07.17.11

I shouldn’t be my brother’s keeper

Posted in Liberty at 17:30 by RjZ

Perhaps you’ve already heard about the New York man who died from a motorcycle crash, during a protest ride. The protest group he was riding with maintains “Mandatory helmet laws do nothing to prevent accidents, the decision on when to wear a helmet while operating a motorcycle should remain with each responsible adult rider.”

How do we pass laws requiring helmets in some places and not in others? Frankly, I agree with the protesters that helmets don’t reduce accidents and they have a right not to wear one. What happens, however, when a driver has an accident with a helmet free motorcyclist who suffers dramatically worse injury or even death thanks to his lack of protection? Who should be at fault? If the uninsured motorcyclist suffers avoidable brain trauma, who should pay for his hospital bills? Mandatory helmet laws may be wrong in attempting to require riders to be safe, but riders cannot also demand that others be responsible for their choices.

Why aren’t the laws like that already? I suspect this isn’t a big enough issue for most folks who have never had an accident with a cyclist and don’t really plan on it, or think about it much. On the other hand, motorcyclists are rather likely to be activists for their freedom to ride without a helmet and thus quite responsive to keeping such a law off the books. They think about the issue each time they get on their bike. It’s about the incentives.

How, then, are there laws in some states that require helmets at all? Here I think that it was an easier sell to propose a law ‘for the public good.’ Many motorcyclists are opposed to such a law, but it’s much easier to convince the rest of a community that a law protecting people is necessary, compared to one which wouldn’t save any lives but only keep us from paying for those who refuse to protect their own.

The biblical invocation that we are not to act like Cain (Genesis 4:9) but must be our brother’s keeper may be an historic motivation for this attitude. For many, the religious inducement for this moral idea is more than sufficient justification for laws that safeguard the community at large. The problem with such laws is that one person’s idea of protection is another’s infringement of rights. What if, for example, the religious-right were to outlaw homosexuality in an effort to mitigate the spread of AIDS?

Insurance companies may only offer their services pending suspension of risky behavior, but governments tread very dangerous ground when they do the same. I may decide to choose a different insurance company, but changing my government is a significantly bigger hurdle. If instead we focus on laws that simply codify responsibility then we can still affect a positive change in society, inasmuch as the majority of society actually agrees.

Surprisingly, one almost never sees a bicyclist riding without a helmet these days, even without a law enforcing them to do so (in Colorado at least). Don’t they have as much interest in freedom as motorcyclists? Or is it simply that people interested in fitness enough to ride bicycles don’t think it makes sense to throw it all away on an avoidable head injury? Seems like that should work the same for motorcyclists too, but who are we to judge? If motorcycle riders understood the risks they are taking and if, aside from the tragedy of losing victims of their own risky behavior, they do no harm to anyone else, then we have reached a reasonable compromise.

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06.29.11

Should conservatives choose between Rand and Jesus?

Posted in Liberty, Society at 13:11 by RjZ

I couldn’t agree more. CNN wonders about the American Values Network video and article exposing the utter inconsistency between Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism and religious values espoused by conservative leaders of the united states. Paul Ryan and Rand Paul might explain that one can hold beliefs like these at the same time, by preferring the unfettered capitalistic views of Ayn Rand while choosing to believe in the morals of Christ in their personal life.

It’s a common problem for dogmatic religions. Science, for example, has little problem with religion, but religion is regularly trying to explain the natural world and inject itself into science, usually with no evidence or much predictive value. It is not necessary to believe every sentence of Atlas Shrugged and yet still ascribe to its basic tenets. Even several of the commenters at American Values Network seem quite capable of separating the values from Rand’s book that they agree with and integrating them into their Christian lives. One writes that Jesus’ edicts are “personal moral obligations” and not the realm of government action. The same is not so true, however, for devout Christians, particularly conservative evangelicals who believe that: anyone who doesn’t believe in each word of the bible shall be removed from the list of God’s righteous (Revelations 22:19), that is, go to hell.

Ayn Rand made no apologies for her statments that the beloved ideas of Jesus, are simply incompatible with her philosophy. As American Values Network points out “Where Jesus says, ‘love your neighbor as you love yourself,’ Rand says, ‘love only those who deserve it.’” Are these politicians, desperately seeking support from both fiscal conservatives and religious conservatives, able to find some middle ground between these two views? Are they suggesting that Rand’s utopia at Galt’s Gulch is compatible with the words of Christ (in red)?

