Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Health-care debate VII

Do we want to fix health care? Health care is a cross roads where health-care providers, health-care consumers, health-care insurers and government all meet up. I can not talk about reforming those things without getting into pretty serious conversation what government’s role in society is, and here is my “simple” answer…

Government has a legitimate monopoly on force. If the mafia says “Give us 30% of your paycheck, every paycheck, to spend on protecting you and if you don’t we will take your stuff and/or lock you up in a small room with highly abusive people,” we would call that a protection racket, a form of organized crime. The reason the government is allowed to do this, and other groups are not, is because the government has a legitimate monopoly on force.

Under normal circumstances, a person exposes themselves to force by contract. Your collectors have the right to take your stuff if you don’t pay because you signed a contract saying it was OK. The fact that you have many contractors to choose from and that you enter the contract of your free will, makes this type of force self regulating and legitimate.

Government, on the other hand has this right regardless of contract, and there is no competition. So, in the absence of voluntary contracts serving as a control to the force, freewill is expressed through democracy.

However, democracy requires a system in order to function well. The simple will of the majority for every government tasking would be disastrous, even it it were logistically feasible. Fifty-one percent could (and would) use their power over the government to use the government’s monopoly of force to seize the money and resources of the remaining 49%.

Also, the fact that the government has monopoly on force doesn’t mean the government is the best instrument to accomplish every job. Socialism basically means the rich pay more taxes and the money taken from the rich provides for the poor. In a totally socialist state, the government would make all economic decisions for the people. Historically, this works very poorly.

Americans, justifiably proud of their economy, often complain about socialist economic control. However, if people take the time to think, few people really want a totally capitalist society, in which the supply of anything is controlled only by market demand, and not by the government’s monopoly of force.

Prescriptions are a good example. In a totally capitalist society, people could buy whatever drugs they wanted. The supply of drugs would be controlled completely by the demand for them. However, we impose non-market control over drugs, denying people access to drugs regardless of their demand because, in this case, capitalism harms rather then helps society.

Why? Because capitalism is a means to an end and not an end to itself. Capitalism is great at providing a variety of products, and using competition to drive the price of those products down, but capitalism, like many tools, is without morals. It is neither good, nor bad; it just is. Sometimes we stop capitalism from working on moral grounds.

The military is another good example. Bill Gates pays about 15 million times more taxes than the average American. Yet, he receives exactly the same level of military protection as the homeless who live nearby. That is socialism at its most basic. Yet few Americans clamor to have the US military dismantled and replaced with competing mercenary bands. We turn capitalism off and utilize the government’s monopoly of force when it seems that taking unequally from all to provide equally to all is more moral than not. In a totally capitalist economy, the rich would have the best police, the best roads, the safest airplanes, just as in our current economy they have the best cars, the best houses, and the safest neighborhoods.

Morality is the test. The poor people in a police district get the exact same protection as the rich in the same district, flying first class is just as safe as flying other classes, and the military protects us all to the same degree regardless of income, because we have decided to tax those with money, to pay for a service for all.

The government has a responsibility to protect its citizens, thus everybody pays what the government thinks they are able, to receive the exact same level of military protection. This does not mean there is a universal right to military protection, for there is no such thing as a right to a service when no contract has been made; it simply means the government has a responsibility to provide the best military the people will fund.

Health-care is no different. The government has a responsibility to protect the lives of its citizens. If 50,000 people a year die in attacks, the government acts through the military. If 50,000 a year die in traffic accidents, the government acts through the Department of Transportation. If 50,000 a year die from inaccessible health-care…well then let’s not do a fucking thing because that would be socialism?

My. God. Obviously, morality calls for the limited suspension of capitalism in this case. France has the the highest value health-care on Earth. In a few other countries, people pay less but get far less (Chad for instance). In most other countries people pay far more and get a bit less. There are three keys: (1) There is a single payer (the government) for everything; (2) The book keeping is state of the art; (3) The doctors strike regularly.

It’s that simple. In response to the will of the people, the government sets price caps as low as possible. In response to the health care providers, the government raises price caps. Between the two, the providers get the incentive they need to stay in the market, and the people get what they need to be able to afford health care.

And it will not work in the U.S. for just as simple a reason – we lack the sort of democracy that allows it. In the U.S.’s single-member-district plurality representation, it’s all or nothing; 100% or 0%. That simply will not work for government price fixing. Let us suppose the Republicans side with the doctors, and the Democrats with the “more-for-less” voice of the people.

When the regime is Republican, the doctors will do well. When the regime is Democrat, the doctors will do poorly. In a society like France’s, the doctors will always win something, but never as much as they ask for…every year. The people will always win something but never as much as they ask for..every year. In the U.S., doctors will spend 4-8 years going broke followed by 4-8 years of getting paid. Though this averages out to the same thing, the fact is after 8 lean years, doctors will be leaving the field in droves. The profession of medicine cannot survive the zero sum game (0% or 100%) method of democracy; it needs proportional representation.

If we really want health-care reform, we need to partially socialize medicine. If we want that, and we want crops of new doctors to replace the retiring ones every year, we must have proportional democracy.

