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Saturday, December 20, 2014

 

Olson's Social Contract

Based on Power and Prosperity by Mancur Olson
            Moving from a state of nature to what many philosophers have dubbed a social contract requires either a tacit or an explicit concession of one's rights to the state. Exchanging these rights to protect the remaining rights that one possesses. In Power and Prosperity Mancur Olson offers us an alternate theory to the classic paradigm made famous by Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau. Two variations of the bandit exist in this model. The roving bandit who represents anarchy in society and the stationary bandit who when materialized represented the initial example of tyranny. Implying that consent never existed, just a less predations more desirable bandit. The roving bandit does one thing, he plunders society causing no incentive for whomever he plunders to produce. Less production will achieve less consumption, thus less for the bandit to plunder. Once the roving bandit realizes he can corner the crime market in his respected region, his interests shift to those of the stationary bandit, thus our modern governments are born. This creates incentives for the bandit. Incentives to keep his plundering to a minimum. "Because of his monopoly on crime and taxation," the stationary bandit, "has an encompassing interest in his domain that makes him limit his predations because he bears a substantial share of the social losses resulting from these predations."(9) Thus, it would be prohibitive for the stationary bandit to enforce a 100% tax rate and beneficial to provide public goods. Whether we can completely abandon the bandit overtime is unclear and in my view impossible. Our best case scenario is banditry that limits its predations to a minimum. Olson concludes that there only exists two ways to generate prosperity. The first way is secure defined rights and impartial enforcement of contracts. The second is a complete absence of predation. Democracy is simply the most likely institution to fulfill this. But as Olson explains, is also open to the, "sclerosis of special interests," over time. The same special interests that are eroding our nation and allowing for the growing inequality that presently exists.    

 

Stiglitz, Prosperity, and Labor Union


Based on The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz
             Looking for an alternative view on why such great inequality exists within the world I turned to Nobel Prize winner in economics Joseph Stiglitz and his progressive views on why nations fail. Stiglitz asserts that the incomes of the top 1% have been steadily rising, doubling since 1980. This has led to a "hollowing out of the middle class," which has increased poverty throughout our nation. Offering us a starting point for government predation, Stiglitz argues that our troubles began during the Reagan administration in the 1980s. The deregulation of the financial sector coupled with tax cuts has allowed the top 400 earners in the United States to pay an average tax rate of just below 20%. This has led to the U.S. having the most inequality and the worst equality of opportunity among advanced nations. One reason is due to the decline of unions in America. 
            Stiglitz argues that Reagan deregulation in the 80s has had a negative impact on our economy. Stiglitz claims that between 1980 and 2000 one reason why inequality has risen in America is because unions in the U.S. declined from 20.1% to 11.9%. This has had significant impact on the earnings of Americans and created an imbalance of power in the workforce, with power being diverted from the employee to the employer. This together with capture theory (industry being captured by the agency that is supposed to regulate it) has allowed for corporate managers to seize greater portions of wealth regardless of profit, therefore widening the inequality gap.
            The problem with this argument is unions don't create jobs within the industries they monopolize. They effectively contribute in lowering the number of jobs. When the worker receives wages above equilibrium this implies an increase in productivity for the worker. Without there would be no way to support the inflated wages demanded by unions. When productivity doesn't increase and even decreases, the direct result is layoffs within the industry or a rise in the price of outputs. This gives incentive to create entry barriers to the industry, thus artificially lowering the number of jobs that it can support. Further, because it's important to retain jobs, any move towards efficiency technology is vetoed. Combined, this implies that the above market wages unions secure for workers allows for an artificial entry barrier into the labor market. This leads to unemployment, a rise in prices, and less innovation.
            Because Stiglitz believes that markets are neither stable nor efficient and will cause wealth to be distributed from the many to the few when left alone. He concludes that free and competitive markets can only be attained through government intervention. Like all progressives, Stiglitz believes that interventionism in the market fosters prosperity. This is why he supports labor unions, government involvement, and other predacious means of acquiring people's money like estate taxes. All these inhibit growth, not support it. This is also why he chooses a starting point like the Reagan administration. I might have chosen when the courts started supporting collective bargaining between these cartels instead of supporting contracts that already existed. While I agree with Stiglitz's assertions that excessive inequality slows down the mechanisms of capitalism, I disagree with his theory on how to attain prosperity. Simply put government should protect freedom of contract and outside force, no more.  

 

 

How prosperity originated


Based on the book Why Nation Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson
            In the 14th Century the Plague wiped out almost half of the world's population. This catastrophic event was the catalyst for our modern inclusive institutions. The loss of so many citizens left a void in Europe that caused two very different scenarios. In the east extraction persisted both economically and politically. While in the west feudalism was almost altogether abandoned due to the labor shortage, sending us down a path of inclusion. Broadly, inclusion refers to active participation. Inclusive economic institutions, "are those that allow and encourage participation by the great mass of people in economic activities that make best use of their talents and skills and that enable individuals to make the choices they wish." (74) Some key tenets being property rights, a rule of law, and basic public services. Inclusive political institutions follow the same basic ideas and boast pluralism and centralization. On the opposite side of the spectrum lies extractive institutions, "extractive because such institutions are designed to extract incomes and wealth from one subset of society to benefit a different subset." (76) Property rights are almost non-existent under extractive institutions and if they did exist, rule of law would be so that no one would enforce them. Political institutions that are extractive narrowly distribute power and are often completely unrestrained in every aspect.
            Several things happened in Western Europe, specifically England, to facilitate inclusion. The English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution were both results of the institutional struggles that were adverse to the average citizen. "The Glorious Revolution of 1688...limited the power of the King and the executive, and relocated to Parliament the power to determine economic institutions." (102) Once a footing for inclusion was found it gradually persisted, growing through the increased liberty and the notion of a rule of law, speeding up the process of political centralization and creating the, "world's first set of inclusive political institutions." (102) A direct consequence was the spreading of inclusion to the economic sector. This is what the authors referred to as the virtuous circle. As inclusion is advanced it naturally fosters more inclusive institutions, allowing them to persist and exist. Opposite, the vicious circle allows for tyranny to ensue until it collapses under its own weight.
            The authors argue that the emergence of more inclusion in politics following the Glorious Revolution had several contributing factors. Power was being diverted to middle class and they had a direct incentive to maintain as much inclusion as possible. Next was the broad coalitions that were formed by the newly enfranchised people. Successful because of numbers and diversity. This was not a revolution brought about by narrow interests, but by these newly formed political groups. Finally, the political history at the time allowed for a foundation for which more inclusive regimes could form. Specifically England and France's history of parliaments facilitated this as well as both countries had previously started shifting ideology away from absolutism to more pluralistic ones.
            The virtuous circle is able to maintain momentum because once in place power transfers are mandated by law. This makes it difficult to seize any more power than is delegated, with checks and balances maintaining accountability. Second is that inclusive political institutions are supported by inclusive economic institutions; they remove extractive ones by mandating laws against things like slavery and not granting government monopolies. Third, and maybe most important, it allows for free media to exists. Media is important because it provides important information to the masses and allows for resistance and assemblage in opposition to threats against inclusive institutions.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

 

Give me Liberty or give me a well-planned nutrient plan.


Some of might have noticed over the last few years that the food you buy at restaurants has some strange numbers next to your favorite meal. Those numbers are the calorie count of that meal. Why did McDonald all of the sudden add the calorie intake to all their menu items. FDA would be the answer to that question, the FDA is requiring or more like forcing restaurants with over 20 locations to post the calorie intake or count of all the items on their menu. This has been done with the hope that when someone goes to McDonald’s and sees how many calories are in his favorite item they will cut back on the food they eat there.

The FDA and those that are pushing these changes believe that the government should be the grown-up for tens of millions Americans and tell them what they should eat, how they should eat, and how much they should eat. They don’t think this action should be left to the individual but be put in the hands of the government. They seem to think that people can’t for themselves that they need a guiding hand to push them in the right path. I wonder if anyone else feels as insulted about this as I do. I myself had weight issues about a year back I also liked to eat at restaurants like McDonalds and Smash-burger. But I didn’t need the government to tell me that eating at those restaurants was unhealthy for me. Most people that eat at those places know it’s not a healthy meal but eat there because they like the taste of the food. It’s insulting to think that the American public is too stupid to know that these places sell unhealthy food. The FDA acts like this is a market failure because there is a lack of information and that they should try and fix it. That they know that this new rule will end all the problems of obesity. But that’s clearly not the case as can be seen in the results so far, many of the results have shown no change in dietary habit since the law was enacted. But this shouldn’t be a surprise, it was never the lack of information about the calorie numbers that caused people to eat at these places but their preferences.

There is another issue with all of this from the classical liberal view and it’s the constant expanding of the federal government and its blatant theft of property from the restaurant owners. It cannot be explained in any other manner, if companies are forced to do something with their property that they don’t want to. The federal government has taken the property of the restaurant owners and put their calorie numbers on every single one of them. The worst part about this is that almost no one seems that concerned about it, sure some people might not like it or think it’s stupid but nearly anyone seems to be up in arms that the government just expanded its powers and force to new highs and blatantly took property of someone else.

Liberty/classical liberalism would say or what I think they would say on the matter is that this is why we need limits on the power of government. That we should enforce that the role of the government is to protect private property not to steal it. That we should focus on the individual and his rights not on some grand theory of what’s the greatest outcome for the greatest amount of people, that’s bound to fail and end up hurting many more people then it helps. I think we should look at what the role of government is and should be in America and focus more on the rights of individuals rather than on some collective good, before it’s too late and the government has taken your property as well, all in the name of the greater good.
http://www.unitedliberty.org/articles/18902-big-government-at-it-again-fda-proposes-sweeping-calorie-count-labeling-rules
http://www.consumeraffairs.com/restaurant-menu-labeling
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21326209
http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/28/6/w1110.abstract
 

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

 

Bioshock and Economic Liberty

Recently, over the Steam Black Friday sale, I picked up, among other games, Bioshock.  It is a highly enjoyable game, and one of the most interesting aspects of the game is its universe and the characters within it.  The basic premise of the game is that, in the 1950s, an Ayn Rand-superhero-esque genius named Andrew Ryan... I'll just let him tell you in his own words.  This is the opening monologue of the game.

"I am Andrew Ryan, and I'm here to ask you a question. Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow? 'No!' says the man in Washington, 'It belongs to the poor.' 'No!' says the man in the Vatican, 'It belongs to God.' 'No!' says the man in Moscow, 'It belongs to everyone.' I rejected those answers; instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose... Rapture, a city where the artist would not fear the censor, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality, where the great would not be constrained by the small! And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well."

Later on, when the character is walking through a park built at the bottom of the ocean (called Arcadia) Ryan gets on the radio with your character and says the following.

"On the surface, I once bought a forest. The parasites claimed that the land belonged to God, and demanded that I establish a public park there. Why? So the rabble could stand slack-jawed under the canopy and pretend that it was paradise 'earned'. When Congress moved to nationalize my forest, I burnt it to the ground. God did not plant the seeds of this Arcadia - I did."

While Ryan is an all-around reprehensible character that does some highly questionable things, the true liberty economist will actually sound something like Andrew Ryan (philosophically if not morally).  By the logic of liberty economics, a person's property is their own to do with as they please, whether it is to sell, use, or destroy (Ryan's question of "Is not a man entitled to the sweat of his brow?").  Thus, if a person wishes to raze an entire forest to the ground out of pure spite, so long as they own the forest and they do not harm another person in the process, they are perfectly at liberty to do so: i.e., if there isn't someone in the forest when it is burnt.  

Sunday, December 07, 2014

 

Restoring Liberty

Lately, we have been talking about flaws in the political system in the U.S. and how those flaws affect it's citizens liberty and freedom. The Constitution was meant to give the people of the United States liberty as unalienable rights but that doesn't seem to be the case in present day. There are many ways the government uses force to take liberty away from it's people.
       Since that is the case, why do we the people allow it? We wouldn't let any individual do the things the government does to us so what makes the government different? One theory, as Professor Eubanks stated, is that the people view the government as a parental figure which gives comfort to the people. Obama said, “Look, we tried leaving you free to live your own life, and that didn’t work. You have to be forced, you have to have your earnings seized by the state, you have to work under our directions–under penalty of fines or imprisonment. You don’t deserve to be free,” (http://www.forbes.com/sites/harrybinswanger/2013/12/31/obama-to-americans-you-dont-deserve-to-be-free/2/). To me, that sounds like an attitude similar to white slave owners when talking to their black slaves. Does that make the American people slaves to the government? In some scenarios, yes. Regulations are becoming more prevalent now more than ever, constricting liberty more and more. 
       What can Americans do to restore liberty? Acting would be the obvious first step but how can we get more people on board and see real change? First, people need to be made aware of the present situation. Should and emotion need to be attached to the message during education to gain more followers and for better effectiveness. If a big enough movement starts, there will be change. What would change? Maybe the way politics have an effect on liberty and certainly how the government uses force on it's people. The reason I include politics is because the way the government and the election process is set up now gives the wrong incentives in regards to liberty. If the incentives were set up for maximum liberty, that is what would happen. 
       This is my opinion on what would work to restore liberty in the U.S. The reason I chose to discuss this is from our discussion on Friday and this question of how do we restore liberty was left unanswered so I wanted to give my opinion. Eventually, such an event will happen, as people can only take oppression for so long. If the people are made aware of the oppression, I think such a movement could happen much sooner than later. Hopefully, it does. 

       


Saturday, December 06, 2014

 
Efficiency vs. Liberty
               As economists we often try to finds ways to have the most efficient allocation of resources or increase efficiency. There are countless studies and research papers in economics about different public policies we can enact to achieve higher GDP or greater productivity. These recommendations seem to always skip over whether or not the action of the new policy will go against liberty. Liberty is simply overlooked on a majority of policy recommendations or policy decisions.
               I don't expect every economist to use liberty in their policy decisions. I do expect some judgment on morality to be made before the policy recommendation is made. The lack of judgment based on morality or liberty makes the argument that efficiency is always more important than liberty. I heard the idea the other day of giving more money to early education would increase GDP latter down the road when the children are older. However, when this idea was being pitched to me there no mention of whether if it was right or wrong to take money from everyone and give it to the few young children. It's difficult to understand policy decisions like these because they simply ignore whether it is right to force everyone to do something like this.

               I find when economists make recommendations that affect public policy I almost automatically disregard it immediately because I have no interest in doing something that would limit liberty. When economists make recommendations of increasing GDP or being more productive the way to achieve this should be in the private marketplace. Economists should look for ways to increase productivity in the private markets. If economists did this then no one would be forced to do something they did not. 

Friday, December 05, 2014

 

Education a Human Right?

I find it pretty troubling how little the United States values education compared to other first world countries. One of the many things of this concept that troubles me is the incredible lack of government aid compared to other countries (I'm talking about increasing accessibility, not necessarily financially) to encourage high school graduates with low incomes to go to universities. Universities seem a lot more interested in their financial profits than of their quality education and research, and this is certainly a huge problem.

The prices for tuition continue to go up in the United States for pretty much all universities and campuses, however what is really being done about this? Student loans with less interest isn't doing something about the problem. Why is it in some European countries - Germany, Sweden, and Norway for example - are willing to make education a lot more accessible for their people by imposing price limitations for universities to charge their students, while the United States does very little? It's pretty obvious to many foreign transfers (I have spoken to a few here at UCCS) that colleges in the United States are willing to put a substantial amount of money into unimportant things, sports for example, when there is absolutely zero educational value in sports at these universities.

