Archive for November, 2007

Milton Friedman: Judge Well

November 30, 2007

The character of Milton Friedman has been under assault since his passing. Let me summarize for my readers what I believe you should consider before writing off Milton Friedman.

First, understand that Milton Friedman represents a theory of economics that gave rise to the American Revolution and all the wealthy countries of the world, without exception. Those countries which embraced the theories that Milton Friedman believed became rich. Those that didn’t were poor. Without exception, this is true.

A lot of paper has been wasted to try and prove what I just said false. There has been numerous attempts to find even one counter-example to it. None have succeeded. No, not one. Of those that I have seen that come close, they misrepresent the theory.

I invite all who think they have a counter example to present it and to answer the questions I will have about it. I am confident that I can prove it to be an incorrect counter example, and quite possibly, a good example of the point I am trying to make.

What is that theory? That theory is that those who are best able to make decisions are those with the most at stake. That theory says that people should own property and they should be allowed to do what they want with that property. That theory says that they should be allowed to trade freely with their neighbors, nationally and internationally. That theory says that people should keep all of what they create, and share only what they want to share. That theory says that governments are instituted to provide a bare minimum of services, among which social services are not a part. The services that government do provide are there to ensure that property rights are sustained, and that free trade and exchange is made easier. In other words, this is the theory of “free market economics”, or what communists call “capitalism”. (Isn’t it interesting that yet again, a good thing labelled with a bad word causes the bad word to mean a good thing? Think about it.)

Now, since Milton Friedman’s theories are unassailable and infallible, as far as we have seen so far, people are going to attack the man himself. They will do it in one of two ways. Either they will call the man a liar (and thus, you shouldn’t trust anything a liar says because liars can never speak the truth), or they will call the man stupid (and thus, you shouldn’t trust the stupid because they can never be correct.)

But this is absurd logic. Argumentum ad hominem is a type of logical fallacy, meaning that if you use it, you are very likely to make a mistake in your reasoning.

If Milton Friedman were alive today, he wouldn’t want you to judge him or his character. He would instead point you to his theories, or more correctly, the theories of economics that make everyone wealthy and prosperous. He spends great effort to take the most fundamental concepts and boil them into a few simple arguments that the layman can easily understand and appreciate and yet simultaneously confounds the “wisest” of economists who refuse to believe the same.

So don’t let yourself get sidetracked. The argument is not about Milton Friedman. It is about his ideas. And his ideas were the same ideas that President Reagan, Adam Smith (18th century economic philosopher) and our Founding Fathers had. It is the idea that men should be free to do what they wish with the things they own, and that when that happens, great prosperity is the inevitable result. It is the idea that government control is counterproductive in all instances without exception. It is the idea that men were born free and endowed with inalienable rights by God, and that government exists to protect and not infringe upon those rights.

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Mitt’s my man

November 30, 2007

Here’s why: link

To those of you wondering, this is a typical thing in the LDS community. We just do these things from time to time. It’s in our blood or something.  We do it  because it’s exercise, because we get to hang out with each other and get away from our family or our work for a bit and worry about something else for a while. We do it because we’re told to do it and it eases our guilty conscience. We do it because it makes us feel good inside and out.

Fuzzy Math–No Thanks

November 28, 2007

Michelle Malking on Fuzzy Math. Read it all.

Only a government institution could choose a math program so stupid. If education were a private industry, any school choosing such a math program as Everday Math would almost instantly fail.

After all, education isn’t about what teachers want. It is about what parents and students want.

All you teachers who think differently, try running a grocery store the same way you run the schools and see how long you last. Try telling the customer that they really want an organic apple when they are trying to buy beef. See how far that gets you. Of course, Everyday Math is hardly like an apple. It is more like belly button lint found in the street gutter. It doesn’t even contain any educational value, let alone appeal.

If you still don’t get it, then understand this: As a member of a government institution, it is your duty to serve the people. Since when did government become our master? It was never intended to be that way, and if you think it should have been, consider myself your enemy. That’s because you are aligning yourself with King George, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Saddam Hussein, all who thought government should be the master as well.

