Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Good-bye 2008

I thought for my final post of 2008, I would write about the observations I have made both in my personal life and in the goings-on in the world at large. Here it goes:

The 2008 Presidential Election
It seems as each election comes and goes, more and more time is spent by politicians, beginning earlier and earlier, to sell us on the idea that they are what's best for this country. Being as how this is the first election that I've used my recently developed critical thinking skills towards, it baffles me how much "hope" and "faith" we put into another fallible human being. The position and power of the U.S. presidency has grown so enourmously over the last century that it sickens me to think how much damage one person could ultimately do to our lives. The centralization of power in Washington, and power and corruption displayed by our "leaders" should have our founders rolling around at lightning speeds in their graves. I'm saddened to see what the federal government, what government everywhere, has become these days. We have an immoral and quagmire of a war, wire-tapping, eminent domain, Patriot acts, 10 trillion dollars of debt, money as stable as that found in the game of Monopoly, wasteful spending, and worst of all, ignorance of basic economic principles by the political class. It's maddening to me to see how much power the government has over our lives and our means. On a positive note, here's an article looking at all the progress  the human race has made, outside of government.

The Financial Crisis / Auto Bail-out
We have the government to thank for most recessions and depressions, including the 1929 crash and following depression, and especially for the recent debacle. The fact is plain, when the government interferes in the market, negative consequences follow. One of the worst consequences of government interference, even when regulating, is a concept called "moral hazard". What is moral hazard? Moral hazard is everyone learning to lower their guard because if anything bad happens to them, the government will play Superman and come to the rescue. This happens on the personal, local, and national levels. It's the belief that government is the great protector of the universe and will make us whole in the event of a loss. Without this role played by the government, people and businesses would do what is neccesary to protect themselves and be stronger for it. Of course this doesn't mean there won't be fraud, but it certainly means fraud would be harder and disincetivized to commit as everyone would be wiser. Moral hazard also reduces quality and efficiency in the market. If a company, no matter how big, is so inefficient and unproductive, leading to a decline in competitiveness, loses market share to other companies, that know how to satisfy consumers, and is given a break by the government (who has no money of it's own, mind you), then not only is it an unfair business practice, but both taxpayers and consumers pay the price. And the ones it hurts the worse are the poor, as the wealthy can manage. Moral hazard has gotten so commonplace and rampant in our country that I fear a complete breakdown of government may be the only thing to stop it. Keep in mind however, that there are other silver linings to that scenario.

Personal Growth
My own personal growth and increase in knowledge in such areas as economics, politics, and personal finance have made 2008 a year to appreciate and remember. I have developed my understanding of the principles of liberty, and of such economic thought as that taught by the so-named Austrian school. I have been better prepared with logic and reason for those I've had conversations and debates with regarding politics and economics. I vow to continue building those skills and my knowledge of truth in the world, and to continue to stand up and fight for both personal and economic liberty for all.

Family Growth
My wife and my relationship has grown and we have grown closer together. My son has gotten bigger and has made me so proud to know him and have him in my life. I am full of so much love for my family that I pray every night that I can be the best husband and father to them. My wife has made a giant accomplishment in passing her test to obtain citizenship in this country. I hope that I can be an influence to both of them to love and support the principles of liberty and limited government found in the U.S. Constitution.

Well that's it. I am sure there's more but that is all I can think of writing about right now. It's time to put the year behind us and march forth in honesty, integrity, and strength in fighting for our liberty!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

North Pole Bailout

A little late I know, but some much needed comic relief. Enjoy:

Santa Claus Bailout Hearing

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Overpopulation: The Perennial Myth

There are those in the world that believe the earth is or shortly will be overpopulated. That the earth and all of it's resources won't be enough to support the growing size of the human population, and will lead to greater and greater strife and human conflict. Those who believe such are completely wrong and perpetuating an evil myth. (I say evil because the proposed solutions involve a decrease in freedom and an increase in the size and scope of government.) And here to make my point is an article from The Freeman, a publication by the Foundation for Economic Education. I recommend reading the entire article, and if you're still not convinced, feel free to browse through the links below. The Freeman article can be found here. An excerpt:
From the period before Christ, men have been worried about overpopulation. Those concerns have become ever more frenzied. On an almost daily basis we are fed a barrage of stories in the newspapers and on television—complete with such appropriately lurid headlines as “Earth Near the Breaking Point” and “Population Explosion Continues Unabated”—predicting the imminent starvation of millions because population is outstripping the food supply. We regularly hear that because of population growth we are rapidly depleting our resource base with catastrophic consequences looming in our immediate future. We are constantly told that we are running out of living space and that unless something is done, and done immediately, to curb population growth, the world will be covered by a mass of humanity, with people jammed elbow to elbow and condemned to fight for each inch of space.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Patents: Invention vs. Innovation

I just read the cover article in my latest copy of The Freeman, the 52-year flagship publication of the Foundation for Economic Education. It is titled "Do Patents Encourage Innovation? The Case of the Steam Engine," found here. It is an interesting article on how history, in this case the history of the steam engine, has shown that patents seem to stifle innovation. Now, I'm not saying that I agree with the authors, but it did spark some thought wanderings on the claim. 

To understand how such a claim is strengthened by the case of the steam engine, you'll have to read the article. But the more I think about it, the more I come back to a big question. Though patents may stifle innovation, do they encourage invention? That really is the big question. After all, without a guarantee of monopoly on an idea, just how big is the incentive to invent anything at all. Then again, monopolies hurt consumers by eliminating competition and weakening the incentive to innovate. Perhaps patent protection can be revised or even somehow privatized. At this point, I don't know what's been discussed and debated out there regarding patents, but maybe one day my curiosity will take me there.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Lemon Socialism

I've just heard this name and I'm already in love with it. What it means, as explained by David Boaz, president of the Cato Institute, is socializing or nationalizing lemon (read: loser) companies. He goes on in this inteview to talk about the auto bailout, a must watch:

David Boaz on "Lemon Socialism"


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gov. Spending Hurts Economy

This video by Daniel Mitchell of the Cato Institute explains why the theory that says the government should increase its spending to boost the economy, as proposed by John Keynes in the early 20th century, relies on several logical fallacies that when examined, both in theory and in practice, prove that Keynes was wrong. Educating yourself on this is especially important during this time in the history of our country.

Keynesianism Demolished - by Daniel Mitchell

Buy a Gun, Now!

I'm a little fired up right now after reading about Brittany Zimmerman of New York. She was being attacked, with a knife, and managed to call 911 for help. The problem is, the police didn't arrive for 48 minutes and by then she was already dead and found by her boyfriend.

This is a perfect example of why private gun ownership is so important to self defense. Had she been carrying protection in the form of a firearm, no doubt she would still be alive. To insist that the only protection people have a right to is the police is an insult to anyone who values their own life and the lives of their loved ones. I hope we can all learn a lesson from this tragedy on the importance of securing our God-given right to bear arms.

My heart goes out to the Zimmerman family and pray that others, living in such dangerous places as New York, are better prepared.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Money, Banking, and The Fed

In order to get better educated on how the dollar came to be and why we have the Federal Reserve, I recommended watching this video (via YouTube) by the Ludwig von Mises Institute.



Thursday, December 11, 2008

Increased Scientific Dissent II

Here's the link to the full .PDF report titled "More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims. Scientists Continue to Debunk 'Consensus' in 2008" from the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Here's more of the introduction (the text contains links in the .PDF file):
The chorus of skeptical scientific voices grow louder in 2008 as a steady stream of peer-reviewed studies, analyses, real world data and inconvenient developments challenged the UN and former Vice President Al Gore's claims that the "science is settled" and there is a "consensus." On a range of issues, 2008 proved to be challenging for the promoters of man-made climate fears. Promoters of anthropogenic warming fears endured the following: Global temperatures failing to warm; Peer-reviwed studies predicting a continued lack of warming; a failed attempt to revive the discredited “Hockey Stick”; inconvenient developments and studies regarding CO2; the Sun; Clouds; Antarctica; the Arctic; Greenland; Mount Kilimanjaro; Hurricanes; Extreme Storms; Floods; Ocean Acidification; Polar Bears; lack of atmosphieric dust; the failure of oceans to warm and rise as predicted.

