Political Manifesto for the 21st Century

January 7, 2010 by

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (Declaration of Independence, 1776)

We affirm these self-evident truths, and declare that it is time to abolish our form of government, not by armed revolution, but by the election of representatives who will change it.

The Constitution of the United States allows for the people to elect their representatives every two years, and to elect every senator every six, and to elect the president every four. Each state constitution allows the citizens of that state a similar power to choose their government. Through electing representatives that represent our desire to preserve our government solely to protect the individual rights of everyone, we propose the following changes be made.

  1. Limited government. Our governments are limited by the constitutions that form them. We need to enact a common understanding among the people of what those limits are and impose them on our governments. We need also to strengthen the already existing limits, overturning bad interpretations by our courts, legislators, and executives, and impose new and stronger limits on our governments which will forever ensure our individual liberty.
  2. Dramatic cuts to spending. Our governments should spend our money procuring only those goods and services that will protect our rights.
  3. An end to government charity. It is the role of our churches and the individual to supply charity to the poor, not the state. If the individual and churches cannot supply the charity, government could only do worse. Having government provide charity absolved the conscience and duty of the people from their proper role to love their neighbor.
  4. An end to unfunded legislation. Any program that congress enacts must be completely and fully funded at the time of its creation. We will not enslave future generations to programs that we create but do not fully fund. Existing programs that are unfunded should be canceled or modified until they can be funded.
  5. Dramatic cuts to taxation. Our governments should collect far less taxes than the people can bear. The people should be free to pursue whatever economic matter they wish without burden or undue influence due to taxes. Taxes should not be used to punish the rich or to mold society’s behavior. They should only be used to raise the necessary money to meet the spending requirements of a government that protects the rights of the individual. Any surpluses should be immediately refunded to the people in proportion to taxes paid, or used to pay off debts. Taxes should never be raised to meet spending; rather, spending should be cut to meet tax revenue.
  6. An end to government debt. Our people have become more prosperous than any other people in the world. We do not need to borrow money anymore to provide for the needs of government. Paying interest on our government debts is slavery, not freedom. We are not free until we have paid off all of our debts. Any debt that we must incur should be paid off within a very short time frame, so that our debts are not repaid by our children.
  7. An end to bureaucratic regulation. Any kind of regulation must be debated and passed by the legislatures of our governments, and no other way. No public official should be allowed to set policy that governs the life of anyone but their own employees. No court should dictate legislation. No executive should issue orders except to his troops and employees. Anyone exceeding these limits should immediately be removed from office by impeachment because they are a threat to our liberty.
  8. An end to over-litigation. The laws of our country are unjust, in that they are used to punish those who have done no wrong with tort laws and allow the criminal to go free. Let our laws be simple and just so that we no longer have need of lawyers. Do not allow our constitution to be interpreted as giving shelter to the guilty or limiting the freedoms of the individual.

We boldly declare that freedom and liberty are dramatically different than tyranny and slavery. In a free society, government works differently than in an enslaved society. Our governments should be eternally fearful of the will of the people, forever locked in by the limits of the constitution which creates them, and ever subservient to the people, both the individual and as a whole.

We emphatically reject the tenets of communism, socialism, fascism, totalitarianism, colonialism, and every other form of government or political idea that sets one person above another, that limits the freedom of the individual for the “greater good”, or attempts to convince any individual that they have no rights or fewer rights than the rights man is endowed with by their Creator.

We boldly declare that in our society, the checks and balances in our government includes the individual, private organizations such as businesses or churches or political groups, and federated governments such as the local, state, and federal governments. By distributing the power to govern among these people, organizations, and governments, no one person or group of people is able to obtain much power over the rest.

We also declare that there is enough in this world, and to spare, if the individual is freed from the constraints of government to seek his own fortune in life. We also declare that the man who has obtained wealth is capable of providing charity to the poor, jobs to those who want them, and also to pursue the critical role of participating in politics to keep government constrained. We encourage all men, everywhere, to embrace their freedom, seek their own fortunes, and once having obtained it, spend their time and resources as they see fit in service to their fellowman, without the entanglement of government.

Republican Politics and Immigration

February 4, 2015 by

I don’t know how to tell my republican friends this, but immigration is done. The establishment is going to open the borders, and you can’t do anything about it.

We should’ve seen the writing on the wall, here. The only people opposed to mass immigration into the US are patriots who want to protect our political heritage and protectionists who haven’t understood Adam Smith.

I propose a compromise position that should satisfy everyone but a minority in our country. I call it “open and secure” borders.

This is how it works.

First, we open our borders. We allow anyone to enter our country provided they show us a passport and have gotten proper immunizations and don’t carry infectious diseases or mean us harm. At the borders, we check people’s passports. We review their health status and ask for records showing a clean bill of health. If they have the potential for disease, we put them in quarantine. If they don’t have the right shots, we send them home to get them. We build up a database of people we know are our enemies and check for them at our border. We also ask them to swear an oath or something that they will abide by our laws and that they come here in peace.

Second, we secure our borders. With the checkpoints all open, we build a fence. We secure the fence, and we direct all potential crossers to the checkpoint. If you cross illegally, you get taken to the other side of the checkpoint. If you do it habitually, we put you in prison.

The effects of this policy are pretty obvious. They are not all bad, and some of them are quite good.