Proportional democracy, however, only works for large bodies of many representatives, like the House. For things like the Senate, or the Presidency, we still need to vote for one person. No matter how democratic the House, unless the Senate and the President are elected differently, we will have made huge change with no positive effects. The two-party system would still rule the executive branch and the Senate.

For these, we need a Condorcet vote. In this system, the voter rank candidates, and the overall winner gets the seat. This breaks the back of the two-party system and puts the President and the Senate in the same democratic boat as the House.

Without these, any attempt at health-care reform is so much verbal masturbation.

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September 27, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Government, Politics, Religion, Science, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Health Care Debate VI

So, one of the things I thought about as I was siting in my car seat, either watching barriers shoot (by far to close) or stuck in traffic, was the American health care system.

In post five, I said health care is a real problem in the US and needs a solution. A gave a solution, but it was so cursory as to be nearly comic. (Like a three step process to getting the moon: 1. Build rocket, 2. Load up and launch. 3. Land on moon.) I wanted to go into detail, but I simply don’t have the time it would take to write a book about it. Here is my less summarized than before, but still highly summarized problem. (The solution in the next blog.)

I’ve come to think, after much reflection, that problem is not health care. The problem is Americans. We have the 2nd most expensive socialized health-care per capita GDP on earth, yet it covers only a 1/3 of our citizens. We have the 1st most expensive private care per capita GDP on earth, yet have the lowest age of mortality and highest infant mortality in the western world. We have highest medical costs, bar none, on earth, yet the leading cause of death cancer caused by tobacco and heart disease due to diet and inactivity. We have all of this…and yet at least half of Americans don’t think there isn’t a problem.

Most Americans are stupid. We have only two possible causes for any undesirable behavior: internal and external. I find the idea that Americans are genetically inferior to people of other nations ridiculous, so that just leaves external. What could be acting from the outside in of whole nation to make Americans so politically stupid?

Let me pause for a moment, to say that I love my country. It’s not a perfect place, but I love it worts and all. I’m not so naive to believe that the election of single black man to the highest office in the land eliminates racism. I see private, quietly expressed racism nearly everyday I am work. The fact remains however, only three generations from one of the most homicidal racial slave systems on earth, a black man as president is a good step. It doesn’t solve inner city poverty. It doesn’t change the fact that schools with mostly black kids get a fraction the funding as schools with mostly white kids, but you will not see an outcast on the Diet of Japan, or Jew as the president of Egypt in three generations. America, ultimately, does many thing better then any other nation on earth.

But in the American democracy, there is a corrosive element that eats away at the will of the people constantly. It’s called the two party system.. In turn, the two party system is what causes this uniquely American stupidity.

I could go on about how two party systems prevent any real change (which they do), or why the left and right of the Communist party in China represent more choice of ideals then the Democrat and Republican party (which they do) but thats not the important part. No matter how bad the collusion between our politically parties, or between those in power and those with money is, democracy has an amazing power to right such wrongs, and in a way the people support. While the US does have systemic problems, the existing system has the capacity for self correction…but it’s only as good as the people voting.

The two party system putrefies the minds of the people. It reduces every discussion of shade and color of meaning into single binary choice of black or white. It turns every attempt at discussion into a cosmic battle of good and evil, characterized by a double false dichotomy. “False dichotomy” in argument refers to painting a bleak picture of you opponent’s viewpoint to make yours look better by comparison. In the two party system, both the viewpoints provided are absurd. One side is the bastion of all freedom, happiness, and light, the other a hotbed of evil, conspiratorial lies, and ill will. One side is God, the other side is Satan. 100% or 0%, with no in betweens.

In that environment, there can be no discussion, no debate, only people screaming slogans. The two party system is often defended with the statement “Well, it’s a good system, because it tells both sides of the story.” That single statement shows the mental atrophy that a two party system exacerbates: the idea that all meaningful thoughts on a subject can reduced to two viewpoints. Obviously it’s better then a single party system, but thats damning with faint praise. (Two steps removed from anarchy! Go team!)

Such simplicity is seductive. You don’t need to worry about how or why. You don’t need to think. You just need to know which of a pathetic two options you choose. This brain rot affects other things besides politics. Auto accident policy is the same. Pretend you are going down a road and the person in front of you slams on the breaks to turn right. You hit their car. It is 100% your fault. Why? Yes you were following to close, but couldn’t it be even a few per cent the other drivers fault breaking irresponsibly? (Which is how most traffic law is set up in Europe.)

The first step in my little “How to fix health-care” post was “Tort reform”. The 0%/100% fault system rears it’s ugly head hear as well. If you have a pool in your back yard, it must have fence of certain opacity and height, because it is an “attractive nuisance”. You must do this, because if someone gets into your pool without it, you are 100% at fault and they are 0%. That’s stupid. At the same time, the law was put into place to right the wrong of people putting things very dangerous to children in their yards with no protection whatsoever, an environment where the pool owner had 0% fault and small child was 100% at fault.

The real answer to tort reform is a society that recognizes partial fault. I think a two party system trains peoples minds to be incapable of functioning in the gray areas that make up real life. The real cause of the American health-care failure, is Americans incapacity for rational thought, followed by an inability to turn rational thought into rational policy.

September 27, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Government, Politics, Religion, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Inventing Government

I like to invent things (even if only on paper) and I do so in spurts of enthusiam for different things.  For the last year or so, my enthusiam has been about religion and government.

