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.