Actions speak louder than words. I suspect that many of these Rand loving conservatives give only lip-service to the Christian conservatives who support them, trading their integrity for the power and opportunity to do what they believe in. It is likely that most politicians are not truly believers, but rather succumbing to the oft reported (even by medistrust of atheists in American society. Unfortunately, their tacit support of religious conservatism effectively amounts to support for the same kinds of attitudes that breed crusades and terrorism.

I may agree with the question American Values Network raises in their video, but not their argument. They seem to say that nothing Ayn Rand could say can hold any value because of her rejection of faith. They suggest that there is no reason to even listen to anyone who doesn’t share their religious faith. It’s not only Ayn Rand who rejects the teaching of Christianity, but every Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, and on and on. The American Values Network would have us close our ears to all of them. They also imply that Ayn Rand’s rejection of religion is also a rejection of morality. They equate religion with morality and, as common as this view is, it is demonstrably false in both directions (religious people are automatically moral/immoral vs. non-believers are automatically moral/immoral). This tired idea makes me honestly afraid that believers really would lie, cheat, steal, and kill, if they found they thought God wasn’t watching. That would be far worse than American politicians with questionable integrity.

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06.24.11

Gray libertarianism

Posted in Liberty at 19:55 by RjZ

It’s a bit of link-bait to argue you’re otherwise erudite essay on the momentous recanting of his philosophy by the father of modern libertarianism as The Liberty Scam, but hey, who can blame magazines and newspapers these days for that? The article, much longer than my comments here, is an excellent piece which will give libertarians especially pause, and encourage each of us to reconsider her own world-view.

Some time ago, I wrote about some guidelines by which I self-identify as a libertarian. My simple post would have made some of the commenters on Steven Metcalf’s Salon piece happy, for its lack of big words and philosopher’s names, but, in itself, it didn’t say much. Frankly, that actually was part of the point.

Where Metcalf takes an illustration from Robert Nozick’s seminal book Anarchy, State, and Utopia and knocks it down for being an insufficient example of real-life libertarian society (he’s right!), I think it’s pretty reasonable to suggest that no thinking person considers society quite this simple.

Libertarianism should be a set of principles that enable us to make decisions about real society in such a way that our individual rights are not infringed upon. This is the great achievement of Nozick’s book: declaring humanism as the true support for libertarianism (and thereby wrestling it away from those who suggest that socialism the truly humanist system). Metcalf kindly credits Nozick with the concept that “Society is unreal not because individuals are brutish but because they are dignified.”

I catch slack from many libertarians for the things I actually allow government might be the best choice for. Most libertarians agree that infra-structure and public goods are within the realm of the government. The sticky part comes when trying to define what is truly within the public good and what isn’t. (Take a moment to read that link, as the definition is intended to be rather narrow.) Lighthouses are a classic example of a public good, but education isn’t so easy to classify as one. Still, I, for example, concede government is not out of place providing some services in concert (some would say competition) with private institutions. And when we disagree, we must admit, it ain’t the end of the world just because the government got involved.

The 1975 Nozick might have had trouble admitting, for example, there are some activities where the incentives of a free market will never lead to the results that most individuals would desire. Health care, in general, often falls into this area, and more specific examples are easy to suggest. How should, for instance, the free market deal with orphan diseases? Orphan diseases are are often excruciating or even deadly, but are also extremely rare. The free market will never be able to justify the expense of research to cure them as so few will ever pay for the treatments, but as anyone might become a victim of one (or might have, if they had been born with it) we all could benefit from investment in such research.

Metcalf tells that more than a decade after Anarchy, State, and Utopia was published, Nozick wrote “The libertarian position I once propounded, now seems to me seriously inadequate.” With no uncertain glee, Metcalf takes this as proof that the whole thing was a failure. Of course Nozick was simply recognizing that his initial over-simplification was insufficient. And here we do, indeed, owe Metcalf a debt of gratitude for digging this all up, again. For, as I said in my original post, perhaps it’s time for us libertarians to take back the party from the crazies and extremists. The world isn’t simple, dualist, yin vs. yang. There are shades of gray and we have to live with one another in an effort to have all that free-trade in the first place.

Libertarianism makes for a truly humanistic guidebook that is both simple and truly preserves human dignity. When deciding how we wish to tax each other and what services to provide with that money, we must reflect on the anti-social danger we do to each other when that wealth is squandered on ideas that some part of society is sure is a good thing while another couldn’t imagine a greater sin.

