But Now You Know

The search for truth in human action

The Truth about Income Inequality


There has been a lot of hoopla, lately, about the gap between rich and poor, how it’s growing, and how we need to give government more power to get rid of that income disparity. It’s actually been shrinking for the past four years, but it’s still larger in the US than most countries.

Some people say that it’s proof capitalism doesn’t work and needs to be banned, or at least that we need more income redistribution. Otherwise, the masses may revolt, like they’re doing in Greece and eventually take everything, therefore the ruling class have to choose between being violently overthrown, or surrendering their wealth.

But this all begs the question of why we’re talking about income inequality in the first place. The real question is whether we should be talking about differences between people, or overall quality of life for everyone.

Should We Care about the Wealth Gap?

Bolivia, Haiti, and Congo have very low income gaps, but equally low standards of living.

Which would be better:

  1. A society where the wealthiest earn a certain amount per year, and others earn about 50% that much.
  2. A society where the wealthiest earn a certain amount per year, and others earn only 5% of that much.

If you answered either way, you’ve blown a test of basic logic; You have no way of knowing which is better, unless you know how well the poor are doing in real-world terms.

For example, let’s say you answered that (1) is better, where the wealthy earn only twice as much as the poor, instead of twenty times as much.

But it turns out that, in the two examples:

  1. The wealthiest earn $20,000 per year, and the others $10,000
  2. The wealthiest earn $1,000,000 per year, and others earn $50,000

Would you REALLY prefer that the poor only get $10,000 per year, instead of $50,000 (in dollars with the same buying power), just because the income gap is smaller?

Not if you have any real-world experience. I’m sure a few kids who’ve never had to live on their own, or guilt-ridden trust fund brats convinced that everyone being poor is better than some being really rich, but the rest of us know better.

And when people talk about The Gap Between the Rich and Poor in the US, claiming income disparity is a horrible thing that needs to be fixed, this is exactly the kind of foolish, self-destructive position they’re taking.

Socialism vs Capitalism

Who, but guilt-ridden trust fund brats, seriously would prefer for the poor to live with less, just so the rich would have FAR less?

In fact, as the above examples show, what matters can’t be the “gap”, but the actual quality of life of people in the society.

Take Communist China, for example:

  1. When China was much more socialist, redistributing wealth and regulating the economy with  “social justice” the way the “income inequality” people want things to be, most people in the country were miserably poor…but equally so. They struggled just to subsist, living on dirt floors, literally millions dying from lack of resources that should have been readily available…but there was almost no wealth gap, at all.
  2. When the government realized that socialism doesn’t work, and began deregulating the economy, the gap between rich and poor exploded. It’s now hundreds, maybe thousands of times “worse” than it was…but almost everyone in China the less-regulated parts of China is better off than they were, although some are now MUCH poorer than the wealthiest.

The decline of socialism has led to a better life for many of the poor, and an increasing wealth gap, purely because some of the poor, themselves, are becoming much wealthier.

It is not income disparity that matters, but actual standards of living.

Far fewer people in China are now dying of hunger. Many of those who lived in huts with dirt floors and delivered their babies standing up in the kitchen now have modern homes and medical care…because of the very mechanisms that are making income disparity greater.

What we really need to be concerned with is quality of life, not exploiting jealousy and greed by focusing on “inequality”.

Rising Living Standards

When people claim that something forceful needs to be done about people they describe as poor, they make it sound like those people are victims of capitalism, now reduced to poverty.

The more we have, the more we want…we shouldn’t let that translate into jealousy and greed against those who have more

For example, think of people who complain that, thanks to the Roaring Twenties, one third of all Americans at the time had no electricity, indoor plumbing, access to automobiles, et cetera…but, of course, a decade earlier even fewer people had electricity, indoor plumbing, or automobiles.

In fact,  just a few years earlier dirt floors were normal in the US, just like China. The very idea of what isill-clothed, ill-housed, and ill-fed” had shot up in standard purely a as result of the “unfettered capitalism” of the 1920s.

If not for that period of economic freedom, dirt floors and cheap, crappy clothing, and malnutrition would have still been considered normal and adequate.

Likewise, you can find people talking about protests over living standards in China, now, where they focus about the slums around the big cities, how people don’t have gas heat, live in cramped conditions, et cetera.

But, of course, just a few years ago, most of those people were peasants living in dirt-floored huts, eking out miserable lives wading in rice paddies, barely growing enough to feed themselves after the government confiscated most of their product of labor, and living on barter.

They moved to those slums because, as in Industrial Age America’s “sweat shops” it’s an improvement over what they had before. If China continues to deregulate, their living standards will continue to get better, even as their idea of how they should live increases faster, making them complain more.

One of the greatest political scientists in history, Joseph Schumpeter (with a name like Schumpeter, he had to be good) actually thought that the doom of Capitalism might simply be that it caused things to get so good that people’s idea of what they deserved would outpace how much better things were actually getting, so that they would always turn to massive government intervention to “fix” it, causing the economy to fail.

This is what happened with Herbert Hoover’s massive spending increases and regulation causing the Great Depression, and is happening now.

Some Wealthy Did NOT Earn their Money, and Need to Lose It!

But it’s true that things are unfair, today. There are many people who do not deserve the wealth they have. They did not earn it themselves, but used bailouts, “stimulus”, corporate welfare, and other coercion to steal money confiscated from others. Their corruption and inefficiency has been preserved, like a limb with gangrene, and is killing the body of the economy…like a limb with gangrene. And that needs to end, yet both dominant political parties are actually defending and increasing this economic injustice.

Instead of obsessing with the jealousy and greed of class hate, comparing who has what and trying to take away from those who produce more, we need to increase the very conditions that cause “income inequality”, to allow the poor to increase their own well-being, even if the rich increase theirs even faster…but stop actively rewarding the wealthy through government fiat, when they haven’t earned it.

We should let bad companies and people fail, therefore increasing social justice, if not income equality.

BONUS FEATURE:

Here is the original article from the Site of the Sentient, written in 1996: Income Disparity: The Gap Between the Rich and the Poor

February 28, 2012 Posted by | Economy, International, Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why We Conservatives Should Watch Al Jazeera


I am a classic Reagan/Goldwater Conservative. I am careful to keep myself informed on every important socio-political issue, because I’m responsible that way. I find that almost has to include watching/reading Al Jazeera, and I challenge you to do the same…and this article will let you know why you want to.

Let’s start with this:

I’m about as strong an advocate of the free market as you can get. So why do I watch CCTV, Communist China’s truly evil state news network? It’s more chock-full of  tyrannical socialist propaganda than two Obama press secretaries times NPR cubed.

But I want to be certain I understand it and am opposing it from an informed position. Know Your Enemy, as they say.

If some gullibly loyal Chinese prole criticized American freedom, you’d demand that they at least take the time to understand it, or else they’re really a hypocrite and a fraud.

  • Hypocrite because they are (presumably) wanting to tell you why their system is better, but aren’t bothering to understand ours.
  • Fraud, because if they don’t bother to learn the internal arguments and claims, they can’t really know for certain what they’re talking about.

In case it’s not obvious, this applies to us, as well. I know far more about exactly how evil and wrong the Communist Chinese government is, exactly what kind of lies it tells, et cetera, from watching CCTV. I even know of things that I assumed were one way, but after seeing (and distrusting) CCTV, I’ve done research on my own and found out they really are another way. Without watching their network, I wouldn’t have even known what to find out.

I did the same thing with AllAfrica.com, and learned that sub-Saharan Africa is far different, and worse, than I actually thought. I can now see the sparse information I get, now, from the mainstream media on that region in an entirely different light. Almost every government in that area is a joke. They usually don’t even have market economies in the sense socialist Europe does, but something even closer to Marxism. Almost all of the poverty of the region comes from the intrusiveness and corruption of their governments, in ways more ridiculous than you’re imagining. “Banana Republic” doesn’t convey it to you adequately.

I’ll take some time to write about it, another day.

Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya

Israeli Colonel Ben Gruber explains the IDF position to Al Jazeera, attacking the UN's condemnation of Israel

So, naturally, I started reading Al Arabiya and watching Al Jazeera, with the intention of learning about the spin that Doha and Dubai put on news, to see exactly how people were being fooled with lies about American mass murder and plots to destroy Muslims, find out if they were teaching potentially good people that Jews are red-eyed, baby-eating demons, learn whether they were cheering terrorists, explaining the values of Al Qaeda screeds, et cetera.

And that’s sufficient reason to watch it. In fact, it’s a region whose attitudes and perspective is even more important to understand in America than China and Africa.

What I found, though, astonished me to the almost to the point of confusion:

Unlike CCTV’s lies, or AllAfrica’s unintentional revelation of government’s destruction of sub-Saharan Africa, Al Jazeera was packed with actual, solid information and reporting, presented with slightly more objectivity than American mainstream news (though that isn’t saying much).

