Monthly Archives: November 2008

Happy Thanksgiving – Open Thread

In my family, we’ve got a simple tradition. Every year on Thanksgiving, we pass around a book where everyone can write what they’re thankful for that year. We might as well start that tradition here, right?

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Today, I’m thankful for my family, who (mostly) flew out here to SoCal where my brother and I both live. I’m thankful for my wonderful wife, my son, and the little one on the way. I’m thankful that I am at a fortunate time in my life and my industry to be much less impacted by this financial meltdown than many other good people. And I’m glad to live in America. I will continue to criticize those things I see as wrong here, but this is still, IMHO, the best place to be at this point in time.

And, of course, I’m thankful to be associated with all of my co-contributors, and thankful that enough people read and comment here to make the whole thing worthwhile.

The Un-American Pledge of Allegiance

One aspect common to totalitarian regimes is the forced loyalty oath. Nazi Germany, for example, forced all pastors, civil servants and soldiers to take an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler. In the Soviet Union, in Communist China, and numerous other nations, the state demanded that people swear loyalty to the government as a condition for a jobs, for education, or to receive any service that the state had arrogated for itself. Typically regimes demand routine public displays of loyalty before everyday events such as sporting events, theater performances, or the beginning of the school or work day.

Why do totalitarian regimes demand that people publicly announce their loyalty and subservience? The answer is simple – the totalitarian regime typically does not have the people’s willing loyalty. Rather, they must compel the people’s loyalty. And, if they can’t have the real thing, a fake version is just fine. The forced loyalty oath is a sign of a unpopular regime, that fears the people because it acts in a manner that not in the people’s interest.

Is the forced loyalty oath ineffective? Are totalitarian regimes fooling themselves, making people say empty words that the people don’t believe? To the contrary, the forced loyalty oath is common because it is very effective, being one of the cruelest attacks on freedom.

The forced loyalty oath attacks the freedom of speech. With it, the regime seizes control of a person’s mouth, and compels that mouth to say words that its rightful owner wishes not to say. The monstrosity of the crime arises from the fact that it is through our words that we construct society. It is with our words that we build our bonds with our fellow men. We are social animals, we need to talk to our fellows for our basic sanity. That is why one of the cruelest punishments that men visit upon each other is solitary confinement. Seize control of a man’s words, and you have effectively imprisoned him in his skull. That is why I feel that the right to speech is second to the right to life.

While most people recognize that that the freedom of speech is the right of every person to say whatever he or she wants to say, they often forget that it also includes the right of every person to not say things that he or she does not want to say. Forcing a person to say what he does not want to say is as bad as gagging him and silencing him.

We can decry pictures of children standing at attention wearing the red scarf of the Young Pioneers uniforms or the shorts of the Hitler Jugend as adults order them to pledge their undying loyalty to a state that plunders them and enslaves them. However, the sad fact is that while many Americans who would condemn other nations in a heartbeat for demanding such false displays of loyalty are supporters to a systematic version of it being practiced here at home.

Every day, millions of children living in the U.S. are compelled to utter the following words:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.”

Allegiance is a state of loyalty or devotion. A declaration of allegiance is not something to be taken lightly. It is a modern form of a declaration of fealty, the oath that a person took under feudalism that bound him to obey his lord’s commands, even unto death. The oath these children are ordered to make is loyalty not to any idea or set of principles, but to a flag, a symbol of the state. Change three words, and a Cuban child could utter it in devotion to Castro, a North Korean to the government of Kim Il Sung, a Scottish child to the British Queen or a French child to the Republic. This emptiness did not go unnoticed to the public who demanded that politicians correct the matter. They did not want to give it any principle that would challenge the legitimacy of the state, so they decided to add a loyalty oath to God to distinguish it. Of course, God is conveniently very lax in enforcing such oaths and so no practical impediment to the power of the state. Furthermore, I am told that the champions of adding a religious component to the oath carried the day by arguing that no “godless communist” could take the oath, marking them for ostracism.

It is not surprising that public schools make this demand of children. From their inception in 1642 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, U.S. government schools have had on main purpose: to indoctrinate children in the religion or mores that the state feels most useful. Useful skills like reading and writing, critical thinking, knowledge of the arts and sciences are all secondary to the goal of indoctrination. In the case of Massachusetts, the schools were originally intended to induct the children into the state’s official version of Protestant Christianity rather than the heresies of their parents. In modern times, the religion is not some strain of Christianity, but rather the worship of the state. One can see this in the original version of the pledge, which is short and to the point:

Text Meaning
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: I will be loyal to the state and obey it’s commands.
one Nation The state is the people
indivisible People are not allowed to secede or withdraw from the state.
With Liberty and Justice for all.
Standard boilerplate conditions that all states, from Iceland to the People’s Republic of North Korea, claim to establish for the people under their control.