Economically, we’ll have a large influx of people willing to work for lower wages than Americans. This is good in that the cost of labor will go down, but bad because a lot of Americans can’t compete internationally. I don’t think Americans are as weak as protectionists say they are, and I really don’t see the problem with Juan living and working in my community. Juan wants to send his paycheck back to Mexico, I’m fine with that, too. It only means Mexico will be buying stuff from America eventually. In short, economic freedom (within moral limits, of course) is the best economic policy known to man. We shouldn’t discriminate against people based on their nation of origin and say they don’t have a right to work on our stretch of dirt simply because they were born in the wrong part of the world.

In short, economically, we’ll be putting up billboards, “Now hiring” and “Open for Business.” The world will come, and they will make the USA the center of the world’s economy.

Socially, we’ll have the problems of poverty, ignorance, and culture. Poverty is solved with hard work, so opening up the marketplace to the poor is the best answer. Ignorance is corrected with proper motivation, and seeing others living the lifestyle of the educated American is plenty of motivation to force your kids to complete high school and get a college education.

Culture is tricky. To be frank, this is the one thing that frightens me. I don’t want America to be “just another country”. There are two aspects of our culture.

One is our domestic / civil culture. It’s how we treat each other in our homes and outside. It’s very important that we teach people that honesty is the best policy, helping others is as important as helping yourself, and the rich have a duty to help the poor. This is a task our churches and such need to focus on. The government shouldn’t participate at all. The other side is our political culture. I do not want to give immigrants the same right to vote that I have, mostly because I do not believe they will respect our political heritage and history. If they had a good political culture in their country, they would not be desperate to come to ours.

The solution to the political culture problem is to tighten up who gets to vote and who gets to be a citizen. This is where I think we *should* be fighting our battle. We should be diligently monitoring elections and scrubbing voting lists. We should be focused like a laser on who we allow to be a citizen and who we don’t. I believe our current system is too lax. Simply knowing how our government works is not enough. We should test whether people understand that voting yourself money will lead to the ruin of the country, and whether they can be easily persuaded by bad political arguments. In fact, I want people to witness that the new citizen will be honest and upright and will take their right to vote seriously. I wish we could do the same for people born here!

I’m not concerned about “bankrupting” our social welfare programs. We’ve tried “starve the beast”. It failed. Let’s try “break the beast”. Socialism fails wherever it is tried. Let’s let it fail.

On the Latest Muslim Brouhaha

January 13, 2015 by

A group of Muslims murdered some journalists in France. Their claimed justification was that they published images that insulted their prophet.

A lot of leftists here in the US and Europe want us to self-censor. A lot of others want us to stir up hatred among the Muslim community by publishing even more insulting things.

I think we need to rethink what is most important.

First, the condition of entering into a society like France’s is that you will uphold their law. If you don’t intend to keep their laws and customs, then don’t go to France. France needs to police their own borders. It would be perfectly justifiable if they asked incoming people of the Muslim persuasion, “Will you get angry if someone publishes something that insults your religion?” and “Will you either harm or protect those who harm someone who does so?” If the answer is contrary to their ideals, then France has every right to say, “I’m sorry, you’re not allowed in our country.” If the French have reason to suspect the individual is lying, then they can ban such people outright from their country, just based on something such as the people they’ve associated with or their country of origin. If there is some legally binding method in their religion whereby they can get them to swear an oath that they will not harm nor protect those who would harm them, then they should employ it.

The United States needs similar controls. We should have a way to figure out whether someone coming in to our borders intends to keep our laws and customs or whether they intend to break it. With our borders the way they are, we have lost control completely. We have no idea who is coming in our country nor what their intentions are. The only remedy I can think of is “open, secure” borders. That is, everyone is welcome to come in to our country, provided they use legal entry points and declare their intentions upon arrival. Everyone else is not welcome and should be hunted as an enemy.

Second, I don’t believe there is any purpose to insulting Islam. I don’t like it when people make fun of my church, and I believe that the rule that Jesus laid down is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” So I go out of my way *not* to insult other people’s beliefs. If people are sensible and calm and rational, then I’ll engage in a discussion about their religion, and that may involve asking questions or making statements that may be considered offensive, but if they’re so touchy that they would react violently, I leave them alone.

We should be honest in acknowledging what Islam is and what they hold sacred, we should avoid insulting them intentionally, but of course, we shouldn’t cater to their perversions.

Third, I think justice in this case involves more than finding the people who killed the journalists and their accomplices, along with all those who tried to shelter them. Find them all, punish them with the law, but understand that you can’t play whack-a-mole and expect your citizens to live freely. Proactive work needs to be done. The French need to infiltrate the Muslim community and identify those who would resort to violence and those who would not keep their laws and kick them out of the country. If there are state or state-like actors who intend to harm their country, they should be engaging in war with them as we speak. Remember, free societies don’t declare war, but we do acknowledge war with belligerents and we should take it seriously, no matter how small they seem now. It doesn’t take much resources to kill your people in their homeland.

The War on Terror in Iraq was ingenious. An entire generation of Muslim radicals were tricked into pouring into Iraq and slaughtered. We need to keep this up. We need to create a scenario where they are much more likely to go to one of their countries and wage war, and we can fight them secure in the knowledge that we’re not fighting them at home. I think today ISIS is a great magnet for these kinds of people, and we should send the message to the Muslim youth that joining ISIS is the best path to jihad. At the same time, we should be slaughtering them by the thousands.