In addition, the following developments further secured 2008 as the year the “consensus” collapsed. Russian scientists “rejected the very idea that carbon dioxide may be responsible for global warming”. An American Physical Society editor conceded that a “considerable presence” of scientific skeptics exist. An International team of scientists countered the UN IPCC, declaring: “Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate”. India Issued a report challenging global warming fears. International Scientists demanded the UN IPCC “be called to account and cease its deceptive practices,” and a canvass of more than 51,000 Canadian scientists revealed 68% disagree that global warming science is “settled.”

Increased Scientific Dissent

A full U.S. Senate report should be released today showing the growing number of scientific dissent to the theory of man-made global warming. The pre-release article can be viewed here at the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works blog. An excerpt:
The UN global warming conference currently underway in Poland is about to face a serious challenge from over 650 dissenting scientists from around the globe who are criticizing the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore. Set for release this week, a newly updated U.S. Senate Minority Report features the dissenting voices of over 650 international scientists, many current and former UN IPCC scientists, who have now turned against the UN. The report has added about 250 scientists (and growing) in 2008 to the over 400 scientists who spoke out in 2007. The over 650 dissenting scientists are more than 12 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers.
Here are a few quotes from dissenting scientists and as soon as the full report is released I will have it posted here:
Warming fears are the “worst scientific scandal in the history…When people come to know what the truth is, they will feel deceived by science and scientists.” - UN IPCC Japanese Scientist Dr. Kiminori Itoh, an award-winning PhD environmental physical chemist.

“It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don’t buy into anthropogenic global warming.” - U.S Government Atmospheric Scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg of the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA.

“CO2 emissions make absolutely no difference one way or another….Every scientist knows this, but it doesn’t pay to say so…Global warming, as a political vehicle, keeps Europeans in the driver’s seat and developing nations walking barefoot.” - Dr. Takeda Kunihiko, vice-chancellor of the Institute of Science and Technology Research at Chubu University in Japan.

“After reading [UN IPCC chairman] Pachauri's asinine comment [comparing skeptics to] Flat Earthers, it's hard to remain quiet.” - Climate statistician Dr. William M. Briggs, who specializes in the statistics of forecast evaluation, serves on the American Meteorological Society's Probability and Statistics Committee and is an Associate Editor of Monthly Weather Review.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Free Market Clapper

Oh this is too funny, I just had to post a link:

The Free Market Clapper - a Flash animation by Mark Fiore

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Right to Shout "Fire"?

I am currently reading a book by Murray Rothbard titled "For a New Liberty" and it has thus far been very enlightening. I just read the end of Chapter 2 and thought I would post here an interesting point on our right of freedom of speech:
Consider, for example, the classic example where liberals generally concede that a person’s “right of freedom of speech” must be curbed in the name of the “public interest”: Justice Holmes’ famous dictum that no one has the right to cry “fire” falsely in a crowded theater. Holmes and his followers have used this illustration again and again to prove the supposed necessity for all rights to be relative and tentative rather than precise and absolute.

But the problem here is not that rights cannot be pushed too far but that the whole case is discussed in terms of a vague and wooly “freedom of speech” rather than in terms of the rights of private property. Suppose we analyze the problem under the aspect of property rights. The fellow who brings on a riot by falsely shouting “fire” in a crowded theater is, necessarily, either the owner of the theater (or the owner’s agent) or a paying patron. If he is the owner, then he has committed fraud on his customers. He has taken their money in exchange for a promise to put on a movie or play, and now, instead, he disrupts the show by falsely shouting “fire” and breaking up the performance. He has thus welshed on his contractual obligation, and has thereby stolen the property—the money—of his patrons and has violated their property rights.

Suppose, on the other hand, that the shouter is a patron and not the owner. In that case, he is violating the property right of the owner—as well as of the other guests to their paid-for performance. As a guest, he has gained access to the property on certain terms, including an obligation not to violate the owner’s property or to disrupt the performance the owner is putting on. His malicious act, therefore, violates the property rights of the theater owner and of all the other patrons.

There is no need, therefore, for individual rights to be restricted in the case of the false shouter of “fire.” The rights of the individual are still absolute; but they are property rights. The fellow who maliciously cried “fire” in a crowded theater is indeed a criminal, but not because his so-called “right of free speech” must be pragmatically restricted on behalf of the “public good”; he is a criminal because he has clearly and obviously violated the property rights of another person.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Henry Ford's Position on Bailouts

The below is from LewRockwell.com:
Thanks to Kevin Duffy for a reminder of what the great entrepreneur Henry Ford said on February 11, 1934: "Let them fail; let everybody fail! I made my fortune when I had nothing to start with, by myself and my own ideas. Let other people do the same thing. If I lose everything in the collapse of our financial structure, I will start in at the beginning and build it up again."
Let it be known that I agree with his position.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"You're sitting in a chair in the sky..."

Here's a comedic look at how capitalism and the free market has blessed our lives:



(If you can't view the embedded video, see it here.)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Separation of State and Marriage

As my family drove home tonight along a street in downtown Salt Lake City, we were delayed by several hundred, make that thousands of people around Temple Square protesting the LDS Church. It wasn't like any protest I've seen in this city and was quite a testament to our right to protest. (Of which I am grateful.)

So why were they protesting the LDS Church? Because the LDS Church was one of the main proponents of the recent proposition in California to amend the state constitution to define marriage as only a union between a man and woman. I happen to support that proposition as well. And here's why.

What first needs to be answered is why, in this day and age, the state (by which I mean the government) is involved in the practice of marriage. It wasn't always that way. Traditionally, marriage was a function of religion and was a religious ceremony. The question is why the state became involved. The answer is because society wanted to encourage marriage as it led to the stable creation of families and child-rearing. As those children age, they learn the how to make a family and eventually marry and have kids. Continuing the cycle and ensuring the survival of society. And of course, as children get older and begin to work and consume, they become taxpayers and on and on it goes. All to the benefit of both society and the state. This is the purpose of the involvement of the state in marriage.

Marriage and the creation of stable families is beneficial to the state. In order to encourage marriage, the state ensures certain benefits to those that are legally married. These include the assumption of pensions and assets upon death, tax breaks, and immigration benefits. There are others, but there are also detriments. Though not often considered, these include not being able to end the relationship as easily as non-married couples can, or having to pay alimony if one of the partners was dependent on the other. (Of course this is a benefit to the dependent side.)

The question that must be answered next is how marriage by homosexual couples is beneficial to society and the state. I don't believe it is as homosexual couples can't make a family. It's biologically impossible. Although they can form a family through adoption, they can't teach their adopted children, through example, the fundamentals of making a biological family as those children are inherently wont to do. And thus society and the state are not set to benefit by such an arrangement. It follows then, that society and the state should not be concerned with extending the definition of marriage to include the union between members of the same sex.

For this I believe that the purpose of demanding gay marriage is not so that homosexual couples can enjoy the same benefits as heterosexual couples. I believe that that is just a cover. The real purpose is to gain acceptance and recognition. They want society to accept and agree with their behavior. Remember, tolerance implies disagreement. It's not very tolerant to demand that others in society accept one's behavior, however beneficial or detrimental it is to society. It's actually quite intolerant. And until homosexuals can demonstrate that gay marriage is beneficial to society, it is illogical to redefine an institution thousands of years old.

I welcome any dialogue that may ensue from the above, so long as it is conducted in a respectful and tolerant way.

(As a note, one of the main reason so many different churches, including the LDS Church, are involved is because of our right to worship. As gay marriage laws are passed in such places as Sweden, it has/will become illegal for churches to sermonize or speak out against what they traditionally believe to be the "sin" of homosexuality. The definition of "hate speech" has been or will be extended to include such sermons, etc. This is an attack on liberty and everything America was created for.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My Consent Has Been Given

Alas, I have given my consent to be governed by the one whom I believe best represents every one of my values and ideals. (Click the picture to enlarge if you can't tell who it is.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Right To...

Because of America, the case for human rights achieved monumental proportions when it was penned in our Declaration of Independence, and with the ratification of the United States Constitution with it's first ten amendments, called the Bill of Rights. Can you name those rights? They are the freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, petition, arms, the freedom against quartering soldiers and unreasonable searches or seizures, the right to due process of law, freedom from incriminating yourself and double jeopardy, right of a speedy and public trial and a trial by jury, and the freedom from excessive bail and cruel punishment.

These are the rights specifically mentioned in the Constitution as a list of "thou shalt nots" to infringement from government. I am grateful for all of them. Unfortunately, to many, this list has grown to include "rights" such as housing, health-care, and schooling. I disagree that these are "rights" and believe to call them as such does harm to real human rights by diminishing their importance. If everything is a right, nothing is a right, after all.

