June 7, 2012

Unions - they just ain't what they used to be

Unions were born in the early 1900’s – a gathering of workers to give them a stronger voice in negotiating with their employers.  There were some abusive practices that made this a legitimate effort, such as working very long hours, for very little wages. 

However, modern unions do not have this same usefulness, mostly because federal and state regulations have established things like: minimum wages, hour controls, overtime payment requirements and minimum working ages and hours.  This is not an exclusive list – there are many other laws in place to protect workers.

Unions have become massive organizations, often as big and as powerful as the companies there were originally formed to negotiate with.  They wield massive political influence because of their ability to spend membership dues on political campaigning. Unions keep companies from downsizing in economic hardships because they will not allow anything that would cut a benefit to a worker, sometimes causing bankruptcy.  Teachers unions are an example where union demands, such as job security and pay grades being based on length of tenure has hurt that which the teachers are supposed to serve, students.  This policy of tenure keeps the younger and possibly brighter teachers out, and locks the old hat, possibly worse teachers in place.  Reform allowing schools to work on a merit basis instead of a tenure basis will improve schools.  
When Walker challenged the government unions by removing the mandate that forced government workers and teachers to be members of the unions, they lost half of their members.  He also removed some of the public sector bargaining rights, to allow the state to balance the budget without cutting workers, or raising taxes.

The recall effort was then union's reaction to these actions. When Walker eventually won by more than he won his original election with it proved a couple points that I want to make here.  1. Other governors should not be afraid to tackle unions head on as part of their effort to balance budgets.  Usually governors can be cowed by a union threat due to their ability to influence the members votes, but now its been proven that they can’t necessarily beat them, especially when you give the members the CHOICE whether or not to remain in their union.  2. This gives people in other states that perhaps they can fix their states fiscal problems without raising taxes and without massive layoffs of public sector workers.  It allows the possibility that even states such as California might eventually wake up and institute similar reforms.

Finally, this also spells trouble for Obama.  This election rings similar to the election in Virginia in 2009, one year after they voted for Obama they turned around and elected a fairly conservative Republican.  The fact that a few months before the national election, the voters come out in droves in Wisconsin to vote for the man who cut back on unions, makes it seem very likely that the nation is closer to voting out Obama than the progressives would like to think.

In an interesting note – the day after Scott Walker wins, the Dow jumped 286 points – and none of the mainstream media are noticing the connection.  Now, we can’t be sure the reason is the defeat of the unions the day previously, but I think it’s safe to guess that it might have had something to do with it.

January 14, 2012

Republican Race Update

Romney is not going to be the Media’s favorite in the general election.  I don’t care if they don’t love Obama as much as they did three years ago.  I don’t care if the unemployment rate goes up two points before the election.  I don’t even care if Obama goes back on his promise to the left to hold off the Keystone pipeline.  At the end of the day, Obama will look better to them philosophically than any Republican, even Romney.  The delusion that we should pick him because he is the ‘cleanest’ and will ‘get along with’ the media is sheer lunacy.  I know I’ve made this comparison before, but don’t forget McCain.  He was The Maverick, remember?  The guy that was supposed to get us better press coverage.  But what happened when the general election came up?  It was brutal.  They ripped him up one side and down the other, while falling over each other to get in line to praise the Chosen One. 
What does this mean?  It means elections are won by turning out the base, and not trying to get a few percentage points of independents by relying on a positive media message.  The independents are quite willing to abandon Obama as long as they get someone with a clear message that is willing to point out Obama’s faults, and will fight.  People like a fighter.  The whole “be nice to Obama” bit certainly didn’t work last time, and it won’t work this time.
This is one reason (don’t kill me) that I kinda like Gingrich.  He’s not afraid to say it exactly like he sees it.  And people respond to that.  While Gingrich is my top, ‘campaign against Obama’ candidate, I’m not sure how consistent he would be in office.  Certainly he would be better than Obama, but other than that I’m not sure.   Bachman was one of the most consistent, but she is now out.  Herman Cain had an amazing ‘citizen candidate’ thing going, but he’s out as well.  I like what I hear Santorum saying, but then I remember some of the people and policies he has supported, and I’m afraid of a Bush rerun (conservative, but with some populist tendencies that can really hurt us). 
Ron Paul I can’t take for obvious reasons… the guy doesn’t have a good handle on the enormous responsibility we have to prevent radicals from getting nuclear weapons.  Someone appoint him to the Fed or something.
This brings me to Rick Perry; I have almost identical issues with him that I have with Santorum (Bush rerun), except I think he would be willing to be a little more radical on the economic side.  The fact that he is willing, and promoting, cutting whole departments of the federal government is a good thing.  The vaccination catastrophe still bothers me, but I could deal with it. 

Where does that leave me?

Despite what I said at the beginning, I can support Romney although I would prefer Santorum, Perry, or even Gingrich.  I don’t trust Huntsman for similar reasons as to why I can’t support Paul plus some additional issues I won’t get into here.  I guess we will have to see how things play out in South Carolina.  It may well be that a couple candidates drop after that.

December 8, 2011

The Fall of Cain

I had early on decided that I would not allow my hopes for this nation to become wrapped up in a single person. This is always dangerous, and is bad for your political views as well as for the country; having said that, it was very hard not to feel that way about Mr. Cain. I mean, how often do we get a citizen candidate who’s fundamental principles were so good?

The primary reason I’m upset about his suspension of his campaign has nothing to do with the actual suspension, but the reason he decided that he need to. It wasn’t because the nation decided 9-9-9 was no good. It wasn’t even because they thought his foreign policy wasn’t up to snuff (he was drastically improving it right about when he had to pull the plug). The reason he ended his run at the presidency was because of unproven allegations that seem to be entirely spurious. The worst claim was basically sexual assault, and that woman was proved to be lying by some interesting technology http://www.theblaze.com/stories/atlanta-private-investigator-says-his-lie-detector-machine-proves-cain-is-telling-the-truth/.

By contrast we had a president not too long ago, who was proved to be lying, and was accused by many more women of much much worse see Juanita Broaddrick, but no one in the mainstream press seemed to care. It was only conservative commentators and one determined prosecutor that ever made anything happened.

Part of the reason I hate what happened to Cain so much is that it means that we no longer have the ability to nominate and elect those who truly would be the best for our nation. This will be maintained as long as we allow the media to choose for us (by listening to their attacks) that people such as Palin and Cain cannot be tolerated.

In answer to the unspoken question, who do I plan to support now? I don’t know. I like Bachman’s policies, and if she pulls out a win, or a decent enough finish to keep her in the game in Iowa, I might consider her. The good thing about Bachman is that she is a fighter, and her principles are spot on. She managed to win her seat in the blue state of Minnesota (the only state to NOT vote for Reagan in the landslide 1984 election) and was the founder of the TEA Party caucus in the House of Representatives. I will vote for Perry over Obama, but I still don’t trust him fully. I feel like he would be a mixed bag. I would vote for Romney over Obama, but I don’t like the fact that it was his healthcare plan that Obama emulated (that and a TON of other positions that Romney now says he opposes). I would vote for just about any other candidate over Obama, but they all have problems. If I feel like it is coming down to two or three people, then I’ll gladly pick the most principled one, but at this point the field is still too broad.

November 13, 2011

The Loss of a Federated Republic

One of the most important things I learned as a government student is the nature of the government that our founders created - a constitutional federated republic.  If this sounds complicated (why can't we just say democracy?) that is because it is.  It was designed to diffuse power so that no one group could dominate another.

Lets start by defining terms.  Constitution: a document that has been agreed upon by those who are under it as the foundational document of law.  Federation: a group of self governing states that have agreed to give a certain portion of power to a central government so that they can defend themselves.  Republic: a form of government in which the citizens appoint representatives to government them.

Using these definitions we can arrive at what we started out as, a group of citizens who appointed representatives and governors to rule us at the state level.  These states then agreed to give up a portion of power to a central (we call it the federal government) authority.  This authority was to be partially driven by the citizens of the states, and partly by the state governments.

To ensure that no one was given unequal authority, a compromise was reached in which each state had representation according to population in the house, and equal representation in the senate.  The choice of president was decided by votes divided between the states as a sum of those two numbers (for example Wyoming gets three votes, one for its representative, two for it's senators).  To bring in an element of democracy, the house was to be directly elected by the people of the states, to ensure that the rights of the states would be upheld, the two senators were to be chosen by the state governments.  This meant that we had multiple levels of checks and balances to ensure that no one group could dominate the government to the detriment of another.

This whole system was broken with the passage of the 17th amendment to the constitution in 1913.  Now, rather than senators representing their states, they represented the people directly, and campaigned statewide in the same way a governor might.  With this level of protection for states' authority removed, the federal government was free to drastically increase it's power, and it did.  We saw the passage of massive spending designed to either further economic growth, or protect a sector of the economy, or rescue people from poverty.  These types of programs are a massive change from what the founders envisioned the federal government doing, it was supposed to simply protect our rights, with the main function being to protect us from, and interact with foreign governments.

So what do we have now?  We still have a constitution, although depending upon who is in control, it either acts as a limitation on the government (the conservative / classical liberal view) or it acts as a free ticket to do whatever the party in charge thinks will benefit the citizens of the nation (or what will benefit themselves, as is often the case).  Many of our protections from an overactive government have been eliminated.  A study of the 'czars' appointed by the Obama administration, and the growth of the regulatory state (see this article to develop the idea that we have a parallel government in this country that is almost completely without accountability).

What all this means to me today is that who we choose to elect for various offices is more important than ever.  Since we can no longer rely on the original system of checks and balances that was given to us originally, we must take extra care to ensure that out representatives, senators, and presidents are chosen according the the following criteria:

Will they work (in the case of senators and presidents) to select judges who will interpret the constitution as it was written and intended?  Will they vote for the greater benefit of the nation (and not for pork for their individual states?)  Will they take responsibility for the legislation they pass, and not give over all responsibilities for interpretation and implementation to an unaccountable agency?  Will they work toward greater liberty, and less government intervention in the daily lives of U.S. citizens?  Will they work toward allowing us to defend ourselves against the criminal element of this nation (Second Amendment rights)?  Will they attempt to replace our current tax code disaster with something simple, fair, and easy to understand?  Will they understand that their power is granted by the people, and consider themselves simply a citizen serving for a limited time according to the will of their constituents?

While this list definitely is not all inclusive, it does give a good picture of the type of person who will work toward the goal of moving us back to what we used to be.  Neither party currently has a platform that covers all these points, however, of the two major parties the Republican platform is far closer.  This is where primaries become all important, if we have the chance to chose between two candidates to run on behalf of the party, the primary is the opportunity to pick the more liberty minded one.

November 1, 2011

Occupy Wall Street - endorsed by Obama and the extreme right?

The campers on the left have picked up quite a few endorsers in the democratic party, Obama, Pelosi, and just about every other big name democrat seems to have made some sort of statement talking about how they "support the message" of the protestors.

It is interesting to trace the roots of this 'movement'.  September 17th, 2011 a bunch of people suddenly gathered in New York, pitched tents, and began the marathon camp-out that has spread to major cities across the country and around the world.  The start of the movement was generated by a socialist publication that put a full page add in one of their magazines asking people to show up with their tents.  One gem that turns up in this interview is that part of the inspiration for this movement was the Arab Spring.  Yup the same Arab spring that is responsible for Al-Quaeda flag flying

I'm not saying that Occupy Wall Street is Islamist (although Iran did endorse them). Oh, and Kim Jong Il's State Controlled Korea Central News Agency endorsed them too.

American based endorsers, include, but are not limited to: The American Communist Party, The American Federation of Teachers, Multiple Unions, and best of all... wait for it... The American Nazi Party.

UPDATE (I left out one other person, the former Grandmaster of the KKK).

Actually the Nazi endorsement shouldn't be that surprising.  I know the mainstream press hasn't been reporting it, but the anti Jewish sentiment has been very strong at some of these protests.  The endorsement also brings out something else that every liberal avoids at all costs - the Nazi movement was actually a leftist one.  They were basically socialism with a racist and and nationalist twist.  This is why I've always been extremely confused by the lefts caricature that the communists are the extreme left and the Nazi's are the extreme right.  If by left and right you mean that one discriminates by race, and the other by economic class, then sure... but obviously they mean political philosophy, and in that case they are simply wrong.

So I used the 'extreme right' in my title tongue in cheek.

What's the point then to all of this?  It's important to look at the message and intentions of this movement because it has been embraced with open arms by the democrats.  I don't know about you, but I sure don't want to be represented by a government that feels affinity for a group with the connections I just laid out, and I didn't even get started on the violent and criminal aspects of the Occupiers.

October 16, 2011

Cain is targeted, 9-9-9 front and center

This is my analysis of the race as of now, starting with the Bloomberg debate on 10/11/11 and ending with more polls on Herman Cain.

I didn’t start out with high expectations for this debate.  Somehow I feel like they are going to do the "Raise your hand if you hate poor people rallying in the streets fulfilling the true meaning of democracy".  (I'm sure it won't be that blatant, but nothing surprises me anymore, just look at what Cornell West said about Herman Cain's position that racism doesn't hold people back in the U.S. anymore, "(He) needs to get off the symbolic crack pipe".  Yeah, that's the spirit.  Oh, and Cornell's example of why we haven't moved past racism?  The execution of convicted cop killer Anthony Davis, who happens to be black.  Cornell said, "... If brother Anthony Davis — a brother who was just put to death — were a white Wall Street banker brother, the response in the nation would have been very different as opposed to a poor black brother."  How does color have anything to do with it?  If the imaginary Wall Street banker had been black he wouldn't have been treated any different than one who was white, if the example works at all, it only works on the monetary level, it has nothing to do with race.  Even that part breaks down because we have several recent examples of CEO’s going to jail who broke various banking laws.  (They weren’t executed because this isn’t revolutionary France, we don’t execute rich people who just broke financial laws – but don’t tell Roseanne Barr that).  If racism is truly so all consuming, how did a poor black kid from Atlanta eventually become the CEO of Godfather's pizza?  That is precisely Herman Cain's point.

So, the debate starts, Herman Cain is front and center, right between Romney and Perry - and gets the first question, and it was actually good one!  Basically he asked how he would give the people who have money but aren’t hiring the confidence to grow the economy again.  He basically answers with a fundamental change to how the tax system works – which is his 999 plan.

Bachmann is asked whether CEOs should have gone to jail for their actions creating the economic crisis.  She immediately pointed the finger to the federal regulations and incentives that have been put into the system to do things such as loan money to those who couldn't afford it as the real cause cause, not the CEOs themselves, she took an awfully biased question and turned it in the right direction - good job!  While I may not support Bachman for president, she’s a fighter, and has an important place in the cause.

Gingrich was asked about the Occupy Wall Street, he smoothly made the distinction between the loony left which love demonstrations in general, and the Americans who are legitimately aggrieved by the state of the current economy and state of affairs.

Santorum defends companies that shifted jobs overseas, says they were forced due to the tax structure, he advocated a 0% Corporate tax rate to bring them home!  And people say Cain's 9-9-9 plan is radical.  He attacked Herman's plan as something that couldn't pass…  You’re going to start hearing that a lot from the Cain detractors who normally would be the ‘conservatives’ who you might think would support something like his plan.

Huntsman… he’s not going to win so I’m not going to waste my time.

Gingrich is asked about how government should involve themselves to prevent wasteful spending in health care.  Gingrich responds by asking whether a bureaucrat should be deciding these things, he commented that Palin got it right when she made the death panel quote. 

Cain finally gets to respond to the multiple attacks on 9-9-9, says it will pass, and that it has been well developed to replace the current system.  He names Rich Lowry as his leading economist who helped develop the plan.

They pull the one clip of Reagan offering to compromise with tax increases for spending cuts and try to trap Perry and Romney on it, Perry correctly points out that Reagan later said in his diary how he was taken in that ‘compromise’, and that only the tax increases happened, and no cuts spending cuts.
Herman was questioned on 9-9-9, confronted Bloomberg’s analysis that his plan wasn't revenue neutral  - falling short by about 200 million.  Cain’s response was "the problem with that analysis is that it is incorrect"  to applause and laughter.  The reason is that their analysis is probably static – he includes the fact that the economy would grow faster under his plan.  He is pinned on the 9% tax on sales which would include "milk" (gasp).  He points out how the savings from the plan evens it out so that they wouldn’t really be out any more money.  Please take a moment to read the following blog post - these guys break down the 'hidden' taxes that would be eliminated.  http://www.nerds4cain.com/Blog/archives/860  

Bachman also attacks the plan because of the sales tax part.  She takes a cheap crack - the devil is in the details, for example if you turn it upside down 999 becomes 666.  She claims that it could lead to a VAT tax (which is ridiculous).  Why is that a dumb comparison – the 9% sales tax is levied once at the retail level – that is when you actually buy a new item in the store.  A VAT tax is an insidious European creation that taxes at EVERY level of production – thus hiding the tax from the public by building it into the final price during production.  A simple sales tax is transparent – everyone will know they are paying it.

Perry Says we don't need 999, we need a president who will withdraw regulations, and that will be enough to stimulate the country – this point is somewhat valid, taking out Obamacare, and his regulations will help – but that will only get us back to the Bush era.  Cain is visionary because he is the only one saying that plan isn’t good enough – we need to radically transform the broken system, and that means getting rid of our stupid and horribly complicated tax code.

Cain asks Romney if his 59 point economic stimulus plan is simple enough and transparent enough.   Romney responds that the issue is complicated and requires a complicated answer (not in those words). 
Bachman, Cain, Gingrich Huntsman Perry all address their questions to Romney, Huntsman was particularly vicious (accused Romney tearing apart companies and sending jobs overseas).  Romney easily responded.  This stupid question is why Huntsman is a RINO.  He seems to just be in this to be able to launch attacks at fellow Republicans.

Perry hits Romney on Romenycare/Obamacare - Romney did his normal "my version was good!  Obama's is bad" and didn't directly answer how his plan was used to model for Obamacare.  Hits Perry back that there are 1million kids uninsured in TX.  (Why is no one asking Romney why his advisers went to the white house to help design Obamacare?) http://dailycaller.com/2011/10/11/white-house-met-with-three-romney-advisors-to-draft-obamacare/
Bachman is asked how she is going to help people get back to work by Romney.  She goes to regulations and Obamacare.  (Saying that the number one reason people aren't hiring is Obamacare).  I'm surprised Romney didn't go for Perry or Cain (this softball question may have been strategic attempt to up Bachman's numbers to keep the conservative, anti-Romney vote split). 

Cain is asked by Santorum about his tax plan potentially giving congress a new tool to tax the people of the US.  Cain says he would ask for a 2/3 vote to raise tax, and, since it is so simple and transparent, the people can keep the policy makers accountable. 

Finally we get to the ‘rich are getting richer and the poorer are getting poorer’, question by the very liberal questioners.  It is directed to Perry, he immediately took the answer to Obama's policies.  In general the candidates did a decent job of redirecting the gotcha questions.

Santorum jumps in to point out the poverty and economic link to broken families.  This is a very good point, and one that was sorely needed.  I do like Santorum, and he might make a terrific VP pick.  (And we finally get a shouter!  Someone in the audience sounded like he was saying something about gay marriage, probably upset about Santorum’s mention of a strong home being one man and one woman).

Cain’s response to: How do you connect to people?  He drew the line from his poor childhood through his successful career and notes how his bold decisions got him there, which makes him perfect for the current condition of the country.   Not only can he sympathize, but he know what it takes to bring out America’s greatness.

Newt Gingrich notes that all the candidates at the table is better than Obama.  (Truly impressed with this guy’s attitude, he could still come from behind). 
Here's part my problem with Bachman, it feels like every time I hear her speak, it is some version of, "I led the way in (blah) last year”.  I understand that she wants to show her record, but after so many repetitions it sounds to ‘me’ focused. 

I'm pretty shocked by how strongly Cain's 9-9-9 plan was attacked over the course of the debate.  It definitely means that he is being noticed, and the candidates decided that his weakest point was that plan.  I have a feeling he will only use that to his advantage (gives him something to clearly distinguish himself further from the 'politicians'). 

Now for some polls!
The Evolving Strategies YouGov Poll - Republican NomineeChoice (pick the second listing) comes from right before the debate - the most interesting result?  Herman Cain is at 28%, almost 10 points higher than Romney who comes in second at 19%.  Additionally Romney, Perry and Herman Cain all beat Obama if the election is today.  Cain is the closest to Obama, but that is largely to do with his relatively unknown status.  This is reflected in that about a third of the republicans polled put "undecided" when asked to choose Cain or Obama.  Once they have a chance to know him via the campaign trail, I would assume that number to get much closer to 100%.

Now for the post debate poll - A WSJ/NBC poll puts Cain on top as well, at 27% to Romney's 23%.  This is a mainstream well respected poll, and got quite a bit of attention.

