30 November 2011

The Crux of the Matter

Thomas Sowell, ladies and gentlemen:

Let's go back to square one. The purpose of American immigration laws and policies is not to be either humane or inhumane to illegal immigrants. The purpose of immigration laws and policies is to serve the national interest of this country.
There is no inherent right to come live in the United States, in disregard of whether the American people want you here. Nor does the passage of time confer any such right retroactively.

The crux of the matter is this:  no foreigner has any inherent right to live in the United States.  Period.

Immigration laws are not to be concerned with fairness, being humane, or the “rights” of non-citizens.  Instead, immigration laws are to be solely concerned with acting in the best interest of the United States.  If Alabama is any indication, the United States will generally be better off without illegal immigrants, and so amnesty should be off the table in the current immigration debate.  Furthermore, it’s doubtful that the United States need legal immigrants as well.  The United States is currently experiencing an economic contraction, which has led to decreased demand for labor; the last thing the federal government should do is increase the supply of labor through legal immigration.

Politicians, such as Newt Gingrich, are foolish if they think that citizens want policies that will have a negative impact on their personal economic status.  Yet, many politicians still foolishly support amnesty and increased immigration, seemingly oblivious to political blowback this will eventually create.  People don’t like people who are different.  And, during times of hardship, people often turn to playing a game of pin the blame on the people who are different from you.  And that game turns nasty pretty quickly.

The citizens of the United States have realized that non-citizens do not have any right to be here or work a job, and they are correct in their assessment.  Let’s hope the politicians that claim to represent them catch on to this before things turn nasty.

Taxes and Fairness

John Stossel, on Atlanta’s new vendor laws:

Street vending has been a path out of poverty for Americans. And like other such paths (say, driving a taxi), this one is increasingly difficult to navigate. Why? Because entrenched interests don't like competition. So they lobby their powerful friends to erect high hurdles to upstarts. It's an old story.
Now, growing local governments are crushing street vendors.
The city of Atlanta, for example, has turned all street vending over to a monopoly contractor. In feudalist fashion, all existing vendors were told they must work for the monopoly or not vend at all.
Institute lawyer Elizabeth Foley says the regulations make "it virtually impossible to be an effective street vendor. You can't be within 300 feet of any place that sells the same or similar merchandise. That's absolutely ridiculous for the government to use its power to enact a law like that. ... These people are just trying to make an honest living, and the city is making it impossible to do so."
Raul Martinez, the mayor when the law passed, defended the rule.
"You don't want to have everybody in the middle of the streets competing for space on the sidewalk without some sort of regulations. In the city of Hialeah, we're not overregulating anybody."
He says one purpose of the law is simple fairness: Street vendors don't pay property taxes. Brick-and-mortar stores must.

No one likes paying taxes, and so everyone tries to either avoid the misery or spread it around.  One common justification for paying taxes, then, is fairness:  Why should I pay taxes when my competitor doesn’t?

That is, perhaps, a legitimate question, but it is irrelevant nonetheless because fairness does not exist.  For starters, no two people can even agree on what constitutes fairness.  And even if they could, ensuring fairness requires more data than anyone possesses or could hope of possessing.

Taking the case at hand, it seems obvious that it is unfair for street vendors to not pay taxes.  But should their tax bill be comparable to brick-and-mortar stores?  The answer isn’t straightforward because one must consider how much less of a burden street vendors are to the local government relative to brick-and-mortar stores.  One must also compare the relative advantages of each venue—a street vendor does not offer the same product as a restaurant, even if the menu offerings are identical.  Trying to determine a fair tax rate in light of the considerations is simply impossible.

As such, it is simply best for the government to surrender the battle on fairness and simply say that the government needs X amount of dollars in revenue and that policy Y is the easiest way to attain this.  The continual bickering over fairness simply increases systemic costs, damages the economy, kills people’s job prospects, increases political rancor, and does absolutely nothing to improve the system in the long run.  Therefore, the government would be better off implementing one simple tax and living within its means, and stop concerning itself with fairness.

A Thousand Cuts


It sounds terrifying indeed. Until you realize that he’s describing a slight enhancement to the status quo powers that law enforcement has, and that we’ve lived under the current powers and we’re all still here and not censored.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides essentially the same functionality, just not as smoothly. Its purpose is to allow information owners to stop its spread quickly. It’s like any other injunction, just faster and with fewer barriers.
The new law takes the DMCA and extends it further. Remember the ruckus and hue and cry that arose when the DMCA passed? We were told censorship was coming, to use HAM radios instead of the internet, and that the end was nigh. It didn’t happen that way.
It won’t here, either. This isn’t censorship — it’s being used to block leaks of copyright content. Anyone who uses it to “censor” is then going to be liable in civil court, which makes this a bad tool to use for censorship. You can get sued into poverty for misusing it.

It’s a funny thing about death by a thousand cuts:  it always in death.  And while Brett is correct in noting that SOPA is likely not the Great Internet Censorship Act that everyone makes it out to be, it’s not exactly a step in the right direction.

By now, readers of this esteemed blog should be able to explain why IP is wrong in their sleep, so I won’t dwell on this.  Instead, I will simply point at that, like the DMCA, the SOPA is simply building on legislation passed before it and laying the foundation for greater outrages to come.  Decline is not instantaneous, and is decades—centuries even—in the making.  Censorship in the United States will be no exception.

Spot The Fallacy (Labor Edition)

From ASI:

Economist Diane Coyle has noted that migrant workers in the UK tend to be either very highly skilled or low skilled, which suggests that they are filling gaps in specific areas of the labour market, not taking jobs from the native or resident population. And Bryan Caplan explains that by doing low-skilled work migrants enable more productivity in the native labour force.  [Caplan’s post can be found here. –ed.]
Caplan argues that the native workers don't have to spend time doing daily, menial chores and are free to focus on improving their skills, and working harder. And this increases wages.

For a fun little experiment, I propose that Britain deport 50% of its migrant workers and see what happens to unemployment.  If Alabama is any indication, unemployment rates will decline.

Why?  Because wages, aka prices, are determined by two things, and two things only:  supply and demand.  Increase the former without increasing the latter and wages decline.  Decrease the former without decreasing the latter and wages increase. And so on.

Caplan’s fallacy, and by extension ASI’s, is that there is an ever-increasing demand for highly productive labor.  This may or may not be the case, and I suspect that it’s the former.  Labor laws make it difficult to determine how much demand exists for highly productive labor.  Not only that, economists seem to forget that some employers are rather satisficing in their approach to hiring.  Furthermore, many jobs are part of a sufficiently complex process that attempting to maximize labor productivity in one specific role is likely an exercise in futility.  In essence, Caplan’s theoretical model bears little resemblance to the real world, which is why it is wrong.