The details of the pledge are damning. The person who makes it is claiming not only loyalty to the state, but a loyalty that is devoid of any principles and irrevocable under any conditions.

The change to add “under God” does nothing to lessen the totalitarian nature of the pledge other than to make the laughable claim that the state is subservient to God.

The United States was originally founded as a nation of conscience. We can see this in an odd passage early in the Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation, signed in 1794. This was the treaty which reestablished diplomatic relations between Britain and the United States of America. In it the U.S. government made the following pledge towards British subjects remaining in the former colonies after the British Army evacuated it:

“All settlers and traders, within the precincts or jurisdiction of the said posts, shall continue to enjoy, unmolested, all their property of every kind, and shall be protected therein. They shall be at full liberty to remain there, or to remove with all or any part of their effects; and it shall also be free to them to sell their lands, houses or effects, or to retain the property thereof, at their discretion; such of them as shall continue to reside within the said boundary lines, shall not be compelled to become citizens of the United States, or to take any oath of allegiance to the Government thereof; but they shall be at full liberty so to do if they think proper.”

Every few years, some organization sues a school district because it compels children to state the pledge with the clause “under God”. These suits invariably claim that it violates the clause in the U.S. Constitution forbidding the establishment of a state religion. Unfortunately, these lawsuits miss the main point. The human rights violation is not that children are forced to pledge their loyalty to God – t is the fact that the children are forced to make any loyalty oath at all!

The pledge of allegiance is not compatible with a free country. Written by a socialist who sought to indoctrinate children with the idea that they should be servants of the state, it opposes the very principles underlying the Declaration of Independence. It is the duty of every patriotic American, whose loyalties are to those principles rather than some flag or body of men, to oppose it. Let the enemies of freedom distinguish themselves by compelling people to take oaths against their will. Let us once again embrace freedom and expel the rotten pledge of allegiance from our schools.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Seems Everyone Except Me Has Been Bailed Out Already

But maybe I can make use of this too:

The Federal Reserve and Treasury Department on Tuesday unveiled a plan to pump $800 billion into the struggling U.S. economy in an attempt to jumpstart lending by banks to consumers and small businesses.

The government hopes that these initiatives will enable more money to flow to consumers in the form of loans than has occurred so far in previous bailout plans.

One program will make $200 billion available from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to holders of securities backed by consumer debt, such as credit cards, car loans and student loans.

Hey, my wife has a small business. I wonder if she can qualify for $100M or so? I might not need that lottery bailout ticket I bought at 7-11 anymore!

So, it appears that the TreasFed are desperately trying to improve consumer confidence in the run-up to the holiday season. But it’s not going to work. You know why?

To that end, government officials said that they would not set up the $200 billion consumer lending program until February. So officials couldn’t say if the mere announcement of the program would cause lenders to make more credit available to consumers in time for the holiday shopping season.

Paulson described the $200 billion consumer lending program as a first step, one that could be expanded later to include different kinds of debt, including assets backed by commercial real estate mortgages and business debt.

As you know, the government announcing that it is going to do something often has the effect of doing something. I.e. the passage of a tax cut that won’t take place for 1-2 years (or the non-extension of a tax cut that is temporary) tells the market what to expect moving forward, and they act on the expectations of future reality.

Unfortunately, in this case they can only act on uncertainty, not expectation of reality. The TreasFed already burst that expectation:

The larger part of the new program is geared toward ending the mortgage crisis, which was the original intent of the bank bailout plan proposed in September and signed into law in October.

That plan, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, was quickly dropped for one in which Treasury instead made direct capital investments in banks in return for the government receiving preferred shares in the institutions getting funds.

We know that they’re going to change their minds as they see fit. So we cannot plan our holiday purchases based upon interventions the government MIGHT make to debt markets in February. We simply have no level of trust that those interventions will be made*.

Is there any other way to spin this than that they simply don’t know what they’re doing?
» Read more

Gay Marriage, Religious Rights, and Freedom of Association

California’s Proposition 8, the ballot measure aiming to outlaw same sex marriage, passed on a very close vote. Prop 8’s supporters* pushed a campaign of fear, misinformation, and a complete distortion of the meaning of individual liberty. This campaign commercial is typical of the intolerance and hysteria being promoted from the “yes” campaign.

Argument #1: Churches could be forced to marry gay people.

Argument #2: Religious adoption agencies could be forced to allow gay couples to adopt children; some adoption agencies would close their doors as a result.

Argument #3: Those who speak out against gay marriage on religious grounds will be labeled “intolerant” and subjected to legal penalties or social ridicule. Careers could be threatened.