Mike Huckabee–I won’t vote for him

November 28, 2007

(in the primaries)

I never really felt comfortable with Mike Huckabee the same way I don’t feel comfortable with a John McCain. As far as his message is concerned, it’s pretty standard, pretty conservative, and appealing to my political tastes.

That was, until he ran the ad touting himself as a Christian.

Folks, are we electing a president or a pastor? A military leader or a religious one? A political revolution or a Christian revival?

Yes, what a man believes is important to me. But not the parts you think of when we talk about belief and faith.

The belief that is by far the most important to me is their belief in America–her people and her principles.

Does the candidate believe that if left alone, the American people will do the right thing, or do they believe that only the strict controls of government can keep Americans from destroying themselves?

Does the candidate believe in natural, God-given rights, or that government grants rights to people?

Does the candidate believe that governments are created to serve man by protecting their natural rights, or that men were created to serve government?

But in addition to these beliefs, I look for action. I want someone who not only talks a good game, but has a proven track record of playing a good game. Have they led large institutions successfully? If they held political office, have they compromised their values or stood firm and delivered real results? Or, have they been so uncompromising that they have been completely ineffective?

These are all important things. In my mind, all of these things can be summed up in one attribute: wisdom.

And interestingly enough, we are commanded in the LDS church in our scriptures to elect wise people to lead us.

Not Mormons.

Not Christians.

Not even believers in God.

Not even Republicans or Democrats.

Just wise people.

That’s it.

If you are coming to this election hoping to elect anything but a wise person–that is, if you are judging your candidate based on what group he belongs to, or what he believes in outside of the completely relevant things–then I pray you’ll skip this election.

We aren’t electing a pastor, and elections aren’t the place to start a religious revival.

We are electing a president, we are electing a military leader, and we are working for a change in our political system.

And so when Mike Huckabee comes out calling himself the Christian candidate, it is a major turn-off for me, just as it would be if Mitt Romney started asking for your votes because he is a mormon, and just as if Lieberman asked for your votes because he was a practicing Jew. It’s absurd, and it’s troubling.

As Americans, we have moved far beyond that. At least we should have.

By the way, the more I learn about Huckabee, the more I believe he is anything but a conservative.

Why we Have Thanksgiving

November 21, 2007

Why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? Because of the blessings that God has given us.

Where do the material blessings come from? Our obedience to the natural law, the natural order of things, or the law that God wrote and put in effect throughout the universe.

John Stossel explains in an article where the abundance of America truly comes from. (link) In short, we are rich because we have property rights. We are rich because we keep what we earn. This is the way the world works because this is the way God made it.

The other way–where everyone shares a common pot–leads only to poverty. Ask the pilgrims. They understood the principle quite well after their second year of near starvation. They understood it even better after the abundance of the third year when they changed their ways.

The laws of economics and the laws of religion are very closely related, as our pilgrim ancestors knew. In fact, I see no area where religious and secular matters do not intersect.

As a practicing member of the LDS church, one of the doctrines I most appreciate in our church is the United Order.

The United Order is often misportrayed as another form of communism. It is not.

It is simply this. Everyone owns what they have, and are expected to produce as much as possible. The rich give their excess willingly to the church, thanking God for their blessings and hoping to help the poor in a spirit of love and equality. The church allocates to the poor according to their need. The poor receive in thankfulness and are expected to work themselves out of poverty.

Oh yeah. Those who don’t work don’t eat. The doors of the storehouse are closed to them until they have a change of heart.

And in no place is force used in any part of the equation, only persuasion and patience and kindness. The purpose of the law, after all, is to inspire brotherly love and kindness, not engender antagonistic feelings among the different economic classes. In short, it is an order designed to unite the people with Christ. Thus, the United Order.
Those who are intimately familiar with the Bible’s teachings will not be surprised by this doctrine. It is quite plain to those who wish to see. Several of Jesus’ parables speak about parts of this law, and several passages in the epistles are quite frank about it.

That law is in effect in large part today in our church. That is why I believe we have a lot of wealthy members and a lot of not-so-wealthy members, but very few members in real poverty.

This is the same law that most Americans live under, although they use charities rather than churches oftentimes. For this reason, I believe America is blessed by God above all other lands. I believe that all blessings come from God only according to our obedience to his laws. And I believe that wealth and substance are one of the blessings this law promises.

The places where poverty and disunity are worst are those where this law is not followed. Perhaps the rich aren’t sharing their excess willingly and in a spirit of compassion. Perhaps the excess isn’t being distributed according to need. Or perhaps the poor aren’t asked to work themselves out of poverty, with the slothful being denied aid.

The direction our country is going, in a few years’ time, will allow us to remove the heavy, forceful hand of government from the equation and return to the true spirit of the law–charity, the pure love of Christ.

And when that day comes, and even today, we can truly look to God and thank him for his just and merciful laws, and the blessings that shower on us when we keep those laws.

That’s why I celebrate Thanksgiving–because of the knowledge that God gave us of his laws, and because of his love that convinces us to keep those laws, and because of his merciful and just execution of those laws. We truly owe all our wealth to God.

Progressives Don’t Get It

November 20, 2007

Eric Earling gets it. Even Mrs. Gregoire gets it.

Progressives do not get it.

What is “it”? “It” is that the governments we live under were created by the people, for the people. Let me explain what this really means.

By the people: That means that government is a creation of the people.

See, people have natural rights. Those are rights that can never be rescinded, not by anyone, not by any way. Everyone is born with them. That’s what makes us all equal–not our station in life, our inheritance, or our skin color. What makes us equal is that we all have the same natural rights. Some of these rights include the right to speak freely, the right to own and use property, the right to create, the right to keep and bear arms, the right to defend one’s life and property with violence, the right to worship as one sees fit, etc… This isn’t a new concept. Perhaps it is new to those who have only heard socialist platitudes their entire lives.

As sovereign individuals, we came together and we negotiated the terms of the contract with the government we created. We voluntarily and temporarily surrendered some of our rights to create this government.

When governments like the Washington State Supreme Court rule that the people are too stupid to understand I747, what they are really saying is that they feel superior to their creators, the people. They feel like they can understand the law we wrote better than we can. This is why the people of Washington State are visibly upset with our government.

For the people: The purpose of government is to serve the people. Period. End of story. It is not to expand government power, it is not to create equality among the people (we are already equal) and it is not to change the people’s opinion one whit on any issue. We created government to do things that only a government created by us could do. That is, manage the common resources such as our roads and waterways, handle the justice system, bring the unlawful to justice, and ensure domestic tranquility. That’s pretty much it. Outside of that, we’ve tacked on a few things in our state constitution, things such as running our ferry system and providing money for the education of our children. Personally, I don’t agree with the scope of government in Washington State, but it’s what we the people created it to do.

When government steps out of bounds of its charter, when it believes it to be superior in intellect to its creators, when it believes its purpose lies in anything else but in servitude to the people, then it has violated its purpose. In my mind, that means it is time for people to bring it to task. We do so not by forced insurrection (though that is always an option), but by the election process. We elect our representatives rather than killing the old ones who refuse to step down. That’s why voting is so important and why if you don’t take the time to vote, you should keep your mouth shut and bear what you have allowed others to force upon you.

Now, as for Mrs. Gregoire’s decision to implement I747 by legislature, that is a good one. It is correct for the legislature and governor to correct the usurpation of power by the supreme court. It’s called checks and balances.

It makes sense politically as well. A whole lot of democrats who voted for Gregoire also voted for I747. She knows that, and so does every legislator in Olympia. Should they decide to flip the finger at the people by not passing I747, then the people will have a good reason to depose them in 2008.

Progressives believe all of this archaic reasoning and talk of natural rights is absurd. That’s fine. But we know what path the progressive line of thought leads to, and we have rejected it on many occasions.

Free Trade = Jobs in Federal Way

November 19, 2007

My concept of conservatism is the fundamental rule that people are smart, and given freedom, will make better choices than the government can.

Nowhere is this more obvious than the arena of international trade.

Nowhere does this affect your income as much as it does here in Washington State.

Mitt Romney put together a slide show demonstrating the effects of free trade. (link) I suggest you look through them. The most impressive fact is that without free trade, there would be half as many jobs here in Washington.

Now, here’s a simple, simple explanation of why free trade is good for us and good for them. Consider any market–anything. Would you benefit as a buyer or seller if there were more buyers and sellers? Those of you who make a business out of buying and selling know that the answer is always, “Absolutely!” When more people participate in the market, either as buyers or sellers, then that means the quality of the goods increase, the quantity increases, and the value of the industry increases.

You see numerous examples of this everywhere. Sure, sellers would rather you joined the market as buyers, and vice-versa, but in the end, everyone benefits even if there is more competition on one end or the other. Competition is good–it is what makes our jobs valuable and our products innovative.

Now, what is the most obvious way of expanding our markets? By including foreign countries, all of them, as quickly as possible. When we can buy and sell with countries like South Korea without encumbrance, it benefits us.

I can understand a bit of populist protectionism. “Made in the USA, rah, rah, rah! American jobs, American goods, etc…” However, when you get a chance to explain that free trade means more buyers and more sellers, when you explain that WalMart keeps prices low because they work world-wide with suppliers, and their job exists because we export our goods and services to foreign countries, and when they see that for every new market we open up, we create and import more jobs than we export, they begin to see the light. With enough healthy debate, facts, and correct information, along with sound reasoning, they will eventually be persuaded to be as open minded as Adam Smith. (And for those who still don’t get it, Smoot-Hawley. Google it.)

On the other hand, those who understand what free trade does and still want to restrict it are dangerous. These are the same people who see what government does to perfectly healthy industries and demand more of it. One wonders what their motives are, but you don’t have to look far to see what the effects of their policies are.

Acid Oceans or Acid Reporting?

November 19, 2007

The latest scare tactic: we’re all going to die because the oceans are turning to acid.

I don’t buy it. I’ve heard this song before. Many times.

In order to believe this article, you would have to believe that science works in the following manner:

  1. We’re all going to die. (Well, faster.)
  2. Design a report to show this.
  3. Have a lot of “scientists” (or at least “experts”) sign on to this, along with a lot of countries and commissions with important sounding names. Be very vague about who signed it and why.
  4. Produce the report days before a global meeting to talk about last week’s we’re-all-going-to-die message, especially if last’s week message has been thoroughly debunked.
  5. Write newspaper articles in the most sensational manner possible, skipping all the science-y bits.
  6. Criticize anyone who doesn’t believe in the latest crisis, calling them names and excluding them from research grants.

Now, if you believe that is how science works, then you are ignorant. That means you don’t know very much. This isn’t the formula for science. This is the formula for politics. This is how you get the masses to do things they wouldn’t normally do, things like buying light bulbs from Phillips or driving inefficient and expensive cars, or recycling glass that nobody wants.

Real science works like this.

  1. Do a lot of reading on the state of science, a lot of thinking, and a lot of actual experimentation.
  2. Observe something or think of something reasonable that nobody has seen or thought of before.
  3. Document it in a scientific article, well-cited and clearly.
  4. Get your article peer reviewed. (This takes a very long time.)
  5. Publish the article in a respected magazine.

If you notice, there is no room for sensationalism. There is no consensus in this process. There is no sacred cows. That is, you are free to explain why anything and everything is wrong. There are also strict controls–both the peer reviews and the publisher limit what is published.

This is one of the primary reasons why I believe all of these manufactured sensational crises–global warming, global cooling, acid oceans, ozone hole, etc…–are not science. They aren’t following the process for science. They are more correctly categorized under “politics”.

More here.

Are school boards effective?

November 18, 2007

Should we abolish School Boards?

 

This month I attended my 7th consecutive State School Board conference.  One of the topics that is discussed in the hallways, but not in a formal meeting, is “should school boards be abolished?”  There have been attempts, by the legislature, to require certain levels of training and to remove the school boards of those districts that are not meeting standards. 

 

As one might expect from school board members there is, as they would call it, “considerable pushback” to the idea that this astute group would not be the best solution to the education of our children.  To which I might suggest, “Look at the results”.

 

In the 7 years that I have attended these meetings, and local meetings, I have met some very nice people with some great intentions but unfortunately in most cases very little background that would support their good intentions.  When I ask them “what school, somewhere, has some attributes that you think would improve your schools?” I get a look of bewilderment that is often described as “deer in the headlights”.  One board member from a nearby district told me that he would like his high schools to be like the one that his son graduated from in a neighboring district.  I looked this high school up to compare it to other schools and I would have not come to the same conclusion.  His criterion was just that his son had graduated from it.  Evidently graduation was to be considered an accomplishment.

 

When I ask them what are there sources of information that they use make decisions and set agendas I get another look of bewilderment.  This is followed by perhaps their administration or the parents.  The Washington law states that the quality of the local schools is the responsibility of the local school board, not the administration.  To do this, I believe, one needs to be “up to date” on what is happening in schools across the globe, well at least in the nation.  I have not found many school board members that are subscribing to any of the timely educational publications, or looking on the net for what is happening elsewhere.  At a workshop this past week a local Superintendent took exception to the idea that school board members should be bringing “ideas” to the school board for improving their schools!  Are school boards blind rubber stamps?

 

In the 7 years that I have attended these meetings there has been a recurring them, some of us call it the “Jonestown Kool-Aid”, that tries to tell every school board member that they are very important, but don’t begin to believe that you should instigate any measures that would actually be felt in classrooms or hallways.

 

One school board member discussed with me his disappointment with the math achievement in his high schools.  I suggested a meeting between the Board, Superintendent, and Mathematics Department to get a better understanding of the problem.  He was quite taken back by this suggestion.  He didn’t think that this would be possible!  Certainly a solution to the problem without such a dialog may not be the most efficient way to find a solution.

 

Following this year’s meeting I attended a meeting of a group that is focused on improving the math instruction in this state and working with the state to set better criterion for math instruction.  I was the only school board member from the entire state in attendance.  Evidently just not on the radar screen of the other 1800 school board members in the state.  Most kids in this state are not passing our minimal standards for mathematics but this doesn’t seem to be that important.  While at the WSSDA meeting I learned that most kids are not even making a year’s progress, in middle school in a year, and are losing ground every year they attend middle school!

 

Where are the “responsible school board members”?  I don’t know!

Fooey

November 16, 2007

As a practicing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, let me say this: what a bunch of fooey.

For those of you interested in the religious angle of Mitt Romney’s bid for the White House, I suggest you follow Article VI Blog. It’s a blog with a single purpose–to put all the bit of information on the religious aspect of the race into a complete bundle, with commentary from two religious people, one of the mormon faith and the other not.

Now, on to the meat. The New Republic, stained by publishing false stories of the Iraq War as truth and standing behind the stories after having the author sign an affidavit asserting their falsity, ran an article saying that mormons disagree with the way Romney is representing their religion. What a bunch of Fooey (capital F). This is a manufactured outrage, driven by mormons who seem to put politics ahead of religion and denounce a faithful member simply because he doesn’t agree with them in the political arena.

Some of the quotes come from Sunstone Magazine. Sunstone Magazine hardly represents anyone in the church. It is a fringe group, a group I would never like to be associated with. Therefore, any quotes from any editor or contributor or even a reader of said magazine I would take with a grain of salt

On the issue of where Christ will appear: Does it matter? Will Mitt Romney be a better or worse president if Christ appears in Jerusalem or Jackson County? If this is the first time you have heard anything like this, do you care whether the President of the United States believes Christ will appear in Jerusalem or Jackson County?

On the issue of LDS doctrine in general: Does Romney represent his church in any way, shape or form in an official capacity to speak on the doctrine of the church? Yes, but no more than I do.

And this is what I say to doctrinal questions. If you want to know what we really believe in, by all means get a hold of the missionaries in your area. They would be more than happy to tell you everything about our church in a way that you will understand so you cannot be confused. We send these missionaries out into the world so that the world can get the story from the source, rather than second-hand reports.

But the underlying truth is that it really doesn’t matter what a president believes. It matters what he will do. Judge a man by his actions, not his beliefs. “By their fruits ye shall know them,” according to the Savior. I know plenty of good believers that are poor doers, and vice-versa. I’d rather have the doers in office than the believers. To me, Romney is my man because he is a great doer.