Jobs Americans Won’t Do?

It looks like that canard is just plain wrong:

Unemployment rates have fallen in Alabama amid new legal pressure on companies to comply with a popular immigration reform law.
September was the first full month that the reform was in force, and the unemployment rate fell from 9.8 percent in September to 9.3 percent in October, according to a Nov. 18 report from the state government.
The rates fell from 9.9 percent to 9 percent in Etowah County, from 8.8 percent to 8.1 percent in Marshall county, and from 11.6 percent to 10.6 percent in DeKalb county. [Hat tip: Karl Denninger.]

As I’ve written before, illegal labor and minimum wage don’t go together because illegal labor prices legal labor out of the market.  This is very simple economics.  If you increase supply of something without increasing demand, prices will drop.  And, if there is some sort of price floor in that market (think minimum wage), then that which has a price floor will be priced out at the margin.  Therefore, when you decrease supply of something while demand remains stagnant, price will rise and marginal purchases will occur again.  Incidentally, that’s precisely what happened in Alabama, and that’s what should happen in every state.

If there are any governors who might be squeamish about the idea of booting illegals back to the third-world, dirt-ridden country from which they came, let me offer you three benefits, beyond the simple reduction in unemployment rates, for your consideration.

First, government expenditures will decrease because you will no longer have to pay for free-riding illegals.  Education costs, medical care costs, law enforcement costs, etc. will all decline because you won’t have to pay for social programs for illegals, or police them.

Second, tax revenues will increase.  If people earn money, they will have taxable income.  They will also inevitably spend some of it, which means increases in sales tax revenue.  There might even be indirect increases in property tax revenue, since increased employment should increase demand for property at the margins.

Finally, this will head off potential political unrest.  In spite of multi-culturists’ best attempts at convincing people that people from different cultures are all the same, the simple fact of the matter is that people from different cultures are different from one another.  Another simple truth:  People hate people who are different from them (just ask the Jews what the Germans thought of them in the 30’s), and they love to scapegoat people from other countries and cultures.  Sometimes this can be violent.

If, however, you kick illegals out your state, they won’t be around to be scapegoated, which means that you have likely prevented bloodshed.  Also, with increased employment as a result, you have a population that will not be as inclined to view violence against other ethnic groups as necessary.

Frankly, if this is not enough to compel you to implement a policy similar to Alabama’s, then you are simply unfit to be a governor, and will deserve the wrath of the voters during the next election or uprising, whichever comes first.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Martial Ignorance

More from Salon:

As the Pew data show, the younger generation, whose foreign policy views were shaped not by World War II triumphalism but by grinding quagmires like Iraq and Afghanistan, has a far more realistic view of America’s role in the modern world. While that position may shift somewhat over the years, the numbers are striking enough to suggest an impending cultural break from the past. As the younger generation assumes more powerful positions in society and more electoral agency in our democracy, the possibility of such a break gives us reason to believe America can create a new foreign policy paradigm in our lifetime.

Most people’s understanding of the martial arts is quite limited.  Most, one could say, are quite ignorant of the matter.  As such, it should not be surprising that one’s views of the military are contingent upon one’s experience with the social significance of the military during one’s youth.

For example, it’s considerably easier to be a war hawk when you grow up remembering how powerful the United States’ military was, as evidenced by its actions in WWII (or Korea).  One does tend to remember that sort of success, and it is highly likely that said experience predisposes one to try to recreate it.
The problem, though, is that the current situation in the Middle East bears little resemblance to WWII.  In WWII, the United States was warring with highly militaristic European states, wherein massive army fought against massive army.  Lots and lots of resources were needed to win the war because the outcome of the war, fundamentally, was more contingent on having massive amounts of resources than on having superior skills.  Basically, the wealthiest country would be most assured of success if no other reason than it could afford to waste more resources in the course of war.

The situation is different today because the United States’ enemies have clearly recognized that they cannot outspend the United States in an arms race.  (Seriously, just imagine how ludicrous it is to suggest that al Qaeda could match funds with the United States over the past ten years of war.)  Instead, the United States’ enemies have decided to engage in guerilla warfare, which is more effective because it relies on small-scale attacks, which are in turn more expensive to defend than carry out.  The goal, then, is not to kill one’s enemy but to bankrupt it.  And since martial victory is contingent on having resources to waste, bankruptcy is as viable a tactic as a massive invasion.

Anyhow, the problem that currently exists regarding foreign policy is that those who make the policy still think the United States still need a WWII army even though it’s an al Qaeda world.  And it is these people who are out of touch.

Youth For Ron Paul


The laziest way to explain the counterintuitive phenomenon of youth rallying around the GOP’s oldest candidate is to insist that it’s about kids’ silly college fling with unrealistic libertarianism or that it’s about kids’ affinity for drug use — and more specifically, Paul’s support for legislation that would let states legalize marijuana. This degrading mythology ignores the possibility that young people support Paul’s libertarianism for its overall critique of our government’s civil liberties transgressions (transgressions, by the way, now being openly waged against young people), nor does the narrative address the possibility that young people support Paul’s drug stance not because they want to smoke weed, but because they see the War on Drugs as a colossal waste of resources. Instead, Paul is presented as merely a fringe protest candidate, and the young people who support him are depicted as just dumb idealists, hedonistic pot smokers or both.
One problem with this fantastical tale, of course, is that it insults the intelligence and motivation of young voters. But another, even more troubling facet of this tale is how it uses speculative apocrypha and stereotyping about ideology and drugs to suppress concrete social survey data about the far-more-likely foreign policy motivations of young Ron Paul supporters.

As a twenty-something college student who is more than capable of projecting his motivations onto others in my general age range while also possessing a healthy dose of presumptive arrogance, I can say with authority that my age group’s support of Ron Paul is primarily based on his foreign and economic policies.  I don’t particularly care about drug legalization, since I don’t use drugs (or drink or smoke, for that matter), although I do support it on philosophical grounds.  I do, however, care about being sold into slavery, which is what the current Washington policies are basically going to do to me.

See, wars are expensive, particularly when you wage in the manner the federal government has for the last decade or so.  And tax revenue has been insufficient to cover the cost of war and domestic spending simultaneously for the last decade or so.  The solution to the past ten years’ worth of budget deficits has been, surprisingly, federal debt.  My generation is going to be on the hook for this, no matter how you slice it, so we obviously have a very strong incentive to cut spending.  One relatively easy way to do this is to simply bring every last soldier home, close every last military base, minimize or eliminate future foreign entanglements, and cut down the size of the military.

