Audio Clips

31 October 2011

Hunger: Overpopulation is Not the Problem

My brother pointed me to this video which is a quick explanation on why fretting about overpopulation's effect on world hunger is wasted energy.

29 October 2011

Competition vs. Cooperation

This is one of my favorite essays.  David Boaz wrote it about 14 years ago for The Freeman (one of my favorite magazines).  In it he explained that competition and cooperation were two sides of the same coin.  He also demolishes the myth that libertarians are atomistic hermits who want to be left alone.  Great essay!

The Freeman | Ideas On Liberty
http://www.thefreemanonline.org
Competition and Cooperation
by David Boaz • September 1997 • Vol. 47/Issue 9
David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, is author of Libertarianism: A Primer and editor of The Libertarian Reader (both published by The Free Press, 1996).

Defenders of the market process often stress the benefits of competition. The competitive process allows for constant testing, experimenting, and adapting in response to changing situations. It keeps businesses constantly on their toes to serve consumers. Both analytically and empirically, we can see that competitive systems produce better results than centralized or monopoly systems. That’s why, in books, newspaper articles, and television appearances, advocates of free markets stress the importance of the competitive marketplace and oppose restrictions on competition.

But too many people listen to the praise for competition and hear words like hostile, cutthroat, or dog-eat-dog. They wonder whether cooperation wouldn’t be better than such an antagonistic posture toward the world. Billionaire investor George Soros, for instance, writes in the Atlantic Monthly, “Too much competition and too little cooperation can cause intolerable inequities and instability.” He goes on to say that his “main point . . . is that cooperation is as much a part of the system as competition, and the slogan ‘survival of the fittest’ distorts this fact.”

Now it should be noted that the phrase “survival of the fittest” is rarely used by advocates of freedom and free markets. It was coined to describe the process of biological evolution and to refer to the survival of the traits that were best suited to the environment; it may well be applicable to the competition of enterprises in the market, but it certainly is never intended to imply the survival of only the fittest individuals in a capitalist system. It is not the friends but the enemies of the market process who use the term “survival of the fittest” to describe economic competition.

What needs to be made clear is that those who say that human beings “are made for cooperation, not competition” fail to recognize that the market is cooperation. Indeed, as discussed below, it is people competing to cooperate.

Individualism and Community

Similarly, opponents of classical liberalism have been quick to accuse liberals of favoring “atomistic” individualism, in which each person is an island unto himself, out only for his own profit with no regard for the needs or wants of others. E. J. Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post has written that modern libertarians believe that “individuals come into the world as fully formed adults who should be held responsible for their actions from the moment of their birth.” Columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote in a review of Charles Murray’s What It Means to Be a Libertarian that until Murray came along the libertarian vision was “a race of rugged individualists each living in a mountaintop cabin with a barbed wire fence and a ‘No Trespassing’ sign outside.” How he neglected to include “each armed to the teeth” I can’t imagine.

Of course, nobody actually believes in the sort of “atomistic individualism” that professors and pundits like to deride. We do live together and work in groups. How one could be an atomistic individual in our complex modern society is not clear: would that mean eating only what you grow, wearing what you make, living in a house you build for yourself, restricting yourself to natural medicines you extract from plants? Some critics of capitalism or advocates of “back to nature”—like the Unabomber, or Al Gore if he really meant what he wrote in Earth in the Balance—might endorse such a plan. But few libertarians would want to move to a desert island and renounce the benefits of what Adam Smith called the Great Society, the complex and productive society made possible by social interaction. One would think, therefore, that sensible journalists would stop, look at the words they typed, and think to themselves, “I must have misrepresented this position. I should go back and read the libertarian writers again.”

In our time this canard—about isolation and atomism—has been very damaging to advocates of the market process. We ought to make it clear that we agree with George Soros that “cooperation is as much a part of the system as competition.” In fact, we consider cooperation so essential to human flourishing that we don’t just want to talk about it; we want to create social institutions that make it possible. That is what property rights, limited government, and the rule of law are all about.