General, cultural Christianity as well as my personal upbringing, instilled in me the paradoxical idea that government is (omnipresent) God in abstentia, along with some other conflicting ideas like freedom being a gift from God, but only for good people not for undesirables like homosexuals or the inner-city poor.   These ideas were among the many that burned off like fog in the sun when I de-converted.

But it left me with a ticklish problem.  If the purpose of government wasn’t the “or else” in the statement “Obey God’s rules, or else!” what was it? I studied different ideologies and rejected them one by one.  Some ideologies contained more truth than others, but ultimately I found a lot of them were based on false premises, and unconfirmable or unconfirmed data.

Since I’ve been fascinated by revolutionary movements since I was child (When I was 9, I planned out an eloborate and violent coup of my school giving it up not out of moral qualms  but because I realized ultimately, any resistance I offered adults would not result in children being granted our constititional rights, but serve as pretext to steal the few we had.) I had decent working knowledge of revolutionary movements, further enhanced by some pretty hard reveiw of revoltionary movements I undertook to offer advice to my so called “revolutionary church”.

This knowledge served me well, as world history is the story of the revolutionary movements that worked.   Even within the scope of revolutions that effectively won, most revolutionary movements struggle enormously with the task of switching from David to Goliath.

War represents a reversal of normal values.  Normally killing people and taking their stuff is socially condemned, in war, it is applauded.  Civil war is worse because it is more specific.  Normally killing your neighbor is socially condemned, in civil war, it is applauded.  The same key that increases a revolutionary movements’ chance to succeed increases the revolutionary movements’ chance to successfully transition for revolutionary movement to rule. That key is how the members respond to the entrenched ideology of the existing government.

People gather together around ideologies, from NASCAR tailgating parties, to the ritual cannibalism of the Eucharist.  If a revolutionary movement gathers under hating the existing system, it is gathering around hate and no change of system will change the organized , systemic, rage.  Most likely the hate will destroy unit discipline within the revolutionary cabal and it will collapse into organized crime and terrorism. (Al-qaeda and the Tamil Tigers). Should the the hate-based group stay organized under a strong and ruthless leader (such as Lenin) as well as defeat the existing government, it will transition to power by entrenching the existing system at the point of a gun.  This is why so many revolutionary movements become everything they abhor.

Contrariwise,  if a revolutionary movement gathers around the postive change that it wants to make, it can often become a competeing voice in the existing system, growing in legitimacy and power.  Should it succesfully overthrow the incumbent government, it has a post-revolution plan.  Since the people revolting were gathered around something besides destruction they tend to have better idea of what to do with power once they have it.  For an object lesson on this,  juxtipose the American to the French revolution.

The government classes I had studied as outstanding young Christian gentleman were centered on what was wrong with the existant American system.  They offered no plan, no system, no roadmap for post-change improvement.  It was believed, I think, that no roadmap was nessisary.  When things were “made right” God would magically make everything work.  Question: Why did terrorists attack? Answer: Because we we’re too soft on queers and babykillers.   When we stopped allowing shows like “Will and Grace” to be broadcast and made abortion illegal, or at worst difficult to get, then the terrorism situation would improve in the total absence of systemic change.

So I addressed my desire to understand government, and the flaws I percieved in various ideolgeous by trying to invent a new government.  I won’t make any argument against the componants of the existant system until I can offer a better peice.  Not a peice I feel better about, mind you, but one that does the componants’ function better.

And finally, it must be remembered we speak of a system here.  By definition, systems are interconnected.  If 3 foot rail gauge is better than Standard for a rail system, you can’t make one line narrow gauge and expect improvement.  Systems must be integrated fully to function at all.  Thus, I can’t offer a single better peice to governmental theory.  In the absence of total systemic improvement, individual peicemeal improvements are actively destructive.

I’m trying to invent a whole new government from the ground up, with consistancy and reason throughout.  It’s the largest, and most encompassing inventing I’ve tried.

July 1, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Government, Politics, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Environmentalism and Overpopulation: The Solution, Part III

Perfect market is the greatest instrument of human freedom I know of, and the ethical cornerstone of my entire idea.  A perfect market consists of  (courtesy of wikipeida)

  • Rationality of all market actors (Rationality in meaning of the actor’s utility maximization)
  • No transaction costs (particularly no information costs and no taxes)
  • Price taking behavior – there is a sufficiently large number of participants such that no individual can affect the market
  • given rare resources
  • freedom of decision to do something or to let it be (no external effects)

People trading rationally, with all the information they need to make a decisions, with no distortions for big enough traders, something to trade, and no coercion to act or not act in anyway.   It’s something beautiful.  “Market place” doesn’t just mean the buying and selling of products, but also the grand market place of ideas.  The right to free speech is a component of the market place of ideas, as is the right to free press, and free assembly.  The right to practice religion as one sees fit guarantees numerous sects and religions competing for the hearts and minds of the people.  The right to keep arms of the US Constitution, and the right to security of person in the UN Bill of Rights are both to secure the right to act free of coercion.  Ultimately, the perfect market, be it for goods, services, ideas, or beliefs,  is the foundation of freedom.