I’m not exaggerating.

For example, Al Jazeera frequently covers Israel-Palestinian incidents from the Israeli perspective, as well as other ways. They show commentary by Israeli government officials I barely knew existed, Israeli and Jewish people you’ll not otherwise hear from, Israeli issues you never hear about, et cetera. Not only does the American Liberal media drop the ball on this, but so does the Neocon media like Fox News, and radio talk show hosts.

I actually have a better, and more sympathetic, understanding of Israeli perspective on events, thanks to Al Jazeera.

In fact, does a better job of revealing the flaws of every one of the Arab/Islamic states (that I expected it to sell to me as virtuous) than American or other foreign media.

The same is true of Al Jazeera’s coverage of other regions. I watched NHK (Japanese News) for a while, but Al Jazeera’s coverage of Japan is actually better, more objective.

Yohsihiko Noda, Japan's 6th Prime Minister in 5 years...I know about this, and why, not because of American, or even Japanese news, but thanks to Al Jazeera

No other network — and I watch news from all over the world — covered the Egyptian and Libyan revolutions from both perspectives, government and protester, as objectively and calmly as Al Jazeera. The second best was the BBC, but it paled by comparison.

More importantly, Al Jazeera cover the protests in Bahrain and Yemen, and the brutal crackdowns by the Saudi government that rules over them, with the same clarity and detail as Syria (and covers Syria better than anyone else)…and yet you, probably, had no idea that the “Arab League” member states were ignoring vicious crackdowns in their membership just as bad as there.

And, of course, they also cover Arab perspectives. If you depend on Mainstream Media, including Fox and neocon talk shows, you have no idea what the actual Arab or Muslim perspectives are. They simply don’t present such things, at all. They don’t even really pretend to.

You, especially if you’re a Conservative or another ideology that values self-responsibility, need to have a source of perspective outside of the two party-Establishment media cliques here in the US.

Of the options, Al Jazeera is the time-saver; more objective, detailed, and wide-ranging than even the BBC. Watch them for the information, or if you’re determined to believe they’re evil, the way I still think of CCTV, then at least watch them to Know Your Enemy.

But DO NOT trust them…because you should not trust any external source. Always verify things for yourself. But if you don’t have a source like Al Jazeera, you don’t even know much of what you could be checking out.

Where do you find Al Jazeera? PBS has it, but if you have a distaste for networks coercively funded by your tax dollars, a far better alternative is the cable network Link TV. They not only broadcast the full Al Jazeera half hour in English, but better still; they have a show they put together themselves, called Mosaic, that includes news broadcast from many foreign sources, including Al Jazeera, and Israel’s own nationalized television news (never forget that Israel’s government, including Likud, is socialist), IBA.

23 minutes a day, watching (or listening to, while doing other things) Al Jazeera or Mosaic, will double your ability to defend and advocate your own foreign policy beliefs, as well as making them better informed…because none of us has perfect knowledge, already.

February 21, 2012 Posted by | International, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why “Moderates” Have Always been Unelectable


Every time, for decades, the more principled candidate has won, and the "moderate" almost always lost.

They keep telling us that Mitt Romney is the only “electable” candidate…just like they claimed about John McCain and Bob Dole.

But, like McCain and Dole, the history is of Big Government “moderates” losing:

  • 1976

    Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan struggled through the whole primary season, reaching the convention with no majority.

    The Liberal “Moderate” Republicans, known as Nixonians and “Rockefeller Republicans”, said that even though Reagan had more delegates, Ford should be the nominee, because he was a “moderate”, therefore more electable.Reagan, with his “liberty” and “small government” talk, was too extreme, obviously unelectable.

    Ford, running as a moderate, lost.

  • 1980

    Reagan ran again.

    As before, the Rockefeller Republicans insisted that Reagan was unelectable. Low taxes, spending cuts, in the middle of a recession? Attacking government as the problem, instead of giving people hope by saying it could fix things?

    Madness.

    In fact, when he won the primary by beating John Anderson and George Bush, the Establishment Republicans actually ran John Anderson as a third party spoiler in the general election:

    The Republican establishment hoped to split the vote and get Carter re-elected. They actually preferred Liberal/socialist Carter over Reagan!

    The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is. – Ronald Reagan, “Inside Ronald Reagan”, Reason magazine, July 1975

    But “unelectable extremist libertarian” Reagan won the election in a landslide, beating “electable moderate” Republican John Anderson and incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter, combined.

  • 1992

    Bush won because he was Reagan’s Vice President, but in 1992, he had to run on his own record as a “moderate” Republican, the establishment rallying around to force his nomination in the face of challenges by two more candidates, one more libertarian and one more conservative. The “Moderate” Bush was supposed to be more electable.

    Bush, running as a Moderate, lost.

  • 1994

    Two years later, rebellious Republicans refused to follow the Establishment’s advice, running  on a libertarian Conservative platform, the Contract with America. The establishment worried that the lack of a more moderate stance would hurt their normal mid-term gains. This was the first time the Republican party had run for Congress without a “moderate” agenda, in generations.

    Instead of losing, the Republicans running on principle took all of Congress, for the first time…in generations.

  • 1996

    The “Moderate” Republican Establishment had regained control.

    Faced with a very libertarian candidate and more conservative one leading in early primaries, they managed to force the “moderate”, Bob Dole, into winning the nomination. Those two non-Moderates were deemed unelectable, despite the lesson of two years earlier.

    Dole, running as a Moderate, lost.

  • 2000

    W Bush ran as a Conservative. He promised school choice, Social Security reform, and “no more nation building”.

    Naturally, running as a Conservative, he won.

  • 2004

    But it turned out to be a lie.

    • Instead of less centralized education, we got a more socialist education system through “No Child Left Behind”.
    • Instead of Social Security reform, we got Medicare Part D, the biggest entitlement expansion in history.
    • Instead of “No more nation building”, we got endless wars and trillions squandered overseas, killing our sons, driving oil prices up 700%, and crippling the economy.

    He should, therefore, have lost in 2004, exposed as a “moderate”.

    But the Democrats committed political suicide: Dumping the clearly principled candidate Howard Dean, they went for “Me-too Democrat” John Kerry, who was “Bush Lite” on pretty much every topic.

    As usual, the more “moderate”, unprincipled candidate lost.

  • 2006

    "Moderates" lost Congress to the Democrats in 2006, but only four years later, the TEA Party's principled stand won it back

    The Republican party carefully ran as “moderate”, as defenders of their “moderate” President. In each election where they had done so in the dozen years that they’d controlled Congress, they’d lost ground…and now they were out of time.

    Running as Moderates, the Republicans lost.

  • 2008

    Once again, the Establishment fought back challengers who were more libertarian and Conservative, to ensure that one of the two, supposedly electable, “moderates” won the nomination.

    John McCain, running as a Moderate, lost.

  • 2010

    To the horror of the Establishment, the TEA Party began ousting “moderates” in the primary, leaving the Republicans with 60 “unelectable” candidates who supported libertarian Conservative principles.

    The TEA Party, running on principle, took back the House, only four years after losing it.

In the entire modern history of politics, and especially the Republican party and Conservatism, there has been a nearly perfect pattern of “moderates” losing nationwide elections, and principled candidates, running on small government, winning.

This is because people support principled candidates, but either stay home or vote for the candidate a  “moderate” one is imitating.

The lesser of two evils is still…EVIL.

“Moderates” are not electable.

February 4, 2012 Posted by | Philosophy, Politics | , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

How to Prove Ron Paul is a Racist Enemy of America


Some of the best minds in the nation's political class are working to come up with ways to stop Paul

Ron Paul’s dangerous, confusing message of  “freedom” for Americans has infected the Republican party, the way Reagan’s did 30 years ago. Last time, the faithful Nixonians who controlled the GOP leadership failed to silence it in time.

This time, the threat must be silenced BEFORE it has time to take seed. The message of “liberty” is far too dangerous for common people.

Fortunately, there are some ways to discredit the messenger:

Ron Paul is RACIST!!!

Ron Paul is the Republican candidate most supported among blacks. He must be undermined there, lest he get nominated and beat Obama.

So NEVER mention his popularity among minorities, but instead…

Twenty years ago, some obscure writer said some rather dubious things that seem to be sarcastic, rather petty  shots at black crime. He published them in one of several “liberty” newsletters Ron Paul had sponsored for years before that.

Therefore, Ron Paul is racist.

Yes, Paul had nothing to do with the newsletters, other than as a figurehead, and he disavowed them in the 1990s…but most people have never heard of the “scandal”, much less how it’d been disproved years ago.

So, in order to close people’s minds to Paul’s appeal, before they learn too much, simply ASK them “would you want to vote for someone whose newsletter said racist things?”

Talk about how disappointed you are Paul, who “seemed” like a nice guy. They will listen, because he is a nice guy, so you’ll appear as if you know what you’re talking about.

