Saturday, October 6, 2012

What A Wonderful World

One of the first things taught in Libertarianism 101 is that "Utopia Is Not An Option". 

Statists often argue that if Farm Bill 2987234-234E doesn't pass, then what would Libertarians do about the kid with Leukemia whose father was diagnosed with Aids after the plague of locusts destroyed the farm because a family of raccoons chewed threw the electric fence, the very electric fence that Farm Bill 2987234-234E would provide along with the cheese subsidy.  What would you Libertarians do about that if you dared touch the funding for Farm Bill 2987234-234E?? 

This reasoning assumes that if John Boehner/Nancy Pelosi didn't take care of the kid with leukemia, no one else would either.  The private sector and charities would step in.  They did it in the past and they could do it again.  Absence of government subsidies made medicine cheaper and doctors less risk-averse.  It wasn't Utopia then, but it's not Utopia now, and it won't be Utopia (Lord hasten the day) in a more Libertarian future. 

But just imagine with me.....

We could end the Drug War.  The Drug Lords would go belly-up.  People could move freely across the Rio Grande.  Texans hopping down to Mexico would be like hopping up to Oklahoma.  Would it be a Utopia?  No.  Some people might become addicts who wouldn't ordinarily become addicted.  But they would probably be more likely to get treatment.  Hundreds of thousands of people wouldn't be in jail.  They recently legalized everything in Portugal, and addiction rates went down!!   One million government jailer/narc/torturer/DEA jobs wouldn't be necessary.  Barack Obama, George W. Bush, John Kerry, Al Gore, and Bill Clinton could all smoke weed openly, the way they did when they were younger.  Another 40,000 Mexican bystanders wouldn't die in the violence.  It wouldn't be a Utopia, but it would be better than the current disaster. 

We could End The Freakin' Federal Reserve.  A dollar saved wouldn't mean 50 cents lost.  Ben Bernanke wouldn't be allowed to do any more counterfeiting.  Would the absence of a Federal Reserve mean that we'd be at the mercy of the ups and downs of the business cycle?  (Which was part of the rationale for The Fed's creation - LOL.)  Yes, we might see some weirdness because of the ups and downs of the business cycle.  It wouldn't be a Utopia.  But I'd bet my bottom dollar that it would be less screwed up than what we have now. 

I've got a friend named Roger who is going to vote for Obama because of Obama's newly discovered support of gay marriage (among other reasons).  Never mind the total cynicism of Obama's new position on this.  The bigger question is what the hell is the government doing in the marriage business anyway?  If it matters to you who gets elected president, then your government is too big.  Would a smaller government be a Utopia?  Heck no.  But it would be infinitely better than the plague of busybodies currently trying to regulate your diet, health, safety, marriage, drug use, alcohol consumption hours, payroll and gun cabinet. 

If you're a taxpayer, your share of the national debt is $80,000.00.  Your share of the unfunded liabilities is a number so staggering that no one can calculate it properly.  Somewhere around 350K to 500K.  This is a lot of money, and we'll never, ever pay it off.  Imagine that it was your brother-in-law who got you into this much debt, mostly for what he considered to be worthwhile causes.  You'd kill him.  Every serious investor knows we're playing a shell game.  We keep acting as if the problem will go away.  When it crashes, it's going to be horrible.  Absolutely horrible.  Civil unrest, hungry people, and a total breakdown of society. 

I haven't mentioned the money we're spending killing women and children in Pakistan, and how we're going to pay a price for that.  There are some 15-year-old boys in Pakistan watching Obama's drones fly over, and they're plotting their revenge.  On you. 

The alternative would't be a Utopia.  There will be problems. 

But it would be so much better. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

How Mitt Romney will really harm the middle class

Almost every day of his life, George Mason University Economics professor Don Boudreaux writes a letter to the editor.  He's been doing this for years in a vain attempt to correct economic misinformation. 

Here's a recent corrective that Boudreaux sent to The Wall Street Journal, explaining that the John The Baptist Of ObamaCare is just as goofy as the founder of ObamaCare:

John Taylor is correct that Mitt Romney’s economic policies are less likely to thwart growth than are those of Pres. Obama (“The Romney Cure for Obama-Induced Economic Ills,” Oct. 4). The bar, alas, is low. Because entrepreneurs and investors aren’t keen to produce and take risks when the president threatens them with higher tax rates, saddles them with crushing regulations, and scolds them for allegedly being selfish, ungrateful, predatory, and (to boot!) not especially important to economic growth anyway, entrepreneurs and investors respond by producing less and taking fewer risks.

Mitt Romney does seem to be less hostile than is Barack Obama to entrepreneurship, commerce, and private investment.

Get ready people.... Get ready.  Here comes the patented Don Boudreaux Karate Kid Crane Kick !  THIS IS GONNA HURT !!!

But contrary to Mr. Taylor’s claim, Mr. Romney’s trade proposals are not clearly better than are the president’s. Mr. Taylor writes that “Mr. Romney intends to move ahead on trade agreements and create global enterprise zones to remove barriers to trade.” That would be grand. Yet what we hear most loudly about trade from Mr. Romney isn’t about freeing trade; it’s about restricting it. Mr. Romney repeatedly boasts that he’ll raise taxes on Americans who buy imports from China.

So rather than making a principled case for removing barriers, Mr. Romney’s singular trade obsession seems to be to raise barriers and thereby make trade less free.


Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

John Taylor, consider yourself bitch-slapped.  Please offend us no more in that way.  Boudreaux WILL come back. 
The Mason Nation logo at the top came from the George Mason University bookstore site.  My arch-nemesis, Dr. Ralph, was good enough to get me one of the shirts, which I wear often.  You know you're a political geek when you wear your favorite university shirt because of the economics department, not the football or basketball team !! 

Hey, MSNBC, it coulda been worse !!!

Why all this weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth from MSNBC? 
Do they not understand that if one Obamney lost this "debate", then the other Obamney is winner by default?
You'll still have your welfare state, godawful wars, Federal Reserve, Prohibition, giveways, corporate welfare, cronyism, dead Pakistani babies, mercantilism and tribalism. It's not like a Libertarian candidate was allowed in the room to kick both of their asses....
This video is pretty funny though. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Why There's No Point In Watching Tonight's "Debate"

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will have a conversation tonight about who is best qualified to lead our collective plunge over the cliff.

The following remedies for our economic situation will not be on the table. They are considered “outside the mainstream” and “extremist". 

Unfortunately, the only way to escape a 16 trillion dollar debt is to go outside the mainstream.

You will not hear a serious discussion about the following:

1) Cutting government spending. Both men have budgets that actually increase spending into infinity. The Romney/Ryan plan slows down the rate of growth just a tad, but the spending still increases. What makes all of these plans laughable is that no Congress can limit the thievery of a future Congress. Imagine the current group of legislators taking, say, Jimmy Carter’s 2012 spending goals seriously.

2) Ending the Drug War. There are one million government employees who rely on this idiotic conflict for a paycheck.
3) Ending the Fed. Both Romney and Obama know that the only way to keep their contributors happy and content at the government trough is for Ben Bernanke to keep printing cheaper and cheaper money. We are due for a massive inflationary leap in the next few years. These higher prices will be blamed on greedy corporations.

4) Shrinking the military. Our military spending equals that of the next 17 to 20 countries, depending on how you do the math. Most of those countries are our friends, BTW. We’ve been in South Korea since the late 1940’s. Ditto for Europe. We never send them a bill for defense. (Also, we have no business going to the Middle East to spread the gospel of “free and fair elections” when f***ing Oklahoma won’t allow Gary Johnson on the ballot. What a farce.)

5) Bringing Hillary back to the house. What makes anyone think that Bill Clinton’s wife is any more qualified to intervene in the Arab-Israeli conflict than, say, Sarah Palin’s husband???

6) Privatizing Social Security. The system is now running in the red. To mention that fact is political suicide. Unless you’re Gary Johnson.

7) School Choice. 70% of the Chicago schoolteachers who went on strike send their own kids to schools not run by the Chicago schoolteachers. How do you think it would work out if the government assigned you a grocery store?

There are other obvious topics that these two guys won’t touch, and that a Libertarian candidate would bring into the discussion.

I used to drunk-blog these things, but tonight I don’t think I’ll bother. A real debate would include parties besides those which got us into this mess. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ryan Sheffield's 12 Political Compromises

My Bar Friend Ryan Sheffield has put a list of "12 Political Compromises" on Facebook.  This is his governmental wish list. 

As a side note, Ryan is one of those creative people who can do just about anything he wants to do.  Go here to view (and purchase) some of his artwork, mostly drawings of authors that incorporate their quotations.  I think I've used the Twain and the Hunter S. Thompson to liven up posts on this site a few times. 
Go here to download (no purchase required) his two e-books.  I've read some of his stories, and they're good stuff. 

IMHO, Ryan is very close to the Kingdom Of God, i.e., the Libertarian Party, with this list.  My additional commentary is in italics.  Here goes:

1. Repeal Citizens United. You would be hard-fought to find any normal citizen who thinks it’s a good idea for corporations, labor unions and special interest groups to have an unfettered cashflow into political campaigns. It doesn’t matter what “side” you are on, you should probably oppose Big Money syndicates controlling the election process and fueling the obnoxious TV commercials you are being bombarded with every day.

Why do we have big corporations and super-pacs giving a rip who gets elected?  Well, to produce a successful product, you have to convince millions of citizens to purchase the product.  That's the hard way.  The easy way is to get Congress to mandate the use, purchase, or monopolization of the product.  Corporations want protection from competitors.  In a nation with a massive government, it's far more effective to purchase one Congressman that to sell to 330 million Americans.  Here's something from the Cato Institute:
The proper answer to large expenditures for speech is either more speech or, if the existing system proves unworkable, a constitutional amendment. As for money, it's just a symptom. We have a big money problem because we have a big government problem. By restraining the regulatory and redistributive powers of the state, we can minimize the influence of big money. Restoring the Framers' notion of enumerated, delegated, and limited federal powers will get government out of our lives and out of our wallets. That's the best way to end the campaign-finance racket, and root out corruption without jeopardizing political speech.

In other words, if it really matters who wins the elections, your government has gotten too big.  If governments can mandate profits for favored corporations, government has gotten waaaay too big. 

2. Close the “Revolving Door” and shut lobbyists out of government. This is an extension of number 1. Again, no one wants these organizations, right or left, buying and bribing politicians or running their own regulatory agencies. Politicians work for us, not the highest bidder.

Once again, lobbyists are just a symptom.  They're not the disease.  If the government matters enough to justify the hiring of lobbyists, the government has gotten too big. 

3. End the “War on Drugs.” This doesn’t mean we have to legalize EVERYTHING, but this “war” is a bottomless money pit and a failed experiment. It is the reason the violent cartels exist and the reason your idiot son is snorting bath salts in your basement.

Precisely.  Exactly.  Ever since Nixon began the War On Drugs in 1970, the only drug whose use has declined is....tobacco.  That's because tobacco is legal and no longer cool.  
There are a few antibiotics that should possibly be restricted because unfettered use causes viruses to mutate and grow stronger.  
Everything else?  Well, ask yourself which currently illegal drugs you want the Mexican and Afghan Drugs Lords to have a monopoly on. 

4. Stop treating the environment as a partisan issue. The environment SHOULD be something we all agree on. It affects us all equally. As long as free enterprise exists, there must be checks & balances on pollution, deforestation and animal cruelty. This is not “socialism.” It’s the necessary price business owners must pay for the ability to run operations that affect our natural surroundings and resources. The beautiful but unrealistic Libertarian idea that simply boycotting polluters will solve the problem is a pipe dream. Especially if the public is unaware they are polluting in the first place (or simply doesn’t care.) We need to agree on what “facts and science” are and deal with the problems accordingly. Present “free market” alternatives. That is healthy and good. But accept science before you make suggestions. Economic freedom doesn’t make toxic waste taste any better.

The environment is a classic economic "externality".  You want to purchase powder-coated metal parts from me, so I powder-coat the parts.  You give me money.  I give you painted parts.  We're the only two people involved in the deal.  But not if I dump a lot of leftover zinc and iron-phosphate into the Trinity River.  Then a lot of other people become a party to our deal.  That's called an "externality". 

The classic Anarchist position in this case is to boycott the polluters.  The classic Libertarian position, however, is to sue the shit out of them if they have done YOU harm.  (Plus, all environmental regulations should be voted on by Congress, not enforced by appointees.)  Go here and here for two more excellent Cato downloads on how we could help the environment, lower the bureaucratic costs, and also let manufacturing businesses prosper. 

5. Audit the Federal Reserve and, preferably, abolish it. A private banking organization with no oversight or accountability should NOT be in charge of the nation’s economy. Central banks were never a good idea. But private and secret central banks are even worse.

Oh yes, yes, yes, Mr. Sheffield.  Yes, yes, yes.  And when we End The Fed, let's level all their buildings and plow salt into the earth where they stood so nothing will ever grow there again. 
The Fed was founded in 1913 to stabilize the money supply.  Since 1913, the dollar has lost 97% of its value. 

6. Legalize gay marriage. It doesn’t affect you. Just let it happen, move on, and turn your attention to issues that actually affect us all.

Yeah.  If God doesn't like gay people, why does he keep making so many of them? 

7. Disrupt and destroy the partisan divide. We are all screwed if this extreme partisanship continues to divide us. The culture of the American media has made it impossible for us to discuss issues and make progress. The main source of this problem? Pigeonholing. If someone asks you if you support the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare, for the other partisans), your answer should be nuanced and thought-out and should NEVER place you squarely in a political party. The common practice of assuming what “side” someone is on based on a single opinion is the MOST destructive aspect of our modern political culture.

In my opinion, we have so much extreme partisanship and a partisan divide because the only choice we have is between two partisans.  You can pick the Crips or the Bloods.  I've commented on this dozens of times elsewhere, but let's say the Crips and Bloods are the only parties to hold office for the last 75 years.  They both advocate slavery, puppy torture, and poor dental hygiene.  But the Bloods have a better position on Healthcare. 

So you always support the Bloods.  Otherwise the Crips will win.  If a 3rd gang (The Libertarians) comes along advocating an end to slavery, puppy torture, and are pro-brushing and flossing, they're written off as a wasted vote.  They might help the dreaded Crips win !!  So what's the solution?  How do we end all of this partisanship of Us vs Them? 

Through a system of approval voting.  Go here for an explanation.  It would allow most of us to comfortably step outside the Us and Them boxes and safely try out some other points of view. 

8. Recognize that gun control is like drug control. They will always exist and banning them only makes them more dangerous. People have a Constitutional right to arm themselves and threatening to take that right away only makes the loony “patriot” gun nuts all the more rabid and frothing at the mouth for their insurrection fantasies. Compromise: Don’t sell assault rifles at K-Mart. Gun store owners are always going to be more scrutinizing than a 16-year-old making minimum wage at a big box store.

I became a rabid 2nd Amendment nutcase when one of my co-managers brought in plans for a WWI-era machine gun that we could make at the shop.  I totally understood those blueprints, and I'm a borderline mechanical idiot.  Ryan is correct.  Guns aren't going away if someone like me can make one. 
I don't have insurrection fantasies, but do have the fears.  I now sometimes carry a gun, because cops are too dang heavy. 

9. Remove the words “socialism” and “capitalism” from the healthcare debate. It should be universally considered the “noble” goal to provide affordable healthcare for all American citizens. The road to that goal is (and SHOULD be) up for debate, but the endgame should not. The question is how to pay for it and how to ensure that quality of care (and personal decision-making power) do not decrease. It’s going to be difficult to sort out, but it’s hard for me to believe that there is anyone in America who does not think it’s a positive thing for everyone to have healthcare. “Healthcare is not a right.” You’re correct. Now let’s sit down and figure out how to make it one in a way that we can all agree on. If your opinion on healthcare is little more than “I support the President because he’s a Democrat like me” or “I dang’ol hate commies!,” you should probably stop voting.

I think that true Capitalist Healthcare has never been tried.  Here's my modest proposal.  If this became the system in an 8-block Free Market Zone someplace south of downtown, people would be flying in from all over the state for treatment.  And I think this would meet Ryan's criteria of a noble solution for a noble goal.  Hit the link. Please. 
But I do like the word "capitalism", because when regulators and Nanny-Staters allow unbridled acts of capitalism to take place, capitalism usually works.  Lap Band surgery and Lasik eye surgeries have become 80% less expensive, mostly because Medicare, Medicaid and insurance policies don't cover them. 

10. All censorship is wrong. A message to the left wing: All speech must be permitted, even what most would consider “hate.” I’m sorry. Free speech is an “all or nothing” issue. We can never open the door for authority to tell us what we can and can’t say or express. A message for the right wing: Seriously, just think about it. Is it really worse for your kid to see a naked lady than it is for them to witness a mass murder? Obviously not, if you’ve ever watched primetime TV. Get your priorities straight.

Here's a Ryan Sheffield print.  It's gonna be the first one I order:

11. Recognize that nearly every one of those infographics, chain emails, or biased news articles you share with your friends is chock-full of misinformation, omission, and partisan agendas. Yes, even the ones that agree with your position. “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” – Mark Twain

That's why I probably won't watch the (ahem) debate between The Obamneys.  Much truthiness will be thrown around that's half-right, half-wrong, manipulated, and taken totally out of the original context.
My questions about the infographics, chain emails, news articles and partisan agendas usually come down to this...  a) Does this person want to leave me and everyone else alone? b) Does this person's agenda promote or discourage ethnic, racial, or national Tribalism?
Nothing else matters. 

12. Talk to each other. Stop being so goddamn clique-y with your politics. Talk to someone who disagrees with you without letting the debate devolve into a talking points recitation contest. We need more open minds, less partisan cheerleading. I feel like I’m watching a word-war between Crips and Bloods who haven’t yet realized that the only thing dividing them is the color of bandana they wear.

Sorry, I’ll shut up now.  

Some of my responses were old talking points and some were new. 

Sorry about breaking Ryan's post down into a word-war between Crips and Bloods and Libertarians. 

The LP bandana is red and blue with porcupines on it.  

I'll shut up too.  At least until tomorrow morning.  

Be sure to hit the links at the top for Ryan Sheffields art and stories !!   

Sunday, September 30, 2012

What Is "Approval Voting"?

Libertarians (and other parties who challenge the status quo) are often accused of merely being "spoilers".  Some claim that we don't have a hope in hell of winning, but we might take votes away from Romney and give them to Obama.  Or vice-versa. 

Here's another problem: A lot of voters like the Libertarian Party's position on almost everything, but they're reluctant to "waste their vote" on a possible non-winner.  This is called the "wasted vote fallacy", and virtually guarantees that we'll keep getting shafted by those representing the false choice of Democrat vs Republican. 

So what to do....what to do....

Many Libertarians advocate something called Approval Voting.  (Hit the link for a plethora of links and explanations.)  Here's a blurb from the Approval Voting site:

Approval voting is a voting procedure in which voters can vote for, or approve of, as many candidates as they wish. Each candidate approved of receives one vote, and the candidate with the most votes wins. It was independently proposed by several people in the 1970s.

Approval voting has several compelling advantages over other voting procedures:

•It is eminently practicable and easy to understand
•It will reduce negative campaigning
•It will increase voter turnout
•It helps elect the strongest candidate
•It gives voters flexible and simple options
•It will give minority candidates their proper due

Unlike more complicated ranking systems, which suffer from a variety of theoretical as well as practical defects, approval voting is simple for voters to understand and use. It doesn't require redesigning of ballots and is trivial to implement in vote-counting systems. Approval voting is used today by various governments and organizations around the world, including its use by the United Nations to elect the secretary-general.   An approval voting-style ballot would look like this:  
Let's assume that Smith is a Republican.  Citizen and Doe are both Democrats.  Rubble is from the Green Party, and Hill is a Libertarian.  I'm going to vote for the Libertarian every chance I get.  So Mary Hill gets one of my votes.   

Let's assume that the Republican, Joe Smith, advocates school prayer, the Defense Of Marriage Act, the Drug War, giving more money to Lockheed to kill more babies in Pakistan, a 40% tariff on all imports, and a return to our Judeo-Christian heritage.  I wouldn't trust Joe Smith to put together Happy Meals.  Joe Smith doesn't get my vote.   

Jane Doe, one of the Democrats, has an Obama sticker on her car, and was once photographed shaking hands with the man.  Therefore she is not to be trusted.  She doesn't get my vote.   

Mr. Rubble is the Green Party candidate.  I don't know anything else about him, but the Green Party affiliation is enough to keep me from giving him a vote.   

I've heard good things about John Citizen.  He's a rare small-government Democrat, and has spoken out against a lot of pork spending in the past.  He's with the Libertarians on all social issues - not just lip service, either.  So John Citizen gets a vote from me.   

So on my ballot, I've supported Mary Hill and John Citizen.  Voting for one doesn't take away a vote from the other.  None of my votes were "wasted".    When everyone's votes are tallied in an Approval Voting election, the election is OVER.  The person with the most votes is the winner. There's no need for a runoff.  Everyone who wanted a chance to vote for these folks has had that chance.   

I like it.  Let's talk it up, folks !!