Tuition rates have skyrocketed in the last twenty to thirty years because of the high, and continually rising, demand for upper education. Many universities need this money to grow and expand, build new buildings, housing, etc in order to accommodate the amount of students that get accepted to these universities. Though, a lot of these universities also build these buildings not only with tuition fees, but with supporter money and funding. That is why some buildings get named after these people that greatly contribute to making these buildings possible. So, with massive outside funding coming in (including state funding, take the future sport arena going to be built on Nevada for example), why do tuition fees continue to rise? Just to clarify, this type of behavior is directed toward all universities, not just UCCS. UCCS, compared to most universities, actually has lower than average tuition rates in the United States, but would be considered incredibly high for a lot of European countries.

Yes, lower interest rates help, but why are we even being charged interest on education that can benefit our country's workforce and research? We are still paying a lot more than we should on tuition alone before textbooks (some semesters I find myself spending up to $500 on books, and that doubles for hard science majors) and housing (some students need to live on or near campus and housing alone is almost half the price of one semester of tuition). Education should be considered a human right that should be much more accessible and encouraged, and not used to make massive amounts of money off of students seeking to better their lives.

 

Urban Planning and Socialism

Jake Miller
December 5, 2014
Economic Freedom
Blog Post 2
Socialism and Urban Planning
                Socialism is defined as an economic theory that came up in the nineteenth century where simply the government controls the economy and influences most of the individual’s choices.  It is looked at not as crazy as communism but a little less liberal than that of communism.  Where socialism comes into the picture with this idea is that urban planning is looking more and more like a socialistic idea that only some people are seeing.   Now governments are using lots of regulation to go down the socialistic route to obtain the goals of productivity, equivalence, and control of externalities.  All of these qualities are being used in urban planning according to the piece by Randal O’Toole titled Is Urban Planning “Creeping Socialism”?   O’Toole claims that, “Urban planning rests on the ideas that urban residents impose numerous externalities on one another and that planning and regulation can minimize such externalities.  Despite their claim of scientific expertise, planners often have little idea what they are doing: cities are simply too complex to understand or control.”  So from this quote you can see that urban planning has had some bad historical failures.  There are a couple of qualities of urban planning that suggest we are creeping to socialism.
                Smart growth is the main tool that is used by urban planners and they are trying to discourage auto driving.  There are many parking and transportation limits that smart growth has caused.  O’Toole tells us that, “But smart-growth planners say that building more roads only encourages more auto traffic. Their goal instead is to discourage driving by reducing road capacities. They call this strategy “traffic calming.” It consists of putting barriers in roads to reduce speeds or flow capacities.”  The funny thing about this idea is that the government has socialized highways and streets and now cause of urban planners using smart growth to make less highways/streets because it only makes more people want to drive and cause more congestion.

                Smart growth urban planners also think that air pollution is a problem because of the mass amounts of automobiles that are being used.  So simply if less people are driving or using cars to commute then there will be less air pollution that people will have to inhale.  O’Toole states that, “Therefore, a transportation system that results in many short trips at slow speeds in stop-and-go traffic will produce far more pollution than one that results in longer trips in free-flowing traffic averaging 45 miles per hour. Because smart growth is more likely to produce the former conditions, it could significantly degrade air quality.”  This statistic is staggering to me because really I would believe to that the more cars on the road create more pollution, but the more the stop and go the automobile is creates most of the pollution that is harmful to us.  The idea of smart growth that urban planners use is definitely hinders on personal freedoms, and liberties of people and does creep us closer to socialism.  

 

Private Ownership of Natural Resources

Too often today do we hear about "greedy" capitalists exploiting natural resources for their own personal gain.  People see the clear cutting of forests, the exhaustion of farmland, extensive drought, and so on and so on, and immediately associate it with greedy capitalism.  But their blame is misplaced.  To truly understand why resources are being exploited, people must first turn their attention to the government policy in place.

Take, for instance, the example of clear cutting.  Many people see patches of barren land in otherwise lush forests and immediately begin to think of exploitation.  They believe that "greedy" capitalists are clear cutting forests only for their own personal gains (seen as profits).  But what they fail to recognize is the government policy in place that allows certain firms to exploit the resources in the first place.  Because most forest land in the United States is "public" land owned by the government (so technically owned by no one), firms must get permission to use the land or the resources on it.  But since they don't own the land, only the rights to its resources for a particular amount of time, the firm's only incentive is to cut as many trees as possible as quickly as possible.  They don't have the incentive to replant trees because they do not own the actual capital value of the land itself.  This sets up an incentive structure that is much different had the firm actually owned the land it was using to harvest resources.

The simple solution to the problem (at least in the case of clear cutting) is to allow private ownership of such lands and the natural resources they possess.  When a private owner owns a certain acreage of forest and he decides to harvest timber from it, he must do so responsibly in order to satisfy future demand.  If the owner decides to cut all the trees at once, he would have to wait a number of years before his resource base replenished itself.  He feels obligated to take care of his land (such as replanting trees once they've been harvested) because if he doesn't, the future success of his timber business will be in doubt.  The incentive structure has thus changed, and the change demands that the owner be responsible with his land and the valuable resources (as determined by consumers) that it possesses.  

 

Religion and Economic Freedom

Many religions devote large amounts of literature and knowledge towards the ideas of loving each other, doing kind things, and being a better person through acts of altruism. For many, concepts such as altruism, sharing, and never consuming above one's means are foreign concepts to the proponent of capitalism. This logic seems to fit for it can only be described as a grand hypocrisy to promote a system of self-interest while claiming your religious faith is to follow the ideas of selflessness.

On his nationally-recognized show The Colbert Report comedian Stephen Colbert claims, "Because if this is gonna be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we've got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition, and then we admit that we just don't wanna do it." Obviously, it would be silly to take the words of a comedian, who is known for his satire, too seriously, but it does bring up an interesting philosophical question: can religious ideals and economic freedom coexist?

Perhaps, they cannot. As I explained above, a society promoting self-interest seems to be inherently selfish, but this is not the whole story, and anyone who claims this logic is missing a few key notions on freedom and giving. George Price was a brilliant mathematician who proved that altruism was an evolutionary concept; his theory eventually drove him to madness and suicide. His theory stated that the only reason we act altruistically is to benefit ourselves in the long run. This is not as crazy as it may seem. Any economist knows the goal of consumption is to maximize utility. Consumption requires a cost to be paid, and such a cost is paid in order to fulfill the goal of being happy. This logic may hint that altruism many not be as altruistic as we previously thought. If we are acting in our own self-interest when we give, are we really being selfless?

Furthermore, the opponent of laissez-faire capitalism who claims religious morals conflict with capitalist ideals misunderstands what giving is. The act of giving, which for our purposes we are defining as an altruistic action, is the voluntarily allocation of one's resources to another at no cost to the recipient. It is not an act of altruism to propose a tax hike in favor of giving to the needy, nor is it an act of altruism to pay one's taxes so long as the tax money is used for the public good. These acts are not voluntary, so they are not acts of altruism. Only acts done through voluntary means can be considered altruistic so long as they adhere to the definition of giving. In fact, we can argue that the forceful allocation of resources from one to another on the basis that the other is impoverished is an act of great selfishness. An action can only be considered altruistic if the resources given belonged to the giver.  

 

Immigration and Economic Freedom


On November 20th the president introduced a plan that would allow roughly 5 million illegal immigrants to come forward and register, pay a fine, and go through a background check and they would receive work permits and no longer have to live in fear of deportation.  Immigration is something that has been on and off the table for decades in our current political system without resolution.  Many argue that the country already has a system in place that would allow those who desire to immigrate to this country legally the opportunity.  Others argue that even with those laws in place there are tens of millions of people already within the US illegally and it is not feasible to track those people down and force them through deportation or the legalization process.  