So what is a right? A right is something that exists simultaneously among all people and confers no obligation on another person. To believe in whichever god I choose is my right insofar as my god does not require that I offer human sacrifices against the will of those other humans. I don't have a right to worship in that way, and neither does anyone else. Likewise, to report and print the news is my right insofar as I pay for the press myself, and not obligate another to pay for it for me. This is such a simple test to tell whether something is a right, yet so few want to apply it. So I'll give a couple of alternatives.

Take the claimed "right" to health-care. Would that "right" still exist if nobody wanted to practice medicine? What if not a single person wanted to be a doctor or a nurse. What happens to the right to health-care? It shows it's true colors. And the "right" to schooling? Say that you were the only person living on Earth. If there's nobody around to "school" you, what happens to that right? It shows it's true colors as well.

So what about these "rights" to housing, health-care, and schooling? They aren't rights. They are wants, or wishes, or whatever you want to call them. Just don't call them rights. And don't expect me, or anyone truly committed to freedom, to be happy about being coerced to pay for them.

(On a side note, the "right" of a trial by jury is peculiar given that it does confer obligations on other people. Perhaps jury duty should be voluntary, and only those who have volunteered for jury duty have the right to a trial by jury. I believe enough people would sign-up.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Globalization is Good

Globalization is a good thing. Despite what those who protest it believe, globalization is the best way to end poverty throughout the world. To demonstrate that point, I want you all to watch a documentary by Johan Norberg called Globalization is Good. Johan Norberg is also the author of In Defense of Global Capitalism, a book on my recommended reading list. I have confidence it will educate you and change your mind if you are currently anti-globalization.

To watch it via Google Video, click this link: Globalization is Good
To download it as a Quicktime file (270mb), click here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Consent of the Governed

What does it mean to vote in a political election to you? Does it mean you are making your voice heard? Does it mean you are securing your right to complain about the outcome? Or does it mean that you are giving your consent to be governed? To me, it's that last one.

The American Declaration of Independence, signed in 1776, contains these words:

"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..."

What this means is that the powers that government derives are only just if derived from the consent of the governed. Further, consent is given to the government by the process of voting for our representatives. Therefore, it follows, that voting for someone is giving them our consent to govern us.

Now the big question: Who among the available choices, for all of the available positions, can you give your full consent to govern you? This is a very important question that must be answered by everyone who plans on voting come November 4th.

How do we answer it? Ask yourself who among the available choices represents your values and ideals. Do any of them? Consider whether or not you should vote out of principle, meaning that candidate that represents every one of your ideals, or out of convenience, meaning that candidate that represents most of your ideals. Remember, you are giving your consent to be governed by this person.

Is it okay to not vote and still retain your right to complain about the outcome? I believe it is and I also believe that voting actually diminishes your right to complain, if who you have voted for wins. After all, how much can I complain if I've given my consent to be governed to someone who screws up? My right to complain turns into my right to be ashamed. If I chose not to give my consent to any of the available options, or if who I vote for loses, my right to complain is enhanced. These things should be remembered.

So who am I going to vote for? The more accurate question is: Who is going to receive my consent to govern me?

For those of us who vote out of principle, we are given the ability to write-in a name on our ballot. The only person who represents every one of my values and ideals and can receive my full and total consent to govern me... is me.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Serfdom, Ho!

This is truly a frightening prospect given to us by the Democratic presidential scoundrel Barack Obama, that middle school and high school students should be forced by their institutions to perform community service, in order for those institutions to receive federal money. And who attends schools receiving federal money? If you guessed students from low- and middle-class families, you guessed correctly. And this is the very thing we fought a war for independence from:

"National service mandated by the state is what Europe had for centuries. It was called serfdom. For example, in France, citizens were required to perform public service building and repairing roads and other public projects for hundreds and thousands of hours a year. Serfdom wasn't eliminated in France until the French revolution, one of the "liberty" parts of that revolution. It was largely the American revolution which inspired this escape from serfdom. Indeed, the American revolution was all about escaping from the European model of servitude, with the American's insisting that even very moderate taxation without representation was a form of oppressive servitude. Incredibly, Barack Obama somehow believes that advocacy of a return to European style serfdom is a good way to celebrate the American Declaration of Independence from the oppression of English tyranny." - Greg Ransom, PrestoPundit, found here.

An excerpt from Obama's July 2nd speech promoting this idea:

"Just as we teach math and writing, arts and athletics, we need to teach young Americans to take citizenship seriously. Study after study shows that students who serve do better in school, are more likely to go to college, and more likely to maintain that service as adults. So when I'm President, I will set a goal for all American middle and high school students to perform 50 hours of service a year, and for all college students to perform 100 hours of service a year. This means that by the time you graduate college, you'll have done 17 weeks of service. We'll reach this goal in several ways. At the middle and high school level, we'll make federal assistance conditional on school districts developing service programs, and give schools resources to offer new service opportunities." - Full transcript found here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

To Vote, or Not to Vote

To vote, or to vote by not voting? That is the question currently on my mind as we approach Election Day 2008. If I vote, then I am giving my consent to one of the available scoundrels to govern me. If I don't vote, I am voting to give my consent to none of the available scoundrels to govern me. On the other hand, if I don't vote, then my vote for the lesser scoundrel isn't there to cancel out another's vote for the greater scoundrel. If we always vote for the lesser scoundrel, then we will be slowly going down the rabbit hole rather than quickly. Either way, it feels inevitable that we will learn what the rabbit knows. So what to do, what to do?

Of course I also should consider that because my vote will count for exactly nothing, what else could I be doing with my time come November 4th? I could be spending it schmoozing my wife or playing with my son. Or even making my voice heard in a far greater way than voting by posting to this blog. And because my vote will count for nothing, how rational is it to spend any considerable amount of time researching the candidates and preparing to make a choice? After all, it's not like my ineffectual vote could possibly cost me anything, unlike, say, a vote I make with my wallet when I choose where to dine.

Things to think about...

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Fire is Spreading

The fire just lit by the Supreme Court under gun control advocate's arses, that is. As expected, other handgun bans and onerous gun laws around the country will soon be challenged, starting with the City of Chicago. The Second Amendment Foundation with the Illinois State Rifle Association has filed a "federal lawsuit challenging the City of Chicago's long-standing handgun ban." The SAF also won it's San Fransisco handgun ban case in April.

These are great times for those who love liberty and our right to defend ourselves. Removing these bans will benefit these cities and all US citizens greatly. Especially appealing is this quote by Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

"We've lost the battle on what the Second Amendment means. Seventy-five percent of the public thinks it's an individual right. Why are we arguing a theory anymore? We are concerned about what we can do practically."

So much for originalist interpretation.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Second Amendment as Individual Right!

The Supreme Court ruled today that the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. A few excerpts from their 5-4 ruling:

"HELD: The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home."

"The Court's interpretation is confirmed by analogous arms bearing rights in state constitutions that preceded and immediately followed the Second Amendment."

"The [D.C.] handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as applied to self-defense) violate the Second Amendment."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Commitment to Freedom

On May 5, I posted some excerpts from a paper written by economist Walter E. Williams that included the following:

"The true test of one's commitment to freedom of expression does not come when one permits others the freedom to express ideas with which he agrees. The true test comes when one permits others to express ideas he finds offensive. The same test applies to one's commitment to freedom of association, namely when he permits others to associate in ways he deems offensive."

This test must be used for freedom in general. As I talked about in my last post, those members of society on "the Right" support laws that make it illegal for adults to prostitute themselves, take hard drugs, and other acts they deem immoral. Don't get me wrong, I believe prostitution is extremely immoral, as is lasciviousness and homosexuality, among many other immoral acts. But my commitment to freedom is tested when I allow others the freedom to do immoral things.

This is true for my commitment to all types of freedom, as Dr. Williams explains. As a free human being, I believe that I own myself. After all, if I don't own myself, then who owns me? Does society own me? If they do, then I hereby declare my independence from society and claim title to myself. But they don't, at least not in the country that I live.

Of course that isn't entirely true in most places as many states and cities have laws against using hard drugs, prostitution, or committing suicide. I believe these laws show just how committed those states and cities are, to freedom.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Just and Unjust Government

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about something involving the premise of government, which, of course is force. Force is what government stands on and can only exist through the threat of force. Government is also the enforcer of the law. So let's have a thought experiment on just what laws the government can justly enforce.

Can a person, say me, force a person, say you, to drink an alcoholic beverage? Can I personally force you to smoke a cigarette? Can I force you to believe in and follow Jesus Christ? The answer to all of these questions is a big fat NO. I cannot justly force you to do any of those things. I can only use peaceful persuasion. What about non-objectionable things? Can I force you to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages? Can I force you to abstain from smoking cigarettes? Can I force you to be a pagan? The same answer, NO.

Does it follow then that although I can't force you to do, or not to do, any of those things, that I can band with my fellow citizens and use the threat of force, the government, to get you to drink, smoke, or worship? No, it does not follow, and therefore it would be an illogical and unjust use of government.

Let's now talk about the various uses of government supported by either "the Left", "the Right", or their political representatives. The Left believes it just to use government and its threat of force to get productive citizens to pay for various "philanthropic" programs such as welfare, universal health care, public schooling, etc. The Right believes it just to use government and its threat of force to prevent adults from getting paid to prostitute themselves. The Left believes it just to use government and its threat of force to prevent adults across political borders from trading with one another. The Right believes it just to use government and its threat of force to prevent adults from consuming whatever they so desire, be it food, drink, or drug. The great majority of political representatives for either side believe it just to use government and its threat of force to get some citizens to pay for special interest earmarks, farm subsidies, etc. for other citizens.

I believe that all of the above and more are illogical and unjust uses of government. A just law cannot be anything that one person does not have the right to personally do to another person. Just as I cannot force you to abstain from drugs and drinking, I cannot give that right to government to force you to abstain from drugs and drinking. And just as I cannot force you to pay me welfare, I cannot give that right to government to force you to pay for my welfare, or anybody's welfare. When government is used in these way, it is not a just goverment, it is a tyrannical government. And I believe both "the Left" and "the Right" use government in tyrannical ways. "Society" does not have any rights that a single person does not have.

To conclude, I give you a thought on what liberty is, provided by Frederic Bastiat in The Law:

"Actually, what is the political struggle that we witness? It is the instinctive struggle of all people toward liberty. And what is this liberty, whose very name makes the heart beat faster and shakes the world? Is it not the union of all liberties—liberty of conscience, of education, of association, of the press, of travel, of labor, of trade? In short, is not liberty the freedom of every person to make full use of his faculties, so long as he does not harm other persons while doing so? Is not liberty the destruction of all despotism—including, of course, legal despotism? Finally, is not liberty the restricting of the law only to its rational sphere of organizing the right of the individual to lawful self-defense; of punishing injustice? It must be admitted that the tendency of the human race toward liberty is largely thwarted… This is greatly due to a fatal desire—learned from the teachings of antiquity—that our writers on public affairs have in common: They desire to set themselves above mankind in order to arrange, organize, and regulate it according to their fancy."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

American Life Expectancy

Russell Roberts, over on Cafe Hayek, gave this nice little reminder for those who complain "about how dangerous and polluted and horrible life is in the United States":

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

In tribute of our fathers, The Heritage Foundation's FamilyFacts.org has linked several studies regarding the importance of fathers. The below are the various study topics and the links can be found here:

1. Children's well-being. Children living in intact families tend to fare better on cognitive achievement and behavioral outcomes than peers living in families with unmarried biological fathers, stepfathers, and mothers' cohabiting partners.

2. Adolescents' psychological well-being. Close relationships between adolescents and their fathers are positively associated with adolescents' psychological well-being.

3. Adolescents' behavioral problems. Adolescents of more involved fathers tend to exhibit lower levels of behavioral problems than peers of less involved fathers.

4. Youth delinquency. Adolescents who report having more positive relationships with their fathers are less likely to engage in delinquency than peers who have less positive relationships with their fathers.

5. Teen substance use. Adolescents who report having more positive relationships with their fathers are less likely to abuse substance than peers who have less positive relationships with their fathers.

6. Young adult's educational attainment. Individuals whose fathers showed more involvement in their lives early on tend to attain higher levels of education than peers of less involved fathers.

7. Young adults' incarceration rates. Growing up without a father appears to be associated with greater likelihood of incarceration later in life.

8. Father-child relationships. Adolescents living in intact families report, on average, having closer relationships with their fathers than peers in non-intact families.

9. Fathers' engagement with children. Among urban fathers, those who frequently attend religious services tend to be more engaged with their children than those who attend less frequently.

10. Fathers' well-being. Among disadvantaged fathers, those who increase their engagement with their children report improved well-being.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Second Amendment Petition

The Patriot Post is circulating a petition in support of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution that I am presenting below. Please follow the link to sign it and forward it to everyone you know that values our God-given right to bear arms:

Make your voice heard TODAY!
Take a stand TODAY!

Please join fellow Patriots and sign The Right of the People
... shall not be infringed (see text below) affirming the Second
Amendment's individual "right of the People to keep and bear arms."

To sign this petition online, link to --
http://PatriotPetitions.US/second/

If you don't have Web access, you can sign this petition by
sending a blank e-mail to: <sign-second@PatriotPetitions
.US>
_____________________

The Right of the People ... shall not be infringed

To President George Bush, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and
Republican Leader John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell:

We, the people of these United States, rightfully petition our
President, House of Representatives and Senate in affirmation
of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution,
"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a
free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall
not be infringed."

We affirm that said Amendment was established to define an
individual "right of the People to keep and bear arms," and that
there is no more important constitutional issue than that of
defending the plain language and original intent of the Second
Amendment (http://PatriotPost.US/alexander/edition.asp?id=559 ).

The newly-emboldened Democrat Party, with Barack Hussein Obama
(http://PatriotPost.US/alexander/edition.asp?id=590 ) leading
the charge, is once again attempting to redefine the Second
Amendment as a collective right only, as outlined on the ACLU's
(http://patriotshop.us/product_info.php?cPath=21&products_id=586 )
website under "Gun Control": "We believe that the constitutional
right to bear arms is primarily a collective one, intended mainly
to protect the right of the states to maintain militias. ... The
ACLU therefore believes that the Second Amendment does not confer
an unlimited right upon individuals to own guns."

Justice Joseph Story, appointed to the Supreme Court by our
Constitution's principal author, James Madison, wrote in his
"Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States" (1833),
"The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been
considered, as the palladium of the liberties of the republic;
since it offers a strong moral check against usurpation and
arbitrary power of the rulers; and will generally, even if these
are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist
and triumph over them."

Indeed, the Second Amendment is "the palladium of the liberties
of the republic," and those who fail to support it as such, and
reject detractors like Obama, do so at great peril to themselves
and the liberty of future generations of Americans.

Accordingly, we, the undersigned, declare that gun ownership
is not only an individual right, but a duty and obligation of
all Patriots.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Guarantor of Freedom

I have what I believe to be the best argument for the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, and for it being interpreted as it has over the entire history of America, that it guarantees a personal right to bear arms and a collective right to organize a militia.

To share my argument, I'll start with a little exercise. Imagine if you will you live in a democratic-republic country, like America, that guarantees such rights as freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and freedom of association and protects property rights. I think the most beloved of all rights to both the political left and the political right are those previously listed rights, except for perhaps property rights. So in this country, that has been around for some years, the people enjoy their rights and exercise them all to their fullest extent, and the government is relatively small and mostly limited to its sphere of national defense. As has been seen in America, when these rights are guaranteed, prosperity spreads. Unfortunately, with these rights also comes some depravity, like the kind that characterizes America to most of the middle-eastern and eastern countries. Because of this undesirable quality, support for those who want censorship grows and eventually the majority of the elected seats of government believe something should be done about how people use their freedom of speech, and freedom of conscience, and freedom of association. In effect, they want to take away some of these rights and now have the power to do it.

So ask yourself, in a country like the one just described, would the personal right to bear arms and the collective right to organize a militia be beneficial in protecting the rights guaranteed to all, especially the minority?

I don't believe there are greater rights than the rights guaranteed us personally and collectively by the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. They are the rights that guarantee every American the other rights in the Constitution: the right to freedom of religion, the right to free speech, or of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances, the right against unwarranted searches and seizures, the right to a speedy and public trial by jury and due process of law and to the assistance of counsel, the right to just compensation for when private property is taken for public use, and the right against excessive bail and excessive fines.

Further, I believe the primary purpose of the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment is to do what I have above described, protection from tyranny in government. Only secondary is it for protection from individuals; criminals and so forth.

