Archive for October, 2010

Liberty Independence and Responsibility

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Dear Friends,

It seems to me that liberty comes with responsibility. To be truly free one must be responsible for him or her self. To be “free” while in a state of dependence is an oxymoron.

Liberty, independence and responsibility are codependent concepts. Whenever practiced these tree maxims always result in the improving of the lot of Man. Put it this way, we can say that liberty cannot exist without independence, and a person cannot be independent without having responsibility.

Today people seem to want liberty or “freedom” in the same way a teenager want’s “freedom.” In the sense that they should have total freedom of action, with no responsibilities, practicing no restraint, being fed clothed and house for free, and having the negative consequences of their action smoothed over of for them, without having to expend any effort at productive labor.

A rational maximizer wants his or her needs met but is rational about it. If I am hungry I buy food. It is not in my best interest to steal food especially if I have money to buy it. But what if I want a snow machine? Then, can I morally steal, even food? No, of course not. To do so is against my long term best interests. In more than the obvious way.

If there were no society and no community and people lived in a state of nature or absolute individualism we would have to expend productive effort to stay alive. If we are too lazy we are quickly goaded into productive effort by our hunger. It is society and community that allow us to fill our stomachs without productive effort. If we undermine that society and or community by withholding our productive effort, then we put the filling of not only our stomachs at risk, but risk not filling those of people who are putting in productive effort.

If there were no society and no community we would have to be responsible for ourselves. If we step off a cliff then we are dashed on the rocks below there would be no rescue chopper. We would be forced by nature to expire from our lack of vigilance. It is society and community that allow us the luxury of lack forethought and vigilance.

If there were no society and no community we would live in a state of total liberty. There would be nothing, that we could do, that we could not do. No law restraining our actions and no morality to restrain our appetites. It is society and community that force us to have law and morality.

It is only in a society that allows it’s citizens to be freely responsible people and holding them responsible for their actions with a great measure of liberty that have increasing standards of living. As societies move to greater and greater levels of the Big Brother government then the standard of living will inevitably decline.

It will decline because Liberty is decoupled from responsibility and independence. In this circumstance people have no incentive to expend productive effort. It is wasted in the most vulgar way. Your productive labor harms your interest.

The market system however allows us to live in a society where our needs can be easily met. By providing productive labor into the system we get independence like we would if we lived in a state of nature. Under the market system we have the feed back that allows us to work to get the standard of living we want, if we are willing to work for it.

Veblen claimed people don’t resent the robber barons of his day because they felt they could someday be a robber baron if they worked hard enough and were smart enough… No one denying their own intelligence. With this as the societal myth look at how the standard of living went up and scientific progress exploded.

Under the one set of motives people can be expected to act in ways that are counter productive to their long term interests, it follows, (like a breaching a dam results in a flood down stream). Under the other (Liberty, Independence and responcibility) people act in ways that are in both their short and long term best interests as they see fit. The one results in the steady decline of humanity the other… elevation.

Legislation and Legislators

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Dear Friends,

It seems to me that writing legislation is like building a house.

Most legislation is never pointed at any particular thing. Take the drug policies of most nations. They are targeted at some nebulous idea of eradicating drug use. But they never actually look at what they really want to get and what compromises they are willing to make to get it.

If we further narrow down what we seek, as a goal, in the drug policies of a given nation, we might say, we want to keep our children off drugs. So we should give that priority over a shotgun approach. To lay out legislation without thinking in this way is like building a house without plans.

We show up at the job with a backhoe on site. Never laying out a line we guesstimate the sides and corners eventually joining the excavation. The cement truck pulls in and pours the footings filling the whole excavation using much more concrete than is necessary. Then we have lumber delivered and start framing. Unfortunately the footings are not square. So we have to make up for it in the framing of the walls. Then we close in the house with a roof. We don’t bother measuring the width of the roof so we order the wrong length trusses. What the hell we say they are long enough to reach the end of the wall… with no overhang. So we spike them in.

When we are done with our new house we find there are a few problems. Rain water sheets down the exterior walls getting in the poorly caulked windows. The rooms are either way too big or way too small for the use they are supposed to be put to and we find the our furniture doesn’t fit into the un-square corners. It is clear that building a house without plans or forethought is not a good idea. The outcome will fall far short of what is necessary.

So why is legislation different? No plan as to what is really wanted so no real thought can be given to the incentives that would actually result in the wanted outcome in real society. Is like our legislators randomly digging the footers for our new house.

Political patronage will keep the legislators from measuring anything very closely…After all it’s government money and is an endless font. More wording (concrete) is used than is needed. The walls are not exactly plumb perhaps because there is no scale for measuring legislation.

One of the Great Sages of Human history, Confucius I think, said; let a principality be governed by human hearted principles [leaders leading by example and actually following their own laws], and people will flock there from all lands. He was speaking ironically, because he knew that no such principality existed and would be many centuries away if it was even possible.

The illuminati who bestow our law don’t feel they should have to actually follow it. This makes them crooked. How can someone crooked lay out a plumb wall? They also have to make up for unintended consequences of pouring footers that are not square. The constitutionality is not square, because the footers were poorly built, but that cannot be helped, the right people on the Supreme Court will fix that. The roof is, the Executive branch, tasked with enforcing Law. Being only as sound as the Elite that run that branch. There will be some leaks. Like the SEC looking at Face book and porn instead for doing their job and watching the markets during the banking meltdown. Well actually, that was more of a gaping hole in the roof letting in a torrent not a trickle…

We find that the legislation doesn’t cover as much as we had hoped. The new law being barely utile despite much more materials going into it than was necessary. Not much is really covered by our new legislation but it will take lawyers thousands of man hours to figure that out. How do you suppose this legislation will hold up in an economic earthquake?

Costs go up and utility goes down, even as more legislation is needed to address the new problems in society, that crop up as a consequence of some pernicious incentive, from poorly thought out and worded legislation. Glomming on additions here and there to cover what was supposed to be covered by the original house, er legislation.

I wonder, if the legislators don’t even bother to read legislation they are enacting, maybe it’s because they won’t have to live with it… We will.

Time for a Numa?

The General Strike

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Dear Friends,

It seems to me that the concept of the general strike, is as pernicious as it is manipulative, of the people and our welfare, it’s like a person’s liver stopping functioning because it wants more time off, and the spleen, stomach, and anus join in.

Anyone can see that if this were to happen the body would soon pass. The economic body of the nation is like the human body… susceptible to shock. To shock a nation’s economy so profoundly over some argument, about a hypothetical metric, devised by the State and the Elite, is self defeating. The more that nation’s markets are disturbed the less ability the market and the State have to meet the demands of the strikers.

Does it make sense to destroy the ability of the market to provide us with employment to get an extra dollar? Or is the principle of worker power so important that workers should be impoverished to prove it? That is the price the Socialist and Communist are willing to pay… for someone else to go hungry for the revolution. Someone else can bleed for the revolution so the leader can have more power. Power he will use to further impoverish his people. Hungry masses are easier to manipulate.

The Communist and Socialist makes it a party for the striker, a day off and permission to despoil, in the name of fairness. Smash a business someone has risked his largess on, disrupting the shopkeeper who barley ekes out a living, overturning the delivery van the small business owner uses to make his deliveries, the general strike is a purely anti capitalist tool.

Why would anyone do it then? Thrasymachus has the answer; Most people have no interest in being unjust but wish to be protected from being subject to injustice and so adhere to some foolish notion of justice hoping the powerful will also adhere to it. (Clearly he agrees with Hsun Ching on the congenital nature of Man). Those that seek power and care nothing for the cost to humanity are free to use injustice as a means to power. Thrasymachus has them nailed they want to appear just while being unjust.

That is why they always make emotional arguments about fairness. Like how “unfair” the US is, applying a measure of 45 or so to us while Europe gets a more favorable 20 or so.. But if you actually look into the metric they use, it is clearly skewed. In Europe they include the redistribution of wealth through the State welfare system in the US they do not. But a much simpler, (and thus less prone to biases but less nuanced) approach is to compare absolute income to absolute income. Average GDP per person in Europe is around $26,000.00 in US dollars, the GDP per person in the US is around $45,000.00 per person. Given that both locals have billionaires the average GDP per person compared to the billionaire makes the US come out much more favorably.

So what is the Fairness the Socialist and Communist seek that they are wiling to visit such calamity on a nation? They claim fairness, in that society has established a floor, below which government will not let a person fall. The definition of that floor, is the metric, that is the font of the general strike. The Communist and Socialist claim to be compassionate, giving to the poor and taking from the rich. Never mind they are always the superrich who never seem to be taxed as they tax others.

Halfwit children of capitalists the Communist and Socialist seeks to control the foolish, money grubbing, dirty little people. Those who smoke and drive around without seatbelts must be reigned in. What the State does best is decide what decisions to make for the people. The premise being, the people, us, we are too stupid to make our own decisions.

The Communist, Socialist and Progressive would shout back, “You prove it every day by smoking, driving around in an SUV, and acting out in general.” All the while smoking a cigarette, jetting to the Riviera for lunch and snorting cocaine the whole way. The main difference being they are the Elite and are not subject to the law while we are not the elite and are.

Not saying George Soros snort’s cocaine…

The Many Flavors of Nationalism

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Dear Friends,

It seems to me, that ninety nine percent of the people on this planet don’t understand why the US is so strong, when it is made up of so many different races of people. In a meeting with the OKW, Hitler was asked about America, when the USSR and Briton were annihilated, what would be the next step. Hitler replied nothing. American cannot survive long, with blacks, whites and asiatics living together, they must necessarily hate and kill each other… Was he wrong.

Because the US is not a nation of whites or Blacks or Latinos or any other color, it is a Nation of Capitalists. We are united in our greed. The pragmatic capitalism that De Tocqueville defined as individualism. People learn English because it is the language of capitalism in the US. People fit in because they want to get ahead… Like every single person in the world, whether they admit it or not. Except people with trust funds, bestowed by some rich relative, in the certain knowledge they are inept, the trust funder detests the money grubbing of their inferiors… Us.

It is not a coincidence that immigrants to the US tend to do better than native citizens. Immigrants tend to be risk takers, else they would have never left their home country. This attribute, along with a strong work ethic, combined with the American capitalist system, allow immigrants to do very well here. Not as many native born citizens are risk takers, Americans may be more risk taking than other people in general, but the percent of immigrants who are risk takers is 100%, while the percent of any given non-mobile population can never approach that number..

Most other nations rally around some form of racial identity. Yes Virginia, we fought WWII to eliminate nationalism, but it is more a force in the World today than ever before. People want to live with people who look and act exactly like themselves. The Yugoslavian war was an example of this. Czechoslovakia and the breakup of the USSR are others. The Basque separatists and Chechnian conflicts continue, as do many others around the globe… Nationalism today is alive and well despite the deaths of millions to stop it.

But in the US nationalism is different. We, most of us, don’t rally around a racial ideal, we rally around a meritorious ideal. The more this ethos is promoted the more US society can absorb different people into itself. Nothing focuses the mind on priorities better than money.

But as these nationalistic countries, out of a sense of jealousy, focus more and more on some view of fairness, that is tied up with national and racial identity, they will have a lower and lower standard of living, polarizing people further and further, into smaller and smaller views of nation.

Like the City State period; In that time people viewed the nation as the city they lived in. Their view of their personal good was inextricably tied to the city state in which they were born in. If they were captured by the neighboring city state they were made slaves. If their city was overrun their families would be tossed from the walls. Their good was the State’s good. And their view of who were their fellows was limited to the people within the walls of their city.

As City States gave way to Nation States people’s view of nation widened. But today it seems people’s view of nation is swinging back to ever smaller definitions. Some argue that this is an inevitable recoil from the breakup of the colonial period. Which has some merit, except for the fact, so much nationalism is happening in Europe where the colonization was done… from, not to. Presumably the Basques didn’t have a problem being part of Spain when Spain was awash in money from the New World, or when Lucullus outwitted the Roman Aristocracy in Iberia until he was stabbed in the back by the people he had saved.

There are many flavors of Nationalism some less caustic than others. Regardless of the definition of nation it is in the best interests of all people to define their nation as anyone living in your geologic local, who is working towards bettering the lives of their families and are participating in the political life of the national community. Race and ethnicity are quickly becoming outmoded terms as the people of the world become more mobile. In a few hundred years, as long as humanity doesn’t fall back into a dark age, there will be very few people who can claim one “nationality” as most Americans are multi national in their lineages

That is why the US continues to absorb people from the world over all calling themselves Americans. We are united… in our wants, to want a better life for our children, to want the things that will make our lives easier, the want of independence and our want to be free to enjoy the fruits of that independence. Americans focus on wants and disregard how much other people have. As Veblen said, in America people don’t resent wealth because they might someday have it…

People are united in greed but are disunited in jealousy.

Pragmatism, Fatalism and Idealism

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Dear Friends,

It seems to me that Capitalism, more precisely, the Market System, breeds pragmatism. The feudal system and socialistic systems create other points of view.

People who live in a market system have to weigh decisions all the time. Whether to spend more time looking for the cheapest alternative, or decide they have sufficient information, weighing time against money. We who live in a capitalist system also weigh our actions and reactions every day and in every way. To live in a capitalist nation one practices pragmatism all the time… Practice makes perfect.

If a person get’s stuck on some losing venture it is often more practicable to simply take your licks and try another. Spending $300.00 to get back $100.00 is foolish. The pragmatists just moves to another table. The emotional person will fight it out no matter the cost.

Some corrupt people count on pragmatists. They know that most pragmatists will not throw good money after bad. This philosophy only works as long as some large portion of society is pragmatic. But if the portion that will emotionally react, and take it as a personal insult, gets to some theoretical limit, the profitability of the scam is washed by the incessant, costly, fighting.

In this way pragmatism, which is beneficial for not only the markets to function efficiently, but for society to operate smoothly, is a threat to the very markets and society it benefits.

But in societies that have no functional market system due to government not protecting property rights, or too much corruption in government, there is no incentive to pragmatism. Fatalism takes hold in these societies. Fatalist philosophy that undermines a market far more effectively than pragmatism.

Because fatalism is not a motivating factor it is de-motivating. If there is no hope why struggle? Just blend into the cesspool that you live in, cleaning nothing, improving nothing, further fouling the community. The fatalist is not motivated to improve his lot because he is convinced it cannot be improved.

The pragmatist however, sees the plight of his community, and seeks to change it for the better. Perhaps by starting a business… to alleviate some want in his community. The pragmatist realizes the corrupt nature of Man. But the pragmatist simply works within the parameters of Mankind‘s nature.

Idealists provide fodder for pragmatists, but fail themselves, because monsters from their Ids sabotage their efforts. Those monsters are, their egos, bigotry, ignorance’s and point of view. Each monster undermines the idealists attempts at societal evolution/revolution.

An ego is a terrible thing to waste but waste it we must, else we run the risk of seeing our fellow man as a lab rat, not as a human being. Never taking his wants or point of view into account. After all, who know’s better, some ignorant lab rat, or the idealist?

No one is free from bigotry. Not you and not I. But bigotry is not an inborn thing. Certainly not within the congenital nature of Man, but it is a learned thing, an extrinsic thing. Because when a child is born they have no feelings one way or another about other people. They have no concept of other yet. An infant learns about other by their interactions with others. Some interactions will inevitably be good and some bad. All of our initial interactions with others, however, will color our view of other.

Knowledge is never universal. No flawed human being can be omniscient. No amount of learning can prepare a person to run the lives of millions of his fellows. Because it is impossible to hold that much knowledge in one’s mind. Let alone actually learn everything needed to undertake such a Herculean task. Noah’s and Uncle Po’s long lives fell short of the time to learn all that would be required. We all are ignorant in our own way. There is no getting around that.

All these factors combine to make a human being’s point of view. The idealist, the fatalist and the pragmatist all have their point of view, honed by years of interactions, learning, and the societal ethos they were raised in. All these points of view have negative incentives for the proper functioning of a market system.

But of all three, it is the idealist that has visited far more horror on Mankind, in the name of good, than all the others combined.

The Quality of Debate Effects the Quality of Policy

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Dear Friends,

It seems to me that when a person’s argument is weak they tend to change the subject a lot. Doing so keeps their opponent off balance. More importantly, the weak points in their arguments are never examined.

A weak policy point, not examined, makes bad policy when enacted. As more and more poorly thought out policies are put into place the material wellbeing of a society suffers. The legislator that seeks to avoid argument, ducking the facts, making ad homonym attacks, and answering the question he wished he was asked instead of the question he was actually asked, inevitably puts bad policies into regulation and law.

