan, a former special advisor to Prime Minister Thatcher, spoke of the changes that happened because of the principled approach of world leaders toward human rights.

I think too often I get frustrated and hopeless about the fight against tyranny, but Mr. O'Sullivan points out that old ways are "merely dormant". It is possible to awaken a society's sense of "vigorous virtues". He says:

Cultural transformations of nations and societies imposed by governments nearly always fail in the long run. The old ways only look dead; in reality, they are merely dormant. They are the resources of our civilization and they can be revived to meet new challenges.

If Lady Thatcher demonstrated that truth in matters economic, she believes today that the resources of the Anglo-American political tradition of ordered liberty are not exhausted either. She believes that the virtues of that tradition—dispersed authority, open debate, popular sovereignty, spontaneous social evolution—are not dead, merely dormant.

I find myself needing to believe that our country has those virtues but that they lie dormant, in need of resuscitation. That is the main goal of this blog, though it is read by a tiny, tiny number of people. I hope that someday the character can be found in our country to step forward and redeem the Constitution from its shabby treatment.

17 June 2008

The Greatest Story Never Told

If you're not getting the Imprimis from Hillsdale College you are missing out on one of the greatest freebies around. It is a monthly mailing from Hillsdale that reprints a speech given on campus during the last few months. And it's free. You can subscribe by clicking here and signing up. Did I mention it's free?

So this month's Imprimis was a speech by Patrick Toomey who is the president of the Club for Growth. He gave a speech on the economic successes of the last quarter century and it is phenomenal to hear.

As a society we are pretty egalitarian. We believe that everyone does and should have a shot at success. We are not as accepting of the fact that some people fail, but part of the freedom to succeed is the freedom to fail too. So when we look at those who are not doing as well as others we tend to look for reasons why and usually we look for external causes. Sometimes that is indeed the case, but most of the time it is simply because that person made a mistake or miscalculation. (The beauty of the system is that we can make terrible miscalculations and still overcome them). However, the economy that we have been enjoying for the last 25-50 years has created some tremendous advantages even for those who have not had the same level of economic success as others.

In 1985 there were only 340 cell phone subscribers. You read that right, 340. In 2007, just 22 years later, there were 243 MILLION. Of those people who lived below the poverty line in the 1970s, less than 40% had a car and very few had TVs. Today over 75% of them have a car (a third have 2 cars), and a whopping 96% have TVs. It is not nearly as bad to be in government-defined poverty as it was 30 years ago.

There will always be room for improvement, but we should be grateful about the incredible improvements that have been made for everyone who lives in the US. We should be making sure that the opportunity to succeed continues to be a central tenet of our country instead of asking the government to take our money and decide who should succeed and what the definition of success should be.

12 June 2008

Goodbye, Sweet America

Okay, it's been a couple of weeks since this happened but I've been thinking about it and I think Michelle Malkin is a loon. I have read some of her articles in the past and she seemed okay, if a little too militant for my taste, but her recent dustup with Dunkin' Donuts is off-the-charts crazy-talk.

She accuses Rachel Ray of "mainstreaming" jihadist violence because she wore a scarf that resembled a keffiyeh (think of the rag that murderer Yasser Arafat used to wear). Now, I'm all for stopping jihadist violence, but this is lunacy. Are we going to start blackballing people because their fashion appears similar to something that was worn by a terrorist? Richard Reed wore tennis shoes, maybe we should go after the creeps walking around in tennis shoes. Oh wait, I know, all those terrorist tend to have beards, maybe we should vilify people with beards. Or, even better, all those terrorists have guns. Let's get the people with guns.

Michelle Malkin is making herself look like an irrational, militaristic jerk by accusing Rachel Ray (who mildly irritates me) of mainstreaming jihadist violence. That's crazy and it doesn't advance any cause worth advancing. It does, however, make Michelle wealthier because she, like Ann Coulter, is an attention-monger who is trying to get books sold. I wonder sometimes if Michelle Malkin is more interested in the causes she claims to support or in Michelle Malkin, Inc.

03 June 2008

It could happen to you...don't doubt it.

The city of Telluride, Colorado yesterday won the power to take land that is outside their own boundaries through eminent domain. The owner of the land has owned it for decades and wanted to build about 2 dozen houses and make 91% of the land protected by a conservation easement. The city had other ideas. They wanted the entire 572 acres to be open space.

Since the Kelo decision by the Supreme Court several years ago, cities and municipalities seem to have become more brazen in their attempts to take private property for questionable purposes. When the Founding Fathers thought of eminent domain for "public purpose" they were thinking of government buildings, roadways and other limited purposes. Now, however, officials feel free to take property the covet and come up with a public purpose excuse later. In this case, "open space" is a public necessity. In the Kelo decision the public purpose was that a different private owner could generate more taxes than the existing private owner. Therefore, it was in the "public interest" to take the land away and give it to a developer so the city could have more tax revenue.