The biggest news, from my point of view has probably been ignored by most - and that is the practical endorsement of Herman Cain's 9-9-9tax plan by Arthur Laffer.  For those of you that don't know that name, he was a member of Reagan's Economic Policy Advisory Board and a central part of the economic boom that resulted from Reagan's economic agenda.  He is particularly famous for the "Laffer Curve" which notes how taxing at too high a rate actually decreases government revenue due to the shrinkage of the economic base that can be taxed due to the policy.  This curve demonstrates why we actually increased government revenues under Reagan and Bush 43 - even though they lowered taxes overall.  This bit of news was augmented by Paul Ryan, a well respected figure in the Republican party for his conservative economic policies saying that he thought Herman Cain’s plan was a much needed serious look at tax reform.  (Note that the title of the article is incorrect; he didn’t actually endorse the plan, as is noted at the end of the article.)

Here's my summary, Cain wasn't perfect in the debate - he's not used to being a front runner and having everyone gunning for him, however, he wasn't bad either.  He didn't hurt himself and stayed strong in his responses.  His poll numbers reflect that people generally think well of him, and for right now anyway, seem to agree that he would be the best of all the other candidates to be the 'anti-Romney'.  He will grow stronger, assuming that there isn’t a scandal of some sort, or another development with another candidate that makes them appear stronger.  This would be hard to accomplish, as Cain’s 999 plan sets the bar high for serious reform.  

October 4, 2011

Bringing out the Crazy

Back in August Janeane Garofalo, a comedian who fancies herself as a liberal policy wonk had some strong words about Herman Cain The best and most outrageous of which is when she decided that since he was a business man, he was probably being paid to run for president so conservatives didn't seem so racist.  Now, lets skip past how ridiculous the idea is that the former CEO of Godfather's pizza would be able to be bribed and dig down to the meat of the matter. 

The liberal elite can't imagine how an intelligent woman (Sarah Palin) or black man (Herman Cain) or black woman (Star Parker) could possibly believe morally or intellectually in 'conservative' small government ideals and morals, so they are reduced to name calling and conspiracy theories.  

In her latest rant, Garofalo decided that Herman Cain must be gaining popularity in the Republican primary because it hides our racism.  Right, so let me get this straight, I'm a traditional liberal (what is now labeled conservative) and so the fact that I am supporting Herman Cain must make me racist, because obviously I'm only supporting him to avert attention from my racism.  

Wait, what?

So, say Herman Cain makes it to the main contest, and it's him or Obama, will we still be racist for supporting Herman Cain?  

What if I reversed the argument?  Think about it, which party was formed with the abolition of slavery in mind, the democratic or republican party?  Which party was responsible for the president who ended slavery in the south?  The answer to both is the Republican party.  

Which party had a radical racist wing known for lighting crosses on fire and wearing white hoods?  Yup, that would be the democratic party.  The democrats were also the party of Robert Byrd who along with 17 other southern democrats and one republican filibustered the 1964 Civil rights act.  It seems to me that if any party were using someone (Obama) to hide their racism, it would be the democrats.

Now, I'm not seriously going to make the argument that Obama being selected by the democrats was massive guilt over their past racism, but painting the above scenario helps illustrate just how ridiculous the "right-winger, tea party people are racist" line really is.

September 26, 2011

Herman Cain - President?

I've been waiting for something to break before giving my opinion on the Republican presidential contest.  Perry entering the race might have been that moment, but it was too early to tell how he would do.  I think I've found that moment.  Last weekend Herman Cain won the Florida Straw Poll.  He not only won it, he did so convincingly, with more than double the percentage of Rick Perry, who placed second after conducting a campaign in Florida.  Florida has a history of selecting the GOP nominee at this event starting with Reagan in 1980, making this a fairly significant event.

I'll admit to a bit of bias when it comes to Herman Cain (who doesn't when it comes to politics) but I'm quite willing to defend my conclusions, so feel free to challenge any of my points.  My first contact with Herman Cain was when he made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination in 2004 for the Senate - finishing second.  I was impressed enough with him at that point in time that although I was unable to vote in the primary (I was still too young to vote) I did convince my parents to vote for him.

Fast forward to the present.  He is the only candidate who has never held a political office, although to say that he is new to politics would not be correct.  He is a no-nonsense problem solver and best of all sounds good while talking about those solutions.  I think his normally radical sounding reforms hit the right cords for the current environment which is desperate for a leader who will take charge of our out of shape government.

So yes, I am endorsing Herman Cain for the Republican nomination.  I've taken a look at the other candidates, and while I like parts of all of them, I also dislike parts, and the one that I think has the best overall economic plan is Herman Cain.  His tax reform plan would really get our economy roaring, imagine how many companies would bring their production and capital back to the US if they knew it would only be taxed at 9%?  If you have watched any of the debates you will see a whole lot of back and forth from the "front runners" but you will rarely hear substantial plans for exactly how they will bring forth what they are talking about.  Herman Cain almost always follows up his opposition to something Obama does with a solution to replace it.  Social Security is a good example, he would do something like the Chilean Government has done to make it solvent.  (The link is weird because the actual blog no longer exists, however it is a good explanation of what Cain is talking about.)  The current social 'insecuity' system is doomed for failure.  Perry had it right, it is technically a ponzi scheme because it depends upon current payers taking care of current receivers.  There is no trust fund where your cash is being held for retirement.  Everything you are paying into the system now is being spent and being replaced with IOU's.  

So, what are my major problems with the other candidates?  I'll give a brief overview, I might follow up in more detail later as I see fit.  

Romney.  He continues to defend Romneycare to this day, despite it's obvious connections to more and more unpopular Obamacare.  I understand that it was at the state level and not the federal, which makes the constitutional question much more difficult to answer, but on principle we have the same problem, Government becomes the answer, personal and local (community) responsibility gets taken out of the picture.  

Perry.  My main issue with him is the Guardisil controversy.  Claims of crony capitalism aside, the main thing this reveals about Rick Perry is that he is not afraid to use the power of government to mandate something that he believes is for the greater good.  This clashes with a small government view that says that individuals should take responsibility for these things for themselves.  It makes me wonder what else he would be okay with mandating if he saw something that he thought needed fixing.  

Bachmann.  She did awesome in Iowa, and she absolutely flopped in Florida.  Going from first to last is a big deal, even if she didn't put energy into the Florida straw poll (neither did Romney who grabbed third place).  So what's my problem with her?  I don't necessarily disagree with her ideologically, in fact she's one of the best defenders of her beliefs I've ever seen.  My main issue is elect-ability and leadership ability.  I know that she's taken the lead on a lot of issues in the House of representatives, but I've also seen a lack of judgment in where she focuses her time and energy.  She could make a great VP candidate.

Ron Paul.  Do I need to say anything other than Iran?  Anyone who is okay with the country that wants to wipe Israel off the map having a nuclear weapon is automatically off my support list (although he would make a great economic adviser...).

Rick Santorum.  I don't really have a major problem with the guy, although I've not seen any great reason to support him either.  He might make a good VP, especially considering that he could help bring Pennsylvania into the red.

