Saturday, November 29, 2014

The chicken funeral

Here's an interesting protest video. 

These protesters are from Direct Action Everywhere.   In the video, they go into a supermarket, reverently and carefully select a (dead) processed chicken, put it in a little black coffin, and then harangue the other grocery shoppers with rants and speeches that their selections "are not food, they are violence". 

Or something. 

This is the Berkeley (California) wing of Direct Action Everywhere, which should surprise no one.

A quick look at the Direct Action Everywhere Meetup page leads me to believe that they're taking their identity politics too far.  Lordy....

Anyway, here's the video. 

Why am I posting this?  Because if you look in the background at the .15 mark, and again at the 1.49 mark, you can see some wooden orchard bin displays that were made at my shop in Texas !!

Heck YEAH!  We can now say that we built the backdrop for a chicken funeral !!!!


Friday, November 28, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving !!!! (Hope you were thankful for a free market.)

“Any man worth his salt would fight for his home but only a damn fool would fight for his boarding house.”
                                                                    -Mark Twain

Here's a story that I first heard in China several years ago, and I'm probably going to re-run this post about it every Thanksgiving until I die.  The best online account I've found is on the World Socialist Website (chuckle chuckle).  It's about some Chinese farmers who got tired of starving. 

On one night in Nov. 1978, 18 villagers of Xiaogang, including (leader) Yan Jinchang, risked their lives to sign secretly an agreement, which divided the then People's Commune-owned farmland into pieces for each family to cultivate.

This was a bold move, as it was seen as "capitalist" and might have led to severe punishment from the government at that time.

Thus, on that secret agreement covered with villagers' seals and red fingerprints, there was a wobbly line saying that "If any word about this is divulged and the team leader is put in prison, other team members shall share the responsibility to bring up his child till he (or she) is 18. "

The original copy of this agreement is now in a museum someplace in China.  It had a huge influence.  Instead of farming the land together, and putting up with slackers, loafers, regulatory parasites and the other inevitable Socialist baggage, this brave group of Chinese farmers decided that each family would be responsible for a certain section of the land. 

That clause about agreeing to care for each others' children was a simple insurance policy.  To the best of my knowledge, none of the farmers agreed to care for the families of those who didn't share their risks.  In other words, you couldn't waltz into the agreement AFTER losing your head of household.  There's not even a hint of Obamacare in this document. 

The facts proved that it's worthwhile to take the adventure. Allocating farmland to each household, also known as "household contract responsibility system", fired the locals' enthusiasm for agriculture production, which had been contained in the outmoded planned economy, and helped poverty-stricken locals out of starvation.

That's just what happened when they agreed to stop the collectivist nonsense.  Think of what could happen if they'd been allowed to own the land, instead of having it allocated to them by their "leaders".   

The grains that a local farmer turned over to the state in the following year almost totaled what he did in past two decades, recalled Yan Hongchang, one of the 18 Xiaogang villagers who initiated the contract system.

Their practice was later supported by Deng Xiaoping, chief architect of China's reform and opening-up drive, and recognized by the Chinese government. Xiaogang has since been labeled as the pace-setter of the nation's rural reform.

Here's a similar story, from the Volokh Conspiracy.  This one hits closer to home.

Many people believe that after suffering through a severe winter, the Pilgrims’ food shortages were resolved the following spring when the Native Americans taught them to plant corn and a Thanksgiving celebration resulted. In fact, the pilgrims continued to face chronic food shortages for three years until the harvest of 1623. Bad weather or lack of farming knowledge did not cause the pilgrims’ shortages. Bad economic incentives did.

Time to quote Thomas Sowell for the 10,000th time.  Laws and policies should never be evaluated by their stated goals and objectives, but by the incentives they create. 

In 1620 Plymouth Plantation was founded with a system of communal property rights. Food and supplies were held in common and then distributed based on equality and need as determined by Plantation officials.

Like we're about to do with healthcare. 

People received the same rations whether or not they contributed to producing the food, and residents were forbidden from producing their own food. Governor William Bradford, in his 1647 history, Of Plymouth Plantation, wrote that this system was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. The problem was that young men, that were most able and fit for labour, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. Because of the poor incentives, little food was produced.

In other words, when the hardest-working, most creative Pilgrims realized that they were working themselves to death for people who didn't want to work as hard?  They started Going Galt.   

Faced with potential starvation in the spring of 1623, the colony decided to implement a new economic system. Every family was assigned a private parcel of land. They could then keep all they grew for themselves, but now they alone were responsible for feeding themselves. While not a complete private property system, the move away from communal ownership had dramatic results.

This change, Bradford wrote, had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. Giving people economic incentives changed their behavior. Once the new system of property rights was in place, the women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability.

Once the Pilgrims in the Plymouth Plantation abandoned their communal economic system and adopted one with greater individual property rights, they never again faced the starvation and food shortages of the first three years. It was only after allowing greater property rights that they could feast without worrying that famine was just around the corner.

And what have we learned from this? 

Nothing.  Absolutely nothing. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Who Belongs On Mount Rushmore?

David Henderson, of The Library Of Economics And Liberty, has made the unlikely claim that Warren Harding belongs on Mount Rushmore. 

In addition to letting Eugene Debs out of prison, Harding also was ahead of his time on racial issues.  Here's a quote from Henderson's post:

Instead of attempting to suppress the black vote, he was a Republican, who, in 1921, made a speech in Jefferson, Ala., supporting the right of black men to vote. 1921!

He said: "Let the black man vote when he is fit to vote; prohibit the white man voting when he is unfit to vote." A reporter said that while the white section of the audience remained silent, the black section cheered.

Hardly enough to justify reshaping a mountain, but a good deed nonetheless. 

Other people have made other suggestions....

There's Reagan, who as best I can tell, had the advantage of not being Jimmy Carter....

And, of course, the Obamessiah, who has had the advantage of being black.  (I hate to go down that road, but if that damn fool's name was Barry O'Brien, and he was a white guy from East Armpit, Illinois, with the same non-achievements, he would've never made it into the Illinois State Legislature.)

Don Boudreaux, of the Café Hayek site, has chimed in with his .02 cents

I'd remove from Mt. Rushmore all people who are most famous for holding political office - which is to say, I'd blast off all four of the currently sculpted faces. I'd replace them with images of the faces of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., Gustavus Swift, J.J. Hill (even though he was Canadian!), and either Gail Borden or Steve Jobs - people who really define, and who helped in notable and noticeable ways to sculpt, what is good about America. (If obliged to include a non-entrepreneur among the four, there's no question that the person whose visage I would choose is that wisest of all Americans, H.L. Mencken.)

If the suggestion is to ban politicians from being carved into mountainsides, I'll go with the following:

Sam Walton.  Walton brought more people out of bone-grinding poverty than anyone else in history.  He deserved a Nobel.  His company has provided millions of jobs to employees that you and I and Microsoft and Starbucks and Costco consider unemployable. 

Let's throw Norman Borlaug up there.  He came up with variations on wheat DNA that quadrupled yields.  He's called "the man who saved a billion lives", and because he did so without help from the Lefties, he's been widely criticized for doing so

David Koch.  Mostly to piss off the Statists, but also because he was an early, early advocate of ending the Nixon/Obama Drug War, legalizing Gay Marriage, ending the Fed, staying out of other people's wars, and lobbying for a smaller government.  Conde Nast has called him "one of the most generous, but low-key philanthropists in the USA".  Go here for a breakdown of just some of the money this man has given away.  (He's also given lots and lots of money to defeat the Obamacrats.  Unfortunately, all of it went to Republicans.)  The Libertarians ran him for V.P. in 1980. 

Milton Friedman.  He wrote Capitalism And Freedom, plus Free To Choose.  As a bonus, he and his wife Rose brought David Friedman into the world. 

I like those people.  Maybe one day they'll be carved into a mountainside and properly appreciated by a grateful nation. 


Monday, November 24, 2014

Liberty Vs Democracy

Here are variations on a hypothetical question I've been asking myself for the last few months.... 

Would you rather live under a benevolent dictatorship that respected property rights, human rights, and economic liberty?  Or would you prefer to live and work in a democracy, where the avid readers of People, Vogue, Duck Dynasty Monthly and The New York Times can vote themselves a chunk of your income and effort? 

Here's Richard Rahn at The Washington Times:

Would you prefer to live in a country that has:
(1) The rule of law with an honest civil service, strong protection of private property and minority rights, free trade, free markets, very low taxes, and full freedom of the speech, press and religion, but not a democracy?

(2) Democracy and a corrupt court and civil service, many restrictions on economic freedom, including very high taxes, with limited rights for minority religions, peoples and speech?