                When it comes to economic freedom the classical liberal stance is clearly that open borders and freedom of movement is acceptable and perhaps even desired on grounds of liberty.  Mises wrote, “There cannot be the slightest doubt that migration barriers diminish the productivity of human labor.” Many economists even argue that illegal immigration is a necessary component of the working economy of the US. The question becomes why has the United States, a country that was founded on immigration and utilized it as a necessity of rapid growth in the 19th and 20th century having such a difficult time reaching agreements in Washington?  The president’s actions were unconstitutional in my opinion and as of yesterday the House voted to make them null and void, which is just the first step in stopping the executive order. But on the grounds of liberty the actions of the plan themselves are a small drop in the bucket compared to the immigration reform that needs to take place within the country.  It might be time for our country to revisit the words on the statue of liberty that so many of our forefathers saw on their way to Ellis Island,

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

Are We Really Free?

During the semester we been talking a lot about liberty. Liberty to do what you want with your person and your property as long as it does not cause harm towards others. In the United States it is very easy to assume that we have the liberty to do what we want with our property and our person as long as it does not cause harm towards others. I used to believe that until I realized that there our laws out there that prevents me from doing certain things with my private property such as zoning laws, or laws that prevent me from selling a kidney.

I once thought of the United States as being free and to a certain extent it is free, but because of laws that restrict me from doing certain things or laws that enable the government to do certain things to me such as the NSA potentially spying I feel like my very own liberty has been violated. Laws have even been passed to force me to purchase health insurance. The government is using its force to violate the liberty of citizens.

It is really easy to call the U.S. a free country and to extent it still is, but when there are laws in place that would do no harm to others or their private property if the law were to be violated. These laws tell us what we can and cannot do with our private property, they tell us what we cannot do with our bodies, and they tell us were we can and cannot live. We still own our private property, but sometimes it really makes me think if we really do or if the government is just "leasing" it out to us.

I am not saying that the U.S. is not a free country because to an extent it is. All I wanted to say is that even though the U.S. is a free country the government has the power to violate our liberties. They violate our liberty of private property, and they violate the liberty that we have of ourselves. Sure we are free to prosper in the economy, but you better follow the rules that the government has in place or you might not be "free" for very much longer.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

 

Education Reform

                Taking a look at funding in public schools, I got to thinking about the students that lie on both the low and high end of mental capacity spectrum. Many school systems seem to have focused on spending money, time, and energy on building programs for special needs students. At the same time, there is not nearly the same amount spent on students who drastically excel compared to their classmates. While there are some programs available to extremely smart students, there are not enough. It is my belief that the same amount of money, time, and energy that is spent on special needs students should be spent on the students whom are extremely smart.

                Many studies show that these students face issues with being truly tested in their schoolwork. Many have a tendency to become bored with what they are learning, and know that they can learn much more than what they are being taught. If these students are going to grow up and make advancements for the betterment of everyone, then it is only logical that they should be given extra resources to get a better education from a younger age. Even though these programs will not have much if any short term return on investments, the long term return will be exponential. These students will have the opportunity to test their limits and make advancements quicker than they have previously been able to.

 

Professional Politicians

Ever get the feeling that those whom have been elected into office have been professional politicians their whole lives? It seems like every time I look at current news, that feeling comes to mind. Due to a recently assigned article, written by Scott A. Boykin, I started thinking about the professional politicians who have become strewn throughout our current government. It always seems when professional politicians first get into office, their first order of business is to benefit the interest groups who backed their campaign. Many of these politicians are elected into offices which have relatively short term limits. During this time in office, many do not take into account long-term implications, or the costs associated with their actions.
It is my opinion that those who have been elected into office should be the leaders of their respective fields. If elected officials have previously demonstrated they have the ability to make sound decisions at a high level, then they should be able to do so while leading the country. Most highly successful entrepreneurs continue to do what they do because they love what they do. While continually making more money is a perk that everyone enjoys, money becomes just that. A perk of the job. The real thrill is diving into something new and making it the best that they could possibly make it. The constantly evolving environment and the relentless competition are waters that these types of people have learned to navigate over the years.

Leaders of their respective fields have an innate knowledge of how to run a business; unlike where many others have failed. Using a finite amount of resources to achieve an optimal output is what this country needs in its politics. Hard decisions will be made, but at the end of the day, the maximum amount of people will benefit. This maximum benefit will also occur with minimum costs associated with doing so. By operating politics like a well-oiled business, funds can be used on projects that will truly benefit this countries citizens, instead of those that got them elected. If this were to take place, I am positive that we would see swift and drastic beneficial changes.

 

Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

One of the topics that we discussed in class was conservation. I chose the topic of whether or not we should drill for oil in the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge as it has been a very controversial topic as of late. Many people see it as completely senseless for us to not drill for oil there as there is a plethora of it. However, there are many people who see the many negative effects that this would cause as outweighing the gains that we would get from it.
Many proponents of drilling in ANWR speak of the countless jobs that it would provide as being beneficial, especially in an ailing economy; not to mention the general economic benefits the oil would provide. They also speak of the positive effects of lessening our dependence on foreign oil. This not only provides economic benefits to our country but on a global political aspect can only weaken the Middle East, Russia, and Venezuela and help our fight against terrorism, communism, and anti-liberal regimes.
People who are against the drilling of oil in ANWR often talk about the harm that it can cause to the animals and wildlife in the area. Though this is a big part of the anti-drilling argument, many anti-drilling proponents speak about the amount of time before there is any reasonable amount of oil that can be of use to us or whether it even has any significant amount of oil at all. And if it even does, why not save it as a sort of backup plan for when we REALLY need the oil.
There are many arguments for and against the drilling of oil in the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge. However, I think anyone who is for liberalism and pro-liberal policies cannot reasonably advocate for the prevention of oil in ANWR.

 

Discrimination in the Locker Room

One of the most fascinating topics that we focused more recently in class involved discrimination. Not only did it include discrimination involving different races and sexes but it also included how a business person may have changed prices to affect their net profit from a certain group and other such examples. Nowadays there seems to be much less discrimination due to the fact that labor laws have changed how we approach situations like that. Although we have put in place some decent laws regarding the extermination of discrimination in the workplace, we can still find things that push the boundaries on what companies can do with regards to hiring people.
I would say that at my first job there may have been an instance where there was discrimination against any sort of women trying to apply for the job I was doing. Around 2007, I started a job with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, a triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies MLB team. I was a bat boy about half the time and the other half I spent helping players with any needs they may have wanted help with. I noticed there wasn't a single female working in the clubhouse. A couple years later when I helped my boss interview new workers for the same position I was in, I noticed one girl had applied for the position. When we called her up to be interviewed my boss shook her hand and flat out told her that girls were not allowed to work in the clubhouse. Since she had applied to many other positions in the stadium she just said it was okay and moved on. Immediately I wondered why this was the case. My boss' answer was basically that sometimes the baseball players are naked walking around after showers and stuff (after working 7 years there I can safely say they clearly like to be stripped down). Although it seems reasonable to say a woman should not have to see naked men running around, it still seems like that is not an adequate reason as to why she wouldn't be allowed to work there. Nothing in the job description says there are rules against it and it clearly to me would violate the liberty of that woman to want to work there and by us turning her down due to her gender would be discrimination. As i said before it is reasonable to want to keep that female from being harmed by naked ball players, it still does not justify why that should keep her from the job. I certainly did not want to see that stuff everyday but I was hired no problem because I was a guy. There should be no difference in this case considering there are no boundaries to the position. When you see female trainers on teams on different ball clubs or any sort of professional sport, they cannot justify why women cannot also be a player assistant or bat boy. This, to me, clearly violates the liberty of that individual and is a strong signal that the hiring process involves discrimination.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

 

What the Government Owes You

Government collects taxes for the purpose of collecting revenue. If you have explored the depths of any media outlet, you will find a plethora of ideas that describe where the tax revenue should go. In all of these ideas, it is believed that the revenue should go towards creating some sort of public good such as healthcare, social welfare, education, public law enforcement, public defense, etc. The purpose behind a public good is to make something accessible to everyone that was once only accessible to those with enough income. Naturally, this rule is not always true since public goods such as social welfare, healthcare, food stamps, etc. are only accessible to those underneath a specified income level.