Huntsman.  This guy is a true 'moderate' republican.  He has a attacked the other candidates as being too conservative, and is putting himself as the middle of the road guy.  My comment, we tried this already, his name was McCain and it was a disaster.  We need someone who is committed to getting government off our backs so we can swing this economy around.  

Last but not least, Gingrich.  I'm not really sure what to do with this guy.  He has the most national political experience of any of the candidates - and let's be honest, sounds really good up there on that stage in the debates...  So why isn't he dong better in the polls?  My guess is because he still comes off as too much of a politician, too much of a philosopher, and not enough of a simple problem solver, which is what America wants right now.  He still has a chance at winning, but I'm not sure how exactly that would work right now.

So - to cap this off, do I think Herman Cain could win?  Yes and yes.  He can win the primary by staying on message, being creative in how he gets that message out, and hoping for Perry or Romney to have a major fall from grace (this might already be happening).  He needs to get the Tea Party on his side instead of Bachmann's as well.  

As far as the general election goes, I think just about any non crazy republican has a decent chance of beating Obama, especially in the current economy.  But still, think of how delicious it would be to have a Cain/Obama debate.  Seriously, anyone who still considers American to be a racist country would have a hard time of it when BOTH parties put up black candidates.  Herman Cain is perfecting his debating and sound bite abilities, and I think he could give Obama a real challenge.  Here is a nice little opinion piece that I think sums up Cain's appeal nicely.

August 21, 2011

Guns and England

The Herald Sun ran an opinion piece about how the rioting in England was the result of "politically correct policing".  http://www.heraldsun.com.au/opinion/soft-policing-failed-britain/story-e6frfhqf-1226112680672

Yes, when things have gotten this bad, soft policing only makes things worse.  But is not the root of the problem.   We could go back and forth on the policies that really caused what's going on in England.  However I think we can agree that a general breakdown in morality is the cause.

The question is, what is the most fundamental first line defense to amorality?  What is society's moat for the criminals that care neither for property nor person?  Here's a hint Onelia Giarrantano, who is quoted as saying "Where is the police? I want protection. This is what they're here for . . . I'm not secure at my workplace. I'm not secure at my home place."  She has it wrong.

This has actually been tested in court the USA.  In the Town of Castle Rock v Jessica Gonzales the Supreme Court ruled that the police have no duty to protect us from harm, even if we have a restraining protective order against someone.

So if police (government) has no duty to protect us from the day to day criminals that assault us, who does?  Surprise!  We do!  What do you think the 2nd amendment is all about?  It's guaranteeing that we have the means to provide for our personal defense.

Yes, the constitution was formed in part, to 'provide for the common defence'.  http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html#Preamble but note the word common.  Personal protection is not the same as common (compare a home invasion to an army invading us) - and thus the government has no duty to provide for it.

This is what makes gun control so insidious.  With one hand they are taking away our means to protect ourselves, our families, our neighborhoods, our churches, and our towns, and with the other hand they are insisting that they are not responsible when things like VA tech happen.  If you are not familiar with some of the details, police arrived within three minutes of the start of the shootings, but didn't actually enter for about 6 more minutes.

Here is the basic problem with gun control.  Those most likely to obey the laws are those who are law abiding and very unlikely to commit a crime anyway.  Those committed to acts of violence will seek out an illegal gun, or will use some other implement to make it happen.  The people that suffer the most under gun control is the women, the elderly, and the physically impaired.  For them, other means of self defense, martial arts, baseball bats, physical force in general, are often not an option.  Even stronger men are at a disadvantage because of the illegal guns that criminals can inevitably get.

There is a saying that originated in the 1800's, 'God made man, Sam Colt made them equal'.  He was the inventor of some of the most popular guns in US history.  I won't argue semantics - there are obvious problems with that saying, but it captures the heart of the usefulness of firearms.  They tools.  For all the hype about how guns kill, ultimately people kill.  Especially with modern firearms, there are so many safeties built into these things that the only way they can lead to death is due to abject carelessness, or because someone means them to cause death (points and pulls the trigger).

Imagine a different scenario in England, pockets of violence crop up from point to point, but when they break into Onelia Giarrantano's Salon, she pulls out a 9mm handgun, or perhaps a shotgun.  Not prepared to trash a shop at risk for their lives, the kids take off.

If this was repeated at a few places across the different cities, you can be sure the word would get out.  Now, of course the more hardened game types might not be deterred by a few stories, but the kids, the ones doing it for the fun and excitement, would definitely have pause.  Not only would this allow the Police to concentrate on the real criminals, but it would limit the property damage, which in an economic downturn, is especially hard to deal with.

Now, of course this didn't happen, one very good reason is that handguns are universally banned in England and gun control laws overall there are extremely restrictive.  Maybe not Nazi Germany restrictive, but pretty bad.  Oh, speaking of Nazi Germany, has anyone ever told you that many of our American gun control laws are practically copied and pasted out of the Nazi's playbook?  Don't believe me?  Pick up a copy of "Gun Control": Gateway to Tyranny which was put out by JPFO (Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership).  It has a side by side English translation of the Nazi Weapons Law of 1938 and the U. S. Gun control act of 1968.  The Free Republic wrote an article on the subject which is quite interesting.  http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/860211/posts

There have been multiple studies of the affect of guns on crime, but perhaps the best, and the one that has been resistant to legitimate criticism would be More Guns, Less Crime by John Lott.  He analyses crime rates across the US and shows a definitive correlation between increased gun ownership, and decreased crime.

August 11, 2011

Perry Prayer reveals ridiculousness of "Separation of Church and State"

The recent 'controversy' (really just a few disgruntled atheists and some media looking for a juicy story) tried to stir up trouble over the fact that a sitting governor - Rick Perry - participated in a prayer rally.  The Response - an event sponsored by the American Family Association was designed to provide a platform a national Christian response to the many problems our nation is facing - and it was centered on prayer.

I find the whole thing quite commendable, but I want to focus my response on the arguments used in a legal case brought before a federal district court.  The judge dismissed the case - but for technical reasons, not really addressing the constitutional questions.

According to the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/29/us/politics/29perry.html?_r=1&ref=atheism) the main argument of the Wisconsin Freedom From Religion organization was that Governor Perry's involvement violated the "First Amendment's separation of church and state."  First off, notice how the Times accepts the widely pushed myth that separation of church and state is part of the first amendment.  There is a pretty huge gulf between "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" and the complete separation of religion and government.     (http://www.usconstitution.net/xconst_Am1.html)

But I digress.  Let's forget for a moment that this wasn't a state sponsored event (As noted already AFA put it on).  No one was required to attend, and there was no special privilege given to the attendees.  The history of state sponsored churches (for example, the church of England) generally shows forced tithing and a system of punishments or rewards to enforce the official position.

So, the argument then is basically that a sitting governor, whether or not his state government is actually involved, cannot constitutionally participate in a prayer rally because that might establish a religion.  Of course - this argument also ignores the second art of the statement about not prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  If the judge had issued the order to stop Governor Perry's participation (as an individual) it would have actually violated the second part - since his individual right to free exercise of religion would have been violated.