The first example describes Hong Kong under the British, which had full civil liberties, little corruption and the world’s freest economy. The Chinese took over Hong Kong in 1997 and have allowed it to continue as the freest economy in the world. As a result of the British being benevolent dictators and the Chinese largely continuing economic noninterference, with a number of restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, Hong Kong has achieved a per capita income close to that of the United States and higher than almost all democracies.

Many mistakenly believe democracy means liberty, but a quick review of world democracies show that is not true. Almost all democracies restrict economic liberties more than necessary. Many have corrupt court and civil service systems, inhibit women’s rights, constrain press freedom and do not protect minority rights and views. Iran, though a very restrictive theocracy, calls itself a democracy and holds elections.

That second example is a good description of what Bush and Obama killed and maimed several thousand U.S. troops to achieve in Iraq, BTW....

Liberty and Freedom are worth a significant sacrifice.  Democracy ain't worth a bucket of warm spit.  Hell, Hitler came into power through a democracy.  (A democracy with loopholes that made him Chancellor with just 37% of the vote, but a democracy nonetheless.) 

Here's Steve Hanke at Cato:

Most people, including most Americans, would be surprised to learn that the word “democracy” does not appear in the Declaration of Independence (1776) or the Constitution of the United States of America (1789). They would also be shocked to learn the reason for the absence of the word democracy in the founding documents of the U.S.A. Contrary to what propaganda has led the public to believe, America’s Founding Fathers were skeptical and anxious about democracy. They were aware of the evils that accompany a tyranny of the majority. The Framers of the Constitution went to great lengths to ensure that the federal government was not based on the will of the majority and was not, therefore, democratic.

The Constitution divided the federal government into legislative, executive and judicial branches. Each branch was designed to check the power of the other branches. The Founders did not want to rely only on the voters to check government power. As a result, citizens were given very little power to select federal officials.

Neither the President, members of the judiciary nor the Senate were elected by direct popular vote. Only the members of the House of Representatives were directly elected by popular vote. Even in this case, the franchise was quite restricted.

If the Framers of the Constitution did not embrace democracy, what did they adhere to? To a man, the Framers agreed that the purpose of government was to secure citizens in John Locke’s trilogy of the rights to life, liberty and property. The Framers wrote extensively and eloquently. On property, for example, John Adams wrote that “the moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.”

Perfesser Hanke goes on to describe the disaster that was Woodrow Wilson, who took a federal government that consumed around 1% of GDP and turned it into the ravenous beast we know and despise today.   I hope you'll hit the link up top and read the whole thing.  Here's his closer:

Almost 80 years later, the farmers are still sucking money from the rest of society and agricultural policy has been enlarged to satisfy a variety of other interest groups, including conservationists, nutritionists and friends of the Third World. Then, during World War II, when government accounted for nearly half the U.S. GDP, virtually every interest group tried to tap into the vastly enlarged government budget. Even bureaus seemingly remote from the war effort, such as the Department of the Interior (which is in charge of government lands and natural resources), claimed to be performing “essential war work” and to be entitled to bigger budgets and more personnel.

Within the U.S. government, the war on terrorism has given cover to a multitude of parochial opportunists, whose proposals range from bailing out the airlines to nationalizing vaccine production. As a result, former President George W. Bush — a so-called conservative — ushered in a record-setting expansion of government. This trend continues with the interventionist President Barack Obama.

What lessons can we learn? First, “democracy” and “freedom” are not interchangeable words. Second, only the first century of the American experience represents a standard for freedom. Expanding democracy is a slogan which requires great caution. It can easily result in elected tyranny. Freedom is the concept. Our challenge is to persuade every citizen that benefits flow from freedom’s practical applications. Freedom might then flourish in very diverse and unexpected forms in different parts of the world.

There are millions of Tea Partiers, Right-Wingers, and Gung-Ho Militaristic extremists who are willing to have our troops killed and maimed in the name of "Democracy".  Millions of these same people are equally opposed to letting immigrants into the USA. 


Because they fear (justifiably, perhaps) how these immigrants would vote.  They no more trust Democracy than they trust a used car salesman. 

I've got no solution to suggest for this.  If somebody has to intervene in disputes, protect the borders, and provide a courts system, Democracy does ok.  But wouldn't it be nice if someone invented a religion, a mythology, or at least some really good propaganda, all based on freedom and liberty? 

If you've got time to read more on the subject, go here and here

Also, I bet Ben Franklin never said this or anything like it, but it's a cool quote: