Author Archives: tarran

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.

Could Ron Paul Have Won?

As we speak the heavyweights of the Republican Party are meeting to discuss how to recover from the debacle (for the Republicans that is) that was to 2008 election.  Their goal will be to figure out how they can win national elections again.  I wonder if they will even consider the advice of Ron Paul.  Certainly, they would do well to do so, because I think that absent the newsletter scandal and a couple of other skeletons in his closet Ron Paul could have won the election for the Republicans.

Obama did not win the election.  The Republicans lost it.  Their entire election strategy consisted of trying to scare people away from voting for Obama.  Why didn’t they present a plan or vision of their own that was more comprehensive than the fatuous “Country First” slogan?  Because they did have a plan and it was one that they knew voters did not want.

What voters wanted

There were three major things concerning voters: the economy, the war, and corruption.

1) The economy.  The corporatist or steroidal mercantilist policies of the Republican party is collapsing.  Most people don’t understand why, but recognize that they are being squeezed by rising prices and by falling income.  They want someone to fix it.

2) The war.  Most people think the war was mismanaged. Badly.  They are not pacifists, unfortunately.  Rather, they want someone who isn’t going to reclessly plunge into wars, to try to incite them unecessarily.

3) Corruption:  Everybody has heard of the “Bridge to Nowhere” and the “Abramof Scandal”.  They remember “Heckuva Job Brownie”‘s contribution to the Katrina devastation.  They rightly perceive the last 8 years to have been remarkably filled with cronyism and government giveaways to people with pull.  They want that to stop.

What the Republicans Offered:

1) The economy:  More cronyism!  But with lip service to free markets!  And McCain saying that one moment he didn’t know what he was doing, then grandstanding to get the bailout passed and failing, then complaining about the Democrats and ….

In the end, the Republican message was that the problems were caused by Democrats and that the Republicans would somehow do a good job.  Hardly reassuring, especially coming from a political party that had controlled both and arguably all three branches of the federal government for much of the past decade.

2) The war:  More war.  Against Russia! Iran! China even!  When a presidential candidate gets up and announces that the U.S. will send the sons of voters to places they never heard of to fight in a long-running war that they were unaware of, they are not reassured.

3) Corruption:  Nothing other than platitudes about opposition to earmarks.  Oh and desperate attempts to point to Democrats who are corrupt.  Look over there! No not at us, over there!

What Ron Paul Offered:

1)  The economy:  I recently read an editorial in a financial magazine that said something to the effect that only two schools of economics had come out of the crisis looking good, the Austrians and the Marxists. Whereas the Marxists have long been discredited economically (Lenin’s attempts to do away with trade in the early days of the Bolshevik revolution and the debacle that resulted stand in mute testimony of how wrong they are), the Austrians have not.  Many of their predictions – about how Bretton Woods would collapse, the coming of the Great Depression, the current financial crisis have come true, precisely as they predicted.  Ron Paul is closely identified with the Austrian school.  He understands the theories.  He can speak about them authoritatively.  Long before any other national Republican politician, Ron Paul had been warning of the current financial crisis. his policy prescriptions, emphasizing reducing spending and cutting taxes, reducing the financial burdens p;laced on people by government would probably have resonated with a substantial portion of the electorate.  His specific, concrete policy statements, far less unfeasible than those of his competitors would have given voters something positive to consider.

2) The war:  Ron Paul’s position of bringing troops home from overseas and cutting military spending would have made him many powerful enemies.  However, as the consistent anti-war Republican, he would have been in a very favorable position to Obama who is quite the interventionist when it comes to causes that are politically attractive.  Ron Paul could credibly promise to end the mismanagement of the war.

3) Corruption:  Ron Paul’s vision of the Federal Government would be a far less corrupt one.  How many parasites can be supported by a government that sticks to a few enumerated powers?  When the farmer stops pouring slop into the trough, the pigs stop lining up to eat.

A positive message rather than a negative one

Ron Paul had a positive message, a set of policy proposals that were a road map as to how he wanted to proceed forward.  McCain has no such thing.  All he could hope for was that enough people didn’t want Obama to propel him into victory.

Of course, people who found the status quo unacceptable held their noses and voted for Obama.  An outsider like Ron Paul who credibly promoted limited government and free markets, whose consistently stood his ground even when it placed him in opposition to his party, would have given many people who hated the status quo but didn’t like Obama’s proposals, a reason to vote Republican.

I don’t think Ron Paul himself could have won the election – the newsletter scandal would have sunk him – however, someone credibly advancing his agenda could have.  And, if they want to be anything more than a regional party limited to the band connecting Northern Louisiana to Kentucky, they would do well to consider that fact.

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.

Tarran Votes 2008

In less than a week it will be over; a year and a half of maneuvering, jockeying, speechifying, electioneering and speculating will thankfully draw to a close, and the U.S., which once was a sort of free republic, will crown a new king, who promises to reward the innocent and punish the guilty.

In less than a week the polling places will open, and nice old ladies will ask you your name and your street address, put a line through your name, and hand you a ballot. When you hand it in they will give you a nice sticker that says “I voted”, which like the “You’re a Star!” stickers every student — regardless of his or her performance — gets on quizzes in first grade, makes a big deal out of a meaningless accomplishment.

So why should we bother?  Wouldn’t our time be spent more productively and usefully if we drank a beer while playing pool with our friends, or curled up with a decent book, or gave the loves of our lives a nice back rub?

Why should we show up at a place filled with groups of people carrying signs, glaring at rival groups?  Why should we stand in line, carry our paperwork to a curtained booth, and much like some man furtively watching a peep show at an “adult movie” theatre, call upon some man to be given the power to loot and pillage our neighbors at will, to hand out favors to his friends, and to risk our lives in war?

If we don’t show up, the only people marching into those booths will be people who love the pillagers, who want to egg them on to loot and pillage more thoroughly.  The politicians will look at the totals and conclude that the only way they will acquire power is by promising more taxes, more spending, more jails, more police, more beatings, more prison rape, more death.

If we ignore the polling booths, then the politicians will look at the few thousand votes that were cast, all calling for higher taxes, and conclude that raising taxes isn’t so risky after all.

The system is rotten, intentionally designed to encourage tyranny and to limit the tendency toward freedom.  It is biased against us.  And when we withhold consent by ignoring it, our would-be masters congratulate themselves on their mandates and ability to continue with business as usual.

So I vote.  My vote is statistically insignificant.  Other than the few times I have voted against a  tax increase, my votes generally go into the losing column.  This is not so bad…  the politicians are fractionally less brave because my vote makes them look fractionally less strong.

But who to vote for?

Next week, my ballot will contain the following names for the office of President:
1)Charles Baldwin – Christian Dominionist
2)John McCain – Warmonger
3)Cynthia McKinney – Insane Person
4)Bob Barr – Former Freedom Hater Claiming Road to Damascus Conversion – possibly a Karl Rove Plant
5)Barrack Obama – Economy Wrecker

It is tempting to leave the ballot blank, to quitely vote to decriminalize marijuana posession, do away with the income tax and to vote to permit dog racing to continue, and leave every office blank.

But that would result in a “spoiled” ballot.  In order to accommodate people who might make a mistake in their first attempt to fill out a ballot, in polling places, a person can turn in a “spoiled” ballot and request a new, clean one.  In order to prevent the fraus of having workers stuff the ballot box with those spoiled ballots, the machines that count votes are usually set to ignore ballots that are not completley filled out. Update: This is incorrect. I withdraw this claim.

Luckily, in most places, a voter is given the option of writing in someone who is not listed on the ballot.  Thus, I usually write in None of the Above on my ballot.  The write in votes are considered “unspoiled”, my pro-freedom votes are tallied in the system and occasionally, my votes for freedom are part of a dominant majority on some issue.   Yay!

Of course, if you are stuck in some place with barbaric laws and a government that hates the citizenry (cough cough Oklohoma cough cough) you may not have the option of writing in a name; you must pick people from the list of candidates approved by the state government.  Of course, there you can always vote for the most obscure candidate, and thus express your displeasure.

So how am I going to vote?

I am going to vote as follows:

1) U.S. President:  Bob Barr.

I have long suspected that Bob Barr’s Road to Damascus conversion is not genuine.  However, he is world famous in the United States, and will attract more than a few votes.  As president, while he would be awful, but he has no chance of winning, meaning that he is safe as a protest vote – and for once people will pay attention to the votes he garners as an indication of dissatisfaction to the big government agenda of the dominant parties.  I want to signal to the political classes that I – and several thousand like me – support freedom.

Of course, in doing so, I am committing fraud.  I don’t want to vote for the winning candidate: then all the crimes he commits, the robberies, the destruction of property, the murders are all beign done in my name.  Hopefully, no politician figures that out. ;)

2) U.S. Senate: Robert F Underwood

Mr Underwood is a member of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership.  I like the JFPO – they have  a healthy understanding of the what the relationship between the state and the individual should properly be.  That is, they recognize that the government is an attractive tool for homicidal maniacs to fulfill their sick fantasies, and that the citizenry should be in a position to put those maniacs 6 feet underground should it be necessary.  I actually want this guy to win.

3) U.S. House: John Cunningham

Mr Cunningham is a Ron Paul  Republican who wants to repeal the Patriot Act
.  This is, of course, shocking because here in Massachusetts, Republicans tend to be warmongers who love socialism but hate abortion.  While I am not a fan of Ron Paul’s leadership style and have serious reservations about his judgment concerning other people, I love many of his policies.  Even though I hate the Republicans, and swore never to vote for them again, I will be voting for this man;  chalk it up to the erosion of moral standards inherent to politics, or a wise reconsideration of hasty, intemperate remarks.  Whatever floats your boat.  Again, I wouldn’t mind if he won.  The outrage from coworkers over his victory would be reward enough.

Wow!  That takes care of the Federal Races, and no NOTA’s yet!  Luckily, all the state races, with one unopposed Massachusetts Liberal appearing on the ballot will allow me to keep my anarchist street cred.

4) Governor’s Councillor (Approves the governor’s judicial nominees): NOTA

The only candidate approved by the government is a Democrat.  I will be voting None of the Above.

5) State Senator: NOTA

Ditto:

6) State Representative: NOTA

Ditto.

7) Register of Probate: (Administers family court (adoption, paternity, divorce, death etc.)): NOTA

Ditto.

And there we are.  Sorry Democrats.  Perhaps when you start fielding candidates who believe in civil rights, you might get my endorsement.  This year you fielded people who love to tax the little guy and give the money to big business.  Oh, and you support union laws that originally were intended to keep black people from moving into white enclaves in the North.  Plus, I have seen what hyperinflation did to Turkey, and I have no desire to see it happen here.

Ballot Questions:

Question 1:  Should we repeal the Massachusetts Income Tax? Hell Yes!

Question 2:  Should we partially decriminalize marijuana? Well, we should make it completely legal, but hey, I’ll take a small step in the right direction; Yes!