A perfect market is, a direction, not a point one arrives at, but the more perfect a market, the more freedom for all.  I believe there is no more effective way to reduce pollution and birthrate (more on that later) than to work toward a perfect market.

In a perfect market, there is no legal theft, no  hidden payments, and no hidden costs.  I will use the existing market place of open pit coal mining to highlight an imperfect market.   No one breathes without trees, they are the lungs of the earth.   There are 6 billion people on earth.  Each tree is an oxygen factory, the output of which goes equally to each member of the population of earth.  If a person had a contract to receive a percentage of a factory’s output, then regardless of who owned the factory,the owner could not destroy the factory without consulting the person who owned a percentage of the output. (Note, I know that this example is somewhat weak, I use it because it is far easier to explain than the more correct ones.  Please feel free to argue this in the comment section.)  Property rights for the factory output are strong.  Property rights for organic oxygen output are nonexistent.

The open pit mining process begins by blasting the ground cover (largely trees) over the coal.  Stealing the future “oxygen income” of 6 billion people.  The coal industry is one of the most heavily subsidized on earth, particularly with reduced property tax.  The coal is loaded onto trains, the cost of transportation depending on diesel fuel, which is produced by other subsidized companies.  It is taken to a power plant, which if it is new, was most likely given property tax break to encourage it’s construction, and burned, putting CO2 into the air which effects everyone as much as the loss of the trees.  The worst pollutants are scrubbed out of the coal (the cost of the scrubbers often subsidized) and disposed of as industrial waste.  Due to radium as a fraction of the mass of coal, coal power plant reclaimed ash is actually more radioactive than nuclear power plant waste. Yet, it is disposed of as far cheaper industrial, rather than radioactive waste in tax supported, or privately owned and tax subsidized, waste management facilities (due to an EPA grandfather clause).

Thus, the real cost of coal would include the cash value of the lost oxygen, the cash value of the subsidy given to the extractor, the cash value of the subsidy given to the fuel producer of the transportation, the cash value of the subsidy given to the power plant, the cash value of the subsidy of the fuel for the fly ash transportation, and the cash value of the subsidy given to the waste management authority.

The complexity of calculating such a thing is made yet more difficult by the fact the subsidy would be different for each county, state, nation, company,  etc.  In reality, it is impossible to calculate such a thing.  The best numbers we have are educated guesses, on this free market phenomenon.  In defense of free market, as awful as the above sounds, it works towards the lowest price  in the end, as well as profit for the stock holders, because the company which uses the subsidies most effectively will sell the most. For the most part, this is good for everyone.  Coal is cheaper for everyone and the owners get rich.  Owners, means stock holders.  More than half of heavy industry stock is held by institutions in mutual funds.  Profit for heavy industry does not benefit primarily a small group of plutocrats.  It primarily benefits the small investor, working hard on his 401K or child’s college education fund.

The trouble is, as good as low cost products and profit for the stock holders are, (and those are truly good things) there are other important things that the free market doesn’t do so well, like resource management.  Though functioning planned economies have the worst pollution in the world (Russian and China), large free markets are a close second.  If people value resources, they can show their preference for companies that also value resources, but only in a perfect market.

In a perfect market, their are no hidden payments, so there is no subsidy.   Coal costs what coal costs.  It might be tempting to believe that subsidies do not follow market rules.  Sadly, this is not the case. Subsidies do follow market rules: companies get money from the government in exchange for providing services for members or sections of the government.  The companies compete fiercely for the subsidies.  Exxon Mobil spent 350 million on lobbying ( a form of advertising to the government decision makers) to get 3 billion dollars in subsidies in 2008 alone.

In a perfect market, the government would not be able to give any special treatment to any company, saving the stockholders of Exxon Mobil 350 million, but costing them 3 billion.  Thus, the incentive to keep the existing system is strong.   Three billion to one company is 10 times greater than the total subsidy spent on renewable power.  This leads some to say “Renewable power needs a bigger subsidy.”  I disagree.  Subsidy distorts the market, regardless of who gets it.  Money is what we exchange for our time on this eath.  The perfect market, like all other markets, is a place where human life is bought and sold, but unlike other markets it is where there is the least waste of this, the most valuable of all commodities.  As, such, a perfect market is as sacred as free speech, or free expression, for the same reason: human dignity.

Subsidies represent a lie about price.  The solution to lies is never more lies.  Humans can be trusted to make wise decisions under perfect market conditions.  To believe in human potential, to respect human dignity, means to work toward a perfect market.

All subsidy must go.  Every business must stand on it’s own.  If sounds like utopian, it’s not, at least to some.  No mater how deeply a person believes in perfect market for everyone else, few people believe it for them and their friends.  This is the reason, despite the fact people value it, we generally don’t work toward a perfect market.

A world without subsidy offers no tax breaks to religious organizations.  To allow tax free status to some service providers (churches and other non-profits) and not to others (business providing identical community assistance, lectures, concerts, elder care, and dating service) is unethical, and anti-religious.  Without tax breaks, the churches which provided the best service for the lowest tithe would immediately out compete the other churches.

A world without subsidy provides no benefit to being married.  Or owning a house.  Married people would have to compete in the open market for housing and employment just like everyone else.   Nor does it provide any tax penalty for being single, or childless.   This is the first step voluntarily reducing population.  Despite embracing the perfect market,  irresponsibility will still happen.  People will still have more children then they can afford, and buy larger houses than they need, but they can no longer profit by it.

(I am aware that these examples are controversial, and poorly supported here.  For brevity’s sake, I will argue specifics with anyone who chooses to, in the comment section.)

But how would even a perfect market deal with issues such as air pollution?  Real price cannot be calculated.  We know real price is impossible to calculate on the fly, because if it could be calculated, planned Soviet style economies would work better than free market ones. Only Adam Smith’s “guiding hand” can effectively determine price.   The fact you can rent your property freely for the price you wish and under the conditions you wish is why your living room isn’t full of toxic gas.  The fact that you cannot rent your 1/6 billionth of the earth’s air freely for a the price you wish under the conditions you wish, is why the air you breath is full of toxins.

The key to allowing the perfect market to solve the issue of pollution is obviously strong property rights, but how could 6 billion people share their air and common oceans without a tragedy of the commons?

I will address that in Part IV.

December 9, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Ecology, Government, Politics, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Environmentalism and Overpopulation: The Solution, Part II

The introduction to the solution:

Now, I am attempting to list a solution for a truly enormous problem.  My solution is also truly enormous.  I also struggle to make sure it is as ethical as I can possibly manage.   Before I explain my solution, let me explain why I think the solution is so hard to reach: rate of change.  In all of the things you need to know about to figure out a good overpopulation policy, you will find that rate of change rears it’s ugly head.

We tend to visualize data in graphs with plain curves either going up, or going down, reducing all the data to single binary option: increasing or decreasing.  The reality is different.  A graph represents rate of change.  A bell shaped line, for instance,  represents little change at first building into a faster and faster rate of change till it peaks out.  Then the rate of change decreases, and decreases until, at the other end of the bell, it peters out completely.  We must remember that almost everything someone says about overpopulation and pollution, either for or against, will be true at some part of the curve.

Something which improves the situation may experience decreasing improvement the more it is implemented, and may at a critical point begin to actively degrade the situation it was improving.  Remember, “Diminishing Returns” isn’t just a good idea, it’s the Law.

In Part I, I made the point that two questions must be answered. First, How much environmental impact is acceptable?  All creatures, great and small impact the environment in some way.  Elephants tear up shrubs.  Wasps lay their eggs in caterpillars, which must impact the caterpillars quit a bit.  We can’t delude ourselves into believing that we can not impact the environment.  Nor is it healthy to believe that we should impact the environment as much as possible.  To impact the environment as little as possible we would need to have the smallest sustainable population possible, perhaps a 1000 people.   No other species does that.  Why should we set our numbers so low? At the same time, when one looks at the level of environmental damage currently being wrought by 6 billion, the ideal number is probably much lower than 6 billion.

Once we have determined the level of impact acceptable, the second question is, What is the ideal population level.  This is not a simple question, because the answer depends on the efficiency of resource utilization.  Beef steak and algae are both protein sources, but algae makes about 32 times more protein with the same caloric feed input.  If everyone got their protein exclusively from beef, the planet will sustain 1/32 the population it would if they got their protein from algae, by measure of human dietary protein production requirement. Diet is much more complicated than a single protein source, and is but one piece of data needed to determine the maximum ideal population number.

So, the two questions of How much environmental impact is acceptable? and What is the population level will cause that, or less impact, are difficult to answer precisely.  Yet we must have a precise answer.  The answer of “no impact by many less people” is too easy to abuse, and the question of dismantling economies and mass genocide (species die off by birth control is still species die off.) is far to important to simply throw some legislation together.

Yet, it seems unethical to use the lack of a perfect response as an excuse to make no response at all and if a response is to be made in the lack of precise data, ethics are of the utmost importance.  The interim response must respect human dignity, human rights, and human freedom.  This is my response: Perfect market, strong property rights, fairly shared property, and global government to reduce pollution and population while improving the quality of life.

To be continued…

December 7, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Ecology, Government, skepticism, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama’s red hoard

The following is the ten planks of the communist party as stated in the Communist manifesto:

 

  1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
  2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
  3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
  4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
  5. Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.
  6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.
  7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
  8. Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
  9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
  10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.

 

Ok,  let’s start from the the top.  (1.) “…property in land…”  They want to take away all the land! Actually no. This refers specifically to the form of parasitic land ownership practiced in Europe between about 1600 and 1916.   The modern use of money to make money is in factories, which requires active management.  So, despite a lack of laws abolishing it, it’s extremely rare in developed nations.

“…progressive or graduated income tax…” Got it.

“…abollition of all rights of inheritance tax…” Why abolish it when you can tax it as unearned income, at 60%

“…confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels..”  ie, illegal immigrants.  Glad to see Doctor Dobson and Engles/Marx agree on this.

“…national bank…with exclusive monopoly…” Aw, we can’t do that: not constitutional.  Let’s just make a US Treasury with all the same powers. Got it.

“…centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.”  Like the FCC and the F DOT?

We seem to have only partially dodged (7.) and (8.)

“Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries…”  Like the fact that the single largest receiver of US Dept of Agricultural subsidies is multinational super firm Monsanto?   (Who spent 3.6 million of their 8.5 billion on lobbying, by the way.)

“…Free education for all children in public school…”

So in order for Obama to not be seen as a socialist/communist he would need to (1.) Establish manorial farm management, (2.) Give tax breaks to the rich, (3.) Remove inheritance laws, (4.) Rob and imprison rather than ship out illegals (5.) Eliminate the Federal Treasury (6.) Eliminate the FCC and DOT, (7.)  Destroy the federally funded dams and canals in the Southwest which make agriculture possible there (8.) Refuse to let those on welfare work (9.) Eliminate the Department of Agriculture, and (10.) Make a constitutional amendment forbidding public schools.

So since, all of those programs have bipartisan support, doesn’t that mean the Republican party is also Communist? MY GOD, THE RED HOARDS! 

…Or, maybe, just maybe, we could admit that the US is a socialist democracy which uses a mixed economy which is predominately free market and includes many elements of command economy?

I’m not trying to be mean here, but how stupid are these people?  Yes, Obama is a socialist.  So is McCain.  “But socialist want to rob from the hard working and give to people who didn’t earn it!”  So what exactly did you do to earn the “EARNED INCOME CREDIT”?  The government is paying you to have HAVE PROCREATIVE SEX!  The government takes money from hardworking rich people without kids to pay it to you.   The government is paying for your kids to go to school.  The government is paying for your retirement.  The government is paying your workman’s comp.   The government is paying the interest on your college loans. This is a socialist society.  Freakin’ deal.

November 10, 2008 Posted by | Government, Politics, Religion, skepticism, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Worst Reporting Ever (III)

Now, many of you are aware of my great loathing of the Associated Press.  An acquaintance sent me this gem:

An American life worth less today

WASHINGTON – It’s not just the American dollar that’s losing value. A government agency has decided that an American life isn’t worth what it used to be. The “value of a statistical life” is $6.9 million in today’s dollars, the Environmental Protection Agency reckoned in May — a drop of nearly $1 million from just five years ago.

The first thing I want to bring to your attention is the immediate bias.  “…has decided that an American life isn’t worth what it used to be…” Don’t judge by nationality.  Pollution poured into an American waterway that pours into Canada or Mexico will effect those nations.  Further one presumes that the EPA is tasked with protecting the lives of legal and illegal immigrants as well.  By opening the article this way the AP has already began with with a suspect lack of professionalism.

The Associated Press discovered the change after a review of cost-benefit analyses over more than a dozen years. (Way to be on the ball guys!) Though it may seem like a harmless bureaucratic recalculation, the devaluation has real consequences. When drawing up regulations, government agencies put a value on human life and then weigh the costs versus the lifesaving benefits of a proposed rule. The less a life is worth to the government, the less the need for a regulation, such as tighter restrictions on pollution. Consider, for example, a hypothetical regulation that costs $18 billion to enforce but will prevent 2,500 deaths. At $7.8 million per person (the old figure), the lifesaving benefits outweigh the costs. But at $6.9 million per person, the rule costs more than the lives it saves, so it may not be adopted.

Some environmentalists accuse the Bush administration of changing the value to avoid tougher rules — a charge the EPA denies. Conveniently, for the AP, neither the accusers, nor the defenders are named.  It makes it very hard to check sources.

“It appears that they’re cooking the books in regards to the value of life,” said S. William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, which represents state and local air pollution regulators. “Those decisions are literally a matter of life and death.” Dan Esty, a senior EPA policy official in the administration of the first President Bush and now director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, said: “It’s hard to imagine that it has other than a political motivation.”

Agency officials say they were just following what the science told them. (Man, I wonder which officials.  Its really hard to check sources if the AP won’t name them.)

The EPA figure is not based on people’s earning capacity, or their potential contributions to society, or how much they are loved and needed by their friends and family — some of the factors used in insurance claims and wrongful-death lawsuits. Instead, economists calculate the value based on what people are willing to pay to avoid certain risks, and on how much extra employers pay their workers to take on additional risks. Most of the data is drawn from payroll statistics; some comes from opinion surveys. According to the EPA, people shouldn’t think of the number as a price tag on a life.

“…potential contributions to society, or how much they are loved and needed by their friends and family…” Wow.  I wasn’t aware that an algorithm existed to determine that.  OH WAIT, it doesn’t.  Calling potential income “potential contributions” sorts of muddies the issue a bit, since potential income is mathematically predictable number, whereas “contributions” has no objective value.  “…loved and needed by their friends and family…” There is no algorithm for that.  The money awarded in a wrongful death case is not to pay the loved ones for their lose, it is to PUNISH the wrong doer for their negligence.  The only purpose of this paragraph is to demonize the EPA for doing the job it has been tasked with.

The EPA made the changes in two steps. First, in 2004, the agency cut the estimated value of a life by 8 percent. Then, in a rule governing train and boat air pollution this May, the agency took away the normal adjustment for one year’s inflation. Between the two changes, the value of a life fell 11 percent, based on today’s dollar.

Refer back to second sentence in this piece: “..A government agency has decided that an American life isn’t worth what it used to be…”  How surprising!  The EPA decides economic policy for the Federal Reserve. You see, by saying decided the second sentence says that the EPA acted purposefully with foreknowledge to reduce the value. Yet 3% of the reduction was inflation adjustment, which they have NO control over.  3% out of 11%.  Well, 3 is 27% of 11.  The EPA had no control what so ever over more than a quarter of the reduction.

