Archive for June, 2011

Woe is US

June 28, 2011

Oftentimes, certain evangelical preachers give a sermon pointing out all the flaws in our country, both as individuals and as groups of people that make up a nation.

I feel inspired to do the same, calling on reasonable morality to point out how corrupt we have become.

We have the power within our political system to fix these things. They will not be easy, and it will mean sacrifice from those who will benefit the least. But like a man who stoops to pick up litter as he walks by, we can have a better country if we are willing to sacrifice a little personal time and money for the greatest good.

Our most important moral issue is in our own hearts. Have we set our hearts on the perfect, or have we satisfied ourselves with “good enough”? Do we strive to be the best people we can be? Do we hold ourselves to impossibly high standards, and make our best effort to reach them? Or do we lower the bar, and then, stepping over it, pat ourselves on the back? I am talking about the moral responsibility we have as independent, free individuals. If we do not hold ourselves to the highest moral standards, then nothing I say after this will matter.

Discovering our weaknesses, we can hide them, or we can eliminate them. Obviously, it is better to remove our character flaws than to hide them, but it is the worst thing of all to pretend they are no flaws at all.

Yes, we are animals, but nature. But our superior minds and moral compass make us so much more than animals. The closest thing to mankind is God, or for the atheist, our concept of what God should be. We share more in common with God than any other thing in existence. To set our sights on anything lower is to admit the ultimate defeat.

After ourselves, our second moral responsibility is our family. Do we help our family, sacrificing ourselves for the good of the next generation? If not, then our priorities are all wrong. If life is the most important thing, then procreation and preparing that new life for a better future than our own is the greatest good. In order to do so, we need to build families based on love, patience, kindness, devotion, and work. We need to devote ourselves to our spouses, and then together act as parents to our children.

To a lesser degree, we need to reach out, to a lesser degree, but an important one nonetheless, to our extended families, particularly our aging elders, but our brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, and more. If we cannot rely on our family, then what can we rely on at all? If we cannot be relied upon, then what are we?

Only after we have fixed our personal lives and family lives can we turn to our community. Within our community, our churches should be the focus of our charitable activities. Churches should organize all the relief efforts of all mankind in the community. Churches should be first to serve the poor, first to welcome the stranger, first to heal the broken hearts. Churches should be the moral center of the community, stalwart protectors of what is right and denouncers of what is wrong. At the same time, they must welcome all, from all walks of life, into the bonds of love and friendship that create our communities in the first place.

Our businesses should be places of work. Here, we should pour in our time and talents and capital, tempered only by our moral compass. The goal of business is to create wealth, which means making profits. These profits are fed back into the businesses to make even more profits. If our businesses are profiting, our fields will be full of food and our families will be well-fed. Only through profits can we create a better life for the future.

In government, the basic premise is simply this. Governments do that which only governments can do, and then only to protect or expand our rights and privileges. Governments cannot provide “things”, then can only provide the absence of interference. It is governments that ensure that the criminal elements within ourselves and our communities do not find it advantageous. It is through government that we unite to protect our own freedoms with just laws and just protection of our liberties.

Governments should not impose high taxes. What a drain this is! Except in wartime with a superior enemy, we shouldn’t be borrowing money or imposing high taxes. If government requires a lot of money to operate, then it most likely isn’t protecting our rights, but infringing upon them. That is our situation today. Who can lift a finger without asking for government’s permission first? This isn’t freedom, this is slavery. I feel like a fugitive trying to start a small business, not because I have criminal intent, but because it is impossible for me to know all the regulations that government has invented, and thus impossible to comply with even a small fraction of them. What a waste of our money—a government that tramples on our rights!

Some examples of government policies that are completely and totally immoral include:

  • Deficit spending and debt. Why are we borrowing from future generations to provide for ourselves? We have enslaved our children and grandchildren, and they cannot oppose this.
  • Transferring wealth from the workers to the elderly through Social Security and Medicare and entitlement programs. While we love our seniors, we are not their slaves.
  • Transferring to the poor and needy through welfare programs. While we love the poor and want to help, we are not their slaves either.
  • Mountains of regulations affecting every aspect of our lives: Government is not our master, it is our servant. Laws should only affect the criminally minded, not those who are simply trying to create wealth or help their neighbors and raise their families.
  • Illegal immigration not only tolerated by impossible to stop. When states write laws that allow police to determine whether a criminal is illegals in the US or not, the courts issue injunctions and stays. When President Obama waves his hand and grants amnesty above the objections of Congress, the courts applaud.
  • Injustice in the courts. When judges seek to impose their political ideology on the law as it is written, we no longer have justice, but tyranny. What is the difference between a king who does what he wishes and a judge who invents his own rulings?
  • Political corruption. When politicians seek to use their political power for personal gain, we have corruption. In order to eliminate corruption, we must drain the swamp, eliminating the connection between wealth and political power. If the federal government only spent a few millions each year, would there be an army of lobbyists petitioning for their cut of that money?
  • Money controlled by the Fed, not the people. The US Dollar is the people’s money, and should be controlled by the People’s house, which is what the constitution provides.
  • Regulation and courts in the administration. Putting regulatory power, executive power, and judicial power in the hands of one man or one group of men is too much for anyone person or group of people to handle. We might as well make these people lords and dukes and barons, and allow them to own slaves and raise armies, because that is what they are doing.
  • Foreign Policy that hurts our friends and helps our enemies. Why are we fighting a war in Libya, when the Libyan government has been cooperative, and yet we let Iran, a belligerent country, build nuclear weapons without even a word? This pattern is repeated again and again. At the very least, we should love our friends and hate our enemies, not the other way around. Of course, the American way is to encourage our enemies to be friendly with us, which I think is an even better law to live by. But we cannot, I repeat, cannot harm our friends and expect to have many friends.
  • Homosexual marriage. If marriage is so important, why can it be redefined? If marriage is so meaningless, why do we want to give it to homosexual couples? We should keep marriage the way it is, use it as a tool to build families with a loving father and mother who raise their children in love.
  • Abortion. We have murdered far more babies than Nazi Germany has Jews. There are millions and millions of people today who are not alive because of our Holocaust. We must end abortion, except in the moral dilemma where the life of the mother is at stake, rape or incest, where we are balancing lives, not convenience. We must live by the highest moral code, reserving sexual relations only for married couples, so that no child is brought into this world outside of marriage. In cases where out-of-wedlock pregnancies do occur, we must have only reasonable and simple laws that govern how those babies may be adopted to couples who wish to bring them into their families.
  • North Korea. We have lived for almost 2 generations with North Korea treating their own people worse than animals. Now that their people are starving once again, and we have plenty of surplus that can relieve all their starving, it is time we eliminated the roadblock between food and the North Korean people. I cannot live like this, knowing that we have the power to save so many people who are worse than prisoners in their own country. I don’t expect much resistance from an army who is half-starved and no longer loyal to the regime. All we have to do is stand up and move in our armies with food for the people and troops in that country, and we can overthrow that regime without firing a shot.

There are many more national issues where our government has put us on the wrong side of morality. I can only mention the few that I have.

The root problem is simply this: Our governments do too much. If they were a tiny fraction of the size they are today, we wouldn’t have a fraction of the problems we do today.

I am counting on you to rededicate yourselves to morality, and to live the moral way, rather than any other.

My Proposal to Reform the Electoral College

June 23, 2011

Roger Stone proposes a way to reform the Electoral College, turning it into a proportional representation system.

I have a better idea: Let’s go back to the system that gave us the best president in US History: George Washington.

The way it would work is as follows.

First, state legislatures choose, according to whichever method they like, electors that match the number of senators and representatives from their state. Then, on the chosen day, the electors meet separately to determine who they will vote for president. They send a sealed, certified letter to the House of Representatives with the details of their votes, who then read the votes aloud in a public session of the house. If any one person receives a majority count, they become president. If there is no majority, then the representatives choose a president from among the people who received votes.

I believe state legislatures would do well to remove the popular vote portion of the presidential election altogether. I believe select committees should be appointed to debate the issue of who should be president and make a wise decision. I believe state legislatures would be wise to choose people on that committee who can put politics aside and think about what kind of person we need to run the federal administration for the next four years. However, if the state legislatures want to abuse that power and choose electors who vote for the person they wish, and thus take on the weighty matter of who the president should be, let them consume their limited time with this fruitless debate.

I draw on logic and reason as my guide in this matter. See, we don’t have elections for CEO by the shareholders. CEOs are chosen by the boards who represent the shareholders. These board members spend a great deal of time finding good candidates and interviewing them. This kind of process is impossible on such a large scale as shareholders. Why do we think it is appropriate for all 300 million Americans to think about who should be president?

If the Electoral College process were adhered to, with the electors free to vote their conscience, then after their appointment and before the meeting, they would spend all their free time thinking as hard as they could about what we need in a president and which candidates would best serve the needs of our country. People who are likely candidates would probably be called in to interview with groups of electors. Debates would be focused on weight policy matters and issues of qualifications, not on political sloganeering or organizing mobs to rustle up votes across the country. Presidential aspirants would have to be well-versed in politics, political theory, military command, and administration, or it would be obvious that they were clearly unqualified for the job, no matter how politically appealing they are.

When the electors meet to discuss their final decisions, the debate would focus on substance, not politics. The principle question would be about our country and whether each man (or woman) would be a good president for it. All the other issues pale in comparison to these.

In the likely event that there is no majority vote, the only body which should be entrusted with deciding the president would be the house. Seeing as how the house and the president need to be united in purpose, this is the ideal scenario, and leads us to the kind of harmony that parliamentary systems have, with their chief executive chosen by the parliament. Instead of regional interests being pitted against national interests, as we are today, we would see regional interests compromise for their own good and the good of the whole.

Which of the above features are found in a democratic, mob-rule system that Roger Stone proposed? None. Roger Stone, I believe, doesn’t understand why democracy is a bad thing, and why the American system of government was never setup as a democracy. He may have a hard time understand why the country has discovered so many new problems since we adopted the system of electing our senators by a vote of the people, rather than by the state legislatures. Democracy is appealing to the masses—but the masses are not appealing to reasonable government and the protection of individual liberties. We can no more hope that an individual would, as a matter of life, constantly defend the rights of others, than we can expect the masses to do so. Thus, the system we have were democratic notions are tempered by republican aristocracy and the tyranny of an individual president.

These arguments are not new, nor are they to be ignored. These are the reasons why we have what we have today. Those who can’t argue against these particular arguments—and arguing for a more “fair” democratic process is not a starter—do not need to waste their time in thinking of changing the system.

The Budget Dilemma in 15 Minutes

June 23, 2011

Will Cain posts at The Blaze posts a summary of a conversation he had with Bob Herbert. In this conversation, they pretended to represent their respective sides of the aisle, and tried to come to a consensus to balance the budget and avoid a Greek-style collapse.

The crux of the argument is this. Raising taxes, cutting military spending, and doing all sorts of other things will not balance the budget. That’s because the budget is completely dominated by Medicare and Social Security.

Now, the curious thing about these two programs is that they are not programs designed to help the poor. Everyone, rich or poor or in between, participates in these programs, both in the paying end and the receiving end. These are not welfare programs in terms of “Let’s rob the rich and help the poor” spirit. These are simply programs designed to make everyone dependent on the Federal Government. This is the dirty little secret that Democrats won’t admit to.

However, if you want to get them to admit to it, then all you have to do is propose means-testing to these programs. Let’s take a baseline—say $40,000 or $80,000 or even $120,000—and anyone who makes more than that doesn’t get any Social Security or Medicare benefits but still has to pay in. Democrats universally oppose this proposal. If they were about being Robin Hood with government resources, then they should be all for it. Instead, they want to make sure the rich and poor alike receive these benefits in retirement.

There are some hard truths the people have to come to accept. The hard truth is simply this: The government cannot keep its promises with Social Security or Medicare. It simply cannot be done.

The only hope is if the economy starts growing at a wild 10% again, but that is never going to happen, not as long as we have the tax, regulation, and spending policies we have, and the political will to keep the status quo.

Alternative scenarios include:

  • Government simply prints more money to pay out Social Security and Medicare benefits. This means inflation, and it means the benefits reduce in value even though they are the same amount of cash. That means grandma with her Social Security check will barely be able to afford dog food.
  • Government taxes America to extinction, and still falls short. Even if government collected 100% of the wealth in the US, that would only last us a few years. After that, everyone would be living in third world conditions, and there still wouldn’t be enough money to pay Grandma her benefits.
  • Government stops paying benefits altogether. This means Grandma doesn’t get any money at all.
  • Government significantly reduces the benefits to match what we can realistically afford. In this case, that means that we, the future retired generations, will get to pay off the debt of Grandma’s benefits later.

The Ryan Plan is the final option: we get nothing, Grandma keeps what she had.

Honestly, I think the best scenario is number 3. It’s Grandma who auctioned off her grandkids so that she could get her retirement benefits. She had not right to do that. We are not our grandparent’s slaves. We may owe them our lives and eternal gratitude, but we are not their slaves.

It’s because people don’t realize how big a mess Medicare and Social Security is that we cannot have a serious discussion on the federal budget and the solvency of the United States. The democrats refuse to admit what a colossal disaster the entitlement programs are, when paired with anemic growht caused by massive borrowing, taxes, spending, and regulation. That’s why they don’t have a budget proposal, and haven’t for 2 years now.

The Presidential and Political Landscape from My Perspective

June 20, 2011

Here is what I see happening in 2012.

One, Romney is the winner. Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin are second. That means they’ll be in a key position that gives them a distinct advantage after Romney is done, whether that be 2016 or 2024.

Two, Obama is done. There is just so many stupid things he has said and done over his first term, and he hasn’t learned yet how to create a coalition. It is clear that he was swept into office and not by his own power. I think he is hoping the mysterious forces that swept him into office will be present in 2012, and he will be wrong.

Three, the congress will likely shift towards the Republican Party by the time November 2012 is over. That means Romney will be president, the senate and house republican.

Why? Too many democrat seats are up, and the democrats are very, very weak this year. Compare 2012 to 6 years ago–2006. In 2006, the people were revolting over President Bush’s spending policies and his failure to secure a quick victory in Iraq. In 2006, the conservatives checked out, myself included, and washed their hands of the Republican Congress. We were tired of the spending and the deficits. We wanted a balanced budget. We wanted Social Security and Medicare solvent. And instead they did something else.

I really can’t see a way for democrats to carry their flag forward this year. It all depends, really, on how well the republican house does. If they stick to their guns, and if they continue to hammer the economy, taxes, debt, and the solvency of America and its entitlement programs, they will win. In that regard, I expect we’ll see a lot more Paul Ryan and a lot less Boehner.

 

Is Romney Pro-Life?

June 20, 2011

The Susan B. Anthony List (SBA) recently caught Mitt Romney and exposed him as an apparent pro-choice candidate. Except, all is not as it seems.

Over at America Needs Mitt, the author shows how it was all a trap, since the bylaws of the SBA force them to endorse a woman over a man anyway. (link)

It is simply brilliant that Mitt Romney took a pro-life pledge on his own terms. The SBA nor any other organization can hope to “rule” over a president by making broad declarations of what is and is not morally acceptable—and imagine that they have the final say. Instead, candidates and positions are complicated things. The diversity is complicated, but a lack of diversity means that the candidates are not free-thinking creatures.

Mitt Romney is indeed pro-life. What does this mean for how he intends to use the power of the president?

He has already said that he wants to see the courts move in the direction of pro-life decisions, not because he feels the courts should be politically motivated, but that as a matter of law, unborn children are human and worthy of life. So he has already stated that he will appoint judges who agree with his judicial philosophy that recognizes life as a right that all people have, by the very fact that they are human.

Of course, the SBA doesn’t appear to be about promoting the issues of life. It seems like a game to them, and their electioneering is too obvious. The SBA would be better off educating and advocating, not trying to get messed up in a political process of choosing a leader. That’s my opinion, of course.

After all, suppose the SBA actively opposes Romney and then Romney becomes president. Are they expecting Romney to be so forgiving that he’ll welcome their representatives into his office? Or suppose that Romney grabs the nomination and runs for president. Do they expect the other candidate will not exploit the rifts that the SBA created?

Tax Laws Cripple Business

June 20, 2011

Dan Mitchell, a small-government advocate, writes about how the new tax codes that went into effect thanks to Obamacare is turning American citizens into financial lepers. Banks and other financial institutions are dropping Americans citizens, and even foreigners working in the US, because the tax code is too difficult to comply with.

This isn’t surprising. There is a huge, unidentifiable cost associated with every law any government ever passes. This is the cost of compliance. Oftentimes, the costs of compliance are so high, that people just give up on the activity altogether.

Granted, sometimes the cost of complying with a particular law actually is a net benefit for everyone. For instance, the law that states that we drive on the right side of the road means that we can drive at high speeds down the road because everyone else follows that law. The cost of complying with that law is offset by the benefit of following the law.

In many cases, people will discover these kinds of laws for themselves. There is no need to government to get involved. For instance, no government agency tells web companies how to comply with the HTTP standard, and yet they comply with this standard and thus enjoy a level of connectedness that has never existed in human history. In these cases, it is far better for government to stay far, far away from regulation, since the people will figure out the best laws and comply with them as far as it is reasonable. Also, they are allowed to innovate and try and discover new laws that make life better, or bend existing laws. Technology is littered with examples of this, both of laws that succeed and the numerous laws that fail and have been forgotten.

Occasionally, very, very rarely, there is a case where it just makes sense to have government get involved. A good example of this is weights and measures. By having the government set the standard weights and measures, and then allowing people to use the government to punish those who violate these standards, by saying, for instance, that they sold 1 pound of grain when they only sold 15 ounces, we not only enjoy the economic benefits of being able to trust the labels, but we have a way of thwarting those who would abuse their power to lie.

The vast majority of the laws on the books in the United States, at the federal, state, and local level do not fall in the category of laws that are wise for governments to make. By writing these laws, the government is imposing a cost with a benefit that is far less than the cost. Because these laws are difficult to identify and quantify, I cannot say with any certain how much damage we are doing to ourselves with this unjust laws. I can only estimate that our economy would likely be many, many times more strong in the absence of these laws.

One of the laws that is getting attention is the drug laws. I believe that consuming drugs, even alcohol and tobacoo, is good for no one, and the best life is to be had by avoiding all such substances. Those who find themselves addicted to these substances have become enslaved to them and their producers. I believe even coffee and certain teas fall in this category. However, I do not believe it is wise for us to break down people’s doors and throw people into prison for manufacturing and distributing these things. We should be able to handle the problem with our social institutions, namely, our churches and charities. Those who think government should fix the problem would better spend their time educating and rehabilitating than petitioning.

But the drug laws are a small fraction of legislative abuse. Our tax code is another example, and its damages are much easier to quantify.because we can ask businesses what lost opportunities and costs they incurred by the tax code. I believe we should completely throw out all the tax codes we have on the books at every level. Our attention should be on finding a tax that gives us the greatest revenue for the least economic damage. I believe such a tax would largely be voluntary. If government truly delivers the benefits it claims to, then people would gladly pay their taxes to keep government running. If the tax is just and fair, then when the tax bill came, businesses and individuals would be amazed at how little government costs for such an operation.

Of course, those who understand what money really is and where it comes from know that the federal government can freely print money that matches the economic growth of the country. This will keep the currency balanced, so that it is neither deflating or inflating, both of which lead to negative feedback loops. If our economy grows at 5% or 10% a year, then we’re talking about more money than we can ever hope to be raised in taxes being ready to print. As long as our country grows at this healthy rate, and government services cost less than the growth, we need no taxes at all. With no taxes, there is no tax code. With no tax code, people are free to do what they like with their money, and government has no business in how they spend it or earn it.

I would like to live in a country where government is so distant that the thought barely enters my mind. The rules we follow are the rules we know make living in America a better place, and we gladly follow them because of it.

Science and Christianity

June 18, 2011

Nancy Pearcey writes about the origins of modern science. She explains how it is the Judeo-Christian philosophy, in particular, the Christian faith in an all-powerful individual God that has lead to the rise of modern science.

She carefully analyzes why modern science didn’t arise from the polytheistic cultures of Rome, Greece and Egypt, or the mystical religions of the Eastern world. She explains why it was in the Dark Ages where Christianity was the motivating philosophy in Europe that science found its roots.

The bottom line is this. A sincere, educated Christian believes in a God who acts with power beyond the universe. He chose to make the universe the way it is, and the universe, like the Bible, is an echo of His personality and worldview.

Christians believe that the mortal experience that we are part of is no accident. God’s will is present just as strong on the earth as it is in heaven.

One of God’s characteristics is his logic and reason. He chose to use logic and reason, and not chaos, to rule the heavens, and so we can find evidence of his nature by the logical and reasonable nature of the world around us.

Another characteristic is the idea of testing our faith, putting it in God’s hands and not our pathetic understanding of God. That’s why the vast majority of early modern scientists where willing to test the hypotheses of the church and Bible in nature. They knew that by doing so they would learn more about God, the same way studying the Bible and learning more about the people, language, and history of events would help them grow in understand of God.

As a Christian, I find science to be a religious experience, and I also find science in my religious experiences.

I do not agree universally with the secular humanist scientists, because I know, for a fact, that they are not honest. The biggest source of their dishonesty is their bias against Christians. The history of science, as Pearcey points out, was written by the secular humanists, and they sorely misrepresented Christian doctrine and the influence of devout Christians to the most fundamental ideas in science. When people say that science and religion are at odds, I know that they are either misinformed or have some ulterior motive in separated science from religion.

There are frauds in the world today, and the good scientist is more than willing to expose fraud when it is discovered, even if the fraud is their own.

I find the only fields to be the most “pure” and free from fraud is the hard sciences: math, physics, chemistry, and related fields. High-Energy Particle physics, the area of science I thought I might enter after college, is full of people questioning the nature of reality, or rather, the basic laws that God laid down when he created light itself: “Let there be light.”

The fields I find to be full of speculation represented as fact are ancient biology, particularly evolution, climate science particularly those who claim that we’re all going to die unless we live in trees, and so on. These fields are plagued by scientists who practice witchcraft. They want something to be true, so they find evidence of it everywhere. How different that is from the Christian scientist who explores the nature of God by seeing the universe as it is, rather than what he wishes it would be! It is also in these fields that discrimination against Christian scientists is rampant. Is that a coincidence, or evidence that science and secular humanism are incompatible?

And that’s the crux of the arguments. It can be argued that only Christians make good scientists, and that any other faith, including those with no faith at all, make worse scientists. How can you feel motivation to discover truth unless you admit the core Christian doctrines that man is fallen, God is perfect and rules with absolute power over the heavens and the earth, and that God is a reasonable creature who expresses his mind in the laws of nature? Or the doctrine that man may become like God by adopting God’s ways and forsaking man’s ways?

Of course, Christians do not apply religious tests, because that is contrary to the way God works. Instead, we allow all, from all faiths, to participate in our society, governments, culture, industry and science. We are open to all because that is how God works and how he wants us to behave.

Those who do claim to have faith in science would do well to compare their faith with the Christian faith. I have found better Christians among those who claim no faith than those who claim to be Christian. Case in point: Christians who trust their preacher over God, and Atheists who trust the discoveries of science over their own senses. If they compares their faith against the true Christian faith, and not the polluted popular idea of Christianity among those who spend no time studying their religion at all, they would probably find that their life would benefit from devout worship of the Creator God, the Just God, and the Merciful God of the Bible.

Fixing Elections

June 15, 2011

A lot of technical people have proposed their solutions to free and fair elections. This is an old American tradition among engineers and inventors.

However, the problems with our election system is not one of technology. It is one of integrity. It always will be a problem of integrity.

The temptation for any politician or political activist to tweak the voting results is great. This temptation is contagious. Today, we live in a world, not unlike any other time in US history, where he who can get their people in as the vote counters is more likely to win when things are close. It has always been this way, and it always will be.

If you are of the mind that integrity is more important than political persuasion, which I believe is the vast majority of people in the US, then you need to do some things to demand integrity. For starters, let’s take Reagan’s advice to “Trust but verify”. In other words, we should have an election system that is totally open and honest. We should allow people to inspect and verify the election process.

If a county election supervisor opens her books and records and process to inspection, but no one comes, can she be sure that her election system is working properly? Of course not. Inspecting and verifying election processes and results is no simple task, and takes a considerable amount of time, expertise, and dedication.

Who should do the verification? Either we trust the government to verify themselves, or the people provide their own verification system. I believe we cannot trust government to ensure elections are free and fair. There is far too much at stake to take their word for it.

Who then should pay? If the government cannot verify its own elections, then we cannot trust it to hire or pay for others to verify those elections for them. There is too much potential for corruption. The financing for verifying elections should come from the people themselves.

There is, in fact, a major operation of both political parties, to provide election overseers and auditors and to ensure that the elections have worked according to their interests. However, I don’t trust the parties either, not even my own, to do the right thing. Therefore, I encourage regular people to both finance and provide their own election checks and balances against both parties and the government.

We should take this very seriously. If we are at all involved in politics, a small portion of our time and money is all that is needed. If we are not involved in politics, but we believe a free and fair election system is important anyways, then we can volunteer our time as well.

This is a good example of how technology cannot fix apathy and inactivity. It is a good example of how the anarchist message of no participation hurts rather than helps ensure chaotic freedom. If anarchists wanted people’s voices to be truly represented, they would self-organize to ensure the megaphone the people use to make their voice heard, the ballot box, was not being violated at all.

This coming election season, I hope a few more people in our country will stop believing the poison that says no participation is the same as participating, or that participating in politics and casting a ballot have no effect. These things do have an effect. If 5% more people begin casting their votes a certain way, you can be certain that politicians interested in earning that 5% of the vote will begin courting those voters by addressing their concerns. When that 5% grows to 20% or 40%, you will see the political parties realign themselves to address the concern.

You can see that today. For the first time, we have a budget that actually proposes to slow the rate of growth of the federal government. You have a national dialog questioning whether Medicare and Social Security should even be alive. You will see, as time goes along, that the new generation’s libertarian philosophy will be more and more represented—provided the young libertarians actually cast their vote and participate in politics.

Why I Won’t Use Bitcoins

June 14, 2011

Let’s suppose, for a moment, that Bitcoins turn out to be everything it could be.

One of the problems with bitcoins, and any currency that has a real-world dependency, is that the currency cannot grow to match the growth of the economies that use it.

Imagine a dollar in your pocket. Now, imagine what would happen to the value of that dollar over time. For instance, if you decided to keep it in your pocket over the next ten years, would the dollar be more or less valuable?

If it becomes less valuable, then you would buy less with that same dollar. Maybe you can buy a nice candy bar today, but in the future, you would only be able to afford a few tiny pieces of candy. This is called inflation.

If it becomes more valuable, then you would buy more with that same dollar. Today’s candy bar would be tomorrow’s box of chocolates. This is called deflation.

Or maybe its value stays roughly the same, so that you can buy a candy bar of roughly the same value today or tomorrow.

Ideally, money should maintain the same value. That’s because people treat the money weirdly when it doesn’t.

Under inflation, people have an incentive to spend the money as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this has a nasty side effect. People that would normally put off a purchase until later show up now looking to buy. Stores see this, and they increase prices so that supply meets demand. This only makes inflation worse, until people stop buying and decide to put off the purchase until later. This can only happen when they run out of money, or when they gain confidence that prices will no longer increase.

The great white hope of inflation is that it will equalize the classes by providing the poor with cash and the incentive to spend it. The problem is that people will not only burn through their cash, but then they will start borrowing on credit. This has a tendency to enslave the poor to the rich. Money, once borrowed, is not easily returned.

Under deflation, something more insidious happens. People have an incentive to hold off on purchases. A great example is the computer and electronics industry. If you wait a year or two, prices sometimes drop by as much or more than 50%. You can get video games at half off as long as you are willing to wait until they are no longer popular. You can also pick up last year’s HDTVs for a fraction of what those who bought them last year paid for them. The net effect is that people who sell these products have to lower their prices to get people to buy things. And this only contributes to the downward spiral.

A more insidious effect of deflation is that the cash flows into the hands of the wealthy, not unlike what we saw in 19th Century England. See, the rich, not the poor, can delay purchases. The rich already have the food and clothing they need, and they are in no hurry to rush out and buy things. The poor, however, do not have reserves and need to spend the money right away. However, their source of income, which ultimately depends on others making purchases, starts drying up.

How can you measure inflation and deflation? This is not an easy task, but a good rule of thumb is as follows. First, measure the increase in value of the economy. That would show up as net profit of everyone. Then, measure the increase of available cash. If the two are roughly the same, then you’re in balance. If there is more cash than profit, then you have a problem with inflation. If there is less cash than profit, then you have deflation. How would you measure profit, especially the profit of hundreds of millions of families? I don’t know.

Another way is to peg your money value monitors to key commodities. These are things that pretty much everyone buys all the time. You can do things like milk and eggs and flour, or tvs and cars. Measure what the actual sale prices of these goods are, and see how the prices change over time. Because electronics is such an important component of our economy, and every year offers different features than last year, this is not going to be particularly effective. It’s like if people bought VW bugs one year, and then everyone started buying Rolls Royces the next year for 10 times the price. Has the price of cars gone up, or have people just shifted their buying habits while the prices remained the same?

Ideally, you’d like to keep the supply of money in proportion to the economy. That is, as the economy grows at 2%, 5%, or 10%, you increase the number of dollars by 2%, 5%, or 10%. However, as I demonstrated above, actually measuring inflation and deflation is almost impossible.

Bitcoins, and metal or other commodity-based currencies, do not have, built into them, a way to increase or even decrease the supply of money over time. If bitcoins prove popular, then you’re going to see deflation as people shift to bitcoins. This means people who own bitcoins and can afford to hold them will do so, in the hopes of being able to buy more in the future. This will drive bitcoin prices down into the depths of deflation.

Or it may work the other way. After a strong showing, people begin slowly shifting away from bitcoins. Now there are more bitcoins chasing fewer goods, and so prices rise up. The inflationary spiral hits, and soon bitcoins are worthless.

We know from experience that our currency needs to be flexible. If not, then we get hit, and hit hard, when either inflation or deflation occurs. Simple controls, such as printing or taxing money, is effective enough to control inflation and deflation, provided the right actions occur at the right time.

The Founding Fathers, who experimented with their own currency, highly successfully during the Revolutionary War but ineffectively in subsequent times, knew that the only group of people who could decide, appropriately, whether to print or tax would be the people themselves, composed of regular laborers and business men and bankers. They, therefore, put the powers to tax and print in the hands of congress, particularly the House of Representatives.

In 1913, that power was delegated to the Fed, which has since proven itself to be wholly incompetent. If the Fed did what it was supposed to do, a dollar today would be worth as much as a dollar in 1913. Instead, we suffer from inflation cycle after inflation cycle, with occasional deflation cycles in between. This isn’t because the Fed is full of incompetent nincompoops, or because the Fed is controlled by an elite cabal of foreign bankers bent on subjugating the American people to an impossible debt. This is because even if the Fed were full of angels from heaven, they still would be incapable of determining whether to print money because they are not the people.

If I were to design a currency, I would either design it in one of two ways.

One, I would allow anyone and everyone to print their own currency, however they liked. They could trade their currency for other people’s currencies, and a system of buying and selling could adapt from that. That is what we do in our stock exchanges. Shares of a corporation are a currency of sorts. However, they are connected too much with the real world, and so I propose worthless bits of paper that people sell for other people’s worthless bits of paper. Those who manage their paper properly will find that people like to use their currency as a basis for all other currencies. Once they violate that trust, then the people shift to using some other currency as a basis. People can have, at their fingertips, the current exchange rates for all currencies, and so know how many Jonathan Gardners convert to one Barack Obamas. When someone prints any more currency, it would be known to everyone, as a matter of policy. In this scenario, which is the scenario of the real world, bitcoins are just another currency among millions.

Alternatively, I would go back to the way the Founding Fathers did it. The congress controls the press and taxation, and the people control who is in congress, and the question of whether to print or to tax is handled at that level. Of course, whether the people actually use that dollar is up to them.

 

This is Not How to Balance the Budget

June 14, 2011

Jim Geraghty at Campaign Spot at NRO makes an impassioned plea for the FLAP program, a federal budget line item among millions.

Before I even say what it is, let me explain the severity of our budget problems at the federal level. We are flat-out broke. We cannot balance the budget, not now, not in a million years. At this point, we are getting 70% of our federal dollars that are borrowed from the Fed, meaning we’re just printing money, just like 3rd world countries, and 1st world countries trying their best to become 3rd world countries are doing.

Our national debt is dwarfed by our liabilities. We are hundreds of trillions of dollars in the hole. That’s many, many times the size of our economy. And what’s worse is the liabilities increase in price over time, rather than diminish. In other words, its as if we cannot even make the interest payment on our homes, and the principal is increasing over time, much faster than we can reasonably expect our income to grow.

In light of this, teaching high school kids to speak Spanish is hardly a priority. In fact, maybe it’s time we let the upcoming generation feel, first hand, what “we can’t afford it” really means, and do so by shutting down federal funding for foreign language classes across the country today.

The federal budget process should work like this, and regretfully, not even the Ryan Plan even begins to work in this way.

Step 1: What is the optimum tax rate and regulation policy to encourage growth in the private sector? Tim Pawlenty is right. We should have a policy at the federal level of not setting taxes, borrowing or regulations so high that our economy grows less than 5% each year. 5% growth means we double our national income every 12 years.

Step 2: With the money that we get, and not a dime more, we must set a budget that (a) meets our highest priority spending items, such as the courts and national defense, (b) does not burden any future generations with spending that we cannot bear, even at 5% growth.

Step 3: If there is any money left over after Step 2, then we return it to the American people. The federal government’s job is not to educate the children, feed the poor, or invest in America’s infrastructure. That’s left to the states and to the people, so give them back the surplus and let them feed the poor, educate the children, and invest in America’s infrastructure according to what they feel is most important.

The above steps just make sense. Take honest stock of what you have and what you can get; take honest stock of what you need; and make the two meet, with the expenses coming in below revenues.

Sadly, the Paul Ryan plan, a plan I support even though it is woefully inadequate, works like every other budget in the modern history of the federal government.

Step 1: Start with last year’s budget, then increase everything by 5%.

Step 2: Poll the current body of congress, and throw in as much spending as you can to get a majority vote.

Step 3: Ask the president what he’d like to spend money on, and add that in too, completely disregarding whether or not America should be involved in the foreign conflicts the president has gotten us involved in.

Step 4: Bring in every office of government and ask them whether they’d like gold or platinum buttons on their uniforms, and then throw in an extra 25% just to be sure.

Step 5: Proclaim to the public that there just isn’t enough money and that the federal government must raise taxes to make ends meet.

Step 6: Ensure that every member of congress gets the best health care plan in the universe.

Step 7: Take a few millions dollars off the top and call it cuts to the budget.

What the Paul Ryan plan does do, however, is cap the costs of Medicare for future generations by allowing seniors to shop around. Of course, seniors 55 and older will get their platinum buttons at the expense of all the homeless and unemployed who can’t find work because money is being sucked out of the economy by the body we call congress; but never mind that, because we owe those 55 and older their medical plans because they’ve been dang sure to put us up as collateral to afford it, and heaven forbid their children and grandchildren have a say in whether they would like to be slaves to pay for every minor procedure and pill!