Argument #4: Schools will teach students that marriage is between “party a” and “party b” regardless of gender. Schools also teach health and sexuality and would now include discussions of homosexuality.

Argument #5: There will be “serious clashes” between public schools and parents who wish to teach their children their values concerning marriage.

Argument #6: Allowing gays to marry will restrict or eliminate liberties of “everyone.” (Example: Photographers who do not want to work at same sex weddings)

Argument #7: If Prop 8 fails, religious liberty and free speech rights will be adversely affected.

My response to these arguments is that we should be advocating for more freedom for everyone rather than restrict freedom of a group or class of people. The state should recognize the same contract rights** for a gay couple as it would between a man and a woman. To get around the whole definition of marriage issue, I would propose that as far as the state is concerned, any legally recognized intimate relationship between consenting adults should be called a “domestic partnership.” From there the churches or secular equivalent to churches should have the right to decide who they will marry and who they will not (just as they do now).

Rather than subject an individual’s rights to a vote or either party forcing their values on the other, we should instead advocate freedom of association and less government in our everyday lives. Somewhere along the way, we as a people decided that the government should involve itself more and more into the relationships of private actors. The government now has the ability to dictate to business owners quotas of who they must hire, family leave requirements, how much their employees must be paid, and how many hours they work (among other requirements). For the most part, businesses which serve the public cannot deny service to individuals for fear of a lawsuit.

A return to a freedom of association society would remedy arguments 1, 2, 6, and 7 from this ad. As to Argument #3, the anti-gay marriage folks are going to have to realize that in a free society, they are going to have to deal with “social ridicule”*** or being called intolerant. Anyone who takes a stand on any issue is going to be criticized and called names. In a freedom of association society, an employer would have every right to decide to layoff individuals who hold views or lifestyles they disagree with.

While we’re on the subject of intolerance, perhaps we should take a moment to consider if people who would deny equivalent rights which come with marriage are intolerant. This ad is exactly the same as the previous ad except that the words “same sex” and “gays” have been replaced with “interracial.”

Believe it or not, there was a time in this country when there were such laws against interracial marriage. Those who argued against interracial marriage made very similar arguments to what the anti-gay marriage people are making now. Today most of us would say those people were intolerant.

Intolerance aside, Arguments 4 and 5 can also be answered by reducing the role of government in our lives. What the “yes” people should be arguing for is a separation of school and state. While we as a nation are trending toward more government involvement in K-12 education, those who do not want the government schools to teach their children the birds and the bees or enter into discussions of homosexuality can put their children in private schools which share their values or home school. School Choice is the obvious answers to these concerns.

Prop 8’s supporters have turned the whole idea of individual liberty on its head. They claim that in order to preserve the rights of the greatest number of people a minority of people necessarily must sacrifice their rights. This is absurd and dangerous. Perhaps it is this complete misunderstanding of individual rights among Californians which contributed to Prop 8’s passage.

When explained properly, the rights of life, liberty, and property is the easiest concept to understand.

Hat Tip: The Friendly Atheist

Posted Elsewhere:

Dan Melson @ Searchlight Crusade has written a very thought provoking post on this issue. Some of his arguments I agree with, others I don’t but all of his points are well argued.

» Read more

Elected Officials Fail Civics Quiz

In today’s bread and circuses world, it doesn’t surprise me one bit that Americans overwhelmingly fail a quiz on civics. What is slightly surprising is that our elected officials do even worse:

Are most people, including college graduates, civically illiterate? Do elected officials know even less than most citizens about civic topics such as history, government, and economics? The answer is yes on both counts according to a new study by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). More than 2,500 randomly selected Americans took ISI’s basic 33 question test on civic literacy and more than 1,700 people failed, with the average score 49 percent, or an “F.” Elected officials scored even lower than the general public with an average score of 44 percent and only 0.8 percent (or 21) of all surveyed earned an “A.” Even more startling is the fact that over twice as many people know Paula Abdul was a judge on American Idol than know that the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” comes from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Now, I went to their website, and took the quiz. It’s surprisingly harder than I thought it would be. I do have one criticism, in that several of the questions are very confusingly worded, and several appear to be free-market biased, which I agree with but may not be entirely objective. But if you have a basic understanding of American history and civics, you should be able to do fine.

It’s striking, though, that our elected officials are unable to pass this quiz. These are the people responsible for our government, and they don’t know the history or role of government. The questions are somewhat difficult in a few cases, but there’s nothing in there that shouldn’t be easy knowledge for anyone who would have the temerity to run for political office.

If these guys can’t be bothered to know about America, why is it that we grant them the power to run it?

