Friday, June 25, 2010

Facebook | Tom Anderson

In a healthy human being, the faculty of reason integrates particular facts into conceptual systems, i.e. formal knowledge, and as we find success in using this knowledge to pursue our purposes, we feel great joy and happiness. Conversely, when we meet failure, we experience pain. Pain and pleasure are the two great emotions man can feel. Everything he does will either bring him pain or pleasure. But he must not be ruled by pain or pleasure, since they are not proper guides. Reason is the guide, based on knowledge of facts, and integrated with the sum total of previous knowledge.
Facebook | Tom Anderson

Monday, June 21, 2010

Obama’s Thuggery Is Useless in Fighting Spill - Michael Barone - National Review Online

Feinberg gets good reviews from everyone. But the Constitution does not command “no person . . . shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law — except by the decision of a person as wise and capable as Kenneth Feinberg.” The Framers stopped at “due process of law.”

Obama doesn’t. “If he sees any impropriety in politicians ordering executives about, upstaging the courts and threatening confiscation, he has not said so,” write the editors of The Economist, who then suggest that markets see Obama as “an American version of Vladimir Putin.” Except that Putin is an effective thug.
Obama’s Thuggery Is Useless in Fighting Spill - Michael Barone - National Review Online

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Common Fallacies About Capitalism 1

On my Facebook Page I come across misconceptions about capitalism, about corporations, and about business.  From time to time I will quote snippets from such misconceptions and then apply some reason and facts to enable you to make a more accurate judgment and revise your own notions accordingly.  Here are just a few I've recently come across.

I had written:  "As to fear, Americans have considerable justification to fear zero [the Obama Administration] and his thugs in Congress for the simple reason that Congress has been voting away our individual rights in favor of a dictatorship.  This is seen most notably with the recent passage of legislation that socialized the medical industry and deprives everyone of their right to run their lives as they wish."

To which my correspondent claimed:  "The insurance companies have regulations like any industry has."

Insurance companies are heavily regulated by the states.  Their rates are regulated directly and indirectly.  The state controls the market by limiting entry and it controls the product by specifying in detail what the product is.  To take Florida as an example, if you are an insurance company you are not permitted to sell medical insurance in Florida unless the state permits it, and the state will not permit it.  The state further tells the few insurance companies who are permitted to do business exactly what must be covered in the policies they are permitted to sell.  For example, I am not permitted to buy a policy that does not cover maternity benefits or mental health benefits, even though I do not want to pay for those benefits and can have no need for them.

The purpose of such regulation is to force me to subsidize through my excessive premiums the maternity benefits and mental health care benefits the legislature has decided it does not want to pay for directly from taxes.  Essentially the state is "shifting the cost" and indirectly subsidizing favored classes of people at the expense of others. 

So your facts are wrong.  Ordinary companies selling product or services are not required to get a permit to do so from the state, the state does not limit market entry, and the state does not tell the company what it can and cannot sell.  Companies must simply abide by the common laws all citizens must follow, pay any taxes due, which is the state's main concern, and the state will generally leave the company alone.  Customers then benefit by purchasing the product or service, or the company goes bankrupt because people choose not to do business with it.  People are not forced by the state to do business with it, as they are with insurance companies.

Claim:  "Without regulations, Lake Erie would still be dead and the Cayahoga river [sic] in Cleveland would still be burning."

This statement depends on what you mean by "regulations".  The principle of individual rights requires laws, and when a geographical area is without law, it is, quite literally, "lawless."  That was the situation with Lake Erie.  The "regulations" you cite--the Clean Water Act of 1972--essentially prohibited the dumping of nutrient phosphorus.  However, the problem would have been more effectively addressed by laws written to protect private property interests.  When you have a "commons" it is a well-known and understood phenomenon that unless the people who use the resource are permitted to develop informal or even formal rules for its use and disposal you will put into motion incentives that ultimately destroy the resource.

It is clear, for example, that current regulations do nothing to prevent dumping of raw sewage into these waterways and Lake Erie itself from public, not private, sources.  52 communities within the Lake Erie Watershed Basin, ranging from small towns like Avon Lake, to the larger metropolitan cities including Toledo and Cleveland, have 598 combined sewer overflow outfalls, or pipes, that feed into the waterways that lead into Lake Erie, or directly into the Lake itself.  An analysis of 38 of the 52 communities that dump untreated sewage shows that these communities dumped more than 10 billion gallons of sewage into the Lake Erie watershed in 2005 alone.  This is equivalent to more than 3 billion toilets flushing into Lake Erie--a drinking water source for more than 11 million people.  Combined sewage overflows are a major cause of beach advisories, wildlife destruction, and human death problems.

If private property rights were clearly defined in the Lake Erie Watershed Basin, Americans would have recourse to the courts to sue local and state governments to compel behavior from them that respected private property rights in Lake Erie.  But we do not have those protections because people have been mislead to believe that government "regulations" are protecting them.  Government typically does not monitor itself, doesn't sue itself, and, in fact, generally does everything it can to mislead and hide its malfeasance, just as ordinary criminals do.  This is another reason why the state should be separated from the economy as much as possible, i.e. a society based on laissez-faire capitalism, rather than the mixed economy of socialistic and fascistic controls with some freedoms also allowed.

Claim:  "BP didn't follow what scant regulations on drilling and we see the results."

Oil drilling activities are among the most heavily regulated in the country.  The facts are that the United States prohibited safe drilling on land and shallow water by fiat, forcing companies into the far more riskier deep water.  The government even gave oil companies incentives to drill in deep water and the current administration even exempted BP from having to meet its own regulatory standards.  In addition, the US specificially praised BP's platform, the one that blew up.

The outrage does not stop there.  Because of US regulations, BP was insured for only $75 million beyond the cost of any cleanup.  If BP had to get its insurance on the private market, instead of having the government insure its operations, that limit would have been far higher, the premium would have passed on through the chain in the form of higher production cost and the market would have substantially determined whether or not it was economically feasible to take such a risk.

The US government socialized the risk to BP for political reasons.  Such events happen when you have a mixed economy.  The solution is not more "regulations" but getting the government out of the the private sector so that it can provide the one thing it is qualified to provide the market:  clear liability laws that protect the people whose lives and property are being put in jeopardy.  We can't abolish risk, but we can insure against accidents.  When the government encourages risky behavior, rewards corporations for engaging in risky behavior, and then socializes the risk for risky behavior to further encourage it, how can the government be absolved of any responsibility?

Claim:  "The insurance companies are just leaches off the medical needs. It is not in any way single payer nor are these companies restricted. Hell, they wrote this health bill which sucks because it doesn't include an individual's right to bypass the insurance monsters who love to drop sick people and refuse to insure those with pre existing conditions."

You are misinformed.  As Adam Smith used to say, the tailor does not make you a new suit of clothes because he wants to see you well turned out; he turns you out in the best suit of clothes because he wants to feed his family and otherwise provide for his own economic needs.

Insurance companies are owned by stockholders, just ordinary people, looking to make some money by providing a service, a service that most people appreciate.

When government interfers with the private market, it initiates the use of physical force to compel people to behave in ways that oppose their own rational self-interests, and thereby corrupts the relationships between buyers and sellers, making them hostile.

People trade values voluntarily for mutual advantage, by definition, for otherwise they would not trade.  When government forces sellers to sell what they don't want to sell, and forces buyers to buy what they do not want to buy, government creates hostility, bad feeling, injustice, and sets up incentives for buyers and sellers to game the system in order to get what they want.

The fault lies not with the buyers and sellers, but with the government for intervening in the private economic activities of citizens.

Claim:  "Pray tell what individual rights have been removed since Bush/Obama?"

Perhaps you will accept just one example, since there is not enough time or space to list them all here.  The recently passed legislation that socializes the medical industry will have the effect of abridging the right of the people to seek medical care and to provide medical care as they wish.  Doctors will be forced to provide services and patients will be forced to accept services neither of them wants in precisely the way that they want them.  The government in this legislation establishes bureaus that will decide on what services doctors may provide and what services patients may receive, independently of the wishes of the doctor or patient.

The abridgment of individual rights, of course, occurs in some measure to some degree any time the government intervenes into the free market.  The medical industry was very heavily regulated prior to the rise of the Regime, a situation that created the manifold number of difficulties and injustices the new law pretends to resolve.  However, government intervention always creates many new problems that then require more government intervention, ad infinitum, until government comes to manage every aspect of life and no freedom remains for the individual.

Most everything the critics said of the new law, and denied by its supporters, is coming true as the regulations are put into place or proposed.

Claim:  "That bad memory lives on in the financial disaster we all are living thru [sic]. We and our government let billionaires play games with OUR money and homes. Capitalism sucks."

Your facts are wrong.  The system we currently have is very different from a capitalistic system.  Under capitalism, people have rights and the government does not have the legal power to abridge people's rights.

For example, in a free society (i.e. a capitalistic society) government would not have the power to force a citizen to pay the debt incurred by other citizens, as the current Regime has done in regard to the so-called "bailout".

Claim:  "AND your definition of socialism is not accurate. You describe communism."

Socialism commonly means government ownership and control of the means of production, i.e. all property.  Fascism commonly means government control of the means of production, but technical "ownership" remains in the hands of private citizens.  Communism commonly means government ownership and control of the means of production.

Socialism and communism mean the same thing.  The term "communism" has come to be associated historically with Marxism-Leninism, and the sorts of totalitarian governments that arouse under those politicians who identified as such.  However, there is really little to justify saying one is, in any particular, different in kind from the other.  For example, liberals greatly admire Fidel Castro and the murderous thug Che Guevara, and both these infamous sociopaths considered themselves socialists.  Liberals never tire, for example, in extolling the manifold virtues of the Cuban health care system, or the wonders of its education system.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Tea Party & Illegal Immigration

Those wishing to defend the premise that the only legitimate function of government is the protection of individual rights may defend laws against illegal immigration on very simple, straight-forward national security grounds.

Does the man next door to your apartment have an indefeasible right to keep a nuclear weapon on the premises? Some might argue he has; I would argue for a rule of reason and common sense. Clearly we have a right to keep ourselves safe from a potential terrorist, and a man with a nuclear bomb is not likely to be acting from the self-defense motive of a man keeping a Sig-Sauer 9 mm at the ready.

We must look to intent to decide questions of this sort. All abstract propositions become conditional propositions when applied to matters of fact. Some facts are these: that illegal immigration into the USA permits terrorists into the country. It therefore follows a rational country needs an ordered procedure to determine such questions as whether to permit a foreign national from crossing our national borders. By what principle would one argue that he had a "right" to enter the United States?

Therefore I see no rational, factual, or moral basis for the belief that the US is violating that man's rights. Until we know who the man is, what his background is, what his beliefs are--indeed, everything about him--we have no moral obligation to permit his entry into our country. The first order of business for the federal government is the protection of our individual rights from threats or potential threats created by those who wish to make war on the US. Until we can determine whether he is an enemy of the US, he has no right to be here.

On that basis I am completely with the Tea Party people and others who oppose illegal immigration. That our immigration laws may need reform is another conversation. I think it is to our interest to have guest worker programs, on the principle that we do honor individual rights of those who wish only to trade values on a non-coercive basis, but that is an important condition and one that is not met by Mexicans crossing our borders at night in the desert, murdering, kidnapping, or otherwise endangering the lives of Americans.

It is true there is a collectivist premise in the thinking of those who oppose illegal immigration on the grounds that illegals are abusing the welfare system we have established in this country. Actually, they have a point. Illegals are abusing the welfare system, in the sense they are obtaining benefits at the expense of taxpayers. But then so are those Americans who avail themselves of those same benefits.

What is overlooked in this argument is that the primary abuse is of the taxpayers. But their emotional hostility is completely understandable as the present American regime has just enacted legislation that will vastly intensify the abuse by indirectly extending taxpayer-funded benefits to millions of illegals. The Regime understands its actions will further divide Americans and wishes to exploit such divisions for partisan advantage, as has been demonstrated in its cynical--and shamefully ignorant--handling of the recent law passed in Arizona to protect its citizens from threats to their lives and property.

Americans, by and large, do not oppose legal immigration, nor do they oppose a rational, liberal immigration policy, but the laws as imperfect as they may be should be followed, they should be enforced by constituted authority and at present and for many years have not been enforced. Presently the people of Arizona are facing a catastrophe. We already have parts of California becoming a wasteland of socialist and open-borders sentiment, such as the school district of Los Angeles, electing to teach the students in public schools that Arizona's laws are the moral equivalent of Nazi Germany's concentration camps and urging an economic boycott of the state and of the people.

We are in serious trouble when we have political districts in our own country thinking and talking as if they were citizens of another country, and one that clearly has an interest in solving the problems of its own socialist economy by encouraging its people to "migrate" to the US illegally and then to lecture us on our responsibility to protect the individual rights of Mexicans!

I have a further point to make. Our culture has been so degraded--intellectually, morally, culturally--that intelligent political discourse is all but made impossible both by the lack of intellectual ammunition on the Right and the militantly anti-intellectual political tactics of the Left. It is true that Illegal Immigration may become a hugely symbolic issue that will "carry the emotional freight" of the public's gut-level antagonism to the Regime's heavy-handed collectivism on many fronts. Illegal immigration, tax increases, irrational spending--these are issues Americans can all understand and relate to, and therefore, it is to be expected in such an emotionally toxic political environment that nativist sentiments will also become part of the mix, as I am also certain racism will too.

But such sentiments must not be allowed to dominate the discourse and the political campaigns, for the Left will attempt to make these legitimate issues seem to be nothing but illegitimate racist and nativist anger. They are already following this tactic, as we have seen in the campaign the Left has conducted against Arizona. Expect much more of that sort of thing.

The tactic, however, is a lie and a cheat, and if we can keep the focus on protection of individual rights, and the right of the American people to be secure in their lives and property from those who would make war on us, then we should be able to defeat the Left.

I have not mentioned the recent oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. Probably the biggest issue now will be the Regime's gross incompetence. If I believed in God I would definitely find the guiding hand of providence in these events, and while the pain in the short term is very great, I am tempted to believe that the election of Obama will prove to be America's Great Secular Awakening to both the evil and the inherent incompetence of Big Government.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The American Spectator : The Coming Resignation of Barack Obama

I am now ready to predict that President Obama will not even make it that far. I predict that he will resign in discredited disgrace before the fall of 2012. Like my previous prediction, that is based not just on where we are now, but where we are going under his misleadership.
The American Spectator : The Coming Resignation of Barack Obama

Friday, June 4, 2010

On the Claim that Socialism is "More Just"


Obama and the collectivists of this world do not support socialism or communism because it is practical, efficient, or yields more net wealth to "society."  They support collectivism because they believe it is a moral system, it is a system that is "more just" than a capitalist system.

You may argue until you are blue in the face that capitalism is more practical; their argument is always socialism is "more just," and the moral claims of justice will always trump practicality or efficiency.

Part of the problem rests with the fact that you perhaps unwittingly share the moral premises of your collectivist opponents.

For example, you say the following:  "Capitalism is a society based on the principle that everybody contributes to society’s profits and gets a share according to his/her contribution . . . ."  Wealth produced by individuals in combination or individually is not wealth that belongs to "society."  To say such a thing is to accept the premise of communism, that wealth is "created by society".

While it is obviously true to claim that individuals in society greatly enhance their wealth-creating potential through cooperation, that is, through specialization of labor, and the free exchange of goods and services, what creates the wealth is the voluntary choices of individuals each aiming to enhance his own long-range interest. 

The tailor, as Adam Smith liked to say, does not make you clothes because he wants to see you well turned out; on the contrary, he provides the clothes in order to feed his own family and to enhance his own wealth by providing you with the goods and services you are willing and able to pay for.

What we call "capitalism" is simply the economic arrangements men create when force and the threat of force is eliminated from their relationships with each other. 

All forms of collectivism introduce into such relationships the initiation of force, or the threat of force, to compel individuals to act against their own welfare. 

The moral argument for capitalism rests on this premise:  that capitalism is the only social system founded on the defense and protection of man's rights.  The concept of man's rights is the moral principle that subordinates society to the rights of individuals, which is why societies founded on the individual rights are the only moral societies on the face of the earth.

To effectively oppose collectivism you must oppose the moral argument that collectivists use to advance their cause.  Collectivism is not "more just".  How can taking by force what does not belong to you be just?  Or moral?

Always we must ask the question, by what standard?

Wealth cannot be created by abstractions, and the term "society" is nothing but an abstraction denoting individual human beings in their social relationship with each other.

The fundamental moral claim is this:  Man has the right to live his life for his own sake. 

Either he does, or he does not.  If he does, then he is a free moral agent with a life; if he does not, then he is a slave to others.