It’s high time we treated Muslims as human beings. As human beings, we need to explain to them what rules they need to live by, the same rules we live by. Those who follow the rules should be accepted as equals. Those who don’t need to be treated justly. Justice means executing the murderer and pursuing war when we are pursued by war until we gain peace through the submission of our aggressors.

God’s Love

December 6, 2014 by

I want to digress slightly to a religious subject, one that I care about and I feel like everyone should care about. If you really want to understand conservatism, you have to understand religion.

At a baptism today, the sister missionaries shared the first lesson they teach to people learning about our church. Many people don’t get to the second or third lessons, so this is the only lesson many people will ever hear about us. We obviously spent a lot of time thinking about the best things to put in there and what to leave out.

I still remember vividly my MTC (Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT) instructor asking us to pull our seats a little more closer together. He said, “I’m going to show you how to teach the first lesson.” I don’t know what I expected. I intended to pull out a notepad and take notes. He signaled us to put our stuff away and listen with our hearts. I obliged.

He started off with a simple phrase like, “God is our Heavenly Father. He loves us and has prepared a plan of happiness for us.”

The Spirit overwhelmed me. It overwhelmed everyone in that room. What a wonderful, beautiful message! Missionary work seemed so easy in that moment: All we have to do is tell people those magical words, the spirit will come, and they’ll beg to be baptized. At least that’s what it seemed like at the time.

The sister missionaries began their lesson today in the same way. “God is our Heavenly Father. He loves us and has prepared a plan so that we can be happy.” The Spirit came. It washed over me, bathing me with warmth, peace, and comfort.

I was flushed with memories of that moment when the MTC instructor taught me what a missionary lesson should be like. I was struck by all the memories of the hundreds of times I shared a similar message with people, in Korean or English or whatever. Sometimes I shared it with a smile, because that’s all I could give them at the time. My whole intent was to reach out, heart-to-heart, and have people feel a little of what I felt.

I thought of how I love this church. I love it because this idea is the heart and soul of the church, the assumption that God loves us like parents love a little child, and he simply wants us to be happy. It’s what makes us tick. It’s why we wake up early and go to our leadership meetings and then spend 3 hours in church and then hours afterward visiting the sick and lonely. It’s why I gather my kids together and read scriptures with them or teach them lessons about the gospel. It’s why I’m happy to pay a 10% tithe along with generous donations to the poor.

I love it because that’s all people really need to hear. They’re going through a tough time, a divorce or a child’s tragedy, or sickness or whatever. They are hungry for some kind of hope or purpose to their misery, and everything becomes so clear when they look at their life through that lens. “God loves you. He knows you. He wants you to be happy.” It’s going to be OK!

I wish I could somehow get that message across to everyone. Mormonism is many things, but at the very center of it is that simple message. I want people to think “Joseph Smith: Witness of God’s love.” or “The Book of Mormon: Witness that God wants us to be happy.” or even, “Hey, there’s those silly guys with the black name tags! They want to tell us God loves us and we can be happy!” I want the brand “Mormon” to mean these things, nothing more or less. Mormonism: God loves you and wants you to be happy!

It’s not polygamy. It’s not the Book of Mormon. It’s not even the priesthood authority or our understanding of the trinity. These things are important, but they are not the reason why I am a mormon. I wake up in the morning, grateful to be alive because I know that God loves me and he wants me to live another day. If I don’t wake up, or if I die tragically sometime during the day, it’s OK. God loves me! I face challenges knowing that they are put there to refine me and teach my how to be happy. I see all the tender mercies of the Lord and say, “Ah! Another sign that God is thinking of me and wants me to be happy!” These other things build on that and add to it, and so I keep it as part of my own faith.

Thank you, sister missionaries. You reminded this brother about what the entire point is all about. Thank you for sharing the Holy Ghost with simple words that we sometimes repeat too often forgetting what they are supposed to mean.

To everyone else: I don’t care which church you are in or whether you believe in God at all. I do care that you feel as I do, that God loves you as a child is loved by a parent. God knows what he is doing. He has a plan to make you happy. And he wants you to be happy.

Thoughts on Atheism

October 29, 2014 by

Oftentimes, when considering an important decision, I make a chart to analyze the cost and benefit of each choice. Since belief is a choice, I think it is wise to list the cost and benefits of atheism vs. Christianity on an individual basis. You can draw up a similar chart for society and thus make your decision on what kind of society you advocate.

The thing about atheism is it is really hard to define. If I were to say atheism is the belief that there is no God, atheists would retort that it is the absence of a belief in God, and not a belief that there is no God. Despite the fact that these two things are logically the same statements, let us stick to the definition atheists like to use: the lack of belief in a God.

So, the question is the following: Should I believe in no God, or should I believe in the Christian God of the Bible? I will analyze this question purely on the cost and benefit of believing either way.

On atheism’s side, there is literally no benefit. There is no cost as well, except the opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is the cost of *not* doing something. For instance, buying a stick of gum means you can’t buy a gumball with the same money. When doing cost-benefit analysis, you can ignore opportunity cost since it will show up as a benefit for the other choices you are looking. So my final analysis of atheism is it gives me nothing but it costs me nothing. It is simply nothing.

On Christianity’s side, if I choose to believe in the Christian God of the Bible, then I have severe costs. For starters, I must believe that there is a God, and that God did certain things. Among the most important things God has done is he has created this world we live in, given us our very lives, and given us a Savior. He has also given us positive and negative commandments out of love. If we choose to believe in this God, then we will feel a pressure to obey these commandments. All of the commandments can be summed up in the simple statements, “Love God” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In fact, since this is the sum of all the commandments, we can ignore any commandments which we interpret such that it would contradict the first two great commandment. For instance, if we feel our church attendance would somehow deny someone love, then we can abstain until we can resolve the conflict. This is something Jesus taught by example. For instance, he threshed wheat with his hands on the Sabbath, and healed the sick on the Sabbath, and even told us to pull our oxen out of the mires on the Sabbath.

However, there are a few beliefs I must also take along with the entire package. I must believe that God is in charge and that he is defined by love and good, or rather, good and love are defined by Him. I must believe that God loves us so much he gave his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for our weakness and incompetence, so that we won’t die but that we can live forever. I must believe that the ultimate destination of this world is a heavenly realm where sickness, disease, discomfort, and evil are completely abolished and replaced with rejoicing and pure bliss. I must believe that good will always overcome evil. I must believe, especially, that people can and will change for the better.

What are the benefits of Christianity?

First, we add structure and meaning to our lives. Events are not random — they are given to us by God for a purpose. And so we can search out what purpose every event has. Tragedies are rewritten to become blessings. We find that suffering is not pointless but part of the refiner’s fire of our lives. This alone is enough to make the intolerable condition of human suffering tolerable. In short, God can swallow up our suffering.

Second, we live peaceful lives. Because the two great commandments command us to love each other live we would want to be loved, we obviously treat others the way we want to be treated. This is the foundation for the idea of natural human rights, such as the right to life, the right to speak, etc… We simply afford others something we would like to have for ourselves.

Third, many Christians report feeling their guilt and sorrow washed away as they embrace the gospel that Christ taught us. We can also obtain a similar relief to our conscience, and be an instrument in helping others find such relief.

Fourth, we find the foundation of modern science. Christianity teaches us that God is unchanging, that he governs by law, and most especially, that we can understand that law because we can become like God. In fact, Christianity teaches us to search, knock, and ask, and promises us that we will find, the way will be opened, and we will be answered. This is the foundation of modern science: an irrational hope that the universe does conform to law and that we can not only understand that law, but discover it through searching. Do I need to list the blessings and conveniences that our Christian pursuit of knowledge has given us?

Fifth, we have hope. We have hope for a better world. We have hope that we can change. We have hope that others can change. We have hope that God will perform a miracle in our lives or the lives of our friends or enemies. In the face of absolute despair, the true Christian can say, “Perhaps, perhaps, God can change things and make it better. If not today, then tomorrow.”

I think it is fairly obvious which way I choose to believe.

Why Religion Matters in a Post-Scarcity World

July 26, 2014 by

This will be last on this for a while. I’ll write more when I think of things.

Why religion matters:

  • Religion gives us meaning.
  • It gives us something to do and focus on.
  • It teaches us to love each other and be nice to each other.

In a world where scarcity is everpresent, religion teaches us to have compassion on each other and help each other out. Read the Bible if you don’t see it for yourselves. Even the Israelites, under strict commandment to obey the Law of Moses, had laws given to them that demanded they help the poor. For instance, people who had fields had to leave some of their harvest on the ground for the poor to eat, and had to allow people passing by to eat from their trees or their fields (although they couldn’t pack anything away.) What a wonderful society that would be if those were actual religious obligations!

Christianity expanded upon Jewish charity. Jesus taught the rich man to sell all he has and give it to the poor before entering into the ministry. Jesus ate with the poor and the rich. He had one of his apostles collect money and give it to the poor. Jesus was a walking primitive walk-in clinic. In the epistles, we read countless times exhortations to take care of the widows and the orphans, to help the poor. In fact, in Acts we read of Ananias, who sold his house to give the money to the church so that the church could help the poor, but he kept some back and lied about it. God didn’t like that at all, so he struck him dead. That gives a hint to all Christians about how important charity is to God.

That’s all well and good, and is totally applicable in an economy with scarcity. I mean, this is the grease that keeps the economic engine running. When people get pushed out of the economy, religious people should be there to help them get back in, feed them, clothe them, heal them, and do whatever it takes to make them whole again.

What about a post-scarcity economy? What many people don’t realize is that Christianity is really designed for a post-scarcity economy. We look forward to millennial times, when the earth will be changed such that we won’t have weeds. We’ll cover our buildings with precious gems and metals, we’ll make our streets out of the most precious things during this time. Why will the earth change? We don’t know exactly, but I feel a large part will be because our attitudes will be different. We’ll actually care about each other and go out of our way to help each other. Maybe we won’t have weeds anymore because we’ll all work together to completely eradicate them. Maybe we’ll have gems on our buildings and streets because our economy grows and grows and grows until making gems isn’t a big deal.

Without religion, what purpose is there? Why go out of your way to help someone who falls by the wayside? What meaning do you have in the things you build with your hands or the things you own or the things you give away? Everyone needs something to give themselves and their actions meaning. I believe we should make it a point to make it our religious obligation to help one another and see to their needs as much as our own. We should make that priority #1 in everything we do. I truly believe that if we focus on helping each other, all the problems we have will be solved. If people can’t solve their own problems, then people who can will show up to help them solve them. Isn’t that the kind of world we want to live in?

I think we are wise when we examine closely the life Jesus had. He had everything. He could do everything. And look how he decided to spend it! Do you think maybe the two are connected somehow — that without the attributes of Christ in our very character, we simply can’t enjoy a post-scarcity existence? I believe so.