In fact, everything they have heard Paul say will contradict the picture you are painting, so you must avoid, at all costs, any mention of Paul’s own words, which seem to appeal to young and old, black and white, male and female.

Follow this link for a collage of videos by undaunted Ron Paul supporters...

You must, as always, keep Paul from any actual air-time, himself. Beware quotes like this:

Libertarians are incapable of being racists, because racism is a collectivist idea; you see people as groups. A civil libertarian like myself see everyone as an individual. “It’s not the color of the skin that’s important” as Martin Luther King said, “it’s the character of the individual”.

You know what is really interesting, though, and might be behind [the racism claims]. Because I, as a Republican candidate, am getting the most black votes and black supporters, and now that has to be undermined.
~Ron Paul, CNN (2008)

Paul is popular among minorities, because they share his social values, and he speaks out against how they suffer disproportionately in the abuses of our justice system, in the drug war, and in foreign wars. Their voices need to be silenced, for their own good.

Fortunately, this leads us to the next way to discredit Paul…

Ron Paul HATES the Military!!!

Ron Paul is the Republican candidate most supported by our military. More vote for him, and more support his campaign. He must be undermined there, lest he end up Commander in Chief.

We must avoid mention that Ron Paul is the only candidate to have actually served in the military, and that his fellow veterans share his foreign policy beliefs

But Ron Paul opposes the use of American troops in voluntary foreign wars. You’d think he’d support them, since he’s such a big fan of voluntarism…but he does not. And he votes against our troops.

Well, not really, he actually supports using the troops for defense of America, and votes against huge spending bills that include many things our troops oppose, that are simply lumped into one Monster Bill to keep people from voting against them. In fact, he voted for the initial authorization of force against Afghanistan, in 2001 when it was sold as being a defense of America against the attack, not nation-building…but people don’t need to know that.

Just say “how can you even consider someone who undermines our troops overseas?”

As before, any actual quotes by Paul must be avoided, because even his “worst” arguments really end up looking too patriotic, if you’re not careful. For example:

If we can’t or won’t define the enemy, the cost to fight such a war will be endless. How many American troops are we prepared to lose? How much money are we prepared to spend? How many innocent civilians, in our nation and others, are we willing to see killed? How many American civilians will we jeopardize? How much of our civil liberties are we prepared to give up? How much prosperity will we sacrifice?

…I support President Bush and voted for the authority and the money to carry out his responsibility to defend this country, but the degree of death and destruction and chances of escalation must be carefully taken into consideration.
~ Ron Paul, Foreign Interventionism is Detrimental to Our Security (2001)

This is exactly the concern of so many of our own soldiers, so it attracts their support, and must be avoided.

Likewise, on our troops’ own safety and defense of American principles:

Torture by rogue American troops or agents puts all Americans at risk, especially our rank-and-file soldiers stationed in dozens of dangerous places around the globe. God forbid terrorists take American soldiers or travelers hostage and torture them as some kind of sick retaliation for Abu Ghraib.
~ Ron PaulGovernment and Racism (2007)

Or his take on isolationism:

It is not we non-interventionists who are isolationsists. The real isolationists are those who impose sanctions and embargoes on countries and peoples across the globe because they disagree with the internal and foreign policies of their leaders. The real isolationists are those who choose to use force overseas to promote democracy, rather than seek change through diplomacy, engagement, and by setting a positive example.
Ron Paul, I Advocate the Same Foreign Policy the Founding Fathers Would,  Manchester Union-Leader (2010)

So Paul’s own words are right out. Use someone else’s words, and then keep asking Paul about them, as if they were his:

Paul: I didn’t write them, I disavow them…
Q: So you read them, but didn’t do anything
Paul: I never read that stuff. I was probably aware of it ten years after it was written…it’s going on twenty years that people have pestered me about this.
Q: Well, wouldn’t you say it’s a legitimate question?
Paul: When you get the answer, it’s legitimate that you sorta take the answer I give. You know what the answer is? “I didn’t write them, I didn’t read them at the time, and I disavow them.”
Q: These things are pretty incendiary, you know, saying…
~ Ron Paulversus some CNN badger (2011)

Ignore such replies, keep asking people “why won’t he address the racist newsletters?” In that interview, Ron Paul directly disavowed them, and said he didn’t write them three or four times. The CNN chick even admitted it…but she kept re-asking the question, as if he hadn’t answered it. That’s the kind of games we need to play, to discredit him. We certainly can’t beat him on ideas, because his have been integral to America since the Founders, and even after all this time we haven’t been able to get rid of them.

Even running a third party Republican as an Independent in the general election, in an effort to split Reagan’s votes and get Carter re-elected, failed those brave, determined Rockefeller Republicans.

If we stick together, we can get out of this without the will of the people being heard, this time.

December 23, 2011 Posted by | liberty, Politics | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Government Workers Who Strike, Violate the Public Trust


Anyone who is granted a monopoly on an essential public service, then tries to hold it hostage for money, is betraying the whole of society

People who complain that government unions colluding with government officials for extravagant pay are “bargaining with themselves” are missing the whole point about collective bargaining:

When the government says something you need is so important that it claims a monopoly over providing it, then that government has an obligation to deliver that thing as promised, as long as you keep up your end, like paying your taxes. It can’t let its bureaucrats withhold what you need, for their own gain.

Bribery is Corruption

If the drone at the driver’s license bureau refuses to help you unless you slip him a fiver, or the mailman “can’t guarantee everything will arrive safely”, unless you “tip” him, we all recognize that as bribery, intolerable in a government official. They are entrusted with what we consider “public good”, and must deliver on it, because it’s considered essential, and has been made into a government monopoly. Withholding that trusted thing in demand for personal gain is intolerable corruption.

It’s OK to have to tip your waitress for better service, but not your fireman.

And we, for most of history, recognized in America how important this distinction is, unlike the rest of the world. We weren’t, say, India:

In India, if you want your driver’s license, you automatically bribe the bureaucrat who is supposed to give it to you. Same if you want electricity, or health care. In fact, you have to bribe hundreds of government officials per year, in order to simply function normally. You need to already have enough money to pay off public thugs, in order to be allowed to prosper. This is part of why hundreds of millions of poor have remained trapped in a caste system, while most of the world has outgrown theirs.

It’s not that regular people shouldn’t be able to trade money for service, it’s that government officials must never withhold service in order to get money.

Democrats against Collective Bargaining

This is why, for so many years when the rabidly pro-union Democrats dominated the Federal and state governments, government employees and civil servants were banned, by those Democrats, from collective bargaining and strikes. Even Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed that a union is a monopoly, over both the workers and employer, that strikes withhold services from legitimately customers, arbitrarily, in order to extort more money out of them — and when the customers are taxpayers, and the services essential, everyone recognized that this is wrong:

The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service…A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government.

—  Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Federation of Federal Employees against Strikes in Federal Service

If someone wants the right to refuse you services, your right to take your tax money and pay for a private alternative must be protected

It wasn’t until 1959 that, for the first time ever, a state government in the US — Wisconsin — allowed its bureaucrats to form monopoly unions that could cut off taxpayers from their paid-up, legitimate services. Unfortunately, other states began to follow suit. Soon, as we might fear, government employees began to threaten to withhold services from us, even though we’d paid our taxes, unless they got special money and favors.

In order to not be bankrupted immediately, the government officials who had caused this mess by allowing the unions were forced to impose taxes on the taxpayers’ grandchildren, by promising to pay extravagant retirement benefits to the monopolists later, when the extortionists retired.  This is, of course, taxation without representation; the main people who’d be super-taxed to pay for the bribes in twenty to forty years were often not yet born, much less of voting age.

Those public sector bureaucrats held the people of Wisconsin hostage, for their own gain, and the payoff was insanely cushy, gold-lined pensions.

Well, now the ransom is coming due.

Protecting Americans from Extortion

Appropriately, the first to reach this crisis was the state that started the problem, Wisconsin. And, for once, they did the right thing:

Scott Walker reversed the previous trend and restored the taxpayer’s right to not be extorted by government bureaucrats.

Anyone who doubts that this is a good thing needs to look to Britain, where civil “servants” recently tried to extort money from the taxpayers, by cutting off essential services. They bragged about their goal of holding up travelers and bankrupting parents by forcing them to stay home with kids while the schools shut down. They admit that they’re already being paid far more than the private sector, and are striking simply because they’re being asked to pay a few percentage points of their fat pensions.

Tens of thousands of emergency calls were ignored, except for those deemed “life threatening”, and thousands of surgeries were postponed, leaving people to suffer longer. Millions were trapped in their homes by lack of bus and rail service. Over ten thousand schools were shut down, putting millions of parents in a bind, however happy it made their kids.

All because the government employees entrusted with providing these services, violated the public trust.

We don’t need that kind of ganster-like corruption, here in the US.