In a free society individuals enjoy natural, imprescriptible rights and must live up to their general obligation to respect the rights of other individuals. Our other obligations are those we choose to assume by contract. It is not just coincidental that a society based on the rights of life, liberty, and property also produces social peace and material well-being. As John Locke, David Hume, and other classical-liberal philosophers demonstrate, we need a system of rights to produce social cooperation, without which people can achieve very little. Hume wrote in his Treatise of Human Nature that the circumstances confronting humans are (1) our self-interestedness, (2) our necessarily limited generosity toward others, and (3) the scarcity of resources available to fulfill our needs. Because of those circumstances, it is necessary for us to cooperate with others and to have rules of justice—especially regarding property and exchange—to define how we can do so. Those rules establish who has the right to decide how to use a particular piece of property. In the absence of well-defined property rights, we would face constant conflict over that issue. It is our agreement on property rights that allows us to undertake the complex social tasks of cooperation and coordination by which we achieve our purposes.

It would be nice if love could accomplish that task, without all the emphasis on self-interest and individual rights, and many opponents of liberalism have offered an appealing vision of society based on universal benevolence. But as Adam Smith pointed out, “in civilized society [man] stands at all times in need of the cooperation and assistance of great multitudes,” yet in his whole life he could never befriend a small fraction of the number of people whose cooperation he needs. If we depended entirely on benevolence to produce cooperation, we simply couldn’t undertake complex tasks. Reliance on other people’s self-interest, in a system of well-defined property rights and free exchange, is the only way to organize a society more complicated than a small village.

Civil Society

We want to associate with others to achieve instrumental ends—producing more food, exchanging goods, developing new technology—but also because we feel a deep human need for connectedness, for love and friendship and community. The associations we form with others make up what we call civil society. Those associations can take an amazing variety of forms—families, churches, schools, clubs, fraternal societies, condominium associations, neighborhood groups, and the myriad forms of commercial society, such as partnerships, corporations, labor unions, and trade associations. All of these associations serve human needs in different ways. Civil society may be broadly defined as all the natural and voluntary associations in society.

Some analysts distinguish between commercial and nonprofit organizations, arguing that businesses are part of the market, not of civil society; but I follow the tradition that the real distinction is between associations that are coercive—the state—and those that are natural or voluntary—everything else. Whether a particular association is established to make a profit or to achieve some other purpose, the key characteristic is that our participation in it is voluntarily chosen.

With all the contemporary confusion about civil society and “national purpose,” we should remember F. A. Hayek’s point that the associations within civil society are created to achieve a particular purpose, but civil society as a whole has no single purpose; it is the undesigned, spontaneously emerging result of all those purposive associations.

The Market as Cooperation

The market is an essential element of civil society. The market arises from two facts: that human beings can accomplish more in cooperation with others than individually and that we can recognize this. If we were a species for whom cooperation was not more productive than isolated work, or if we were unable to discern the benefits of cooperation, then we would remain isolated and atomistic. But worse than that, as Ludwig von Mises explained, “Each man would have been forced to view all other men as his enemies; his craving for the satisfaction of his own appetites would have brought him into an implacable conflict with all his neighbors.” Without the possibility of mutual benefit from cooperation and the division of labor, neither feelings of sympathy and friendship nor the market order itself could arise.

Throughout the market system individuals and firms compete to cooperate better. General Motors and Toyota compete to cooperate with me in achieving my goal of transportation. AT&T and MCI compete to cooperate with me in achieving my goal of communication with others. Indeed, they compete so aggressively for my business that I have cooperated with yet another communications firm that provides me with peace of mind via an answering machine.

Critics of markets often complain that capitalism encourages and rewards self-interest. In fact, people are self-interested under any political system. Markets channel their self-interest in socially beneficent directions. In a free market, people achieve their own purposes by finding out what others want and trying to offer it. That may mean several people working together to build a fishing net or a road. In a more complex economy, it means seeking one’s own profit by offering goods or services that satisfy the needs or desires of others. Workers and entrepreneurs who best satisfy those needs will be rewarded; those who don’t will soon find out and be encouraged to copy their more successful competitors or try a new approach.