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04.04.11

On the other side of the pay wall

Posted in Liberty, Society at 15:10 by RjZ

Have you heard? Newspapers are dying. Around the nation and around the world traditional newspapers are scaling down operations, merging, or failing altogether. The business model for decades has been to hire journalists and editors to find and write about the news and to pay for them using advertising and subscription revenues. And then came the internet. Many newspapers quickly realized that printing paper and delivering it to the new stand or doorstep loses valuable time and increases costs compared to simply publishing on the web. So off they went, foregoing subscription fees, and hoping that banner ads would easily cover their costs. Marketers were confident everything would be fine; banner ads offer significant improvements to advertisers over typical ads in that the advertiser might actually know something about how many people saw or, even better read (clicked on) the advertisement. Alas, web ads just haven’t covered the costs of all those journalists traveling the world.

A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times announced it would be charging users to read articles online. Not the first 20, mind you, but after that, you’re cut off…no New York Times for you until the next month. It ain’t cheap, either, at $15 – 35 per month depending on how many places you’d like to read it, from good ol’ paper to the web, iPads, and Kindles. They’re not the first paper to do this, a lowly Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Colorado) started charging for online reading over six months ago, and papers around the nation and world are either considering or planning to do the same.

I gotta say, from where I’m sitting, this is terrible news. Honestly, I’ve never paid for the news. I’ve never subscribed to the newspaper, and frankly, the day-to-day news is too full of noise to be interesting to me. But pay walls will dramatically limit the value of the internet and its ‘google knows everything’ appeal. The availability of so many perspectives on any, and every, given story makes it possible for me to extract information from so many views of what is actually happening. Depending on a single source, no matter how reliable will expose each of us to further bias, with little chance check up on them. Few of us will be able to afford to pay multiple news outlets.

Journalism is often described as the fourth estate of democracy, an integral part of a fair and rational government and a critical link in the chain of checks and balances. We pay (often too much) for our government, do we really expect this crucial piece to be free? It’s easy to decry to quality of the media in the last few decades (and, perhaps beyond). Often accused of conservative or liberal bias depending on which side of the aisle you come from, it’s probably more accurate to suggest that the media follows the money. “If it bleeds, it leads,” is an oft repeated motto of the editor, because a bloody headline sells more papers (or commercial time) which increases the value for advertisers. In our current system, it’s those advertisers who are paying the journalists who found the blood. Controversy sells too. Sometimes cheerleading sells better, and above all, knowing your market (liberal or conservative, for example) sells too. We’ve paid for news on the web with little more than the intrusion of banner ads. It’s not too surprising, then, that we’ve simply gotten what we’ve paid for.

It remains to be seen, then, if the New York Times will use be able to use whatever new revenue they reap to staunch the bleeding or to improve the quality of their reporting. Will journalists once again be able to travel to every corner of the planet to find news (and not just the hotspots)? Will they be able to spend weeks, months, or sometimes years, on investigative reporting that makes journalism such a critical part of democracy? Will other news outlets follow their lead, erect a pay wall to view their news, but improve on the reporting? Above all, will we finally be willing to pay for it if they do?

In the meantime, Traveling Hypothesis will remain free. Remember, though, you get what you pay for!

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02.07.10

Palin admits she doesn’t believe in the U.S. Constitution

Posted in Liberty, Society at 20:11 by RjZ

Of course Ms. Sarah Palin gets too much press already, but with her new job at Fox News that’s not likely to stop any time soon. Speaking of Fox News, she responded on “Fox News Sunday” to chants of “Run, Sarah, Run” that she would consider a 2012 run for president “if it’s the right thing to do for our country.”

Later in that interview she also explained “We’re at war and these are acts of war that these terrorists are committing and we need to treat them differently,” she said. “I don’t think terrorists are worthy of rights that people like my son fight and are willing to die for.”

It’s surely a populist view, but what the real headline here is that she doesn’t believe in the freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and for which her son is fighting. Any not-yet-convicted terrorists are innocent until proven guilty. Under the leadership of George W. Bush, and perhaps Sarah Palin, they are not guaranteed any such rights. They are guilty, and sit in prison, regardless of their actual status. With their freedoms, so go our own.