Question 3:  Should we allow Dog Racing in Massachusetts? Dog Racing is a vile, disgusting sport, and I am boycotting it.  But, it’s none of the state’s business what people do to dogs.  Hell No!

And that’s it!

Happy voting come election day!

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.

Is Free Market Medicine Heartless?le

Recently I had an interesting conversation with someone who leveled the following accusation:

“You libertarians don’t care if people die from lack of medicine, or if someone can’t afford a doctor.  Libertarianism is the freedom to die from a cold while the doctor who could treat you is doing a checkup for a rich guy who has nothing wrong with him.
You guys are so wrapped up in hating the government that you don’t see the good it can do.”

This is a frequent charge leveled against those who oppose some government intervention.  The assumption contained within the accusation is that if someone opposes the state performing some task, then one is in effect opposing anybody performing that task. There are two possible ways that this accusation could be correct:

1) The task can only be done by the state.  Regardless of our desires to see the task done, it won’t happen without state action. Therefore by opposing state action we are opposing any action that could attain that goal.

2) The task could be done by others, but we believe that it shouldn’t be done at all.

While I am sure one could find the occasional libertarian who is opposed to the broad mass of the people having access to good medical care, this is not true of the vast majority of libertarians.  Unsurprisingly like non-libertarians, most libertarians are fans of good health.  So clearly the second statement is not correct and we are left with the first one as the accusation.

But, is this correct?  Is the state the only entity capable of accomplishing this goal?  It’s actually trivial to demonstrate that the state can’t assure people the highest quality of medical care.  But can it do a better job than other organizations?  The answer is that it can do a “better” job, but at a cost that will wreck the economy.

Why Involve the State?

The notion that the state is required to ensure that people have access to medical care is, itself, predicated on several assumptions:

1) It is bad when someone is allowed to die or goes unhealed when the means to save his or her life or health is available.

2) People who cannot afford to hire a doctor or purchase medicines will go untreated.

3) People are unwilling to voluntarily support others who are unable to pay for their own care.

4) Only the state can amass the funds needed to ensure that all are treated, since it can extract more money than people are willing to give up.

Can the state do it all?

Unfortunately, while these assumptions at first seem reasonable, item number 4 is problematic in ways that supporters of state provisioning ignore at their own peril.  The first is that while state action can alleviate scarcity of medical care, it cannot eliminate it entirely.  Consider Paul Newman.  Paul Newman was a wealthy man.  He had a personal doctor who was well paid.  This doctor probably had no more than 50 patients under his care.  Can state action provide a doctor for every 50 people?  In the United States alone, this would require training 1,000 doctors for every doctor practicing today.  There would be more doctors than the combined population of plumbers, farmers, factory workers and shopkeepers.  Such an action, would take millions of workers out of working in other trades, trades where they paid taxes and put them in the position of consuming taxes.

Clearly this is untenable, at some point, the administrators of any system of providing medical care have to say “no more” and to stop providing additional care that may be technically possible, but economically unfeasible.

Thus we see that even a government-administered program will have to accommodate scarce resources, permitting people to suffer who otherwise could be treated.

Is the state the one who does a better job?

Even if the state can’t treat everyone, can it still do a better job than every other conceivable organization?  To answer this question, we need to examine how medical care is provided on a free market.

Free market provisioning – simple

The simplest way that a person gets medical care in a free market is by waiting until he or she gets sick.  The sick person then goes to a store and purchases the medicines he or she needs or visits a doctor, paying for these services out of their cash balance.  Of course, if the person lacks the money to pay the doctor or the medicine owner, the illness won’t be treated.

The prices under such a scenario are set as follows.  Doctors and medicine makers charge whatever the market will bear.  If they set their prices too high, they won’t be paid at all.  Furthermore if their profits are sufficiently high, they will attract competition, more people choosing to become doctors.  These additional providers will compete for customers, charging whatever the market will bear for their services as well.  Eventually, an equilibrium will be reached where the supply of doctors is sufficient to supply all the patients who are willing to pay them sufficiently well for treatment.

Free market provisioning – Insurance

Illness is a stochastic process that visits people randomly.  The rates of illness in a large population are, however, predictable to a reasonable degree of accuracy.  This makes it quite possible for insurance companies to provide health insurance; people pay a monthly or annual fee for coverage, and the insurance company pays for their illnesses.  People who get very sick benefit because the cost of care exceeds the premiums they pay to the insurance company.  The insurance company profits because the premiums they charge exceed the costs of the treatments they pay for.  The people who don’t get sick may lose money, but should they get sick in the future, they are in a position to become benefactors.

The introduction of medical insurance, of course, results in higher prices in the short term as people who previously could not afford treatment are now able to afford treatment.  However, as in the previous simple scenario, the rise in prices would attract even more people to become providers.

Free market provisioning – Charity

Under the previous two methods, there is still a class of people who seek treatment who don’t get it: people who cannot afford insurance.  The plight of this group will not go unnoticed; some segment of their neighbors will be moved by their plight, and will want to help.  These neighbors make a gift of money, their services, or their non-money property to the needy, either by paying for services directly, giving gifts to the needy, or by giving gifts to organizations, known as charities, that distribute the gifts to the needy.

The supply of charitable gifts is dictated by how much the gift givers are willing to give in return for the psychic benefit they get for giving gifts.  These people choose how much they will give, and to whom based on what they are a) able to spend, b) how ‘deserving’ they feel the benefactor to be, c) the predicted effect of the gift.

These benefactors are thus examining the need of the beneficiaries, the resources available to donate to the problem and how effectively those resources will solve the problem in choosing how much money to give.  Again, initially the action of charities will increase the demand for medical services and bid up prices.  Again, these higher prices will attract more providers to provide services, until once again prices have stabilized at a level where the number of providers is constant.

Deviation from Free Market – Medical Licensing

The free market provisioning of medical care assumes that anyone who wishes can hang a shingle form their door and go into business as a doctor.  It provides severe downward pressure on prices: any time doctors in a particular branch of medicine start making sufficient amounts of money to make the training profitable, it attracts more people to take up the profession.

The medical industry has reacted to this downward pressure by calling for the state to restrict the pool of practicing doctors.  This eliminates downward pressure on prices. If the number of doctors is restricted, then the bidding war as patients fight for the few available slots will result in prices rising dramatically.  The more entry is restricted by these laws the more dramatic this phenomenon is.

Deviation from the Free Market – Subsidies

Earlier, we showed how charitable contributions tend to push prices higher.  This phenomenon becomes more dramatic once medical licensing is in place.  To understand this phenomenon, we must examine how prices are set at a free market.  Imagine an economy where A, B, C and D are interested in visiting a doctor.  This doctor can see 2 patients per day.

The prices they are willing to pay to see a doctor are:

Actor Willing to Pay
A $110.00
B $ 80.00
C $ 60.00
D $ 50.00

To maximize his profits, the doctor must fill up his schedule.  If he posts a price of less than or equal to $80.00 per visit, he can fill his schedule with paying patients.  Thus, we can expect that the doctor will charge $80.00.

Now let us examine what happens if some entity offers a $50.00 subsidy for patients wanting to visit the doctor but can’t afford it.  Now the demand schedule looks like this:

Actor Out of pocket + Subsidy = Payment to Doctor
A $110.00 $0.00 $110.00
B $ 80.00 $0.00 $80.00
C $ 60.00 $50.00 $110.00
D $ 50.00 $50.00 $100.00

At this point the doctor finds himself deluged with patients.  Eventually, he finds himself wanting new equipment, or to hire more staff, and so he experiments with raising his price.  He raises his prices to $90.00, then to $100.00 or more.  When his prices reach $110.00, once again he is maximizing his income.  Any higher, and he will have empty slots in his schedule and lose business.  The effect of the subsidy, in the presence of significant barriers to entry for new providers is to increase prices.  The higher the subsidy, the more people it is offered to, the more dramatic this effect is.

If one looks at all the asset bubbles in recent history, all the sectors of the economy where prices are climbing faster than the rate of inflation, one finds generous government subsidies coupled with significant barriers to entry for new providers.

Of course, patient B, having been able to afford a doctor in previous days now finds himself out in the cold.  He is not offered a subsidy, but cannot afford to see a doctor.  Unless he is very aware of economics, he will ask the subsidizer to include him in the subsidy as well.  This expansion in subsidy will result in still higher prices, creating another wave of people who no longer can hire a doctor.  The people in this wave then lobby for the expansion of the subsidy to include them.  If the cycle continues long enough, nobody will be able to afford the subsidy.

Deviation from the Free Market – Monopoly Customer

Another option is to establish a monopoly that takes over all payment to doctors.  This monopoly can avoid the phenomenon of competing consumers bidding up prices by taking over all payment decisions.  It sets a price, and a doctor who attempts to charge above the price is simply not paid.  This authority then sets prices according to its whim.   The entity can offer doctors below market wages, resulting in patients flooding the system.  Or, it can establish above market prices, leading to it having to outlay huge amounts of money.

The latter becomes a significant problem.  The monopoly must somehow acquire (or create) the money needed to pay for all these treatments.

However, unless this entity can increase the supply of doctors, it cannot expand medical care.  Unless more doctors are permitted to go into practice, the number of patients that can be treated remains the same as under the Free Market + Medical Licensing.

This problem can be easily solved, by having the monopoly guarantee all doctors above market wages, as follows:

In the scenario above, every day four patients sought medical treatment.  The single doctor was only able to treat two.  So the monopoly arranges to pay two doctors $80.00 per visit, resulting in a greater capacity than exists under Free Market + Medical Licensing.  At this point, the monopoly is obligated to pay $320.00 per day to treat all four patients.  The total number of dollars people were prepared to part with for medical care was $110 + $80 + $60 + $50 or $300.00 total.   Thus, the monopoly has to extract $20.00 from someone to pay for the extra medical care, diverting that money from other, more highly desired ends from some actor somewhere in the economy.

The State

The state is well positioned to act as such a monopoly.  It can, though taxes, extract as many resources as the economy can supply in order to maintain the monopoly payments. Just as the state could, if its officers desire, land men on the moon, something that no organization depending on making a profit or voluntary donations will be able to do in the foreseeable future, the state could ensure that everyone gets reasonably good medical care.  However, this will come at significant cost.  The resources commandeered to pay these above market wages will necessarily impoverish the public.  In our scenario above, we had the state demanding that one or more people be forced to give $20.00 more than they would have liked to to cover the medical care of all actors.  This is money that would otherwise go to satisfying other consumer demands, such as food, better housing, beer or factories.

Additionally, the use of taxation to acquire the money needed generally means that patients pay $0.00 out of pocket.  This means that there is no cost (other than the lost time and inconvenience) for visiting the doctor.  This results in a massive spike in demand as people rush to visit the doctor more often.  Again, absent the lifting of the restriction on the number of practicing doctors, such a system will be plagued by long wait times and rationing via queues.

This power is also the state’s Achilles heel.  Unlike a charity that depends on voluntary donations, the state does not have to do a good job to get money.  Even if the state spends the money in a lousy, inefficient manner, the money will continue to flow into its coffers; people are denied the choice to withhold their money from the state.  Furthermore, for a government official, challenging inefficiency or generating efficient ideas requires effort.  The worse the problem being confronted the more effort the official must exert. Such efforts are often psychically unpleasant.  Thus a significant number of officials will find the disutility associated with the effort to do better will far outweigh any possible personal benefit they accrue.  Again, we see this phenomenon demonstrated in countless government offices.  for example a significant portion of Medicare funding is consumed by fraudulent charges.  Government officials turn a blind eye to the fraud since they run no risk of being bankrupt by excessive claims.  As an aside, the proponents of state provisioning of medical services love to cite the low administrative costs of Medicare as a good thing, whereas it is precisely the skimping on administrative oversight which causes the overbillers to be able to perpetrate their fraud with impunity indefinitely.

It is not surprising that numerous studies analyzing private (dependent on payments or voluntary donations) ventures with public ones (funded by force) performing similar tasks found that, on average, the private ventures delivered the same service at only 75% of the cost.

The importance of innovation

Having found that government provisioning of medical care is no panacea in the present, we should look at what is really required to make health care better for more people.

What is the engine driving improvements in medical care?  In the end, it is the desire of doctors to do a better job, whether from professional pride or from a desire for more revenue.  In a free market, an innovation requires only a doctor and a patient agreeing to try it out.  In an environment where the state pays for medical care, the doctor or patient must convince the state to permit the test being tried.  For very innovative ideas, especially ones that are likely to trigger an episode of creative destruction, where whole branches of the field will be rendered obsolete or redundant, it is possible that the state will refuse to permit the innovation to take place.

Medical treatments that are available to the poorest among us today were not available to kings two centuries ago.  Two centuries ago no economy could have afforded to extend even the pitiful medical care that kings received to the entire population.  It is only through innovation, the discovery of new and cheaper ways of doing thing, that the care afforded by the wealthy can become available to the basic population.

Let us see how this works in a free market.  Let us consider some case where a doctor invents a new procedure that allows him to treat a condition at one-tenth the cost of the current treatment in vogue.  Of course, he starts providing this treatment, and pocketing the massive profits that accrue to him as a result.  The news of his procedure gets out.  Other doctors also adopt the practice.  Initially all who adopt the practice make unusually high profits.  These high profits attract additional providers to try to treat people with this procedure.

As the number of providers treating patients increase, the market-clearing price starts to fall.  New providers offer lower and lower prices in an attempt to fill their schedules.  This process continues until the profits to be earned by treating patients with the new treatment is too low to attract additional providers.  The result is that many more people are having their condition treated than were before.

Any regimen that slows or short circuits this process of innovation has the effect of denying the poor access to future medical care.

The important thing is that state regulation does hamper innovation.  It can do no other.  The result, present state regulation is harmful to future patients, and past regulation is harmful to patients in the present.

Must We Lean on the State?

From the above analysis we can come to several conclusions:

1) It is impossible to make high quality medical care available to the most number of people while restrictive medical licensure laws make it difficult for new people to enter the medical profession.
2) While government action can expand the amount of care available today, it does so at an expense of less medical care in the future.
3) The government will either have to ration care, or heavily tax people to accomplish the goal of expanding medical care to more people in the short term.
4) The function performed by the state can be done more cost effectively by charities funded by donations.

Thus we see that the earlier assumption 4, that only the state can amass the needed resources, is not correct.

Additionally, we can question the applicability of assumption 3, given that most governments that provide medical care or subsidize it are representative ones, where the population picks the lawmakers.  Obviously, since government provisioning on health care is voted into law by representatives selected in popular elections, it is safe to say that a sizeable portion of the population are willing to donate money to care for those who are unable to afford care.

We can clearly see that the state is neither the only organization that can provide medical care, nor is it very efficient in doing so.

Conclusions

We can see that far from being heartless, the supporter of free markets is really attempting to make medical care cheaper and more widely available, and that the advocate of government involvement is inevitably arguing for a system that is inefficient,  not innovative and that in the long term will do a poor job of extending quality care to the poor who cannot afford it today.  While in the short term, the state can commandeer impressive resources and make massive strides towards acheiving some goal, in the long term such actions can be very detrimental.

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.

Vote for ‘N.O.T.A.’

Comrades, once a year, sometimes more, we are confronted with the question of whom to vote for. Millions of man-hours are consumed every two years in debating and discussing who is standing for elected office, the pros and cons of their policies and their past performance. Billions of dollars are spent promoting or defaming candidates. For men and women of principle, the debate often sounds like this:

The Marsh house, dinnertime. The family is gathered at table, with Grandpa at one end, Randy at the other. Sharon comes in with plates and the main course
Sharon: How was school today, Stanley?
Stan: It was ridiculous. We have to have a new school mascot and we’re supposed to vote between a giant douche and a turd sandwich.
Sharon: …What did you say?
Randy: Did you just say that… voting is ridiculous?
Stan: No, I think voting is great, but, if I have to choose between a douche and a turd, I just don’t see the point.
Randy: clenches his fists You don’t see the point!! Oh you young people just make me sick!
Sharon: Stanley, do you know how many people died so you could have the right to vote?!
Stan Mom, a-I just don’t think there’s much of a difference between a douche and a turd. I d-I don’t care.
Randy: jumps upright and plants his hands on the table You don’t care?! You really want a turd sandwich as your school mascot?! On your football helmets?! A turd?!
Sharon: Well, hold on, Randy, I think a turd sandwich is a little better than them having a giant douche on their uniforms.
Randy: You’re crazy!! A d-a douche is at least clean!
Sharon: It’s sexist is what it is!
Randy: You don’t understand the issues, Sharon!
Sharon: Are you calling me ignorant??
Randy: You think the school mascot should be a turd sandwich? Well you’re not exactly Einstein!
Sharon: I am sick of you belittling my opinion, you son of a bitch!
Sharon picks up the casserole and chucks it at Randy, who ducks and looks back at her angrily. They both leave the table in opposite directions.
Shelley: leaving the table as well I hate this family, I hate it!
Stan looks on, shocked, while Grandpa continues eating unruffled.

Notice how Sharon’s opposition to a douche is equated to supporting a turd sandwich? Notice how Sharon is supporting the turd sandwich not because she likes turds, but because she thinks the douche is so awful that anything else would be better?

The government is a violent organization.  The election is a method of choosing against whom the violence will be directed, the magnitude of the violence, and for who shall benefit from the violence.  Most people don’t want to loot others.  Rather, they are afraid they will be victims of the violence.  Fear is the motivator that drives people to the polls. Fear is what animates them.

Thus, if a turd sandwich wants to drive people to the polls to vote for him, he will emphasize what a douche the douche is.  He will point out all the unflattering consequences of voting for the douche.  In the meantime, the douche is trying to panic those who have more to lose from the election of the turd sandwich into showing up at the voting booth.

While this phenomenon explains the ubiquity of so called “negative campaigning”, it would seem that it provides an incentive for more libertarian candidates.  Why do we get such raging nutcases running for office?  Why are we stuck in a race to the bottom?  The answer is, of course, in the incentives of political economy.

To scare the voters, the turd sandwich needs money.  He needs publicists, volunteers, media support, etc.  All of this costs money.  Lots of money.  To get the money, he needs to convince people to give it to him.  This means offering people spoils or public favors.  It could be a favorable line in the tax code, an anticompetitive tariff or regulation, some law that enables rents, etc.  To provide these spoils, the candidate must execute interventionist policies – in other words, the more government violence the candidate offers, the more financial and volunteer support he gets.

This incentive is worsened by the way the political classes of votes equate votes with power.  Let us say, for example, that most people thought a turd sandwich to be far worse than a douche, and had voted for the douche in overwhelming numbers.  The douche would then go into office claiming a mandate. Other politicians will be less likely to spurn him. They will attempt to assist him so that he will throw some of his support their way.

The major mistake the voters are making is that they are assuming that they must choose between the douche and the turd sandwich – that a failure to vote for the douche is tantamount to wanting the turd sandwich to win. The only option that they consider is to refrain from entering the voting booth at all.

I think this is insufficiently imaginative for several reasons.
1) Every election has a few ballot questions. If I stay home this year, I miss my chance to vote to repeal my state’s income tax.
2) Nor can I refuse to vote on certain items in the ballot, and vote for others: ballots that don’t contain votes for all races are typically thrown out as being damaged.Update: This claim is wrong, and I withdraw it.
3) In most states, you can write in a candidate. You could vote for anybody you want to hold a position.

The problem the disgruntled voter faces is how to show up and vote against all the candidates simultaneously. The short answer is that one can accomplish this via writing in None of The Above. If one does vote that way, the ballot is counted and is included in the totals.

This is a great way to jam the system.  It pushes down the vote totals of each candidate.  It allows you to vote for freedom loving candidates where available while withholding support from non-freedom loving candidates.  You can vote in the freedom maximizing direction on ballot initiatives.  And, if enough people do it, it could even start to influence candidates.  Suppose 1/10th of those who stayed home in the last election had shown up and voted for NOTA instead.  That population consisted of 36.2% of the voting age population: 89 million people stayed home.  8.9 million people voting for NOTA would have resulted in Bush getting much less than 50% of the vote.  In fact, the 8.9 million votes would have dwarfed the difference between Bush and Kerry’s votes.

So don’t stay home on voting day.  It indicates passive acquiescence to the ruling classes.  Don’t vote for one of the two or three choices the rulers have approved for you, that encourages them.  Rather show up at the polling booth and tell them to go to hell.  Show them your contempt in a way that they cannot deny. Don’t see anyone you like? Write in NOTA.

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.

Just What Was The Administration Threatening Recalcitrant Representatives With? Martial Law?!?

I hope that Representative Sherman is the victim of a bad game of “telephone”. If he is not, if the administration really did threaten to impose martial law if the bill weren’t passed, then the time has come for us to cast out the vipers in Washington D.C.

Hat tip to The Crossed Pond and Dispatches from the Culture Wars

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.

A Review of ‘Little Brother’ by Cory Doctorow

The always thought provoking Cory Doctorow has a new book out, Little Brother.  I highly recommend it, even though I think he is very wrong on numerous points.  You can download it for free at the link above.

It is very difficult to write a political novel.  I should know, I’ve started 3 or 4 of them, and they all turned out badly.  When the author is convinced that he is right, the protagonists tend to preach at each other, and the antagonists tend to sound like evil simpletons.  In Little Brother, Mr Doctorow has managed to avoid the former pitfall, while falling deeply into the latter.    While the central theme of the book is interesting, there are several improbable plot twists, a deficiency of analysis, and a deus ex machina ending.  Thus, while I think everyone should read this book, and will actually enjoy it, it will not be the classic that, say 1984 would be.  I will, however, be giving it to my children when they are old enough to understand it.

What follows is chock full of spoilers.  Please stop reading here if you wish to keep the ending a surprise. » Read more

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.