All the different economic organizations we see in a market are experiments to find better ways of cooperating to achieve mutual purposes. A system of property rights, the rule of law, and minimal government allow maximum scope for people to experiment with new forms of cooperation. The development of the corporation allowed larger economic tasks to be undertaken than individuals or partnerships could achieve. Organizations such as condominium associations, mutual funds, insurance companies, banks, worker-owned cooperatives, and more are attempts to solve particular economic problems by new forms of association. Some of these forms are discovered to be inefficient; many of the corporate conglomerates in the 1960s, for instance, proved to be unmanageable, and shareholders lost money. The rapid feedback of the market process provides incentives for successful forms of organization to be copied and unsuccessful forms to be discouraged.

Cooperation is as much a part of capitalism as competition. Both are essential elements of the simple system of natural liberty, and most of us spend far more of our time cooperating with partners, coworkers, suppliers, and customers than we do competing.

Life would indeed be nasty, brutish, and short if it were solitary. Fortunately for all of us, in capitalist society it isn’t.

28 October 2011

Military Reunion 4

A Giant Walked Among Us

Our kids have been watching the first episodes of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and it brought back a lot of memories of watching that dear man share his love for hundreds of thousands of kids.  We found his acceptance speech for his Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 Emmys.  What a gentle giant.

27 October 2011

This Cop Needs to Be Fired and Charged

Listen, I can't figure out any kind of coherent goal from the Occupy people and I'm not sure if I would agree with their goals, but I DEFINITELY don't agree the actions of this cop.  He should be brought up on charges.



25 October 2011

Knowledge Is Power, France Is Bacon

My wife and I were laughing out loud when we read this.


A Guatemalan on the War on Drugs

The multi-decade old War on Drugs is not accomplishing anything except giving power and money to the drug lords and their cartels.  It's about time we start trying something new.

Scrap the Electoral College? Only If You Like Tyranny

When I read that 62% of Americans would be willing to amend the Constitution and get rid of the electoral college I get worried.  The point of much of the Constitution was to protect minorities and smaller states.  If we give up the electoral college then we might as well hand the country over to the metropolitan areas of the country.  If you think that New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles will give us better government then by all means vote to eliminate the electoral college.  If you live in smaller-town America then you better pray that these 62% never get the chance to amend the Constitution.  For further enlightenment on the issue read the article Math Against Tyranny.

23 October 2011

Martin Feldstein Wrong About Housing

Harvard Economics Professor Martin Feldstein recently wrote an op-ed in the NY Times in which he asserts that the 15 million households whose mortgages are underwater are single-handedly keeping the economy from recovering.  Those 15 million (out of 112 million) certainly hold a lot of power if that's the case and would explain why Mr. Feldstein is arguing that we kowtow to this minority of people. 

Like most statists, Mr. Feldstein insists that the government should step in and absorb a big chunk of the loss that these households have suffered.  Now, I feel for anyone who, fooled into buying a house because the government made the lending rules far too easy, is now underwater in their house.  However, that doesn't give them the right to force me to fix their problem.  I have problems of my own.  I'm a renter who is trying to save up to buy a house.  Why should I have to bail these people out?

Of course Mr. Feldstein doesn't frankly care about renters because they aren't the preferred class of people in his mind.  Homeowners are.  So we need to do whatever we can to take care of homeowners.  Maybe we should pass a law that requires renters to massage the feet of those 15 million households too.

22 October 2011

Military Reunion 1

I am going to post a series of our military men and women surprising their families upon their return from deployment.  They are touching moments and a reminder of the hardship and sacrifice we ask of our military personnel.  It should also inspire us to use caution about sending our men and women into harm's way and make sure that there is a purpose behind it.

$20 Says She Didn't Give the 80% to the Government

This lady says that she should be taxed more.  She was apparently appalled that she didn't have to pay any inheritance tax so she decided to give 80% of her inheritance away.  I'd be willing to bet you $20 that she didn't give it to the government.  She probably gave it to charities.  Why would you give it to charity and not the government?  Because charities do a better job of serving people!  Government sucks at that.


21 October 2011

Stossel on Occupy Wall Street

John Stossel wrote a recent op-ed on the Occupy crowds.  It's worth reading, but here is the part that I liked in particular.

[I]t shouldn't matter if the income gap between you and rich people grows. What should matter is that your living standard improves.

Your living standard many not have improved lately. Over the past decade, median income fell. But that's an aberration largely caused by the bursting of the real estate bubble. Despite Wall Street protesters' complaints about rich people gaining at the expense of the poor, the poorest fifth of Americans are 20 percent wealthier than they were when I was in college, and despite the recession, still richer than they were in 1993.
And income statistics don't tell the whole story. Thanks to the innovations of entrepreneurs, today in America, even poor people have clean water, TV sets, cars, and flush toilets. Most live better than kings once lived—better even than the middle class lived in 1970.

I have never understood how it is detrimental to me that there are people who are significantly richer than me.  So what?  I'm not in some race with them.  I don't envy them the life they have to live to get the lifestyle they have.  I'm not interested in it.  I'm living my life the way I want and my standard of living keeps improving.  The goods and services that are available to me get better year after year.  What do I care that there are billionaires in the world?  Why should I demand that they give me their money?  They didn't steal it from me so it's not mine to demand.

20 October 2011

Why Does Lobbying Exist?

I'm reading Tim Sandefur's book "Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st Century America" and it is excellent.  Tim works for the Pacific Legal Foundation which does great work defending people's liberties.  He is on the Armstrong and Getty Show semi-regularly.  You should look up the podcasts with him being interviewed because they're great.  Here is a quote from the book:

Whenever government has the power to put burdens on some people, or give benefits to other people, citizens will begin to spend their time and energy trying to convince the government to give those benefits to them.  The more government undermines property rights and redistributes assets between groups, the more lobbying will go on.


Carlos Gomar: University of Utah Student Makes Good

You didn't really believe my headline did you?  How could it possibly be true?  It's the U of U we're talking about!

Turns out that Business Week mentioned U of U student Carlos Gomar as a protester among the Occupy Wall Street crowd.  He was carrying a sign that read, "Throw me a bone.  Pay my tuition."  Leave it to a U of U student to believe that he's entitled to other people's money rather then condescending to getting a job.  What a lazy, good-for-nothing loser.  Hey Carlos, get a job like the rest of us did to get through college.  Ya bum.

18 October 2011

Coolest Hot Wheels Race Track. Ever.

My parents were cheap. All I got for Christmas when I was a kid was the incredibly pedestrian Hot Wheels racing track even though I requested the Quantum Levitation race track. I still don't talk to my dad. 
 

17 October 2011

Alternatives to Public Schooling Frighten the Unions?

Steven Brill did a journalistic piece on the "rubber rooms" of the NY public school system.  This is where they send teachers who are the worst of the worst including child abusers and complete incompetents.  Nick Gillespie of Reason recently did an interview with him that was very enlightening.  The unions are frightened to death that alternatives to public school might take off and threaten their choke hold on the nations children.

16 October 2011

Christopher Scott Badeaux Is My New Hero

Mike Riggs at Reason blogged about an incident in which Meghan McCain (daughter of John McCain) takes offense to satire about her and so engages the legal system to try to bully the satirists.  Pathetic.  The reason I post this is the undaunted manner in which the responding attorney tears apart Ms. McCain.  Bravo, Mr. Badeaux, bravo indeed!  Here is the entire post to explain the circumstances.  I have bolded my favorite part from Mr. Badeaux.


Last month the conservative site RedState posted its second parody of Daily Beast contributor Meghan McCain, daughter of Sen. John McCain. The author name on the post ("Totally Meghan McCain") and the content of the post ("Firstly in the first place, some people had a question about my very obvious statement, 'I don’t necessarily agree that Rick Perry is George Bush on crack, but he could definitely be described as George Bush 2.0'"), clearly indicated that the post was parody. Nevertheless, Meghan McCain threatened to sue Red State.

Her lawyers sent a letter to the site's owners alleging that "these fake front page posts place Meghan McCain before the public in a false light which is highly offensive to a reasonable person," and that the RedState community "acted at least in reckless disregard as to their falsity and the false light in which Meghan McCain was being placed." RedState editor Erick Erickson said he was "confident that we are within our rights to parody and mock Meghan McCain on this," but removed the posts because "it is frankly not worth our time."

