Monday, December 28, 2009

Coming Climax?

As you may already know by now, the Senate has passed both the House version and the Senate version of medical care reform. Such legislation requires no additional comment given the archives of this blog. However, unless I am mistaken, there is still time to defeat this bill. I am not well versed as to the technical details of how the various political offices operate, but from what I have heard the House version and the Senate version must be reconciled and voted on one more time in the Senate before it can go for Presidential signature, so that means the legislation has not really "passed" the Senate yet.

As always, consider writing to you senators:

We are running out of time, but there is still a sliver of hope. Rest in the battle now and you could find decades of fighting to be added, or perhaps even an institution that will exist the rest of your life.

Here is what I sent to my senators:

Dear Ms. Stabenow,

Upon reading the list of the few Democrats that have voted against the presently entertained medical care reform legislation I felt betrayed when I did not see your name on that list, meaning you voted in favor of the bill.

To every single one of my messages you have been sending me a mere copy-and-pasted response, leaving unacknowledged my arguments about how this bill is impractical AND immoral. It is impractical because legislation of this type has never and can never succeed in securing general individual physical health and it is immoral because it violates my right to voluntarily contract with others I choose on the terms that I agree to. Practicality and morality lie in freeing man from men, not enslaving men to men.

I will say this one last time: if you do not vote against the medical care reform legislation then I will vote against you in the coming election. I have been following this issue for months and will not forget whether or not my senators were loyal to me. The public may tend to have a selective memory, but I assure you I exert effort to be otherwise.


Dear Mr. Levin,

Upon reading the list of the few Democrats that have voted against the presently entertained medical care reform legislation I felt betrayed when I did not see your name on that list, meaning you voted in favor of the bill.

The majority of my e-mails to you have not been given the responses I have requested, leaving unacknowledged my arguments about how this bill is impractical AND immoral. It is impractical because legislation of this type has never and can never succeed in securing general individual physical health and it is immoral because it violates my right to voluntarily contract with others I choose on the terms that I agree to. Practicality and morality lie in freeing man from men, not enslaving men to men.

I will say this one last time: if you do not vote against the medical care reform legislation then I will vote against you in the coming election. I have been following this issue for months and will not forget whether or not my senators were loyal to me. The public may tend to have a selective memory, but I assure you I exert effort to be otherwise.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Trillion Monopoly Dollars

It was no joke when I said incidents for activism would continue to be handed on a golden platter. In less than a month, Obama worries about "too much" government spending, changes his mind, and will now have the opportunity to sign into law yet another trillion dollar spending bill. I said before that his previous spending projects were historical expenses; now it just seems as if though he is trying to make his record unbreakable. The answer is too obvious in whether or not he will sign it.

And, last I have heard, a significant portion of the first spending bill has not even been spent. -- and yet they want to put another trillion on top of that.

It can be quite frustrating to imagine how many years of intense work it took to create the value that backs that money -- and it is all being destroyed within months. While my optimism for long-term cultural change is unaffected, the economic prospects are not good.

Permanent Disclosures for the FTC

Following Ari Armtrong's lead, I fear I too am forced to offer up complete disclosure about my blog, lest I suffer an allegation from the nonobjective rules passed by the FTC.

This will be my permanent disclosure page, meaning I will post a permanent link to this page within my blog layout regarding all my disclosure information for Benpercent and Musing Aloud. If the facts are otherwise; that is, if it is the case I have received a product for review or engage in a financial relationship with an organization, I will edit this page or note the individual exceptions at the beginning of the relevant blog posts.

As of March 2010, I have joined the Amazon Associates program, which compensates me financially if any reader on my site follows an Amazon link and purchases the advertised product.

I am also a participator in Google Adsense -- though I don't know my official active date since I wasn't notified of my application approval -- which financially compensates me when readers click the appropriate advertisements.

This is the extent of my financial relationship with these companies, and that is all I have to say.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


If you can recall, Professor John Davis Lewis took it upon himself a few months ago to read the language of the legislation HR 3200 and post an analysis that isolated key aspects of the bill and translated into layman terms the technical passages. Well, he has taken the task upon himself again in analyzing the language of HR 3962 in the same format as before. He answers these key questions:

1. Will the plan punish Americans who do not carry the required
insurance, or employers who do not provide it?
2. Will the plan make private insurance illegal?
3. Will the plan ration medical care through budgets?
4. Will the plan ration care through waiting lists?
5. Will the plan impose special, higher taxes on Americans who earn
more than others?
6. Will the plan levy special taxes and surcharges on medical devices?
7. How will the plan affect health insurance provided by employers?
8. Does the plan allow the government to set fees?
9. Can the government officials audit taxpayers, employers, and
insurance plans to enforce compliance?
10. What limits are set to the powers of government officials?

This is a critically important article that deserves to be sent far and wide, for the extravagant length and technical difficulty involved in reading the bill is certainly far too much for most people to undertake, including myself. See for yourself, and make known to others, how the preceding questions are confirmed or denied by the actual words of the bill.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Another Successful Reality Evasion Maneuver by Pilot Obama

Two posts ago I noted the irony of Barack Obama being concerned about excessive government spending damaging the economy after he had already participated in not merely record, but historical levels of government spending and intervention into industries. Well, it turns out he changed his mind and is no longer worried:

President Barack Obama outlined new multibillion-dollar stimulus and jobs proposals Tuesday, saying the nation must continue to "spend our way out of this recession" until more Americans are back at work.

After being concerned about too much spending he now wants more spending since he thinks the last round was not enough? Make up your mind!

"We avoided the depression many feared," Obama said in a speech at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. But, he added, "Our work is far from done."

Actually, no one is at liberty today to say whether or not America has avoided a depression since the concept is not precisely defined; that is, it has not been given strict standards that give us the precise measurements that would determine when a depression is officially present. As of right now the concept is merely a vague approximation used to describe an economic situation that is more intense than a recession, though exactly how much more intense is what is unknown. For what we know we could be in a depression right now but not really aware of it since our present standard of living does not give away to national suffering so quickly.

A major part of his package is new incentives for small businesses, which account for two-thirds of the nation's work force. He proposed a new tax cut for small businesses that hire in 2010 and an elimination for one year of the capital gains tax on profits from small-business investments.

Tax cuts that will amount to nothing given Obama's proposed spending. For every dollar the government spends that is one fewer dollar for a private citizen to spend. Since rising taxes would be far too obviously hypocritical on Obama's part, I predict that he will resort to printing money, and, of course, printing money amounts to a hidden tax since it devalues/confiscates the value of the money of private citizens. The ridiculous episode of hyperinflation in Zimbabwe, for instance, has made it so that one-hundred-trillion Zimbabwean dollars ($100,000,000,000,000) is only valued as equivalent to ten U.S. dollars ($10).

Obama also proposed an elimination of fees on loans to small businesses, coupled with federal guarantees of those loans through the end of next year.

Which will do further damage. Elimination of fees on loans will make loans unprofitable and thus unbeneficial from the investor's perspective, and the federal guarantees will only exacerbate the problem by making it almost certain that loan companies will have to suffer loan defaults and thereby risk going out of business. Remember the Community Reinvestment Act, which caused the financial crisis in the first place?

I could go on analyzing this article, but it becomes depressing to think not only are economic mistakes continue to be made and are continuing to harm the economy, but that our politicians are making precisely the same mistakes down to the last detail. It should become quite apparent now that, despite his impressive education, Obama is an intellectual and philosophical mess.

Economic recovery is very much longed for, but it seems we must bear the difficulties for a while longer yet.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Ultimate Result

As far as political issues go, it is most vitally important, more important than any other issue, to understand that a mixed economy always leads to a dictatorship, regardless of whether or not the people who advocated the all-subsuming laws intended such a result. Here we have a dichotomy: either you have absolute freedom or a slow slide into absolute dictatorship; there is no permanent stalling in the mixed economy stage.

Government controls on the economy -- since politicians are not properly equipped to deal with the business decisions they take it upon themselves to make -- lead to problems in the economy which demand either the repealing of the controls or further controls to correct them, and if further controls are chosen further problems occur. If further controls are always the chosen solution to the problems caused by the preceding controls, eventually one establishes a dictatorship.