So, the government collects your revenue and uses it to fund a public good. It would be reasonable to question in this instance what part of the public good you own. Obviously, from a legal standpoint, the government owns the property, but do they owe you anything for it? Because the government is funded by tax revenue, it can be presumed that whatever they produce is proportionally owned by those who funded it. This would mean all public goods produced are proportionally owned by the ones who paid the tax. If a public good is produced using funds from a tax that not everyone pays (income, property, capital gains, etc.) it would not be fair for it to be owned by anyone who did not pay the tax. For instance, a park that was paid for using the income tax revenue from the citizens of a city, would belong to those who paid the tax. Anyone who used the park and its facilities without paying the tax would be a free rider. Furthermore, if you have a proportional ownership of 1%, you can only use 1% of the park before you become a free rider. The latter example is a little bit harder to explain with a public good such as a park because a park is a nonrival good since being in a park does not limit anyone else from being in the same park. A better example would be national healthcare. If you paid for 1% of the healthcare, you are entitled to 1%; anything more would make you a free rider.

Obviously, none of what I stated above is how we actually operate things. A park is free for anyone to use regardless of where they are from and how much towards its creation they contributed. Even if it was distributed accordingly, it would be difficult to own something on such a large, collective scale. Choices for the park would have to be governed by a board and by democratic vote. This would all make the park more like a firm rather than a government public good. Even worse, this would be a firm that few, if anyone, voluntarily wanted to be a part of. Taxes are mandatory, and if the taxes went towards a park, you would have a proportional ownership of a good that you never asked for.

If we are to claim that anything funded by tax revenue is proportionally owned by the ones who paid the tax, we are claiming that the tax is an involuntary investment. Some would call this theft, but I have never seen a thief create something for all of his victims with the money he stole. Furthermore, due to the proportional ownership, the owners in question have a proportional responsibility to the property. In reality, government claims the property is there, so they pay for its upkeep, but they pay for it with tax revenue, so the proportional owners still pay for it. So what does the government owe you? You are owed the proportional amount of whatever good your tax revenue paid for whether it be labor (think politicians, public servants, etc.), healthcare, social welfare, defense, etc. Because ownership allows the ability to exclude, the government homesteads the property; government can still exclude people from a public good thought (example: New York parks ban smokers). This confusion of ownership may result in inefficiency. The government is now like an enormously large corporation. They take investments (tax revenue) and use it to make public goods from all different facets of life. They create transportation, mail service, parks, healthcare, social welfare, public defense, political labor, etc. You may notice that few of these are alike. In the past, we see firms who attempt to diversify to far fail. Instead of failing, these public goods just become inefficient compared to their private good counterparts. Perhaps, we can the conclude that the government should not diversify its creation of public goods.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

 

Why we should privatize our helium reserves

       Our discussion in class got me thinking about how the world would be different if all or most of the planet's natural resources were privatized. How would the world look today if all the oil in the middle-east was owned by a corporation, if companies owned the Amazon rain forest or if some endangered specie was owned by a private citizen. I think that world would look a lot different then it does now. I don't think we would be hearing people worry about us running out of our most precious resources.
       So I tried to imagine a situation today that people were complaining about that we are running out of a natural resource and how it would be different if we had liberty and private property rights on that natural resource. So for the natural resource I picked helium. Right now the U.S. government owns and sells most of the helium in America. They sell a set amount every year regardless of what the market demand is, this has lead to an over supply and very low prices. The only problem is that helium is not a renewable resource, there is a set amount of it on earth and once that’s gone its gone. This problem is further escalated by how important helium is in modern day life, its used in medical equipment, physics experiments, and for rockets. This low price has had the consequence of industries not reusing or recycling helium, they just let go in to the atmosphere and then into space. I don't believe that this is the best way to use helium and I don't think that if people had private property rights on helium this is how it would be used.
       Now I think if the helium supply was owned by a corporation that had property rights on it based on our understanding of liberty, I think the market would value helium much more and wouldn't needlessly waste this precious resource. I believe that this corporation would only sell a limited amount of helium every year as they would wish to stretch their investment as long as they could. This would lead to higher prices and the industries that use helium would then value it much more and would reuse and recycle it. If this were to happen we wouldn't have to be worried that we are running out of helium. Everyone could then go back to complaining about our taxes.

Friday, October 31, 2014

 

Ebola Quarantine


It seems to me that when we look at the issue of Ebola and how quarantine fits in terms of liberty it is important to look at who the responsibility of avoiding spread of the disease, and subsequently harm to others, falls upon.  If a person is knowingly infected or even possibly infected, the onus falls upon that person to take the necessary precautions to prevent spread of the disease.  In the case of Ebola the appropriate way to do so is go under medical treatment and subsequent quarantine until all signs of the disease are no longer present.  The question becomes what happens when the infected person refuses to follow those orders, and is the state in the right to force quarantine upon an individual who may be infected?  As discussed in class today the action of quarantine itself falls constitutionally to the individual states as a police action.  I believe a person who violates quarantine, and in so doing causes potential harm, up to and including death to others, is violating others personal liberties and therefore worthy of police action.  I say this realizing that it is not unfathomable to think that government controlled quarantines could quickly become excessive.  In a perfect state of liberty, should a person be detained inappropriately they would have recourse for their own liberties being violated, but we know in the current state government will likely not be held responsible for undue quarantine in the interest of “the common good”.  All in all it seems that finding a clear cut ruling on grounds of liberty in cases of quarantine would be difficult due to the transition period from personal responsibility to police action and where that line is drawn.

 

Property Rights and Environmentalism

     The discussion today and the readings this week made me think about how influential property rights and private ownership are on environmentalism and the environment itself. While I wouldn't categorize myself as a tree-hugger, I definitely do care and find it important. It was for this reason that I found the idea of private ownership an important one when it came to protecting the environment. The idea that there's a personal responsibility towards preserving the land or species or whatever it may be was profound.
     With private ownership, there's that obvious incentive to maintain and care for what you've got. It only makes sense. If you've got a piece of land you're developing or using, it would only be best to use it to its full potential and do your best not to spoil the land if you're to sell it. No one wants their property in whatever form it may be to lose value, so they'll care for it rather than if it's just there like the example of the grasslands in the Rothbard reading.
     My next reason is not necessarily tied directly to property rights but as to why the power should be taken away from the government when it comes to pollution. There's no incentive for politicians to investigate pollution or certain cases. In what way could it benefit them? There are no repercussions for them just kind of paying as little mind as possible unless it becomes an issue of personal responsibility. There's also this typical tact of taking the stance against polluters to drum up votes, but usually it doesn't go beyond that nor is there any further educating on the subject itself.
      Another reason for having private ownership on land or animals is the fact that it can fall into the hands Audobon Society and Natural Conservancy. The readings this week were great in capturing the importance of preservation societies. It explored the idea that if land went unclaimed, it suddenly became untouchable. The example of ANWR was good at exposing a kind of hypocrisy of these preservationists. If there's no mutual benefit, then it shouldn't be done at all. But if the land were owned by an entity like the Audobon Society and there could be some kind of agreement to reap the benefits of both the natural form of the area as well as the resources that could lie beneath.
      In conclusion, this was only brief, but this is something that captured my attention in a great way. I think private ownership and the idea of property rights is something that fits well with environmentalism and that's something I'd never even thought of. There's all the incentive in the world when you've got to care for something that's yours.