Check out the quiz, and feel free to post your scores in the comments section. I was a bit disappointed, as I only answered 32 of 33 correctly…

Outrage Of The Week: Interrogating An 8 Year Old Without Counsel And Without Miranda Warnings

The story of an eight-year old boy who police say committed a double murder is raising the eyebrows of many legal analysts:

(CBS/AP) The 8-year-old boy accused of killing his father and another man in Eastern Arizona was subjected to an “absurd” police interrogation, a legal analyst told CBS’ The Early Show Thursday.

“What we know is that children under 12 are especially susceptible to questioning by an adult,” legal analyst Lisa Bloom said.

The roughly 12-minute video posted Monday night on Phoenix television station KTVK’s Web site shows what police say is a confession to the Nov. 5 shooting deaths. The station said it got the video from the prosecutor’s office in Apache County, where the shootings occurred.

“I think I shot my dad because he was suffering, I think,” the boy said toward the end of the hour-long interrogation, though Bloom notes that the admission comes only after repeated officer questioning.

“Children tell authority figures what they think the authority figure wants to hear,” said Bloom. “This child was not Mirandized; there was no attorney for him in that room; there was no parent or legal guardian. He was simply answering questions by two police officers in uniforms with guns.”

(…)

Children this age believe in the tooth fairy, they believe in magic … it’s absurd,” said Bloom. “This child should not be in juvenile court or adult court, in my opinion. He should be a ward of the family court and get some social service attention.”

Prosecutors have 15 days to decide if that’s the route they want to take.

How this can be allowed to happen is beyond me. Eight year olds don’t have the mental capacity to understand what a police interrogation is all about. Even if they had read him his Miranda rights, he probably wouldn’t have understood them. The fact that the police continued to question him, and basically led him down a path that resulted in him admitting to murder is, quite frankly, outrageous.

Here’s a CBS report on the story:

Originally posted at Below The Beltway

Time To Scrap The Libertarian Party ?

Brian Doherty’s piece in Reason about the relative failure of Bob Barr’s Presidential campaign, which I commented on earlier this week, leads Volokh Conspiracy contributor Ilya Somin to wonder if the Libertarian Party should even exist anymore:

Brian’s article discusses numerous possible causes of Barr’s failure that were specific to his particular campaign. Some of these theories may be correct. In truth, however, Barr’s failure is of a piece with the more general failure of the LP throughout its entire 36 year history. In that time, the Party has never gotten more than a miniscule share of the vote, and has failed to increase its share over time (the LP’s best performance in a presidential election was back in 1980, and its performances in state and local races have also stagnated over time). The LP has also failed in its broader mission of fostering greater acceptance of libertarian ideas. There is little if any evidence that its efforts have increased public support for libertarianism to any appreciable extent. Such consistent failure over a long period of time can’t be explained by the personal shortcomings of individual candidates. Barr’s performance undercuts claims that the LP can do better simply by nominating a candidate with greater name recognition and more political experience than its usual selections.

For reasons that I explained in this post, the truth is that third party politics simply is not an effective way of promoting libertarianism in the “first past the post” American political system. That system makes it almost impossible for a third party to win any important elected offices. And such a party also can’t be an effective tool for public education because the media isn’t likely to devote much attention to a campaign with no chance of success.

Libertarians have had some genuine successes over the last 35 years. These include abolition of the draft (heavily influenced by Milton Friedman’s ideas), deregulation of large portions of the economy (of which libertarians were the leading intellectual advocates), major reductions in tax rates (facilitated by libertarian economists, libertarian activists, and the legislative efforts of libertarian-leaning Republicans), the increasing popularity of school choice programs, increases in judicial protection for property rights, gun rights, and economic liberties (thanks in large part to advocacy by libertarian legal activists), and heightened respect for privacy and freedom of speech (promoted by libertarians in cooperation with other groups). Libertarian academics and intellectuals have also done much to make libertarian ideas more respectable and less marginal than they were in the 1960s and early 70s.

What all these successes have in common is that they were achieved either by working within the two major parties or by efforts outside the context of party politics altogether. The Libertarian Party didn’t play a significant role in any of them.

Libertarians often emphasize that failed enterprises should be liquidated rather than kept going on artificial life support. That enables their resources to be reinvested in other, more successful firms. The point is well taken, and it applies to the Libertarian Party itself. For 35 years, the Party has consumed valuable resources, both financial and human. The money spent on the LP and the time donated by its committed activists could do a lot more to promote libertarianism if used in other ways.

Somin echoes something that small-l libertarians have been arguing for several years now.