That is why I give my strongest recommendation to reading the series of blog posts by Don Watkins on why controls breed further controls in the economy. I do not know for how long this series will extend, but as of far it runs three parts:

Part one
Part two
Part three

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Facing Reality or Paying Cheap Lip-Service?

I know I may be a little off on my regular posting schedule, but I have come across another absurd article that I simply could not wait to comment on:

President Barack Obama says he's worried that spending too much money to help revive the economy could undermine a fragile U.S. recovery and throw the economy into a double-dip recession.

A pragmatic mind in action. If spending "too much" (how much?) money to help revive the economy would actually harm it, then why would he go so far as to think that stimulus packages would be economically healthy in any degree? If stimulus spending is sound in theory then it should be helpful in any degree in practice, but, of course, it is not. In theory and practice it merely amounts to taking money away from those that make it and giving it to those that break it.

Obama told Fox News in an interview Wednesday that his administration is weighing tax breaks that could encourage businesses to begin hiring again.

And this is coming from the one president that perhaps has initiated the greatest tax increase ever in the entire history of America, whether by direct taxation (like when he tried to push a 90% "punishment tax" on the AIG insurance employees) or by inflation (his trillion dollar stimulus, which could actually put us at risk for hyperinflation). After this massive taxing spree, now is the time he admits that perhaps, just maybe, easing up on taxation might be good for the economy?

The reality of things gets some lip-service, but is once more betrayed in action.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Case for Long-Term Optimism

As you may already know by now, the House has voted in favor of the medical care overhaul legislation (I cannot keep track of all the titles since they either change them or divide them into separate legislation pieces) and it will now go to the actual Senate, the final hurdle to be met before it either gets rejected or goes to the president to be signed into law. Here we have it: legislation of a type that has failed everywhere it has been tried, in other nations and here in parts of America; legislation that is impractical economically and is immoral, legislation that is vicious in its very nature since it will cause nothing but harm and is absolutely indefensible -- is a step closer to becoming reality here in America. As depressing as it may be to think about, the likelihood is in favor of this legislation getting passed:

As Judge Napolitano notes, socializing medicine is much worse than just bad economics:

Even the Republicans have introduced their version of Obamacare Lite. It, too, if passed, will compel employers to provide coverage, bribe the states to change their court rules, and tell insurance companies whom to insure.

We do not have two political parties in this country, America. We have one party; called the Big Government Party. The Republican wing likes deficits, war, and assaults on civil liberties. The Democratic wing likes wealth transfer, taxes, and assaults on commercial liberties. Both parties like power; and neither is interested in your freedoms. Think about it. Government is the negation of freedom. Freedom is your power and ability to follow your own free will and your own conscience. The government wants you to follow the will of some faceless bureaucrat.

Please note that even the Republicans are pushing further government intervention into medicine. No matter what happens, we’ll get screwed. [From The New Clarion. Note that I do not endorse Libertarianism, as it is somewhat implied in the quote above.]

The Democrats and Republicans both want further government intervention into medical care, and all this is despite increasing opposition. Obama has been cited as even going so far as to tell his fellow politicians to be willing to *sacrifice* their political careers in order to pass this legislation. House speaker Nancy Pelosi feels confident enough to call this legislation a "Christmas present."

Now has it become fully clear how powerful and dangerous philosophy can be? If ignored and left to ivory tower intellectuals, it is such a power that can dictate, and possibly destroy, your life without you having any say in the matter. Of all the years philosophy has been viewed as a subject detached from life, we have come to the point where a massively destructive and immoral piece of legislation is close to being passed since its advocates think, no, feel that it is moral and that sacrifice is a practical way of living, and they may do it despite massive protest since they may view themselves as philosopher kings that know better than you and are above morality and therefore allowed to force things upon you. From now on when a view of existence is uttered, we must be careful to think carefully about its implications, and to dispense with the jokes about philosophy ("How do you get philosophy off the front porch? You pay for the pizza!").

But as grim as things are, it is not yet time to fret and view things as hopeless. Truth be told, I believe that they are plenty of reasons to look to the future with optimism. This piece of legislation, which has an indeterminate future as of now I remind you, is not the equivalent substitute for a culture and its ideas, but rather an effect. There is still time, and here are five reasons why I think we can look forward to a better future:

* * * * *

1.) A single piece of legislation does not alter a culture absolutely; it is only a consequence of a culture that supports the ideals that give rise to the legislation in the first place. The present legislation that would enact universal medical coverage did not arise out of a vacuum, but rather it rose out of a culture that supports a certain morality (altruism) that sanctions the use of force against other people in order to make them sacrifice for the common good. Whatever effect this legislation will have on the culture will not be total, and even then it is still a logical consequence of ideals rather than a series of actions alone.

If the culture can be made to reject its current moral ideals of altruism, or to at the very least rethink and debate them, we can perhaps achieve a different kind of consequence if this legislation were to be passed. If the ideals giving rise to this legislation are still fully supported by the time the consequences of this legislation are felt then the people who advocated and supported such measures will view such a reality as a proper way to live, and their kids will not know things could have been better; otherwise, if the ideals are rejected then the people will perhaps demand fundamentally different courses of action. A saying goes: Raise a kid in a swamp and he will never know that the air does not have to stink. What we need to do is let people know that there is not only a swamp.

2.) Barack Obama is acting in accordance with his ideals, and, as we have seen, his ideals, in their consistent form, disturb a significant portion the voting public. Since Obama will most probably, if not certainly, continue acting in accordance with his ideals, people will continue to be disturbed by his actions and there will continue to be a receptive audience for those who want to explain what is essentially wrong with his actions and world view. In other words, opportunities of activism will continue to be handed to us on a platter for a while yet.

We have yet to observe what the effect of the surge of interest in Atlas Shrugged will be, that is, how many people may have converted to the Objectivist world view or at least have become a sympathetic audience. This is one of the reasons why I am so particularly pleased with the Ayn Rand Center Blog: such a constant stream of commentary will do well to maintain and educate an interested audience.

3.) As an extension of point two, keep in mind that this legislation will not be enacted until 2011 if passed (so much for immediate reform). In that three year period much activism can be had.

4.) The Tea Party revolts indicate that there is still emotional respect towards the ideals that America was originally founded on, and that means the American mind can still be saved: all we have to do is offer education that attaches those ideals to reality. If such an opportunity is let to pass by then the revolts will probably amount to nothing, sinking since it has no intellectual buoyancy. Take advantage of the energy and fan the flames with ideas.

5.) Free speech is still a respected right (to a degree). So long as there is free speech there is free thought and the door is still open to rational discussion. However, this right is also under extreme danger.

* * * * *

The most important of the all the points is that about free speech. There is always time so long as rational discussion is not prohibited. If prohibited, there would be no other option other than civil war, which can still be prevented now.

When one loses hope, that is when all is lost.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Not You Too Alton Brown!

Out of the somewhat little television I watch, Good Eats is one of my favorite shows. It is, in fact, the only cooking show I am willing to watch. The best way to describe it, it seems, is Bill Nye the Science Guy and cooking combined into one series.

It dismayed me greatly, however, to hear Alton Brown, the host, advocate a very destructive position in the name of protecting culinary options. Last Monday's episode was about sustainable fishing: how some species were in danger of going extinct due to overfishing and what alternative species people should eat instead. In the middle of the episode he stated that the solution to the problem of overfishing, and if I recall correctly he said it was the only solution, is for there to be government regulations imposed on fisheries.

What could go wrong? You know, other than the fact that unqualified and untrained politicians, in such a scenario, would be set forth to regulate an industry they may know nothing about, have not the time nor ability to learn anything about, would lack the proper knowledge to judge which authorities to delegate authority to, and would immorally violate the rights of fisheries by using threats of physical force to impose fishing quotas (unless they prohibit fishing altogether)?

Considering his celebrity status (he does have the prime time slot on Food Network), Mr. Brown could end up really hurting his way of living since interested cooks are more apt to listen to him.

To my even greater dismay there seems to be no formal way to contact Mr. Brown, whether by e-mail or postal mail. There is only a media contact on his website, nothing on, and my e-mail to Food Network went unacknowledged. I will instead have to satisfy myself with commenting here. (This prompts the question: with no obvious formal way to contact him, how is it that Mr. Brown speaks time to time of receiving e-mail from his fans?)