But I digress again - the previous arguments are not biggest, and most ridiculously obvious reason why there was no reason to sue to stop Governor Perry's involvement - read the first amendment again.  "CONGRESS shall make no law..."  Is Rick Perry Congress?  The first amendment very specifically only limits the federal government, and congress in particular, from making a law establishing a religion.  States, and their governors, are not included.  Now, I realize that the 14th amendment has been used to try and change this - but the wording "privileges and immunities" would hardly seem to prevent a Governor from participating in a rally that is not state sponsored and doesn't force, or reward, participation.

Of course, I guess the very last statement in the article gives away the brains (or lack their of) behind this whole lawsuit.  "Annie Laurie Gaylor, the group’s co-president, said she was disappointed but not surprised by the ruling. She said the group was made up of atheists, agnostics and nonbelievers.

“We don’t believe in a god, much less a god that answers government prayer,” she said.
I can't think of a statement more silly than saying "I don't believe in a god (period) but I believe even LESS in a god who answers government prayer".  I almost fell off my chair laughing.

To watch The Response for yourself, you can check it out here: http://theresponseusa.com/

July 31, 2011

Who Has Voted to Increase the Debt Ceiling—Twice « Commentary Magazine

Who Has Voted to Increase the Debt Ceiling—Twice « Commentary Magazine

So I figured it's my turn to weigh in a bit on this whole debt ceiling deal. Lets ignore for the moment the whole reason we are here in the first place (horrific overspending that started decades before now - New Deal - The Great Society - War against Poverty - etc).

The hullabaloo is that Republicans - specifically the conservative Republicans swept into office in the historic election last year - are obstructionist horrible people that want to see grandma not get her government check in order to save a little on spending. If that's not bad enough, many of them also apparently don't want us to be able to pay our military, or to make good on our debt. All this because they don't want to raise the debt ceiling (more on if this is actually true below).

All of this is quite fantastic - and I mean that in the older fashioned sense, meaning it's a fantasy - and is made even more so by one simple fact. For all of Obama's finger pointing, he has yet to present his own plan for raising the debt ceiling. For all of the democrats in the senate's temper tantrum's about the Republicans not doing anything - all they have done so far is vote down the, not one, but TWO plans that the republicans in the House have sent over. Check out the linked commentary for a little more on that.

Now, in my humble opinion, there was no reason for republicans to have passed a second plan in the first place. Rather than be worried about having any consequences of the deadline being passed fall on them, they should have gone on every television, radio show, or other platform that would have had them and said "We passed our plan, if you don't like it why don't you come up with your own and send it over?"

Now, a little more on the actual logistics of hitting the debt ceiling. There is one, and only one thing that hitting that mark does. It prevents us, as a nation, from borrowing any more money. Why did our founders put the ability to borrow money in the constitution? Because they knew we might need emergency funds in times of war. There is absolutely no way the could imagine the socialistic society we have today - or even worse - funding such a society with debt!

You would think, with the example of Europe in front of us, we could see the signs of the impending implosion, but on the contrary - we seem dedicated toward accelerating towards that fate as fast as we can.

Now - I used the term 'we' in the previous sentence in the loose sense that implies a country as a whole. I can still say 'we' are going in the wrong direction because our government currently is. As historic as the last election was, it wasn't quite enough. If we the people want to form a more perfect union we have to demonstrate a long term generational commitment to turning ourselves around. And it will mean going without some things we have become accustomed to. I think a good start to that commitment would be to select a presidential candidate who shows the gumption to start pulling this ship of state around. For this choice, we need to not think first of elect-ability - for that will only get us what we've been getting - instead we need to think of principle first. Those who have been consistent in their words and deeds over the majority of their life. In fact, it might now be a bad idea to pick someone who had never held political office before. This way there would be no obligations other than to the constitution and we who elected him. (If you didn't get that pretty broad hint, I'm referencing Herman Cain - can you imagine a presidential campaign in which the Democrats couldn't play the race card?)

July 14, 2011

God and Country

Today I want to get back to the basics - what is it that gives us the ability to organize a government?  How we can know what the basic foundation for law is?

It is common hear about some sort of bill congress is passing - often to simply change what a previous congress did.  The president may disagree with congress and attempt to use his power to push a different agenda.  Then there is the Supreme Court, throwing it's weight behind one law, striking another down (or sometimes, simply inventing policy out of thin air - see Roe vs Wade).  So, who really does decide what law should be?

Well for the US, we can take it one step further, we have a founding document, the Constitution, which was established under the authority of the Declaration of Independence.  Don't let anyone fool you, the Constitution was not formed in a vacuum.  If you want to understand where the founder's believed they received the authority to form the constitution, read the Declaration of Independence.

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them...  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..."

I hope that most people who read these words understand the magnitude of them.  It establishes the basis of all human governance on the laws of nature - and the source of those laws - God.  Now unfortunately a full discourse on the meaning of "laws of nature" and the various ways it is meant would be a major undertaking, but let me sum up what it meant to most of our founders.

One of the strongest influences on the founder's feelings on law and governance comes from Sir William Blackstone.  Blackstone not only provided a codification of English common law that allowed the colonists to defend their desire to be represented fairly, but he also provided the definition of Natural Law that the colonists held to.  For Blackstone Natural Law referred to the fact that since God is the creator of all, all law must also begin with him.  Thus natural law synonymous with God's law.  The Declaration actually acknowledges two forms of natural law "Laws of Nature" That is the laws that can be deduced from creation - and "Nature's God" or the laws that have been revealed through scripture.

For an interesting discussion on the influence of Blackstone on the Declaration check out http://www.sullivan-county.com/deism/blackstone.htm I don't endorse the site, but that particular article was good.

So - if our Constitution was founded upon the idea that we get our laws from God, how then did we end up with the mess we have today?  It's simple.  It used to be that when congress passed a law it shouldn't have (because they didn't have the authority under the constitution) the president would veto it citing the reason I just gave.  It used to be that presidents refused to engage in unconstitutional combat (see Andrew Jackson's response to Davy Crockett when he wanted us to intervene in Texas against the Mexicans before it became a state).  It used to be that the Supreme Court didn't assume it had the power to legislate by fiat by declaring something unconstitutional.

So what happened?  Well people changed.  Our legislators kept pushing for things that were not constitutional, presidents became less ethical, Supreme Courts became power hungry.  What happened was the moral decline of America.  We stopped looking to Nature's God, and started looking to ourselves (humanism, egalitarianism) and then to nature itself (evolution, green theory).

People generally have the government that they deserve - and unfortunately that is the case today.  Our Government will never truly change its nature into the form it should until the people it governs have the character to support it.

I think Benjamin Franklin summed it up nicely - upon exiting the constitutional convention in 1987 he was asked what form of government they had come up with.  His reply, "A Republic, if you can keep it".  Unfortunately we haven't kept it.  I think my next post will be on the form of government we started with, a constitutional republic, and what we have now (a mess).

June 21, 2011

The IRS: the perfect example of out of control bureaucracy

I’d like to take a time out from my dialogue and discuss something personal, but that still deals with the subject at hand.  Oftentimes the temptation when dealing with deeper issues such as what I've been discussing is to shrug it off.  After all, we can’t really do anything about it, and it doesn't really affect us, does is?
While that second opinion might be wavering a bit in today’s climate of joblessness and other economic plagues, most people still feel this way.  My family is undergoing an experience that serves as a reminder for why big brother government isn’t necessarily here to help.
When filing their taxes this year my parents claimed a particular credit that has to do with adoption.  If you are reading this, chances are you know my family well enough that you know that my youngest three siblings were born in Liberia and were brought into our family several years ago.  Evidently this particular tax credit is rare enough that it triggered an audit by the IRS. 
Not only did the IRS take back the tax credit, they slapped on a substantial fine to penalize them for attempting to defraud the government.
Now, my parents did their due diligence.  They researched that credit and honestly believed they qualified for it.  Now, rather than serve as a blessing to a family that has worked hard and sacrificed much to add to their numbers from a needy nation, this credit is acting as a curse.
It’s easy to glaze over the things big government does and claim they are good because they only take money from the wealthy who can afford it.  Then examples like this come along and we are reminded just how meddlesome a bureaucracy is. 
To round this blog post out I want to comment on the nature of a bureaucracy.  We congratulate ourselves as a society for being free.  We don’t condone slavery, serfdom, and lordships.  In other words, the American dream (that whoever works hard can make a place for themselves).
We’ve slowly pushed away from these freedoms though.  The real catalyst was the social programs that came out of the Great Depression.  The cost for these initiatives was not just tax dollars.  People are required to run them.  The nature of such structures is a very strong top down planned structure.  Regulations are passed by regulatory boards that have no particular interest in the industry which they are affecting.  Money artificially pulled from one part of the economy to another leads to massive waste, not just in the transfer, but in the outcome, as behaviors that should be rewarded (entrepreneurship) are punished and those which should be punished (laziness) are rewarded due to a lack of accountability.
For those wondering, the latest is that my parents have contacted an accountant to help them sort this out.  He agrees with their interpretation of the code and has sent a letter to the IRS detailing where he believes they are mistaken.  They are hopeful that even if they don’t get the credit, at the very least the penalty will be withdrawn.

June 12, 2011

The Proper Role of Government

I’ll admit it upfront, the ideas I’m going to discuss I've borrowed heavily from Frederic Bastiat who wrote a shortish work called The Law, it would definitely be worth your time to read it.  That doesn’t mean these aren’t also my own thoughts.  No one can truly claim to be the first to come up with an idea – we are merely created beings after all.  But the ideas that we adopt and use are indeed ours – as evidenced by how we live our lives.

Government is, in its simplest conception, an institution to provide self-defense at a corporate level for a group of people. 

Think about it this way – what is the most precious gift we are given by God?  Life itself, correct?  One of the responsibilities he gives us is to look after this life to the best of our ability.  This includes defending it from mortal danger.  If a small town appoints a sheriff, that sheriff understands that he acts with the authority of the people who selected him.  His job is to prevent those who wish to cause harm to the community from doing so.  If the town is faced with their possible destruction from a neighboring town, they will raise an army of those capable of defending the town.  But at all times that army understands it is acting as an arm of the people of the town.

The reason I go with a microcosm example is to make it clear what the purpose of the law enforcement/military arms of our government should be for – to protect and defend the community.  It’s not as if the government exists independently – mysteriously drawing its power to force those under its authority to its will.

I have to make such an obvious statement because governments have existed so long; people begin to assume that they must be subjected to them.  The Founders of America understood the need for a government as well as anyone, but they further recognized the true purpose of government, and underwent a monumental effort to refute the thousands of years of top down authoritarian styled government, and instituted a government to “form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and ensure the blessings of liberty, to ourselves and our posterity”.

I hope most of you recognized that quote.  If not, take a moment and Google the preamble to the constitution.  That statement gives us a window into the very purpose of the government that we have here in the USA.  If you don’t understand it, and it’s purpose, then you don’t understand what our government should (and should not) be doing. 

This may be too long of a digression to complete, and if so perhaps I’ll write a whole post on it next time, but naked democracy is NOT the answer to tyranny.  It seems to answer all the prerequisites on the surface, it responds to the will of the people in general, avoids the completely arbitrary nature of a tyrant, and provides the ability to change laws that hurt people more than help.  The short and simple reason a direct democracy is not a good idea is the fact that a simple majority (50.1%) has the ability to tyrannize the minority of the population.  There are other reasons, many of which were written about by our founding fathers in their discussions about forms of government.  It should be noted that our form of government started as a Constitutional Republic, but has been slowly degraded to more of a Democratic Republic, with many who would love to move it all the way to a democracy.

So how does my original example of government protecting the people fit in with modern governance, which educates, provides welfare for, and in various ways takes care of people in the fashion that we would traditionally ascribe to what a family and a church would do?

Well in many ways it does.  We have a system of laws designed to allow the ordinary man, who wishes no one else harm, the ability to live in peace, and prosperity if he is willing to work for it.  These laws allow the punishment of those who harm others in a systematic, in not perfectly just, manner.  These laws are enforced by a combination of the executive and judicial branches of our government, and are created by the legislative. 

On the flip, in many ways our current government does not accomplish its original goal, to serve by protecting.  This is reflected in laws and regulations that overly burden private enterprise, criminalize activities that don’t harm to others (Thanks EPA), and an expansive government that causes subservience by dependency.

Next time, I’m going to look at why we were not give a direct democracy by our founders, and why our slide into such has created discrepancies between what our government does today, and what it should do ideally.

June 4, 2011

The capitalism debate - a new twist

For most in the West, the capitalism debate seems old and tired.  We either love it or hate it.  The haters are branded socialist, communist, fascist, etc.  The lovers are called conservatives, greedy, hoarders, etc.  These labels may or may not be correct as they are applied, but I want to look at it from a different angle.

Where does capitalism come from?  For most they simply see it as the free market at work, but that simply isnt' the case.

Whenever someone attaches 'ism' to something - take a long hard look before you agree with them on it.  Ism as a suffix almost universally means that whatever word it is attached to has now become the ultimate objective, the meaning to life.  Thus communism means that the idea of the commune is the end all.  Humanism refers to humanity being the ultimate.  Feminism... (well you get the idea).

So let's look at capital-ism.  Capital refers to money, wealth, something that can be traded for something else.  Capitalism basically then puts the pursuit of wealth above all.  Most people recognize this isn't really healthy, too many evils have happened because of people putting their money above people.  Capitalism evolved out of free market thinking, not because it's the next natural step, but because it was allowed to dominate.  The idea that we were all able to pursue our own goals without being impeded (free market thinking) of course allowed those who valued wealth above all else to pursue that end.

This is to be expected, and is not necessarily a bad thing.  The mistake is to assume that the free market system is ONLY for the capitalists among us, and this is usually why it is attacked.  When a modern liberal (socialist) sees the free market being used to further an individual's wealth - they assume that this must be it's only function.