The argument above is the best and fullest anyone who wants to defend the Second Amendment needs, minus scholarly reference. Typically, those who don't like the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment, specifically the personal right to bear arms, don't realize how necessary they are in protecting the rights they love: the rights to free speech and the press, and the right against a government establishment of religion. No dictator from the last century was able to murder millions of his own people without first disarming them. I hope we all will let that be a lesson to us.

(I also don't believe the government should be entrusted with weapons not entrusted first to the people, weapons of mass destruction excluded. I exclude WMDs because basically no government should have them, but unfortunately they are necessary and I don't believe a government would or could ever use WMDs against it's own, armed, people.)


Monday, April 7, 2008

Reasons For Freedom

Throughout my life, I have observed, pondered, and concluded on many different things; things like what types of food I prefer, how I handle my finances, to the ideas of politics, philosophy and religion that I will subscribe to. In all cases, I hope to be not so certain as to reject truth when it contradicts my ideas and my ways of doing things.

For many instances, accepting new or additional truth is easy, such as learning to perform a task at work more efficiently or adopting a better medical procedure. But for other instances, accepting new or additional truth is difficult, especially if it seems to or does contradict our deeply held habits or beliefs.

I believe it is human nature to want to hold on to that which is familiar, even if it is false, so long as it isn't harmful. Some would prefer to hold tight to those falsehoods that they have, despite how much greater the new truth is. It's often inconvenient to accept new truth because of the change it could wrought in your life or the lives of those around you.

But for the seeker of truth, nothing could be more constant and certain than the faith that there is truth out there and that it can be found. This is the great motivator in the scientific studies. To believe that you can ascertain truth and build upon the world's knowledge and more often than not improve mankind's lot in life, is one of the most righteous of beliefs and has been more often a blessing to mankind than a curse.

Truth is everywhere and everything, and I believe that one will get closer to omniscience, that is closer to God, by seeking it and accepting it when it has been determined certain, even when it surpasses or even contradicts our own beliefs. This is true in science, philosophy, politics, and of course, religion.

No longer are the mythological Greek and Roman gods worshipped, no longer is it believed that communism or socialism are plausible forms of government, and no longer is the theory that the universe has existed in its present size since eternity accepted by the scientific community. In each instance, some times through great heart-ache and pain, and some times through vigorous debate, new truth superseded old truth and society has been the benefactor.

To be an honest seeker of truth, one must constantly re-evaluate his own ways and ideas and correct them when they prove to be wrong. But can everybody do this? I don't believe the can because not everybody is free. Those that are, the question isn't ability but rather desire. I believe those are the two great forces that will not only reinforce each other, but lead to improving oneself. If a man is free to explore and to question than he will be free to seek after truth. The most obvious barrier to this type of freedom is of course government. Coercion, or the threat of force, is the game of government and the more intrusive and bigger the government, the less freedom one has to explore, to question, and to act, or in other words, the less freedom society has to seek after truth.

This is one of the reasons that I support limited government and have faith in the free and voluntary market.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Knowledge Deficit on Trade II

I received an interesting comment regarding my post "Knowledge Deficit on Trade" from a reader by the name of Chris that I'd like to answer here. I will post the comment in it's entirety and then proceed to answer each point made by Chris:

"Explain something to me here. You said that American dollars will make there way back [someday]. Then how is that China holds over a billion of dollars in US cash. Is it because maybe they have been stock pilling it and not sending it back through the system.

I guess this also means that there really isn't a national dept either since deficits don't really exist.

I also wonder how complex economics were in the 18th century."

Chris is correct that I said that US dollars will make there way back someday, and they will through future purchases and investments. He asks how China holds over a billion dollars in US cash and wonders if they've been stock piling it. The answer to that question is that even though China owns over a billion dollars in US cash, the United States holds the equivalent in goods and services. My mentioning that US dollars would come back to America, sooner or later, was not used to demonstrate that there is no trade deficit, it was merely a tangent.

Chris guesses that because America doesn't have a trade deficit, it doesn't have any national debt. This is wrong for the simple fact that a budget consists of income and expenses. When America's budget shows more expenses than income, it must sell bonds to third-parties, many of which are foreign countries and investors. The balance sheet then includes additional income offset by liabilities to balance against expenses. Foreign trade on the other hand is between private companies from either nation transacting business.

As for economics in the 18th century, economic theory is like any scientific discipline. For more information on who Adam Smith is, click here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Knowledge Deficit on Trade

Recently a friend of mine at work commented on America's "trade deficit" and alluded to its existence. I quickly corrected him and said that America didn't have a trade deficit and to insist that it did showed ignorance of what trade, particularly international trade, is when talking about deficits and surpluses. In the words of the former president of the Foundation of Economic Education, Donald J. Boudreaux, "Here's a quick lesson in international economic accounting. Every nation's foreign trade is always balanced."

And that's really all there is to it. Let's break it down. If a country's total exports of goods and services do not equal its total imports of goods and services, the country's trade is still in balance, as the following example "balance sheet" shows:

America's exports:              $500,000 minus
America's imports:            $1,000,000
America's trade account:      -$500,000

Capital spent for imports:    $1,000,000 minus
Capital rcvd. from exports:     $500,000
America's capital account:      $500,000

IN BALANCE

When America imports $1,000,000 worth of goods and services, it exports $1,000,000 worth of currency. When America exports $500,000 worth of goods and services, it imports $500,000 worth of currency. America's foreign trade balances when you consider the entire balance sheet. "If one part of a nation's trade account is in deficit by $1.96 billion, other parts must be in surplus by $1.96 billion," says Boudreaux. This is really what it comes down to and when the entire balance sheet is considered, the "trade deficit" disappears. Those US dollars will make their way back home in future purchases and investments, sooner or later. The supposed trade deficit could just as easily be shown as a trade surplus, when only looking at America's capital account.

Consider for a moment your neighborhood grocer. By those who advocate a trade deficit's logic, there's a trade deficit between you and your grocer. I'm sure you are like me and you import more from your grocer than you export. I don't export anything to my grocer when it comes to goods. I do, as we all do, trade goods with my grocer for capital. Would you say that there's a trade deficit between us and our grocers? And if so, is that a problem? I certainly don't think so. The reality is our trade is always balanced, as is the trade between all people, entities, cities, states, and nations.

I'll close with one of my favorite quotes by 18th century economist Adam Smith, on the subject of international trade, "Nothing…can be more absurd than this whole doctrine of the balance of trade."

Monday, March 17, 2008

Immigration and America

These United States of America were built entirely by immigrants and their descendants. Every non-native American citizen owes, in some respect, the blessing that is his life here to his immigrant ancestors. Because of this, it is surprising to me to see so many Americans take the stand they do against those wanting so much to partake of America's goodness that they risk their lives to obtain it. While I don't believe that anybody has the right to disobey our immigration laws and expect to get off scot-free, I recognize that illegally immigrating into this country is not a felony, rather a misdemeanor. As such, I here outline what I believe to be the best way to handle the current immigration problem in four phases:

Phase One – National Security
I believe that national security is the most important function of the federal government. And in my opinion, secure borders, north, south, east, and west, are vital to protecting ourselves and our sovereignty. The first phase in handling the current immigration problem is securing the border. This should be done by any number of effective ways from increasing the number of border patrol agents to building a border wall to video surveillance with illegal migrant apprehension. I support all of these so long as they are done humanely. I also believe this must be accomplished before moving on to phases two and three. Failure to secure the border will show similar results to the immigration reform in the eighties, an increase in illegal immigration.

Phase Two – Illegal Immigrants in America
Like it or not the 12-20 million illegal immigrants living in America are parts of our society. They, those that work hard, the super-majority in my opinion, are also economic assets to this country. I believe it would do great damage to our economy if policies were put into place to seek out and deport these millions of illegal immigrants. Measures should be taken to fine them, as all misdemeanors require, and help them obtain permission to work and stay here legally. Immigrants who take the jobs most people would rather not have always been an important part to the American economy and these immigrants are no different. Deporting them is not the answer and would not produce the good fruit that helping them obtain legal status would. If any undocumented immigrants are guilty of a felony, I support in full their deportation, as they are not contributing to the progress of our society.

