Archive | August 2012

I Want To Be A Crony!

I stumbled on this video at Cafe Hayek: I want to be a crony!

But Our Budgets Have Been Cut To The Bone!

I submit this as evidence that they have not: Detroit employs a farrier. 

What Is Government’s Role?

A friend recently stated that government’s role is to create “social order”, and accused me of not wanting the government to “restrain evil”. While I feel that I answered him as well as I could at the time, I wanted to expand upon the idea of the proper role of government and share some of my thoughts.

The social order point is interesting to me because it supposes several things. First, it supposes that social order can be imposed effectively through government. We have to remember that government is a monopolistic use of force and shouldn’t be confused with voluntary social arrangements. So how orderly will a society be if its values are imposed from the top down? Sure, you can make people comply, grudgingly, when they’re threatened by use of violence. But is that the goal? Or is society more than that?

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Quote Of The Day

…Is from F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom:

The “social goal,” or “common purpose,” for which society is to be organized is usually vaguely described as the “common good,” the “general welfare,” or the “general interest.” It does not need much reflection to see that these terms have no sufficiently definite meaning to determine a particular course of action. The welfare and the happiness of millions cannot be measured on a single scale of less and more. The welfare of a people, like the happiness of a man, depends on a great many things that can be provided in an infinite variety of combinations. It cannot be adequately expressed as a single end, but only as a hierarchy of ends, a comprehensive scale of values in which every need of every person is given its place. To direct all our activities according to a single plan presupposes that every one of our needs is given its rank in an order of values which must be complete enough to make it possible to decide among all the different courses which the planner has to choose. It presupposes, in short, the existence of a complete ethical code in which all the different human values are allotted their due place.

I like this quote, because it clearly points out that doing things for the “common good” supposes a particular value set, which may be one that you (the individual) do not agree with.

Recently there was much fervor over how necessary algebra is to students. Much was said on either side of the debate, but what I found striking was that at the root of it all was simply a difference in values. Some people value algebra; others don’t. Of course, there wouldn’t be nearly as much debate over this issue if education weren’t politicized. If parents were free to choose where to send their kids to school instead of being lumped into the ones in their district, the schools themselves could settle the debate. Perhaps some schools would stress the importance of algebra; others might choose to focus on more practical math skills like basic budgeting. Maybe even it would be left up to the student to decide. And you know what? That would be great! It would tailor education more to the individual student rather than a dogmatic one size fits all approach.

And that’s one of the follies of central planning: Individual values and freedoms get trampled because the government necessarily enforces its own values, and causes contention over subjects as benign as algebra.

The Most Blatant Fear Mongering Infographic You’ll See Today

Here, in all its glory (Click to enlarge):

Run! Run for your lives!

I would like to think that this is satire; unfortunately, I fear that it isn’t. But with lines like, “It’s clear that sitting is killing us: but how?”, how can it really be taken seriously?!

Perhaps the human body wasn’t meant to “sit for long periods of time”, as the graphic claims. But were we really so much better off 100 years ago? Yes, as a society we are much more obese, but we also had a far shorter life expectancy, 51 and 55 for male and female respectively in 1912. Compare that with 75.5 and 80.5 for male and female respectively in 2008. So it would appear that, despite the glory days when “we were all out toiling in the fields”, our quality of life has still improved dramatically, and this is focusing on only one factor (life expectancy) and completely ignoring other factors such as economic improvement, education improvement/access, etc. Also, we are able to sit so much because we are substantially wealthier than we we in 1912. In 1910, 31% of workers in the US were farmers.  In 2012, 1.2% were in agriculture. That can only happen because we’ve dramatically improved the efficiency, quality, and quantity of our crops, and freed up people that would otherwise be toiling in fields to do other things, like sit behind a desk in an air conditioned office. Given the choice between the two, which do you think the average person is going to choose?

Quote Of The Day

This comes from Frederic Bastiat’s The Law:

You say: “Here are persons who are lacking in morality or religion,” and you turn to the law. But law is force. And need I point out what a violent and futile effort it is to use force in the matters of morality and religion?

It would seem that socialists, however self complacent, could not avoid seeing this monstrous legal plunder that results from such systems and such efforts. But what do the socialists do? They cleverly disguise this legal plunder from others- and even from themselves- under the seductive names of fraternity, unity, organization, and association. Because we ask so little from the law- only justice- the socialists thereby assume that we reject fraternity, unity, organization, and association. The socialists brand us with the name individualist.

But we assure the socialists that we repudiate only forced organization, not natural organization. We repudiate the forms of association that are forced upon us, not free association. We repudiate forced fraternity, not true fraternity. We repudiate the artificial unity that does nothing more than deprive persons of individual responsibility. We do not repudiate the natural unity of mankind under Providence.

MA Wants To Overturn Citizen’s United

According to Boston.com, the MA legislature has called for a constitutional amendment repealing the Citizens United ruling. I have several thoughts, not least of which is wondering why I still choose to live here (it’s not ’cause its cheap!). But deeper than that, I wonder if they realize that the ruling was based on the First Amendment. No, I mean, really. Does freedom of speech suddenly get revoked when a group of individuals voluntarily organize together?

I find it interesting that so often in our government individuals are ignored or trampled upon because they’re only being seen in aggregates, while a legitimate collective’s voice is seen as illegitimate and threatening.

Yes, I get it. Corporations wield a lot of power, have a lot of money, and as such have a lot of influence. However, if you’re going to stomp on free speech of corporations, that same rule must be applied to labor unions, PACs, newspapers, magazines, churches, and just about any other group of people. Is that really what the MA legislature wants? The cynic in me thinks so, but at least on the surface no one would ever admit it.

The whole purpose of the First Amendment was to protect citizens who openly criticized government from retribution. It serves no purpose if something as basic as uniting with other citizens nullifies it. You may not like what someone has to say, and you may not agree with it but you are under no obligation to act upon it. Are we really to believe that the populace is merely clay, formed by whatever media they happen to be subjected to in their day to day lives?

To put it more frankly: Are we really that dumb?