There are two issues to consider: the problem of advocating government regulations and alternative solutions.

* * * * *

1.) The problem: Aside from the obvious problem of incompetent politicians having authority over something that have little to no knowledge of, the influence of environmentalism in politics in the present age would make it feasible for legislation prohibiting fishing altogether to get passed under the justification that it is protecting the environment. Fishing counts as man utilizing/altering/exploiting his surroundings, which environmentalism opposes and environmentalists would (or at least should, according to their ideology) advocate prohibiting. In an effort to protect certain species of fish so that we may continue eating them Mr. Brown could accidentally contribute to such fish being forcefully taken off our plates.

Also, government regulation as such is just plain immoral in whatever degree or form it appears in. The enforcement of it always entails the use of physical force, for there is no other way to enforce laws. Is it really to be believed that guns are the solution to a peaceful problem of fishing?

2.) Solutions: Contrary to Mr. Brown's beliefs, an absolutely free market is the solution to the problem of sustainable fishing. In fact, I believe we need to look no further for a solution than the pricing system.

Except for very predictable manufactured goods such as computers, food more than anything is subject to price fluctuations given so many factors affecting its availability (crop yields, diseases, factory accidents, shipping methods, etc). Time matters greatly when one speaks of perishable items: if a truck were caught on a freeway with computers, that would affect the price none; fish, on the other hand, could expire, cause losses for the seller, and, as a result, raise prices.

The scarcer a food item is, the higher its market value (i.e. price) is. If lobster were in a certain abundance then prices could actually fall to the point where the highest quality lobster would only cost a dollar a pound, or even less. But such is not the case: lobster is scarce. As a result, the price per unit of lobster is rather expensive and people buy less of it than they otherwise would if it were cheaper. If the price continues to go up then people will continue to decrease their consumption. If it comes to be that selling/fishing lobster is not profitable at all then fishing will cease altogether and the species will have a chance to repopulate at a quick rate. It is only government price setting that can interfere with this free market process.

While this may be perhaps the best solution let us not forget there are others. Activism, for one, could be used to convince people to alter their menus regardless of whether or not unsustainable fish are affordable. Alton Brown himself performed this job wonderfully in his sustainable fishing episode where he explained the problem of overfishing certain species, suggested alternative species, and then engaged in demonstrating a few recipes with the alternative species he suggested. In other words, he identified a problem, offered a solution, and then offered a few demonstrations of that solution to drive the point home.

And what about science? Alterations to the genetic code of various plants have resulted in crops being more disease-resistant and more able to survive in harsher conditions. The result: more people get fed. Can science not do the same for fish?

* * * * *

Even with regards to his fallacious assumption that the government is the only solution Alton Brown did a wonderful job in supporting his cause. But he risks doing much more harm than good unless he rethinks his position and discovers that he is actually advocating the source of economic problems rather than the source of solutions.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Slavery or the Highway: "Volunteerism"

I have been thinking about this issue for several months, but upon hearing that over sixty television networks plan on directing their broadcasting towards promoting the "ideal" of service to others, I see that I must bring myself to action. Service is not an ideal at all; it cannot even be called a mistaken ideal or an immoral ideal, but rather it must be called a vicious idea. Its consistent practice leads not to a society of people happily assisting each other, but a society where everyone mutually resents each other for being each other's slave.

To be clear, in this essay, by slavery I mean the state in which one is physically forced to take a course or courses of action at the commandment of another party over an extended period of time (as opposed to a single instance).

Slavery as such is becoming the case in a certain degree with the enactment of The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which uses federal funding to promote service-based functions such as groups set up for middle school and high school students. (I strongly recommend reading the article and its comments section.)

Now the claim, admittedly, seems to be exaggerated and overly bold: how can the mere encouragement by the government of performing service be considered slavery when no one is being dragged away in chains? As of now, it is being offered to people the option to participate or not to participate. While this may be true, it is still the case that it is slavery or will lead to slavery for two reasons: slavery is a logical implication of this ideal and the choices available are being coercively limited.

* * * * *

* Slavery as a ideological implication: The morality of altruism, the code of morality which states that other people should be the beneficiary of your actions, holds that man does not exist by his own right, but rather by the right of other people. In other words, you do not belong to yourself; you belong to other people.

Such an ethical tenet leads to an inverted view of individual rights where, instead of having the right to be free from physical coercion, people view themselves as entitled to the efforts of other people by right of an innate obligation on the second party. Under this view, if I were to earn a great amount of money from various business ventures that money would not be viewed as my property, but rather as something I have an obligation to distribute to other people. Logically, this means that if I do not distribute this money it is to be considered as a violation of the rights of the potential recipients. Rights violations, of course, are dealt with by physical force. In such a society the agents of the government would go after those that wished to keep "their" property and then would redistribute it among chosen recipients.

Service to other people is an altruistic ideal, which means that it is not merely viewed as being good to perform service to others, but as proper as par the nature of man. Altruism, practiced consistently, would mean that performing service would be enforced by governmental force since it would be held that other people had a right to be served and that by not being served their rights are being violated.

However, this prompts the question: if this is what the ideal of service will lead to if practiced consistently, then why can a person not practice the ideal inconsistently in order to prevent such a consequence?

The simple answer is that opposing principles, when mixed, lead to failures in practice and therefore require that one abandon one set in favor of practicing the other(s) with full consistency. If one does not do so, the failures will continue and one will not be able to honestly claim to be practicing those principles. Look at what the mixing of government controls and freedom has lead to in the economy: economic disaster. In each economic disaster, courses of action were judged by the standard of philosophical principles held in the culture at large. Since individual rights are largely misunderstood, freedom thought as a superfluous luxury, and the government thought as a practical solution to any and all problems, the principle of freedom is most commonly given up in favor of practicing statism more consistently. As economic disasters keep happening, freedom will continue to give in to statism until there is no freedom left, unless people accept the other principle wholesale. (This is not to say that practicing a single principle consistently will always mean success will follow; it merely means that the fullest logical consequences will be experienced by that principle.)

* The number of choices being coerced: This issue is a little more complex to understand, but it is the one that is most relevant to the claim that the government encouraging service is slavery, at least to a certain degree. Let us start off with a quote from my essay Socratic Questions about the Israel-Gaza Conflict:

3.) Who is responsible for the killing of innocents in war?

This is by far the biggest issue in the Gaza war and by far the most lazily treated by the public. The popular answer merely consists of “It is morally wrong to kill innocents in war” without further digging. We shall give this one a lengthy treatment, for not only is it the worst misconception but also the most damning one for Israel.

This is where is becomes evident that these “self-evidencies” are being asserted outside of context. Yes, it is true that killing innocents is wrong in war, but one must distinguish between the person(s) who physically carries out the killing and the person(s) that is responsible for it. Because of this failure to distinguish, people automatically assume that the responsibility of killing lies with the person who physically does it. In truth, the responsibility lays with those that have caused the situation to arise and force a person to act in such way. If Gaza had not been aggressing against its own citizens and against Israel then Israel would not have had to go on the offensive as it did, so therefore the government of Gaza is to be blamed for the casualties of innocents. To clarify our thinking for the future, do not equate killing with the notion of being automatically responsible for it, but do equate being responsible for murder as the same thing (in a moral sense) as having done the physical killing itself. To rephrase using these terms, Israel has killed civilians but the government Gaza is responsible for it in the same fashion as if its agents had done it.

But the public’s mistaken conception has done much more harm than merely misplacing responsibility; it has undermined Israel’s efforts and empowered the Hamas army. What the public failed to perceive is that some ideologies, evil ideologies nonetheless, maintain that the end being pursued is of such moral status that it becomes morally acceptable to use any means to acquire that end. As the familiar saying goes: “The end justifies the means.” Since both the majority of the United States and Israel accept the notion that the killing of innocents in war is wrong (in the context-dropping sense), Hamas is empowered by being able to exploit this ethical tenet. And so then we have the case where Hamas soldiers dress in civilian clothes, use children as helicopter spotters, and hide in civilian buildings. Israel was put in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation, for if they restrained themselves towards “civilians” Hamas got the upper-hand, and if they did not restrain themselves then Hamas would use the casualties as propaganda. Hamas succeeded in creating a situation where it was seemingly impossible to act morally.

Not only that, but this ethical tenet offers a deadly distraction. Consider this philosophical hypothetical:

Let us assume you are driving a trolley car. After a while on the trip, you come to three people tied to the track. You can save them by pulling a lever and changing track, but if you do that then you will set the trolley on course to where one person is tied. What should you do and why?

Nowhere in this hypothetical is there even so much as a passing mention of the person who is tying people to tracks. All the focus, and perhaps even blame, is directed at the poor soul driving the trolley, while the villain is forgotten. It works exactly in the same way in the Gaza war. By accepting that any direct killing of innocents in war is wrong, everyone has focused on how many civilians Israel has harmed while ignoring the people who put them in that situation, so Israel is blamed while Hamas is forgotten. To prevent such from happening again, we must always first ask as to why the situation has arisen to begin with instead of examining how the people have acted in it. [Quoted as is. 10/2009]

To summarize, Israel was harmed in three ways: 1.) it received blame from the world for killing civilians, even though the civilians were thrown in the line of fire by their own government; 2.) it weakened itself in the war due to accepting moral responsibility for killing civilians and acting accordingly (restraint), and, worst of all, 3.) it empowered Gaza by restraining itself and allowing attention to be diverted away from them.

We shall refer to the logic that is employed by the army of Gaza as treating coerced choices as metaphysically absolute. By metaphysically absolute I mean inherent in the nature of reality itself and independent from anyone's choices or wishes, such as the law of gravity. The logic behind this phenomena is simple: person X chooses to coercively limit the range of choices another person can choose, but when person Y picks out of this artificial set of choices X holds Y absolutely responsible for the outcome of his choice, evading the fact that person X could have chosen otherwise and allowed for other choices to be available. In the case of the army of Gaza, soldiers actively threw civilians into the line of fire, thereby limiting, or even eliminating the choice on the part of Israel to NOT fire at civilians, but when the army of Israel did fire at civilians it was held responsible as if the alternatives of firing or not firing were metaphysically absolute, i.e., it is evaded that these options do not arise as inherent in the nature of reality itself and that the army of Gaza could have chosen to do otherwise and not have put its constituents in danger.

It may surprise you that this type of logic is virtually everywhere. Have you ever heard the saying "nothing in life is certain except death and taxes"? Here taxes is treated as a metaphysical fact, completely evading that men identified it, employed it, and maintain such a practice all on their own freewill. Have you ever gotten home from school, complained about your homework load, and then had your parent state "that's life"? This gives homework a metaphysical status and evades the fact that the school officials could have exercised their freewill as to not issue homework or to issue a smaller amount. And so on.

All variants serve the same purpose: for a person or group to manipulate a set of choices available, (implicitly) deny having any choice in the matter of manipulating those choices, and then to claim the entirety of the responsibility lies with the person(s) who now have to deal with that set of choices.

Ask yourself just how far a murderer would get with this line of reasoning:

Person X is enjoying an afternoon stroll with his daughter in the park when suddenly person Y jumps out at him and pulls out a gun. Y demands that X either give up his daughter or Y will shoot him dead. X refuses to give up his daughter, and so Y shoots him dead. A police officer sees that Y has committed a murder, and so restrains him, calls an ambulance, and begins questioning the criminal. Surprisingly, Y is surprised that he is arrested. When asked, here is the exchange that occurs:

Y: But I did no wrong! I am entirely moral!
Police: What are you talking about?! I just saw you murder a man right in front of me!
Y: I did not murder him! He chose to be killed!
P: What?!
Y: I offered him a choice. He was to either give me his daughter or he was to be killed by me. Since he chose not to give me his daughter, he chose death. I merely carried out his wish.

Obviously, today that defense would not go very far, but in other cases not involving murder this logic escapes unnoticed. In the case of the Gaza war the actual murderers of the civilians go unnoticed in favor of the army that is forced to do such killing or be killed itself. In the case of taxes the politicians exempt themselves as conductors of stealing. In the case of a heavy homework load the teachers avoid being an object of frustration.

And in the case of The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, it is evaded that its enactment leaves people with fewer and fewer choices than to not participate and its enactors are viewed as providing "more" choices.

For one, such programs are going to be funded either by taxed money or printed money. As a result, either your income will decrease or prices will increase and you will be unable to afford the same amount of goods and services as before. As a result, you will have less to choose from. As a result, more and more people will have no other choice than to participate in these programs if they should desire to have money or to get an education.

Furthermore, the enactment of this legislation is equal to partial censorship (albeit indirectly and perhaps unintentional). When the agents of government undertake to use tax money to support one ideology, other people will have fewer funds with which to support their own ideology and will be unable to advocate their viewpoint as strongly as the government agents can advocate their stances. Plus, when the government speaks: people listen. Therefore people's choices are further limited by their knowledge; you cannot make a choice you did not know was available or a choice that was prevented from coming into existence (e.g. a business that eliminates a paid internship position due to resources being limited by taxation). Ignorant of other choices available, people will have fewer choices than to participate in these programs.

And let us not forget that some government-run schools have a service requirement for graduation, and so some people have no choice but to participate in these programs if they should want to pursue their goals, and that is slavery, however temporary.

* * * * *

Combine the first reason with the second, and given an ignorant enough people, you could have a very discreet form of slavery. Someone one once said, "If socialism comes to America, it will come without anyone knowing." The same can happen to slavery, that is, there can be a case where slavery exists but few, if any, know about it explicitly. We must break free from what slavery looks like in our imagination and understand what it is.

Consider the case of Kira Argounova of the novel We the Living. (While I know this is a fictional novel, I present this as a good illustration, especially when considering the fact the author is writing from her own experience.)

Kira lives in the Soviet Union. In this time one cannot obtain food legally except through government rations and government approved private stores. The selling of food without the government's permission is illegal. Buying food is nearly impossible by legal means, since the opening of a shop means competing with the government, a Sisyphean endeavor since the government gives away its items for no price and imposes astronomical operating costs on private businesses and the "bourgeois" in general. As a result, most shops go out of business, illegal vendors are punished, and people are left with little else but the choice of the government supplier. But there is a catch in obtaining government rations: one has to be a Soviet employee. And to be a Soviet employee one must claim to support the regime. Kira eventually manages to get a Soviet job, but has a hard time keeping it as they demand she actively remember Soviet trivia day and night, and to "prove" her support by being an activist. If she fails in one instance to show her support, she could quickly, if not instantly, lose her job.

In one particular case she is "suggested" to attend a workers' protest "voluntarily" to show her support of the regime in the face of British workers. But look at the facts. If she does not attend this protest she will lose her job, and if she loses her job she cannot obtain food rations, and if she cannot obtain food rations she will starve to death, literally not metaphorically. This is obviously enslavement of the people by their government, but as you can see here there are no whips and chains or slave masters in cotton fields; there is just the "suggestion" that one go support the Soviets, with a simple withholding of subsistence to motivate. Here a Soviet would apply the same logic we have been familiarizing ourselves with: that if Kira did not choose/could not maintain a Soviet job, she brought death upon herself by her own will (which evades the fact that she is forced from being able to sustain herself).

This is rapidly becoming the case in America today, although in a smaller degree. What the slavery amounts to today is the stealing of some time from your life to support a cause chosen as worthy by the agents of government by threat of making it harder for you to pursue your goals (e.g. making service a graduation requirement, decreasing your income and then offering service initiatives as a method of funding, and so on). While this is not absolute slavery today, it could become so if the ideal of service is not opposed at its root: the morality that claims man is not a being in his own right. Since economic disasters are the result of government intervention in the economy, and since such disasters are treated with more government intervention, that means eventually our economy could lead to total government ownership, private schools and all.

And if the agents of government still advocate the morality of altruism, they will still advocate the ideal of service, and will then be able to provide you with no choice but to participate, lest you choose to starve.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Power of Epistemology II: Institutionalized Education

Some authorities are warning that Obama's plan to lengthen school days could possibly lead to increased stress in children. In fact, some are even going so far, such as Mavis Brown in the article, as to suggest that kids should be kept in school year-round.

While some may be grading the plan "A plus", the truth is that there is no pen red enough to write an F upon it. Mr. Obama not only ignores what is causing the epistemological crisis in children, he intensifies the causes.