 

Civil Forfeiture

The Police. We see them as the eye of the government and the best example of what we consider as government “force” when we see them out there serving for us citizens - protecting us. While Police Officers are there to serve us, are they all doing it for us? I am not talking about the events that have been occurring in Ferguson, Missouri – I am talking about the fact that things like racial profiling is still an issue in a lot of cities, and not only that – Civil Forfeiture.

We all know about racial profiling, so I am going to leave that subject be. However, Civil Forfeiture is a huge issue. If you do not know what that is, Civil Forfeiture gives the government (the police in this case) the right to take away your property with absolutely no charge or conviction of any crime. This property can essentially be anything: Houses, vehicles, even money (cash). The police can do this during a simple traffic stop and take away whatever they find “suspicious” without ever convicting you, or even charging you of a crime. This is a huge threat to our property rights.

Basically, the police can take away these items and proceed under legal fiction that cash, vehicles, or even houses can be “guilty” for their involvement of criminal activity. When this occurs, the agency that takes these items are free to sell them and/or use them – they essentially own them once they force you to forfeit these items without ever charging you of any crime. This is causing a profit-hungry ideal that is causing officers to attempt to seize or forfeit as much property as possible for the financial benefit of their agency.

First of all, your property should not be taken away if you are not even charged of any crime. A “suspicion” isn’t a valid reason for seizing property. This is a violation of YOUR rights. Second, these items can be used or sold by agencies for their own profit and financial benefit. Now, I completely support making sure law enforcement has the money they need to make sure they can do their jobs at the best of their ability, however this is encouraging a “police-for-profit” trend that is causing quite a stir and people are finally noticing how much of a problem this is after thousands of cases of abuse from law enforcement.

It is too easy to abuse Civil Forfeiture. Your property shouldn’t be taken away from you if you are not charged with a crime. Your property should not be sold for-profit or used by the agency that seized it without being charged and convicted. This violates your rights. If you have not heard much about Civil Forfeiture, I encourage you to look this up and read up on it.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

 

What Should Government's Role Be?

              What should be government's role? Is a question everyone should be familiar with. It is the question I use when I am curious about another person's political views. Asking a person what party they belong does not help me understand: Republican, Democrat, Independent, or Libertarian mean different things to different people and many times starts them thinking in a combative way. But, if a person can answer the simple question of what the government's role should be, then I know where they stand. My view on what government's role should be is boiled down to enforcing property rights.  So I am always asking myself this question, "what's governments role in this area?" Most of the time the my answer to the question, "should government be involved?" is "no" right off the bat. I've asked this question on a few new areas recently, area's I've given little or no thought to before.
               One of these areas, is the idea of private courts instead of public courts. Before I've always dismissed this idea as crazy before given it any thought. I thought without the courts set up by the government, there would be chaos everywhere since there would be no universal court system to enforce laws. However, now I believe private courts could do the job well. How this would work, an individual would have the choice to be a customer of a court system. Whenever a crime is committed against an individual, one would go to their court to have a trial. If the defendant belongs to the same private court as the plaintiff, since they have the same court, then that court decision is binding. If the defendant belongs to a different private court than the plaintiff, then both courts can have separate trials. If each court has a different verdict, then the two courts can either negotiate between themselves or if that doesn't work, go to an arbitrator. I'm afraid this arbitrator would have to be the government though. This is because a private court 'A' could always rule in favor of their customers when a trial was between one of their customers and another person who not a customer of this particular court. So if another court 'B' would come to different outcome than court 'A', court 'A' could just stall and never agree on another private entity to be the arbitrator since court 'A' knows its verdict is wrong. There would have to be some force to get an outcome between 'A's and 'B's different verdicts. If there is a private way to resolve this problem of a rogue court, I would love to know what it is.
               After I came to the realization that a private court system would be feasible, I pondered if national defense could be privatized. I've thought of different ways this would look. The first way was just everyone using what weapons they owned to fight back an invasion. Some people might have just have a hunting rifle, others might have tank or something, but this disorganized group could never protect itself from another country's organized military. Then I went on to imagine a several private military groups an individual could pay into, and the private military would protect that person from an invading country. However, to repel an invasion all groups would have to work together, so why not have only one group? This would be just the same as national military. I can't think of a scenario where a private option would be better than a nation military, unless the nation military abused its power. It would be critical to have the national military set up in way where it did not abuse its power.
               I would encourage everyone to ask themselves "what the role of government should be?" Where is government needed and where should government stay out of because a private option is better?

 

Quarantine is Just

Recently we all heard in the news about the Ebola virus and those who have been put in quarantine because it is the greater good for society. In class we have learned "do what you want with yourself and your property as long as it does not cause harm to others" (L. Eubanks). Quarantine is just a precaution that is being used because a person who is suspected of having the Ebola virus could bring harm to others. It is violating another person's liberty in this cause their health.

Recently a nurse is making an issue that quarantine is a violation of liberty. They are kept away from the rest of society with strict limitations. Quarantine is government's way of protecting its people from the deadly virus. We have the right to refuse medical treatment, but when it puts the health of countless people in danger I would hope that the government uses their force for the greater good.

It isn't like the government can just have a person be put in quarantine for no reason. Government has to have just cause to have a person be put in quarantine. If the government did not have to have just cause to have someone be put in quarantine then yes a person's liberties would have been violated.

Quarantine might seem like a violation of liberty, but when you break the quarantine and potentially put others at risk your liberties are no long being violated. Instead you are violating the liberties of others. Ebola is not that big of a threat in the United States, but still I would not like my liberties to be violated just because someone else choose to ignore the risks of traveling to an African nation that is currently dealing with an outbreak. Please do not violate my liberty by putting me at even a minute risk.

 

Bush/Obama Bailouts

       Given the historical economic crisis of our generation, I find it difficult to talk about any other issue. Libertarians consider government intervention as a bad thing for progression in the economy. Government intervention in the form of bailouts just delays the inevitable. By that, I mean if there was no government to bail whatever business needs bailing out, the free market system would chew them up and spit them out. Not that the free market economy is full of savages, but no business will last in a free market economy if it is not fit to do so.
        The Great Recession led to the dismal fall of many gigantic corporations, even industry leading corporations. One example of this is General Motors. The car manufacturing giant needed a government bailout of 50 billion dollars. Why is this a bad thing? It is bad because GM is in essence being rewarded for poor management of a company and the bailout does not encourage reform in an economic downturn. What it encourages is stagnation in technology.
       The car industry was so heavily impacted by the recession because fossil fuel prices skyrocketed and there was a huge demand for fuel efficient cars. GM obviously lacked the technology at the time to produce that type of technology so they went bankrupt. In a free market economy with no governmental intervention, GM would have gone under and others would have risen with the new technology demanded. Instead, government used force to give GM the money to mass produce half-ass fuel efficient cars while keeping their massive market share of the automotive industry. They did not keep their market share because they produced a superior product in demand, but were given the market share by force.
       Although GM was once a revolutionary and innovative company, they failed to keep the innovation going. Their bankruptcy proved that and that should have been the end of GM. Ideally, another company with the technology to increase the progression of the economy would come along and take the market share that GM left behind. This chance for innovation and progression was brought to a screeching halt when the government used force to bail out GM. Government intervention is always bad.
     

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

 

Liberty and Social Justice

Liberty and Social Justice

It's nearly impossible to watch or read the news without someone discussing, or indirectly referring to, social justice.  Because the phrase is difficult to define with much accuracy, people apply it to a variety problems that they think can be solved through a more socially just society (ie inequality, poverty, crime, etc.).  When discussing social justice, pundits usually do so in terms of equality.  It's not enough that the "rules of the game" are equal (or just) for all; promoters of social justice want equality in terms of material well-being.  To achieve their ends, promoters of social justice must use force.  This, inevitably, leads to the state enacting laws that allow it to forcibly seize and redistribute wealth.  This clearly goes against liberty in the most fundamental sense.  To demonstrate my point, I find it useful to look at taxes.  