Now, this won’t eliminate future deficits, but it should reduce them considerably.  And Ron Paul has a plan to cut spending even further, possibly eliminating deficits in their entirety.  Since my generation is on the hook for the current level of federal debt, you better believe that we’re going to support a candidate that seriously plans to minimize our obligations.

29 November 2011

Market Distortion in the News Industry


Newspapers have been unable to monetise the internet as an income stream. This is in part because the BBC website offers so much content for free (i.e licence fee-payer funded) that it heavily distorts the market and mitigates against charging for content. The BBC itself has been forced to recognise this and plans to scale back its website by 20% to allow ‘room’ for competition. Local radio stations also suffer hugely from crowding-out by BBC local radio. Similarly, local paper circulation and revenues have been damaged by the council ‘freesheets’ that Eric Pickles was meant to dispose of.

Government-funded news organizations are problematic not only because they have a strong tendency to kill off the competition, but because they often function as a propaganda arm of the government itself.  Americans, of course, have a tendency to complain about how the fourth estate is in the pocket of Big Government, but it is the British for whom this is perhaps literally true.  As such, the British run the (very large) risk of having the BBC be nothing more than a propaganda machine, assuming it isn’t already.

Greed

It’s the reason this happened:

Authorities say a teenage girl was trampled at a western Michigan Walmart store and suffered minor injuries after getting caught in a rush to a sale in the electronics department.
The Muskegon Chronicle reports the girl was taken to a local hospital Friday morning. Fruitport Township Supervisor Brian Werschem says the girl was knocked down and stepped on several times in the store near Muskegon.

The difference between prole shoppers on black Friday and the banksters is that one group is significantly better than the other at being greedy.

 Simply put, most, if not all humans are motivated by greed.  Some may be motivated by the self-indulgent pursuit of vice, others may be motivated by enlightened self-interest, and some may be straightforwardly interested in certain things.  Whatever the case may be, all humans are greedy.  All humans want things for themselves.  There are, of course, varying levels of self-restraint attached to the pursuit of those things one desires, but fundamentally all people act in pursuit of those things they desire.

As such, it is ludicrous to simply blame greed as the root of all of society’s ills.  Humans have always been greedy, but not all societies have been unceasingly dysfunctional.  Why?  Because there have been occasions when social rulers have found a way to mitigate the negative effects of greed.  This usually comes by fostering a system of voluntary cooperation, generally exemplified in the free market.

Therefore, social ills—such as people being trampled at a shopping center, or market collapses—should not be blamed on simple greed.  Greed can be, and has been effectively channeled into productivity. If, therefore, that productivity lapses into destruction, the blame should be placed not on those who are greedy, but on those who make the incentives.

A Confederacy of Thieves

In case there was any doubt, the federal government and the major banks are nothing more than two sides of the same coin:

The Federal Reserve and the big banks fought for more than two years to keep details of the largest bailout in U.S. history a secret. Now, the rest of the world can see what it was missing.
The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue. [Hat tip.]

Incidentally, the total cost of bailing out the banks ended up being north of $7 trillion.

The quite simple fact of the matter is that the federal government is the banksters’ bitch.  The banksters own the government, completely and wholly, and the federal government acts primarily on its behalf.  The Federal Reserve Bank is simply the mechanism by which the federal government transfers money and power to the banks.  It was not, contrary to claims of its founders, ever intended to be an independent body that combined the best of banker’s prudence and knowledge with the power and scope of the government.  Rather, the central bank, like all other central banks before it, existed to enrich the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

Democracy does not exist in the United States, nor does any form of representative government.  The real power is not held by the senate, the house, the president, or even the Supreme Court.  The real power is held by the central bank, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Banksters, Inc.  The federal government is nothing more than a puppet show to keep the masses satisfied that “something is being done” about the massive fraud and theft that has occurred over the last couple of decades.  In reality, the only thing that is being done is more looting, courtesy of the major banks, via The Fed.

Thus, the Austrian economists’ observations of central banks hold true:  The Fed, like all other central banks, is a pernicious creation that is fundamentally anti-capitalistic and anti-freedom.  It is evil personified.  It cannot create, only transfer and destroy.  It must end now.

28 November 2011

Markedly Stupid

Chick-Fil-A, not content with simply making tasty chicken sandwiches, has decided to sue someone “infringing” on their intellectual property:

A folk artist expanding his home business built around the words "eat more kale" says he's ready to fight root-to-feather to protect his phrase from what he sees as an assault by Chick-fil-A, which holds the trademark to the phrase "eat mor chikin."
Bo Muller-Moore uses a hand silkscreen machine to apply his phrase, which he calls an expression of the benefits of local agriculture, on T- and sweat shirts. But his effort to protect his business from copycats drew the attention of Chick-fil-A, the Atlanta-based fast-food chain that uses ads with images of cows that can't spell displaying their own phrase on message boards.
In a letter, a lawyer for Chick-fil-A said Muller-Moore's effort to expand the use of his "eat more kale" message "is likely to cause confusion of the public and dilutes the distinctiveness of Chick-fil-A's intellectual property and diminishes its value."

This case is patently absurd.  To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I am sure that the average American could learn in time to distinguish between chicken sandwiches and kale.  The “eat more kale” slogan is not going to diminish the “eat mor chikin” slogan for the very simple reason that Chick-Fil-A is not, nor has ever been, known for selling kale.  It’s known for selling chicken sandwiches.  It’s not Kale-Fil-A, after all.

Additionally, the phrase “eat more…” is hardly original to Chick-Fil-A.  Mothers have for decades urged their children to eat more of food that is generally considered good, like vegetables.  You can do a Google search for “eat more [fill in the blank with your choice of food] and you will dozens of websites dedicated that very exhortation, regardless of what food you choose.  “Eat more…” is hardly a revolutionary slogan, and is not deserving of trademark protection in the first place.

And yet:
Chick-fil-A, which trails only Louisville, Ky.-based KFC in market share in the chicken restaurant chain industry, has a long history of guarding its trademark, and the letter listed 30 examples of attempts by others to co-op the use of the "eat more" phrase that were withdrawn after Chick-fil-A protested. The Oct. 4 letter ordered Muller-Moore to stop using the phrase and turn over his website, eatmorekale.com, to Chick-fil-A.