Now where have we seen this type of mentality before? If you will recall, a few months ago I wrote an article titled The Power of Epistemology: The Fat Controversy where I examined the controversy about the objective nutritional value of fat and cholesterol, about how it was corrupted by a single scientist who refused to acknowledge (i.e. he evaded) contrary or refuting evidence. As a result of one man's bad epistemology, suffering and death has been hoisted upon millions for following false nutritional guidelines.

I must add emphasis to this: Because one man practiced bad epistemology, millions paid the price in death and suffering. Confronted with contrary data or conclusions, Keys and his disciples would ignore them, and when reality would show that their theory is wrong they would merely deny it and calls would be made for an intensification of the practice of their theory.

Here again we have the misfortune of seeing the same mentality and responses recurring in another branch of practical science: educational theory. Confronted with the reality that children and (college) adults are emerging from their schools less and less educated, the policy-makers ask not for a reexamination of their methodology, but instead for an intensification of the application of it. In other words, like Ancel Keys, they are evading the evidence reality is providing them and trudging forth. Only, this time we have a higher price to pay. As evil as Keys was, there is already significant amounts of educational resources on why his theory is wrong and what guidelines the evidence favors, and prestigious spokesmen, such as Gary Taubes or Tom Naughton, being active advocates for such views. If government funding of scientific research were to be pulled out of the picture, then Keys's theory could perish in a matter of a handful of years.

It is otherwise, however, for education. There is widespread ignorance that the problem with education is epistemological at root rather than a matter of concrete problems, such as whether a teacher should teach mathematics or have his students teach each other (I believe it is called "Whole Math"). In truth I can only summon into mind one school that recognizes the problem and pursues to remedy it: Vandamme Academy. With so much ignorance and disputes over concretes, educational reform is surely to move in a direction only for the worse.

And what price do we have to pay? Everything. If you abandon or destroy the mind then you lose the products of the mind. Children are born in the state that of savages, and it is horrifying to think that the incredible failure of governmental education has brought us adults that go through life with the unformed epistemology of a child. If the whole culture is brought down to that epistemological level then we could have a coming of another Dark Age.

Knowing what we have to lose, now we have to ask: What exactly is the nature of the problem, and how do we solve it? Well, I am not an educational theorist nor have I done any extensive study on such a field, so I can only make observations based on my personal experiences and what little reading I have done. While my observations may be correct, I must make sure my readers know that my range is limited. For a more thorough analysis, I would suggest partaking in the various articles on education available at The Objective Standard (one article is free, others can be previewed for free and then purchased for a few dollars. I recommend "The Hierarchy of Knowledge: The Most Neglected Issue in Education" the most) and of other writings available by the authors on that page.

As for my own experiences and knowledge, I think the problem breaks down into two parts: motivation and hierarchy.
* * * * *
1. Motivation: Children not only have to face the difficulty of properly learning a subject, but also of maintaining the constant motivation to continuously exert effort in that endeavor, now and throughout the entirety of their lifetime. Many things in school work to undermine this. For one, kids are often not told or even denied answers when asking questions as to why they should learn the subject at hand or how they will apply such knowledge in practical life. The end result is that kids forget what they "learned", begin to become averse to, and even detest "learning" (which is really brute memorization in this case); or both. I myself have had my respect for institutionalized education crushed by a math teacher who was unable to answer my question as to how the concept of factoring applies to concrete reality, but ordered me to sit down and "learn it" anyway.

But a greater killer of motivation would be methodology. An absolutely false theory of epistemology is worse than useless not in that it does not facilitate actual learning, but in that it prevents and may make impossible actual learning. What is a greater way to kill motivation than to exert months and months worth of effort in a class only to lose a majority of the information within weeks of being out of it?

2. Hierarchy: The human mind has a certain nature, and so must have a method of learning of a certain nature as well. One of the crucial aspects of proper learning is hierarchy, the order in which things are to be learned. No greater example can be had than from mathematics: first one must learn to count, then to add and subtract, then to multiply and divide, and so on. It would be absolutely absurd, and impossible, to teach a child mathematics by first starting with calculus then skipping to arithmetic and then skipping to fractions, all before he has learned to count. And yet this is exactly what happens in other subjects.

The existence of atoms, for instance, cannot be taught to a baby who has yet to learn about the entities of which are composed of atoms (e.g. inanimate objects, animals, etc.), i.e., he cannot perform a process of abstraction without having a perceptual base.

The result of ignoring such a simple fact is that children today engage in a process of memorization, not learning. To learn is to understand the relationship of a concept(s) or phenomenon with reality and to integrate it with the entire context of one's knowledge; to memorize is to simply retain something mentally. Kids today memorize while in class and then let the floating abstractions float away when they are finished.
* * * * *
Combine these two factors together and you have the makings of a potential disaster: "educated" adults emerging from their schools having learned little, if anything; with a bad and misinformed attitude towards exerting mental effort, and being put in charge of a world which demands that you use your mind to its limit, or perish.

The problem isn't that Johnny can't read. The problem isn't even that Johnny can't think. The problem is that Johnny doesn't know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.-- Thomas Sowell

Worse than stressing kids out, if Obama's plan passes it can bring us many steps closer to destroying the world.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Nobel "Peace" Prize

On the heels of the news story that reports Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize, Doug Reich provides us with some excellent commentary as to how the ideology Obama follows necessarily leads to violence, which thereby discredits the award as having any merit:

And what exactly would a pragmatist seek to achieve in foreign policy, i.e., what would be the standard by which he would determine what "works"? Since "peace" is their ostensible goal, this means that any action in the short run that seems to be a step towards non-fighting would be regarded as good. Therefore, "easing tensions with the Muslim world" or appeasement of our enemies is regarded as worthy of praise and even a Nobel Prize. In the long run, will appeasement of those who overtly seek our destruction result in "peace"? To them, who knows? They must be pragmatic which means making everyone feel good right now.

[...] As Iran continues to build a nuclear bomb, as Chavez seeks Russian help to realize its own nuclear ambitions, as troop morale hits an all time low, what is clear is that Obama's weakness and pragmatic appeasement is making the world more dangerous not less. Obama has given a tacit green light to every enemy of the United States by implying that we will not defend our values either morally or practically.

If a consumer safety company became known for putting its seal of approval on products that more often than not harmed consumers then it would become a meaningless seal which no one would respect. The Nobel Peace Prize has reached this status by not only having been given to a person who has yet to accomplish anything to deserve it, but also by having been given to a person that is actually responsible for the perpetuation of violence. Some reward.

(See also: Commentary by Galileo Blogs and my previous post on foreign policy, Dr. Dolittleism in Foreign Policy.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dan Edge's Adventures in Activism

Dan Edge of The Edge of Reason is in great legal danger in which he faces up to six years in jail. Why? For the crime of having had a minor hand a poster to him and say thanks.

He had but merely organized a protest against what he judged to be an improper exercise of governmental power: a curfew imposed on minors for the crimes and irresponsibility of a minority. Some minors happened to participate in the protest, and when it came time that the curfew had passed the police began inquiring as to the age of certain protesters and told those whom proved underage to depart. One police officer, however, arrested two of the underage protesters without allowing them the chance to depart (as per a requirement of the law) and arrested Mr. Edge when one minor handed a poster to him.

I strongly recommend reading Mr. Edge's personal documentation of the events, in which he also reveals that his local media is purposely neglecting to show his side of the story (thus making his reputation to burn at stake since the public is making improper judgments of him) and how he learned that the media industry in general is prone to distortion due to legal threats from the government:

Adventures in Activism: A True Story of Protest, Arrest, and Release: Mr. Edge's account of the events that happened at the protest.

The Greenville News -- Corrupt from Core to Top: Mr. Edge reveals the legal danger he is in, and how his local media is intentionally neglecting to write about the protest from his perspective (even though he has been interviewed and has given his account to the media).

Why I Am Innocent, While the City is Not: An explanation of what laws were broken in the process of the arrest of Mr. Edge and the two minors.

Who to Contact About my Case: Mailing and e-mail addresses for people of significance in Mr. Edge's area.

I myself am going to write an e-mail of moral support for Mr. Edge. If we do not practice justice and recognize the morality of moral men around us, then what is to serve as their motivation to keep practicing virtue? In such times as these we cannot have the virtuous quitting on us. Or worst yet, to allow them to be taken by the evil.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sprinting to the Start; Crawling to the Finish

A opinion writer for The Wall Street Journal, no name for the writer is given, has brought to my attention that Democrats are now attempting to bring HR 3200 to vote within the next six weeks. A noteworthy excerpt:

The six-week limit also happens to fall—conveniently—before the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey, both of which the GOP has an even-to-better shot of winning. Democratic losses will terrify the Blue Dogs, who are already wavering in their support for an extreme health makeover.

The title of the webpage is "Health Care Deadline Is Arbitrary", and rightly so. As was noted before, this specific piece of legislation, if passed, would not go into effect until sometime in the year 2013. That means that politicians are sprinting to pass something which they will then crawl to put into effect. Along with the above information in the quote, it is conclusive now that our representatives are trying to force this legislation onto the American people before opposition becomes too great.

Now would be a good time to send a reminder to your representatives about your views on this piece of legislation. You can find your appropriate contact forms here. Here is my letter for a reference, which I give permission for anyone to take and alter (but not to copy verbatim):

Dear [representative],

I am writing to remind you that I am opposed to the medical care reform legislation HR 3200, and that I have asked you to cast a vote against it. If you should cast a vote in favor of it, I will not consider voting for you as a candidate for political office again, as this issue is cardinal.

This legislation is not either impractical *or* immoral, but *both* impractical *and* immoral. Any degree of government intervention in the medical industry, whether it be a full nationalization or something as simple as insurance mandates, has been a recorded failure in the multiple countries that tried it, including the United States (referencing Massachusetts in particular). The results of such interventions have been longer waits for appointments, skyrocketing costs, a declining number of doctors, decreasing quality, lack of innovation, and, immorally, the prohibition of a doctor and patient to voluntarily contract on payment and treatment options since the government holds the threat of physical force against them.

The legislation, as it currently stands, gives arbitrary power to bureaucrats, imposes higher taxes on individuals, imposes rationing, and places multiple agencies it establishes above the jurisdiction of the courts:

Big government is the cause of our current medical care ills, and has always been. Only a free market, and I mean an *absolutely* free market that contains no governmental controls, can fix this.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Lies Against Reality II

Robert Tracinski provides an insightful article as to how Barack Obama's considerably consistent lying is dissolving his credibility, particularly in the debate about medical care legislation HR 3200.

This is the way an article about lies should be written. All too often it seems like those who put forth political arguments leave assertions hanging in mid-air, which leads to only the like-minded, rather than a general audience accepting such an argument. In this article Mr. Tracinski does not merely accuse Obama of lying, he takes note of what assertions Obama has put forward and then cites the facts of reality that contrast his words, thereby proving, rather than just saying, that Obama is a liar by chosen nature.

It is much too good to post any single excerpt. Read the whole thing.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Introducing "Musing Aloud"

One of the frustrations I run into when maintaining this blog is that I sometimes come upon something that I would wish to blog about but will not since it is outside the theme (epistemology, ethics, politics), style, and formality of this blog. In short, I refrain from ever using this blog for anything personal since it was not established and is not used for such a purpose.

This is why I am going to open up a brother blog titled Musing Aloud. This is where I am going to locate my personal writings, writings about my personal observations, the values I hold, or questions that arise in my mind (in hope for discussion from commenters). I have also relocated my Twitter feed to that page, as that is something relevant to the theme of Musing Aloud, not of Benpercent.

I do not plan on, at least currently, adding it to the Obloggers blog network, so that means my posts from that site will not show up in the blogging feed. Instead I will have a link on the upper right hand side titled "Brother Blog" and may periodically link to posts from this site.

Oh, and I know that the proper terminology would be "Sister Blog" since all inanimate objects are usually referred to with female pronouns...but I arbitrarily decree my blog to be a boy blog.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Invading Your Myspace?

Ken Boehem informs us that the White House is apparently secretly soliciting offers for someone to mine data from various social networking websites:

NLPC has uncovered a plan by the White House New Media operation to hire a technology vendor to conduct a massive, secret effort to harvest personal information on millions of Americans from social networking websites.

The information to be captured includes comments, tag lines, emails, audio, and video. The targeted sites include Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and others – any space where the White House “maintains a presence.”

First there was, and now this. Again the question arises: For what purpose?

Now I know that this article may seem too much like a conspiracy theory in the negative sense, but it is valid. If one will click the link presented in the article it will go to an official government website which confirms the contents of the article.

Could this be an attempt to restrict free speech by means of intimidation?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Before They Can Even Think....

It has been announced that Obama plans on addressing a special speech to students on September 8th, Tuesday. There seems to have been quite an upset over this, so much so that some are calling that day to be a national "Keep Your Kids Home Day". The charge being leveled is that this address amounts to indoctrination, but is it?

First, let us make our terms clear. Indoctrination is the process of instructing a person in a doctrine or an ideology. While this definition is harmless enough and does not set off any alarms, it is the who that it applies to that matters. If one were to indoctrinate, say, a thinking adult, then that would be fine as he would possess the capability to critically assess what he is being presented with and would be able to reject or accept it accordingly. A young child that has not learned how to think, however, is an inappropriate target for indoctrination as he cannot properly do a critical evaluation of the information before him, and will therefore have few other options than to accept the presented doctrine on faith.

The proper function of a school is to train a child in how to use his mind. Certainly the intellectual content is very important in that training, but the intellectual method holds primacy. Instruct a child in the proper methods of gathering data and thinking and you will have a child that will continue learn throughout the entirety of his lifetime, as opposed to the kids today who are being instructed in brute memorization and coming out of schools explicitly stating they hate learning.

Also, how morally bad a particular case of indoctrination in a school is to be regarded depends on what level of schooling is being considered. On a college campus the students should have developed to the point where they at least *should* have had some basic instruction in proper thinking methods, so indoctrination in a college classroom should be considered in bad taste rather morally wrong. In an elementary school, however, it is to be considered morally despicable. Indoctrination at that age is not to be considered wrong merely because it may happen against a parent's consent or because it may enforce unjustified prejudice, but because doing so hinders the minds of the children. Since they do not possess the ability at that age to rationally think about the doctrine they are being presented with, they have few other choices but to accept it on irrational grounds and thereby learn methods of non-thinking which could hinder or stunt the growth of their mind for the rest of their life. To fail to teach a child how to learn is the most condemnable failure any teacher could allow to happen.

Now, what evidence do we have that Obama may be presenting a speech which is a shielded attempt to indoctrinate students? First, we have evidence directly from official White House sponsored documents. From the prek-6 PDF file listed under the heading "Classroom Activities" in the link presented above:

During the Speech

  • As the president speaks, teachers can ask students to write down key ideas or phrases that are important or personally meaningful. Students could use a note‐taking graphic organizer such as a “cluster web;” or, students could record their thoughts on sticky notes. Younger children could draw pictures and write as appropriate. As students listen to the speech, they could think about the following:

What is the president trying to tell me?

What is the president asking me to do?

What new ideas and actions is the president challenging me to think about?

  • Teachers could ask students to share the ideas they recorded, exchange sticky notes, or place notes on a butcher‐paper poster in the classroom to discuss main ideas from the speech, such as citizenship, personal responsibility, and civic duty.

  • Students could discuss their responses to the following questions:

What do you think the president wants us to do?

Does the speech make you want to do anything?

Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?

What would you like to tell the president?
[All emphasis is mine except for bold on heading above bulleted list]

As Michelle Malkin has noted, this has a rather heavy activist type of wording to it, especially that which I have put in bold. Why should an American President be telling anyone to "do" anything? Given the nature of a proper government, it is highly inappropriate that he instruct children in "civic duty".

But we still have yet more evidence. Take into consideration this four minute video, which some schools have already showed in classrooms (although not at the behest of the Department of Education):

The use of celebrities in this video indicates that it is directed at the youthful crowd. Many of the pledges made in this video are obviously tinged with politics, and the last portion where they state "I pledge to be a servant to our president and all mankind" in unison drips of the philosophical doctrine of altruism and of slavery.