President Obama has attempted to remedy this situation. Some wish he would do so faster, while in these efforts to respect the constitution, Ms. Palin sees an opportunity to strike a populist blow and ignore human rights.They’re terrorists, you say! Maybe. Probably, even, but that’s the point. One of the foundations of the great constitution of the United States is that we don’t presume guilt, rather innocence. They’re not citizens you say. Nope, and they may not deserve every right and privilege of American law, but due process seems the only way to even arrive at the truth of their guilt or innocence. Americans didn’t come up with this system; it predates our union; but we have successfully employed it for over 200 years, and it’s part of the strength of this nation.

I don’t know what Ms. Palin actually thinks her son is fighting for, unless our ‘way of life’ really does just mean Church and snow mobiles.

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09.17.09

Who’s side are you on?

Posted in Liberty at 18:19 by RjZ

Conservatives are usually closer to libertarians than democrats are when it comes to fiscal policy. That’s why it’s so surprising for me to see them coming out so strongly in favor of tort reform. Their idea, like this guy writing in to the Durango Herald is that the bulk of the ills in the United States’ health care system stems from doctors paying too much in medical malpractice insurance. Not only that, they’re prescribing ‘defensive’ medical procedures and worse, there are huge, headline grabbing, payouts costing the United States insurance purchaser “in excess of $100 billion” each year.

Mr. Aldrich doesn’t cite any sources for his price tag, and there are many more experts who disagree with him. The Washington Post cites quite a few in this piece, where they also mention the estimated $2.3 trillion that Americans spend on health care each year. Let’s give Aldrich the benefit of the doubt and assume he knows more than dozens of university professors and professional economists around the nation. Still, his frightening $100 billion would still amount to amount to a paltry 4.3% the year expense.

Tort reform hurts the individual. When I was 17 years old I was cleaning a balloon printing press after a day’s work. (Hey, it was a job.) The machine suddenly switched on, thanks, it turned out, to a faulty relay and poor design, and dragged my hand between two geared drums. Fellow workers were able to help me extract my smooshed hand after an excrutiating few minutes.

Two surgeries and a year of nasty physical therapy later, after everything had healed as much is it was going to, I sat in a lawyers office as he opened a large book and scanned the pages. Noting my age and my disability (1 finger, pinky, 90%, permanent; one finger, ring, 30%, permanent) he scanned the tables and compared the information in the rewards column and then arranged to have a check written to me for $2,200. (My medical costs were paid for as well.) The owner of the business had been at fault. He’d not only not maintained the presses, but he had been involved in their custom, not so awesome, design. California, however, is a no-fault worker’s compensation state and the rewards were fixed in this book. My hand still hurts sometimes when it’s cold out and the extent of his punishment for negligent design and maintenance? He had to continue to pay worker’s compensation insurance and I wouldn’t be coming back to work for him, thank you.

I should also mention, that had I come to work drunk that day, and fallen into the machine head first, worker’s compensation insurance would still have been required to pay (I wonder what the value of a crushed head works out to be?) And that’s how folks (usually liberals) defend no-fault insurance and other tort reform. It protects people, even when they’re at fault and saves money at the same time. I am glad I was able to contribute to the welfare of those who don’t have the sense not to come to work drunk.

But while you read about all those giant awards and, without knowing all the facts, and you cringe at what juries award some ignoramus who cries about the pain and suffering he endured when he had a hang nail removed from the wrong toe, ask yourself how you would feel if you were the unfortunate victim of some real, negligent mistake from a doctor or surgeon? Is it really worth less than 5% of all of our health care costs? Will this money really go to the taxpayer? (According that that Wash Post link above, Texas, which caps pain and suffering damages, didn’t save much after all.) Is this really the low hanging fruit that will rescue our health care system?

Limiting damages hurts individuals who actually deserve compensation and removes incentives to avoid accidents. It fails to address the problem (if there really is one, some of that $100 billion is rewarded for damn good reasons!) of juries and judges making unreasonable rewards and strips them of the freedom they once had by making the decisions even before the case has been heard. Libertarians seek to increase individual rights and freedoms, not limit them. I suppose Glenn Beck and friends are only Libertarians when they’re waving the flag, and not when it comes to actually promoting individual rights.

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08.04.09

The benevolent dictator paradox

Posted in Liberty at 17:28 by RjZ

Dictatorship is bad. Democracy is good. Everybody knows that. Free market guy that I am, I feel much the same way about control economy (like dictatorship) compared to capitalism (like democracy.) That’s why my trips to China have really thrown a wrench into works of my brain. I’ve spent some time trying to pull that wrench out. Here’s what I think it looks like.