Maybe They Should Call It ‘The Cheese-Maker’

No matter how jaded I get, American “Christians” seem to come up with new ways to make me aghast. The latest CINO (Christian in Name Only) is Sheriff Lott, who is prepared to use a 50 machine gun to keep law and order in what I thought to be the relatively unwarlike Richland County of South Carolina.

When I first read that Sheriff Lott named his 50 cal machinegun “The Peace Maker” I was instantly reminded of Tacitus’ tale about the Roman conquest of Britain, specifically the words a Scottish chieftain spoke on the last morning of his life:

We, the most distant dwellers upon the earth, the last of the free, have been shielded until now by our remoteness and by the obscurity which has shrouded our name. Now, the farthest bounds of Britain lie open to our enemies. There are no more nations beyond us ­ only waves, and rocks, and the Romans. Pillagers of the world, they have exhausted the land by their indiscriminate plunder. East and west alike have failed to satisfy them. To robbery, butchery and rapine, they give the lying name “government”. They create a desert and call it peace. Which will you choose ­ to follow me into battle, or to submit to taxation, labour in the mines and all the other tribulations of slavery? Whether you are to endure these forever or take a quick revenge, this battle must decide.”

It turns out, however that Sherrif Lott had a different speech in mind when he selected the name::

Sheriff Leon Lott extended his appreciation to the citizens of Richland County and to the State Paper for their contributions in naming the APC (the State held an online search to garner public assistance on naming the APC). The purpose in obtaining this equipment is the protection of life and our protection of our communities – that the mere presence of the APC will prevent loss of life or injury to any and all citizens. Sheriff Lott stated that the name selected from the entries will be “The Peacemaker” because that is the APC’s purpose and the bible refers to law enforcement in Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God”. Sheriff Lott hopes to always bring resolution to all conflict through peaceful means.

Since Sheriff Lott wasn’t stuck in the back of the crowd when Jesus gave his sermon, I can only conclude that he neglected to actually read the sermon he quotes from:

When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.’
But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.’
But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;
nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black.
Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Using a speech in which a prophet called for people to love their enemies as the basis for calling a weapon designed to kill people wholesale “The Peace Keeper” is positively blasphemous.

See my other post on Libertarian reaction to The Peace Keeper, here.

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.

Aren’t Libertarians Being a Bit Hypocritical and Hoplophobic?

One custom that gang members enjoy is posing with weapons. I suppose that the pictures serve a purpose of both reassuring members of the gang about their power to hurt people while acting to intimidate not only the innocent people the gang prays upon, but also rival gangs.

Gangbangers From Richland County Strike Threatening Poses With Their Weapons

Gangbangers From Richland County Strike Threatening Poses With Their Weapons

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department has produced one such picture, showing an armored vehicle with a.50 cal machine gun mounted on it, while members of the gang’s most violent gunmen pose with semi-automatic rifles and body armor in threatening poses. Given the comparative peace and cooperation that the Richland County Sheriff’s Department has with the gangs that dominate neighboring counties, it is clear that the purpose of this weapon is not to defend itself against rival gangs like the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Department.

By process of elimination we can guess that the primary purpose of this weapon is to threaten either innocent people residing in the county, or small gangs that have moved into niches opened by the Richland County Sheriff’s religious war on intoxicants, dog-fighting, prostitution and the like.

Libertarian Reaction

Many libertarians are outraged; they point out that a weapon which is impossible to aim accurately – you start firing and walk the bullets in – whose bullets will go through concrete walls and still have a lethal amount of kinetic energy is absolutely incompatible with modern policing theory. They are, to a point, correct; under the theory of modern policing, police are supposed to use the minimum amount of force required to protect lives and property, and that force is supposed to be narrowly focused only on targets that require it.

OK For Private Citizens, But Not Government Officials?

However, many of these libertarians are also opposed to the government attempts to outlaw private ownership of .50 cal rifles, which pack a similar punch. The legitimate uses for a weapon are:
1) Target practice for sport
2) Hunting non-sentient prey
3) defensive violence against sentient aggressors

The .50 cal rifle, being almost worthless for hunting (blowing a part your prey leaves very little cookable meat), overkill for self defense, and providing just as much sport as a smaller gun when it comes to plinking away at targets, is similarly inappropriate for the regular citizenry.

Why The Double Standard?

If we are to defend the individual’s right to own and play with such a monstrous weapon as a .50 cal rifle, shouldn’t we extend the same courtesy to someone who happens to be a policeman? Why can we trust a guy insane enough to buy a .50 cal rifle at a cost of I don’t know how many tens of thousands of dollars while not trusting a guy who happens to join a police force?

Private Citizens Face Consequences – Police Get Away With Murder

The answer of course is that the private citizen is far less likely to misuse their weapon than a policeman. This is manifest from the double standard that exists when policemen unlawfully shoot someone as compared to when a private citizen unlawfully shoots someone. In fact, one can contrast the double standard that exists when in an armed confrontation with police when a policeman unlawfully shoots someone with what happens when a private citizen shoot a policeman lawfully.

There have been many instances when policemen have stormed a property without a warrant or if they have a warrant without divulging to the property owner that they had a warrant or even that they were police. Furthermore, a significant portion of those raids have been on the property of people who had no reason to expect a police raid of any kind, seeing as they had no involvement with illegal drug trade. In a subset of the latter group of raids, gunfire has erupted between the people on the property who thought they were being attacked by a criminal gang unaffiliated with the police and the police themselves. Regardless of who fires first, regardless of who initiates the fighting or how quickly the residents surrender, the outcome is almost always the same: A police man who shoots someone unlawfully will be exonerated of criminal wrong-doing while the homeowner who shoots a policeman lawfully will generally face capital murder charges.

The most a policeman has to fear is that they may lose their job. They rarely face prison time, and that only in cases where the shooting is so vile, such as gunning down an octogenarian grandmother in her bed and leaving her to bleed to death, that the police face a revolt by the citizenry.  This is true even in situations where they only weapons brandished were in the hands of the police, where the only shots fired where shots out of guns in policemen’s hands, where the only people shot were women and children cowering on the floor.  In effect, the police can be assured they will face no prosecution.

Contrast this with cases where residents have resisted until they discovered they were facing police armed with a warrant, and then cooperated. If they have killed a policeman, as did Cory Maye, they can face a capital murder charge. If they merely fire back without hitting anything, they usually face attempted murder charges and aggravated assault charges. They will do jail time.

Absent any mechanism for holding “law enforcement” equally liable as the private citizenry for the people they kill or injure, stringently limiting the types of weapons police may possess does seem to make sense.

What About That Endangered Creature – The Law Abiding, Decent, Policeman?

However, we should not sacrifice the principle that people should be able to legitimately own the weapons they feel they need to protect themselves and their property merely because we are prejudiced against them. While many policemen are people who want to predate on their neighbors, but decide to select a safer, if less lucrative, form of criminal activity than joining the mafia or MS-13, there are many decent people who chose to join the police because they wish to be a force for good, and want to protect lives and property. Given the territorial monopoly that the gangs of police hold, any person who finds murder abhorrent and decides to dedicate his or her life to bringing murderers to account for their crimes and to deter would-be murderers from committing future murders will have to join some gang of police to practice their avocation. Should we disarm and condemn them because they took the only avenue open to them to accomplish their honorable purpose? I say no!

Gun Control Is Not The Answer – Ending Police Immunity To Prosecution Is

While we can guess that the Richland County SWAT team will injure or kill innocent people should they decide to fire that weapon as part of their duties, we don’t know that they will. All we can do is react to the crimes they commit, not sanction them prejudicially for the crimes we fear they might commit in the future. Applying the same laws to the SWAT team (or any other policeman) that are applied to the Brinks Armored Car guard would go a long way to eradicating abuses, and would do much to ensure that the weapon sat gathering cobwebs in some garage somewhere.

My thoughts about the name for the machine gun may be found here.

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.

TSA Agent Who Endangered 9 Aircraft Won’t Do Prison Time

A few weeks ago, a man damaged the Total Air Temperature sensors on 9 aircraft. These sensors are critical to the airspeed gage, without them, a pilot can get an inaccurately low or high airspeed reading.. An inaccurate airspeed indication can cause a pilot to go unexpectedly into a stall. To understand the seriousness of this condition, one should recall that the famous Chicago DC-10 crash in 1979 was the result of the plane unexpectedly stalling, in that case because a hydraulic failure had changed the wing’s shape without the pilots knowledge.

The man who did this damage did not do it willfully. Mistaking the sensors for a ladder, he climbed up them in his zeal to test how well the aircraft were secured against burglars.

If I had done this, I would be facing many years in jail, charged with various felonies under the statutes governing terroristic threats to aircraft. However, the man who did this will not face jail time. He worked for the TSA, the sworn enemy of the American Shoe Lace Manufacturers Society, which heroically consumes tens of thousands of man hours daily in highly intricate, stylized, and futile security theater. The Aero News Net article is worth reading in full:

[N]ine American Eagle regional jets were grounded at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Tuesday.
Citing sources within the aviation industry, ABC News reports an overzealous TSA employee attempted to gain access to the parked aircraft by climbing up the fuselage… reportedly using the Total Air Temperature (TAT) probes mounted to the planes’ noses as handholds.
“The brilliant employees used an instrument located just below the cockpit window that is critical to the operation of the onboard computers,” one pilot wrote on an American Eagle internet forum. “They decided this instrument, the TAT probe, would be adequate to use as a ladder.”
Officials with American Eagle confirmed to ANN the problem was discovered by maintenance personnel, who inspected the planes Tuesday morning… and questioned why the TAT probes all gave similar error indications.
One Eagle pilot says had the pilots not been so attentive, the damaged probes could have caused problems inflight. TSA agents “are now doing things to our aircraft that may put our lives, and the lives of our passengers at risk,” the pilot wrote on the forum.
Grounding the planes to replace the TAT probes affected about 40 flights, according to American Airlines spokeswoman Mary Frances. “We think it’s an unfortunate situation,” she told ABCNews.com.
TSA conducts routine spot inspections of aircraft parked at commercial airports, according to agency spokesman Elio Montenegro. “Our inspector was following routine procedure for securing the aircraft that were on the tarmac,” Montenegro said, adding the inspector was attempting to determine whether someone could break into the parked planes.
Pilots respond that agents are only allowed to check for unlocked cabin doors… a clear security risk, that could indeed compromise security. Indeed, regional airline Mesa Air Group notes “48 percent of all TSA investigations involving Mesa Air Group involve a failure to maintain area/aircraft security.”
It’s unclear whether that duty also allows an inspector to paw around an aircraft, however.

H/T: The Agitator

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.

Analysing John McCain’s Foreign Policy Wish List – No Ponies For Little Girls

Calvin\'s Christmas ListJohn McCain must hate little girls. It is one of many inescapable conclusions that arise from reading his National Security position paper, which promises all things to everyone – well almost everyone. His foreign policy plans promise more submarines, more ships, more aircraft, more divisions, more security, more military assistance for allies, more attacks on enemies, more purchases from the military-industrial complex. About the only thing he does not promise in the document is to give every little girl in America a pony. I presume that this is not an oversight. Sen McCain is very focused on foreign policy and military matters, and I cannot imagine that the omission of free ponies was anything but intentional.