So, to conclude, yes, the probability is that Obama is going to use his address as a means of indoctrination. Regardless of whether or not one thinks the content of Obama's ideas is true, it is still not proper to present them in this format, let alone present them at all, to children.

Furthermore, this would not be proper no matter which President wished to do it and what his intentions were. It is not the job of the government to instruct its citizenry, using involuntarily extracted funding (taxes) from which the original owners may not approve of its usage.

What of opting out?, one may ask now. Surely if a parent disapproves of a certain activity he can submit his refusal and have the educators accommodate with an alternative activity. Not in all cases, states Michelle Malkin:

Reader Ernest emails a link to the notice on the Broward County FL school district site, which informs parents that they cannot opt their kids out of the president’s speech on Tuesday because the administrators are committed to “encouraging civics education in the broadest sense.”

Who controls your kids?

This amounts to physical coercion in public schools. It is a law that children must receive education in some form, whether it is via home schooling or attending an educational facility. Taxes for education may make it so that parents cannot afford to home school their children, as they may have to work, nor afford to send them to a private school, so the government forcibly limits their options down to government-run public schools.

Let us call it then: Tuesday shall officially be Keep Your Kids Home Day.

Monday, August 24, 2009

This "Death Panels" Business

My readers must forgive me for being a one-topic blog for the past few weeks, but the medical reform issue is of far too much importance not to focus on. Lately there has been much talk about "death panels" being inherent within HR 3200, panels of bureaucrats that decide who lives or dies, which has been given much heat. "Preposterous" they all say.

Those that have been keeping up with my last few posts will know that no lengthy argument is necessary. The real question is: how can supporters, and opponents alike, of HR 3200 not see that it will lead to death panels?

The logic is simple. As I have said before, the impracticality of socialized medicine is that, by removing prices, it encourages people to over-consume medical resources and for doctors and nurses to either go into a concierge practices or to leave their profession. A shortage results. A shortage is when there is not enough of a product or service to satisfy the demand for it. Rationing of medical resources will ensue under such a system.

What happens in rationing? Panels of bureaucrats will decide whom is allowed how much of what medical resources, and whom is not to have any.

And so there you have it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Nice Try

According to Yahoo! News, the White House is preparing to drop public option from HR 3200. Instead, what is to be pursued in its place is a thing called "cooperatives". The article is extremely vague as to what they are.
Michael D. Tanner, however, warns us that co-ops are simply public option by another name. (HT: Paul Hsieh.)

Should we be surprised? No, this is simply an old trick of politicians. If something is found to be unfavorable with the voting public, simply change the terminology, pretend like it is a whole new thing and you may perhaps fool them. We must remember our Shakespeare: "A rose by any other name smells just as sweet." (Though I would not be using roses in the metaphor...)

This plan must be defeated wholesale, not instead accepted in some lesser degree. In one of my earliest essays I pointed out as to why government officials are doomed to failure whenever they try to intervene in the economy to "improve" things. Given this knowledge and the fact that more regulations are habitually proposed to fix these failures, we must recognize that this leads to a vicious circle: when the government regulates the economy it causes failure, leading to more regulation, more failure, more regulation, more failure, ad infinitum. If this legislation piece is passed in any degree we will be merely taking another step in this endless circle.

The absurdity of all this is that some of the complaints the politicians are putting force about insurance companies are about problems the government has created to begin with. From the Yahoo! article:

"Nothing has changed,” said Linda Douglass, communications director for the White House Office of Health Reform. “The president has always said that what is essential is that health insurance reform must lower costs, ensure that there are affordable options for all Americans and it must increase choice and competition in the health insurance market. He believes the public option is the best way to achieve those goals."”

If that is what is desired to be accomplished, to make insurance companies more affordable, competitive, and to offer more choices, then why do they not suggest the repealing of the laws that have prevented insurance companies from achieving these goals? Laws have driven up the operating costs of business, so insurance companies raise their prices out of necessity, not greed. Laws have forced insurance companies to cover certain conditions and treatments regardless of whether or not the particular consumers wish to be covered for them, so insurance companies are lacking in competition and choices because they are prohibited from competing and prevented from offering more choices.

Instead of suggesting the repealing of the problem laws, even more laws and more regulations are being proposed.

If this circle is not broken then the government will inevitably take over the entirety of the medical care industry, not just insurance.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hurrying to Wait?

I should not be surprised, but I am. Stella Zawistowski from ReasonPharm reports:

Here's something I didn't know about HR 3200 until today: that the massive expansion in health insurance coverage sought by Democrats would not actually take effect until 2013 -- after the next presidential election.

Given all the calls that we need medical care reform quickly, the democrats seem to be overly patient in actually implementing their plan. Why, exactly, do we need to pass HR 3200 in such a hurry if it is not going into effect for almost four years? Because the bill is without rational justification. It is neither moral nor practical. If this legislation saw the light of day for too long people would see that in the future it can only lead to long waits for medical treatment/appointments, doctors and nurses leaving their profession, bureaucrats deciding who gets treatment, if any at all; innovative medicines and technologies abandoned at the blueprint stage, and more. In short, suffering for all without even an anthill's worth of the moral high ground. If anything could be chosen as the symbol of the logical consequence of socialized medical care, I would choose this case.

This legislation needs to be opposed absolutely. If passed, we face the possibility of it never being repealed within our lifetime. If people ever come to view medical care rationing, chronic suffering, and little to no innovation in the market as "things as they just have to be" then we may very well have lost. Someone once wrote: Raise a kid in a swamp and he will not know that the air does not have to stink.

But there is still time. The vote is not coming until next month or so, and the opposition is great already. We can better our understanding and ability to oppose even more by actually reading the bill. However, I realize that 1017 pages of complicated, nearly incomprehensible legal language is far too daunting a task for most people; even I would not spend my time like that. That is why I would like to point you to an analysis written by John David Lewis, which may be the best analysis of the concrete bill itself. The purpose of his article is to answer nine questions:

  1. Will the plan ration medical care?,

  2. will the plan punish Americans who try to opt out?,

  3. what constitutes “acceptable” coverage?,

  4. will the plan destroy private health insurance?,

  5. does the plan tax successful Americans more than others?,

  6. does the plan allow the government to set fees for services?,

  7. will the plan increase the power of government officials to scrutinize our private affairs?,

  8. does the plan automatically enroll Americans in the government plan?, and

  9. does the plan exempt federal officials from court review?

It is structured into nine sections with two subsections in each. The subsections are ordered that the question is posed at the heading, the relevant passage from the bill quoted second, and an evaluation of the passage third. I would go so far as to say this is "required reading".

Spread it where you can.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Snake Rattles?


There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to [Emphasis added]

Check out Gus Van Horn and C. August for excellent commentary regarding this. I have nothing to add to their points.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Snake Bares its Fangs

John David Lewis has written an excellent article that succinctly explains why universal medical care/socialized medical care/single-payer medical care/public option medical care systems are not only impractical economically, but are also immoral. We must pay special attention to the medical care scene for the present as the America's Affordable Health Choices Act is coming up to vote in the next month or so.

As I have explained in my article Poisonous Snake Bite? Run to the Hospital!, the impracticality of socialized medical care (this is the label that is most accurate and the one I will use consistently) is a simple supply and demand problem. If politicians say that people can have as much medical care as they want at no price then people start to "demand", i.e. use up more medical resources than they otherwise would have and a shortage of medical resources occurs (doctors, instruments, medicines, etc.). Yes, that means long lines for appointments and treatments, if they are available and if the politicians determine that you are allowed to have any.

But not only would the present supply be overwhelmed by a massive increase in demand, it would also decrease. Of all the rambling that goes on about how overpaid doctors are, it is seldom acknowledged the nature of the doctor's profession. To become a doctor requires years of intensive study, experience, and the willingness to take on the risk of contracting a disease or illness from one's patients. To demand that a doctor take on more patients for less money is to demand that he work harder and take on an even higher risk of getting a sickness without getting just rewards. Such is enough to make a doctor decide to exclude patients with a certain governmental insurance plan, to open up a concierge practice and accept cash payments only, or to leave the medical profession altogether. It is already happening, so imagine how much worse things will be if the AAHCA is passed. Medical insurance does not mean one is guaranteed to actually receive medical care.

But, of course, John Lewis above has warned us about using purely economical arguments. An author on the blog Noodlefood once said that humans are willing to create Hell on earth if they think it is moral.

Socialized medical care is immoral. To say that one has a right to medical care is to also state that someone has a duty to satisfy that right, which means that the right to medical care requires the enslavement of some to satisfy that right. There is no right to medical care, for it runs into the contradiction that some have the right to violate the rights of others. Unless these moral implications are made clear to the public, we will only be fighting a Sisyphean battle with this type of legislation; right up until it inevitably gets passed.

It would not get passed, or even considered, if it was to be rejected on moral, rather than solely practical, grounds. As always, I recommend reading the analysis Moral Health Care vs. “Universal Health Care”, which deeply examines both the moral and practical sides to the debate about universal medical care. Sending an e-mail to one's representatives would not hurt either.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Associated Press Announces New Business Model

I am not familiar with the news website The Associated Press, content or quality otherwise, but methinks this is a bad business model. Stating that people should pay for merely linking to your content is dubious enough, but stating that you plan on planting spyware on your consumers' computer seems like an awfully bad idea:

Each article — and, in the future, each picture and video — would go out with what The A.P. called a digital “wrapper,” data invisible to the ordinary consumer that is intended, among other things, to maximize its ranking in Internet searches. The software would also send signals back to The A.P., letting it track use of the article across the Web. [New York Times]

Are they purposely trying to commit suicide? It makes one wonder how they even got to where they are at now.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Buying Local"

It has recently come to attention that the UAW, at least in Michigan, prohibits cars of foreign make from parking in union hall parking lots and that any violators of the rule are to be towed away. Such sentiments are not limited to the UAW: in the past few weeks I have noticed that the editorials continuously call for people to purchase goods and services produced only within the local economy. The premise underlying all of this, of course, is that keeping money within the local economy improves the local economy.

This, however, fails to establish the context. While so many are quick to condemn businesses for daring to outsource work and to import foreign materials, none ask the most important question: why are these businesses choosing to outsource? By not answering this question we risk merely making the economy worse, so let us examine the possible reasons.

I am not aware of any explicit reasons as to why the companies based in Michigan would want to outsource (e.g. harmful legislation, favorable conditions overseas, et cetera), but we can conclude that their reason(s) fall within two categories: 1.) the cost of running business is cheaper in particular foreign locales, and/or 2.) the quality of production is greater in particular foreign locales. Few businesses uproot their operations "just because".

Michigan editorials are calling for either people to purchase things only locally or for companies to relocate their operations locally, but by not answering the question above, what do we risk losing? If businesses are relocating because the cost of business is cheaper elsewhere, then we will have to face higher prices than we otherwise would have to pay; if businesses are relocating because the quality of production is greater elsewhere, then we lose that superior quality. If it is a combination of both factors, then we have lost much.

The point is that we must have in mind the full context before choosing to take a course of action. If we do not, then we are merely making guesses, even if educated ones.

"Buying local" as a principle does no good or harm; it is meaningless without the context of appropriate factors. People, for instance, bought locally in The Great Depression. The Smoot-Hawley tariff mostly, if not entirely, cut off U.S. trade with other countries. "Buying local" improved the economy none since people were subject to such excruciatingly high taxes back then in order to fund New Deal programs.

When thinking about these issues we must chant the mantra context, context, context within our minds.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Burning the Casino Down

One particular difficulty I run into when discussing economics is that so many people seem to be ignorant of the fact the economy has principles and causal factors by which it runs; instead they think of the economy as some sort of big casino that the government needs to regulate after a bad deal, especially so in this recession. Luckily, however, we have people like Doug Reich to provide excellent commentary. Today I would like to point your attention to his post titled Obama: Please Try This at Home, which examines the underlying reasons as to why economic stimuluses do not work and why the ones recently passed will actually do harm. What is so great about the post is that it is written in a language specifically for those who have no knowledge of formal economics, so it is perfect for forwarding in e-mails. I cannot quote any notable excerpts since the whole essay is worth reading.

I would also like to direct your attention to his philosophical/psychological analysis titled Rational Animal Spirits, which is a dissection of the mentalities of our current central planners (i.e. politicians) and an explanation as to why forgoing principles is very harmful, if not fatal. A noteworthy excerpt:

If you are trying to eliminate the effects of a particular problem, do you think it would ever help to understand the causes that give rise to the effects? For example, if a building were on fire, do you think it would help that the firemen in charge understood what tends to fuel a fire and what tends to extinguish it? If they did not understand the causes, wouldn't they be as likely to throw a ham sandwich on the fire as to pour water upon it? ...Obviously, if one does not understand the causes, the solution may actually be worse than the problem itself. At best, the supposed solution can only mitigate or eliminate effects through random chance.

Both of these analyses give further clarity into our current times and show us what must be done about the economic crisis: the government must stop throwing gasoline on the fire.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Bit Longer...

While this may be contradictory to my previous post about benevolent comedy, I cannot help but hold this as my favorite magic trick of all time:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Benevolent Biff

Forgive me for being light on my posting as of late; I have been facing a small bit of difficulty that has prevented me from being Johnny-on-the-spot with maintaining a steady stream of posts, but I do have several ideas for some posts, including one in particular I have been contemplating for several weeks, if not months. I shall not reveal them lest I give any other writers an idea. :-) For now one will have a positive article to be tided over with.

Here is a link to my favorite comedy comic, The Book of Biff. There is simply far too much vicious comedy out in the media these days, comedy where you are expected to take amusement at someone's suffering, however mild. Such things I cannot laugh at, for I prefer benevolent comedy. The difficulty is that benevolent comedy of decent quality can be hard to find.

As for The Book of Biff, the comic is about random moments in the life of a man with flowing eyebrows and an overwide mouth. In many ways the comic can borderline on Charlie Brownian misfortunes such as with Biff's constantly being laid off or having his property destroyed, but in the end optimism and resolve reign through. Some of my particular favorites are here, here, and here.

What are your favorite things that showcase a benevolent sense-of-life?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

So...You Have Finished Saving the Economy Then?

Via I have learned about this video:

For those that are unable to watch the video, here is my personally typed up transcript, with emphasis added and but one grammatical note inserted in brackets:

The problem is, can you really get the American people to say this is important and force their representatives to do the right thing? That requires mobilizing a citizenry. That requires them understanding what is at stake. And climate-change is a great example, you know, when I was asked about the issue of coal. You know, under my plan, of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Even regardless of what I say whether coal is good or bad. Because I'm capping greenhouse gases, coal-powered plants, you know, natural name...whatever the plant's worth, whatever the industry was, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money [and] they will pass that money onto consumers.

This is an strange assertion coming from a guy who has stated a few months ago that the he would be trying his best to save the American economy; now he is alright with explicitly stating that he has knowingly drafted a plan that will harm the economy? Astonishing.

But the President may not have been up on his Henry Hazlitt, for he only noted the direct impact. The absolute impact, so to speak, is enough to bring America into its second depression, and that is not speaking hyperbolically. Many have been pointing out as of late that this cap-and-trade legislation is the new Smoot-Hawley tariff.

The Smoot-Hawley tariff is one of the primary factors that started the Great Depression. (A tariff is a tax that is imposed on foreigners for importing their goods into a certain geographical area.) This particular tariff was so outrageously high that is prevented almost entirely, if not entirely, foreigners from importing anything, so in retaliation the trading countries imposed a high tariff of their own which effectively prevented American businesses from exporting goods and thus isolated America trade-wise. As a result, businesses suffered by losing their export sales, consumers suffered by having to buy inferior products or by losing some products entirely, and prices went up. (While this tariff may have been vital in starting the Great Depression, it was not what made it decade-long. For an examination of the economic policies that made the Great Depression great, please refer to the book New Deal or Raw Deal?)

The currently discussed cap-and-trade legislation would be more harmful than Smoot-Hawley in that it would affect the entirety of the American economy. Obama has stated that electricity rates would skyrocket, but does he acknowledge that every aspect of the American economy depends on energy in some way? Not only would electricity rates skyrocket, but all prices would skyrocket as well, thereby crippling the economy and preventing it from recovering until the legislation is repealed.

This is a good time of all times to contact your elected officials.