The American Spectator's J.P. Freire got his hands on the letter sent to Meghan McCain's people by attorney Christopher Scott Badeaux, who is representing RedState satirist Leon Wolf. It. Is. Awesome:
[T]he subject matter of your letter is a fairly obvious parody to any person of even barely functional literacy. Thus – and your client probably didn’t tell you this – even she recognized that the posts were parodies (or “parody’s,” as she put it). At approximately 8:25 p.m. EDT on September 17th, your client posted to her Twitter feed, “I don’t care about parody’s(sic) or fake names – but falsely putting my name on someone else’s writing is illegal.” She then subsequently deleted this Tweet, presumably when someone told her that “parody’s” were constitutionally protected and it might look bad in a subsequent lawsuit if she were caught admitting in public that these posts were obvious parodies. Not to worry: My client has screenshots.

(I treat as obvious humor the assertions in your letter that the parodies in question were appropriations of your client’s likeness for advertising purposes, and that persons with no minimum contacts at all with California would in any way be susceptible to jurisdiction there. It is my sincere suggestion that your client do so as well.)

My client will not be bullied out of exercising his First Amendment right to make clear his belief that your client is a spoiled, brainless twit who is cheapening the political discourse in this country. Therefore, henceforth, the “Totally Meghan McCain” series may be found at http://pajamasmedia.com for your client’s reading pleasure.

On the off chance that your client actually files the baseless litigation you threatened in your September 23, 2011 letter, Mr. Wolf will pursue all available remedies available under any applicable anti-SLAPP statutes, State law malicious prosecution/abuse of process actions, and/or Rule 11 sanctions. Although I do not envy you the Herculean task before you, please make sure your client understands the potential consequences to her personally – in addition to those her attorney would face – for pursuing this ill-advised course of action.
Read the rest of Freire's post here.

15 October 2011

Fantastic Stop-Motion War

One of my daughter's friend just showed me this video.  What a great idea!

14 October 2011

The Current Tax System Is the Worst Thing Imaginable. Let's Not Change It.

Jack and Joe talked about Herman Cain getting criticized for proposing such a radical change to the tax system.  They then went on to try to figure out what would happen if a politician were proposing our CURRENT tax system today.  It makes you realize how ludicrous it is to fear changing the status quo.

Why Is This Taking So Long?!

Great video for your friends who aren't sure why we've been struggling through this recession so long.

13 October 2011

New A&G clips

I've added several A&G clips in the application at the top of the blog.  The newest is "Joe is A Hermaniac" which is from an email I wrote them after Joe said he was a Hermaniac (crazy about Herman Cain).  Enjoy!

11 October 2011

Tewksbury Police Attempt Highway Robbery

No matter your political stripe, I can't imagine anyone agrees with this kind of tyrannical abuse of power.  The Tewksbury police deserve to be run out on a rail if this is true.

05 October 2011

Willpower

Katherine Mangu-Ward of Reason recently did an interview with John Tierney who has co-authored a book called Willpower.  For some reason I have recently been running across stories about willpower and discipline and I am becoming fascinated by the topic.  He gives a quick synopsis of what the book contains, but obviously I'm going to have to read it because it sound interesting.

Also in the interview he mentions the book Getting Things Done by David Allen.  I have read it (and need to re-read it) and I would highly recommend it if you're looking for a way to get your schedule and life under control.

03 October 2011

September 2011 Nanny of the Month

ReasonTV's Nanny of the Month is San Juan Capistrano city attorney who has told a couple that they can't have Bible study in their home.  They've been doing it for 17 years without a problem.  Also, can you really stop them from peaceably assembling and exercising their religion?  I doubt it.

01 October 2011

Libertarianism Around the World

One of the great points that Stossel makes in this clip is that Chile took steps to introduce free-markets about 30 years ago and since then per capita income has tripled and their semi-private voucher system has made them the highest-scoring nation in South America when it comes to education.  In spite of this, there are people (primarily youth) rioting in Chile to eliminate private education and eliminate disparities in income. 

To me this illustrates the point that the argument between freedom and tyranny is NEVER done.  New generations have to learn for themselves that government paternalism simply doesn't work.  It is enervating and doomed to end in tyranny.  I believe that there are three kinds of people in the world: those who want the freedom to determine their own destiny, those who want to be provided for at the expense of others, and those who haven't made up their mind yet.  It's that third group who deserves our attention.