Monthly Archives: July 2009

“The Free Market In Action”

Kevin Drum observes the lobbying fight between merchants and credit card companies. Card companies charge fees to merchants for the ability to accept cards, but if competition makes them unable to fully pass those fees along, they end up eating out of profit margins. So merchants want to get Congress to slap restrictions an the card companies to reduce fees.

So what does Kevin Drum do? He champions the “free” market! (Bold added, italics original.)

In fact, I’d go further: let’s kill two birds with one stone and just abolish interchange fees altogether. Card companies would then be forced to charge higher annual fees to credit card users — fees that (a) would fall solely on the people actually using credit cards and (b) would make it obvious just how much credit cards actually cost. That strikes me as an excellent idea. Credit cards aren’t a free lunch, and there’s no reason that consumers should be fooled into thinking they are.

And if that means consumers end up using credit cards less — well, what’s wrong with that? It’s the free market in action.

So right now we have a position of freedom: credit card companies compete with each other on low annual fees and other benefits. They can afford to do this by charging merchants interchange fees, who must weigh the costs of the fees with the potential lost business by not accepting cards. It’s not a nice system for the merchants, but they can walk away from the cards if they want (and some do so, annoyingly IMHO).

So merchants want to run to Congress to slap regulations on the companies. And Kevin Drum wants to go one step farther and — with the force of government — remove the fees entirely.

He then suggests that when the government has FORCED the new business model upon merchants and card companies, changes in behavior of card users are “the free market in action.”

It is a market in action, Mr. Drum, but it’s certainly not a free one.

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This Day in History

While July 20, 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of arguably man’s greatest achievement (landing on the moon), this day also marks yet another important day in history: the 65th anniversary of the nearly successful attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler and overthrow of the Third Reich (a.k.a Operation Valkyrie) from individuals within the German Government.

An idealistic young Catholic aristocrat, Colonel Claus von Staufenberg was assigned the key role. The key conspirators were Admiral Wilhelm Canaris (head of the Abwehr), Carl Goerdeler, Julius Leber, Ulrich Hassell, Hans Oster (Admiral Canaris’ deputy), Henning von Tresckow, Fabin Schlabrendorff, Peter von Wartenburg, Ludwig Beck, and Erwin von Witzleben. As a result of the need for secrecy, many individuals were not directly involved in the plot, but were willing to accept Hitler’s removal as demonstrated by the fact that they did not report clearly treasonous conversations. Stauffenberg was promoted to Colonel and appointed Chief of Staff to Home Army Commander General Friedrich Fromm (June 1944). This was the posuition that gave him direct access to Hitler’s briefing sessions. The overall plot was much more involved including a range of Wehrmacht officers including General Erwin Rommel. The attemp became known as the July Bomb Plot. The plan was to assasinate the key NAZI leaders (Adolf Hitler, Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler ), then use loyal troops to seize control of Berlin and the major government buildings. This would include the important communication facilities in Berlin: telephone and signal centers and radio broadcasting stations. The key target of course was the Führer himself. Several attempts were made on Hitler’s life. At least six attempts had to be aborted. Stauffenberg decided he could kill Hitler during a military conference at the Führer Wolf’s Lair (field headquarters) in northern Poland (July 20, 1944). Stauffenberg was there as a representative of the Home Army. The idea was to kill Göring and Himmler with the same bomb. After Hitler was dead, the Home Army would seize cintrol of Berlin and then Germany. Göring and Himmler were not at the conference. Despite orders to abort the bombing, Staufenberg decided to go ahead. Stauffenberg had never previously met Hitler. He carried the bomb in a briefcase and placed it on the floor next to where Hitler was standing. He then left to make a pre-arranged telephone call. The bomb exploded and Staufenberg thought he had suceeded. Hitler had, however, moved the brirf case to the other side of a oak beam supporting the briefing table. Four men were killed. Hitler was badly shaken and his right arm injured, but he was not killed. After Hitler’s assasintion, Ludwig Beck, Erwin von Witzleben and Erich Fromm were to take command of the Wehrmacht. This effort was abandoned when it became clear that Hitler had survived.

While it is unfortunate that the operation failed and would have saved countless lives by bringing the European theater of WWII to an end nine months sooner, these brave conspirators who paid with their lives was proof to the world that the German people were not all evil and not all Germans supported the Third Reich. This also serves as a reminder that individuals must fight for their country and their liberty by opposing their government (as tarran so eloquently points out, government is not society). These conspirators who were at first considered “traitors” would later be revered by the German people as great defenders of their beloved country.

Breaking News: Results Of Honduran Referendum!

As reported (circumspect) by QandO:

One of the district attorneys that participated in the operation that took place this Friday showed reporters an official voting result from the Technical Institute Luis Bogran, of Tegucigalpa, in which the specific number of people that participated in table 345, where there were 550 ballots, 450 of which were votes in favor of Zelaya’s proposal and 30 were against, in addition to 20 blank ballots and 30 ballots, which were nullified.

That’s a very complete report of the election, and contains a wealth of details about the results that would be a credit to the authorities in charge of any election.

Of course, it would be even more impressive if the referendum had actually taken place.

There was no referendum. It was aborted by the legal, constitutional removal of Mr. Zelaya from power.

And yet, in the presidential palace’s computer, Mr. Zelaya apparently had a complete, certified result of an election that never took place.

Between real life and all the other important things worth posting about, I’ve been off the Honduras deal. QandO has been doing an excellent job on this one, so I recommend heading over there. That said, I’m only partially jumping onto this bandwagon… This is still a story in its infancy, and I’ve been burned enough to know that “reports” don’t always equal “evidence”.

But that being said, this does seem to fit the playbook. Such a thing being true would confirm my priors. So even if I’m not absolutely jumping cojones-deep into believing that this actually happened, I really want to see the follow-up investigation to see if it can be proved.

Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do

THIS BOOK IS BASED on a single idea: You should be allowed to do whatever you want with your own person and property, as long as you don’t physically harm the person or property of a nonconsenting other.

Thus begins a book that everyone interested in politics should read; Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Country by Peter McWilliams.  Published in 1998, it is a damning survey of how the United States had become a state composed of “clergymen with billy-clubs”.  It analyzes the consequences of punishing so-called victimless crimes from numerous viewpoints, demonstrating that regardless of what you think is the most important organizing principle or purpose of society the investigation, prosecution and punishment of these non-crimes is harmful to society.

This remarkable book is now posted online, and if one can bear to wade through the awful website design, one will find lots of thought-provoking worthwhile commentary, analysis, theory and history.

His final chapter, on how to change the system, while consisting mainly of pie-in-the-sky, ineffective suggestions of working within the system, starts of with an extremely good bit of advice that I urge all our readers to try:

The single most effective form of change is one-on-one interaction with the people you come into contact with day-by-day. The next time someone condemns a consensual activity in your presence, you can ask the simple question, “Well, isn’t that their own business?” Asking this, of course, may be like hitting a beehive with a baseball bat, and it may seem—after the commotion (and emotion) has died down—that attitudes have not changed. If, however, a beehive is hit often enough, the bees move somewhere else. Of course, you don’t have to hit the same hive every time. If all the people who agree that the laws against consensual crimes should be repealed post haste would go around whacking (or at least firmly tapping) every beehive that presented itself, the bees would buzz less often.

I highly recommend this book.  Even though I have some pretty fundamental disagreements with some of his proposals, I think that this book is a fine addition to the bookshelf of any advocate of freedom and civilization.

Hat Tip: J.D. Tuccille of Disloyal Opposition.

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.

Government Is Not Society

One of the most pernicious beliefs held by Americans is the conflation of the state with society. This belief is causing them acquiesce to government actions that threaten the destruction of American civilization if not stopped.

The word society comes to us from the Latin societas, which meant a group of people bound by friendship or a common interest.  The societies we participate in are the manifold groups that people join in order to accomplish various goals, for protection, for commerce, for companionship.  When compared to a life of autarky, of isolated independence, the benefits of societies become clear.  The defining characteristic of society is that membership in a society is voluntary. Whenever a person feels that a society no longer meets their needs, they can exit it – choosing another one to replace it or even going without.

Of course, one of the primary functions of the societies we join are to fulfill those needs we have that we cannot fulfill ourselves.  We depend on our families, friends, fraternal organizations, etc to care for us when we are sick, to provide for us when we cannot provide for ourselves.  These acts of charity, when provided to us by people who do it voluntarily using the means that they have acquired through peaceful means, are a necessary component of civilization.  Remove charitable interactions from society and we cease to live in a state of civilization and return to a state of barbarism.

The state, on the other hand, is an organization that is distinguished by violent action.  It acquires resources not through peaceful economic interaction but through threats of violence.  When it threatens wrong-doers – such as thieves, rapists or murderers – it can be useful; scaring other would be thieves, rapists and murderers from committing similar crimes. But all too often, such as when it orders the destruction of livestock in order to raise the market price of meat, it is a social bad that leaves everyone worse off.

The state is powerful.  It can commandeer vast resources.  It does not have to make anything; it does not need to trade for anything;  it merely takes what it wants.  However, the state is not all powerful; tomorrow the people could rise up and hang all the officers of the state from the lamp-posts.  Its officers must ensure that their plunder or violence does not rise to such a level as to incite too much active resistance.   These men and women therefore promote the fiction that the state is not a predator but engaged in trade with the people, exchanging protection and other services for “contributions” as they term the taxes they extort from the populace.

Over the last 100 years, the state has systematically weakened or coopted the institutions of society.  It has, via the welfare system, taken over much of the provisioning of charity.  It controls commerce via regulation.  It dicates what insurance companies can and cannot do.  It tightly controls medical care.  Most dangerously, it has taken over the education of the young. And everything it has taken over has taken on the characteristics that typically accompany violence and extortion; shoddy service, excessive prices or compelled payments, and draconian punishments.

And far too many people, never having experienced society where these institutions or social needs were provisioned voluntarily rather than by the state, are left ignorant of any idea that that is even possible.  And so, when they are warned that Medicare and Social Security threaten economic ruin, they think that the speaker is contemplating casting the old and sick out on the street to die.  When they hear a call for the abolition of govenrment schooling, they imagine the speaker must want the broad mass of children to be left uneducated.  When they hear the call for the end of medical licensing or pharmaceutical regulations, they imagine that people will be subjected to all sorts of quackery. When they hear a call for an end of standing armies and the purchase of expensive weapons systems, they imagine that the speaker must naively want to invite a tyrant to waltz in and take over.

Too many people, no doubt from their experiences in schools where the classrooms are presided over mostly benevolent dictators called teachers, assume that society must be arranged in a similar vein, with leaders who make and enforce the rules, where there is no right of refusal or exit.

In the end, though, while it can commandeer impressive resources, and thus accomplish mighty things, the state invariably consumes more and produces less than organizations that it replaces.  It replaces the civilization of people voluntarily bonding together with the barbarism of compelled relationships, compelled production and compelled trade.

Today, the various governments that rule over Americans, taken together, commandeer or consume some 40% of production.  The more production the government seizes, the worse off we will be.  The greater the control government exercises over society, the worse off we all are.

One way to put things in perspective is, when considering how some need is to be supplied, to ask if you would be comfortable with the Mafia providing it.  After all, the mafia is really a proto-government, using extortion and violence to commandeer resources. Both are protection rackets, although the Mafia takes far less than the government.  While most people wouldn’t be too upset with the idea of the mafia punishing a rapist, most would laugh derisively at the idea of the mafia running a school, or operating a hospital.  This recognition arises from the fact that no-one conflates the Mafia with society.  If only they were so wise about the state!

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.

Charts Of The Day

Kevin Drum sees this and weeps.

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My god! The rich aren’t paying any taxes any more! Look at how steep those lines are! Those greedy rich bastards are getting off easy!

Or, maybe if you rescale the image, you make a different point (my apologies for an inability to make a chart, this in Excel is about the limit of my skillz):

blog_tax_top_1_percent-rescaled

Ahh, now I see. It hasn’t changed much, has it?

But that whole line is far higher than it should be! Those greedy Washington bastards think they deserve 30% of our hard-earned money!

Discretionary?

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Ezra Klein says there’s we shouldn’t act as if defense spending (considered discretionary in the budget) in unable to be cut:

My friend Chris Hayes likes to say that “non-defense discretionary spending” is the most pernicious phrase in Washington. It means, essentially, that there’s spending, which we can cut, and then there’s defense spending, which we cannot cut, and shouldn’t even talk about. Defense spending, however, accounts for about 20 percent of federal dollars. Add in the wars of the past few years and it’s accounted for even more than that. Saying you can’t touch defense spending is like going on a diet but letting the milk industry say that you can’t cut back on dairy.

There aren’t “defense dollars” and then “non-defense dollars.” There are only dollars, and we need to figure out how best to use them.

Hmm… Defense spending is 20% of the budget. And I might find myself in agreement with Klein that perhaps we can defend our nation for a hell of a lot less money than that.

But there’s another distinction here. “Discretionary”. Klein doesn’t ever address the fact that this is an antonym (in the case of a federal budget). There are two types of spending. “Discretionary” and “entitlement”. And entitlement spending is more than twice as large as “non-defense discretionary spending”.

Klein says “there aren’t ‘defense’ and ‘non-defense dollars'” — only dollars. Well, if 42% of our budget is entitlement spending — and that’s a number that’s going to rise significantly with Obamacare — why is it that we should assume that nothing there can or should be cut? You want to put defense spending on the chopping block, Ezra? I’m down with that. I’ll see your proposition and raise you entitlement spending. You ready to call, or are you just bluffing?

RINO of the Day: Nebraska’s Jeff Fortenberry

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Rep. Fortenberry: Let's expand health care subsidies

It wasn’t all that long ago that Karl Rove was using an example of Republican socialized medicine to illustrate why Democratic socialized medicine is bad.  Now here’s Nebraska Republican Jeff Fortenberry calling for an increase in government health care spending:

In addition, we could expand subsidies for high risk pools for those with chronic illnesses and who are having affordability problems.

To a great degree, Republicans are currently fighting socialized health care by citing cost projections and then saying “we can”t afford it.” This leaves the door wide open for the Democratic response of shaving a few bucks off their plan to give us socialized health care “we can afford.”

I’d argue that the GOP leadership needs to make their arguments based on principles, but I don’t think there are senior Republicans who can even spell the word, much less put it into practice.

I’ll try to put it in language that even congressmen can understand, though: Expand subsidies=bad; decrease or eliminate subsidies=good.

Would Joe Biden promote orgies for sexual abstinence?

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Biden: We need to put more on our national credit card to keep from going bankrupt

CNS News provides the following quote (emphasis added) from Vice President Joe Biden:

“And folks look, AARP knows and the people with me here today know, the president knows, and I know, that the status quo is simply not acceptable,” Biden said at the event on Thursday in Alexandria, Va. “It’s totally unacceptable. And it’s completely unsustainable. Even if we wanted to keep it the way we have it now. It can’t do it financially.”

“We’re going to go bankrupt as a nation,” Biden said.

“Now, people when I say that look at me and say, ‘What are you talking about, Joe? You’re telling me we have to go spend money to keep from going bankrupt?’” Biden said. “The answer is yes, that’s what I’m telling you.”

My response is simple enough even for Twitter:

Earth to Joe Biden: Spending to avoid bankruptcy is like f***ing for virginity.

Considering the way Congress spends our money, perhaps ” orgy for sexual abstinence” may have been a better analogy.

Insert joke about stimulating the economy below.

Government Abandons Lying; Resorts To Pure Naked Threats

I’m at a loss. I don’t know what world can justify this, and can only hope that my readers will be just as appalled as I am, because I have nothing to add.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson testified on Thursday that he pressured Bank of America Corp. last year to go through with its plans to buy Merrill Lynch but didn’t tell the bank’s chief to hide potential losses from shareholders.

Paulson acknowledged that he warned the bank’s CEO, Kenneth Lewis, that Lewis could lose his job if he dropped the deal. Paulson also said he pledged government aid to the bank but declined to put that promise in writing because the details would have been vague and would have to be disclosed publicly by the Treasury Department.

In testimony to the committee, Paulson said he told Lewis last year that reneging on his promise to purchase Merrill Lynch would show a “colossal lack of judgment.”

Paulson said that “under such circumstances,” the Federal Reserve would be justified in removing management at the bank.

“By referring to the Federal Reserve’s supervisory powers, I intended to deliver a strong message reinforcing the view that had been consistently expressed by the Federal Reserve, as Bank of America’s regulator, and shared by the Treasury, that it would be unthinkable for Bank of America to take this destructive action for which there was no reasonable legal basis and which would show a lack of judgment,” Paulson said.

Paulson said he believed his remarks to Lewis were “appropriate.”

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has denied threatening to oust Lewis and said he never told anyone else to, either. But another Fed official suggested otherwise in an e-mail obtained by House investigators.

Jeffrey Lacker, president of the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank, said in a December 2008 e-mail that Bernanke had planned to make “even more clear” that if Bank of America backed out on the deal, “management is gone.”

Paulson said Bernanke never asked him to relay the message. But, he added, he believed he was expressing the Fed’s opinion that dropping the deal “would raise serious questions about the competence and judgment of Bank of America’s management and board.”

I’ve previously covered this type of activity by Paulson & Bernanke here and here.

The Truth About Health Care Reform

Hidden within the language of the House Democrats’ Health Care Bill is a provision that would effectively destroy the market for private health insurance:

It didn’t take long to run into an “uh-oh” moment when reading the House’s “health care for all Americans” bill. Right there on Page 16 is a provision making individual private medical insurance illegal.

When we first saw the paragraph Tuesday, just after the 1,018-page document was released, we thought we surely must be misreading it. So we sought help from the House Ways and Means Committee.

It turns out we were right: The provision would indeed outlaw individual private coverage. Under the Orwellian header of “Protecting The Choice To Keep Current Coverage,” the “Limitation On New Enrollment” section of the bill clearly states:

“Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day” of the year the legislation becomes law.

So we can all keep our coverage, just as promised — with, of course, exceptions: Those who currently have private individual coverage won’t be able to change it. Nor will those who leave a company to work for themselves be free to buy individual plans from private carriers.

In other words, if this bill passes, you would be able to keep your current health insurance as Obama promises, but you wouldn’t be able to make any changes to it beyond adding or deleting new dependents, and the insurance company wouldn’t be able to increase premiums for specific risk groups without raising everyone’s premiums by the same amount, and they won’t be able to accept any new customers under the existing plan. Insread, they’d have to offer plans that comply with the rules set forth in the Democrats’ bill.

You can read the language for yourself, just go page 16.

Ed Morrissey is spot-on in describing what the impact of this part of the legislation would be:

[It] will have the effect of forcing millions of people into the public plan whether they want it or not. Even worse, if insurers get barred from attracting new customers — which this clause outlaws — then they will eventually see their rolls drained, thanks to the natural flow of the market as employers drop plans and skip the expense of offering medical insurance. It won’t take long at all for insurers to exit the market and leave the field for just the public plan, which will automatically get the customers of each individual insurer as they close up shop.

Does this bill outlaw private insurance? Literally, no, but in practical terms, it makes it an endangered species and creates an American single-payer system by default.

The good news ? It looks like the Blue Dog Democrats are joining Republican efforts to fight the worst parts of Obamacare:

Centrist Democrats are threatening to oppose their party’s healthcare legislation unless House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accepts changes that make the bill more to their liking.

Seven Blue Dogs on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have banded together to draft amendments that they’ll co-sponsor in the committee markup, which starts Thursday. Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), the Blue Dogs’ point man on healthcare, says if those changes aren’t accepted, they’ll vote down the bill.

“We cannot support the current bill,” Ross said. “Last time I checked, it took seven Democrats to stop a bill in Energy and Commerce.” …

Blue Dogs think the bill fails to do enough to reduce healthcare costs, jeopardizes jobs with a fee on employers that don’t provide health insurance, and would base a government-run healthcare plan on a Medicare payment system that already penalizes their rural districts.

Here’s hoping that they can stop this monstrosity because, if it passes, it’s game over.

Sonia Sotomayor Gets It Wrong On Gun Rights

During the course of her confirmation hearing today, Sonia Sotomayor had a very interesting exchange with Senator Tom Coburn over the right to keep and bear arms:

In a prickly exchange over gun control, Sen. Tom Coburn tried hard to get Sonia Sotomayor to explain what she actually thinks about the right to bear arms. “As a citizen of this country do you believe … I have a right to personal self-defense?” he asked her.

Sotomayor said she couldn’t think of a Supreme Court case that had addressed the issue in that language. “Is there a constitutional right to self-defense?” she asked. “ I can’t think of one. I could be wrong.”

The Oklahoma Republican said he didn’t want to know if there was a legal precedent that would answer his question — he wanted to know Sotomayor’s personal opinion.

She paused. “That is sort of an abstract question,” she said. “I don’t –”

“Well that’s what the American people want to hear,” Coburn said. Americans don’t want legalese from “bright legal minds,” he said. “They want to know if they can defend themselves in their homes.”

Sotomayor paused and then apologized. “I know it’s difficult to deal with someone who is a judge,” she said. “Let me try to address what you’re saying in the context that I can, OK?”

She went on to explain a hypothetical case – and the way she’d interpret it under New York law (the state whose law she knows best). The state allows someone to defend themselves if they fear an imminent threat. Let’s say, she told the senator, that Coburn threatened her and then she went home, got a gun and shot him.

“You’d have a lot of explaining to do!” Coburn said.

Here’s the video of the exchange:

One wonders if someone needs to give Sotomayor a copy of the majority opinion in D.C. v. Heller:

Between 1789 and 1820, nine States adopted Second Amendment analogues. Four of them—Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri—referred to the right of the people to “bear arms in defence of themselves and the State.” See n. 8, supra. Another three States—Mississippi, Connecticut, and Alabama—used the even more individualistic phrasing that each citizen has the “right to bear arms in defence of himself and the State.” See ibid. Finally, two States—Tennessee and Maine—used the “common defence” language of Massachusetts. See Tenn. Const., Art. XI, §26 (1796), in 6 Thorpe 3414, 3424; Me. Const., Art. I, §16 (1819), in 3 id., at 1646, 1648. That of the nine state constitutional protections for the right to bear arms enacted immediately after 1789 at least seven unequivocally protected an individual citizen’s right to self-defense is strong evidence that that is how the founding generation conceived of the right. And with one possible exception that we discuss in Part II–D–2, 19th-century courts and commentators interpreted these state constitutional provisions to protect an individual right to use arms for self-defense. See n. 9, supra; Simpson v. State, 5Yer. 356, 360 (Tenn. 1833).

(…)

It was plainly the understanding in the post-Civil War Congress that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to use arms for self-defense.

(…)

As the quotations earlier in this opinion demonstrate, the inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right.

Apparently, Sotomayor hasn’t read Heller at all.

Mother Jones Takes on the War on (Some) Drugs

The July/August 2009 issue of the Left-leaning Mother Jones dedicates several articles to the asinine War on (some) Drugs.
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The title of the magazine’s cover story states it best – “Totally Wasted: We’ve blown $300 billion. Death squads roam Mexico. Cartels operate in 259 cities. This is your War on Drugs. Any Questions?”

Reason’s Nick Gillespie points out that there are many areas that libertarians would disagree with (like I said, MoJo is a Left-leaning publication) but I think it’s good to expose a new audience to the failure that is this nation’s drug policy. From there we can debate the best way to bring the War on (some) Drugs to a conclusion.

Make-Work Projects Don’t Create Prosperity

The purpose of society is to help people satisfy their needs. A major means used to satisfy needs are economic activities such as production, trade, and the performance of services.

In a complex economy, it is easy to lose sight of this, and people begin to believe the fallacy that the purpose of an economy is to provide employment to people. And we get absurdities like the make-work projects of Roosevelt’s NRA.   French lawmaker and economist Frederic Bastiat eloquently explained the futility of this practice in the 19th century:

But Mr. Lamartine has advanced one argument which I cannot pass by in silence, for it is closely connected with this economic study. “The economical question, as regards theatres, is comprised in one word—labor. It matters little what is the nature of this labor; it is as fertile, as productive a labor as any other kind of labor in the nation. The theatres in France, you know, feed and salary no less than 80,000 workmen of different kinds; painters, masons, decorators, costumers, architects, etc., which constitute the very life and movement of several parts of this capital, and on this account they ought to have your sympathies.” Your sympathies! Say rather your money.

And further on he says: “The pleasures of Paris are the labor and the consumption of the provinces, and the luxuries of the rich are the wages and bread of 200,000 workmen of every description, who live by the manifold industry of the theatres on the surfeit of the republic, and who receive from these noble pleasures, which render France illustrious, the sustenance of their lives and the necessities of their families and children. It is to them that you will give 60,000 francs.”

Yes, it is to the workmen of the theatres that a part, at least, of these 60,000 francs will go; a few bribes, perhaps, may be abstracted on the way. Perhaps, if we were to look a little more closely into the matter, we might find that the cake had gone another way, and that those workmen were fortunate who had come in for a few crumbs. But I will allow, for the sake of argument, that the entire sum does go to the painters, decorators, etc.

This is that which is seen. But whence does it come? This is the other side of the question, and quite as important as the former. Where do these 60,000 francs spring from? and where would they go, if a vote of the legislature did not direct them first toward the Rue Rivoli and thence toward the Rue Grenelle? This is what is not seen. Certainly, nobody will think of maintaining that the legislative vote has caused this sum to be hatched in a ballot urn; that it is a pure addition made to the national wealth; that but for this miraculous vote these 60,000 francs would have been forever invisible and impalpable. It must be admitted that all that the majority can do is to decide that they shall be taken from one place to be sent to another; and if they take one direction, it is only because they have been diverted from another.

This being the case, it is clear that the taxpayer, who has contributed one franc, will no longer have this franc at his own disposal. It is clear that he will be deprived of some gratification to the amount of one franc; and that the workman, whoever he may be, who would have received it from him, will be deprived of a benefit to that amount. Let us not, therefore, be led by a childish illusion into believing that the vote of the 60,000 francs may add anything whatever to the well-being of the country, and to national labor. It displaces enjoyments, it transposes wages—that is all.

This fallacy is again being advanced by proponents of continued construction of the F-22 fighter, an aircraft that is so expensive and unreliable that it has never been risked in a combat sortie, and aircraft that was designed to combat a Soviet air force that disintegrated long before the aircraft got off the drawing board. Barack Obama wants to stop purhcasing these aricraft in order to redirect the revenues in a different direction.   Numerous lawmakers in whose districts components of the aircraft are built are trying to preserve cosntruction arguing that large numbers of people are employed making the aircraft.

Of course, the proponents are missing a major point: the people building the aircraft are wasting their time making something for which there is little consumer demand.  As a result,  the materials, the man hours, the factories all are diverted from making something for which there is greater consumer demand.  These people could be making better DVD players, or cheaper TV’s, or flying cars or better MRI’s.  Instead they produce an aircraft which is ineffective at its primary purpose, blowing things up.

If the proponents of continuing F-22 manufacture really want to improve the lot of the workers who make the aircraft, they should be allowing this uneconomical weapons system to be abandoned and allow the workers to look for work making things that people actually want.  Via the price system and the evolution of the free market, all of the resources idled by such a move would be rapidly repurposed to more profitable forms of production, and the workers would find sustainable jobs rather than depending on good will from lawmakers to keep their jobs going.

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.

The Difference Between The USA And China

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.
George Washington

Uighur

So what is the difference between the USA and China?

Our government is still a “dangerous servant”.
China’s is a “fearful master”.

But that line is blurring every day.

Hat Tip: Chris Moody @ United Liberty

United Liberty

I wanted to give a shout out to co-blogger Jason Pye, who is currently editor of UnitedLiberty.org, a [fairly] new libertarian group blog.

United Liberty is, much like The Liberty Papers, a “big-tent” libertarian site. They’ll run the gamut from anarcho-capitalists to Ron Paul Republibertarians. They include portions of their site for “headlines” and other news-related items, and I’m sure they’ll have great analysis, as Jason will be posting somewhat over there, and I’ve seen a few posts from Chris Moody of Cato and our own Doug Mataconis. As Jason says, “We want to be inclusive, not exclusive. If you believe in liberty, you have a home at UL.”

When you get a chance, head over and check it out. In addition, they do have some openings for contributors, so if you’re spilling over with things to say in support of liberty but don’t have a venue, let him know.

One Form Is Not The Same As Another

Kevin Drum, on time filling out forms:

So once you do your taxes you only have about two additional hours of government form filling out to do each year. To be honest, that’s less than I would have guessed — but that’s probably because I’ve been fooled by the fantastic increase in private sector forms that make up the unseen superstructure of the internet age. Here’s my guess for me personally: one hour spent filling out government forms in 2008 (an accountant does our taxes) and, oh, let’s say 10,000 hours spent filling out various annoying and idiotically designed online forms that allow me to buy things, access sites, write blog comments, take stupid quizzes, and order new services that allow me to continue living my convenient 21st century net-centric life.

OK, maybe not 10,000 hours. But I wouldn’t be surprised if I spend 30-40 hours a year filling out various online forms for one thing or another. How about you?

So let’s see here… He pays an accountant to do his taxes, but not to fill out forms so he can “take stupid quizzes”.

Why would that be?

My guess is that it has something to do with the fact that if he fills out the tax form wrong, the state can throw him in jail.

Because, you know, if you don’t like online forms to do things like “write blog comments”, it’s pretty easy to opt out. That’s kinda why I don’t comment on blogs that require me to register, because frankly I don’t want to waste that time.

It’s a little different than forms that I must fill out to, you know, WORK (and pay income tax) or DRIVE.

Drum wants to equate private-sector annoyance with that of government. But last time I checked, TypeKey doesn’t have the power to incarcerate me. I’d say that kinda means I don’t have to fill out their form, doesn’t it?

Ronald Kitchen: The Latest Death Row Exoneree

Radley Balko made the following observation at his blog:

“Illinois has sentenced 224 people to death since reinstating capital punishment in 1977. Since then, 20 have been exonerated. I’m not sure what an acceptable rate of error in death penalty cases would be, but nine percent seems awfully high, doesn’t it?”

One wrongfully killed person at the hands of the state is too many, nine percent is completely unacceptable.

Monday Diversion

Well, when I was awoken by my toddler at 4 AM, and kept up by him all morning, I knew I was in for trouble. 40 oz of coffee later, I’m marginally ready to think.

In the thought that some readers might be as zombie-like as I am, I give you exploding watermelons:

This comes roundabout from FermiLab, a site close enough in proximity to where I grew up that I was assured of thermonuclear vaporization if it had come to MAD during my childhood.

Given that it’s coming from Fermi I strongly suspect that taxpayer dollars were utilized somehow in the destruction of those watermelons.

And part of me wants to get upset over that.

But that part has been overruled by the part of me that says “heheheh, them melons ‘sploded!”

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