China is a dictatorship. Actually, it’s an oligarchy, but what it’s not is a democracy. The social contract that the Chinese have signed with their government goes something like: we’ll let you make all the political decisions so long as you leave us alone to make money and buy things. And the government has heartily agreed. For the most part, people are allowed to pursue what looks quite a bit like free market capitalism and the government is allowed to rule by fiat and to make long term social and infrastructure decisions that even when the people don’t much agree, they keep quiet about it.

Most Chinese people don’t like things like the Three Gorges Dam, or the lack of a free press, but they do like their dramatically improved standard of living over the last thirty years. Of course there are a great many poor in China, but, today there’s more than a United States full of people, that is 300 million of them, who live, more or less, pretty much just like we do in the west. They have computers and cell phones, Nike shoes and Chinese MTV. They’re more interested in fads then federal government and they’re hoping to try the new mediterranean restaurant that opened up down the block sometime soon. Day-to-day life is fine. They’ve got software that sneaks around the government censors for internet and they speak openly about how they feel to friends and even tourists. They’re fiercely (and justifiably) proud of the great and varied nation in which they live.

How is this possible if dictatorship is so bad? It’s kind of like Microsoft Windows. Microsoft may be (or even have been, if you like) a monopoly, able to control everything in its market like a dictator can in his country, but as long as they make good decisions and make relatively good software that works and does what most everyone needs, there is little reason to complain. Macintosh users may (or may not) have it better, but the whiny minority (of which, in the name of full disclosure I belong) is losing out on all the advantages that centralized power truly brings.

In China, when the government puts its mind to change something, it is incredibly effective. Compare a simple example. Recently, they decided that all these plastic bags at grocery stores were a bad idea. And, by edict, all grocery stores were banned from giving them out. It’s a great idea and the people quickly adapted. Meanwhile, forward thinking San Francisco and a few Alaskan villiages are some of the few in the United States to do the same.

During a business trip to China I was struck by government authorities I met. Mid-level people who are clearly competent technocrats and nothing like politicians I’ve met in the U.S. I can’t even call them politicians. They spoke about items of substance and understood the topics as well as any of the technical people in the room. These technicians of government do not have to ask their constituents for approval, but they’re highly educated people who have been, by and large, making good decisions for the past thirty years and China’s ascendance is undeniable proof of their success.

All this is a huge dilemma for me. The whole concept of a control economy run by a small oligarchy is anathema to me. Were George Orwell, Ayn Rand, and Anthony Burgess wrong in all those books I read?  I struggled to find flaws in the system and prove myself right. First idea: even the Chinese will lament the lack of a free press. We have a free press in the United States. I run little risk of arrest by writing this blog. Except, that we Americans seem unwilling to pay for the press that we have and barely value what’s left of it. Newspapers are closing down at an alarming rate and editors are forced not to seek out the news that we need to hear in favor of what we want to hear.  Far from being biased towards the left or the right, the U.S. media is biased towards keeping its job, which means making money, which means whatever it guesses will sell the most ads. If the people love George Bush, the papers do to. If they hate him, so does the evening news. If the polls love Obama, then NPR thinks he’s the power of change. If they turn against him, CNN will join the fray. Whatever sells papers and justifies ad revenues is what gets the most attention. Who can blame them? We have a free press in the United States, we’re just not using it.

So what’s wrong with these benevolent dictators then? During a recent discussion in China, and Chinese colleague put it succinctly and it finally answered my dilemma.

China is governed by people, not laws.

The Chinese model has been successful because of the people in power. Apparently, they’re honestly talented and well-meaning, and they are not required to kowtow to special interests at every turn. The Chinese people are in good shape…so long as they have good people steering the ship. But what if they don’t? What happens when someone not so benevolent comes to power?

Being governed by people instead of a system isn’t just dangerous, it suffers from a limited attention span, too. The Chinese oligarchy is, indeed, very effective. Beijing was cleaner for the Olympics and those pesky plastic bags are gone, but there is only so much bandwidth for the authorities to enforce regulation and address new concerns. Pollution is a serious problem in China that no one denies, but little is done so far. The people and the government are both troubled, but frankly, they have bigger fish to stir fry. Three hundred million people may be living middle class western lives, but that leaves another billion in a falling apart shack.