Of course we could also have a discussion about how this proves the government can’t be trusted to meddle in health care, mass transit, and education…but at the very least, when it usurps those vital needs, it must then provide them, no matter what.

This is why “collective bargaining” can’t be tolerated, when public good is at stake.

December 5, 2011 Posted by | Economy, International, Philosophy, Politics | , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

How Student Loans Increase Your Tuition


People are complaining, as they should, about how tuition prices are shooting up far faster than inflation…in fact, how they went up even faster while the economic depression had prices stagnant or falling, nationally.

The commodity subsidized the most, is the one that's gone up the most in price. In fact, each of these is inflated in accordance to its subsidization, although energy's short-term volatility is a result of our self-destructive foreign policy.

It seems that the more the government increases grants and student loans, and gives special breaks to students or parents to help them pay for college, the more those prices shoot up and undo that benefit.

But this is not a coincidence. It’s exactly what must happen, because of those student benefits…and the more the government hands out student aid, the more the laws of Supply and Demand and of Unintended Consequences will force tuitions higher:

Subsidies

When you give away money to help people buy something in an industry, it’s technically called a “Subsidy“…and the primary function of a subsidy is to raise prices. The government, unfortunately, often does just that, on purpose, giving a subsidy in an industry because it’s been bribed by lobbyists to place the profits of the producers over the needs of the members of society (aka consumers). Farm subsidies are how it keeps milk and other staples too expensive for poor people to buy without the government’s own “help”, for example.

The way a subsidy works, of course, is that you increase the number of dollars available to buy the product, while the actual demand for that product, and therefore its supply, stays more or less the same. If people generally choose to spend a one hundred million dollars per year on apples, and they average $1 a pound, then the government offers people an extra fifty million dollars to “help” them buy apples, the average price of apples can increase to $1.50 a pound, driving up prices of pies, and giving poor people one less healthy snack they can afford. That’s a bit oversimplified, but pretty much how subsidies are used.

Sugar cane field

Sugar cane is cheaper, and better for the environment than beet sugar, but punished by a beet subsidy

People didn’t actually want beet sugar more than cane sugar, the government simply threw more money at it, so that there was more to spend, and prices rose to a new level.  Why? Bribes from beet farmers.

Of course the poor benefit from the inexpensive calories of sugar, so this hike in prices caused them to go hungrier…but they don’t have lobbyists as powerful as the more corrupt and irresponsible farm organizations do.

But money poured into an industry to pay for its goods is a subsidy, with the price-boosting impact, no matter whether that’s the official intention or not:

Health Care Prices

For example, Bush’s own socialized medicine plan, Medicare Part D, threw hundreds of billions of dollars at pharmaceutical companies, for the same medicine that was already out there. Naturally, prices went up even higher, helping precipitate the “crisis” that was used to pass Obamacare…and the Obama administration now admits that, indeed, the added money from Obamacare has caused health care prices to shoot up even faster, even in the short time since it was enacted…and contrary to the claim that it had to be rushed through to reduce prices.

In fact, if you track health care prices through the past century, they shoot up each time the government imposes a program to “help” pay. The largest increase was immediately after Medicare was implemented.

College Tuitions

Occupy Wall Street protester, complaining about student loan debt

The Occupy Wall Street movement is correct to complain about the massive debt created by student loans...because those loans have increased tuitions, tenfold.

Therefore, it’s really no surprise that college tuitions go up each time government grants and loans increase, even when the economy is weak and driving many other prices down.

In fact, with the government’s fake “student loans” and grants now making up the majority of all money spent on tuition, it would be impossible for tuition prices to do anything but be inflated by many times what they would be if colleges had to actually compete for student money, directly.

People are, right now, complaining loudly about how tuitions are going through the roof…but Big Brotherment’s response has simply been to throw even more money at tuitions, like Obama’s recent, unconstitutional Executive Order, even though this will just increase tuitions more.

It’s as if your doctor’s proposed response to emphysema was for you to chain smoke, because the nicotine will make you feel good.

November 11, 2011 Posted by | Economy, Education, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Government Alarmism Kills Dozens in Joplin, Missouri


“Better safe than sorry” is not a truism. In fact, it’s more often wrong than right.

Too much safety is its own danger. If you stayed in a wheelchair all the time, your muscles and bones would soon become so weak that walking really would be dangerous.

Mothers who try to protect their children from too much, of course, end up raising adults who are a danger to themselves, unable to deal with real-life situations once they’re out from their mother’s skirts.

And it’s no coincidence that our ever more “protective” government is called a nanny state; it does the same thing to us, even as adults.

But, in the case of the needlessly deadly tornado in Joplin, Missouri, this burden of destructive protection caused death in a whole different way:

Another response some children, and plenty of adults, have to a needlessly smothering authority is to stop taking safety seriously, even when it matters.

In 1973, the Joplin area responded to a particularly damaging by dramatically lowering its standards to include “dangerous” rainstorms, not just tornadoes. This means that when you hear a tornado warning in Joplin, it probably isn’t a tornado.

On top of that, the standards for what to trigger a tornado warning, nationally, has changed more recently to not require any actual tornado. At one time, this was called a “watch”, but now “there might be a tornado” triggers a false alert, not just a watch.

In fact, because of such “better safe than sorry” alarmism, there three quarters of all tornado alerts are false alarms, nationally. Therefore, people have wisely started ignoring tornado warnings.

Thanks to this, plus the abuse of the system for mere thunderstorms:

When the second-worst tornado in sixty years hit Joplin, people did what they’d, quite rationally, learned to do whenever the tornado siren went off; ignored it.

A pair of national media journalists, coincidentally in town for other reasons, felt the normal east coaster’s panic at the sound of tornado sirens, but were puzzled to discover that everyone else just went about their business, as if nothing were wrong.

This has happened many times in the past decades, and the locals had always been correct to sneer at it..

But — this one time — there was an actual, deadly tornado bearing down on them.

Sadly, the Culture of Safety has turned into the fable of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

How many lives would have been saved without the government’s ridiculous alarmism?

Well, in 1953, a Joplin-sized tornado hit Waco, Texas at the time when the Federal government banned all tornado alerts. 115 people died.

Just seven years later, with warnings legalized and an siren system in place, a nearly identical tornado hit a nearly identical urban area, and only resulted in 15 deaths.

Now that progress has been undone, by the increased in government busybody mentality.

The way I see it, government alarmism is responsible for horrible, avoidable deaths of at least 100 people in Joplin, Missouri…and probably a large part of the other tornado-related deaths this year, for similar reasons.

May 26, 2011 Posted by | Health, Politics, Society | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why the End Does Not Justify the Means


Why don't we torture accused criminals in order to find who is guilty? Because the end does not justify the means.

It has become clear that many politicians and lawyers, and a few real people, don’t understand what is meant by The End Does Not Justify the Means.

They act like people are saying the desire to have pancakes cannot justify making batter. But this is more specific. It’s about good versus evil. In their unfortunate perspective, caring about what is right must seem insane.

But the truth is that this phrase sums up one of the most important principles of ethics and morality:

It means that there are certain fundamental principles that are “right”, “good”, et cetera, that are essential to those conditions…and you cannot justify violating them because you have some “right” or “good” goal in mind.

For example, you cannot have justice, unless you adhere to the principles of justice; It’s not OK to do unjust things to people simply because you have a just goal in mind.

This is a basic philosophical rule that is ignored or denied by almost all evil people you will find out there, and supported by almost all good ones. Marxists coined the modern use of the phrase “the end justifies the means”, and naturally they and their socialist spinoffs were responsible for the vast majority of all great evils, for the past century.

Evil Men

Joseph Stalin, for example, justified the deaths of tens of millions of his own people, by saying that the population was too large for (relatively inefficient) Communism to support. The mass death left Soviet society more sustainable. Did the betterment of millions of peoples’ lives justify the murder of millions of other people? According to Consequentialist socialists; yes.

Previously, the Dominican order of Catholicism was an advocate of the idea that the end justifies the means (in spirit), and it just so happens that they went on to conduct, among other great evils, the Inquisition. It was literally claimed that you may be saving the soul of the man you tortured or murdered in the name of God, so it was OK. All the ways the current Pope is less popular than his predecessor appear to center around his being of that Dominican mindset. In fact, the position he held before becoming pontiff was the Head of the Office of Inquisition, I kid you not…it had simply changed its name for PR reasons.

Likewise, when Machiavelli used that phrase in his satirical indictment of the evils and abuses of Feudal government, The Prince, he succeeded in hitting the nail on the head as to what is most wrong and unjust.

Required by Good

In reality, the end does not justify the means, in part because the long-term outcome of ignoring principles in order to buy short-term results is a failure of your own goals.