EPA officials say the adjustment was not significant and was based on better economic studies. The reduction reflects consumer preferences, said Al McGartland, director of EPA’s office of policy, economics and innovation. “It’s our best estimate of what consumers are willing to pay to reduce similar risks to their own lives,” McGartland said. But EPA’s cut “doesn’t make sense,” said Vanderbilt University economist Kip Viscusi. EPA partly based its reduction on his work. “As people become more affluent, the value of statistical lives go up as well. It has to.” Viscusi also said no study has shown that Americans are less willing to pay to reduce risks.

Here, when quoting some one who knows what they are talking about, the AP actually does OK.

At the same time that EPA was trimming the value of life, the Department of Transportation twice raised its life value figure. But its number is still lower than the EPA’s. EPA traditionally has put the highest value on life of any government agency and still does, despite efforts by administrations to bring uniformity to that figure among all departments.

What does this paragraph mean? a – b – c is greater than x + y + z.  So what?  This paragraph is just a chance to say, “trimming the value of life”  When and by whom were these so called efforts undertaken?

Not all of EPA uses the reduced value. The agency’s water division never adopted the change and in 2006 used $8.7 million in current dollars.From 1996 to 2003, EPA kept the value of a statistical life generally around $7.8 million to $7.96 million in current dollars, according to reports analyzed by The AP. In 2004, for a major air pollution rule, the agency lowered the value to $7.15 million in current dollars.

Now, that is interesting.

Just how the EPA came up with that figure is complicated and involves two dueling analyses. (I love dueling analysts!)

Viscusi wrote one of those big studies, coming up with a value of $8.8 million in current dollars. The other study put the number between $2 million and $3.3 million. The co-author of that study, Laura Taylor of North Carolina State University, said her figure was lower because it emphasized differences in pay for various risky jobs, not just risky industries as a whole.

EPA took portions of each study and essentially split the difference — a decision two of the agency’s advisory boards faulted or questioned.”This sort of number-crunching is basically numerology,” said Granger Morgan, chairman of EPA’s Science Advisory Board and an engineering and public policy professor at Carnegie Mellon University. “This is not a scientific issue.”Other, similar calculations by the Bush administration have proved politically explosive. In 2002, the EPA decided the value of elderly people was 38 percent less than that of people under 70. After the move became public, the agency reversed itself.

Again, the AP does OK quoting others.

So the breakdown is this.

(1.) The EPA is trusted to regulate environmental risk.  Life is full of risk.  Death is risk free.  So, the EPA has the very unenviable job of compromising risk for the greatest benefit and least cost for all players. (2.) To prevent fraud, waste, and abuse, the EPA has to have some kind of metric to make these decisions.  The logical metric is to assign a value to human life. (3.) The EPA used a bullshit process to arrive at their current value.  Somehow, the AP manages to make it seem like this the EPA’s fault rather than leaders who can put the squeeze on the EPA top brass.  From the article, the EPA’s own Science Advisor said this was an awful idea.  What did we learn?

(1.) The AP does crappy reporting again.

(2.) The EPA as a bureaucratic rather than elected group.  As such its policies are subject to a greater and lesser forms of control from overhead, in defiance of its own advisors advice.

Possible solutions (Not comprehensive):  Change American Congress to proportional appointment.  Have EPA heads be elected in free nationwide elections.  To the existing checks and balances in the American system add a fourth leg of Welfare, the head of which is elected the same as congressmen and presidents.  The EPA would then fall with the other alphabet soup of federal agencies under an elected head who competes with the other 3 branches of government for resources and approval.   Make the state governours function as the primarmy stock holders of the US, and let them appoint a CEO for the EPA to serve as the head in business fashion.

July 15, 2008 Posted by | Ecology, Government, Politics, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

Americans Hate Freedom

I realized something today.

Americans hate freedom.

Now, this statement will offend some. They will cry out, “We are the freest nation on earth,” “Americans love freedom,” and “Americans love freedom so much they will fight for the freedom of others.” I say, bologna.

As to the first: “We are the freest nation on earth.” How would one measure that? Well, how about percentage of the population incarcerated? Communist China has a population of 1.3 billion with 1.5 million in prison. America has a population of 300 million with a total of 7 million in prison. (1.) The US has more people in prison, both as a percentage of the population and as raw numbers, than any other nation on earth. The United States has 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. (2.)

Perhaps it could be measured by the amount of red tape through which people have to wade? Well, the tax code (which is not even considered part of the enormous US legal code) is 13,458 pages in total length. (3.)