More on Basic Income…

July 25, 2014 by

Some of the assumptions that people put into the idea of Basic Income is that there are certain people who simply can’t figure out how to make enough money to survive. When you think about this, it is a dehumanizing thought and reeks of the attitudes that Southern slave owners had.

How much work does it take to produce enough food to feed your family, a roof to shelter them, and clothes to wear? In a modern economy, the answer is, “Not very much.” In the future we are rapidly approaching, the answer is going to be, “Even less than last year.” There are people who are able to make ends meet and live in major urban centers spending a fraction of what you think minimum wage should be. They do it because they spend what little money they get on the things they actually need, and they stay out of debt.

What would someone need to do in a hypermodern, super-productive economy to make enough money to take care of all their basic needs for an entire year? Let’s say that today, you can get by, not comfortably, but you can get by, on $30,000 a year. If you think this is too little, you really don’t know how the rest of the country lives, nor do you even begin to understand what the rest of the world lives like. That’s enough money to keep yourself and your 5 kids and your wife fed and clothed and sheltered. (Remember, no debt, no luxuries like cable TV.)

What happens when food becomes even more cheap due to modernization, GMO, research and development, and improvements in processes that reduce the number of people needed to work the fields? Why, food gets cheaper. A lot cheaper. In fact, in the US, we are trying to artificially boost the price of food because if we didn’t, we’d fear that all the farmers would go out of business. It’s an absurd idea, but one that has taken hold. It’s why we have a Farm Bill that gets passed every once in a while. The money ends up in the pockets of people who would never farm in the first place because they always figure out a way to get money. Kill the farm bill, allow imports and exports, and the price of food will drop like a rock tomorrow. Thousands of farmers would go out of business, and their farms would be bought up by those who are extremely efficient at growing food and have made a science and a career out of making the right choices for food production and quality. Allow them to profit on their efficiency, and pretty soon we have mechanized farms that can be replicated almost anywhere. Food will practically become free.

Housing? The cost of building is expensive only because of all the pointless regulations cities impose on builders. Get out of the city and see for yourself how cheap it is to build a perfectly comfortable home that is mostly off the grid. If people simply moved out of the cities, these prices would drop as well. You’ll note that many people living far from civilization use double-wides. The homes were manufactured and then transported to the site. Why? Because it’s much cheaper than bringing all the materials and workers out to the site and doing it there, for obvious reasons. Let’s keep this ball rolling, and you’ll see the cost of housing fall even more.

Clothing? Today, our clothing is increasing manufactured by automated processes. Clothing is ridiculously cheap if you buy off-brand out-of-fashion clothing. You’ll note that that’s all that’s left for the clothing industry. The brands can’t compete on quality of material, so they compete on fame. People buy $100 jeans not because it costs $100 to make them but because people want them. If you look hard enough, you can find great jeans for $5. Heck, you can even wear second-hand clothing for almost free. People are giving away their clothing they no longer want to wear anymore.

So over time, if we free the economy and let mechanization and automation take course, and let the market do what it does best, the prices of everything will drop. It takes $40k in 2014 to get by. It’ll take $20k in 2030. It’ll take $10k in 2040. And $5k in 2050.

What will it take to earn that much money? The sky is the limit. A few years back, I was working at an aging startup which was on its last legs. I watched as a pointless company with no plan for real monetization got snatched up for a billion dollars. It was disheartening. I mean, some kid made a company where people upload photos, and it’s a billion dollars! I watch YouTube videos and there are people on there who have made videos that get watched and they quit their jobs to keep making videos. How much does it cost to make a video verses how much money do they make? When the entire world’s population is watching YouTube, you only need a tiny fraction of that to watch yours to make enough money to feed your family.

What happens when all the wealth gets into the hands of a few wealthy people? What do you think they do with money in the first place? If they burned it, it would increase the value of the remaining money supply. If they stick it in their mattress it would do the same, at least until they decided to spend it. If they put it in a bank or an investment account, they bank moves it to other companies that need money to grow and it gets spent anyway. Really, even though they make a lot more money than you and I, they are still looking for ways to make more money, and when they stop, their money is still working whether they realize it or not.

So come up with something! Anything! If it’s standing outside of an area where shoes need to be polished and polishing those shoes, it will be enough to make enough money to feed your family. Or spend some time thinking up a crazy idea for a video people will watch. Or a business idea you can pitch to investors. Or anything, really! Find a way to benefit someone, and you’ll find a way to make money.

If we ever reach a point where robots do everything, what will be left for humans to do? Why, be creative, of course! Find out better ways to make robots, or better robots, or new things that robots can make.

The fashion industry is a good example of what happens when manufacturing is no longer a consideration. There are millions of people making money that are connected to the fashion industry. They can have millions more move into their space. They need all kinds of help and will hire anyone who can do something that a machine can’t yet. And in the end, if that’s only imagining something new and different that enough people will like (and if manufacturing is free, then maybe “enough” is 1 person) then there you go.

So prices are falling. Opportunities for creativity are expanding. We won’t work in a factory anymore — we’ll be telling those factories what to build.

Basic Income, and other nonsense

July 24, 2014 by

I’ve been looking into the economic philosophy behind the basic income. Some keywords might be automation, the singularity, Manna, etc… I’ve decided that it is all bunk, based on ideas that are half-cooked and misinformed.

We have been through this before. We’ve been doing this since the moment someone decided to put a stick into the ground to help plow their field.

