Monthly Archives: January 2010

Quote Of The Day

Oh, how are things going in Venezuela these days?

At Caracas’s middle-class Sambil shopping mall, lines at cashiers reached 50-deep. Carmen Blanco, a 28-year-old accountant, waited to buy a 42-inch flat-screen television she doesn’t need because she already has one at home.

“It doesn’t make any sense to keep my savings,” Ms. Blanco said Saturday. “I’d love to see how things work in a normal country.”

There are no normal countries, Ms. Blanco. Only varying degrees of fucked up.

I suggest Canada.

Hat Tip: LvMI

President Obama establishes Council of Governors by Executive Order

Brad just asked what people are reading today.  President Obama just provided some interesting reading material indeed. Here’s the opening text from an Executive Order dated January 11, 2010:

EXECUTIVE ORDER
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE COUNCIL OF GOVERNORS

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 1822 of the National Defense AuthorizationAct of 2008 (Public Law 110-181), and in order to strengthenfurther the partnership between the Federal Government and State governments to protect our Nation and its people and property, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Council of Governors.
(a)
There is established a Council of Governors (Council).The Council shall consist of 10 State Governors appointed bythe President (Members), of whom no more than five shall be ofthe same political party. The term of service for each Member appointed to serve on the Council shall be 2 years, but a Membermay be reappointed for additional terms.
(b)
The President shall designate two Members, whoshall not be members of the same political party, to serve asCo-Chairs of the Council.
Sec. 2. Functions. The Council shall meet at the call of the Secretary of Defense or the Co-Chairs of the Council toexchange views, information, or advice with the Secretary ofDefense; the Secretary of Homeland Security; the Assistant tothe President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; theAssistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs andPublic Engagement; the Assistant Secretary of Defense forHomeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs; the Commander,United States Northern Command; the Chief, National GuardBureau; the Commandant of the Coast Guard; and other appropriateofficials of the Department of Homeland Security and theDepartment of Defense, and appropriate officials of otherexecutive departments or agencies as may be designated by theSecretary of Defense or the Secretary of Homeland Security.Such views, information, or advice shall concern:
(a)
matters involving the National Guard of the variousStates;
(b)
homeland defense;
(c)
civil support;
more
(OVER)
2
(d)
synchronization and integration of State and Federalmilitary activities in the United States; and
(e)
other matters of mutual interest pertaining toNational Guard, homeland defense, and civil support activities.

Read the rest here.

Monday Open Thread — What Are You Reading?

Hey, folks. Slow day here at TLP, so it’s probably a good a time as any to open the floor.

What’s currently on the reading shelves for all of you?

For me:

Just finished:
The American Story, by Garet Garrett. — Available from the Mises Store. I plan on a review of this once I get a bit of time to put it together.

On tap:
Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover – The Great Depression 1929-1941 [PDF], by Herbert Hoover. — I was trying to decide whether or not to buy it, but since I saw it on PDF I figure I’ll need to get around to reading it.

Would C-SPAN Make The Healthcare Bill “Worse”? Define Worse.

I’ll blockquote Peter Suderman over at Reason blockquoting the CAP’s “wonk room” blog on this one:

The short version of the argument is that C-SPAN’s coverage would put pressure on legislators to perform for the cameras and thus make the bill worse:

C-SPAN is grounded in the belief that transparency produces superior legislation. And maybe a certain level of transparency does. But if one actually considers the tone and tenor of the televised health care debate of 2009, filming the conference negotiations seems counterproductive.

…On the whole, C-SPAN’s coverage informed and entertained the viewer. But did it improve the underlying bill?

The post suggests pretty strongly that the answer is no. But how you answer this last question depends quite a bit on what you mean when you say “improved.” If you asked me, I’d say that anything in the health care bill that increased individual control and responsibility for their health care improved it. But when anyone at CAP asks whether something has been “improved”, I think it’s fair to say that what they’re asking is whether it made the bill more progressive — ie: does it cover more people, spread costs across a greater share of the population, offer larger subsidies for care, and move more power away from private enterprise and toward centralized government authority. The implicit argument here is that not filming the negotiations will push the bill in a more progressive direction. I agree, but I think that’s a bad thing. And I also think that as excuses go, shutting out C-SPAN and other media because doing so would limit opposition to the progressive agenda is pretty weak.

I don’t think it’s fair to say that CAP is asking whether it made the bill more or less progressive. There are multiple definitions of “worse”, and Suderman is projecting his definition of worse vs. improved onto CAP.

I think a more fair question, particularly when political grandstanding is involved, is this:

Does C-SPAN televising the debate make it easier or harder for Congress to write a bill accomplishing its objectives with a minimum of bad elements?

There are a lot of ways to define “bad elements”. Peter Suderman and I would say that a public option or an individual mandate are bad elements. CAP would probably say that these are desired elements and dropping the subsidies from 400% to 300% or the Stupak amendment are bad elements. All involved would probably say that greasing the wheels of Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieux are bad elements.

The uncharitable way to read CAP’s question is to suggest that getting the debate out in front of voters, news media and bloggers prior to reaching a final bill gets the debate out of Congress and into public opinion, where voters might object to necessary provisions or add bad elements through the political process. But the charitable way to read this is that televising the debates on C-SPAN leads to overt politicization and a necessarily “worse” bill by addition of things that both Democrats and Republicans would consider bad elements. Whether policy is good or bad is not defined by its public popularity.

I like the idea of C-SPAN televising the negotiations, but not because I think they’ll improve the bill. Frankly, I think greater public awareness and pressure might lead to a further public opinion shift against the bill and potentially damage it before the votes come back to House & Senate on the compromise legislation. Any damage to this intrusion of government on freedom that I can get, I’ll take. But I don’t think televising the debates will in any way improve the bill. As the wonk room states:

Turning the conference committee into another Senate floor debate won’t improve health reform legislation. The televised conference hearings will become a drawn out theatrical sideshow — the real discussions will still occur behind closed doors.

They’ll just give a bunch of Congressional blowhards a forum to grandstand, and provide fodder for cable news and the blogosphere to excoriate them in public. Great fun, mind you, but since all the substantive negotiation occurs off-camera anyway, it’s not exactly useful.

Quote Of The Day

Bruce @ QandO, responding to this story about Obama pushing a “surge” of air marshals:

Mr. Obama – the idea is to get them before they get on the freakin’ airplane.

As he goes on to point out, passengers (due to human self-preservation instincts) have proven remarkably able to take down terrorists in-flight. Perhaps Obama should wonder how this guy got through all the security theater onto the plane at all.

Find Out What Happens When HOAs Stop Being Polite — And Start Getting Real

Homeowner associations [HOAs] are a bit of a prickly issue for libertarians. On one hand, they are voluntary, so you don’t have to choose to move into an area that has one. On the other hand, they are common enough (and arbitrarily nasty enough in many situations) that it is a significant limit to purchasing decisions to avoid them. Further, choosing a home with an HOA does not necessarily mean that the HOA you move into will resemble itself 5 or 10 years down the road — it may be much more restrictive. Much like local control of politics and federalism, choice is better than non-choice, but at the same time when a libertarian sees an organization that infringes upon property rights, the libertarian bristles.

Occasionally, though, an HOA does something worthy of genuine outrage. Especially when they do so in a callous and inhuman manner, which is the case here:

Kimberly, a 6-year-old in the custody of her grandparents, is facing eviction by local law enforcement because her grandparents live in a retirement community. The child has lived in the house her whole life, as her mother is unable to care for her due to unspecified drug problems. Now authorities plan to remove the girl from the only home she’s ever known and place her in foster care with strangers due to a homeowners association policy.

Kimberly’s grandparents, Jimmy and Judie Stottler, have been unable to sell their home and move elsewhere due to the housing market crash. The Stottlers have even lowered the price from $225,000 to $129,000, willing to get completely hosed on the move just to keep their family intact, but no one is buying. The battle has been going on for several years, the better portion of Kimberly’s life, but the Stottlers are of limited resources to fight the situation.

That’s bad. But this quote (from the HOA president) is the truly callous part:

“No, the sheriff will. I will merely be the President of the Board who is trying to enforce the policies of our association that she agreed to when she moved in.”

Yes, you’re not the one throwing a six-year-old girl out of the only home she’s ever known, and the care of two loving “parents” who never expected a child to be thrust upon them to be raised because her biological parent had abdicated all responsibility. You’re not responsible, it’s all the sheriff — who just happens to be acting on the orders you gave him. What’s the life of a small child worth? Obviously not as much as your rules.

I’ve never understood how the acquisition of a little bit of power can seemingly remove someone’s sense of humanity. Maybe this douchebag never had it to begin with?

The Reports Of CA’s Jobs Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

Ezra Klein links an interesting story by econoblogger Ryan Avent about declining cities. His post is a fairly interesting read about how (or whether to) try to save dying manufacturing cities.

But one of his passages discusses a greatly different topic. As a California resident, I’m stuck with a very high-tax, heavy-regulating, dysfunctional state government that tries to milk its residents of their lifeblood to pay for bloated, inefficient, and overpriced social services. Like most governments, even when facing a brutal economic clime like the one we’re currently in, they don’t want to face the music and truly cut spending to the bone, they’re going to try to clamor for federal help. Even with crippling taxation on the nation’s largest economy, they can’t make ends meet.

So what do they constantly do? They make it worse (I’ll have a post on 2010’s new CA laws making it worse soon). Each time they do so, the pronouncement from all those with right-of-center economics is that they’re going to destroy jobs and kill our state economy.

This is true — to an extent. Their policies do harm the economy. But its effect is greatly overstated for a reason that Avent points out:

The value in economically dynamic cities is the people that populate them. Where once, firms would pay high land prices to be near coal deposits or harbors, based on the economic advantages those amenities conferred, they now pay high land prices to be near talent. This yen to concentrate in particular areas has a number of dynamics. Firms want to be near customers and clients. Workers want to be near firms. Firms want to be near workers. Where there are lots of firms and workers, there will also be businesses serving those workers — in business and in the provision of consumption opportunities — and those services attract additional firms and workers. Everyone wants to be where everyone is, and it’s tough for anyone to go somewhere else because somewhere else is where people aren’t.

As every reader here knows, I’m a pretty hardcore libertarian. I hate California’s 9.3% state income tax, sales taxes hovering around the 8% mark, property taxes which aren’t high on a percentage basis (if you can avoid mello-roos) but are very high due to the cost of housing, nanny-state restrictions, and generally the higher price for almost all goods and services brought on by the taxes and regulations imposed on businesses. As a frequent traveler, I’m sometimes shocked at how much cheaper FOOD is elsewhere in the country. You’d think that the biggest thing I’d want to do in life would be to leave.

But I’m still here. Why? Because there’s a lot here worth living for. The job market is plentiful. If I were to leave my current employer there’s plenty of other engineering opportunities within very close proximity. The weather is absolutely perfect (something many readers may hate me for saying on January 5). I’m in close proximity to beaches and mountains, to great entertainment and dining options, and generally live in a very culturally rich and diverse place.

So what happens? Educated professionals want to be here. Companies want to be here to make use of the talents of those educated people. Support and service industries want to locate here to cater to those people. Those industries need labor, so labor all across the education spectrum is in demand. And this creates a cycle, attracting more professionals starting more companies requiring more services requiring more labor. The region grows.

And this attracts government. Make no mistake — economic activity is a tasty morsel, and government is a parasite that grows fatter and fatter on that morsel. Parasites steal from their hosts, they act as a drag and harm their hosts, but the good ones ensure that they never grow large enough to kill their host. Economic activity comes first, and government feeds on it second.

Why do the booming economic areas of the country correlate with some of the highest-taxed and highest-regulated locales of the world (think Massachusetts, New York, SoCal and NorCal, Chicago, etc)? Because the economic activity and the people came first, and once enough people wanted to live in the location the government knew it could feed and grow fat. While CA and MA have both been struggling with a domestic outflow of migration (Americans moving from those states to other US states), they are both growing in population due to international inflow. Despite the growth of government, these states are still alive. Where are the hottest “new” areas of growth? Places with critical mass of talent, such as Atlanta, Austin, or Minneapolis, but without a highly-developed parasite. The parasite is getting ready to feed, though.

To bring this back to Ryan Avent’s point, places like California and the northeast corridor, or Chicago, are not dying because their economies haven’t changed. The talent in the locale is still generating economic activity. The areas getting killed are the manufacturing-heavy rust belt areas, where as labor-intensive manufacturing is offshored and only capital-intensive manufacturing is retained, there is much less need for people. The talent in those locales has been made obsolete, and the “critical mass” of the newer type of talent was already established elsewhere.

There are a lot of things I like about California, and a lot of things I don’t like. But despite the proclamations of my right-leaning colleagues, the rest of the country need not write their eulogies for California yet.

How Obamacare Will Cost-Control

From Ezra Klein, remarking on the major cost-control move found at the end of Bush’s term:

People don’t bring this up very much, but one of the best ways to control costs in health care — or any private sector, really — is to have a huge recession.

High taxes, high government deficits, dollar devaluation, and a rapidly-changing regulatory and political landscape are all things that will wrest economic growth away from America.

So maybe Obama really will cost-control health care! We’ll all be too poor to buy any more of it.

Quote Of The Day

From Jonah Goldberg, re: airline security:

Anyone who flies regularly will tell you, the hellishness of airline travel is not primarily derived from the outrage of lost privacy, it’s derived from the outrage of inefficient, time-consuming idiocy. I would gladly trade the privacy invasion that would come with those body scanners in Total Recall in exchange for the ability to casually walk into the boarding area.

As I’ve mentioned before, my job has me on the road quite a bit, and thus I visit our illustrious TSA on a regular basis. I survive largely on airports having the black-diamond “Expert Traveler” security line and having a time-tested system of packing that gets me through the line quickly.

Unlike some libertarians, who choose not to fly rather than be subjected to TSA scrutiny, I see this as an unwelcome, unnecessary, but trivial evil. I view air travel as too important to me (both personally and professionally) to allow the government to slow me down. I know I’m going to be hassled, but it is most important to me that the hassling be kept to a minimal level and that it disrupt my plans as little as possible. I must admit that I was more than a bit irked over the holidays traveling with family, when the TSA screener wiped my infant son and I down for explosive residue (I was carrying him in a Baby Bjorn) “to make sure he was a real baby”. But even that was only an inconvenience, it’s not like he swabbed us for our DNA (at least that I’m aware of).

All that said, the level of idiocy is highly annoying. On short trips, I prefer not to check baggage, lest it get lost. At the same time, as a beer aficionado, I like to buy beer where I’m traveling that isn’t distributed in CA. With the liquid restrictions, I’m then forced to either forgo a purchase and not carry beer back with me, or wrap it in my luggage and check it on the return hoping that baggage handlers don’t leave me with a wet, smelly bag upon my arrival home. I often forgo the purchase these days rather than risk losing the bag or ending up with a mess.

However, I will take issue with one thing Goldberg says:

We keep hearing how we have to trade privacy for security. “No we don’t!” says the always helpful ACLU. “Yes we do!” say some security experts. “Maybe we do, maybe we don’t,” say others.

It’s all terribly tedious and it misses a very basic point: We already trade privacy, a lot of privacy, for security.

We already trade privacy for the appearance of security. Posts like this remind me that we’re actually not much safer as a result of all this hassle. It is truly security theater, designed to make us feel better but almost completely useless.

But while I’m certainly more concerned about privacy and government surveillance than the average joe, I’d be willing to trade the concern that some screener sees my naughty bits for a much quicker and less hassling airport experience*. And when I’m traveling with family, if it would make it unnecessary for me to take shoes off my toddler (getting them back on is the hassle), I’d be positively overjoyed.

Hat Tip: Curunir @ Distributed Republic
» Read more

The Importance of Being an Adult

One of the most pernicious effects of the Bismarkian Welfare State is the infantilization of society, the destruction of adulthood. This infantilization renders people incapable of caring for themselves. It places them in a state of permanent dependence. Unable to live without the state, people are put in a position where resistance to the rulers, even in small areas like a personal preference for ingesting one mind-altering substance rather than another, risks their ability to practice their professions, the services they depend on, their children’s education, their access to modern financial institutions, in the future, even possibly affect their access to medical care.

If you want to be free, you must become an adult, which is difficult in this age when society, the media, the state, your family are all suggesting that you continue behaving as a child.

What is it to be an adult?

Every philosophy tackles this question. While there are many nuanced disagreements over the precise description of what adulthood actually is, there is widespread agreement on certain fundamental elements of adulthood.

Quite simply, an adult is widely described as a person who is aware of the consequences of his or her actions, is capable of reason and holds himself accountable for the results of his or her choices. An adult is prepared to provide for his or her needs or to do without.

The modern state discourages adulthood for the simple reason that a person who is prepared to only consume that which they have earned will not accede to being plundered. If the state is to gather the vast riches its rulers desire, the state must place the producers in a state of dependence and fear – two conditions guaranteed to make men malleable.

Dr Stephen Covey has spent his life studying what made people and organization effective – capable of exerting influence over the people and organizations they come in contact with. He observed that the most effective organizations and people all first turn inward and master themselves. He observed that the rational and consistent application of their principles to their own conduct earned the respect of those who observed them.

Too many lovers of liberty fail at this. They talk the talk well, but when it comes to ordering their lives, they fail to walk the walk.

2009 was a bad year for lovers of liberty. The governments of the world continued increasing their stranglehold on humanity. here in the U.S. Barack Obama expanded and continued to socialist policies of George Bush, capitalizing on Bush’s successful efforts to increase government control of the capital markets. The U.S. congress passed laws that increase their control of the medical industry, laws intended to control the Earth’s climate that threaten to send humanity back to the dark ages. And many of our countrymen seem only too happy to submit to the yoke, with over 50% of Americans now consuming state aid in some form or another.

However, the states have also set the seeds of their own doom. They have lost control of mass media; the pyramid schemes of plundering and redistributing wealth are cracking; the unsustainable distortions to the capital structures of the world economy are failing . The governments of the world are doomed. The only question is how destructive their collapse will be.

So, we must now begin looking to laying the foundations for the next revolutions, and the most important foundations stones are the ones we lay in our own hearts, and in the example we set for others.

So how far should we go to end our sependence?  Shall we eschew government roads, pull our children from government schools?  Refuse to use Federal Reserve Notes in our business?

What steps you take are really up to your conscience.   In the areas where the government has monopolized a service, such as its road monopoly, I see nothing immoral in using that service, especially when one considers the impact refusing to use the service has.

But, there are certain principles you should strive for:

  • Support yourself as much as possible.
  • Get in the habit of planning for the future.
  • Limit the services you consume from the state as much as practicable.
  • Be honest in your dealings with your fellows.  Provide good value in your business dealings
  • Enter a profession that is as far removed from state privilege as  possible.

These steps will help you better resist the usurpations of the state and allow you greater freedom, and make you a nucleus around which a free sociey willgrow.

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.
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