Promoters of social justice generally support a progressive income tax.  Since the rich make more than enough, they should be forced to spare a little more for the needy.  Its almost as if they believe that the most well off members in a society have a moral responsibility to take care of the poor.  Whether one believes this is the case or not is irrelevant to my argument.  What is more important is how property rights are defined in this society.  If they are defined in terms of private ownership (in terms of liberty), then each person is entitled to do what they want with themselves and their property as long as it doesn't harm the person or property of another.  In this light, a tax on income (especially a progressive tax) can be viewed as going against liberty in three particular ways.  

First and foremost, it can be viewed as outright theft.  The state is stealing money from the rich to give to the poor.  Whats more, they are stealing more money from the rich than from every one else in society.  This type of banditry is akin to Robin Hood.  Clearly taking what is not yours (or theft) goes against liberty; I don't think any further explanation is required.  If one doesn't like viewing taxes as theft, then they must accept that maybe they didn't own that portion of their income to begin with.  Since we are still discussing property rights in terms of liberty, the portion of their income that the government takes as taxes clearly must not have been owned by the worker to begin with.  If it was, the government would have no right to take it, or it would have to be considered theft.  Again, this notion goes against liberty.  Finally, when looking at taxation and the redistribution of wealth from a non-aggression axiom, it is very easy to see how it violates liberty.  The non-aggression axiom simply means that it is always wrong to aggress (or harm) the person or property of another.  This brings us back to theft.  If the government is coercively taking what is not theirs, even if it is in the name of social justice, they are aggressing against the property of another.  The non-aggression axiom makes it clear that this type of action is always wrong.   

It should be clear from the examples given above that attempts to make society more just through taxation clearly goes against liberty.  In fact, it may now seem that social justice is damn near the opposite of liberty.  It is important to keep in mind, however, that tax policy is just one of many failed government actions aimed at social justice (in particular equality).  Instead of trying to "fix" the "game" (or system), its time people acknowledge the fact that if the rules to the game are just, then the outcomes that they create must also be just.  If poverty and inequality are outcomes under a "justly" structured system, then we can't say that this outcome is unfair.  In conclusion, a more effective way to structure the welfare system would be to set it up similarly to insurance.  Because the future is unknown, paying into insurance for future security (especially in the case of decreased welfare) certainly seems more reasonable and just than the current system.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

 

Who Really Owns Ted Williams' Head?

For my first blog post, I wanted to go a little out there compared to the typical talk about something boring related to the economy. One of the major points of emphasis in class so far has been about property rights and who really holds them. Seeing that it is almost Halloween, I went with a more morbid aspect to this topic.
For those who aren't big fans of baseball, Ted Williams may not really ring a bell to you. He was arguably one of the greatest players to play for the Boston Red Sox. Williams suffered from cardiomyopathy which inevitably lead to a cardiac arrest and his death. So far there is nothing to special besides his Hall of Fame celebrity and a bad heart. Like most people, he had wanted his remains to be cremated and wanted his ashes to be spread in the Florida keys. Here is where the topic of property rights kicks into full swing. Williams' son and daughter, John-Henry and Claudia decided to have his remains cryogenically frozen. Disturbingly, due to the high cost of keeping a person's remains frozen, they chose to keep only his head frozen. Normally not much could be done considering the siblings wanted their father's remains to be frozen but the problem was his oldest daughter wanted to keep Ted's wishes to remain as in he be cremated. Keeping government intervention out of this conversation, we had two sides fighting over what the will was of their late father on how his remains would be handled.
We discussed in class about how there is a tax on death and other factors that come about when someone passes away. In reality, the body of someone who passed away is still technically there's so why is it that others have the rights to their valuables; even their body? In the case of Williams, his oldest daughter brought about a lawsuit to have his remains cremated at the wishes of Ted himself but inevitably lost when they found evidence that Ted was a strong advocate for science and allowed his family to "use" him in scientific ways if they decided to. It is hard to say who really had the right to decide what to do with Williams' remains. On one hand, you have Ted who wished to be turned into ashes and spread in the Florida keys, on the other you have siblings fighting it out to either continue his will or to turn him into a popsicle. Although this case is somewhat unique due to his celebrity and the idea of freezing his head, millions of people face this challenge everyday. If its not siblings fighting over rights of a person's body, it may be governments or other outside forces. You would assume that someone in close relation would take over those rights but in most cases, there are multiple people who believe they have a say in the matter. It is hard for the person to have a say in what happens with their body when they are no longer living. Property rights of an individual will always be a strong conflict when a body can no longer talk.

-Dustin Kosley

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2002/03/habeas_corpses.html
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2632809/We-did-love-Baseball-legend-Ted-Williams-daughter-finally-speaks-brother-spent-100-000-fathers-body-cryogenically-frozen.html
http://deadspin.com/what-it-took-to-get-ted-williamss-head-off-his-body-1475054922

Saturday, October 25, 2014

 
The Marketplace of Ideas and Gaming

Recently, there has been some amount of controversy in the gaming industry over a phenomenon known as GamerGate, so called due to a hashtag coined by popular actor Adam Baldwin.  The movement itself appears to have two primary stated goals: the imposition of journalistic ethics on the gaming journalism industry, and the extreme diminution of so-called “Social Justice Warriors” (vocal progressives that advance the positions of minorities, in their own words: primarily feminists) from positions of influence within gaming as a whole.  It is the second that concerns us.

The Social Justice Warriors, self-labelled progressives, disapprove of independent thought.  This is not, in fact, hyperbole.  They desire nothing less than the elimination of all hostile views, the aggressive and unchallenged promotion of their own, the silence of all potential critics of their agenda, and, indeed, such a change in gaming culture that there will not exist anyone who holds contrary beliefs.  (To get a feel for the SJW elite, readers are invited to look up Anita Sarkeesian, Jon McIntosh, Leigh Alexander, and Matthew Binder).  In fact, the progressive side, as is their wont, disapproves in the strongest possible terms of the free market.  According to them, large video game businesses (EA, Activision-Blizzard, Bungie, 343 Industries, Ubisoft, etc.) “cater” to games culture, which is degenerate and utterly unworthy of continued existence.  Don’t believe me: let them tell you themselves.

[Gaming Culture is] Kind of embarrassing… a petri dish of people who know so little about how human social interaction and professional life works that they can concoct online ‘wars’ about social justice or ‘game journalism ethics,’ straight-faced, and cause genuine human consequences… an infantilized cultural desert of shitty behavior… young white dudes with disposable income who like to Get Stuff… lonely basement kids… [playing] games that sold the promise of high-octane masculinity to kids just like them…  By the turn of the millennium those were games’ only main cultural signposts: Have money. Have women. Get a gun and then a bigger gun. Be an outcast. Celebrate that. Defeat anyone who threatens you. You don’t need cultural references. You don’t need anything but gaming. Public conversation was led by a games press whose role was primarily to tell people what to buy, to score products competitively against one another, to gleefully fuel the “team sports” atmosphere around creators and companies… young white teen boys in hypercapitalist America… had an anxiety in common, an amorphous cultural shape that was dark and loud on the outside, hollow on the inside… These obtuse shitslingers, these wailing hyper-consumers, these childish internet-arguers… There is no ‘side’ to be on, there is no ‘debate’ to be had.  There is what’s past and there is what’s now.