Back in 2006, Bruce Bartlett argued that the LP should be replaced by an advocacy-group strategy:

In place of the party, there should arise a new libertarian interest group organized like the National Rifle Association or the various pro- and anti-abortion groups. This new group, whatever it is called, would hire lobbyists, run advertisements and make political contributions to candidates supporting libertarian ideas. It will work with both major parties. It can magnify its influence by creating temporary coalitions on particular issues and being willing to work with elected officials who may hold libertarian positions on only one or a handful of issues. They need not hold libertarian views on every single issue, as the Libertarian Party now demands of those it supports.

I believe that this new organization would be vastly more influential than the party and give libertarian ideas far more potency than they now have. As long as the party continues to exist, unfortunately, it will be an albatross around the necks of small-L libertarians, destroying any political effectiveness they might have. It must die for libertarian ideas to succeed.

And Brad Spangler made the same argument Somin does back in March:

The libertarian movement predates the Libertarian Party and will survive after it is gone. There was a time when radical libertarians like Samuel Edward Konkin III denounced formation of a “libertarian” politicial party as incompatible with libertarianism properly understood. With evisceration of the LP platform in recent years by “small government” statists longing to join the ruling class, the Ron Paul GOP presidential campaign has served not to shout out the irrelevancy of the Libertarian Party so much as serve as the heavy duty exclamation point punctuating that death cry that the LP already delivered to itself.

A shutdown of the Libertarian Party would get radicals and moderates out of each others hair. Radicals could pursue the long neglected non-electoral strategies for long-term radical change and moderates could apply their energies to seeking small reforms inside the major parties, as Ron Paul does. Sufficient social space for needed overlap between wings and their ideological cross-fertilization would exist organizationally in groups like ISIL and the Advocates for Self-Government, as well as out on the internet in political discussion forums of all sorts generally.

And I find it hard to disagree what I wrote back then as well:

A look at how the world has really worked since the Libertarian Party was formed in the early 1970s would seem to add credence to Spanlger’s position. Aside from the Election of 1980, which was largely financed by the family fortune of the LP’s Vice-Presidential candidate, no Libertarian Party candidate for President has been able to gather anything close to 1,000,000 votes and none have garnered what would be considered a statistically significant amount of the vote in any election. And, except for one or two notable exceptions, no Libertarian Party candidate can be said to have had a significant impact on a contested election.

But winning elections, some people will say, is not real why the LP exists. It’s purpose, they contend, is to educate the public about libertarian ideas.

Well, if that’s the case, then I don’t think it can be said that they’ve done a very good job there either. If they had, then 35 years of education should’ve been something that Ron Paul’s campaign could have tapped into. Instead, the major party candidate that came closest to libertarian ideas was soundly rejected by the members of his party.

You can blame that on the media. You can derisively call the voters “sheeple” — thereby insuinating that the reason they didn’t vote for your candidate is because they’re stupid. But, in the end, the fact of the matter is that the public wasn’t receptive to libertarian ideas. So much for the education I guess.

Were there flaws in the Barr Campaign ? Most certainly, but there weren’t any worse than the flaws that have existed in practically ever Libertarian Party Presidential campaign for the past 20 years. And yet, despite that, Barr received more votes than any LP candidate in 28 years. Yes, there were promises and predictions of 1 million to 3 million LP votes this year — but these are the same promises that LP candidates make every four years, and they never come true.

Regardless of what standard of success you use — election result, education campaigns, or influence in the public policy arena — it’s fairly clear that after 36 years the Libertarian Party has been an abject failure.

How many times are libertarians going to continue bashing their head against a wall before realizing it’s not really accomplishing anything ?

Cross-Posted From Below The Beltway

Financial Armageddon Follow-Up

Back in March of 2007, I posted this:

So here’s what I see. The slowdown in the subprime mortgage and building industries will increasingly push the default and foreclosure rate up. As a result, the mortgage-backed securities market and other housing-based stocks, which are reaching insane levels of “irrational exuberance” and are often highly leveraged (particularly derivatives), will crater, increasing the pressure. I think recession is on the way, and perhaps worse.

The above doesn’t sound very pretty. I don’t see any way out of it, though. The problem occurs with what happens after this, which is where it has the potentially to get really ugly. As I said, what I wrote above is what I predict. What sits below is a worst-case assumption of what might happen.

After the 2001 recession, when the government was coming off small surpluses, we had very low interest rates, and the political will to cut taxes, we were able to protect against a major economic crisis. We don’t have the same situation now. The government is running enormous deficits (and has added several trillion to the debt), the politicians are debating raising taxes, and interest rates likely won’t be able to hit the rock-bottom levels we had in 2002.