If you think that somehow this can't affect you I would encourage you to google "eminent domain abuse" and find out just how "rarely" this is happening. It is a damnable outrage that people who have saved and purchased land can have it taken out from under them for pennies on the dollar and given to a developer or a corporation or simply used for a contrived "public purpose".

I have to go take my blood pressure medication now.

02 June 2008

And I'm supposed to...what?

I'm getting pretty tired of media stories showing people losing their homes and playing sad music in the background or showing pictures of families, faces downcast and forlorn. You know what. They're not living on the street. They're heading back to a rental. And there's nothing wrong with that. People made mistakes, got in over their head and now they're learning what not to do next time.

In a recent New York Times piece we are apparently supposed to feel bad for the Garcias because they bought a home, upgraded to a bigger, better home and kept the original as a rental. They lost the bigger, better home to foreclosure and are now going to lose the original house too. Them's the breaks kids. Fortunately, they look young enough to overcome it.

Don't get me wrong. I feel for the Garcias. I can't imagine what a disappointment it must be to them to go through this. But we don't demand that our neighbors fork out money to us every time we have a disappointment. So we can't demand that our neighbors, the American Taxpayer, fork over money either. Next time, don't buy too much house and don't take out loans that can double or triple your payment after a few years. I'll bet that this is a lesson they won't soon forget. They will make better decisions because of this error in judgment. However, if we bail the Garcias and every other family who made the same mistake they aren't going to learn the lesson that is being offered up.

I wish them luck.

06 May 2008

No Bailout, Contact Your Legislator

The House of Representatives Financial Services Committee released H.R. 3221 to be voted on. It was amended by the Senate earlier. In essence it allows the government to insure up to $300 billion of new home loans being refinanced by the Federal Housing Agency. It is making you and I pay for the mistakes that others have made in buying more house than they could afford or getting into loans that they didn't bother to read or understand.

I feel for anyone who is going to lose their home, but frankly, they aren't going to be living on the street. They will find a rental and continue to have a roof over their head like they did prior to buying a house. My wife and I have been saving and trying to buy a house and I don't understand why I should now be expected to pay for some idiot who jumped into a house before having the financial wherewithal to pay for it.

Call your Representative and tell them to vote no on H.R. 3221.

What Happened to Free Enterprise?

Mark Nolt is a farmer in Pennsylvania. He has been selling raw (unpasteurized) milk to people who want raw milk. Sounds deadly and downright devious. I'll bet he kicks puppies too.

Now he's being prosecuted for selling milk and milk products without a permit.

When this country was founded, the founding fathers believed in a person's right to trade with others and create contracts as long as there was no fraud between the parties. Why is that such a difficult principle for our government today to live by? If you and I decide that we want to trade goods or services and we are not lying or defrauding each other and we are not infringing on the rights of others, then why should the government care what we're doing?

Why should Mark Nolt be prohibited from an activity as simple as selling milk to his neighbors and customers? Is this the kind of country we want to live in? Me neither. Let's start holding our government accountable by contacting our legislators when we see things like this happening in our neck of the woods. Don't get angry and then go on about your business. Call your legislator and demand that they stop trampling on your rights! Otherwise, don't be surprised if you get arrested for selling milk.

17 April 2008

DNA Collection

The AP is reporting that the feds now intend to collect DNA from everyone they arrest, not just convicted felons. I don't know about you, but that gives me the screamin' willies. If I get arrested for whatever reason and charges are dropped or I'm found innocent, why does the government need a sample of my DNA? Listen, the reality is that most likely nothing bad would come of this. But that's what they told us when they passed the 2% income tax 70 years ago too.

15 April 2008

Taxes - My Patriotic Duty?

Walter Rodgers wrote a piece for the Christian Science Monitor called "Taxes - My Patriotic Duty". His thesis is that too many people complain about paying taxes. We should instead dutifully pay our taxes without griping and feel "patriotic and virtuous". In Mr. Rodgers' words, "Genuine patriots don't complain about their patriotic obligations."

I can't help but wonder on which side of the Boston Tea Party he would have found himself.

14 April 2008

How I Stopped Worrying About Al Qaeda

I am reading "Overblown" by John Mueller and find it fascinating. The basic idea is that we need to step back and ask ourselves if all the hyperventilating over terrorism is worthwhile. He starts out saying that perhaps we need to take the steps we are taking, but let's stop and ask first. Maybe we don't need to go to the extremes we are.