Recall that federal IP law is based on a utilitarian view of IP. The whole purpose of IP laws is to promote economic growth.  Therefore, it behooves the judge of this case to ask whether shutting down one man’s business is really beneficial to the economy.  More specifically, the judge should determine whether shutting Chick-Fil-A will profit from shutting down Eat More Kale, and whether the additional profits will outweigh the costs.  Assuming the judge wants to keep the spirit of the law, that is.

Don’t Trust, Verify

The Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal offers insight as to why it is not very wise to trust women, particularly those who are poor, who make accusations against rich and famous men:

Disgraced ex-IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn's lawyer on Friday suggested that a political plot could have been behind sex assault charges that brought down his client.
Washington attorney William Taylor referred to an upcoming investigative article in the New York Review of Books as evidence that the then powerful French politician may have been derailed, just as he was preparing to run against French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
"We cannot now exclude the likelihood that Dominique Strauss-Kahn was the target of a deliberate effort to destroy him as a political force," Taylor said in a statement.

I’ve learned that it’s best to assume that anything any given woman says is either irrelevant or false.*  It saves a lot of heartache and confusion later on.

In DSK’s case, it’s ludicrous how so many people rushed to condemn him in spite of the facts that a) the accuser would have a strong incentive to lie,** b) the accuser is a known liar, c) DSK made for a good political target, and d) there were no direct eyewitnesses to the event.  Granted, it helped that DSK made for such an easy target, in that he would be easy to hate, due primarily to being a bankster at the IMF during a time of global financial crises.  Nonetheless, that anyone would even give Nafissatou Diallo the time of day is simply appalling.

If DSK is eventually proven innocent in this whole matter, this will simply reinforce how problematic the dual forces of feminism and social conservatism have become in shaping the media narratives that generally accompany accusations of not only rape, but sexual misconduct in general.  Feminists, of course, use sex as a political weapon, so it’s easy to understand why they always rush to vilify men when given the opportunity.  (In fairness, there are some specific men, Like Arohn Kee who deserve vilification.)  Social conservatives, on the other hand, seem hell-bent on viewing women as the pure, or worse yet, holy sex, and therefore it is imperative that women be regarded as bastions of morality.

Of course, the simple fact of the matter is that most women, like most men, are quite capable of committing evil.  (Feminists gloss over this fact for political reasons; social conservatives for theological reasons)  Men will lie, cheat, steal, and murder their way to power, fame, and wealth, if given the opportunity.  So will women.  As such, it is prudent to trust neither sex wholeheartedly, or at all.  Especially women.

*For those who are obtuse:  This is a general statement.  Although it should generally go without saying, not all women are shallow and/or liars.  In fact, I know a few women who are generally honest and wise.  As such, I do not dismiss them out of hand whenever they say something to me.  It should be noted, though, that the women I trust have earned that trust.  Some random girl on the telly accusing a powerful guy of raping her is not a girl who has earned my trust.

** She was poor, and thus susceptible to bribery.

27 November 2011

Paragraphs to Ponder


The mainstream media was declaring continually "OWS has no message". Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online "What is it you want?" answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.
The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.
No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.
When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.
For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, "we are going after these scruffy hippies". Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women's wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).
In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.
But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the "scandal" of presidential contender Newt Gingrich's having been paid $1.8m for a few hours' "consulting" to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies' profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum. Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.
Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists' privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can't suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.
So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.

I think this should dispel any doubts that big business—especially banking—is joined at the hip with Washington, D.C.  The one thing that OWS has gotten right is that there is an unhealthy amount of money in federal politics,* mostly due to how intertwined big business has become with big government.  The movement’s proposed solutions may range from stupid to counterproductive, but at least they’ve identified the problem.  And for that, they must be stopped.

* Thought experiment:  Imagine that the federal government acted within its constitutional limits.  Would the stakes be high enough for businesses to start and join CPACs and spend billions of dollars annually lobbying the government?

Where the Trouble Starts

R. Joseph Hoffman, on knowledge:
Strictly speaking we do not need to know as much as we already do to survive and there is no guarantee that knowing more will guarantee our survival.  So it’s wondrous indeed that we care enough to put knowledge at the top of the human agenda.
History seems to cycle between humanism and theism.  The two beliefs always wax then wane, at the expense of the other, and appear to account for what I call the cycles of history.

The cycles of history can be described thusly:  Society is highly moral and entrepreneurial, leading to an increase in said society’s wealth, population, and standard of living.  Society is able to increase its collective intellectual capital, making it more knowledgeable, and, as it masters the environment, society is able to more or less secure its survival.  Having done this, society turns to looking after ensuring its comfort, which requires the accumulation of ever more knowledge.

As it amasses this knowledge, society begins to suffer from the pretense of knowledge, which generally leads to a rejection of morality.  This rejection of morality leads to wide-scale decline in the number of human beings, directly and indirectly.  Since collective knowledge is dependent on having a large population (cf. Neurodiversity), and since wealth is highly dependent on having large amounts of collective knowledge, the resulting population decline usually correlates with declining wealth.

Over time, the pretense of knowledge is done away with because it becomes obvious by the decreased standard of living that no one really knows much of anything.  With the god of knowledge being viewed as impotent, society turns again to the old morality, which leads to an increase in morality and entrepreneurship, and so on it goes.

Per Hoffman, I would be inclined to argue that society’s continuous push for more knowledge is troubling because there isn’t much that we need to know.  Pretty much everyone’s needs have been taken care of, save for those who are intractably unwilling or otherwise unable to take care of their own needs.  As such, the continued push for more knowledge is likely going to exacerbate the already visible pretense of knowledge that has affected society at large.

This pretense of knowledge usually encourages social engineering, which usually requires the deaths of millions (cf. Hitler) or billions (cf. Mao) of people.  This decline in population is quite impoverishing, and will likely lead to social decay as society, being unable to maintain its expected standard of living, plunges into unrest and discord, which usually leads to greater declines in population, leading to further declines in the standard of living.  This, I believe, is what leis in store for the western world.

Incidentally, these cycles of history can be roughly seen with the Children of Israel in the Old Testament.  As they became materially wealthy, they became spiritually poor.  Once they became spiritually bankrupt, they then became materially poor (usually, they became slaves to foreign nations).  Once they escaped their spiritual poverty, they were able to also escape their material poverty.  At any rate, it’s intriguing to see how spiritual poverty correlates to material poverty, and how there is a seemingly constant cycle from spiritual poverty to spiritual wealth that corresponds with a cycle from material poverty to material wealth.

Denninger Still Misses The Point


Those who argue for "End The Fed" have yet to reconcile the fundamental nature of the problem: It is not The Fed that is the issue, it is the presence of so-called "laws" with no penalty for non-compliance that is where the problem resides.
In point of fact The Fed's actual mandate for stable prices is exactly correct.  Followed to the letter we have no debasement of the currency over time, no inflation, and you can save a mere 7% of your income -- if your Social Security taxes were then to be merely returned to you in retirement along with that 7% you would have an effective 20% saving rate for retirement and would need exactly nothing beyond that for a reasonable retirement lifestyle similar to that of your working years!  If you saved nothingyou would still have a 13% saving rate and we would meet the mandate of the "social safety net" allegedly to be provided.
If the "law" had actually been followed there would have been no ramp in credit compared to GDP because it could not have been funded.  There would have been no Internet bubble, no Housing bubble and no crash.  House prices never would have gone materially over 2x incomes and likely would be between 1x and 2x.  Medical and college costs would be what they were then.  Wages would have risen with productivity but not beyond, and you would have kept that standard of living increase instead of having it stolen by the vipers of Wall Street and the Capitol.  Jobs would not have been offshored and there would have been no incentive to hire illegal aliens and displace American workers.
So why didn't it happen this way?  That's easy: There is no "or else" in these so-called "laws."
Ending The Fed will do exactly nothing without fixing this problem.  Competing currencies will do nothing without fixing this problem.  In point of fact essentially every current economic issue we faceis found, at some point, in this singular premise.
Those who continue to beat on the "End The Fed", "Competing Currencies" and other similar-sounding drums are either missing the mark because they fail to analyze the problem or worse, they're shilling for those who are looking for yet another way to rob you blind when the current scam, which is about to collapse, comes down around their ears. [Emphasis in the original. –ed.]

Yes, technically, the problem is that the Fed is ignoring the plain black-letter law that is supposed to govern it, and no one is doing a single thing about it.  Yes, many of the problems will go away if the law is simply enforced.

However, those calling for the abolition of The Fed are still correct in doing so because they recognize, quite clearly, that The Fed cannot violate the law if The Fed does not exist.  Is reform possible?  Certainly.  Will it happen?  Maybe.

Even if reform happens perfectly, there is no guarantee that The Fed will still operate within the bounds of the law indefinitely.  There’s nothing preventing The Fed from regressing, save for one thing:  abolition.  Ending The Fed and preventing its resurrection will effectively prevent The Fed from making this sort of mess ever again.

Again, Karl Denninger is correct in noting that the laws, as they currently exist, must be enforced.  He’s also correct in noting that prior wrongs must be redressed by the government, through courts system.  There are laws on the books, they should be enforced, and the banksters should go to jail for the massive fraud they’ve committed.

However, Denninger is crazy to think that all that’s needed to keep The Fed from going bad is a little bit of law enforcement.  The history of central banks is quite clear:  they exist solely to enable the government to steal from the common people and line the pockets of their rich friends.  That’s what central banks do, and no amount of reform and law enforcement will change this fact.  And that’s why it’s time to end The Fed.

Whatever Happened to On-The-Job Training?


It is a widespread problem: the article reports survey results showing that 83 percent of manufacturers reported a moderate or severe shortage of skilled production workers. The shortages include such categories as machinists. Wages for skilled labor are rising, in some cases at double-digit rates.
Unskilled labor is complementary to skilled labor. If skilled labor cannot be hired, there is no demand for unskilled labor. Some firms report that the inability to hire needed workers is their greatest impediment to growing their business.
Malinvestment in labor markets is the counterpart to malinvestment in capital goods. Higher education is a bubble, and colleges churn out graduates with degrees that have no application in the workplace. Student borrowing to acquire such degrees is malinvestment in the same way that constructions loans to build homes in Las Vegas was malinvestment.

On-the-job training is mostly inevitable in virtually every business because employers do tend to want some core processes done a certain way.  Yet, many employers often expect job applicants to be as smart as the person they’re replacing.  This seems rather foolish, as careerists generally amass a large amount of very specific information related to their specific jobs.  When they retire, they’re going to take their very specific knowledge base, and no other applicant is going to be able to replicate that on day one.

Now, the current college bubble does tend to distort the labor market since those possessing college are nominally qualified for certain careers and jobs.  Unfortunately, the college bubble has led to the very unfortunate side effect of dumbing down curricula, and thus graduates, making it more difficult for employers to tell who is actually qualified for certain jobs.

But, beyond that, a highly educated labor market is going to have certain (inflated) requirements for the jobs they wish to accept.  For example, college-educated labor market participants are not going to be particularly likely to work as unskilled labor, nor are they ass willing to work for low wages in exchange for job experience and knowledge. (And who can blame them?  They’ve been told their whole lives that they should go to college so they can have high-paying high-status jobs.)

As such, the labor market is experiencing failure right now, due mostly to government intervention.  The continual and sizable subsidies of college education has for many years encouraged potential labor candidates to avoid learning trades that, though low status, are somewhat easily mastered and decent-paying.  The companies that are interested in hiring these sorts of people are finding quite a shortage at this point in time, causing a relative spike in wages to incentivize people to take these jobs.

One thing that companies needing low-status skilled workers could do is recruit directly from high schools by offering a job, complete with on-the-job training, for those who have an inclination for certain skills as well as the ability to learn.  The colleges have failed at producing a workforce adequate to meeting the needs of the current labor market.  It is therefore time for businesses to bypass them altogether.

25 November 2011

Paragraphs to Ponder

From First Things, on Anarcho-Monarchism:

One can at least sympathize, then, with Tolkien’s view of monarchy. There is, after all, something degrading about deferring to a politician, or going through the silly charade of pretending that “public service” is a particularly honorable occupation, or being forced to choose which band of brigands, mediocrities, wealthy lawyers, and (God spare us) idealists will control our destinies for the next few years.
But a king—a king without any real power, that is—is such an ennoblingly arbitrary, such a tender and organically human institution. It is easy to give our loyalty to someone whose only claim on it is an accident of heredity, because then it is a free gesture of spontaneous affection that requires no element of self-deception, and that does not involve the humiliation of having to ask to be ruled.
The ideal king would be rather like the king in chess: the most useless piece on the board, which occupies its square simply to prevent any other piece from doing so, but which is somehow still the whole game. There is something positively sacramental about its strategic impotence. And there is something blessedly gallant about giving one’s wholehearted allegiance to some poor inbred ditherer whose chief passions are Dresden china and the history of fly-fishing, but who nonetheless, quite ex opere operato, is also the bearer of the dignity of the nation, the anointed embodiment of the genius gentis—a kind of totem or, better, mascot.
As for Tolkien’s anarchism, I think it obvious he meant it in the classical sense: not the total absence of law and governance, but the absence of a political archetes—that is, of the leadership principle as such. In Tolkien’s case, it might be better to speak of a “radical subsidiarism,” in which authority and responsibility for the public weal are so devolved to the local and communal that every significant public decision becomes a matter of common interest and common consent. Of course, such a social vision could be dismissed as mere agrarian and village primitivism; but that would not have bothered Tolkien, what with his proto-ecologist view of modernity.
Now, obviously, none of this anarcho-monarchism is an actual program for political action or reform. But that is not the point. We all have to make our way as best we can across the burning desert floor of history, and those who do so with the aid of “political philosophies” come in two varieties.

The rest of the post is worth reading and chewing over as well.

For what it’s worth, I would wholly support this form of monarchy, since I have an intense dislike for democracy and believe that limited monarchies offer the best combination of liberty and security for one man is generally more limited in his imagination for evil than, say, 536 of them.  Not only that, it is far more convenient to kill off an evil king than an evil senate, which makes revolutions considerably easier.

Welfare

I’ve been meaning to comment on this for a very long while:

 Many people think life without the welfare state would be chaos. In their minds, nobody would help support the less fortunate, and there would be riots in the streets. Little do they know that people found innovative ways of supporting each other before the welfare state existed. One of the most important of these ways was the mutual-aid society.
Mutual aid, also known as fraternalism, refers to social organizations that gathered dues and paid benefits to members facing hardship. According to David Beito in From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State, there was a "great stigma" attached to accepting government aid or private charity during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Mutual aid, on the other hand, did not carry the same stigma. It was based on reciprocity: today's mutual-aid recipient could be tomorrow's donor, and vice versa.

One critique of libertarianism is that it has no regard for poor people, as if only the government is capable of showing concern for poor people.  Of course, governments have historically ignored the plight of the poor, and thus it is an historical anomaly in the first place that the government even offers any aid to poor people.

That aside, the historical norm, at least in America, is that poor people were generally helped by mutual aid societies.  Or, stated another way, welfare was primarily a market function.  In keeping with this, the market served admirably in this capacity, encouraging poor people to engage in thrift and to comply with certain social norms.  In many ways, then, mutual aid societies are superior to their state-run alternatives because they encourage positive behaviors instead of subsidizing counterproductive behaviors.

The current system does indeed leave much to be desired.  It does not go far enough in tying aid to productive behaviors.  Even with the recent reforms, there are still some who successfully game the system.  Welfare workers are understaffed, preventing them from policing recipients as they should.  Recipients, then, are able to get money without having to work or in some way improve their life.  The government is, in many ways, impotent to address this problem because there are many interest groups who would charge the government with targeting minorities by requiring that they change their culture.  In essence, the government is hamstrung by multiculturalism.

As such, the current form of welfare is not only expensive, but it is considerably inferior to its free market alternative because it cannot offer near the same amount of accountability that market-based forms of welfare do.  Thus, the libertarian doctrine that welfare should not be a state activity is actually quite reasonable for the free market has actually done a better job at charity than the government has.

23 November 2011

The Case for Homeschooling

For one, homeschooling has far fewer pedophiles in administrative positions:

A former elementary school principal in Iowa was sentenced to 30 years in prison Monday after pleading guilty to one count of producing child pornography involving students at his school, officials said.
Robert Burke, 43, admitted that as head of the school in Dubuque, Iowa, he had "used hidden cameras in the school bathroom to secretly capture videos depicting the genitals of male students," said the US Justice Department
Burke also admitted to saving the videos on computer hard drives at his home.
He was uncovered after an FBI agent in Washington downloaded eight images of child pornography that were traced back to Burke's residence, officials said in a statement.
Burke insisted he "not touched any children in a sexual manner," and US officials said they had no evidence that contradicted that claim.

The modern education system is a joke.  It’s simply a way to turn children into mindless robots, unquestioningly supportive of the state.  Kids can barely read, can’t write, and can’t do math.  They’ve simply been fed myths their entire lives.

Furthermore, there are some seriously messed-up individuals in charge of them.  While Robert Burke isn’t quite in the same league as Gary Sandusky, he’s not too far from it either.  And, if Vox is to be believed, Burke isn’t even the worst public schools have to offer.

I think that it’s safe to say that your children will be both smarter and safer at home.

The Cost and Benefits of Tax Complexity


General Electric, one of the largest corporations in America, filed a whopping 57,000-page federal tax return earlier this year but didn't pay taxes on $14 billion in profits. The return, which was filed electronically, would have been 19 feet high if printed out and stacked.  [Recall that GE claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion for this effort.  -Ed.]

57,000 pages is a lot of ink and effort to turn taxes from a cost to a benefit.  But it should now be easy to see who could profit from a complex tax code.

Large corporations should generally support a complex tax code because their taxes are prepared on a large enough scale to make it profitable to filling out complex returns.  The same is not generally true of smaller businesses, so tax code complexity actually serves as a competitive advantage for larger firms because they will generally find it cost-effective to shell out millions of dollars to have their tax returns prepared.

Tax lawyers should also support tax code complexity because it means job security.  Forcing businesses to wade through page after page of highly complex and remarkably boring legalese should convince them they want to hire a lawyer to handle this for them.  Also, factor in the additional time compliance costs, and the case for hiring tax lawyers makes sense.

The most impressive part of this story is how much GE paid to avoid paying taxes.  Hiring tax firms is never free, so GE shelled out a pretty penny to change their status from paying a check to receiving it.  IT was undoubtedly worth it to do so, but this imposes significant costs on society and the economy.

In the first place, society suffers because it ends up paying GE.  Instead of GE paying for its government benefits, it simply robs taxpayers and keeps their money for itself.

In the second place, GE’s compliance with tax law imposes economic costs, primarily in the form of opportunity costs.  Instead of hiring people to actually produce something, GE has instead employed tax lawyers whose only job is to avoid paying taxes.  The tax compliance costs have made the economy poorer because there are now fewer people being productive since it is now more profitable to outwit government statutes instead of making things people find useful.

In fact, tax compliance is a major drain on the economy, and is one of the oft-overlooked costs of taxes.  People often get caught up on tax rates, but tax complexity imposes its own costs as well, and should be part of the tax debate.  Thus, the fact that GE not only had a corporate tax benefit of over $3 billion but did so with a 57,000 page return should suggest that something is terribly wrong with the current tax system.

Pizza and Gay Marriage

I believe this story should adequately demonstrate why I don’t care about gay marriage as a political issue:

In case you were wondering where all of the healthy vegetables were on your child’s lunch menu at school, they’re in the pizza they’ve been eating everyday. Congress recently declared that Pizza constitutes a vegetable requirement even though it only contains an average of two tablespoons of tomato sauce.

Anyone with a functioning brain knows that pizza is most definitely not a vegetable.  The government can proclaim it as such.  The USDA can classify it as such.  But the simple fact remains that pizza is not a vegetable, as much as bureaucrats in Washington may desire it to be so.

In the same manner, two men can never be married, no matter how much the government (or any one person) may wish for them to be.  Two women cannot be married, even if the government prints a piece of paper saying they are.  All the government proclamations, laws, regulations, classifications, and legislation in the world cannot and will not change the very simple fact that two people of the same sex cannot ever be married to one another.

Government fiat is incapable of making pizza a vegetable and it is also wholly incapable of joining two people of the same sex in marriage, which is why I don’t get bent out of shape about the matter.  Quire simply, government words cannot change reality.

22 November 2011

A Very Good Question

Austin Hill finally asks a coherent question:

As a writer and talk show host I covered the last presidential election cycle in detail.  Hosting daily talk radio in Washington, DC back in 2008, it would become apparent when I was speaking with a faith-based or socially conservative caller to my show because such callers would  frequently express concerns over some specific issues with the candidates. “I don’t think McCain is really pro-life” was a common concern.  And “Obama says he opposes gay marriage, but I don’t believe him” was another.
To these types of statements about abortion and the definition of marriage, I would often respond with questions about economics, just to see where the discussion would go. “But what do you think of Senator Obama’s plan to raise taxes on rich people and to cut taxes for others – is that fair?” I might ask. Or “Do you think John McCain is right about the stock market crash when he says that it’s all because of ‘greed on Wall Street?’”
Generally speaking, my economic questions would bring these brief talk show conversations to an abrupt end.  “I only care about the moral issues” was the response I’d usually hear – as though economic issues are morally neutral or of no moral significance at all – and then the caller would say goodbye.

I have known some conservatives who only vote based upon those matters they consider to be “moral issues” (which usually means abortion or gay marriage, in my experience).  What I’ve never understood was how economic matters were never considered to be “moral issues.”   The love of money has long been accepted as a root of all kinds of evil, so it’s not like evil can’t occur in economic settings.

In fact, the recent market collapse and market meltdown can reasonably be considered a moral issue, since the housing bubble was caused, in part, by rampant fraud among major banks.  The response to the market collapse can also be considered a moral issue since the government took, by force, money from hardworking citizens and handed it over to crooks who had built an empire of lies.  How are these matters not moral issues?

Yet, there will undoubtedly be some who feel compelled to make gay marriage and abortion the decisive factors in their voting in spite of the facts that a) gays cannot do more damage to the institution of marriage than feminists already have  b) the abortion battle has already been lost and was always in one sense unwinnable.*  To these people I ask:  how much more evil has to occur in a market setting before economics become a moral issue?

* Even if Roe v. Wade were reversed for being unconstitutional (which it is), this does not mean that all states would turn around and ban abortion.  Furthermore, even if abortion were banned, there would still be a black market for it.  This should be construed to mean that the battle should not be fought, only that those fighting it need to know their limits.

Who Controls the Government?

In theory, it is the people who control the federal government of the United States.  However, the reality is that the federal government serves at the beck and call of the following institutions:

Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, State Street, Wells Fargo.

Careful readers will note that the bulk of these banks received a sizeable amount of federal money over the last five years, all of whom are considered “too big to fail.”  Of course, failure is possible at any organization, size notwithstanding.  Yet, the myth of being too big to fail still exists because politicians find it necessary to justify their political decisions with lofty rhetoric, scare tactics, and imaginary economics.  This, in turn, has led to the perfect political cover for taking wealth from hard-working Americans and passing it on to the parasites in control of large financial institutions who have in turn spread their increased wealth to the politicians they have purchased years ago.  It should be clear from this report that the federal government is looking to justify its symbiotic relationship with the banks, even though it is clearly deleterious to the citizens to whom it nominally represents.

20 November 2011

Equality

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  —Thomas Jefferson, 1776, Declaration of Independence.

Equality, as a concept, must be defined by comparison, and arbitrarily so.  It is not absolute, but relative, and thus inherently axiomatic.  The metrics of equality must be agreed upon ex ante in order to determine if equality exists.

The comparative nature of equality means that it is inherently relative, and therefore the nature of equality is perfectly subjective.  A simple example will suffice to demonstrate what is meant here:  Imagine there are two men, Bill and Thomas, who have the same height but different weight.  Are they equal?  To answer that question first requires that one know the metric for equality:  is it height, weight, or some other dimension of being?  If it is the metric for determining equality is the former, then they are equal; if it is the latter, they are not.  Also note that equality is determined solely by how they relate to one another.  Thus, equality is subjective and relative.

Now, working with the Jefferson’s definition, as espoused in the Declaration of Independence, it is obvious that the form of equality presumably favored by the Founding Fathers is most certainly materialist in nature.  Note the citation for the existence of equality:  it is “self-evident.”  The Founding Fathers were astute me.  Even they had to know, simply by showing up to their conventions, that men were most assuredly unequal in a plethora of ways:  some were taller, some were smarter, some were handsomer, some were wealthier, some owned more land, etc.

More precisely, material equality simply does not, and never has existed.  Moreover, the category of material equality is quite broad.  It covers equality of opportunity—all people are born into different environments; equality of outcome—people desire different things and have different aptitudes; physical equality—people have differing heights, weights, hair color, skin color, eye color, muscle coordination, etc.; and all other dimensions of equality that exist in the material realm.

Therefore, if the case for equality were self-evident, then it is obvious, and the conclusion inescapable, that Jefferson was not referring to any material form of equality.  And if Jefferson is not speaking of any material form of equality, then he must be talking of some non-material form of equality.

But what sort of non-material quality exists?  Spiritual or, if you prefer a somewhat more secularized term, supernatural equality is the equality to which Jefferson refers.  Pat Buchanan explains:

When Thomas Jefferson wrote that memorable line – "All men are created equal" – he was not talking about an equality of rewards, but of rights with which men are endowed by their Creator. He was talking about an ideal.

More specifically, Jefferson was talking about a spiritual ideal.  It was the Creator who endowed men with their certain inalienable rights, and those rights are considered inviolate, an extension of man’s spiritual nature.

Jefferson reasoned thusly because, like many of the Founding Fathers, he was quite familiar with William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England.  Blackstone began his commentary by explaining how rights came to be, arguing that they were naturally ingrained in man by God, and therefore deserving of protection from the heavy hand of the government.  All men, Blackstone argued, were imbued with these rights, and in equal measure.

The main implications of this argument are that no man could claim to be spiritually superior to another and therefore no man could ever have reason to knowingly violate the rights of another.  It should be noted that rights were a thing to be kept in balance.  One’s right to speak freely, and even offensively, did not mean that one could force someone else to listen.  One’s right to be secure in one’s property did not mean that one could hunt and kill anyone he perceived to be a potential threat to his property.  Rights were to be kept in balance, for all men possessed them equally.

This, then, is a rather peculiar form of equality, and quite limited in its application.  If all men are equally endowed with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (or, if you prefer the Lockean phrasing, property), then the law that arises from this fundamental assumption will be inherently negative.  The law will not focus on what should be, for spiritual equality can never be measured in material terms, but rather what should not be.  Quite simply, if men are created equal, then all men have the equal right to enjoy their own property; no one should ever deprive them of this.

The constitution bears out this negative view of rights.  The oft-quoted first amendment begins by saying “congress shall make no law…”  Essentially, congress is forbidden from infringing upon the rights of citizens.  Men are created equal, and therefore no one has a claim to any other person’s property.

Like material equality, spiritual equality is an unrealized ideal.  The government founded by Jefferson and his peers has never lived up to the ideals of the rights its constitution espouses.  The government, by eminent domain, has trampled upon the property rights of citizens.  The same is true of taxes:  if all men are equal, then no man can coercively demand the property of another, yet every April 15th, the government takes income from its citizens, and threatens them with jail for noncompliance.  The list goes on and on.

And yet, in spite of the failure, the ideal of spiritual equality has been generally positive.  The ideal of spiritual equality demands that government power be limited, else citizens will use the government to steal from their neighbors.  And the ideal of spiritual equality demands that violations of property rights be addressed.  Indeed, the concept of spiritual equality has led to many good results.

This should not be surprising, for the concept of spiritual equality is, fundamentally, predicated on a belief in a Creator-God.  More specifically, this particular form of equality is rooted in a belief in the Judeo-Christian God, as described in the Bible.  Really, spiritual equality is a religious belief.

For whatever flaws religion may have, particularly those religions based on the Bible, it has led to the concept of spiritual equality, and the attempted practice of this ideal has yielded quite positive results.  Sadly, though, this inherently religious view of equality, and the negative rights that derive therefrom, have been cast aside for the considerably more secular ideal of material equality and the positive rights that derive therefrom.

Positive rights demand slavery.  If people are unequal, then something must be done to equalize them.  If two people are of different heights, the only way to make them equal is to somehow adjust their heights or compensate the one considered less-fortunate in some other related metric.  The attempt at equalizing implies that those doing the equalizing have the authority to force someone to do something, in the name of equality of course.  And if one must submit to someone else, then one is no different from a slave.

The conclusion, then, is clear:  those who reject the spiritual for the material are those who reject liberty for slavery.  If all men are supposed to be spiritually equal, then slavery is forbidden.  If all men are supposed to be materially equal, then slavery is inevitable.  The current course, wherein equality is considered primarily in material terms, is one that will inevitably end in slavery and misery.

19 November 2011

Goodbye, First Amendment!


Remember when people were freaking out over the Patriot Act and Homeland Security and all this other conveniently ready-to-go post-9/11 police state stuff, because it would obviously be just a matter of time before the whole apparatus was turned against non-Muslim Americans when they started getting complain-y about the social injustice and economic injustice and income inequality and endless recession and permanent unemployment? That day is now, and has been for some time. But it’s also now confirmed that it’s now, as some Justice Department official screwed up and admitted that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated the riot-cop raids on a dozen major #Occupy Wall Street demonstration camps nationwide yesterday and today. (Oh, and tonight, too: Seattle is being busted up by the riot cops right now, so be careful out there.)

I’m not sure how a DHS crackdown on OWS occupiers is in any way considered constitutional.  The language of the first amendment is unambiguously clear:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.  [Emphasis added.]

Couple this with article one, which clearly lays out how laws are enacted, and the reasonable conclusion is that the federal government has no business cracking down on any peaceable OWS event (also note that some portion of the current violence has been instigated by government thugs).

The people have a right to petition their government for a redress of grievances.  Period.  They do not need permits (read: permission from the government) to exercise their rights.  They do not need to pay usage fees (read: taxes).  All they need to do is peaceably assemble on public land, and air their grievances before their (nominally) representative government.

This government, fundamentally, must listen to their citizens.  The united states is a republic, wherein the government represents the people.  When the government fails to listen to the citizens it portends to represent, the people have a fundamental right to demand that their government listen to them.

It is a travesty that the federal government has not only ignored OWSers but also shut them down in direct violation of the constitution!  There is something rotten in the united states, and opposing the OWS movement simply because they smell weird and have a weird way of modeling democracy is a recipe to breed totalitarianism.  Supporting the violation of constitutional rights simply because you dislike those whose rights are being violated is very much a slippery slope.  Once the government silences them by violating their rights, what’s to say they won’t do the same to you?

Sure, OWSers haven’t identified the entire problem facing the united states, and most of their proposed solutions are asinine.  However, they are fundamentally correct in noting that the giant banks that are headquartered on Wall Street deserve a significant amount of blame for some of the problems facing America.  And, for that simple reason, their voices should be heard, not silenced.

The Stop Online Piracy Act

I can’t believe I’ve missed this:

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is the counterpart to the Senate's pending PROTECT IP Act, which already had rights groups, academics and many online businesses up in arms. But the House bill goes much further.
The goal of both bills is to give copyright holders stronger legal tools to go after sites that host unauthorized or counterfeit music, movies, software or goods, in particular "rogue" overseas sites that largely lie beyond the reach of U.S. law. It's a worthy goal, but not one worth sacrificing a critical enabler of online innovation, job creation and expression.

I’m not sure how to make this any clearer:  IP law is nothing more than yet another way for the federal government to line the pockets of big business at the expense of people’s freedoms.  This legislation completely drops the pretense of IP’s original intent, and simply places onerous restrictions on consumers for the sole purpose of lining the pockets of wealthy corporations as evidenced by their support.