To see why this isn't true we must back up and look at a larger picture.  The west values political freedom above all.  To us, liberty is essential.  This wasn't always the case.  Older societies took it for granted that a top down system of hierarchy, of some form or another, was a certainty in life.  Our modern breakthrough in this regard is no longer seen as such.  It has become the thing we now take for granted.  (Small side trail, this is why the modern TRUE liberal has become labeled the conservative, because we are attempting to conserve an idea that USED to be the progressives goal... but now that we have it, it has become the old thing).  Now that we take our liberty for granted, the progressive (labeled now as a 'liberal') has moved on.  Now the big enemy to defeat has become the disparity between the millionaire and the poverty of the person out on the street, or in the developing nations.

This seems like such a noble goal, that we often lose sight of the problem with even thinking this way.  The very notion that it's the little guy against big guy is the classist thinking that, through marxism, produced communism.  The very method by which these caring people wish to solve the problem is the old method that we fought so very hard to overcome just a few hundred years ago - authoritarianism.  How can I say that?  Anytime we have a forced program of wealth distribution, there must be a structure to distribute it.  This structure, by necessity, must be a top down, authoritarian model.

Of course a natural question to then ask: Why it is that moder 'democracies' in the west have often become welfare states?  Aren't they still individualistic?  Don't they still have their liberty?  Surely I can't make the comparison between the monarchies, tyrannies and oligarchies of old and these modern examples of state compassion.

Actually I can, but not because their current governments are necessarily authoritarian (although I could go through and show how the bureaucracies of the modern welfare state are a modern version of the old top down systems, and if I get any requests, I could still do it)

No, why I can make that statement is because of what the states are not.  Sure they  provide a basic sustenance to the least in their population, but there are still strong inequalities (by the socialist wealth standard) within their societies.  There are still the wealthy and the 'poor'.  If the socialist were to put his government where his mouth was, they would have to institute a totalitarian state such as what the USSR had in order to make it happen.  Seeing as how this has already been proven to only be a good idea if you like murdering millions upon millions of people - they stick with their current plan.  One foot in in the free market, one foot in redistributionary socialism.

So why don't I endorse Capitalism?  I mean, I just set up a pretty good picture of why it's bad to be a socialist right?  I don't endorse capitalism as our goal because it isn't.  The object of making as much money as I can is only one of the possibilities of a truly liberal society.  I could also make my main goal to be an artist, and if I'm not supremely wealthy, at least I'll be happily doing what I like to do.  My goal could be to have a family, friends, and a job I enjoy.  Perhaps I do want to make a large income, but then I also want to give most of it away.  Do you get the picture yet? A free market liberal society simply frees individuals, groups, and nations, to do that for which they are best gifted, what they love.  Happiness.  This is why Thomas Jefferson wrote that famous phrase into America's Declaration of Independence.  The pursuit of happiness was his interpretation of the true value of liberty.

Once a society puts constraints on person's ability to pursue his dreams, it reduces their incentive to pursue said dream, and forces them into a captivity that can't be seen, but can be felt.  Everyone who has had to take a class in school they couldn't stand, a job they hated, or a boss that couldn't understand how to work with them, will know what I mean when I say captivity.  It's that feeling that you have when you know you could be doing something you want to do, but you can't - for one reason or another.

It's an unfortunate fact of life that none of us are ever going to achieve that perfect state where we only do what we want all day every day (within this mortal life that is).  In a large part that may be because we may not understand what we do want.  (here we drift into the theological - and my Christian beliefs shape what I think we all are ultimately pursuing, whether we understand it or not)
But the point is whether we achieve the ultimate expression of it or not, we are still more productive, happier, and in general better off when we are free to attempt the pursuit of this happiness.  Once a bureaucrat gets involved, all bets are off.  It is simply impossible for mere humans to ever understand each other enough to design a system that uses all of us, in our various talents, in such as way that not only society benefits, but as individuals we also feel fulfilled.

So what is government's role then?  In a very short explanation (mostly because this blog is already getting too long - if you've stuck with me so far, congrats!) government's role is to prevent the hard core capitalists among us from hurting another's pursuit of their happiness.  Basically this means to not make policies that lead to monopolies, government controls (wages, prices, etc) or other artificial footprints in the market place.  We almost always put the blame on big corporations for monopolies and high prices, but they are usually just reacting to laws, regulations and tax codes that make it more efficient for them to act that way.

I can talk more about government's role next time.  Stay tuned!

May 24, 2011

True Economic Liberalism

For thousands of years economies all over the world remained pretty much static.  Sure, we would have the occasional big civilization with increased standards for its citizens, but that didn't usually translate into much of anything for the rest of the world outside of that sphere of influence.  It also never translated into anything significantly more advanced technology wise.

When did the current boom start?  Every expert is going to disagree somewhat.  Most will point to the renaissance, some to the Grecian period (the supposed beginning of "Western" philosophies).

I don't claim to be an expert - but from what I've learned so far, this is my two cents.  

The idea of a form of government where power resides with the people did indeed have somewhat of a beginning in Greece, but even then it was only for a certain class.  One could make the argument that it was still a form of Oligarchy, although much more diffused than ordinary.  

Rome's Senate gave us the first glance at a Republic.  This form of government is that in which a few are vested with the power to make laws for all the citizenry of their nation, with the understanding that the power is granted to them conditionally (rule of law).  This of course didn't last.

The first lasting representative form of government (at least thus far) came out of Protestantism.  Other forms were based upon humanistic principles, and were often miserable failures (compare the French experiment with "Democracy" that lead to the guillotine, to the American version of representative government - the Republic).

How does this translate into the economic boom of the last few hundred years?  With the increased ability to control their government, freer people allowed themselves economic liberties that were previously unthinkable.  Where once someone was Joe Smith, literally because their families were smithers, now increasingly they felt free to take on occupations they felt best suited too, or that were more profitable.

With less government intervention taking away profits in the forms of taxes or regulations, people were incentivized to work harder, and to be smarter with how they worked.  Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations was the first widely read and regarded work that explained how people working for themselves was actually beneficial to others.  We use the phrase, "a rising tides floats all boats".  The idea was that the aggregate economic benefit from individuals working to put themselves ahead actually helped others.

This seems like common sense now.  (At least is should)  But at one point in time, the leading economic theory, Mercantilism, closely guarded economic activity.  This was done in large part because wealth was seen as a pie that one could only get a bigger piece of if someone else got a smaller one (sound familiar?).  Individualistic economics blew that out of the water because the idea now was that increased economic activity (due to greater incentives) actually increased the size of the pie itself, allowing for more for everyone.  

These liberal (referring to freedom) economic theories were what have built the world we know now.  Since then we have tried, on multiple occasions, to switch to another model.  The most famous of these being the Communist experiment. They have all proven abject failures.  No matter how one philosophizes about how much more fair it would be to do things differently, people's natures at their core do not change.  We simply do not want to work if we cannot see the fruits of our labor.

Next up I'll be posting on Capitalism, and how it is different than the simple idea of the free market.  Many people make it the target, and attempt to force all who believe the government should stay out of certain things to defend it - I'm going to talk about why that just isn't the case.