The Chinese have every reason to be proud of their beautiful country and amazing progress. There is much to enjoy and appreciate and, even if it pained me to admit it, their system works far better than I would like to give it credit. My worry for them is if it’s sustainable. Can those billion people rely on replacing great technocrats with new ones who also make the right decisions? Is it even possible for a system which depends on the vagaries of people to even effectively address all the concerns and needs of the people they govern and the society they guide?

Continued success in China will depend on the tradition of government being passed on to the next generation of leaders. Each of those leaders will face greater and greater challenges with the same limitations on bandwidth that their predecessors faced. No one would describe the United States as a flawless gem, (alright, some right wing nuts might) but, even in the face of economic crisis and adventurous wars, we can be confident that we are not at the mercy of a few individuals, and that our system of laws, like a good user manual, guides the country forward, even if people sometimes forget to read it.

Whew. I almost had to delete this old post .

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03.23.09

Simple math and world domination

Posted in Liberty, Society at 15:53 by RjZ

Alright, the modern world is based on a service economy and knowledge is a valuable export, but just the same, the 2008 import/export numbers published by the World Trade Organization seem pretty discouraging if you’re an U.S. citizen. While the U.S. is first in imports, it is third in exports.

Maybe much of that could be attributed to currency fluctuations. Too bad a some simple math (exports divided by imports) tell such disturbing story. China: 1.27; Germany: 1.22 and the United States: 0.60! Just looking at how much we buy and how little we sell, it’s pretty easy to see how we could be in such an economic crisis.

During my recent visit to China, it was pretty clear that United State’s economic system catching a cold ends up being highly contagious outside of the borders. And the Chinese aren’t too pleased about it either. Although, in our defense, I’d like to point out that these numbers were no secret around the world. The Chinese are as guilty of investing in Team America as anybody else who’s seen assets dwindle in the last few months of stock market crash correction. We all should have read the signs.

The Chinese trip raised another question. Namely, why would anyone, without an ego to protect, really care whether the United States remains the foremost economic, and therefore political, power? Actually, I’ve often wondered that. I am proud to be an American, but am not exactly sure that means everyone else enjoys our power, or that they should be expected to. Despite the propaganda to the contrary, China seems to be a pretty nice place, and at least as free as most Americans would ever actually notice anyway. (True, there is no free press in China, but would any Americans really miss it if our free press were gone? Have you heard about all the failing newspapers or Jon Stewart’s comedic railings against poor economic reporting of the past few years?)

A few surprising conversations with some, not necessarily representative, Chinese did give me some insight into just why we just might care where the U.S. is in the world pecking order. It seems many in China believe that the only thing stopping them from some serious border skirmishes, or worse, with traditional enemy Japan is the strong alliance between the Japanese and Americans. In spite of the Chinese party-line which preaches peace and non-intervention, as soon as China could neutralize retaliation from the United States, so goes the argument, they would be free to act without consequence on some deep seated (and justified, if outdated) anger still harbored for their neighbors.

Regardless of how credible we find this scenario, one fact remains true. The United States has transferred power 44 times without significant impact to the rest of the world. We’ve stuck our noses in countless country’s affairs but generally, the majority of countries have grown to trust that, even if we go astray (see for example, 2000 – 2008) we have a working system that kicks bad guys out and brings in new ones (hopefully better). It could be a new United States marketing slogan: Dictator -Free for over 225 years!

This track record may be the best argument for maintaining the United States preeminence. Unfortunately, it takes only some simple math to see how tenuous that position might be.

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02.04.09

Financial advice

Posted in Liberty at 11:32 by RjZ

Here’s a bit of financial advice. If your money or investments are in a bank that is receiving federal bail-out money, find another bank. That’s easier said than done right now, but I predict there will be a few popping up in near future. Among other bad omens, President Obama has decided to cap salaries for banks getting federal aid. I can see his point and it’s a populist move that I am sure will earn him favor but some unintended consequences are that any bank with a salary cap won’t be able to attract and keep the best people.

Here’s how it goes; if you’re on the board of a bank and the CEO retires, or gets hit by a car, how do you attract a new one just as good as the last? The other CEOs are already getting the top salary you can offer, so there’s no reason for them to leave their current positions and help you out. As a result, you get less than top quality executives at a critical time. Is this the best way to handle U.S. citizens investments? What sounds like a good idea has the unintended consequences of making sure we don’t have the best people watching over our money.