The argument for basic income goes something like this: We need to guarantee everyone a basic, livable income because robots and computer programs are taking over our jobs. We should be able to afford it, because we’re super-duper rich now, and it will help free people up to do what they should be doing: being creative!

The problems with these kinds of argument are many.

One, jobs are not disappearing, or at least, not for the reasons you think they are. This is a difficult concept to fully grasp, but it is the same argument for free, global trade and free and open markets. It is actually the same arguments for the free interchange of ideas in academic and free / open source software communities. The basic idea is this: People should be free.

When people are free to act in an economic context, they will always help the economy grow, provided they pursue noble adventures such as feeding their family, clothing themselves, and finding a nice place to live that isn’t a disaster area. I am confident when I say this. I am also confident that a dividend of the economic growth they are responsible for will end up in their pockets. That’s just how life works.

Those who believe the machines will take over our jobs are forgetting some very fundamental things. First, why do we have machines taking over people’s jobs in the first place? And second, what really happens when they do? The answer to the first question is that people are greedy. They will always try to do those things that give the best benefit to themselves and those they care about. The answer to the second is that everyone’s life improves, provided that they follow basic moral directions such as “don’t murder” and “don’t steal” and “don’t lie”. (Sounds familiar?)

Let’s “follow the money” and see what happens when a company decides to fire it’s million-person workforce, hire a thousand engineers, and put them to work installing a million machines to replace the million factory workers. Let’s be cold and heartless about it, and not try to be politically correct to make things sound nicer than they are.

What happens is the following:

  • A million low-skill and low-paid workers lose their jobs. They are never, ever going to get those jobs back. Sorry. Sucks to be you.
  • A thousand high-skill and high-paid workers get jobs that appeared out of thin air. Where do they come from? Given that there isn’t an army of unemployed engineers, they have to be trained. Where do they get trained? In the school of Real Life and Hard Knocks. 1,000 new people need to join the engineering profession and begin the process of becoming master engineers. Where does that 1,000 come from? Why, there’s a million unemployed people over there eager to do anything to make money! So we have 999,000 people left to employ.
  • The company makes billions.
  • The company spends billions. Or rather, they spend some of it and then invest the rest in a bank account, the stock market, etc… The owners of the companies and the executives, naturally, get to determine how large sums get spent. Even the things that get spent on pointless luxuries go somewhere. Cavier comes from fish. Someone has to raise the fish, collect the eggs, prepare them, package them, transport them, and finally sell them to the rich. And then someone has to prepare and serve it. That money all ends up in the pockets of some worker somewhere. Let’s say some of it ends up paying for machines or robots or other executive’s pockets. Follow the money, eventually it is turned into someone’s wages. The point is this: There is new demand for luxury goods, and there needs to be more people in that industry. Some of the factory workers that were laid off get to work in this growing industry.
  • Let’s talk about investments. The company decides to use some of the profits for R&D, meaning they need scientists and researchers and more engineers. Where do they come from? That new demand stresses those industries, and so there is incentive for more people to join that industry. More laid off workers are employed there in one capacity or another.
  • The rest they send off to investment banks on stocks or just to cool its heals in a low-yield investment such as a bank account. Where does that money go? It goes into the pockets of people trying to start new companies or expand existing ones, and willing to either take a risk or promise to pay back interest. What do they do with that money? They buy things and hire people. More workers get employed.

The point of this exercise is that when you “follow the money”, you see that in a capitalist economy, it all ends up back in the pockets of the low-income low-skill workers. When you hire a high-skill, high-wage worker, that creates a vacuum that creates an opportunity for a low-skill low-wage worker. When you buy something, it creates demand which requires more economic output which eventually translates to opportunities for low-wage low-skill workers.

Low-wage, low-skill workers can work in careers that will gradually translate them into high-wage, high-skill workers. Or they can stagnate because they are pleased with their position until the next economic disruption comes around that causes them to rethink their economic strategy.

This is how the US went from hunting fish and deer to the most advanced economy in recorded history all in the matter of a few hundred years. This is how we will continue to grow and grow and grow, overcoming every economic challenge by letting the free market do its thing.

Now, the question on your mind should be, “Why aren’t we doing this now? Why is unemployment so high, why are we not hiring more people, etc?” The answer is blazingly obvious: We aren’t doing this right now! We live in a perverse economy, and economy that rewards bad behavior and punishes good behavior. Right now, there is no incentive for any company to invest in America. All the capital in America is diverted to where it is needed most, places where it will get the highest rate of return. Right now, that is not the US! That’s why China and Europe are doing better: We’re sending our cash over there because we want to earn more money!

How do we get back to a non-perverse economy? Why, one part limitation on government, and one part religion. Limiting government puts power back into the hands of regular folks, and creates an environment where capital will flow back to our country. Lower taxes, reduced regulations, no more favoritism, etc, because these things all stifle rather than encourage independent action. Religion is there to pick up the pieces when it fails individuals.

The idea, in my mind, that during this time of economic disruption, that there will be starving parents with starving kids is utterly absurd to me. Churches like mine are more than ready and able to feed these families. We can also help the father navigate this new economy. That’s because we bring people together, people who know what works and people who don’t, the rich and the poor. The rich in the church want to share their wealth because that’s what Jesus wants them to do. They work hard to make sure they get the most bang for their buck and also put a personal touch on it.

We are experiencing problems today because we have forgotten how important religion is to the common man. It used to be that we had independent communities of charitable people who would work together to help each other out, but now that atheism is sweeping our country, we are all left to fend for ourselves with whatever resources we have, with little incentive to share our surplus with one another.

On a final note, I want to share with you my understanding of the eventual Zion that our church would like to establish. In Zion, there are no poor or rich: all are the same. Not because we are all carbon copies of each other and we each own and eat the same things, but because rich and poor is a stupid way to group people. In Zion, the bishop figures out the best way to help people who are not very productive become productive. He draws on the people in the community and their expertise. In Zion, people own stuff and are expected to make profit with it. With the profit, they feed their families and pass the surplus on to the bishop to help the poor become rich. Do you see why there are no poor or rich in Zion? You may make the distinction between those with surplus and those without, but even then, with the careful eye of the bishop, no one will be under-served or forgotten.

As an example of what Zion could be like, consider the recent story that appeared in one of our church’s General Conferences. A young mechanic was put out of work from his auto repair shop. He had nowhere to turn and couldn’t find work. After exhausting all of his resources, he turned to his ward and asked the bishop for help. The bishop was ready to help with rent payments and food and such, and the other members got to work trying to figure out how to help him create his own opportunity, even going so far as to investigate possible alternative careers. In the end, they decided together that maybe opening an auto repair shop in another location that was under-served was a viable option. But where to raise the capital? One member let the man use his barn. Another member had some of the necessary equipment. Another member knew how to do advertising and marketing and helped to spread the word and get the business off the ground. Another knew how to do accounting and legal things and helped the man navigate that. Before long, he was the proud owner of an auto repair shop.

Do you see the difference between this model of community helping each other, and the model of writing a check to everyone each month? The former brings people together in a common goal of each other’s well-being. Want and necessity drive people to bond more closely. The latter reduces people to a number, and separates people from each other.

In fact, one thing basic income people never talk about is what happens if everyone decides to stop working altogether? That is the issue we had in the USSR and other socialist systems. What happens when people don’t try their very best or don’t pay particular attention to producing something really want? The answer is economic ruin. You can take a burgeoning economic powerhouse of a country, flush with natural resources and a workforce eager and ready to do anything and everything to make each other’s lives better, and reduce it to the miserable conditions we found in East Germany and the USSR in a matter of years if you employ the same methods they used. Basic income was one of those methods.

Please, don’t be ignorant about basic economics and alternatives. Please don’t fall for the same trap that many nations fell for a hundred years ago! It took nearly a century to dig themselves out of that hole. Why would you want to fall back in?

Mormons and the TEA Party

June 17, 2013 by

Stallion Cornell refutes an anti-mormon piece over on his blog in a series of posts. (link)

Let’s look at the state of affairs:

(1) Romney lost, as we now know, because he was Mormon. If low-income white voters had voted anywhere near the way they usually do, we would have Romney as president. The only reason they refused to vote for him was because of his faith.

(2) The TEA Party, led by chuckleheads like Sarah Palin, is inherently anti-Mormon. No matter how hard I wish it weren’t so, it is so. Despite what they claim, their purpose is to further their religious ends, IE, use the state to endorse their religion, which is sad because I had hoped it was not.

(3) The Republican Party, along with the Democratic Party, are inherently anti-religion, so it goes without saying that they are anti-Mormon. Rush Limbaugh’s expose on the fact that republican leaders wish the Christians would go away, along with the democratic convention’s obvious vote to reject God from their platform, are clear testimony against this.

As a Mormon, you can imagine how I feel about politics. Ah well. Such is life. I didn’t sign up to be Mormon because I thought it would be cool and fashionable.

I am trying to imagine some sort of political system that can be used to “overthrow” the way things are today. I just can’t see our country continuing in this mode of winner-takes-all, loser-be-damned and good things coming of it. I don’t believe our political opponents are really our political enemies, and I don’t agree with the vast majority of what the TEA Party, the Republican Party, or any other party agrees with, and I think most Americans feel the same way, particularly when they can see through the cloud that the media throws in our path.

The end result, in my mind, should always be a government focused on protecting people, a government focused on doing as little as possible to do so, a government which empowers people to live their own lives and govern their own houses and businesses the way they think is best, and at the same time, provides massive incentives for people to overcome their natural bigotry and turn towards people unlike themselves for their mutual self-benefit.

I think the changes that need to occur start in our homes, our churches, and our communities. Once our society is right, then the government will naturally follow, later rather than sooner. Step one would probably be just getting to know your neighbors — but that’s mostly a Seattle thing anyways.

We don’t need riots or wars or close elections to change things. That’s not how successful things are done in life. So I am not looking for a massive confrontation. Just a gradual turning of the ship of state, a gradual change in attitudes.

In short, I want a revolution, the most non-revolutionary revolution in the history of the world. And I think if enough of us want it, there is nothing any conspiracy in the world can do to stop it.

On MMR Vaccines and Autism

June 17, 2013 by

Apparently people still believe there is a causal link from vaccines to autism. I remain skeptical, as I do about almost everything in the medical professions.

The suggestion is that there is some massive conspiracy covering up the negative effects of vaccinations. There is some degree of truth to this: There is a conspiracy, and it involves pretty much every parent, every citizen, and the government of pretty much every country. See, we really, really hate diseases that can be prevented by vaccinations.

Now, there are some negative effects to vaccinations, and perhaps it may make sense to keep certain children from getting them. After all, you do not need a 100% vaccination rate to completely eliminate a disease. But human behavior being what it is, if you start handing out excuse slips, pretty soon everyone has one. In this case, we err on the side of vaccination, for obvious reasons.

The people driving the vaccination scare do not strike me as particularly trustworthy or mentally competent individuals. On the one hand, we have Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey and Robert Kennedy, Jr. Aside from their politics, these are hardly people who have the kind of background that give them any credibility at all in the medical profession. We are better off paying attention to people who run journals and get their papers published, as well as people who sign for prescriptions. Their overwhelming opinion is that we should all get our kids vaccinated.

The silliness really needs to end. Either you trust discredited doctors and actors, or you trust the medical industry. Or you trust yourself to make a professional judgment in a field you have hardly any understanding of at all.

On Immigration

April 16, 2013 by

Immigration is not a simple issue. It certainly doesn’t split down party lines.

Let’s try to break apart the immigration issue, and let’s see where we all stand on each issue.

First, is the question of citizenship. Who should be allowed to become a citizen? I think everyone universally agrees on the qualifications needed. No argument there. Bottom line, they should understand what our country stands for, agree with it, and swear an oath to be a part of it.

The only question worth debating is a question of numbers. How many citizens do we allow? Of what nation, race, creed, etc..? What about education level? The divide is mostly protectionists vs. free traders. Free traders don’t care who becomes a citizen, as long as they swear an oath to our country after demonstrating an understanding of our political values and their love for it. Protectionists are concerned with cheap labor flooding the market, crowding out people who are already facing intense pressure from international markets.

I’ll talk about protectionism and why it is wrong later. For now, just be satisfied that there are protectionists in both parties, and there are free traders in both parties.

Next is the issue of voting. Who gets to vote? Conservatives favor only citizens voting, and are very upset that we are registering people to vote who are not citizens, and we do not have strict controls over who is allowed to throw a ballot into the box. Liberals think that the fraud votes, votes by those who are not citizens or who are voting twice, end up helping them. The moment they think otherwise, they will be just as vociferous as the conservatives in securing our ballot boxes. Really, this is a side issue that has little to nothing to do with immigration.

There is one tiny aspect, however, and that is that each party wants to bring likely voters into the country. We know which countries produce what kind of voters, and so you’ll see the parties try to give preference to the ones that favor them.

Next comes the issue of who gets to work here. Free traders think anyone who comes here in peace should be allowed to work, own property, and do whatever a citizen could do, economically speaking. Protectionists, again, fear the flood of cheap labor. Another group of people worry that our language and culture will be swept by foreign languages and cultures.

Personally, I’m a free trader and I don’t think our culture is as weak as some people think. Our culture will adapt to changing preferences and needs. We will take what is useful, and leave the rest behind, from our own and other cultures. America isn’t defined by culture anyway. We’re defined by political ideology.

Next comes the issue of who gets to come here. Free traders don’t care, as long as they are peaceful. Protectionists don’t mind tourists, and even encourage it since they think it benefits us. So there is no disagreement here. Everyone wants more visitors, as long as they stay visitors and don’t become workers. Then it becomes an argument.

Finally, there is the question of the law. Let me begin by reframing what our current state is.

We talk about illegal immigrants and the businesses that employ them. Both are ignoring and thwarting the law. This is really bad. In a nation of laws like ours, keeping the law is everyone’s paramount duty. People who ignore the law set a bad precedent.

I want you to think about why it is that people come here illegally. There are those who come here for nefarious purposes. We all agree that they should be stopped and punished. But there are those who come for good reasons, reasons which, in our heart of hearts, we think are noble and great. Basically, they want to make money.

Why is it that someone can think they can come here illegally and make money? It is a number of things. Let me try to list them all.

  • Employers who don’t respect the law.
  • The fact that our wages are much higher than their country’s.
  • The fact that we are more productive than their country.
  • The fact that, economically speaking, we are more fair than their country.

If you take away one or more of those things, then you won’t get illegal immigrants. Here’s the thing, though. The only thing I would ever want to change is the first item. The other items I want my country to have, in perpetuity.

Now, let’s look at the employer’s side of the equation. Certain industries have adapted to the cheap and abundant labor available from illegal immigration, to the point where enforcing the law would ruin the industry. We can’t propose enforcing the law without, simultaneously, giving them access to cheap labor of similar quality and number. Anything less, then of course they are going to fight tooth and nail to keep the status quo.

The bottom line is that we need some kind of amnesty program because we simply are never going to send these people home.

Free traders like myself see a simple solution: Open the borders to all who want to come to America, keep our laws, and live peacefully. I would go one step further and eliminate the green card program altogether. Make it so that employers don’t need to even check for legal status or Social Security Numbers. However, protectionists abhor such a solution, thinking that it will lead to massive unemployment and the ruin of their favorite industries.

Which gets me to the bottom line: Protectionism vs. Free Trade.

I will argue that Protectionists have it all wrong. In a country founded on freedom, the idea that we can somehow limit economic freedom and good things will result is absurd. The whole reason why we have an immigration problem at all is because of the protectionists trying to use government force to give themselves an economic advantage. This is wrong.

Finally, I want to end on this note. There are those who employ illegal immigrants who see them as slaves. Sure, they get paid, but at a much lower rate than Americans would take, with no legal rights and protections.  We must end this slavery. The way to end it is to bring the illegal immigrants out of the illegal status. We’re not going to be able to do this by shifting incentives or suddenly enforcing law. We have to do it by making illegal immigrants legal by an act of law.

 


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