Sunday, July 4, 2010

Transfer of Writing; Bye

I no longer have an interest in being a *formal* intellectual activist, so from here on out this blog will be inactive but open for its archives, at least for now. Trying to maintain two blogs as different as Benpercent and Musing Aloud is like trying to maintain two different mental systems. I don't like the intellectual split required in the thinking for my posts. It makes the writing seem like work, and that's no fun. Making the identification that I don't want to become a writer has, regrettably, had a significant impact on my views on my writing and my willingness to maintain good habits. I've even noticed a laziness welling up in me to leave rather bad sentences in my recent posts simply because I don't care to strive for excellence in this area all the time, but I should change on that. (<<< A bad sentence!)

The most significant factor in this decision, however, is the project I've mentioned at my other blog. In case you missed it, I've noted that I'm undertaking a months long project to remedy a problem that is interfering with my learning, productivity, and emotional health. It's developed to the point that most of my consciousness is often diverted into concerns regarding the solution to this problem and visualizations of the joys of successfully solving it. I speak of the problem and project in vague terms since secrecy is vital to the efficiency of the solution, especially since the solution is taking months to implement. Once it's finished I'll construct a detailed explanation at my other blog, but right now it's indeterminate as to the actual time-frame. Given the proper circumstances it can be completed in 1-3 months, but I'm waiting for a certain something to occur before that time span (or "waiting period") can be considered in effect. The uncertainty is agonizing, but the success of this project means a major step forward in my life, so I'll just have to shut up and put up until then.

This does not mean I'm giving up activism. Given my interests, I will try to blend it into my personal writings over at Musing Aloud; only I don't plan on writing formal academic essays. The only subjects covered would be that of personal interest or impact to me, whether it be a career development or my fears over foreign policy.

So don't expect any more new writing to show up here. The purpose of this blog now is to simply have searchable archives. Follow Musing Aloud if you wish to keep track of new content. See you there.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My Future

Check out my other blog to see what's been going on in my life to hold me from writing, and to see what changes I plan on making to both my lifestyle and writing habits.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Burden of the National Debt

I am still very ignorant about economics -- I have only read Economics in One Lesson so far in my studies -- but I would still like to raise a moral question I have in regards to the debt of the United States.

It is without question that the United States is in a massive amount of debt and that the politicians will incur yet more. Unless the appropriate measures are taken, the US may experience total economic destruction. My question is: To how much of the debt does the United States have a *real* obligation to pay back, and from whom?

One thing that disturbs me in discussions about the debt is when people break it down to how much each individual citizen (born and yet to be born) will have to pay in order to pay back the debt in full. I know that in my personal situation, and in millions of others, I have not elected to take part in these financial "contracts" with other countries and whatnot. For the most part, if not entirely, the politicians have incurred debt with money that either wasn't theirs to begin with (taxes), money that has no value (fiat), or money that doesn't even exist. Unless I'm improperly taking this literally, I think it amounts to nothing in the moral context since these contracts were formed without the participants' permission.

As a parallel, take the imprisonment of the American Japanese during WWII. After they were released, if I recall correctly, they had to start over economically since their property had been distributed. In truth, while it would certainly be a mess to disentangle, the Japanese victims should have gotten their property back since having had it stolen from them does not mean that their right to it had been eliminated. While the new owners may have been innocent in receiving the property, their innocence does not mean they have a right to that property since it was distributed by an entity which had no right to distribute it in the first place.

To apply this to the national debt, is it not the case that the debt cannot be morally satisfied by taxing citizens? To force someone into a contract is a contradiction which invalidates its standing. I understand that the debt must be paid by somehow since it has been incurred, but I don't understand how it can be paid back by moral means.

All I know is that when the government interferes into the economy it leads to messes like these that are difficult to intellectually dissect.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Specialize or Generalize?

For the past few days I've been contemplating the appropriateness of my current blog theme. This week someone commented on a blog and stated that very few blogs perform very well at general themes, and that got me to thinking about how well it is that I pull off my theme of epistemology, ethics, and politics. When I think back to what kind of posts I have written, I noticed that at large I do not consistently generalize; instead I have "trends" where I tend to post articles centered around one subject for a while before I move on to the next. As evidence, take my posts on the medical care debate. This blog does not specialize in medical-political issues as, say, FIRM does, and yet when one considers just how consistently I've focused on that issue one could accidentally get that impression.