Phase Three – Restructure America's Immigration Policy
I believe that our immigration policy should be restructured so as to make it easier for hard-working immigrants to come from all over the world to these United States and contribute to our economy, our society, and in paying taxes. Quotas should be expanded or abolished while at the same time making it cheaper to obtain required documentation to immigrate here legally. Those that are currently immigrating illegally, for example from Mexico, are from among the poorest the country has to offer. Why do they do it illegally instead of legally? Because the lines are too long and the cost too high for them to afford. It is more realistic for them to risk their lives by coming here illegally and staying illegally than it is to do it legally, because of our current immigration policy. As I said, I believe that immigrants are economic assets. This is because they will take jobs nobody else wants and do it cheaper than anybody else would. This makes goods and services cheaper to produce and benefits society through lower prices, at the same time keeping jobs in America. If a country's own policies are pushing their citizens, usually hard-working citizens, out, then they don't deserve them and America should welcome them.

Phase Four – Assimilation
Immigrants from each generation that built America have brought with them the best their cultures had to offer, and combined that with the best America has to offer through the process of assimilation. This is a foundational part of preserving American culture, which is in reality a combination of the best parts of every culture in the world. Central to assimilation, however, is learning America's unifying language: English. Governments and society should encourage immigrants to learn the English language instead of making it easier for them to live here without it. I believe that one of the ways that these United States of America will stay united is through a unified means of communication. English is rightfully called the universal language because of America's influence in the world. And those wishing to become a part of American society should learn and use America's language, English.

These phases, I believe, are what are best for America. I would like to see our government implement policies that would first, secure the border, second, compassionately deal with our illegal immigrant population, third, restructure our immigration policy, and fourth, encourage assimilation into American culture.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Corporate Welfare

One of the things that are consistently talked about in the media is the supposed alliance between "big business" and the political right. Traditionally, the political right means limited (read small) government and free markets. (This isn't so today.) So who wouldn't see big business aligning itself with these ideas? What may be startling to some is the fact that big businesses, that is, big corporations, actually align themselves with big government and controlled markets. The reason is what is commonly termed "corporate welfare."

What is corporate welfare? Well, before we can answer that we must first define "welfare". According to Dictionary.com welfare is "financial or other assistance to an individual or family from a city, state, or national government" or welfare is "receiving financial aid from the government or from a private organization because of hardship and need." Welfare sounds like a pretty nice thing to receive if you are undergoing hardship and have genuine need. This is hardly objectionable if the welfare comes from a private organization.

So what is corporate welfare? Corporate welfare is welfare (see definition above) for businesses, more often than not large businesses, or corporations. Welfare has two sources, private financial assistance as in a church's welfare program, and public financial assistance as in a government welfare program. So how does corporate welfare work? It works the same way as regular welfare, corporations "receive financial aid from the government…because of hardship or need." Often, however, hardship or need is not a requirement. How do they receive this financial aid? They receive it through government subsidies, tax-exemptions, and guaranteed loans. In other words, they receive it from taxpayers.

Why do governments give these to big corporations? Because big corporations have big lobbyist hands that lobby for it, and in turn give big to political campaigns. Those who don't have big lobbyist hands are the smaller businesses, the ones in competition with the big businesses. If big corporations can get subsidies, tax-exemptions, and guaranteed loans from the government then they don't have to do much else to stay off competition. So it's in the big corporations' best interest to have big government with big treasuries. Currently, this includes both sides of the political spectrum.

None of this seems fair to new and small businesses because it isn't. It goes against the traditional concepts of limited government and free markets; free markets where the only way to the top is by satisfying direct customers, not government officials (who spend other people's money, not their own). If customers aren't satisfied, the business will lose market share to competitors whose customers are satisfied. The ultimate benefit goes to society in having better and cheaper products and services. Throwing the wrench that is corporate welfare into a free market creates distortion and corruption. And the ultimate detriment goes to society in having worse and more expensive products and services.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bedrooms Are For Beds, Not Televisions

Since my early teenage years to the time that I got married, a television set served as a member of my bedroom, as did a video game system and eventually a computer. As wonderful as these things are, I am now convinced that none of them belong in a bedroom. Something I committed to when I get married was to remove the television set from my bedroom and never allow it to return. And I've been true to that commitment to this day. The reason that I decided to do this was because I learned what a television set in the bedroom does to our bodies. It trains them to do precisely what we don't want them to do when they hit the bed: Stay Awake! This was my biggest problem, one that I failed to see the cause of during the time that I had a television set in my bedroom.

However, I am glad to report that not falling asleep quickly is no longer a problem for me. You see, I have trained my body over the last three years to go to sleep when I lay in my bed. By not using the bed to do anything other than sleep, my body has learned to shut down when it senses I'm in my bed. This is a wonderful thing my body has learned to do. And it's true.

Now there are other reasons that we shouldn't have television sets in our bedrooms but I'd like to focus on why we shouldn't allow our children to have television sets in their bedrooms. Believe it or not there are actual studies about this very thing and their findings are revealing:

  • According to the Science Section of the New York Times, after collating various research on bedroom television sets, conclude that, "Children with bedroom TV's score lower on school tests and are more likely to have sleep problems. Having a television in the bedroom is strongly associated with being overweight and a higher risk for smoking."
  • A study of kids between the ages of 4 and 7 showed that placing a TV in the bedroom increased weekly viewing by nearly nine hours—from 21 hours, to 30. "Under these circumstances, children read less, and make less progress in school. What's more, parents don't keep track of what kids watch in their own rooms, or how much time they spend on the tube."
  • A 2002 study in the journal "Pediatrics" showed that the presence of a bedroom television set greatly increased the risk of being overweight or obese.
  • A 2007 study in the same journal showed that students aged 12 to 14 with a bedroom television set were more than twice as likely to start smoking as those without television sets. (Even after controlling for the risk factors of have a parent of friend who smoked.)

I don't believe there is a single good reason to allow television sets, or video game sets, or computers in our children's bedrooms. Now that I'm a parent, I think more about this sort of thing, as I'm sure, as I hope, all parents do. And I hope that you'll commit as I have in keeping television sets in their proper place, anywhere but the bedroom.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Public Shootings and Self-Defense

I wrote the below a year ago for a college writing class. The assignment was to right a persuasive essay; and like all persuasive essays the topic I chose was one that I truly believe in. The right to defend ourselves and our families from harm is God-given and central to the preservation of liberty:

Public Shootings and Self-Defense – May 24th, 2007

Recently, there have been two major public killing sprees; the rampages at Trolley Square, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia. A not so recent public killing spree occurred at Columbine High School, Columbine, Colorado. These events have spurred both public outcry for tighter gun control, and an increase in applications for a concealed weapons permit. The media have hosted the debate on their front pages. Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, one thing should be very clear: Nature has endowed life with the unalienable right to self-preservation. From the beginning, life has never questioned whether or not this right exists, at least not until this last century.

It is logical to assume that life forms have done everything in their power to protect themselves from harm since life was first introduced on this planet. This is readily observable in the world we live in today. The Discovery Channel has weekly specials portraying such behavior in the plant and animal kingdoms. And there is a plethora of so-called reality television shows that portray such behavior among human beings. Of course, we only need to open our eyes and look around to see the very same behavior exhibited in everyday life.

Such a topic as life or the preservation of life brings with it pages upon pages of scientific and scholarly research. I would like to direct this short essay towards understanding the unalienable right human beings are born with to defend themselves against an immediate threat to their physical person. Early man would protect himself from predators and enemies with clubs, sticks, and the occasional rock throw. Moving through time, what appears in the archaeological record are several types of bows and knives. Eventually, we encounter the invention of the sword and the crossbow. These are all weapons that were used for personal protection in both times of peace and during war, some more easily concealable than others.

Since the mid-second millennium A.D., personal weapons have evolved from hand-held canons, to rifles and pistols. Rifles vary from small pellet-guns to high-powered precision rifles and fully-automatic assault rifles. Pistols, or handguns, come in various sizes from requiring two hands to handle to no bigger than the size of a credit card. Handguns are easier to conceal than rifles and can be used powerfully at a distance, unlike a knife. Both pistols and knives are ideal for everyday, everywhere, personal protection.

With the ratification of the Constitution of the United States with its first ten amendments, the natural right to self defense became a politically legal right to bear arms, which of course includes anything that can be used to protect oneself, including firearms. Not only did this right include protecting oneself from criminals but also from the oppression of tyranny in government. Among other rights guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States, this one was a milestone in the advancement of human liberty. Since the time this milestone was achieved, many have tried to use the power of democracy, or majority rule, to restrict the basic right of self defense. To make it harder for a person to defend him or herself is immoral, with or without a majority vote.

Several places, both public and private, have created what they call "Gun-free Zones" in order to persuade (or in some cases coerce) people from maximizing their level of self protection. They should more accurately be called "Defense-free Zones" because that is what they are. They invite the criminal and deranged to a safe place to prey on the innocent, as has been the case with public massacres in the last decade, September 11th excepted.

Lunatics have a brain and use it when planning such operations as Columbine, Trolley Square, and Virginia Tech. All these places were touted as gun-free and a safe place to come learn or shop and eat. The places not targeted by criminals itching to murder several people are hunting exhibitions, gun shows, and rifle ranges, for the obvious reason that it would be extremely difficult to do such a thing where, in all probability, the majority of people there are carrying some sort of gun. Instead, criminals choose places where they calculate the probability of anybody carrying protection is extremely low, such as schools and shopping malls. This gives them the confidence they need to carry-out as much carnage as they can before being stopped or committing suicide.

One place we are still allowed the protection that guns give us is our home. In America, certain cities excluded, unfortunately, we are allowed to own and keep as many guns as we'd like in our own homes, where we can secure our most valuable possessions including our families from the threat of physical harm.

In conclusion, I would just like to reiterate the fact that all life; plants, animals, and human beings, have the unalienable right to self preservation by the most advantageous means possible. To deny or restrict this right is immoral and against everything America was created for. This nation has been the leader in the advancement of human liberty for over two hundred years. At its very foundation is the right to self defense from criminals and the oppression of tyranny in government.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bastiat’s “The Law”

Frederic Bastiat was a Nineteenth Century economist, statesman, and author, born in France and served as a Deputy to the Legislative Assembly around the time of the French Revolution of 1948. "He did most of his writing during the years just before—and immediately following—the Revolution… As a Deputy…, Mr. Bastiat was studying and explaining each socialist fallacy as it appeared. And he explained how socialism must inevitably degenerate into communism. But most of his countrymen chose to ignore his logic."

The Law is a masterpiece and a must read for anybody who wants to understand the purpose of the law in keeping a just society. "For Bastiat, law is a negative. He agreed with a friend who pointed out that it is imprecise to say that law should create justice. In truth, the law should prevent injustice. 'Justice is achieved only when injustice is absent.' That may strike some readers as dubious. But on reflection, one can see that a free and just society is what results when forcible intervention against individuals does not occur; when they are left alone."

A short Q&A should suffice in revealing just what Bastiat's The Law is about. And I believe it a must read for anyone who is ever interested in analyzing public policy:

Q: What is Law?
A: "It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense. Each of us has a natural right—from God—to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties?

If every person has the right to defend—even by force—his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right—its reason for existing, its lawfulness—is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force—for the same reason—cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.

Such a perversion of force would be, in both cases, contrary to our premise. Force has been given to us to defend our own individual rights. Who will dare to say that force has been given to us to destroy the equal rights of our brothers? Since no individual acting separately can lawfully use force to destroy the rights of others, does it not logically follow that the same principle also applies to the common force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces?

If this is true, then nothing can be more evident than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all."

Q: What are the tendencies of mankind?
A: "Self-preservation and self-development are common aspirations among all people. And if everyone enjoyed unrestricted use of his faculties and the free disposition of the fruits of his labor, social progress would be ceaseless, uninterrupted, and unfailing.

But there is another tendency that is common among people. When they can, they wish to live and prosper at the expense of others. This is no rash accusation. Nor does it come from a gloomy and uncharitable spirit. The annals of history bear witness to the truth of it: the incessant wars, mass migrations, religious persecutions, universal slavery, dishonesty in commerce, and monopolies. This fatal desires has its origin in the very nature of man—in that primitive, universal, and insuppressible instinct that impels him to satisfy his desires with the least possible pain."

Q: What is liberty?
A: "Actually, what is the political struggle that we witness? It is the instinctive struggle of all people toward liberty. And what is this liberty, whose very name makes the heart beat faster and shakes the world? Is it not the union of all liberties—liberty of conscience, of education, of association, of the press, of travel, of labor, of trade? In short, is not liberty the freedom of every person to make full use of his faculties, so long as he does not harm other persons while doing so? Is not liberty the destruction of all despotism—including, of course, legal despotism? Finally, is not liberty the restricting of the law only to its rational sphere of organizing the right of the individual to lawful self-defense; of punishing injustice?

It must be admitted that the tendency of the human race toward liberty is largely thwarted… This is greatly due to a fatal desire—learned from the teachings of antiquity—that our writers on public affairs have in common: They desire to set themselves above mankind in order to arrange, organize, and regulate it according to their fancy."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality?

A few months ago, I read another of Thomas Sowell's many books, this one published in the year I was born, 1984. As I'm sure you've figured out by now, I hold Mr. Sowell in very high regard. He is intellectually honest and, as an African-American, he's not shy to report the facts when it comes to race-related issues. Many of his books, if written by a Caucasian-American, may have never been published, or if they were, created wide-spread controversy and indignation. Not that what he writes about hasn't created indignation, it has, but because he's black, he's simply written off as an "Uncle Tom". The book I read is titled Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality?, and is "a brutally frank, perceptive and important contribution to the national debate over the means to achieve equality and social justice for minorities and women." In this book, Mr. Sowell "has forced civil rights advocates to take a hard look at what has, and has not, been accomplished in the three decades since the struggle for racial equality began."

As is my style, I would like to share with you just a few of the richest parts of one of Thomas Sowell's best books:

Preface
"Civil rights are among the most honored achievements of Western civilization. In the United States, civil rights for all people has been a goal for which an uphill fight has been waged, literally for centuries, at great human cost—including the lives of many who dared to stand up for what was right, even when it would have been far more expedient to look the other way. The Supreme Court decision against racial segregation in May 1954 was a landmark victory over some of the ugliest forces buried in American history. Yet the more honored and stirring any concept is, the more certain it is to be misused for the benefit of special interest. The Bible was used to justify slavery. 'Civil Rights' has come to mean many very different things—including some meanings that would be both foreign and repugnant to many of those whose struggles and sacrifices made civil rights possible."

The Civil Rights Vision
"Brown v. Board of Education may have been intended to close the door on an ugly chapter in American history going back to slavery and including both petty and gross bigotry, blatant discrimination, and violence and terror extending all the way to brutal and sadistic lynching. Yet it also opened a door to political, constitutional, and human crises. It was not simply a decision but the beginning of a revolution that has not yet run its course, but which has already shown the classic symptoms of a revolution taking a very different path from that envisioned by the who set it in motion."

From Equal Opportunity to "Affirmative Action"
"Those who carry the civil rights vision to its ultimate conclusion see no great difference between promoting equality of opportunity and equality of results. If there are not equal results among groups presumed to have equal genetic potential, then some inequality of opportunity must have intervened somewhere, and the question of precisely where is less important than the remedy of restoring the less fortunate to their just position. The fatal flaw in this kind of thinking is that there are many reasons, besides genes and discrimination, why groups differ in their economic performances and rewards. Groups differ by large amounts demographically, culturally, and geographically—and all of these differences have profound effects on incomes and occupations."

From School Desegregation to Busing
"The actual history of racial and ethnic education in the United States has played remarkably little role in the sweeping theories and pronouncements behind court-ordered busing—except in the special case of blacks, where one-group schools were only part of a much larger and complex system of oppression under Jim Crow laws. Yet, for purposes of busing orders, 'minority' children include Hispanics and Asians—even though the latter often out-perform the white children who are depicted as an urgent necessity for their education. Yet, in another sense, inclusion of the Asians is perfectly consistent. Under the assumptions of the civil rights vision, Asians as non-whites should not be doing as well in school as they do, just as they should not be doing as well as they do in the job market. The question, then, is whether assumptions are to be accepted for their plausibility and their conformity to larger social vision, or whether even the most plausible and satisfying assumptions must nevertheless be forces to confront actual facts."

The Special Case of Blacks
"Why should discussion of positive achievements by blacks ever be a source of embarrassment, much less resentment, on the part of black leaders? Because many of these positive achievements occurred in ways that completely undermine the civil rights vision. If crime is a product of poverty and discrimination as they say endlessly, why was there so much less of it when poverty and discrimination were much worse than today? If massive programs are the only hope to reduce violence in the ghetto, why was there so much less violence long before anyone ever thought of these programs? Perhaps more to the point, have the philosophies and policies so much supported by black leaders contributed to the decline in community and personal standards, and in family responsibility, so painfully visible today? For many, it may be easier to ignore past achievements than to face their implications for current issues."

The Special Case of Women
"The central '59 percent' cliché [(the non sequitur, that a woman is paid just 59 percent of what a man receives for doing the same work, that is derived from the statistic that says the median annual income of women has generally fluctuated at a level just under three-fifths of that of men)] would require us to believe that employers could survive in a competitive market, paying nearly 70 percent more for given labor than they have to, whenever that labor is male. Even if employers were that needlessly generous to men, or so consumed by ideology, waste of this magnitude would be economically fatal to those businessmen who happened to have more men on the payroll than their competitors. Far smaller differences in cost have sent innumerable businesses into bankruptcies. As in so many other areas, the civil rights vision is so preoccupied with individual intentions that it ignores systemic effects."

Rhetoric or Reality?
"The battle for civil rights was fought and won—at great cost—many years ago. Like any fundamental human achievement, these rights cannot be taken for granted and must be safeguarded. But civil rights are not protected or enhanced by the growing practice of calling every issue raised by 'spokesmen' for minority, female, elderly, or other groups, 'civil rights' issues. The right to vote is a civil right. The right to win is not. Equal treatment does not mean equal results. Everything desirable is not a civil right. Nor are the institutions or methods that produced civil rights likely to produce all the other things required to advance minorities, women, or others."

The Degeneration of Racial Controversy
"One of the many painful contrasts between that era [Brown v. Board of Education] and today is that evidence is increasingly evaded by those who speak in the name of civil rights. Whether it is low test scores or high crime rates, the first order of business is to dismiss the evidence and discredit those who bring it. Even good news—successful minority schools or the rise of a black middle class—is denounced when it does not fit the preconceived vision. Unvarnished facts are today more likely to arouse suspicion and hostility than any joyous anticipation of more ammunition for the good fight."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Internet Anonymity

Dennis Prager wrote an excellent analysis in October 2007 on anonymity on the Internet, specifically anonymous comments posted in comment sections of blogs, online newspapers, etc. The column can be found here. An excerpt below:

"The Internet practice of giving everyone the ability to express himself anonymously for millions to read has debased public discourse. Cursing, ad hominem attacks and/or the utter absence of logic characterize a large percentage of many websites' 'comments' sections. And because people tend to do what society says it is OK to do, many people, especially younger people, are coming to view such primitive forms of self-expression as acceptable."

Monday, February 11, 2008

In Defense of Global Capitalism

I just finished reading an insightful book on globalization by Swedish think tank Timbro's Jonah Norberg titled In Defense of Global Capitalism. This book is the first to rebut, "systematically and thoroughly, the claims of the anti-globalization movement. With facts, statistics and graphs, [the author] shows why capitalism is in the process of creating a better world." Below I have selected my favorite parts of my favorite chapters from the book and hope that they will prove insightful to you as well:

The Preface
"By capitalism I do not specifically mean an economic system of capital ownership and investment opportunities. Those things can also exist in a command economy. What I mean is the [classic liberal] market economy, with free competition based on the right to use one's property and the freedom to negotiate, to conclude agreements, and to start up business activities. What I am defending, then, is individual liberty in the economy. Capitalists are dangerous when, instead of seeking profit through competition, they join forces with the government…they are [then] a threat to the free market and as such must be criticized and counteracted… What I believe in, [first and foremost], is man's capacity for achieving great things, and the combined force that results from our interactions and exchanges. I plead for greater liberty and a more open world, not because I believe one system happens to be more efficient than another, but because those things provide a settings that unleashes individual creativity as no other system can. They spur the dynamism that has lead to human, economic, scientific, and [technological] advances. Believing in capitalism does not mean believing in growth, the economy, or efficiency. Desirable as they may be, those are only the results. At its core, belief in capitalism is belief in mankind."

Oppression of Women
"It is true, as many complain, that globalization upsets old traditions and habits. How, for example, do you maintain patriarchal family traditions when children are suddenly earning more than the head of the family? One of the traditions challenged by globalization is the long-standing subjugation of women. Through cultural contacts and the interchange of ideas, new hopes and ideals are disseminated."

That's Capitalism for You!
"The growth of world prosperity is not a 'miracle' or any of the other mystifying terms we customarily apply to countries that have succeeded economically and socially. Schools are not built, nor are incomes generated, by sheer luck, like a bolt from the blue. These things happen when people begin to think along new lines and work hard to bring their ideas to fruition. But people do that everywhere, and there is no reason why certain people in certain places during certain periods in history should be intrinsically smarter or more capable than others. What makes the difference is whether the environment permits and encourages ideas and work, or instead puts obstacles in the way. That depends on whether people are free to explore their way ahead, to own property, to invest for the long term, to conclude private agreements, and to trade with others. In short, it depends on whether or not the countries have capitalism. In the affluent world we have had capitalism in one form or another for a couple of centuries. That is how the countries of the West became 'the affluent world.' Capitalism has given people both the liberty and the incentive to create, produce, and trade, thereby generating prosperity."

Property Rights—For The Sake of the Poor
"Capitalism is not a perfect system, and it is not good for everyone all the time. Critics of globalization are good at pointing out individual harms—a factory that has closed down, a wage that has been reduced. Such things do happen, but by concentrating solely on individual instances, one may miss the larger reality of how a political or economic system generally works and what fantastic values it confers on the great majority compared with other alternatives. Problems are found in every political and economic system, but rejecting all systems is not an option. Hunting down negative examples of what can happen in a market economy is easy enough. By that method water or fire can be proved to be bad things, because some people drown and some get burned to death, but this isn't the full picture."

Mutual Benefit
"Trade results in the person who has a knack for making bicycles doing just that, the person who is best at cutting hair working as a hairdresser, and the person who is best at manufacturing television sets taking a job in the TV factory. Then those workers exchange, so as to get what they each want. Through free trade, we can consume goods and services that we could never have produced ourselves. The possibility of free choice means that we can choose the best and cheapest goods possible. Free choice gives us access to goods that we cannot procure by ourselves. In a Minnesota grocery we can buy bananas and pineapples, even though neither is likely to be found on a Minnesota farm. Even in northern latitudes, fresh green vegetables are on sale all winter, and people in landlocked countries can buy salmon from Norway. Free trade results in goods and services being produced by whoever is best at producing them and then being sold to whoever wants to buy them. That's really all there is to it."

Freedom of Movement—For People As Well
"Openness to immigration and emigration is also important for the sake of a living society. A diverse population, comprising people with different starting points and values, provides a greater variety of perspectives on long-standing social problems, and perhaps also a better chance of finding creative solutions to them. Immigrants can take what is most viable in American culture and combine it with traditions of their own, and native-born Americans can do likewise. Cultural innovation almost always flows from the contact or fusion of different cultures. It is no coincidence that the United States, the most dynamic society in history, was built by immigrants… In this way the [U.S.] is constantly renewing itself and laying the foundations of continued global leadership—economic, cultural, and scientific."

Let Them Keep Their Tariffs
"If we in the affluent countries truly believe in free trade, we must abolish our tariffs and quotas without demanding concessions from others. Forbidding the poor of the world to develop is immoral. Besides, we ourselves stand to benefit from freer imports, even if others do not want to import from us. But that does not mean it is wise of the Third World to protect its own industries with trade barriers. On the contrary, the best thing for their populations is for their tariffs also to be abolished. Those who want them to preserve their tariffs may constitute an inverted, mirror image of traditional protectionists, but the face in the mirror is no more attractive than the original."

Big is Beautiful
"What has happened in the age of globalization is not that corporations have acquired more power through free trade. They used to be far more powerful—and still are—in dictatorships and controlled economies. Large, powerful corporations have always been able to corrupt public institutions by colluding with rulers and hobnobbing with them on luncheons and dinners. They have been able to obtain protection through monopolies, tariffs, and subsidies just be placing a phone call to political leaders. Free trade has exposed corporations to competition. Above all, consumers have been made freer, so that now they can ruthlessly pick and choose even across national borders, rejecting those firms that don't measure up."

The Right to Choose a Culture
"The cultural encounters of globalization reduce the risk of people being trapped in one culture. This may come as bad news to the guardians of tradition, but many people can imagine no greater triumph than escaping from the stereotypes and constraints of their own cultures. Globalization may be necessary in order to escape hidebound gender roles, to be allowed to live according to one's own values, or to break the family traditions and enter a career of one's own choosing. Having other cultural expressions to refer to can help. How can the elite maintain that their own way of life is the only possible one when television and the Internet carry so much information about an infinite number of alternatives?…Regularly meeting people who do not think and live like oneself is an effective antidote to narrow-mindedness, parochialism, and smug complacency."