Not one side does it, both sides do it, in the USA. In other countries all sides do it. Even a cursory glance at the media coverage of the political struggle going on today in the US, shows undeniably, that the policies and premises of the people running for office are studiously avoided.

I for one want to know what a candidate for public office has for a basic philosophy. Not only of governing but his or her view of their fellow man. That goes directly back to the basic philosophical underpinnings of a candidate. A pointless attack ad with scary music in the background gives me no usable information at all. But then again, isn’t that the point, it isn‘t supposed to?

To obfuscate the issues. Both sides do it so both sides must feel their arguments are weak. If both sides have no confidence in their arguments how can they feel comfortable putting their ideas into action? One look at the product of our legislators, the regulations and laws they enact, shows how shoddy their workmanship is.

We have measures for the accuracy of a line. We can scale the cost benefit of a given business plan. As rational maximizers we weigh the cost vs. benefits of everything we do, on a daily basis. All these things are done today, by those that live in this time and this place, because we were raised and live in a market economy.

But there is no value for the quality of legislation… Or is there?

Quality legislation is never easy. Lengthy, impossible to understand legislation, with a myriad of unexpected consequences is far easier. An historical example, why too much complexity can be damaging, is from World War Two, it is the difference between a German Panzer Kampf Wagon Mark 5 Panther and a US mark 5 Sherman Medium Battle Tank. The Panther was far stronger, with much more armor, and bigger gun, but was prone to breakdowns. The Sherman had one advantage, It worked. It started and ran. In an average Panzer unit as much as 50% or more Panthers could be out of service due to mechanical problems. A typical Sherman unit had less then 20% down at any time.

So if two identical units, of 100 tanks each, engaged in combat, the US unit would have 80 tanks, or more, on the battlefield, the German would have fewer than 50. In individual terms the Panther was superior but in the aggregate the Sherman was superior. Because the Sherman was simpler.

Simplicity in legislation avoids one of the biggest problems with new legislation… unintended consequences. It also minimizes the need for attorneys to “interpret” what the law means. If it is well written and simple the meaning is obvious, but if it is serpentine and highly intrusive, it is less obvious and effects more and more things it wasn’t intended to.

But most importantly does it work and how often? Legislation or regulation that damages the interests of those that are regulated is commonplace. Is that good regulation? Often legislation drives whole industries offshore. Is that well though out?

But the incentives, as they are in our society, drive the media and our politicians to avoid the issues and focus on personal attacks, because they work. The electorate is satisfied with mud slinging. It protects us from having to think, we can just react.

And there is the point. As long as we live in a market economy, using logic on a daily basis for every decision we make. Reacting instead of thinking, when it comes to politics, ensures bad results.

Emotionally based policymaking is far more dangerous than it feels.

This Election Season

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Dear Friends,

It seems to me, this election season, in the US, is another example of the electorate searching for leaders, that actually follow the American ethos. So far, both political parties have run as neo-conservatives, (people who want to conserve the modern liberal democracy and market system as opposed to traditional European conservatives who want(ed) to conserve the feudal system), But when they get into power they rule as neo-liberals, (anti capitalist pro government people, who hold the average citizen to be a mouth breathing fool, needing to be controlled).

Take the Republican party running in 2000. They ran on a platform of tax cuts and further fiscal tightening. After they got the victory, the economy went into recession, as a result of the overbuilding of infrastructure in the years before Y2K. Once the Millennium passed and the World’s computer networks didn’t crash, there was no need of more technology upgrades until the newly purchased equipment was obsolete, collapsing the demand for technology

The republicans passed tax cuts as “stimulus” and spent money to keep up aggregate demand, per the Keynesian model. Their following the liberal model of economic stimulus worked to some extent in that the economy did expand at a fast rate until 2007. But shortsighted regulation, causing bubbles to form, driving up energy costs and thus unbalancing the economy, made conditions perfect for a recession. The inevitable, (due to regulation), huge spike in energy costs provided the trigger and the World economy went into recession.

In the 2008 election season the democrats campaigned that the republicans had spent the American people into the poor house. That the democrats could repair the economy in short order. No real plan was put forth but vague talking points like middle class tax cuts and rhetoric about fairness. The democrats were elected in a landslide. Their demi-conservative message and their cult of personality leader generating the momentum.

As soon as the democrats regained “their” power they raised taxes on the poor in the form of cigarette tax increase. The wave of spending, regulation, usurping of rights and outright corruption, in only 2 years back in power have turned the stomachs of the American people. Now the American people are looking for someone who will control taxes… AND spending but most importantly… get the economy back to a healthy growth rate! To do this government must abandon the Keynesian model and go back to the historically effective neo conservative approach. Even if they don’t know, consciously, what that approach is.

Put simply, the neo conservative approach to managing the economy, are to move as close to lasses faire policies as possible, without damaging the interests of the consumer. Lowering regulation would help the economy drastically. Cutting spending would send a signal to markets that the US government will remain solvent, and signal the consumer, that taxes will not need to be raised in the future. Another consequence of lowering government spending is that it will positively impact the US balance of trade. Less government spending means less government demand for foreign capital.

As I have argued many times before in this blog, government demand does not equal consumer demand. So when aggregate demand is driven up by government demand the economy must warp to meet the new demand. It must necessarily turn away from meeting the demands of consumers and business and meet the new government demand. Remember our poor sofa salesman. But when the government cannot keep up it’s demand, the gravy train has to end when government is bankrupt, the economic actors must revert to try to meet consumer demand. Further diminishing the efficiency of economic forces due to the unbalanced situation that government demand puts on an economy.

So, as I have pointed out, the reason the American people are becoming more polarized and more angry, is that both parties, run as neo conservatives… but rule as neo liberals. Regardless of the rhetoric in the elections, the American people have come to believe that their leaders, will act as tax and spend liberals, no matter their party affiliation, because that has been the paradigm.

Will the incoming group behave differently? If history is to tell, then no, they won’t. We can expect spending to accelerate, regulation to be passed without even being read and taxes to rise. The inevitable result will be, diminishing economic growth, creating more anger and polarization of the electorate.

But what would happen if the new bunch actually legislate instead of rule? We can expect vitriol from the unbiased media. We can expect the personal lives of any legislators that buck the system to be destroyed. The entrenched elite will fight to their last breath. They will count on Olson being correct. Making the fight bloody.

But, with this much at stake, I pray the newly elected members of the US congress are true to their word, despite the inevitable personal destruction they will experience for it…

Foundational Wisdom and the Right Constitution of Government

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Dear Friends,

It seems to me that true wisdom, foundational wisdom, stands the test of time. By time, I don’t mean the ideas are still talked about, like the Spartan civilization, but are still relevant.

Take Confucius. His philosophy is as relevant today as it was then. His theory of the Jen Man, (Gentleman), is meta-societal. The mean that the Jen Man lives is very similar to the Aristotle’s mean. No matter the society one finds himself in the Jen Man finds the moral mean. He is never off balance because he lives the mean.

Why would a person ever be off balance if they always lived the moral average of the society in which they live? To live the average makes a person average. Mediocrity in morality is not repellant. But the extremely moral person makes the average sinner feel inferior just as the reprobate makes the average sinner feel superior. No matter that comparing is a sin we all do it comparing is human nature. That is why the person who lives the golden mean is never off balance… Timeless advice from 550BC.

I look at the modern incarnations of sages and find them wanting. They are full of advice about selling your home or getting a date. There is nothing wrong or foolish about these things. But they are tied to this time and this place. Similarly Marx’s and Justus Moser’s philosophies were mired in time and place.

In the time and place it was written this type of philosophy can be quite useful and sagely advice. But it does not become foundational wisdom. Such foundational wisdom can be found throughout the ages and in many places. The Bhagavaad Gita is another ancient example from India.

When the founders of governments have these foundational insights in mind, the governments created by such men, are like niobium magnets to the iron filings of able people. People are drawn to those nations even against their own will.

An ancient example is Rome. As Livy described it, after Romulus founded Rome, he opened it up to immigration, anyone, no matter the reason they wanted in, could come. The result was Rome was filled with extremely ambitious and able men. It could be argued that the most ambitious people from all across the Italian peninsula and beyond settled Rome. Certainly Greeks from some of the Greek colonies on the peninsula at the time came and became Romans. When Numa Pompi wrote the Laws of Rome, Laws that would stand for 900 years, he had foundational wisdom in mind. With the combination of an ambitious people and well crafted laws, (for the time), Rome became one of the most advanced civilizations the planet has seen.