The idea that the wise principles override the short-sighted goal (a form of Deontology, if you like them thar fancified words) is why courts will overturn convictions on technicalities, one of the few good and just things remaining in the US legal system. Any honest — or as close as they get –prosecutor will tell you that the reason they hate that condition is how it keeps them from breaking rules and simply gambling punishment, in order to convict people they think are guilty. They are restrained from unjust acts, by this absolute enforcement of the principles of justice, even though it may let a guilty man walk in the short term.

When you have a principle, like “do not violate someone else’s property”, it cannot be overridden because you have some end in mind like “but the wealth I steal from his safe will benefit several other people who deserve it more”.

Like setting aside money for bills and emergencies instead of partying all of your paycheck away, sticking to the principles of what is good, right, and just produces the best outcome in the long run. You are investing in your ultimate goal by sticking to it when the going gets tough. When you panic and abandon your principles for a short-term benefit, you end up making things worse in the end.

THAT is why the end does not justify the means.

May 12, 2011 Posted by | Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Society | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Should You “Give Back” to Your Employer?


When you buy bread for a dollar, the seller is "giving back to the community" for the dollar, by feeding you a dollar's worth of food. He is literally "feeding the hungry".

Each year, a generous social organization probably gives you tens of thousands of dollars, through your job.

You are very fortunate to be given this plentiful benefit, and should give back to the society of your bosses. Perhaps by giving them money, or volunteering to help them prosper.

“But wait” you say, “they didn’t pay me that money as charity…it wasn’t fortune! It wasn’t a windfall or luck! I earned that money! They were paying me for services I rendered to them! I owe them nothing, because it was a fair exchange!”

And you’re right, of course.

This is so obvious that my statements above were patently absurd. I couldn’t easily find a way to make them convincing, lest I drive you away by sounding like a nutcase.

And yet that’s just the sort of insanity that “progressives” advocate, these days.

That’s How They Got Rich

Certain class hate types are saying we should take even more money from the wealthy (families who make over $250K and already shoulder 90% of the Federal income tax), because “those who have benefitted most from our way of life can afford to give a bit more back“.

But most people who get rich earn their money, just like you d0. Their customers, like your employer, trade with them voluntarily, and (hopefully like your employer) believe they are getting as much or more as they are paying for. They “benefit” only exactly in proportion to how much they “give back”, already. If you earn a billion dollars in the marketplace, it means you have already given over a billion dollars in value to the people who (therefore) paid you for it.

Now it’s true that some wealthy people don’t get their money consensually. It amounts to ill-gotten loot they secured because they are the crony of some corrupt politician who hands them fat taxpayer money as pork — for example, Dick Cheney and Haliburton, or Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill’s husband. And I’m all for a special surtax on government officials, employees, and contractors and their cronies, who profit on the taxpayers’ backs instead of by contributing to society.

But if we want to attach being wealthy more with contributing to society, we need to reduce government’s influence, instead of expanding it. When government oversteps its legitimate boundaries, it ends up voilating our choices, making people rich whom we would not have chosen to pay, who did not to society for the money.

Whether with needless government contracts, bailouts, pork, or forcing you to buy from someone like a monopoly (cable and power companies) or mandate (health insurance under Obamacare, mercury-laden lightbulbs and inferior toilets), this does create wealthy people who’ve given nothing…and we need to stop it from happening.

People who earn their money have already “given back”, and don’t need to make some extra sacrifice as punishment for their success. That success shows how much they’ve already given. We need to stop the class envy greed, and focus on cutting the spending that is done on the backs of all productive Americans, freeing ourselves to succeed again.

April 16, 2011 Posted by | Economy, Philosophy, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Are the Muslim Brotherhood Actually Bad for Egypt?


Muslim Brotherhood kicks puppies and eats babies, but they don't have a man-sized safe in their office

Neocons and other violent interventionists keep talking about how bad it would be if the Egyptian people were to gain their freedom, because there is popular support for the Muslim Brotherhood, and if they were part of the government that would, obviously, be a really bad thing…even worse than a dictator like Mubarak who outlaws many religious beliefs and slaughters people for their political ideology.

But wait…it’s not “obvious” that this organization, the Society of Muslim Brothers, is any worse than the Christian Coalition in the US. And America doesn’t deserve a dictator just to keep the Christian Coalition out of political power. What’s more, it seems the Muslim Brotherhood is usually more akin to the Salvation Army, except they’re Muslim instead of Christian. Let’s look deeper, and see which interpretation is true.

Who Are They?

What is this group, so ominously touted by the neocon supporters of Hosni Mubarak?

Just like the Christian Coalition, it is a voluntary social and political movement, organized around the idea that followers of their religion should choose to live by the tenets of that religion.

People who think that a religion’s members should live by their beliefs? If anything, that seems like a truism, to me. A “well, no duh” sort of thing.

Also like the Christian Coalition, some of its members, sometimes, want laws passed that happen to support their morality. I don’t like that in either case, but I will fight against anyone who wants to imposing a dictator over people who would vote for such laws. Hopefully, you will too, since the Christian Coalition voters are American.

And let’s be real, it’s not always bad if religious beliefs become law: the Ten Commandments that both Muslims and Christians accept include prohibition of murder and theft. Do I want murder legal because a religion wants them banned?

Of course not.

Everyone Agrees

Before we get into the claims against the Muslim Brotherhood, let’s mention the part that is not denied by anyone:

What everyone agrees about, regarding the Muslim Brotherhood, is that they mostly do community service, charitable efforts, and other good works. I think even the worst neocon would admit this, if you pinned him down on the subject. There are probably hundreds of thousands of people, of diverse cultures and races, who are alive right now solely because of the efforts of the Muslim Brotherhood. Again, this is not even disputed.

But what about their Dark Side?

Al Qaeda and the Taliban are charitable, but they still seem evil overall. If the Muslim Brotherhood is like that, I’ll oppose them.

The "Be Prepared" Emblem of Death, replete with the infamous Green Stars of Evil

The Accusations

Many Conservatives and Liberals in the media seem perplexed by the claim that Egypt should remain a dictatorship, but whenever they have a neocon on, or that Israeli ambassador,  or some “former CIA officer”, they’re told that it’s because of the Muslim Brotherhood, who is accused of three general things:

Be Prepared

Glenn Beck was shouting, the other day, about how the Muslim Brotherhood’s motto on their website is “Be Prepared”.

Well, yes, I’m not sure you could be more obviously, patently evil than to have the motto Be Prepared. To the right, you can see a variation of this logo. It is for another religious organization, that requires its members to take an oath of obedience to their god much like the Muslim Brotherhood does. Worse, the bearers of that symbol are, unlike the Society of Muslim Brothers, actually members of an openly paramilitary organization.

Surely such symbols should be banned, along with target and sniper scope graphics.

Of course the Boy Scouts will probably object.

To be fair, the thing the Society of Muslim Brothers emphasize that Egyptians to be prepared for, right now, is war with Israel.

Beck seemed to infer that this means they’re planning to attack Israel…which makes me worry about his reading comprehension, because the quotes he read off their own website to “prove” this clearly were saying that the government of Israel might attack Egypt for overthrowing the dictator they’d helped keep in power for 30 years. What they say is that the Mubarak government can be brought down by cutting off the gas pipeline to Israel, which will bankrupt Mubarak’s dictatorship…but that this will cause war with Israel. In other words, Israel will attack, because they want the gas and, the Muslim Brotherhood believes, will even cause the death and destruction of war to get it.

I don’t blame any of Israel’s neighbors for fearing that it will go to war with them. It’s done so before. The people of Israel, themselves, fear this of their own government. The recent threat had been an unprovoked attack against Iran, but now Egypt is the popular target. I join with the people of Israel and the Society of Muslim Brothers in opposing any violent aggression on the part of Israel against any other country.

To be fair, I and most Israelis, Jews, Egyptians, Muslims, Coptic Christians, Protestants, Catholics, atheists, and every other non-sociopath, oppose all initiation of aggression, by any country or person against any other. We’re opposed by the neocons and other self-described Marxists, but that’s another debate.

While we’re at it, Beck keeps mentioning Islamic Socialism, a bizarre fringe movement that goes against the basic belief of Islamic fundamentalism that socialism is evil. As it happens, the Muslim Brotherhood is on the “socialism is evil” side. They believe in voluntary charity, not coercive socialist government like Mubarak and Saddam Hussein imposed.

Sinead O'Conner crazily associating all Catholics with the IRA terrorists

They’re Muslims

Then there’s the claim that the Muslim Brotherhood is evil because its members believe in…well…Islam. If you’re one of the poor rubes who’s fallen for the “Islam is a religion of evil” scam, I don’t think there’s much that will convince you otherwise.

The Koran saying something like “kill any unbeliever who supports tyranny over innocents or Muslims” gets quoted out of context as “kill any unbeliever”, but that contextual lie has been pointed out plenty of times by now, you should have been capable of learning, and responsible enough to do so.

The few craziest, most old-fashioned Muslim rules are no worse than the crazier Jewish or Christian rules. Should we all sacrifice doves when our babies are born? Stone women who have sex out of wedlock? Burn witches? Those aren’t just Islamic rules, they’re old Christian and Jewish rules, too. And the vast majority of  followers of all three religions have outgrown such nonsense.

Likewise, like how everyone who’s murdered an abortion doctor is Christian, but it does not mean Christianity is murderous, so it is with Muslims who kill people in the name of their religion. The Catholic terrorists murdering random Protestants because of their religion in Ireland don’t prove anything about their religion, and neither do Islamic terrorists.

But, even more fundamentally than this, it’s hypocritical for anyone to claim that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to govern themselves because of their religion, when so many in the socialist world hate Christianity the same way, and think that Americans, who are majority Christian, are similarly unable to govern themselves. Should we have tyranny imposed on us, to keep Christian mores from becoming law? Again I say “no”, and I’m not hypocritical enough to turn around and deny another country or religion the same right.

It’s also worth noting that the Muslim Brotherhood is Sunni, while the Islamic Revolution in Iran is Shi’ite. That’s important because these two groups are oppose each other completely. It’s not like Protestant vs Catholic…they literally see each other as Satanists. There’s never going to be any real collaboration between the Muslim Brotherhood and the current Iranian government. They’re more likely to help overthrow the Iranian tyranny, too.

And they’re also the most spiritual, historically least violent form of Sunni Islam, they are Sufi. To quote a previous article here:

Pretty much all of the terrorist organizations in the world that are focused on the United States are Wahhabi, funded and trained by our allies in Saudi Arabia, and often closely coordinated with our allies in the Pakistani military.

Wahhabism is a crackpot fundamentalist version of Sunni Islam. Think of Sunni as being like Protestantism, a relatively liberal branch of the religion overall, and Wahhabism as being like the Protestants who dance with snakes and talk in tongues.

Meanwhile, most of the rest of the terrorist organizations in the world that are Islamic at all are Shi’ite. This is the second of the three branches of Islam, and the most basic one, with an older lineage than Sunni Islam. Think of that as being somewhat like Catholicism…most Shi’ites are peaceful, but you have the crazies, like the Irish Republican Army is for Catholicism. You can’t really blame the rest for those nutjobs in the IRA targeting other peoples and religions.

And then you have the Sufi. These are a bit like the Mormons are to Christianity. They’re a “third way” sort of group, very peaceful and focused a lot on mysticism and spirituality, not the practical mechanics of the Big Two. No terrorist organizations, in the whole world, are Sufi. Some Muslims say they’re so different that the Sufi aren’t even Muslims, at all.

In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood are in a struggle against the violent, hateful Wahhabi movement, as well as considering themselves the polar opposite of Shia. In fact, the “Jihadi” movement of Al Qaeda and their ilk are excluded from the Egyptian uprising, perhaps because the Muslim Brotherhood are a part of it.

They’re Out to Get You!!!

So that just leaves crazy conspiracy theories: The Muslim Brotherhood secretly wants to bring about apocalypse, supports assassination of people they think are evil, et cetera.

I’ve seen more credible evidence of the fundamentalist Christians supporting those exact same things. In fact, I have personally known wealthy, powerful Christians in the US who are part of the Christian Eschatologist movement, and literally believe that they should try to bring about Armageddon, to hurry Jesus’ return, by supporting evil, oppressive government.

But in both Christian and Muslim cases, I assume that there are fringe elements who are like that, but that I can’t assume the whole group does, since it disavows them adamantly.

The 15 Principles of Egyptian and American Founding Fathers

In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood is so against those things that it has “15 Principles of Agreement” that it wants to institute in Egypt, that you would support, too.

The only disagreement the Founding Fathers of America would have with the Muslim Brotherhood’s 15 Principles is that Thomas Jefferson and friends opposed a standing army and standing police force. Is anyone seriously going to blame the Muslim Brotherhood for implicitly endorsing those two forces, but requiring them to stay out of politics?

The 15 principles could have been written by the Founding Fathers...but they might have pared it down to 10

Here are the 15 principles the Muslim Brotherhood says it wants for Egypt, each one summed up:

  1. Nobody may govern except at the consent of the people
  2. Free and fair elections
  3. Freedom of personal and religious conviction
  4. Freedom of establishing religious rites.
  5. Freedom of expression and the press
  6. The right to form and exercise political parties
  7. The freedom of assembly, as long as there’s no violence
  8. The right to hold peaceful demonstrations
  9. The right to a regularly elected, representative government
  10. The right of every man and woman to vote
  11. The right of every citizen to run for election and hold office
  12. The right to a truly independent judiciary, no special courts except for legitimate internal military affairs
  13. Prosecutors, public defenders, and criminal investigators must be three independent groups, from each other and the Minister of Justice, and anyone accused should have the right to appeal.
  14. The military must stay out of politics, only defending the nation’s external security.
  15. The police must only protect society, and is banned from interfering in politics or with political opposition

Please take a moment to read the full text of the 15 Principles of Agreement of the Muslim Brotherhood.

I wish our own government seemed to believe in these 15 principles.

Let’s make every elected or appointed official in the United States include them in his oath of office. And every government bureaucrat, while we’re at it.

If even a large segment of the Muslim Brotherhood believe at least somewhat in the 15 Principles of Agreement, then they’re probably no worse than our own government. And I see no evidence that they’re any worse. Individuals in that movement, yes…same as every other movement. But not the overall social organization.

Should we, in America, continue our government’s habit of supporting dictators in our name, like Mubarak, just in case the Muslim Brotherhood might be popular there?

Not even if they’d turned out to be “bad”.

It was ironic that I saw the former Israeli ambassador to the UN, the other day, quote Mubarak as paraphrasing Douglas Casey, that American foreign aid is “a transfer from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries“. He seems to have been mockingly referring to his own receipt of sixty billion dollars, from US taxpayers, over the past few decades.

This needs to stop.

February 6, 2011 Posted by | International, Philosophy, Politics, Religion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Is the Fed Wagging the Dog?


Why is the Fed causing deflationary hording, then "fixing" it with inflationary money?

In 2008, banks stopped lending as much money, helping drag the economy down.

They started holding it in extra reserves, instead.

This caused deflationary pressure the Federal Reserve has been “protecting” us from ever since.

We’re so lucky we have the Fed.

But why did the banks start holding excess reserves instead of lending? Were they simply scared of the economic conditions?

No, they are being PAID to do it, by the Federal Reserve.

That’s right…the Federal Reserve that is “saving” us from the banks’ refusal to lend, is paying the banks to do it.

How the Banks Work

See, banks usually take the money you deposit, and invest it. They make business loans, home loans, buy securities, and so on.

The profit they make doing that pays for the banking services they “give” you “free”.

In a sense, they are acting like a mutual fund for you…investing your money and paying you “interest” in the way of free banking.

But they don’t invest all of your money. The Federal Reserve requires them to hold back a bit “in reserve”. This is to ensure that they have money in case people want to withdraw it.

The Fed makes banks hold 10% of your checking account (and everyone else’s) in their Reserve.

The other 90%, the bank invests, driving the economy through business loans, buying securities, et cetera.

Or it did.

The Fed Wags the Dog

Up to 2008, EXCESS reserves were usually at 0. When the Fed started paying banks to hold them, this excess shot through the roof

But in 2008, the Federal Reserve started paying banks interest for anything they held in reserve.

Immediately, banks started holding EXTRA money in reserve. This is called “excess reserves”, and it had never happened in any large amount before.

Strangely, the Fed’s response to the banks doing what it is now paying them to do has been to complain that they’re doing it, and to expand its power even more, to “save” us from the lost money.

See, our capitalist economy depends on money being used to create wealth. With hundreds of billions being stuck in “reserves”, it’s not being invested to create wealth, and the economy is suffering.

In effect, the Fed is causing what Friedrich Hayek called “hording”, and identified as something that NO economic school considers healthy.

It is agreed that hording money, whether in cash or in idle balances, is deflationary in its effects. No one thinks that deflation is in itself desirable.
— Friedrich Hayek’s 1932 Letter on the Great Depression

If banks respond to free market demand by increasing their reserves, that’s good.

If the government (including the Fed, acting as its agent) forces more reserves, that’s bad.

The reason the Fed has added, or says it is adding, over a trillion dollars in “Quantitative Easing” (including the recent QE2) is to fight the deflationary effects of banks “hording” in their reserves.

This “easing” is the printing of temporary money the Fed uses to buy securities. It hopes that money will get spent without going into excess reserves…but this is dangerous, because that extra money could cause inflation after the economy recovers.

The Fed hopes to sell those securities and destroy the money it gets back, but history says it will respond almost two years too late, leaving us suffering inflation.

So the Fed is risking dramatic inflation, in order to save us from the risk of deflation it is paying the banks to create in the first place.

Many thanks to Steve Horwitz for his feedback during the writing of this article.

December 28, 2010 Posted by | Economy, International, liberty, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Bernanke Means: QE2 Will Not Boost Money Supply


Most of the loudest critics of the Federal Reserve are aghast at Ben Bernanke’s recent interview, in which he stated that:

We’re not printing money.

The amount of currency in circulation is not changing.

The money supply is not changing in any significant way.

– Ben Bernanke, 60 Minutes Interview, December 2010

What on earth, people wonder, does he mean by that? How could he say such an obviously crazy thing?

I mean, he is spending NEW money buying up bonds and notes…everyone but Bernanke is calling this QE2 (Quantitative Easing)…and the whole point of this is to add money to the economy.

How can he say the money supply is not changing?

But he isn’t simply crazy…he means something specific, and sane (if misguided).

He means this:

Quantity Times Velocity

The real money supply is not simply the number of dollars in existence. As Nobel-laureate economist Friedrich Hayek pointed out, real money supply is really a multiplication of the amount of money, times how much the money is moving around.

(S)upply equals (Q)uantity times (V)elocity.

This chart of the movement of MZM, the best measure of money people can actually use, tells the tale of woe...velocity, and therefore REAL money supply, has fallen deeply, despite the Fed's hopeless efforts to stop it.

And right now, money velocity is as low as it’s been since the Great Depression…not surprising, since this is the first depression the US has suffered, since.

That means it’s moving very little. In fact, it’s mostly sitting around in banks, doing nothing. It is, as Bernanke implied, effectively out of circulation.

That money is as absent from the economy as if it did not exist. This is the Fed’s fault, because they started paying interest on reserves held idle right at the beginning of this depression, but that’s a separate article.

So even though we now have more Quantity than ever, it’s multiplied by an abnormally low Velocity, to the real supply is lacking.

Right now, Austrians like Hayek and socialists like Keynes would agree that our real money supply is actually at a traumatic low, because much of the quantity is sitting around, unavailable.

Let’s hear Hayek agree with Keynes, himself:

On the first issue — whether to use one’s money or whether to hoard it — there is no important difference between us. It is agreed that hording money, whether in cash or in idle balances, is deflationary in its effects. No one thinks that deflation is in itself desirable.

— Hayek in an open letter to Keynes, 1932, regarding how to respond to the Great Depression

 

Money, money, everywhere, but not a cent to spend.

Like the ocean in my favorite poet’s most famous poem, the money sitting around in banks is, ironically, unavailable for the real money supply.

Bernanke is trying to fix this, by temporarily buying up bonds and treasury notes, therefore bypassing the banks’ massive reserves, putting money directly in the economy.

For the moment, he is correct, that this isn’t boosting the real money supply, because so much of the money is lying salted in (virtual) bank vaults, useless.

Temporary Money

Now his critics, those who know enough monetary theory to understand about velocity the way you now do, say this doesn’t matter, because eventually the velocity will recover, and then we’ll have normal velocity times much more quantity. And that would mean inflation…there’s no way around that.

Bernanke would point out, correctly, that this is not correct, either…

See, the Fed doesn’t consider the money it is printing real. It is ephemeral, temporary money, like a Virtual Particle in physics…popped into existence for a bit, then gone.

And this is true:

When the Fed lends money to a bank overnight, the bank is required to pay it back the next day, plus interest. The same for its more recent, unhealthy bout of lending for thirty or ninety days…after that time, the bank pays the money back, with interest.

And when that money is paid back, it literally “vanishes”, into the “thin air” out of which it was created.

For now, the banks keep re-borrowing money, keeping the extra Quantity in a cycle…but when the Fed decides things are getting better, it can start making that borrowing less desirable, so banks re-borrow less, causing the Quantity of money to decline.

When it engages in Quantitative Easing (Bernanke hates that term, and calls it Credit Easing…bureaucrats love euphemisms), the same thing happens;

The Fed buys notes, adding money to the economy…but later it can SELL those notes, and destroy the money paid for them. It will probably sell them at a higher price than it bought, allowing it to actually destroy MORE money than it created, if it chooses.

So it could, in theory, keep the real money supply at a constant, stable level, allowing prices to be natural.

So Bernanke is Right, Everything Is OK?

Unfortunately…no.

The first problem is that Bernanke, and his peers, don’t understand some economic basics:

We’ve been very, very clear that we will not allow inflation to rise above two percent or less…We could raise interest rates in 15 minutes if we have to. So, there really is no problem with raising rates, tightening monetary policy, slowing the economy, reducing inflation, at the appropriate time.

Now THAT is the part that makes me gasp in horror…he thinks he can stop inflation in fifteen minutes? Doesn’t he know the fishtail effect?

Bernanke’s predecessor, Alan Greenspan, and the Nobel Laureate Chicago school economist Milton Friedman, both understood that when the Fed meddles with the economy, its effects take up to EIGHTEEN MONTHS to show up.

So the day that Bernanke decides “Oh, we’ve hit two percent inflation”, he will raise rates…and then inflation will KEEP GOING UP for at least the next eighteen months.

Eighteen months is a LONG time, in economic terms.

Fishtail Effect

It’s long enough that the Fed will become frantic, as its efforts fail to show any results…they’ll keep raising rates, selling notes and bonds, destroying money, until the economy finally seems to be turning around…weakening.

Then they will have overshot the actual mark by around 18 months. For the next 18 months the economy will KEEP getting worse, KEEP getting slower, until it enters into a recession. Because of the amount of money the Fed bubbled in during this depression, and has to suck out, it will probably be the worst recession since the Stagflation of the late seventies and resulting recessions, which were the worst in history.

It’s like when you are on an icy road, and you try to turn…the car doesn’t respond, so you turn the wheel more, and more…by the time the car responds, you’ve turned too much. You straighten the wheel happily, but the car KEEPS turning past where you wanted. So you turn in the other direction…but it keeps turning the original direction. By the time it responds, you turned too much the other way…et cetera.

This is the source of the modern “business cycle” of recessions, that have happened since the US left the Gold Standard in the 1930s. The Fed, and the rest of government, are constantly meddling with the economy, and then discovering the damage they did when it shows up years later, then reacting to that with even more damaging behavior, back and forth in an endless cycle of unintended consequences.

Now this has, up to now, been better than the “business cycle” of depressions and panics the US suffered from 1873-1933, when the US was on a fiat gold standard. But now we’re suffering a depression, despite being off the gold standard, so that’s all out the window.

What we need, of course, is for the Federal Reserve’s monopoly dollar to be replaced by a free market in money, as Friedrich Hayek proposed.

But, failing that, we need the Fed to at least go back to mostly staying out of the economy, as Alan Greenspan tried to do, instead of constantly expanding its meddling, as Bernanke has done, helping lock us into this cycle of economic devastation.

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Economy, International, Philosophy, Science | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Those TSA Screeners Are Criminals


To claim we should surrender our rights for a promise of safety is Appeal to Cowardice

Ben Franklin was correct: To claim we should give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety is Appeal to Cowardice

TSA Screeners, known officially as TSOs, literally are committing a crime when they randomly scan or search you. There are several reasons why this is so:

Just Obeying Orders

I have rapidly tired of Liberals, especially Neocons, claiming we should sympathize with the Transportation Security Officers (screeners), because (yes, real quote) they are just obeying orders.

Has our socialized education system so failed that nobody remembers when, in the Nuremberg war crime trials, people who said “we were just obeying orders” were executed?

Anything for a Job

“They have to do it, or they will get fired!”

If you take a job as a private delivery man, and then discover that your employer is using you for drug running, the government would require that you refuse, even if you will get fired.

Doing something that is criminal is not OK just because you want your job. Not even if your employer is the government.

Porn-and-Grope is Illegal

“But it’s a law”.

No, it is NOT a law. It is a REGULATION. Regulations are not laws. To even treat them like laws is unconstitutional.

But even if it were passed by congress as a law, it would not be real:

An unconstitutional act is not law;
it confers no rights;
it imposes no duties;
affords no protection;
it creates no office;
it is in legal contemplation,
as inoperative as though it had never been passed.
-Norton vs. Shelby County, 118 US 425 p.442

Because it violates the 4th amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, any rule requiring a random search is not a real rule at all. It has no validity.

Government Mafia

It is imposed only by threat of force, as any organized crime syndicate can do. When a government official violates the Constitution, he is nothing but a mobster, and has no more legitimate power or bearing on you than Al Capone’s hired muscle.

What’s more, it is literally illegal to randomly feel you up, in most cities with airports. Some actually are promising to arrest TSOs who try, if you call the police.

These TSOs are committing a crime each time they randomly search you. No constitutional law, or even regulation, supplies them with the power to search anyone without probable cause.

If the rule was that people behaving suspiciously, or otherwise giving cause to be suspected, had to be searched that would be legitimate. These random searches are not.

