Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. - John Stewart Mill
A man who won't die for something is not fit to live. - Martin Luther King Jr.
What do these quotes have in common? One is from a pacifist while the other is a justification for violent conflict, so how could they possibly say the same thing to me? They both firmly advocate a willingness to put one's life on the line for the defense of ideals or country. The main difference I can see is that Mill argues for the willingness to put a life on the line, be it mine or that of those who oppose me.
I think that contrasting Mill's statement with Dr. King's nonviolent approach reveals less of a logical difference than one might expect. They both advocate a willingness to lay down a life for the advancement of something larger than the individual; in both cases, that something larger happens to be the illusive concept of Liberty. The only difference is that the pacifist is constrained by ideology to that life only being his own, whereas Mill would argue that the choice to take a life includes that of the life of any who threaten the collective liberty of the people, not just one's own.
I'm not trying to advocate anything today. I just think that people need to be reminded that hardship is not the same as sacrifice and that allowing one's liberty to be infringed, even if one is kicking and screaming about it, is still capitulation.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
I'm serious. What do people mean by saying that someone is making too much money? What makes it evil to be making money during a down economy? At what amount do you decide that someone is making more money than is fair? I rarely hear anyone make the argument that people should be paid the same amount for a job that requires a lot of training and skill as for a job that requires far less training or is involved with less risky situations. For example, I don't think I know anyone who will say that I should be paid as well as a heart surgeon.
I think the idea that someone is making "more than their fair share" comes from one of two things, or a combination of them. First, their is the common mistake that the economy is a zero-sum game. If they are making that much money, there must be less money left for me, the argument goes. While budgets are (or should be, in my opinion) operated on finite amounts, the economy as a whole is much more flexible due to lending and commodities trading and more. Second, is envy. It's a simplistic explanation, but true whether we want to admit it or not. Those who cannot see how to elevate themselves are quick to think that others must be doing something wrong or unethical to have such gains in their own lives. Therefore, the playing field must be leveled, that way there is a more equitable division of assets. As I've said before, leveling the playing field only leads to lowering everyone to a common denominator, rather than raising the masses up.
Another issue I have with complaining about company profits, especially true in the case of complaints leveled against the oil companies, is that no one seems to care if the company is also at record levels of expenditures. Costs go up to the consumer, profits go up at the company, obviously the company is just pocketing the whole enchilada. Wrong. If a company is making a constant 7% on the sale price of a commodity, do you think people will complain about how much money the company is making? 7 cents on the dollar is still 7 cents, whether that's coming from a $4 gallon of gas or a $2 gallon of gas. Of course they are making twice the profit on the $4 gallon, but they are also spending twice the money to make it. Let's check my math: 28 cents from the 4 dollar gallon leaves $3.72 and 14 cents from the 2 dollar gallon leaves $1.86. Yep, twice the cost and twice the profit and still a 7% margin.
The discussion on the economic repercussions of profit/salary caps and punitive taxation on production and innovation will be left for another day. I think most readers can figure out what my opinion on that will be. So, I leave you to think about my initial question, in a rephrased format: at what point will you claim that you are making too much money?
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Iran and Israel have a less cordial relationship today. Back in April, The Times reported that Israel is prepared to strike at Iranian sites in a move similar to the aforementioned Osirak incident. The three month old report was made more relevant over the weekend by Vice President Biden muddying the waters by opening his mouth. As reported by the AP: "Vice President Joe Biden signaled that the Obama administration would not stand in the way if Israel chose to attack Iran's nuclear facilities." I say he muddied the waters because a few days later, the Jerusalem Post reported Obama has felt the need to clarify the position of his administration. Obama reiterated that Biden had only been referring to the fact that one state cannot dictate to another what the state's national interests are. However, also according the The Times, Saudi Arabia has given tacit approval of any possible Israeli plans to bomb Iranian military sites.
This web of who approves of whose actions is enough to make my head hurt, so I will end with my main amusement over Obama's clarification of Biden's remarks: the administration seems to have had no problem dictating to Israel what it's national interests "should be" in the not-so-distant past.
Friday, June 12, 2009
What do we have in the news over the past months? North Korea has imprisoned American journalists, launched ballistic missile tests, stated the willingness to use nuclear weapons, tested such weapons. BINGO! If you're using a game board with the free space in the center. Why do I find all of this interesting? I'm intrigued by how closely our mock negotiations five years ago reflect current events. This tells me one of two things. Either North Korea's unpredictability in juxtaposing diplomacy with brinkmanship is more predictable than I had thought, or my class was bad enough at what we were doing to create an incredible coincidence.
I would prefer to think that we just have a coincidence on our hands, since the result we had in class would be disastrous if it is played out in the real world. As a friend of mine once said, "Jimmy Carter's smile-and-apologize-and-give-out-hugs idea of diplomacy got us a North Korea with nuclear technology, we'll have to deal with that eventually." It looks like that "eventually" may be coming closer and I am of the sincere opinion that apologies and appeasement will only make things worse after (maybe) making them better momentarily.
Monday, May 11, 2009
World Net Daily reports that the State of Montana has passed (and the governor has signed) a law stating that Federal regulations cannot apply to guns and ammunition manufactured in Montana for sale and use within the state. The state is citing the Commerce clause, correctly stating the Constitution only allows for Federal regulation of commerce in interstate commerce rather than completely self contained intrastate commerce. The WND article has a more in depth detail of why Montana says they have the power to enact this law, including detailing the "contract conditions" under which they became a State of the Union. Mainly, I'm interested to see how the Feds handle this sort of direct thumbing of the nose by a state which, as far as I can tell, is correctly using the 9th and 10th amendments to enforce its views of the 2nd.
For another blog on this, go here.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
I found an article over on Townhall that made me think about this. The article doesn't focus on the under the table dealings of politicians, though it does mention them. The main point Goldberg is trying to make is that political corruption can be blatant, pernicious, and there for all to see and still not be stopped. It can even be applauded when the people do not understand the implications.
As you know, I can't leave a post well enough alone until I have a quote or two in it. Here are today's gems:
"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to
govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be
necessary." -- James Madison, Federalist No. 51
"Free government is founded in jealousy, not confidence. It is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind those we are obliged to trust with power.... In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in men, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." -- Thomas Jefferson, 1799
I chose these two for one simple reason: they both highlight the need to remember that our government was not founded to help people. It was founded to protect the people from interference and allow them to help themselves. People forget the mindset that built our economy. Henry Ford best summed it up on February 11, 1934 when he said, "Let them fail; let everybody fail! I made my fortune when I had nothing to start with, by myself and my own ideas. Let other people do the same thing. If I lose everything in the collapse of our financial structure, I will start in at the beginning and build it up again."
Edit: The Washington Post published something similar.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Why all the controversy? I can think of two reasons off-hand: one, in the case of the USA, the wording of the resolution to be adopted would conflict with the Bill of Rights, in that the resolution attempts to stifle criticisms that might be offensive to a racial or ethnic group; two, the conference, as is often the case with UN conferences, gets derailed for the political ends of member states as a soapbox for their agendas, in this case Ahmadinejad's denunciations of Israel.
I've been trying to find the text of Ahmadinejad's speech, but all I'm finding are comments in reaction to his words. Go here for the Vatican's response, here for the responses by the Office of French President Sarkozy, the UN Secretary-General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and others. Al Jazeera ran an interesting article including Israel's reaction, as well.
What does all this mean for us? Not much, which is pretty much what any UN resolution means, especially when the organization continues to undermine its own credibility by asking a well known anti-Semite to headline a conference on racism. It's almost like asking Libya to head a committee on Human Rights abuse... but that was back in 2003.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I doubt that most people would think of celebrating today. Even though we all "observe" Tax day, it is not a Federal holiday or a day we take off from work. It is, however, a day when most of us at least think about the amount of money we send to our government. We don't normally notice the withheld income from our paychecks or contemplate what is actually being done with the taxes collected (unless the wrangling about budgets is hitting the news) or even really think about the fact that it is our money being used. That's the whole point of withholding. Out of sight, out of mind. We never see the money in the first place so we never consider the fact that we had it coming.
I'm not going to used this space to rant about what the federal government is doing with your tax dollars, or talk about my opinions on government reaction to the economy, or even talk about "progressive" taxation rates. Ok, maybe a little, but I'll try really hard not to. I want to talk about why tax people? Simple question, right? Not so much.
Taxes are, obviously, how the government pays for its activities. They exist because there are government activities which cannot be paid for in the same manner in which a business makes money, namely the sales of services or materials. We could pay for things like the mail service on a pay-per-use fashion (think stamps and postage) because that is a service provided to the people that the people use regularly and are happy to pay as they go. You don't expect the postal service to send your letter without paying for the stamp, just as you don't expect UPS to send your package without paying them for shipping. So some government services clearly don't need taxes to function. Some, however, clearly do need taxes in order to function. You wouldn't want to pay for police or military on a pay-per-use scale, would you? Of course not, since, by the time you need to use them, you don't want to need to worry about whether or not you can afford to call on them. Therefore, taxes are a necessary part of a functioning society. They are necessary to supply the basic functions of government. What those basic functions are is where we come to disagreements.
Addressing the question of basic function, in our society, must revolve around the confines of the Constitution, first and foremost. It outlined the duties of the government and should be what is followed, whether I believe it currently is being followed as a guideline I will keep to myself, for the moment. Article One, Section 8 of the Constitution starts with this sentence, "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States." It's that "general welfare" statement that gets us into trouble and arguments.
"They are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose. To consider the latter phrase not as describing the purpose of the first, but as giving a distinct and independent power to do any act they please which might be for the good of the Union, would render all the preceding and subsequent enumerations of power completely useless. It could reduce the whole instrument to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and, as they would be the sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please... Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given them. It was intended to lace them up straitly within the enumerated powers and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect."
-- Thomas Jefferson: Opinion on National Bank, 1791. ME 3:148
While I can find numerous other quotes regarding the use for taxes regarding providing for the general welfare, I think that sums up the original intent far better than most. With it, I begin my case, to be continued...
Oh, so I lied a little about not talking about my opinions on tax policy. Anyone heard about the Tax Tea Parties going on? Simon Jester talks a bit about them, and that's where I found these links. Apparently, there might be some conflicts of interest in demonstrating against government policy (taxation) and First Amendment rights in a few places. I say might, because it looks like changes in paperwork required is what's causing the problems, even if the paperwork was originally approved, like in Vermont and Philly. Then again, in Texas, calling the event "not in the public interest" looks like a political stooge trying to tell the people what should be thought. Though that might just be me.
Atlanta people who want to know more, go here.
Goodness, I seem to have tended more toward domestic policy with the blog than I ever intended. We'll see where I go from here.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Sedition is a word not often found in the American vocabulary. Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines it as “The raising of commotion in a state, not amounting to insurrection; conduct tending to treason, but without an overt act; excitement of discontent against the government, or of resistance to lawful authority.” That looks like it covers a rather narrow spectrum on the path to treason; but then, what is treason?
According to the Constitution of the United States of America, Article III, Section 3, “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.” When is it an act against the
The Constitution was born out of the desire to ensure the freedoms of the people. The authors knew that people need and desire the ability to govern their own lives. To this end, the Constitution was written to limit the ability of the government to interfere in our lives. The balance of power between the three branches of the government was designed to make it more difficult for those in power to encroach on our freedoms. The Bill of Rights was written to more specifically detail what we as a people have a right to; in other words, it details in what things we have a freedom from our government. All of this freedom comes at the cost of our responsibility. We are to be responsible for our own actions, and the consequences thereof. Out Founding Fathers were particularly clear in their personal speeches and writings as to what their opinions on the matter of taking personal responsibility instead of abdicating accountability to an outside force, such as a government, were. A few quotations of what I mean are to follow:
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of
"Against us are... all timid men who prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty... We are likely to preserve the liberty we have obtained only by unremitting labors and perils." --Thomas Jefferson to Philip Mazzei, 1796. ME 9:336
"The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first."-- Thomas Jefferson
"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined." --
"I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedoms of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." -- James Madison
But, as times have changed, must we change our views on for what the government is responsible? As our world and political climate has grown more complicated, are these opinions outdated and no longer functional? I, for one, do not believe that advances in society mean that we must have different principles. I cannot conscience the thought of relinquishing my freedom to gain freedom from my mistakes. The idea of allowing some entity to bail me out of my own mess is unfathomable. If you take responsibility for what I have done, I become indebted to you…I allow you to make my decisions. If you have responsibility for my life and make my decisions, it is no longer mine. Once a person gives over their responsibility, they say that someone else is more knowledgeable about their needs and wants. I don’t know about you, but I believe that no one can better decide for me what I need than I can. If you believe that the people in
The Founding Fathers knew they were mere mortals, as prone to mistakes as the next man. This is why they wanted the Constitution framed in a manner that put the government in a position of subservience to the people. Once the American people remember that our founding documents name us as the source of power, we will need a good, long look at what our government has been doing in the time between then and now.
"Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government" -- James Madison
If the government abandons the ideals of the Constitution and its authors, is it still lawful and moral to support it?
Is it seditious to ask?
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
While the purpose of the ECB is to maintain stable growth throughout the EU, policy will always favor the major players, in this case, the two largest players in the European economy are Germany and France, with Germany typically leading (of the $18.85 trillion dollar Gross Domestic Product, $3.82 trillion is Germany and $2.98 trillion if France.) Germany and France are also two of the countries that do not follow the economic and public finance guidelines set down as requirements of the member states, specifically the percentage of public deficit and debt allowable(60.7% and 67% public debt respective of GDP, respectively, with the maximum allowed by the ECB set at 60%.) For those interested, or in need of reading material as sleep aids, here is the Maastricht Treaty.
Why do I find it interesting to point all of this out? Russia recently tossed out the idea of proposing a global currency at the next G20 summit. With the Gross World Product at $78.36 trillion and the US economy running a Gross Domestic Product of $14.33 trillion, that puts the United States at 18.3% of the world's economy. Would Russia (GDP of $1.76 trillion, or 2.25% of the world's economy) be willing to subordinate itself to the needs of the largest segment of a globalized economy, or would this proposal turn into a device to institute "parity" in the world's economic systems? With some of the other recent moves by Russia, I would think motivations need to be carefully considered.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Now, I understand the President says he doesn't wish to supplant the private sector, merely to regulate it in such a manner as to prevent the “reckless speculation and spending beyond our means; on bad credit and inflated home prices and over leveraged banks.” He also said, “Such activity isn’t the creation of lasting wealth. It’s the illusion of prosperity, and it hurts us all in the end.” Which is, of course, why his spending plan calls for the US government to borrow heavily so that the government can spend beyond its means and create the illusion as economic growth.
However, is government action the correct answer to a market crisis (in this case a crisis precipitated by the financial markets)? Is the answer to regulate the market until it, supposedly, cannot fluctuate so drastically? Or is the answer to allow the fluctuation to amputate the non-functioning segments? To allow economic Darwinism (by which I mean profitability, aka, greed) streamline the market until it flows smoothly again seems like a painful alternative to the easy way out of letting the government handle our mistakes.
As a warning against a greater degree of government intervention, I present the findings of the Cato Institute relating to the relationship between financial deregulation and financial crises. According to the study, financial deregulation in itself does not lead to financial instability, as half of the countries in the study that deregulated their financial systems experienced market instability and half did not. The findings point to the size of the country's government as the pivotal factor in whether or not the country will experience a financial crisis: the larger the government, the more likely the market will not self adjust without crisis.
What does all of this mean? It means that continued government interference and "help" is more likely to maintain economic instability rather than promote economic growth. As further evidence of this claim I put forward the theory, increasingly popular as economists study it, that the New Deal prolonged the Great Depression. Also, there is the claim that the government's intervention in the financial market increased the market drop last year. As it is, I wonder how long it will be before the people of this country remember that economic trouble means a shift in the economy as well as economic opportunity to those brave enough to take personal risks. This economy became the world's largest through risk and perseverance rather than cowardice and government control.
"You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream -- the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order - or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path. Plutarch warned, 'The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits.' " -- Ronald Reagan, October 27, 1964
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Can true advocates for personal freedom and personal responsibility be found in the rank and file of formalized and institutional government? Can anyone who has the desire to work as a lawmaker and a leader of a country actually believe that the people are better off doing things on their own, without interference from the powers that be?
In partial answer to my own questions, I present the statement of the statesman Daniel Webster, "Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of power. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." Webster, himself a leader, recognized the subverting influence power has over man. It goes along with the old adage "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." When people can sit back and abdicate personal responsibility to the promise of a being given a better life, they may in the end be given the "better life," but is it actually theirs? Does a man possess that which is not earned or does the man become the servant of those who can provide for him?
Finally, the last little bit to think over is another quotation from one of the great men who shaped the United States, Samuel Adams. All I ask is that people read this and think about what the ideals this country was founded upon mean for us today: "If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."