The good news is, once those smart folks can get their hands on some capital, which, admittedly, isn’t easy just now, they’ll start their own investment institutions, free from this government regulation, and also free to attract the best and the brightest. Investors looking to maximize their money after such a painful recession will flock to them, and the Obama administration’s plan won’t even have accomplished what it was intended to do in the first place-keep people’s money safe by regulating banks.

The fact is, government has to either control every single thing, a plan we’ve seen doesn’t work in places like, say, the Soviet Union, or we leave a loophole for clever people to get around the regulations and they don’t help in the first place. I wish we could have been avoiding credit default swaps and bad home loans in the past decade; it sure would have helped out my money, but if it hadn’t been these problems, it would have been something else.

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11.24.07

What she’s really saying is this:

Posted in Liberty at 14:54 by RjZ

I’ve been learning about the candidates a bit. I’ve never thought much for or against Hillary Clinton. All I ever hear is that evangelicals don’t like her because they won’t vote for a woman, and I assume, because she had the gall to actually try to keep her family together. I thought evangelicals we’re for that sort of thing. Meanwhile, I was reading her website, and imagine she might write the following letter:

Dear business owner,

You know, I’ve had it with you. For more than fifty years I’ve asked you for a service and you’ve provided it. You’ve improved efficiency in your efforts and competed with others in the market, but the demand has been strong and you’ve been profitable. How dare you! What’s worse, is that even though demand is increasing for the goods you supply, you refuse to stop producing even when what you make is bad for us! How can you wantonly give us exactly what we ask for?

How you dare to invest money, year after year, just so that you can be successful at giving us what we want, without ever taking a moment to decide what’s best for us; to stop selling exactly what the market demands of you and drive yourself and all those who trusted you with their savings in to ruin, because you should know better.

I thought you knew, that in the United States we don’t have enough sense to know what is best for us. We want to be able to do as we wish. Ah, thank the Lord, I the government, am here, to ensure you do what is best for us all. No doubt, you’re excellent at what you do, and I am impressed. That you have made so much money is proof of your excellence; all you have to do is invest in something else, something you ought to be just as successful with. Sure there are small companies out there developing the technology on their own, but you, you’re a big and successful organization and I know that you can do it again, so long as you receive a bit of my help and advice.

So, this letter is to inform you that I hereby make you an offer you cannot refuse. Not legally anyway.

In 2005, Exxon Mobil’s CEO told Congress that his company’s investment in alternative energy technologies over the prior decade was “negligible.” Hillary believes it is time for oil companies to do their share in funding clean energy technologies. She would give oil companies a choice: invest more in renewable energy technology or pay into a Strategic Energy Fund. The Strategic Energy Fund would also eliminate oil company tax breaks and make sure that oil companies pay their fair share in royalties when drilling on public lands. This fund would jumpstart a clean energy future by injecting $50 billion over ten years into research, development and deployment of renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean coal technology, ethanol and other homegrown biofuels.


Hillary’s got a different way to show that she loves corporations just as much as Bush does. Where the Bush administration maintains handouts to oil companies earned over democratic and republican administrations; the future Clinton administration will rightfully eliminate the handouts, but only by extorting corporations to fund programs she deems best. The tried and true method where companies were required to earn their success in the market place; the pattern that’s been successful for generations of industrialists, from railroad tycoons to today’s oil companies, is clearly a tired old model. Today those companies who are already successful will be forced to re-tool in the hopes that if they’re good at drilling oil, they’ll be equally good at building solar cells. All the while, companies who’ve plied their technology for decades aren’t even given the opportunity to make the money they’ve worked so hard for.

At first glance, taking from the rich oil companies to help fund a green future sounds like a great idea to get votes. But it’s anti-American to take fairly earned profits from companies just because the government doesn’t think what they’re doing is such a good idea any more, and it’s inefficient to expect those same companies with no prior experience to be more successful than the upstarts who already have the expertise to finally make renewables viable. It’s a clever plan, because she’s pandering both to the those folks who think profits of the rich are theirs for the taking simply because they don’t have them and at the same time, the rich corporations know that if they buy in to her policy (whether they want to or not) at least they’ll be protected from real competition, because the government will use their own money to fun their new “clean energy initiatives.” It’s just unfortunate that the ill gotten governmental gains won’t be better spent on companies that are better suited to success.

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