And anyone who engages in them is a criminal.

November 24, 2010 Posted by | Family, Health, International, liberty, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why the TSA Screenings are Unconstitutional


It's not that the image shows your genitals to leering strangers that makes it obscene, but its violation of your 4th amendment protection against random searches

The 4th Amendment

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Your prudism about being ogled by minimum wage goons who share pics and stories of your genitals with each other and post them on the Internet is not the biggest reason why the nude scanners and crotch gropings cannot be allowed.

It’s that they also violate your Constitutional rights. And that kind of violation, you must never tolerate.

The Fourth Amendment secures not only our external property, but especially our bodies against unreasonable search and seizure.

By “reasonable” the amendment says it means “with probable cause”, and this means government agents must suspect you, personally, of a crime or else they are not allowed to search you, no matter what.

The police are not legally allowed to search random the houses on your block, just in case they might find something illegal, and even the most law-abiding of us is glad our privacy is protected this way. And they cannot, for the same reason, search all people passing through the gates at the airport, just in case they might find something illegal.

Appeal to Cowardice

Big Brotherment tries to justify this violation of the Bill of Rights with Appeal to Cowardice:

“But aren’t you willing to put up with a little inconvenience, to be safer?”

But real Americans aren’t cowards. Even if the violation of your body were improving safety — and in real life, it does NOTHING for your safety — it would not be a tolerable reason.

The government could judge who seemed a threat, and search those people. That would be “probable cause”, valid under the Constitution.

Searching people at random, instead, violates the Bill of Rights, and helps the actually-suspicious people get through the line. If the searches could actually stop terrorists, the random nature of the searches keep that from happening.

They who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
— Ben Franklin

Nobody honest, not even on the pro-TSA side, denies that these random searches violate the fourth amendment…they just claim that you should surrender this Essential Liberty, to try to gain a little temporary safety.

But real Americans aren’t cowards. This expansion of the Police State ends, here and now.

November 18, 2010 Posted by | Family, International, liberty, Politics, Society | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Thank Ron Paul, He Blew Up Congress


Remember, remember, the 2nd of November, when Ron Paul took back the House, as the next step in the movement that exploded on Guy Fawkes Day, 2007.

With all the hubbub about this election, there hasn’t been enough talk about how it happened:

How Ron Paul Restored Republican Principles (and/or Power)

Remember, the Republicans were stripped of power by the very same voters, just four years ago. What changed isn’t trust in that party’s old guard leadership, but the restoration of that party’s roots by the TEA Party.

The reason they’re getting it back started three years ago today, when Ron Paul stunned the political world with the massive success of the Money Bomb his grass-roots supporters spontaneously organized.

The Money Bomb

In a single day, these TEA Party predecessors raised $4,700,000 dollars for Ron Paul…more than any other Republican candidate. They chose Guy Fawke’s Day to symbolically represent how Ron Paul was to metaphorically blow up the corrupt, establishment government…probably inspired in part by the movie V, where the hero re-enacts that historic event in his fight against a repressive, tyrannical government.

This brought the liberty movement of Ron Paul to the attention of the “mainstream”, touching off a snowball of support for his campaign that, while not getting him nominated against the will of the establishment Republicans in Name Only (RiNOs), left him with a huge “war chest” after the primaries were over. He used this money to found the Campaign for Liberty, supporting the general liberty movement he had empowered.

Taxed Enough, Already

During his campaign, even before the Money Bomb, supporters started referring to their rallies as “Tea Parties”, some creating the backronym “Taxed Enough Already” to refer to their libertarian economic theme.

By 2009, these TEA Parties, with the support of Ron Paul-supporting groups like Young Americans for Liberty and his own Campaign for Liberty, had taken on a life of their own. As you know, that grew into the movement that people rallied around, and when that movement chose Ron Paul’s party for its candidates, the Republicans finally had an opportunity to return their party to its libertarian base.

They started as a fight against Democratic talk of raising taxes, fighting bailouts and “stimulus” spending, but got their greatest momentum fighting the socialized health care bill, which Ron Paul had opposed even back in 2003 when the Republicans were pushing socialized medicine.

Will It Stay True?

In 2010, of course, the neocons and other RiNOs saw the success of Paul’s movement, and started trying to hijack the TEA Party. They attempted to insert divisive social issues, like anti-Muslim fearmongering and hate, promotion of the drug war, et cetera…but it has not worked: This election was about the economy, smaller government, and other libertarian ideas that the Republican leadership has been forced to parrot, although their history is of doing even more harm to that cause than the Democrats.

The Tea Party movement started with Ron Paul, who is recognized even by his opponents as the most principled, honest man in Congress. It has overcome attacks by Big Government advocates on the “Right”, supposed leaders of the Republican Party and others, but has not lost its way, and almost singlehandedly won this election (except for help by the Democrats, in their own self-destruction).

Hopefully, it can continue to police the Republican party to stick to its base’s principles…or, almost everyone outside the Political Class agrees, the Republicans will have blown their last chance, and TEA will take its party elsewhere.

November 5, 2010 Posted by | liberty, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

WARNING: Composting Increases Your Carbon Footprint!


We are slowly coming to face the fact that many trendy “green” things actually harm the environment, instead of helping it.

Unfortunately, some of us are not learning their lesson, and new “green” activities are being pushed that are just as lacking in forethought, just as harmful to the planet.

One perfect example of this is the new composting fetish:

It is actually better for the environment to throw away garbage, than to compost it, if you’re worried about greenhouse gases, instead of just wanting good, free fertilizer.

Composting Releases Greenhouse Gas

Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are the second through fourth most significant greenhouse gases, after water vapor.

The materials in a compost heap contain nitrogen and carbon, locked away from the atmosphere.

The act of composing specifically converts nitrogen into nitrous oxide, and carbon into prodigous amounts of methane and carbon dioxide. No actual environmental scientist will deny this. It’s just a fact of chemistry…the two links above are pro-composting, environmentalist organizations, yet they confirm this.

Just to be clear on this:

  • Water vapor is the main source of the natural greenhouse effect, causing about 50% of all heat retention, depending on local humidity. All scientists agree that nothing humans can do changes the overall amount of water vapor in our atmosphere.
  • Carbon Dioxide, CO2, is the next greatest source, producing about 20% of warming.
  • Methane, CH4, is 30 times more powerful, but there’s less in the atmosphere, so it contributes about 6%.
  • Nitrous Oxide, N2O, is THREE HUNDRED TIMES more powerful, but even rarer, producing about 2% of natural warming. The biggest impact we could have, if any, would be to produce more of this more powerful, less common gas.

To be clear, composting produces extremely high amounts of nitrous oxide, as well as large amounts of methane, and even under the best conditions, more CO2 than almost anything else, in your entire household.

Landfills Reduce Greenhouse Gases

On the other hand, if you were to throw those compostables away, they would probably end up in a land fill. Recently, environmental scientists have bothered to actually check, and have realized that, in fact, materials in landfills do not rot the way they normally would, because of the way they’re compacted together. The International Encyclopaedia of Environmental Laws,  pointing out that paper and corn don’t rot in landfills, asks why one should even bother substituting paper for plastic, or “biodegradable” corn bags.

Again, those are environmentalists saying these things.

Environmental scientist and Green advocate Bill Rothje says that you can find readable newspaper that has been in landfills for at least 30 years. That means the carbon in newspaper (which comprises 19% of all landfill space) can be retained in the landfill for decades…or released into the atmosphere by composting.

So, according to Environmental scientists, trash in landfills is removed from the carbon/nitrogen cycle, staying out of the atmosphere. A landfill is, in fact, a tremendous REDUCTION in our “carbon footprint”.

In fact, next time you’re thinking about “recycling” paper, remember that this requires more energy, fossil fuel, and chemicals than making new paper…and that if you just throw the paper away, you’re removing its carbon from the atmosphere for the long-term.

It Gets Worse

Some governments are using taxpayer dollars to force the production of “worm composting”. Yet nitrous oxide is an inevitable by-product of worm composting. Remember, this is about 300 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2.


Earthworm Jim farts Nitrous Oxide into his space suit, compost worms do it in our atmosphere

Meanwhile, not only do landfills produce mainly methane, not Nitrous Oxide, but nearly half of the methane they produce can be captures for use as green energy. Methane engines simply produce water vapor as a waste product.

Jim Frederickson, senior research fellow at Britain’s Open University, says “”We need to investigate all alternative systems for greenhouse potential.

“The emissions that come from these worms can actually be 290 times more potent than carbon dioxide and 20 times more potent than methane. In all environmental systems you get good points and bad points.”

The whole “composting” craze, from expensive plastic countertop bins to government-mandated worm farms, is just another example of people not caring what is ACTUALLY good for the environment, but pushing any ill-thought-out plan down our throats.

September 7, 2010 Posted by | environment, Politics, Science | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

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