A modern example being the United States of America. The founders had, firmly in mind, foundational truths. They read and were familiar with, not only Christian doctrine and philosophy, but the philosophy of many others as well. In the Federalist Papers Madison refers to Aristotle, Smith, and Montesquieu. He discussed some of the spurious arguments socialists would bring up later and deftly explains the sophistry of them. The founders were well read and keen minded, individualists, in the sense that De Toquville had in mind. They understood human nature and the Constitution they wrote is a shining example of their insight.

For all the hate America rhetoric around the World, there is no other nation of Earth, that has so many people, from across the world, clamoring to get into it. If the American experience is so bad why do so many people seek it and vote with their feet for it? Remember actions speak louder than words. No matter how loudly a person says they hate everything the US stands for, if they seek to immigrate to the US, their actions bely their words. Because who seeks to immigrate to North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, ETC…? No matter the extreme level of equality. Equally paid, fed, housed, clothed, health services and tyrannized.

That is because the foundation of those governments, are mired in a time and a place, and as a jealous reaction, to the surplus of supply, generated by the advent of the market system. Therefore they are doomed. No amount of tinkering can fix a car that never worked from the time it was brand new. No matter how well built an internal combustion engine cannot run on water. If the design is flawed there is no use… it must be destroyed and rebuilt.

So why would anyone in their right mind ever want to change the USA into North Korea? It defies logic. But that is exactly where the road leads that the Obama administration has put us on. Dragging the recalcitrant American people every step. The outright rage seen in the American electorate is clear evidence they have no interest in that destination.

Everyone agrees it is not a place anyone wants to go to… So why go there?

Property Rights Come in Many Flavors

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Dear Friends,

It seems to me that there is both public and private speech. But speech can be broken down further. There is private speech about public things and private speech about private things. There can also be public speech about public things and public speech about private things.

For government to interfere in private speech at all is a dire threat to free speech and the well ordering of our society. As well as for government to interfere in public speech about public things.

Public speech about private things is a different matter. US law allows that public speech about an individual must be factually correct else it may be tried as slander. This is an example of public speech about private things.

The reason this is the case, is that public speech about private things is an immoral way to leverage people, into acting against their personal interests and perhaps the public interests (blackmail). It also is a prerequisite for a market system to function.

Every economist from Adam Smith through Olson agree that property rights are the cornerstone of a market system. Without property rights markets stop functioning. I have gone over many reasons in previous blogs why this is so.

Property comes in a variety of flavors however. There can be real property. Land, homes or condominiums. There can be property in the form of ideas a person puts down on paper, film or record. Personal property like chattel is another example. But property also can be information about a person. Personal information and personal dignity. These are also forms of private property.

Today we have examples of why this is so. The media has been reporting that a college student committed suicide after another televised his personal behavior on the internet. Regardless of the behavior, the person who televised secretly the personal information of the college student, stole from him no less than if he had shoved a gun in his face and demanded his wallet. In this case the government has a duty to prosecute the perpetrator as if he or she were a common thief.

That’s not what the government wants to do. The government wants to use the case to further the legal notion of thought laws. The people who violated the student’s property rights are being punished for their thoughts instead of their actions. Looking down this steep a slope gives me the chills. But this line of legal argument inevitably forces us, as a people and society, onto it.

Another example that appears in today’s media are the people who are protesting at the funerals of US servicemen and women who have died in action. On the surface it appears that it is public speech about public things. If that is the case it should be protected by the Court as free speech. But, if you think about it, is it really?

Is a cemetery a public forum for the free exchange of ideas? Is a funeral a public event… or a private event? But most importantly, is the dignity of a soldier, a human being who has, altruistically given his or her life, for the property rights of society as a whole, should government protect the property rights of that person? Are the property rights of a fallen soldier forfeited because he died in a public event? I.e. a war.

The reason government exists in a society that has a market system is to provide the framework to allow the market to function. Property rights being one of them. The deeper reason property rights are protected is the incentives that are set up if they are not.

What are the incentives in our society where, these most personal and private, property rights are not protected by the State?