Archive for the ‘Capitalism’ Category

Can You Be Libertarian and Not A Hypocrite?

August 4, 2017

I have often heard that Libertarians and Objectivists are hypocrites, as they use tax-funded services, even though they denounce taxes.  After all, most Libertarians drive on tax-funded roads, are protected by tax-funded police and military, get their weather from a tax-funded National Weather Service, and so on.  Shouldn’t a true, non-hypocritical Libertarian abstain from using tax-funded goods and services?

As part of my daily commute, I use two separate city bus systems, as well as a commuter
train.  I watch the weather carefully (I have one degree in meteorology), so I use the National Weather Service, Storm Prediction Center, and plenty of weather satellites, indirectly.  I did my K-12, and all three college degrees at public schools, and paid for them with federal student loans.  Now, I work in public schools and a public college, funded by your tax dollars.

How then, could I be an advocate for eliminating taxes?  Isn’t that hypocritical?

No.  I was going to pay for these things anyway.  Whether or not I partake in public education has no influence on whether or not my taxes change.  Whether or not I check the weather forecast, I will pay for the weather service.  Whether or not I take public transportation, I will pay for it.

Unlike the free-market, my lack of participation in a service does not exclude my paying for it.  In the free-market, I don’t pay for things I am not using.  If enough people decide not to pay for this product, the company will either change its service, or go out of business.  Either way, I don’t have to pay for a service I do not want.

In public works, I pay either way.  And, because these services do not HAVE to make money, my choice to use the service or not has no influence on the service, or my checkbook.  Case in point:  our train is used by so few people.  There have been many train rides where I am the only occupant of my car.  A business would have to figure out what to do about this.  However, the public train keeps running.  It never actually runs out of money, as more appears from tax dollars, regardless of financial performance.  Therefore, you can run a train from Santa Fe to Belen with one rider, paying a few dollars.  The difference – my few dollars versus the diesel, engine maintenance, track maintenance, salaries, and so on – comes from everyone else.

This is why boycotting a government service on moral grounds is a losing battle.  Unlike boycotting a business, where they stand to go out of business if the boycott is large enough, a government service will continue to run in the red for a long time until the tax payers finally opt to get rid of it through legislative means.

You vowing to never drive on a public road will limit your future and your potential employment and entertainment opportunities, and you’ll pay for the road anyhow.

However, to be consistent, one must still reject the notion of a government service on the principle that you should never have to sacrifice your efforts for a “common good.”  What you cannot do, and claim consistency is to explain why your government service is necessary and moral, while another government service is not.  They are all immoral from principle.

Thank you for reading my post.

Why “Buying Local” is a Joke

July 27, 2017

Around town, there are signs and stickers and advertisements, attempting to convince all of us residents to “Buy Local” instead of driving down the hill to the larger city (in the next county, five miles away from my house) and shopping there.

There is no incentive for me to shop local.  First, taxes are lower down the hill, so my groceries are cheaper.  Second, there are more stores with better hours down the hill.  Third, the stores are better stocked, better staffed and have a better shopping experience.  Fourth, there are fewer idle police officers, writing tickets for 3 mph over the speed limit, or dirty license plates, or other giant wastes of time.

“Buy Local” is a bunch of crap.  It attempts to guilt trip you into buying a product you would not normally buy, or paying more for a product.  If your store has better produce, you don’t need a guilt trip to convince people to buy your produce.  If it has better prices, you don’t need a guilt trip to convince people to pay less.  If you provide a more convenient experience, you can charge more, and you don’t need a guilt trip to convince people to pay more for a quick stop.

Instead, the whole “Buy Local” is a bunch of guilt.  The town will either guilt you based on environmental concerns (if you buy from the local farmer’s market instead of the Walmart, you are saving all of that truck traffic), or based on community “needs” (if you buy local, you help but your neighbor’s daughter through dance lessons instead of sending money to an executive somewhere else).

In reality, if you have a better product, or some advantage (convenience, better hours, cleaner store, etc.) people will come.  They will often drive out of their way for it.

Be wary of any store that tries to convince you to buy a product on anything other than the product’s value to you.  They are simply asking you to pay more for a product than it is worth to you, based on some guilt- guilt you did not earn.  Guilt for their inferior product or inferior store.  It’s the same guilt a bum expects you to feel for “having” when they “have not.”

Walk away from those establishments until they can trade value for value.

Thank you for reading my post.

The Gig Economy

May 12, 2017

In my parents’ day, a “good job” meant stability and working at the same place from the time you left your education until the time you retired.  Things were predictable, secure and safe.  One would perform a similar task (even in white-collar work) at the same time, in the same place.  In exchange for this task, this person would be compensated either hourly or yearly.

While there are some merits to this system, it no longer works quite the same as it did back then.  Today, companies change constantly.  The company you worked for five years ago probably changed names.  Sometimes, they split apart.  Sometimes, they merge.

Also, as we become more affluent, as a society, and more tasks become automated, more tasks can be done remotely.  Because of this, more workers can perform tasks from home, commuting on public transportation, or even while waiting in line at the grocery store.

Also, there is the issue of “dead-time” at work.  One of the most boring times at a job is when someone is between projects, but must maintain “butt-in-seat” time for a salaried job, or risk losing money by not clocking hours during an hourly job.  This is horribly inefficient.  We try to make manufacturing “just-in-time” so that product doesn’t sit in a warehouse.  Why should labor be different?

Some things will never move from shift work, and I am glad of that.  When my house is on fire, I am glad that there is a firefighter standing by, waiting for the call.  However, does a software engineer need to do this?

Really, the so-called “Gig-Economy” forces us to constantly innovate.  We have to develop new skills, and always look for the next thing.  Stagnation has no place in this economy.

In electronics, there is the concept of Moore’s Law, where the number of transistors on a computer chip doubles every 18 months in an exponential growth pattern.   Perhaps an exponential growth “Moore’s Law” accompanies us human beings.  A few generations ago, most people took their father’s profession, with very little change.  In the previous generation, people went to college and found a career.  Perhaps now, we all have many, smaller duration jobs.  Who knows what our kids will have.

And, ultimately, it is happening, like it or not.

Thank you for reading my post.

 

United Airlines and the Free Market

April 13, 2017

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have seen the video of the man that was beaten and dragged from the United Airlines flight.  You’ve probably seen the internet responses to this incident, including responses by rival airlines.

Unfortunately, I will give an unpopular opinion:  United was within their rights to do so.  They issued a ticket with the condition that it could be revoked at anytime.  Once it was revoked, the man’s refusal to leave was criminal tresspassing, just like the crackhead who hangs around 7-11 and is asked to leave. In both cases, you call the authorities to remove them.

Now, to a more popular opinion:  What a dreadful policy you have, United!

Thankfully, the free market has spoken.  Boycotts, hilarious parodies, and a large drop in your stock prices.  Competing airlines have offered specials to suck away your customers.

A company is allowed to make dreadful policies, such as this, but they are not protected from its effects on their bottom line.

Now, the trick will be to keep the government out of the way, and let the free market take its course.  No bailouts for struggling airlines, no new legisliation about treatment by TSA agents, no false “consumer rights” about being allowed to squat on an airplane.

Let United figure out how to reconcile this awful policy in the eyes of the free market, or let them fail.

What Government and Business Have in Common

March 24, 2017

I recently ran across a video explaining why government and business were not compatible, and how a CEO should not become president.  The video itself isn’t worth posting, but I will give you the highlights:  condescending casual businessman-looking jerk talks down to you for five minutes.  The jerkface makes random claims:

1.   CEOs “just” have to make profit, and that is not as complex as running a country.
2.  Presidents are representatives of the people, but CEOs represent themselves.
3.  The government pays for things.

First, the challenge of making a profit is what makes a CEO’s job difficult.  There is no “just” about it.  Whether or not it is as complex as running a country depends entirely on how your mind works.  Really, they are different types of work in some respects, and it is hard to compare them.

Second, a CEO answers to the board of directors.  The board of directors is elected through its share holders.  A president is elected through the electoral college, who base their votes on their state’s popular vote.  So, just as a president must answer to the voters, a CEO must answer to the share holders.

One may argue that a CEO can blow off the concerns of John Q. Shareholder.   We could say the same about any given president.  One could argue that the nominating committee of the corporation determines who gets to run for the board of directors.  One could look at the Democratic Party’s nomination of Hilary Clinton over Bernie Sanders to see the parallel.

Finally, the video argued that services, like the US Postal Service, are required to serve the good, poor people of Bratislavia, Pennsyltucky.  At any cost, Bratislavian people are owed mail service.   He mention how UPS or FedEx neither one will support offices in small towns, and that it was the duty of the USPS to operate in that town so that the people could send mail form that town. He also states that the existence of the USPS keeps the prices of the UPS and FedEx low.   He also speaks of several other govenment services, and how they are required to give people what they need, even though fulfilling needs is not economical.

The big problem with this entire story is that the video assumes that the government just has money.  Where does it come from?  Nobody knows.  The government just has money.  Infinite money to pay for heavily subsidized health care and postal delivery in every town, especially those where industry knows are unable to support such a service.

In the ultimate slap in the face, this money comes from taxes.  Taxes taken from the companies who know it is not economical to run a delivery service to these towns.  Taxes then used to undercut their businesses in towns where there is (or perhaps was) enough customers to support them.

A good CEO president would trim the areas that were not economical to run.  Bratislavia, Pennsyltucky would not have postal service, but they are not owed postal service, either.  And just like towns that do not have a Walmart, UPS or Ford dealership, the residents would either commute to another town, or do without.  People of New York City, or Bratislavia or wherever are not owed postal delivery or health insurance any more than they are owed a Ford Dealership or an In N Out Burger.

That is what this video was missing.  The understanding that the government’s sole purpose is to protect the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of its residents.  Courts to uphold the law and police to arrest those who choose to violate the rights of others.

The government is not here to supply your needs on any level.

Guaranteed Basic Income

February 16, 2017

Guaranteed Basic Income is becoming a popular topic of conversation in the news.  It is the idea that everyone, regardless of what he or she is doing (working, unemployed, etc.) is given a basic salary, just for breathing air.  The idea is that this system could replace our broken welfare system and cut out some of the overhead associated with fraud detection, and perhaps get more money to people who need it the most.

It doesn’t take a lot to see how this is just another socialist scheme.  Where does this money come from?  The government, through your taxes.  Before, we had to give the benefit of the doubt to welfare recipients, and assume that they were working or trying to find work.  Under Guaranteed Basic Income, no such assumption can be made.  You can literally be taxed to support those who do NOTHING.

Some of the smartest advocates of Guaranteed Basic Income argue that automation, not foreign competition has taken away jobs.  True, many of the manufacturing job s that have been lost over the last few years will never come back, as a machine is performing the task.  These same people argue that nearly half of all people risk losing their jobs to machines in the next ten years.  It sounds like we will all be at risk for being unemployed, and had better come up with a plan.

There are two flaws in this logic.

First, consumer goods can only sell for the price that someone is willing to pay for them.  If the entire nation is unemployed, there will be no purchasing of consumer goods, and the prices will drop. Under this doomsday scenario, eventually, people will have to produce their own goods, or at some point, it will be cheaper to hire labor again than to invest in machinery.  At least under the free market.

Also, the assumption that all things will be created entirely by machine, and, that there is nothing left to create.  The flaw is that human beings are creative, and machines are only as creative as their programmer allows.  If people have creaed machines to handle their mundane tasks, it frees up more time to be creative and invent even newer things.  Once the production of that new idea has been automated, they can move onto something else.

A guaranteed basic income’s only actual purpose is to allow folks to do nothing except consume resources, and somehow collect a paycheck.

EpiPen Controversy

December 16, 2016

I will preface this post by saying that I have not actually kept up with this controversy at all.  I know that the prices of EpiPens went up significantly and that the CEO was brought before a congressional hearing over the matter.

Here is the link to the CEO’s testimony.  What strikes me about this is that she actually apologizes for the high cost, and clarifies that the company makes only a fraction of the cost as a profit.

How dare them make any profit?  After all, their company only developed a reliable, safe method for dealing with severe allergies- something that killed around 1500 people annually.  That’s nothing, right?  They should give it away, after investing all of the time and money into research, development, testing, marketing and patenting this.

You can also watch the video here.  What is interesting about this is the CEO says they will make a generic; they get more of the profit (versus the named product), but the price will cut in half.  Congress Critter Chaffetz complains that the company is going to make a mere $25 extra profit, even though the consumer will pay HALF AS MUCH.  This proves that this entire fiasco was more about CEO pay than it was about any sort of humanitarian effort.

This video is also infuriating.  Congress Critter Watson gets all uppity about the CEO using a company jet.  *GASP*

Finally, this article sums up this entire witch hunt.  Congress Critter Norton asks, “What have you done to earn this 671% [compensation] increase?”

Well, for starters, she runs a company that saves lives every day.  What is it you do, Congress Critter Norton, besides stand in the way?  What do YOU do to earn your pay?

 

Taxes

February 26, 2016

I completed my taxes this week.  No, I don’t feel patriotic.  Thankfully, I’ll get a refund this year.

Am I being hypocritical by working in the public sector and then denouncing taxes?  Isn’t that biting the hand that feeds me? No.  I am morally opposed to taxes.  However, they are not going away any time soon, especially not because I am posting on my own politics blog.  Because of this, it is my job to turn those tax dollars into the best investment I can in my power.  I consider myself very good at my jobs.

Furthermore, the problem of tax-funded industries (such as education and transportation) often leads to other problems.  Instead of running an efficient business, one where inefficiency is punished by a decreased bottom-line, and perhaps the failure of the business, a tax-funded business is allowed to run at a loss.  For example, the schools are expected to run at a loss; and nobody cares. Instead of finding ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of education, we are allowing it to stagnate by letting it run at a loss.

In the case of transportation, I hear plenty of people discuss privatized roads as a total disaster, full of inconvenient and expensive toll-booths and so on.  In reality, the many toll-booths, inefficiencies in traffic laws, poor maintenance of too many roads, and so on is really only possible in the subsidized economy.  A private company would see a ton of toll booths as a giant expense.  Perhaps instead, they would come up with some other way of tracking your usage of the road, or perhaps go to a subscription-based program.   I admit that I am not an entrepreneuer in this field, so I don’t know what is the most efficient way.  I do know that the days of repairing the same roads over and over again (regardless of their conditions), the days of toll booth operator unions defending drunk toll booth operators, and so on would not be permitted by a free economy.

Thank you for reading my late-night rant.

Imagined Freedoms

February 19, 2016

Often, a politician will make up new rights.  We’ve all heard a politician talk about a “right to clean water,” or a “right to a living wage,” or a “right to a fulfilling job,” or any other such drivel.  This is a corruption of the true meaning of rights.

There is only one fundamental right for human beings; “the right to choose to think, or not.”  This means that regardless of what choices an individual makes, the only choice is “Do I think, or not?”

The corollary to this is that, while free choice can be made, one cannot avoid the consequences.  One can choose to jump off a building, but one cannot avoid the rapidly-approaching ground.

While this may seem like a trivial issue, the real problem is what ISN’T being said.  In order for there to be a “right to food,”there needs to be food to distribute.  Because food isn’t always free, and must be produced by SOMEONE, to claim such a right is to make claim to the productive work of someone else.

The original Bill of Rights was written to specify what a government cannot do.  It promises nothing; you have a right to plant a garden, but are not guaranteed to have growing plants. Your choices can help determine the output of the garden: plant seeds, water, weed, etc.   Because a government cannot legislate how many degree days this year will have, nor can it demand your garden to grow, to demand a “right to food,” requires that food appear from thin air upon the table, or that food is to be taken from a table belonging to those who have abundance.

Thank yo for reading my very-tired post.  I will revisit this topic sometime when I am not falling asleep at my computer.  Good night!

 

 

The Link Between Provincial Attitudes and Tribalism

January 29, 2016

Currently, there is a lot of support for “buying locally” and that “local” is somehow synonymous with “moral.”  There are city-wide campaigns in some areas to “shop local” or cries to, “save our small town.”

Do you wonder why your teenage boys fight?  In gangs, over girls?  You’ve taught them that the entire world ends at the city or county line.  There is no word outside of the little box called, “local.”  Without seeing the world as a large place, full of possibilities, is it hard to imagine our young folks fighting over small pieces of ghetto territory?

I will not post the link, for fear of political retaliation, but one small college town newspaper recently featured an editorial concerning candidates for the new university president.  The search committee narrowed down the applicant pool to a few candidates, but did not include one of the current school administrators.  This editorial stated that one of the biggest qualifications was this administrator’s birth city and current location- both of which were the same town as the college.  His hometown should be the qualification for his  presidency, that over the skills and experince of the other candiidates!

In reality, simply purchasing something because it was generated locally, or hiring someone because he or she lives in the area is a disgusting form of tribalism.  These types of advertising campaigns and government programs are used to substitute an imaginary moral with a value. They rely on the consumer to overlook the product itself and instead look at where the product was made.  A well-made, value-added product would not need to rely on such claims. These claims can only made by an inferior producer, with only a few notable exceptions- locally grown produce, for example, implies that it is fresher than produce brought in from another place.

To choose (or not choose) an employee or a product based on non-essentials, such as race, gender, or family history is a poor way to do business.  These things are not important to the quality of the product, or the value added.  Also, these non-essentials are not under the control of the person seling the product.  Buying from members of your “tribe” simply because they are members of your tribe is tribalism. Refusing to buy because the seller is not a member of your tribe is also tribalism.

To choose (or not choose) an employee or a product based on philosophical grounds is not a choice that stems from the quality of the product or the value added.  However, because the money you spent on the product or employee is inconsistent with the value system or may be used to actively destroy a set of values you uphold, it could be in your interest to make this choice.  Therefore, a boycott can be a moral reason for not choosing a product or employee.  Because this choice to buy or not buy is based on the choices of the seller is NOT tribalism.

So then, what about the case of “buying local” or “hiring local?”  A local product or individual is not a matter of choice- a person is born where he or she is born, and he or she has no say in the matter.  The circumstances to which a person spends their childhood is often mandated by parents, including the location of their home. Imagine the absurdity of hiring only folks that grew up in a single parent household!  Yet, somehow, when we “hire locally” we are stating that the circumstances one is born into are far more important than the value of the product!  This is clearly tribalism in its ugliest, most concealed from.

Next time you see a “shop local” sign, think back to the true meaning of these signs. “Buy from our tribe, only.”  You can replace the text in your mind with, “Only shop at white-owned stores” or “Don’t buy from the Jews” if you prefer, as these signs all mean the same thing.

Thank you for reading my post.