Leigh Alexander, “'Gamers' don't have to be your audience. 'Gamers' are over.”, Gamasutra


In other words, the evil, despicable capitalists have so warped the feeble young minds of men and brainwashed them into being misogynistic are the reason that women are not a particularly large part of the gaming industry.  The remedy to this, to their way of thinking, is quite simple.  The sexist filth that pervades gaming culture must be expurgated by any means, fair or foul.  Women must have just as many jobs as men, if not more.  “Sexist” portrayals of women in video games must not exist (enacting this can be rather confusing, as feminists have a habit of denouncing a thing as sexist with one breath and empowering with the next).  Games must “advance a narrative”: entertainment is no longer to be the primary purpose of games.  Above all, contrary opinions can only arise from institutional sexism, misogyny, regressivism, and bigotry, and thus are intolerable.  At first glance, this is arrant, economically illiterate nonsense; so much so that I actually laughed aloud upon viewing these materials.  When examined deeper, however, this illuminates a deeply disturbing pattern of thought.

First, the economics of the situation.  There is a concept called the Marketplace of Ideas.  Essentially, various sides will offer certain ideologies, and people are free to choose whichever one most closely mirrors their own beliefs.  Freedom of choice is essential for this to work.  So, in the games industry, the multitude of interests will offer different products in different packages, and consumers will purchase whichever ones they most like.  Someone who is looking to turn their brain off and just shoot things will probably buy Call of Duty or Halo and pop in the multiplayer, someone who wants an in-depth story and complex ethical questions will buy a game like Mass Effect, etc.  In this situation, SJWs are not only free to offer their ideas, they do, and frequently.  Their ideas are practically never featured in AAA games for a very simple reason: it will not be profitable.  If someone pitched a game to a major executive, that executive will ask two questions: “Will people buy this, and can we make a sequel?”  (There will also be issues of production, but ideologically, that will pretty much be the criteria.)  Gamers, as a rule, do not like to be preached at when playing games: there is no ingrained misogyny.   Simply witness the massive success of the most recent Tomb Raider reboot.  By all accounts, the new Lara Croft is a very strong female character and not sexualized in the slightest.  The game sold over 1 million copies within 48 hours of release, and has sold over 6.5 million copies since.  Gamers do not have a problem with strong female characters: they have a problem when the game gets preachy about it.

This is intolerable to SJWs.  To them, the righteous must constantly be filled with a zealous fury at that which they find abhorrent.  It must be the air they breathe and their daily bread.  Anyone who is insufficiently ardent is, therefore, a wicked and depraved sinner (to convert that sentence into their parlance, simply replace “sinner” with any “ist” that you may please; racist, sexist, misogynist, ableist, etc.)  Clearly, the free market is decadent and corrupt: after all, how else can one explain that they are not railing against institutional bigotry every hour of the day?  Consumers cannot be trusted to choose that which gives them the most utility: corporations cannot be trusted to advance the cause of progressivism: it falls to the SJW clerisy to cleanse the degenerate industry of its sins.  Following the example of Brendan Eich, anyone who deviates in the slightest from progressive orthodoxy must be hounded from business.

This is a very disturbing way of thinking.  I will not compare it in its present form to communism, because (as yet) they have not yet called for government intervention.  I will, however, compare it to the Inquisition or Mutaween.  The free market cannot be trusted, and thus morality police are necessary to hound out any heterodoxy that may rear its ugly head: video games, as the newest form of medium, are to be monitored for any signs of deviation just as thoroughly as books, even going so far as to burn anything that runs contrary to the grand narrative.  This is not exaggeration.  I could not find the original video, but follow the link and go to about 10:20 or so. 


No part of society is to be considered sacrosanct: everything must adhere to strict progressive orthodoxy.  If followed to its logical conclusion, the end result will be fascism as Mussolini preached: “Everything within the State, nothing without the State.”  In the words of such people as Alexander and Sarkeesian, “Everything within Progressivism, nothing without Progressivism.” 


If progressives wish to compete in the marketplace of ideas and goods, that is their prerogative.  If they are successful, good for them.  If, however, they find themselves unpopular, outpaced by people who simply wish to make an entertaining game, they should gracefully wait until the next round of sales, not attempt to raze their opponents.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

 
Free Market Banking

Have you ever had too much money? I have. I once had so much money, that I had no idea what to do with all of it, so I went to my local bank to see if they would hold onto some of it for me. You know, keep it safe until I needed it for a large purchase. This should be a familiar sounding story for most people, yet the process by which banking truly takes place is extremely large and complex. The story of too much money, however, is exactly where banking starts. Banking is a result of the law of association. Its existence is based on specialization. When people build up a large store of wealth, they can either employ their own resources to protect that wealth, or they can seek out those who already have the necessary “set-up” to protect large amounts of money.

Originally, banking took place when people paid banking institutions a fee or some kind for protecting their stores of value. For our purposes, we will use gold as an example of a store of value. In any scenario, an individual would bring his or her gold to the bank and deposited it into a vault of some sort. The bank would then charge a fee large enough to cover all costs and still make a profit while remaining competitive. In exchange for the gold, the bank would issue units of promissory notes that reflected the amount of the gold he had stored. This note would state that at any time, the individual may come back and exchange the promissory notes for the gold he had stored in the bank. By this process, promissory notes make way for currencies. It is much easier to measure values in exchanges by using units of promissory notes instead of deciding the value of gold. They’re also much easier to carry around. As long as the bank kept their word, then the notes could be exchanged for other goods and services, and the party that ended up with the notes could return to the bank where the gold was stored and redeem the store of value.

Banks, then, have a very strong incentive to keep their word, and also to keep a 100% reserve storage of all of their customers’ valuables. This strict policy of honest banking, like any honest exchange, is kept alive by market competition. Banking institutions that don’t keep promises would go out of business, or at least lose business, overtime because customers would be willing to pay someone else for better service. Many banks, however, may be incentivized to cheat on their promissory notes by lending out a greater number of promissory notes than the given store of value that they held. In doing this, they have both stolen from the person whose store of wealth they promised to keep on hand, and they have committed fraud against the person who was lent promissory notes that may not be redeemable for the promised amount in the future.

Through the market process, however, competing banks with competing promissory notes would diminish the incentives to commit such crimes and inflate the supply of money. This is because not only can customers bring their gold to other banks, but competing banks could put rivals out of business by exposing their bad behavior and buying up a large amount of the promissory notes that the competitor has issued. In doing so, the competing bank could attempt to redeem said notes for the given amount of gold. If the rival bank was, indeed, issuing more notes than he had gold, he would be unable to give back enough gold to all of the people that he promised, and that bank would go out of business, and potentially be subject to the law.

Sadly, this is not the banking system that is utilized in America today. There is not market process to provide checks and balances to the operations of competing banks. Banks are not subject to the will of consumers, but rather to the will of the government and the Federal Reserve. When money is deposited into a bank today, there is no fee that is paid for the storage. In fact, in most cases the bank pays the customer a very small amount of interest. The money that is stored is not kept safe in a vault with the customer’s name on it; it is loaned out to others or used in various investment ventures. Granted, there is FDIC insurance, which allows for a portion of an individual’s deposits to be paid back were anything to happen to the bank, but this type of “insurance” comes with a heavy price: Inflation. Because banks do not see the same incentives to keep an honest store of value in the same way that they would in a free market banking, they may engage in riskier loans and investments. When these loans are unable to be paid at the same time as people come to redeem their deposits, banks (theoretically) would not be able to come through on all of their promises. Because of the Federal Reserve, banks can simply ask for an influx of cash from the central bank in order to fulfill their short-term obligations. This activity, coupled with the issuance of a multiplicity of promissory notes, leads to a severe increase in the supply of money over time. This drastic increase in money ultimately leads to inflation, and a decrease in the purchasing power of each unit of money.

 The only cure to such a disease is to allow people to bank freely, without force or coercion from the government or the Fed. Through the market process, competing currencies would once again emerge with a sound store of value, providing incentives to keep customers happy and keep dollars strong. Free the money... free the people.

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