What does this mean? I don’t think we can spend our way out of this. I don’t see any way for us to have liquidity in a stagnant housing market and a tight credit market. In a tighter credit market, with rising interest rates, the cost of borrowing to cover deficit spending will not be feasible for the government. I don’t see an engine for economic growth appearing to cover the recession. There’s only one way for this liquidity to arrive, and that’s for the government to print money. Loads and loads of money. Helicopter drops of money. And the result is stagflation. This is quite possibly the worst thing our government can do, but I don’t trust any politicians to take the tough medicine– I expect them to print money.

Further, if things get bad, you can expect a quick increase in the level of socialism in this country. In an effort to placate both American big business and American voters, you’ll see the government take over health care. As a result of the inflation government will cause, you’ll quickly see them try to institute price controls and wage controls, like the 1970’s. All the while, they’ll blame scapegoats like outsourcing companies, while their own inflationary policies are causing the problem.

It looks like most of my nightmare scenario is already coming true.

I was wrong on a few things, of course. I suggested that the Fed wouldn’t be able to cut rates. What I didn’t expect was that credit markets wouldn’t simply tighten, but would disappear completely, making the enormous rate cuts ineffective. I chalk that up to some lack of understanding that I had on monetary issues, that I [hopefully] have significantly improved in the last year and a half.

Then, I talked about inflation. I have to temper that. We’re not going to see inflation. We’re either going to see a deflationary crash, or a hyperinflationary depression. I just don’t see us having a smooth way out of this one.

But one thing about sitting where I do today and looking back on that struck me… I was a lot more optimistic then than I am now!

We’re screwed, folks. There are going to be economics textbooks written about what we’re going through — assuming we don’t all go Mad Max instead.

We’re Back

Well, as regular readers may have noticed, we’ve had nearly three days of downtime. We had an unexplained blog issue that caused our former host to disable our account. We have no explanation from them of what happened, and our databases and everything else appear to be undisturbed, so we’re not sure what’s occurred. But we’ve moved on to a host that more adequately meets our ideological needs, and who we believe will meet our technical needs much more closely.

Note to users: discount hosts are discounted for a reason. Our new host will likely be a bit more expensive than the old ones, but I think we’re actually getting a service worth the cost.

Anyways, many thanks to tarran who has taken over the technical admin of the site. He’s far more capable of sysadmin than I am, so we should be in much more capable hands where the bits connect to the series of tubes.

States Spend Tobacco Settlement Money — But Not On Tobacco Programs

It just goes to show you… A government’s promise is worth about what you’d expect:

U.S. states have not lived up to their commitment to devote a major portion of their huge legal settlement with the tobacco industry a decade ago on anti-smoking efforts, health advocacy groups said on Tuesday.

In the 10 years since the landmark deal, the states have received $79.2 billion of the settlement and another $124.3 billion from tobacco taxes, but have spent only about 3 percent of it — $6.5 billion — on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, the groups said in a report.

No state currently is funding tobacco prevention programs at the levels recommended by the U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and only nine are funding such efforts at even half the recommended level, according to the report.

You know, if it weren’t for the colossal waste of money, the vilification of an entire industry, and the potential for anti-smoking legislation to continue sweeping the nation, I’d find this pretty funny. Watching the anti-tobacco forces — who have made a living out of getting their way through government force — impaled on the double-cross of their own “friends”, is full of delicious dramatic irony.

It’s almost as funny as the idea that all this lottery money is “for the schools”.

Atlas Starting To Shrug In Healthcare Sector

While I am a vociferous opponent of socialized medicine or even some of the mandated-coverage plans floated by the left-ish folks in society, you’ll not find me defending our current healthcare system in America. Why? Because it’s “our healthcare system”, and not anything approaching a free market.

Through coverage mandates, Medicare, restrictions, licensing, employer-sponsored healthcare (an outgrowth of tax-advantaged treatment for companies), tort law, and mountains of paperwork, we’ve turned healthcare in America into a nuisance. Should we surprised, then, when our doctors have grown tired of playing the game?

Primary care doctors in the United States feel overworked and nearly half plan to either cut back on how many patients they see or quit medicine entirely, according to a survey released on Tuesday.

And 60 percent of 12,000 general practice physicians found they would not recommend medicine as a career.

“The whole thing has spun out of control. I plan to retire early even though I still love seeing patients. The process has just become too burdensome,” the Physicians’ Foundation, which conducted the survey, quoted one of the doctors as saying.

Eleven percent said they plan to retire and 13 percent said they plan to seek a job that removes them from active patient care. Twenty percent said they will cut back on patients seen and 10 percent plan to move to part-time work.

Current government proposals promise to “rein in costs” but I wonder how they intend to both rein in costs and keep supply from dropping.

The only happy doctors I know of are ones who have decided to work on a cash basis, and do not take insurance. Of course, they don’t stop their customers from claiming the visits to their own insurance, but they don’t take care of all the paperwork in the office. In the pediatric practice we take my son to, the head doctor (who is somewhat famous having written several books) follows this plan. Sadly, too few doctors have this opportunity, as most Americans either don’t have the time and energy to deal with the insurance companies themselves, or don’t have the funds to carry the cost while they wait. For my son, we visit one of the other doctors in the practice because we don’t have the time or knowledge to traverse the insurance world.

Regardless of what sort of healthcare system we have in America (even if we returned to a free market), Americans will have to understand that health care is not a free lunch. What we may have now may be (like many things in America) the worst of both worlds — all the downsides of socialism without any of the efficiencies of capitalism. In such a minefield of cross purposes and inefficiencies, it’s not surprising that many providers are willing to walk away.

With the potential socialization of health care in an Obama administration, we may soon find ourselves in the same situation as Britain — importing our doctors from overseas because it becomes a job “Americans won’t do”.

Obama’s Policies Treading On Hallowed Ground

Now, don’t confuse me with someone who supports the current model of the BCS… But I’m almost as worried about turning over college football to the government as I would be about healthcare — it’s personal.

Although… Now that I think about it… His redistributionist policies could bring some 5* recruits to my Boilermakers! I think it’s time for a bailout in West Lafayette!

I’m Not Saying… I’m Just Insinuating.

I’m sure one has nothing to do with the other:

Wikipedia: In October 2008, Cuban started Bailoutsleuth.com as a grassroots, online portal for oversight over the US government 700 billion dollar “bailout” of financial institutions.

And today:

Dallas Mavericks owner Cuban charged with insider trading

Entrepreneur Mark Cuban, owner of the National Basketball Association’s Dallas Mavericks, was charged Monday by the Securities and Exchange Commission with insider trading.

According to the SEC, Cuban sold 600,000 shares of Internet search company Mamma.com in June 2004 using non-public information. Cuban is accused of calling his broker and instructing him to sell all of his stock from the Mamma.com after receiving confidential information from the company.

The SEC said Cuban knew the stock price was about to fall.

I’m sure there was no revenge involved. It must be just a coincidence, an accident of timing. Right?

IEEE and U.S. Hegemony

In IEEE‘s flagship magazine, Spectrum, there is a fairly idiotic editorial warning Europeans against buying natural gas from Russia.

Why can’t the European Union just adopt a strategy of energy independence and wean itself from Russia and the “stans”?

Of course, there is no way for Europe to be “independent” with respect to natural gas. There aren’t sufficient reserves in Europe to meet the current demand. A reduced supply of natural gas will necessarily result in higher prices for energy. Higher prices for energy translate to reduced economic development and everybody being poorer. Why should the Europeans impoverish themselves?

Of course, the writer of the editorial, William Sweet, is not really opposed to Europeans purchasing gas from non Europeans; he praises a pipeline being developed to ship it from Nigeria.  Rather, he seems upset with people buying gas from Russian suppliers. Why?

Russia has repeatedly shown its willingness in recent years to cut off gas supplies for political reasons, basically to bring countries it considers its satellites to heel, notably Ukraine. Of course it wouldn’t dare cut supplies to a country like Germany, which gets about half its gas from Russia. But where German and Russian interests and values collide, Russia could manipulate markets to get its way and use the threat of its market power to ward off diplomatic or military action.

In other words, if Europeans are trading with Russians, they might refuse to back some third party who is contemplating some intervention targeting Russia. Hmm, I wonder who this unnamed party might be?

A recent survey by London’s Financial Times found that European mistrust of Russia has increased sharply in the past six months: the proportion of respondents who consider Russia the greatest threat to world stability rose from just a few percent in July to nearly 20 percent in September, putting it well ahead of Iran and almost as high as China. It may come as a shock to many American readers, however, that the United States still ranks in European minds as the greatest threat to world stability, scoring over 25 percent in September.

And here we see the problem. If Europeans are trading with Russians, they might not side with the U.S. in a dispute with Russia.

This article highlights why I have mixed feelings about my IEEE membership. The work it does in developing and maintaining standards is wonderful. But their consistent support for the American military-industrial complex gives me pause. Like IBM supplying Hollerith tabulators to the Nazis with no concern for what they were being used for – there is no U.S. military or security program, no matter how abusive of civil liberties or vulnerable to tyrannical misuse that IEEE won’t support. Normally the IEEE leadership concerns itself solely with the technical problems that are needed to enhance U.S. government power.  In this case, the Spectrum editorial board is going further and demanding that European politicians adopt policies solely for the benefit of the U.S. government (and to the detriment of people living in Europe).