Don’t believe me? Well, let’s go through the document together and we can look at all the things he does promise, and you will see the glaring omission of ponies for little girls in this fantastic proposal.

In a dangerous world, protecting America’s national security requires a strong military. scratcccccchhhhhh

Wow, one sentence in, and I can already see Sen McCain’s famed courage – I see this was published without being reviewed by an editor who knew how to write English well! This is the public relations equivalent of going commando. Just as charging recklessly at the pillbox can get you shot needlessly, Sen McCain has opened himself up to an attack – Do we really want a president who wishes to defend that national security apparatus of the United States? What happened to defending American’s who are not involved in national Security? Of course, this attack is unfair. Rather, Sen McCain or a staff member merely screwed up the topic sentence of one of his more high profile position papers.

Starting again:

In a dangerous world, protecting America’s national security requires a strong military. Today, America has the most capable, best-trained and best-led military force in the world. scratcccccchhhhhh

Does anybody remember the strategic surprise of the Russians capturing that airport in Kosovo? Osama bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora? The first attempt to smash Fallujah? The U.S. military gets away with a lot because they have an overwhelming amount of firepower, and have faster communications than the little tin pot dictators or rudimentarily armed militias they’ve been fighting. If the U.S. military has the best officer corps in the world, then we must be entering into a new age of prosperity and peace since all the other militaries must be officered solely by incompetents without a single officer of average intelligence amongst them.

But much needs to be done to maintain our military leadership, retain our technological advantage, and ensure that America has a modern, agile military force able to meet the diverse security challenges of the 21st century.

John McCain is committed to ensuring that the men and women of our military remain the best, most capable fighting force on Earth – and that our nation honors its promises to them for their service.

And here we go!

The global war on terrorism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, threats from rogue states like Iran and North Korea, and the rise of potential strategic competitors like China and Russia mean that America requires a larger and more capable military to protect our country’s vital interests and deter challenges to our security. America confronts a range of serious security challenges: Protecting our homeland in an age of global terrorism and Islamist extremism; working with friends and partners overseas, from Africa to Southeast Asia, to help them combat terrorism and violent insurgencies in their own countries; defending against missile and nuclear attack; maintaining the credibility of our defense commitments to our allies; and waging difficult counterinsurgency campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Wow! It seems that the United States taxpayer must take part in every fight on Earth! Let’s review the conflicts:

The occupation of Iraq

The occupation of Iraq is a purely discretionary exercise. Iraq does not, nor did it ever pose a threat to U.S. citizens living within the borders of the United States. If the United States were to withdraw all its forces as fast as possible, it would be decades, if ever, before whatever gang took over and proclaimed itself as the government of Iraq had mustered up the firepower to launch a significant attack on the people of the U.S.

It did however threaten the Saudi monarch, and John McCain understands that preserving freedom at home requires sending U.S. soldiers overseas to die to prop an unpopular king on his throne.

The occupation of Afghanistan

Many people consider this to be required to defend the U.S. from attack. Certainly, if you accept the need to fight a global war on terrorism, the occupation of what was Al Queda’s rear areas is a requirement. Of course, this occupation is going badly; Slowly but surely, the United States is controlling less and less territory there. Occupying Afghanistan so weakened the Russian military that it collapsed. the U.S. army’s experience is similar to the Russian one – an seemingly easy early conquest followed by a slow war of attrition that saps men and wrecks equipment. Every month is harder than the previous one.

The Taliban who were bankrolled by the Saudi King (the guy U.S. soldiers are dying in Iraq to protect), the Pakistani government (who were trying to counter Iranian influence in Afghanistan) and increasingly by the lucrative heroin trade (high profits courtesy of the U.S. War on (Some) Drugs. The Taliban were also bankrolled by al Queda which purchased their protection.

The War on Al Queda

Al Queda’s mission is the overthrow of the Saudi king (whom U.S. soldiers are dying in Iraq to defend). They targeted the United States because the United States loans soldiers to defend the Saudi King, builds the bases he uses to secure his territory and supplies him with weapons, ships and aircraft. The leadership of al Queda, many of whom survived the vicious Egyptian security forces (funded and trained by the United States) who viewed the religious conservatives as a threat to their power (the Egyptian rulers being old school pan-arab socialists who were bankrolled by the soviet Union until the U.S. government offered to give them taxes collected from U.S. citizens), have developed a hatred of the United States for bankrolling their attackers.

Iran

The Iranian government is unpopular. It levies heavy taxes on the population, harasses young people looking for love, meddles in school curricula, and has pursued an inflationary monetary policy which is wrecking the economy. And like every powerful government that is screwing up domestically, they try to play up external threats. They make noises about how they are surrounded by enemies and that other governments pose a threat to the Iranian people, in an attempt to awake nationalist feelings. And they can easily make this case; their substantive negotiations with the U.S. state department in 2002 were shut down by the Bush administration. Most of the nations bordering Iran have U.S. bases with combat troops stationed in them. And the U.S. government, which initiated a war against Iran in 1954 has been obligingly threatening to bomb them… with nuclear weapons…

Officially, the purpose of this new proposed war is to keep the Iranian government from using nuclear weapons (which they don’t possess) against Israel.

Did I mention that Iran has a population that is much larger than that of Iraq? And that the terrain is pretty mountainous. And that they have the capability to cut the southern supply lines of the U.S. army occupying Iraq (in order to help prop up the Saudi King on his throne?

North Korea

North Korea tried to build a nuclear bomb. It didn’t work. They flooded most of their farm land and now have a permanent famine going. They pose a threat to … South Korea. Except that South Korean soldiers are better fed and have more modern weapons and have prepared defenses, and have a larger population to draw upon. If the United States Government would quit subsidizing the government with food aid, it would probably have collapsed already.

China

Having largely abandoned central planning, the Chinese economy is booming, allowing the government to levy the taxes to build ships, submarines and aircraft that would have been modern in the late 1970’s. the Chinese people do allot of business with people living in the United States. They have territorial ambitions over a few sections of Central Asia and over Taiwan, and have absolutely no interest in attacking the United States.

Russia

The Russians have loads of natural resources and little else. While their government is moving in a fascist direction, their territorial ambitions are focused on “defending” slavic peoples’ hegemony in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

The Equipment Needed When Seeking Out New Enemies

To take on all these enemies, which do not directly threaten the citizenry, McCain proposes a massive arms build up to “modernize ” the U.S. military. he proposes increasing the size of the U.S. military dramatically. He proposes expanding benefits offered to veterans. He promises that the U.S. will prop up more governments that face popular rebellions, thus increasing the number of people who view the U.S. people as enemies fighting against them. He promises to increase intelligence gathering world-wide – more spies, more expensive spy satellites, more payoffs to local insurgents to provide the U.S. with intelligence (payoffs which all too often fund terrorist attacks against U.S. enemies).

Who Pays?

John McCain famously commented that he didn’t know much about economics, and this paper proves it. These new divisions, their equipment, the aircraft, ships, submarines and satellites, the bombs and ammunition required for this adventure in world domination will not be produced by elves working at Santa’s workshop on the north Pole. They will be paid for either by taxes on the U.S. citizenry, or by debasing the U.S. dollar. Unless John McCain is going to eliminate medicare, the U.S. citizenry will be paying for these things at a time when they have little wealth to spare. rather than producing consumer goods or other forms of wealth, the labor of people making or shooting the weapons will be wasted economically speaking.

Fantasy

There is one word to describe this proposal: fantasy. this plan will never happen. The United States economy will implode well before McCain has raised half of the divisions he needs to put his plan of world domination into action. and since John McCain is throwing unrealizable wishes left and right in this paper, it’s a shame he decided not to throw in a pony for every little girl in the U.S. Who knows, that is one wish that Santa might have granted…

The rest of the paper.

The rest of the paper continues banging the drums of war in much the same vein as what has already been commented on.I am therefore going to leave reading the rest as an exercise to the reader.

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 Funded Science Inherently Politicized: Chinese Herbal Remedy Edition

Over in the Science Based Medicine blog, Wallace Sampson is expresses outrage that the National Institutes of Health has announced an initiative to fund “research” into Traditional Chinese Medicine:

I have pointed out that scientific characteristics were never a part of TCM. It lacked objective observation, consistency of observation, classification of observed phenomena, information storage, rationality and logic, consistent written transmission, objectively descriptive language, and a method for analysis or for interpretation. The system of elements , q’i, and yin/yang did not include a method for developing theories or independent natural conepts. TCM depended on empiricism, unreliable observation, was plagued by post hoc reasoning and causality error. It lacked a concept of error and a system for self-analysis to correct error. In fact, the culture discouraged analysis and criticism, considered to be bad form and disrespectful. TCM depended on individuals who rarely communicated in a formal, direct, manner. Add to that a system that accepted manipulation to suit the mood and concept of the observer or authority. I conclude that there is nothing in TCM to study scientifically. So now they want to develop scientific criteria to apply to their observations? Proteomics? On what? Actions of herbs? Words again fail me at the glaring presumptuousness and ignorance required to conceive such a project.

nothing but a jangling confusion of borderline and conflicting findings will result from further study. Unless they appoint people with critical analysis experience, a wide reading knowledge of the history and use of TCM, and a scientific view, their research conclusions will be indeterminate over the next 10 years or more. They will continue to rely on ideologues, advocates, self-deluded practitioners, and politically correct academics for advice and pronouncements.
They will probably exclude scientific or skeptical analysts, so there is no way they will develop a credible commentary on how best to integrate TCM and improve the health of the American and Chinese people. Well, they got it backwards again. It’s China that has to integrate scientific medicine over there. Their scientists and physicians clamor for it. The Chinese can begin with public health principles like inhibiting spitting in the streets, cleaning up their air (finally but it took the Olympics) personal hygiene, cleaning their toilets, improving their food handling methods, and other systematic changes.

What is HHS doing, using a cover of medical science and for what? The government doesn’t do such things without pressure from some group or perceived self-interest in negotiation. In this case, what are the respective interests? There could be several.
For China, the most apparent is awakening the American population to the hidden miracles of TCM – and the marketing of supplements. Ka Kit Hui, a practitioner in Santa Monica, Calif., been promoting TCM herbs for several decades. I debated him on the subject at Stanford in 1995 or so at which time he extolled the undiscovered miracles in TC herbal medicine. Again in a letter to the editor to JAMA in 1997 he predicted that TCM herbals would be the prime economic product of the 21st century. I dismissed the statement in a response, but here we are, nearly 1/10th the way through the century, and here is TCM herbalism making inroads. China must see a large market, a population at least a third of their’s, and in view of the differences in income, living standard, and disposable income, a market that is at least as large in dollars/yuens as China has at home – probably greater.