Furthermore, because of these trends I end up neglecting the other portions of my theme as a result. In focusing on the medical care issue so much, when is the last time I've written a technical post on epistemology? I can't remember the last time I've issued an analysis of my local political situation (never you mind the fact I've quit following it in exchange for an interest in federal happenings). In short, I'm beginning to think that by adopting a general theme I may be stretching myself too thin, therefore becoming a jack-of-all-trades and master to none. While it is a nice prospect to attempt to become a master-of-all-trades, it is simply impossible, and I would rather become masterful in a few things than mildly competent in everything.

I think I'll begin giving serious consideration to changing the theme of this blog. As implied in my post about my central purpose, I'm in a developmental phase in my life. For months I was at a loss as to what goals to pursue since I finally realized I didn't want to dedicate my life to writing (and I held onto that idea for years), and with the identification to how much I'm beginning to value nutrition and cooking my life is gaining direction again. Perhaps I should change my theme in regard to those interests. Last year I wrote an article that would indicate such a theme. I don't know; much thinking needs to be done.

At first glance, I'm considering perhaps simply narrowing the focus of my current theme: Rather than write about epistemology, ethics, and politics in every area of life, I could focus on them as they apply to nutrition and cooking (saving recipes for Musing Aloud, when I get to that point). I'm not sure. Again, more thinking needs to be done.

(As for Musing Aloud, I won't be rethinking or tampering with the theme of that at all. I love the way it is, and I think it works perfectly. It has increased my motivation to post since I'm focusing on myself as a whole person as opposed to some isolated portion of my intellect. I've got to admit: I'm the most interesting person I have ever met. As such, MA will continue on as it is. )

I welcome and encourage reader input on this issue. What do you think of my blog as a *whole*? Do I skip around in subjects too much? Do I try to cater to too many different audiences?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Obamacare Passed: Now What?

According to Yahoo! News Obamacare has passed the senate and will now be sent to the President for his signature. If you're a long-time reader of this blog you know I've been following this issue for several months since it was born, and it is certainly sickening to many to see that the efforts to prevent this legislation from going through have failed.

But strangely enough I'm not offended in the least by this event. If anything, I find that my resolve has been boosted as a result.

As I stated in my last post no matter what the outcome is the opportunities to help bring about a rational culture is neither lost nor finished. The passing of this legislation, in fact, may be a golden opportunity for philosophical activism. The latest Rasmussen report, which has been updated since my last post, now indicates that even more voters oppose the plan and even fewer people support it, now resulting in a 13% gap. Even with the 3% margin of error that is still a dramatic split. Given this, do you think that America is going to sit idly by and accept its "fate"? I doubt it. I predict that the legislation will go into effect even despite current procedural difficulties, but I also believe that Americans will be more receptive to Objectivist ideas than ever, and in the long-run it's the ideas that matter.

This could be a significant advantage. You know the saying "You can't tell a kid not to touch a hot stove"? The meaning of this saying, in the context of its example, is that you cannot teach a kid that touching a hot stove is bad for him unless he has a conception of what it is to be "burned." Once he gets burned is when he'll learn that it is not good to touch a hot stove. Of course we could have avoided such a legislative outcome in America if the culture had a better epistemology, but instead we now may have the opportunity to touch a hot stove with both hands on the burners, and our bodyweight bearing down on top. Given the inevitable failure that's going to occur of Obamacare people are going to be looking for answers again. As a reminder, here's a sampling of what failures are going to occur not just as a matter of the concrete effects of this particular legislation, but rather as a matter of principle given the nature of this type of legislation and all others like it:

1.) Rationing and long waits; shortages: Since health insurance will be extended to all it will inevitably lead to a decline in efficiency since there isn't an equal increase of service providers to accommodate the soon-coming deluge of demand. When you tell someone they can have as much of something as they want at no cost then they have a perverse incentive to take more than is rationally justifiable or to be reckless; people will start going to the doctor for things they otherwise wouldn't if they were making the decision based on their finite supply of money ("Hmm, I've got a cold. Better go see the doctor.").