Yes, the Russian government has imperial ambitions. Yes, Putin’s government is a fascistic one. However, if Russians are trading with Europeans, if the Russian economy integrates with the European one, the likelihood of of a Russian millitary attack of Europe is much lower.  Increased economic integration between Europeans and the people living in former Russian satellites will also reduce the likelihood of conflicts between Russia and the satellites as well (especially since it would lead to greater Russian/former satellite integration as well).

Bastiat’s dictum applies:

If goods don’t cross borders then armies will.

The U.S. government’s global hegemony is ending. If IEEE wishes to retain its technical leadership in a multipolar world, it should stop viewing itself as a unofficial arm of the U.S. government and stick to its valuable work in developing standards.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

An apology concerning a falsehood I have been promoting

For years now, I have been under the impression that in an election, undervotes (ballots where there aren’t votes for all the races) aren’t counted.  I read this years ago in a source that I considered reliable at the times.  Truth be told, I can’t even remember where I read it, only that I considered the source reliable at the time.

I have asserted this impression as truth on numerous occasions over the past few years.  Recently I sat down to analyze the recent election and discovered that I was wrong.  To my horror, I discovered that undervotes are routinely counted in nearly every precinct in the U.S.  In fact, I can’t find a single precinct where they are not counted!  Nor can I find any article online (other than one containing my comments) that makes that assertion.  Somehow, I got it wrong.  Very wrong.

I want to apologize to our readers for making this false claim.  In my defense, I sincerely believed it to be true when I made it.  Nevertheless, you all deserve better than this, and I will endevour never to make such a mistake again.

Thank you for your patience.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Quote Of The Day

[W]e need to start by making sure politicians who talk about free markets practice what they preach. One of the reasons why people may have lost faith in freedom is that leaders used limited-government rhetoric while expanding the size and scope of government. Free markets got a black eye even though the actual policy was intervention and central planning. So again, leaders who profess to support markets need to act like that once in power. If we do that, we’ll prove that freedom really does work.

– Ron Paul, in response to a question about how to restore public faith in free markets

Open Thread — A New Tax Hike

As anyone who reads this blog understands, I’m not a favor of any taxation. Nor am I much in favor of government. But at the moment, we have a government, and its functions must be paid through some revenue. We might as well find economically efficient, rather than inefficient, ways to raise that revenue.

Politicians talk about taxing the rich, or raising “usage fees”, raising capital gains taxes, or even sin taxes. But what if we added a tax on politics itself? We already talk of the corrupting influence of money on politics, but why not put that money to good use?

I’m talking– of course– about a tax on political contributions. As it stands, I am thankful to see that political contributions are not tax-deductable, but why is it that they shouldn’t be expressly taxed?

I think we’d be well served by a 10% tax on all political contributions. We could even call it a “sales” tax, because you know someone’s been bought.

We can’t get rid of the influence of money on politics without getting rid of the influence of politics on money. That link doesn’t appear to be breaking, so we might as well put it to good use.

So what do you think, readers? Is this a brilliant way to add revenue while disincentivizing political money-grubbing, or is it a crackpot idea?

Germany Enters Recession — Europe Expected To Follow

Germany is now reporting the worst recession they’ve faced in at least 12 years has begun:

The German economy, Europe’s largest, contracted more than economists expected in the third quarter, pushing the nation into the worst recession in at least 12 years.

Gross domestic product dropped a seasonally adjusted 0.5 percent from the second quarter, when it fell 0.4 percent, the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden said today. Economists expected a 0.2 percent decline, the median of 40 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey showed. The economy last contracted this much over two consecutive quarters — the technical definition of a recession — in 1996.

And this is not likely to be contained in Germany:

The International Monetary Fund predicts advanced economies including the U.S. and euro area will contract simultaneously next year for the first time since World War II. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, Bank of England Governor Mervyn King and European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet have all signaled they’re ready to cut interest rates further to stem the deepening economic slump.

The European Commission said on Nov. 3 that the 15-nation euro region is probably already in a recession. Just over 40 percent of German exports go to other euro-area nations.

Several other European nations are expected to be reporting GDP numbers over the next day. The news is not expected to be positive, with at least Italy and Spain looking weak, with some troubles in France as well.

All this bad news will lead right into the G20 summit, and is likely to lead to some very interesting talks. You’ve already seen my thoughts on that. Sadly, I think Bush’s comments today may only throw fuel on the socialistic fire, since his words carry negative weight these days.

It’s tough for me even to pay attention to this stuff. Each day, I work to educate myself more and more about what’s actually going on. Each day, I try to get a better and better handle on the truth. The truth is making me less pessimistic about the market, and unfortunately is making me far more fatalistic. I’m really thinking Great Depression II is on the way. I just hope this doesn’t come true.

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