What motivates the US? For one, TCMers may be behind the effort. They are on a path toward legitimizing the OMD degree and licensing of TCM practice. They already have acupuncture licensure in a plurality of states. They have a dozen or more schools of TCM. The California state legislature several years ago dropped an attempt to standardize teaching in the California schools – a first step to a standard exam and thus an academic standard for licensure. But they will be back. It took naturopaths over 15 years to get their licensure and degree recognition – another history familiar to Kim Atwood and others. The rest of the ulicensed hordes are following through an accompanying though crippled series of Access to Medical Treatment Acts. They persist – getting bits here and there and then, in an alignment of the planets minute, achieving passage of licensure legislation that imprints their initials in gold.
The formation of the NCCAM was a major step for TCMers. Now an HHS officially- sanctioned 2 day conference opens the plausibility of studying more TCM just as acupuncture systematic reviews are showing indeterminacy to ineffectiveness, herbs are being found more dangerous than helpful, and products from the PRC being found adulterated with metals and with standard pharmaceuticals. A fly on the wall of certain congressmen and senators and of HHS director Leavitt could tell us a lot. (Here we go again with a FOI request.)
As for government sourced motives, as Ms. Woeckner suggested, we probably had to pay a price for the stationing of FDA offices in Chinese cities. I still fail to see what they can do about adulteration of products, much of which could be shifted to way stations in Taiwan or in the US.

While insightful, Dr Sampson fails to dig down to the real sources of the problem:

If the NIH wastes money on quackery, its officers do not suffer a loss. They don’t have to justify their spending to donors or shareholders. The money extracted at gunpoint from the citizenry will continue to flow in regardless of the junk science the NIH produces. In fact, inconclusive junk science can benefit NIH officials – larger staff and larger budgets will lead inevitably to higher salaries for managers – with no end in sight to the enterprise.

Furthermore, by having the government license medical treatments and practitioners, the medical industry has fatally undermined the ability of people to have reliable mechanisms to root out quackery. Again, publicly funded licensure boards will continue to be funded regardless of how bad a job they do. Their presence will inhibit the formation of private enterprises that are dependent on donor perceptions of effectiveness to continue operations – just as the creation of the FDA ended the drug testing research of Consumer Union. The public looks at a government license as a mark of quality – and there is no one to tell them otherwise. Suspicions allayed, most people in the market for medical care will accept advertising at face value.

The sad fact is that when the AMA was founded in the late 19th century, most doctors made a deal with the devil. The state licensure boards – which were successful in their mission to keep competition low and prices high – not only created a pool of underserved consumers for quacks to prey upon, it also created traditions and political framework that quacks and junk scientists can use to provide cover for their fraudulent activities.

So long as proponents of quality in medical care continue to pin their hopes on an organization that can extract money by force regardless of how crummy a job it does, they are doomed to failure.

My earlier post on the huge incentive for government to do junk science may be found here.

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.

Recycling Bad Ideas: Bringing Back 55

Senator Warner has a brilliant idea how to reduce gas prices; force Americans to consume less at gun point:

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., asked Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman to look into what speed limit would provide optimum gasoline efficiency given current technology. He said he wants to know if the administration might support efforts in Congress to require a lower speed limit.

Warner cited studies that showed the 55 mph speed limit saved 167,000 barrels of oil a day, or 2 percent of the country’s highway fuel consumption, while avoiding up to 4,000 traffic deaths a year.

“Given the significant increase in the number of vehicles on America’s highway system from 1974 to 2008, one could assume that the amount of fuel that could be conserved today is far greater,” Warner wrote Bodman.

Warner asked the department to determine at what speeds vehicles would be most fuel efficient, how much fuel savings would be achieved, and whether it would be reasonable to assume there would be a reduction in prices at the pump if the speed limit were lowered.

The department’s Web site says that fuel efficiency decreases rapidly when traveling faster than 60 mph. Every additional 5 mph over that threshold is estimated to cost motorists “essentially an additional 30 cents per gallon in fuel costs,” Warner said in his letter, citing the DOE data.

This law is patently unconstitutional: nowhere in the United States Constitution is the Federal Government permitted to pass laws governing speed limits. The Congress can get around this limit on their power using the usual dodge of merely passing voluntary regulations and withholding highway funds from states that refuse to go along.

This proposed law is ridiculous on many levels. First, the optimum speed varies from vehicle to vehicle. A one size fits all law would really require some people to drive at suboptimal speeds. The law would have the effect of limiting innovation: why research ways to make fuel efficiency at 70 mph better if nobody is allowed to drive at that speed? Just as when the courts in the 19th century gave polluters carte-blanche to pollute on their neighbors’ properties and killed the nascent emission reduction industry – this law will kill all such groundbreaking research.

Second, contrary to Sen Warner’s assertion, a reduced speed limit does not save lives. In fact, quite the opposite:

Taken as a whole, these different analyses lead to the conclusion that overall statewide fatality rates fell by 3.4 to 5.1 percent in the states that adopted the 65 mph limit.

Why did the new speed limit lower the fatality rate? 1) Drivers may have switched to safer roads; 2) highway patrols may have shifted resources to activities with more safety payoff; and 3) the speed variance among cars may have declined — it might decline on the interstates as law abiding drivers caught up with the speeders, and it might have declined on other highways as their speeders switched to the interstates. The evidence indicates that events 1 and 2 did occur; we have no evidence for event 3. Future research ought to be directed toward disentangling the relative contribution of these factors.

What about its impact on the price of oil?

True, such a law would result in lower consumption of gasoline on the roads, both because of lower fuel consumption and because people would curtail long road trips (because they would take too long). But the reduction in demand for driving would have no impact on the other manifold uses of petroleum. People living in the United States consume upwards of 9 billion barrels a day. If we are charitable, and assume that this time around the savings in consumption will be 100 times larger – that would still amount to 16 million barrels a day, or less than 1% of the oil consumed in the United States each day. Obviously this move would have a barely perceptible effect on the price of unrefined oil.

What about the impact on the price of gasoline?

Well, the price of gasoline is set almost entirely by the supply available. The run up in price could be due not only to to a shortage of available oil, but also due to the availability of refining capacity. And indeed, the oil industry has been expanding its refining capacity at a much lower rate than the rate at which gasoline consumption is growing. Last year, refineries supplying the U.S. market were pumping out 98% of the maximum amount of gasoline that they can theoretically produce.

In such a circumstance, a small drop in the consumption of gasoline could have a major impact on the price. So Senator Warner could be right, forcing everyone to drive more slowly could result in a 10% reduction in the price of gasoline… in the short term. Of course, 5 – 10 years from now, demand would have risen to current levels, and we would be right back where we are today.

The obvious question is why aren’t refiners expanding capacity? After all, gasoline is liquid gold. If they make it, they will be able to sell it at a profit. We should be seeing refiners adding capacity to their operations. Are these refiners idiots? Are they walking away from money? Apparently not! Two years ago, they were trying to avoid wasting money because they didn’t want to invest in major expansions until they figured out what regulations the government is going to impose upon them.

In hearings before Congress [in 2006], oil executives outlined plans to increase fuel production by expanding their existing refineries. Those plans would add capacity of 1.6 million to 1.8 million barrels a day over the next five years, for an increase of 10 percent, according to the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association.

But those plans have since been winnowed to no more than 1 million barrels a day, according to the Energy Information Administration, an arm of the federal government.

“If the national policy of the country is to push for dramatic increases in the biofuels industry, this is a disincentive for those making investment decisions on expanding capacity in oil products and refining,” said John Hofmeister, the president of Shell Oil. “Industrywide, this will have an impact.”

So, because refiners are afraid that their investment in additional capacity can be rendered worthless at the stroke of a presidential pen, they are holding off making any such investment. And I can hardly blame them.

The 55 mph speed limit was one of many dumb ideas that came out of the Federal Government in the early 1970’s. Thankfully, it was abandoned in the 1990’s for reasons that are still operative today. It is a shame that an economic ignoramus who manages to win an election could have he power to reinstitute such a dumb law. Senator Warner would be making a better use of his time and political capital if he worked towards ending the disastrous “Energy Independence/Sustainability” initiatives that are wreaking such havoc with the production of energy world wide. Let’s leave the disastrous ideas of the 1970’s in the dustbin, where they belong.

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.

But I thought Medical Marijuana Was a Hoax?

The left hand says

Existing Legal Drugs Provide Superior Treatment for Serious Medical Conditions
The FDA has approved safe and effective medication for the treatment of glaucoma, nausea, wasting syndrome, cancer, and multiple sclerosis.
Marinol, the synthetic form of THC (the psychoactive ingredient contained in marijuana), is already legally available for prescription by physicians whose patients suffer from pain and chronic illness.

The right hand said (in a 2003 Patent application!):

Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation
associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease,

Setting aside the immorality of the United States government granting itself a patent on something – I find myself reminded of something asked of Senator McCarthy:

“You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

I think even Kafka would consider the U.S. government’s behavior with respect to marijuana too outlandish to write a story about.

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.

Do we really need a leader?

The always thought provoking J.D. Tucille of ‘The Disloyal Opposition’ answers this question with an emphatic , No!

Both major presidential candidates have made it quite clear that — policy differences aside — they’re running to be national leader and they want to be assessed on their readiness to take the nation’s helm.

That’s a shame, because if there’s anything this country does not need, it’s a leader.

In fact, the whole idea of national leadership in a republic of free, self-governing people was intensely distasteful to the founders. In his book, The Cult of the Presidency, Gene Healy points out:

Indeed, the term “leader,” which appears repeatedly in Madison, Hamilton, and Jay’s essays in defense of the Constitution, is nearly always used negatively, save for one positive reference to the leaders of the American Revolution. The Federalist is bookended by warnings about the perils of popular leadership: the first essay warns that “of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying obsequious court to the people, commencing demagogues and ending tyrants.” The last essay raises the specter of disunion and civil war, ending with the “military despotism of a victorious demagogue.” For the Framers, the ability to “move the masses” wasn’t a desirable quality in a president — it was a threat.

Free countries don’t need leaders because their citizens lead themselves. The inhabitants of free countries are disparate individuals with varying values and preferences, all wanting to go in a multitude of different directions. The role of the government in a free country is to protect the borders and prevent the citizens from getting too rough with one another, and otherwise let people find their own way as best they can.

Many of our problems are caused by leaders who insert themselves in the voluntary interactions between consenting adults. We would be far better off if they limited themselves or playing Simcity or Civilization and left us alone.

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.

How Badly This Administration Wants War

Seymour Hersh writes in the New Yorker:

Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations.

This sum, 400 million dollars is larger than the 350 million requested to bail out bad loans in the current mortgage crisis.

So what is the U.S. government purchasing with this princely sum?

In recent months, according to the Iranian media, there has been a surge in violence in Iran; it is impossible at this early stage, however, to credit JSOC or C.I.A. activities, or to assess their impact on the Iranian leadership. The Iranian press reports are being carefully monitored by retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner, who has taught strategy at the National War College and now conducts war games centered on Iran for the federal government, think tanks, and universities. The Iranian press “is very open in describing the killings going on inside the country,” Gardiner said. It is, he said, “a controlled press, which makes it more important that it publishes these things. We begin to see inside the government.” He added, “Hardly a day goes by now we don’t see a clash somewhere. There were three or four incidents over a recent weekend, and the Iranians are even naming the Revolutionary Guard officers who have been killed.”

Is the U.S. government targeting individual Iranian officers? Probably not. In all likelihood, The U.S. is providing dissident groups with money and arms in exchange for intelligence – and has little control over what these groups do.

Many of the activities may be being carried out by dissidents in Iran, and not by Americans in the field. One problem with “passing money” (to use the term of the person familiar with the Finding) in a covert setting is that it is hard to control where the money goes and whom it benefits. Nonetheless, the former senior intelligence official said, “We’ve got exposure, because of the transfer of our weapons and our communications gear. The Iranians will be able to make the argument that the opposition was inspired by the Americans. How many times have we tried this without asking the right questions? Is the risk worth it?”

The groups that the U.S. are funding are, to be frank, what George Bush likes to pretend what the war on Terra’ is dedicated to eradicating:

The use of Baluchi elements, for example, is problematic, Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. clandestine officer who worked for nearly two decades in South Asia and the Middle East, told me. “The Baluchis are Sunni fundamentalists who hate the regime in Tehran, but you can also describe them as Al Qaeda,” Baer told me. “These are guys who cut off the heads of nonbelievers—in this case, it’s Shiite Iranians. The irony is that we’re once again working with Sunni fundamentalists, just as we did in Afghanistan in the nineteen-eighties.” Ramzi Yousef, who was convicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is considered one of the leading planners of the September 11th attacks, are Baluchi Sunni fundamentalists.

One of the most active and violent anti-regime groups in Iran today is the Jundallah, also known as the Iranian People’s Resistance Movement, which describes itself as a resistance force fighting for the rights of Sunnis in Iran. “This is a vicious Salafi organization whose followers attended the same madrassas as the Taliban and Pakistani extremists,” Nasr told me. “They are suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and they are also thought to be tied to the drug culture.” The Jundallah took responsibility for the bombing of a busload of Revolutionary Guard soldiers in February, 2007. At least eleven Guard members were killed. According to Baer and to press reports, the Jundallah is among the groups in Iran that are benefitting from U.S. support.

The M.E.K. has been on the State Department’s terrorist list for more than a decade, yet in recent years the group has received arms and intelligence, directly or indirectly, from the United States. Some of the newly authorized covert funds, the Pentagon consultant told me, may well end up in M.E.K. coffers. “The new task force will work with the M.E.K. The Administration is desperate for results.” He added, “The M.E.K. has no C.P.A. auditing the books, and its leaders are thought to have been lining their pockets for years. If people only knew what the M.E.K. is getting, and how much is going to its bank accounts—and yet it is almost useless for the purposes the Administration intends.”

And, as usual, the amateurish attempts to play “the Great Game” are backfiring:

In recent weeks, according to Sam Gardiner, the military strategist, there has been a marked increase in the number of PJAK armed engagements with Iranians and terrorist attacks on Iranian targets. In early June, the news agency Fars reported that a dozen PJAK members and four Iranian border guards were killed in a clash near the Iraq border; a similar attack in May killed three Revolutionary Guards and nine PJAK fighters. PJAK has also subjected Turkey, a member of NATO, to repeated terrorist attacks, and reports of American support for the group have been a source of friction between the two governments.

Gardiner also mentioned a trip that the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, made to Tehran in June. After his return, Maliki announced that his government would ban any contact between foreigners and the M.E.K.—a slap at the U.S.’s dealings with the group. Maliki declared that Iraq was not willing to be a staging ground for covert operations against other countries. This was a sign, Gardiner said, of “Maliki’s increasingly choosing the interests of Iraq over the interests of the United States.” In terms of U.S. allegations of Iranian involvement in the killing of American soldiers, he said, “Maliki was unwilling to play the blame-Iran game.” Gardiner added that Pakistan had just agreed to turn over a Jundallah leader to the Iranian government. America’s covert operations, he said, “seem to be harming relations with the governments of both Iraq and Pakistan and could well be strengthening the connection between Tehran and Baghdad.”

At this point, I would ask all readers to consider what would happen if Canada or China was spending this amount of money to destabilize” the United States through targeted assassinations and the like? How would average U.S. citizens respond to such acts of war? Would they turn against a belligerent government in Washington DC? Or would they rally behind the U.S. government and support it?

The effect of U.S. policy in the region is quite predictable. The United States government, and by extension the United States people, will be seen as a dangerous aggressive enemy. Make no mistake, since 1953 the United States has been in a war with the Iranian people. Every escalation of the conflict has taken the form of the U.S. government initiating an escalation, the Iranians responding and providing the U.S. government with a casus belli for another escalation.

Absent U.S. meddling, the Iranian people would probably be ready to throw out the religious authorities who have ruled the country since 1979. The religious authorities have wrecked the economy through excessive taxation and a loose monetary policy. By attacking the Iranian government, the U.S. is strengthening it. Iranians who would otherwise see a nuclear weapons program as a dangerous misuse of resources become convinced that it is the best hope for a defense against U.S. aggression. They are not blind to the fact that the government of Pakistan has prevented the u.S. government from hunting systematically for Osama bin Laden. They see how the Pakistani nuclear arsenal deters the U.S. from attacking it, and they cme to the logical conclusion that they need one too.

A war with Iran is absolutely not in the interests of either the United States government nor the people of the United States. The American people will lose a great deal of treasure and find themselves confronted by numerous implacable enemies. The U.S. governments will earn enmity and hostility from governments it seeks to dominate. These governments will not only be unwilling to work with the U.S. government but may even provide safe haven for those who wish to kill Americans.

The only people who benefit from this action are those who wish to infuriate groups like Hezbullah while depriving it of monetary support. In other words, a faction of Israeli politicians who seek to expand settlements in the occupied territories and to keep the Israeli policy of anti-Arab apartheid in place.

The fact that the U.S. government is willing to spend a princely sum in an attempt to trigger such a war does more than shock me. I think it borders on treason.

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.

Obama & McCain Call For Renewed Laws Against Witchcraft and Those Who Make Infernal Pacts With the Devil

In barbaric cultures, when people find themselves facing unpleasant changes, like the failure of crops or natural disasters, they look for scapegoats to blame. In the Europe and early colonial America, all to often the quest for a scapegoat took the form of a persecuting old women, who were charged with having used magic to curse their neighbors crops or herds. The fact that many of these old women owned or were squatting on property that was coveted by neighbors or powerful landlords was not lost on the more enlightened thinkers of the time.

Witches in the StocksThree centuries may have passed since the infamous Salem Witch trials, but the backwards superstition that prompted them is still with us. And Barrack Obama and John Sidney McCain have decided to publicly embrace the superstitions and to lead a modern day hunt looking for witches and sorcerers to punish. their targets are not the old defenseless women that their predecessors hung and burned alive. No, they have decided to target a new scapegoat. The speculator:

Kill the speculators! is a cry made during every famine that has ever existed. Uttered by demagogues, who think that the speculator causes death through starvation by raising food prices, this cry is fervently supported by the masses of economic illiterates. This kind of thinking, or rather nonthinking, has allowed dictators to impose even the death penalty for traders in food who charge high prices during famines. And without the feeblest of protests from those usually concerned with civil rights and liberties.

Yet the truth of the matter is that far from causing starvation and famines, it is the speculator who prevents them. And far from safeguarding the lives of the people, it is the dictator who
must bear the prime responsibility for causing the famine in the first place. Thus, the popular hatred for the speculator is as great a perversion of justice as can be imagine.

Walter Block – Defending the Undefendable

How have these evil speculators supposed to be driving up prices? The International Herald Tribune endeavors to explain – using arguments which would be right at home in the Chewbacca Defense or in A Tryal of Witches.

The “Enron loophole,” a 2000 measure that allowed unfettered oil trading on electronic markets, is now blamed by many for speculation in the tight energy market and is seen as responsible for the rapid increase in prices …

The Enron loophole was “slipped into law by Senator Phil Gramm in late 2000 at the behest of Enron lobbyists to exempt some energy traders from the regulations and public protections applicable to exchange-traded commodities. As a result, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is unable to fully oversee the oil futures market and investigate cases where excessive speculation may be driving up oil prices,” said an e-mail from the Obama campaign. …

Energy trading giant Enron collapsed in a major corporate scandal in 2001 that sent executives to prison, but not before it won exemption a year earlier from federal oversight for energy commodity trading. Critics claim that measure has allowed speculators to drive up the price of oil well beyond levels dictated by current supply and demand.

The International Herald Tribune, Obama details plan to tax excess oil company profits, end energy trading loophole

So what have these evil speculators done? They have purchased oil today and stored it, hoping to sell it tomorrow for a much higher price. How does this raise the price? To answer this question, we must look at how a speculator acquires his oil. When a company which is pumping oil out of the ground auctions off their oil, the speculator offers more money than anyone else to purchase the oil. Let’s think about the implication of that statement for a moment. The speculator spends his own money and offers more of it to the producer than anyone else. In other words if we are being screwed by the price of oil, the speculator, who is paying more than we are, is even more screwed.

In the short term, this does drive the price of oil up. However, in the end, the speculator must sell his oil. he must sell his oil to people who wish to consume it, and at a higher price than he paid for it. If he guesses right, he can sell every barrel he has for a price higher than he paid for it. If, on the other hand, only when the price is $30.00 a barrel lower than he paid for it, will enough people be willing to purchase his oil for him to sell off all his stock, he may take a huge loss – having made a small fortune by wasting a large fortune. Much like a witch who wastes her time cursing a neighbors sheep by dancing naked under the full moon having drunk a potion made out of fingernail clippings, the speculator who tries to purchase enough of a good to create an artificial shortage is wasting his time and money.

This can be easily shown from the reaction of commodities traders to one of the most blatant attempts by any speculator to corner a market and drive up the costs of agricultural products permanently. This speculator hoped to double or even trebble the price of grain by creating artificial shortages. This dastardly speculator was called the United States Agriculture Department, and it was acting at the behest of many congressmen in the 1920’s to prop up food prices at the levels they had reached in World War I when under Herbert Hoover’s leadership, it tried to corner the world grain market using the American taxpayer as a source of financing.

The FFB managed to hold up wheat prices for a time. Seeing this apparent success, wheat farmers naturally increased their acreage, thus aggravating the surplus problem by the spring of 1930. Furthermore, as America held wheat off the market, it lost its former share of the world’s wheat trade. Yet, prices continued to fall as the months wore on, and the heavy 1930 acreage aggravated the decline. The accumulating wheat surpluses in the hands of the FFB frightened the market, and caused prices to tumble still further. …

The FFB programs had thus inadvertently encouraged greater wheat production, only to find by spring that prices were falling rapidly; greater surpluses threatened the market and spurred greater declines. It became clear, in the impeccable logic of government intervention, that the farmers would have to reduce their wheat production, if they were to raise prices effectively. The FFB was learning the lesson of every cartel-production must be reduced in order to raise prices. And the logic of the government’s farm monopoly also drove the FFB to conclude that farmers had been “overproducing.” Secretary of Agriculture Hyde accordingly lectured the farmers on the evils of “overproduction.” The Secretary and the FFB urged farmers to reduce their acreage voluntarily.

The first group of farmers selected to bear the brunt of this sacrifice were the marginal Northwest growers of spring wheat-the original agitators for price supports. They were not very happy at the prospect. The farmers, after all, wanted subsidies from the government; having to reduce their production of the subsidized crop had not been included in their plans. A group of economists left Washington at the end of March to try to persuade the Northwest farmers that they would be better off if they shifted from wheat to some other crop. In the meanwhile, in this topsy-turvy world of interventionism, troubles piled up because the wheat crop was abundant. Surpluses continued to accumulate, and wheat prices continued to fall. Legge and Hyde toured the Middle West, urging farmers to reduce their wheat acreage. Governor Reed of Kansas reflected the common-sense view of the farmer when he wondered why the government on the one hand promoted reclamation projects to increase farm production and, on the other hand, urged farmers to cut production.[20] Since the individual farmer would lose by cutting acreage, no amount of moral exhortation could impel any substantial cut in wheat production.

As wheat piled up in useless storage, foreign countries such as Argentina and Russia increased their production, and this increase, together with the general world depression, continued to drive down wheat prices.[21] On June 30, 1930, the GSC had accumulated over 65 million bushels of wheat held off the market. Discouraged, it did little until late 1930, and then, on November 15, the GSC was authorized to purchase as much wheat as necessary to stop any further decline in wheat prices. Bravely, the GSC bought 200 million more bushels by mid-1931, but all to no avail. The forces of world supply and demand could not be flouted so easily. Wheat prices continued to fall, and wheat production continued to rise. Finally, the FFB decided to dump wheat stocks abroad, and the result was a drastic fall in market prices. By the end of the Hoover administration, combined cotton and wheat losses by the FFB totaled over $300 million, in addition to 85 million bushels of wheat given gratis to the Red Cross.

Murray Rothbard – America’s Great Depression

The important lesson from Herbert Hoover’s disastrous experiences as a speculator is that a speculator cannot create an artificial shortage. Why?

1) because consumers of the good will be aware that the speculator has a great deal of the commodity in storage waiting to go back on the market and will make their plans accordingly.

2) because until he is selling the stuff he bought for more than he paid for it, the speculator is losing massive amounts of money.

Thus if the speculator guesses wrong about future demand for consumption, he will go broke. If the speculator is right, and the price of oil will go up much higher, then the speculator has provided a marvelous service. For when consumers are at their most desperate, when the supply of oil is at a low point relative to demand, the speculator adds his stock to the supply. This action alleviates shortages, and thus drives prices down. Furthermore, by taking product off the market now, by bidding up prices now, the speculator encourages producers to increase production helping mitigate the future shortages that the speculator is foreseeing.

The so-called “excessive” profits that Obama and McCain are demogouging against are as mythical as the witchcraft that the British Crown so zealously prosecuted more than a quarter millenium ago. It is ironic that as they make speeches about the downturn in the mortgage industry, a textbook case where speculators completely misread future consumer demand and were financially wiped out as a result, that these politicians turn around and accuse another class of speculator of doing the same thing. It is shameful that just as fellow Harvard alum William Stoughton promoted a superstitious theology that sent people to the gallows, Barack Obama, who really should know better, has chosen to promote a superstitious econology that will inevitably destroy many lives.

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.

Do Government Regulators Protect Investors?

In a thread at Reason’s hit and Run, during a discussion where Enron was cited as an example of what happens when governments fail to regulate private behavior, frequent commenter fluffy wrote an insightful comment which is well worth reading in full. The second half of her comment read:

It is customary in the US for the Wall Street markets to be seen as the embodiment of unbridled capitalism, and they really aren’t. What they are is a complex system of federal regulation designed to foster “confidence” in publicly-traded companies, to facilitate the growth of those companies via debt and capital aggregation and intermediation. Their existence is a deliberate policy choice of the state, to attempt to use regulation to make it possible for small investors to trust people they have never met and of whom they have no knowledge – in order to allow corporations to grow larger, or to grow more quickly, than they would have in the days when trust was based on the personal or family qualities of the entrepreneur behind the corporation or the bank doing the underwriting for the corporation’s stock. The complex rules regarding accounting, corporate reporting, transparency, etc., are designed to allow corporations and investors to trust each other without actually having to do anything to establish trust beyond participating in the regulated system.

This has two unintended consequences. First, it allows corporations to be much larger and more powerful than they would otherwise be. The social and economic effects of this are open to debate. Second, it creates a situation where the “incentive problem” MNG talks about looms pretty large. As long as a corporation can do the bare minimum necessary to keep the SEC from shutting them down, they are in a position to command broad respect from investors that they may not deserve. The highly technical nature of the regulations in question also creates a milieu where a company like Arthur Andersen can begin to see its task as ensuring technical compliance and nothing else; the exotic techniques their consultants were using to build earnings or smooth earnings in that context begin to look not like “frauds” but simply “innovation”. By trying to facilitate the operation of the market, the state has in a sense corrupted it, or at least created an environment where corruption can hide behind the wall of paper the SEC requires.

But why has this corruption occurred? Why wouldn’t it happen in a private stock market? Well, a thought experiment will explain why the government intervention is corrupting. Imagine two stock markets. One, the Boston Stock Exchange is interested in attracting investors with assurances that their money will be safe. The other, the new York Stock Exchange does not care. The owners of the Boston Stock Exchange publish a set of accounting standards and demand that any company that trades on their stock exchange must follow those rules and publish those reports. The New York Stock exchange does not have that requirement.

Some investors choose only to invest money in companies trading on the Boston Stock exchange. They eschew the New York exchange. In the meantime investors who are less choosy (or more foolish) continue to invest in companies on the NY exchange. As a result, the companies that invest in meeting the requirements of the Boston exchange have access to additional capital that they couldn’t get if they were limited only to getting it from the NY Stock exchange. If the additional capital is worth the expenses involved in meeting the Boston standards, a company will rationally choose to adopt the Boston standards. Companies that find the additional cost not to provide sufficient benefit will not adopt the standards. Those companies will forego being traded on the Boston exchange and will make do with the capital available in New York.

In this scenario, the cost of adopting accounting rules is an investment in the business, much like the cost of marketing or the cost of insurance. Companies that choose to spend the money will attempt to ensure that it is well spent, that they are necessary for investor protection. There will be a negotiation between investors, the Boston Stock exchange, accountants and the companies being audited to arrive at meaningful standards that satisfy everybody. In the commercial insurance industry there instances of fraud tend to be aberrations rather than systematic because this very process is in place.

Now let us assume that for a variety of reasons the U.S. government passes a law mandating that all companies meet the Boston standards. Immediately all the companies trading exclusively on the New York exchange are slapped with an additional cost that they don’t want. The benefit of compliance will be reduced since the capital funds available in Boston will now be spread over many more companies. These companies, having been saddled with an unwanted cost will attempt to reduce the cost. They will seek out corrupt auditors who will rubber stamp their records. In the meantime the auditors who specialized in Boston accounting rules, now assured of a captive market, have to expend less effort pleasing their customers, the stock exchanges. In fact, they merely have to satisfy government regulators to keep their licenses, so they will pay less attention to the officers of the stock exchange. Since the government regulators, unlike the Boston Stock exchange, face no losses should they certify a corrupt regulator, they have a much lower incentive to ensure that the auditors are doing a good job.

At this point the accounting industry will not only become corrupt, it will also stagnate. The process that causes the stagnation is quite straightforward:

Let us assume that a couple of investors think that the Boston system is flawed. So they come up with a new system, and establish a stock exchange in Chicago which insists upon these alternate standards. Let us further assume that they convince a number of investors to agree with them, to the point where a few companies are interested in adopting the new standards. Whereas before the companies would merely have to switch to the Chicago system and to abandon the Boston system, they are not allowed to do this. They must continue to spending the money required to comply with the Boston system. If they want to meet the Chicago rules, they must purchase this as an additional cost. And, if the Chicago sytem contradicts the Boston system they cannot adopt the system at all.

This sets up a nearly insurmountable hurdle for anyone to adopt the Chicago system. And there is little chance of the Chicago system being mandated, because there will be many people with a vested interest in keeping the Boston system in place. Only in a time of crisis will the adoption of the Chicago system be considered by the legislature. And, if they should mandate it, they will be mandating an untested system. Should the system not work out as advertised, they could set back the industry dramatically as is happening as a result of the Sarbanes Oxley law.

If people truly wish to protect investors, they would lobby for the immediate dissolution of the SEC and allow stock markets to compete again on the quality of auditing. We would see a dramatic improvement in investor satisfaction as Stock Exchanges were not limited to competing for customers using price.

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 People of Yavapai County, Their District Attorney, and Their Sherriff Cordially Invite Serial Killers To Hunt On Their Land

If you are a serial killer who is looking for human prey, you can find some very nice hunting grounds Yapavai County in Arizona. At night, you will be able to force any car you want to stop in a deserted spot at your whim – all you have to do is put some blue flashing lights and a siren on your car and act like a sherrifs deputy..

That is because the sherriff’s office has announced that it is willing to use deadly force to stop motorists on highways even if they are in fear for their safety and are unsure whether the person signaling tha they should pull over is a police officer or not.

And, yesterday, a jury in the county gave its stamp of approval, convicting Dibor Roberts of felony flight and resisting arrest after she failed to pull over on a dark highway:

On Cornville Road, well before the populated area, Sheriff’s Sergeant Jeff Newnum apparently tired of waiting for Roberts to reach a settled area. While he was, in fact, a police officer, he now proceeded to justify every fear an American may have about rogue cops. He raced his cruiser in front of Roberts’s car, forcing her off the road. He then smashed her driver’s-side window with his baton and grabbed a cellphone she was using to check his identity. Accounts vary at this point. While police deny it, the press has reported that Newnum dragged Roberts from her vehicle, threw her to the ground, and handcuffed her while driving his knee into her back.

The sheriff argued that Mrs Roberts should have known that the vehicle signaling her was a police cruiser because it was “fully marked”. I doubt this; I don’t think markings will be visible on a dark road when the only illumination is provided by bright blue lights flashing in rapid and slightly disorienting pattern. Nor is the sheriff troubled by the way the traffic stop was effected. In fact, he praised the officer’s actions, claiming that the officer did the stop “by the book”.

So, it seems that the law enforcement community in Yapavai county is adamant: if someone signals a car driving on a dark county road in the middle of the night and orders them to pull over, they should do it, or face a potentially lethal car crash. They should not arm themselves after they stop, because then the officer is authorized to shoot the driver. Rather they should pull over and meekly await the orders of whomever owns the car with the flashing blue lights. And, if they are lucky, it will be a police officer and not a Ted Bundy who knocks on their window.

H/T J.D. Tucille of the 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.
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