And if that weren't sufficient on its own to cause inefficiencies and shortages, there is a likelihood that a significant number of doctors will leave the medical profession as a result of this legislation, thereby decreasing available service providers and further undermining the medical industry's ability to accommodate demand. What people seem to forget to take into account when considering lowering the payments of doctors or insuring more people is the nature of the doctors' job: not only did it take years of practice, learning, and hard study to bring them up to the level of competence they have achieved, but there is also the risk inherent in their work that they have to deal with. They could err and accidentally give themselves an illness or fatal disease (e.g. by accidentally being pricked by a syringe), or, worst yet from a psychological standpoint, they could cause a patient to become sick, sicker, or even to die. It is a very stressful job by its very nature, and when politicians put upon doctors more work and risk for lesser reward the likelihood is that many doctors will soon find their work just isn't worth the effort anymore, and so will quit.

2.) Skyrocketing costs: This is a complex area, but the economic effects of this legislation could not only exacerbate the depression (if it be a depression) we're already in, but also make it last the rest of the time this legislation remains in effect. The above mentioned increase in demand will obviously drive up costs to astronomical levels. Doctors quitting will contribute to expenses even more. Ignorant politicians dictating medical decisions, the new taxes, the establishment of new government agencies, and so on: Even more.

Another thing that has been misunderstood in the debate is the actual nature of insurance itself. The reason you insure yourself is to protect yourself against risk, not so you can just withdraw money whenever your situation necessitates it, without having paid into the system first. Insurance companies charge their costumers a certain amount so that they can pool the money and make it available to whatever costumers submit a claim and satisfy the criteria for being awarded money; otherwise it would be impossible for the companies to exist. Regulations have lead to today's unaffordability. What are companies to do if laws mandate which conditions and treatments they *must* provide coverage for, regardless of whether or not the particular costumers agree to pay for it, or even need it? Raise prices, since covering a broader spectrum of things means the companies has to satisfy a potentially greater number of claims in that regard. What are companies to do if laws mandate that they accept any and all applicants regardless of preexisting conditions and as soon as they submit an application? Raise prices, since the company needs to build itself up so it can pay out the claims, as it is taking on greater risk. What are companies to do if politicians enforce price ceilings? Withdraw from the particular markets that have such regulations, since insurance companies need a certain amount of funding in order to maintain a resource pool large enough to satisfy its costumers. What happens if all these past mentioned laws become national federal law? Insurance companies jack up their prices even more, or go out of business. With Obamacare we may see not only higher prices, but also the possible elimination of private insurance through economic suffocation.

3.) Possible further governmental intrusions: As I've mentioned on this blog before, an egg company in the United Kingdom had one of its commercials, known by the phrase "Go to Work on an Egg," censored by the UK government since it was deemed as promoting an unhealthy lifestyle, and was therefore a potential risk for increasing medical care costs (conventional nutrition again). Under this same justification the American government could impose further controls in other areas of life as a response to the failures of socialized medicine, stating that such measures would "cut costs" or "increase efficiency." Remember the proposed ban on butter? What about the proposed ban on salt, which has been taken seriously enough to be made into an official bill? There's already extreme restrictions on raw dairy products.

And so on and so forth. (For an excellent and thorough analysis on why socialized medicine is a failure on principle, distinct from any concrete instance of it, consult Moral Health Care vs. "Universal Health Care." It's from a subscription journal, but this particular article is available in its entirety for free.)

What the Democrats have passed through last night will inevitably blow up in everyone's face if put into effect, and it's still a question as to what degree it will go into effect, if it goes into effect at all. From what I gather from my reading, there's still plenty of complicated issues unresolved: some states are passing legislation to nullify parts of this legislation, or are even going so far as to sue the fed; Republican John McCain has mentioned an intention to attempt to repeal this measure, there's constitutionality concerns about some aspects (such as mandatory insurance), there's the soon-coming public outrage, and so on. As I said above, things are not lost yet; there's golden opportunity abound.

While I understand that some may be disenchanted and demotivated today, I feel reenergized and full of resolve. To quote Betsy Speicher: "Reality is always on the winning side."

I cannot help but exclaim "en guarde!"