Using statistics, Mueller puts the impact of terrorism in perspective. He makes the point that some degree of risk is simply a fact of life and that we are "absorbing" 40,000 traffic deaths each year which is far in excess of the number of people who are being killed by terrorists each year. So as an economy and a country we're already dealing with large numbers of people dying each year in ways that, strictly-speaking, could be prevented. Although, I don't know how hip people would be to a 13-mile per hour speed limit.

With that in mind, do we really need to be spending billions of dollars for questionable airline screening technologies? Do we need to be jeopardizing the rights of Americans by questionable search-and-seizure methods? Do we need to be scaring people by constantly yammering on and on about the potential for terrorist attack? Probably not.

No one would argue that loss of life is something to be dismissed, but giving up our wealth and freedom is not going to bring the returns that people seem to think. There are limited gains to be had for every additional dollar given to fight terrorism and, frankly, there are no gains worthwhile for every ounce of freedom we give up to the terrorist threat.

Breathe easy. Enjoy your family. Take a walk. Read a book. Go to work. Save a little. Spend a little. Stop worrying about terrorism and start worrying about the loss of liberty that the reaction to terrorism could cause.

13 April 2008

One more item, a chuckle

The Parade magazine also had a quote from Jerese Kimbrough who is a dancer from Brooklyn and makes $3,200 per year. She said: "Dancers are severely underpaid. I work seven days a week. Something has to change." Yeah, how about your career?

Corporations Don't Pay Taxes, People Pay Taxes

Parade magazine (I know, I know, not exactly a bastion of intellectualism) had their annual "What People Earn" issue. I always find this issue interesting because I get to look at how much people earn all over the country. Just my idle curiosity getting satisfied. So anyway, they had an article entitled "Are You Paying For Corporate Fat Cats?" First off, I get tired of the inane stereotyping of people in business. Let's stop using invective and have a conversation instead. My main point, however, comes in response to something the article claimed that I disagree with.

In the article they state, "Last year, corporations shouldered just 14.4% of the total U.S. tax burden, compared with about 50% in 1940." Let's stop and think about this for a minute. If I were going to rewrite this sentence, I would change it to "Last year, corporations once again paid 0% in taxes just as they have done for the last 6,000 years." Why would I write that? Simple, it sounds more interesting and it's true. Corporations don't pay taxes.

Corporations are a structure for the purpose of running a business. Corporations are owned by the shareholders and sell goods or services to their customers. When a corporation "pays taxes" it is either excess money that they have collected from their customers or part of the profit margin that would go to the shareholders. In other words, the taxes that are paid by corporations are really paid by the shareholders of that corporation or the customers. Corporations don't pay taxes. People pay taxes. You're not paying for "corporate fat cats". That 14.4% of the "total U.S. tax burden" paid by corporations was indeed paid by you though. You paid for it in the price of the goods and services you bought or you paid for it in lower earnings from the stocks that you own. And trust me, you own these companies if you have any mutual funds. So stop worrying about corporations paying their fair share. They're never going to pay their "fair share." They can't.

Now, what's our fair share? That is an excellent question.

A solution to unemployment?

Governor Schwarzenegger says that by putting $750 million of California bond money to work we will be creating jobs. So, let me get this straight. By taking money from taxpayers (even if it's taxpayers in the future, bonds are still going to be paid back with taxpayer money) we can create jobs? Well, if it's that easy, why don't we just take ALL the money from the people and "create" jobs with it? Let's be honest. It may create jobs, but it does it at the expense of other jobs that are not created. If we tax a business so that a government-paid job can be created, it keeps that business from expanding, which will cost jobs. So we're not at a net gain or a net loss we're just at zero except that the government decided what kind of job to create rather than you or I deciding that. I'm not saying that the bonds shouldn't be issued, but let's not pretend that projects paid for by bonds are some miracle job-creator. That's just ridiculous.

07 April 2008

Is It Too Much To Ask?!

The Associated Press reported today that the Veteran's Administration is being audited after inexplicable charges on VA credit cards such as $26,000+ to a Las Vegas casino and $8,000+ to The Sharper Image. Unless there is a pressing need for new methods of personal defense for our Veterans or perhaps new methods of treatment, I can't see why government workers would be spending our tax dollars on items from this company. Is it too much to ask that these despicable people be fired and charged with theft. (I figured treason would be to much to ask)

In response to the allegations one VA auditor said, "It's all being looked at", which means "Holy crap, someone noticed and I'm getting a call from the press. I better pretend to care." I work hard to give my money to the government. Is it too much to ask that they shoot these people at least pretend to be responsible with our money?

Just a question.