Well, perhaps, our constitution would tell us. Our first Amendment promises us, among other things, free speech. However, according to Brandenburg vs. Ohio, the Federal government is allowed to stop speech which will result in lawlessness. (4.) Boy, that would make it hard to organize the Boston Tea party, wouldn’t it? Also limited by B vs O is speech which hurts peoples feelings and speech which causes discontentment with the existing government. Second amendment? Superseded by US Code Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 44. What about the 3rd and 4th Amendment? Canceled by eminent domain. (Yes, I am aware that the Bush signed a law that says owners must receive just compensation. How do we figure a fair sale price for that which is stolen?) 5th Amendment? Still good. Except for the eminent domain part. 6th Amendment? Speedy Trial. Need I say more? 7th Amendment? Still good. 8th? Not so much, if you end up as an American citizen in a black site prison (5.) (6.) 9th Amendment? If we don’t follow the constitution, why would rights listed elsewhere be followed? 10th Amendment? Thats, funny. That would mean that any federal power not mentioned in the US constitution belongs to the states. Like the alphabet soup of Federal agencies that dot our political landscape, for instance.

So, pretty much the whole Bill of Rights has gone down the crapper. What about the “War for Iraqi Freedom”? Don’t we love the people of the world so much we will fight for their freedom for them? See, that’s kinda funny, to say “fight for their freedom for them” We go to someone else’s country and say, “We are free. You will be like us, and we will smart-bomb everyone who disagrees.” If you are not free to disagree with the occupying US government, exactly how much freedom are we exporting? You can’t fight someone else’s war for freedom. Not won’t. CAN’T. Freedom is a choice. You can’t make someone be free. It’s like a toddler with a gun saying “Have fun, or else.” Not much fun is it?

If you look at a pie chart of government expenses (Provided conveniently by the US accounting office.)

Federal Budget Pie - where it goes

the government's deceptive pie chart

So, you can see that at least 50% of the spending of the government is social programs. However, the truth is somewhat higher. Many things which you might not consider social programs at first blush, in fact, ARE social programs. The Department of Agriculture administers the Food Stamp program, the WIC program, and makes subsidy payments to agri-industry. $17 billion to Cargill for instance. Not to bad for a company that made $88 billion in sales and is the second largest privately held company on earth. (7.) (8.) Things like that make the above charts a little optimistic.

After spending around 20 to 30 hours (over severals months) here it seems the cost break down is more like 70% handout, 15% defense, 10% debt, and 5% all other federal costs. But, I digress. An examination of social security is sufficient to make the point that Americans hate freedom. The purpose of social security is to take a portion of your income for the rest of your life to pay for the current users. When you need the system you trust that your kids and any recent immigrants will make enough money that their income will pay for your RV. There is a name for an investment system where each set of new investors pays the dividends of the previous investors. It’s called a Ponzi scheme. What if you don’t want to trust a bunch of strangers and the future economy to provide for you? Well, you can still do your own retirement… while paying for everyone else who doesn’t. You can’t love freedom and social security! If you love freedom, you have a problem taking money from other people against their will for yourself, and you have a problem having your money taken away from you to give to other people. Love of freedom and acceptance of coercion can not dwell within the same heart.

So, I conclude, Americans hate freedom. We love coercion. We love it with every part of our hearts. We love telling others what they must do so much, we will surrender our right to decide what we want to do. I could go on and on. But this is only the setup for what I really wanted to talk about today, which is WHY American’s hate freedom.

I can only come up with 2 basic reasons that a person would hate freedom:

1. Freedom is hard work

and

2. Fear of responsibilty.

(One) breaks down into hard physical work and hard mental work. Imagine a person who is not very smart and not born to money. If they want to retire they will have to work many, many hours at unrewarding jobs for many years. They will have to live in bad parts of town (to have low rent) and never drive a new car. This is hard, and not fun, but not as hard as the mental part. The poor person who is trying to save does not get to buy whatever they want, they have to think about every purchase. If they are unintelligent, this will be very time consuming, and again, not enjoyable. They will have to chose work carefully to not spend too much time and money getting to work everyday. They will not be able to vote for whichever politician they like, for they will have to consider things very carefully before they vote or their hard earned money will go away.

(Two) This one is about fear. A person who loves freedom has no scape goat. When they suffer from heart disease at the age of 29, they cannot sue Krispy Kreme. They cannot blame bad parenting, or poor schooling. They can only say, “I did this of my own freewill. I alone am responsible and I alone bear the consequences.” This is anathema to the average American.

I say again. Americans hate freedom and love coercion. Americans hate freedom because they are lazy and afraid.

Now this presents me with a conundrum. All my life I have studied the form of government. I mistakenly thought the important part of government was the form. I realized this was false with the following thought experiment: Who rules more democratically? The king who fears revolution or the president who does not? Obviously, the ruler who must obey the desire of the people or lose his job rules more democratically. The form is meaningless. People who love freedom will self correct any error in form. People who hate freedom will bring coercion upon themselves.

The question facing all government, be it family government of children, church government, or national government is not, “What is the form?” It is this: how do we make people love freedom? The purpose of government is force. (I hear liberals whining about this. I say to them, “Do you think people would pay for those social programs you love so much if no one made them? Government is force.”) Since you can’t force someone to be free, government can do nothing to encourage freedom other than allow it.

But where does that leave me, the little man who wants to make the world a better place? How can I personally encourage freedom? I can’t force anyone to take it. I can’t talk about it for if people desire freedom only because of my words, they aren’t really free.

The only answer I know is this: I must be free. I must enjoy freedom whenever I can. I must fight for my freedom and allow others to do the same. People can then see my life and choose whether they like what they see or not.

March 17, 2008 Posted by | Government, Politics, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment