Thursday, January 29, 2009

End The Postal Service Monopoly

An Associated Press article today reveals the woes of the United States Postal Service. They are so bad, that the Postmaster General is asking to reduce the number of delivery days from 6 to 5. Would that reduce the number of mail items to deliver? Of course not. So long as the USPS has a legal monopoly on first-class mail, they will continue to pass their high-losses on to taxpayers and remain un-innovative and un-competitive. I believe the USPS should lose it's monopoly privilege. I don't think there has ever been or is there now logical justification for the United State Postal Service have that monopoly privilege. It should be abolish and the delivery of first-class mail left for the free-market to handle. UPS and FedEx have done a fantastic job with world-wide package deliver thus far.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Let Property Rights Prevail - Smoking

I'm not a smoker, but I am a supporter of property rights. If I don't want to smoke in my house, or let anyone else smoke in my house, I have that right. But what if I want to smoke in my house, or let someone else smoke in my house? I believe I would have just as much right. This applies not only to my house, but to any property I own. (Or so it should.)

Unfortunately, mini-tyrants all around us have fought to diminish those property rights and take away that decision from property owners. Utah has an indoor clean air act that defines privately-owned but publicly used building owners, such as shopping malls, as having no rights to make the decision whether or not to allow indoor smoking. I think this is absurd. In 2006, a law was passed, updating the clean air act to include privately-own bars. So much for liberty. Why do these tyrants get away with it? The answer...because society lets them. Society has used democracy to trample all over our property rights. There twisted justification is that these places would be unsafe because smoking would be allowed. But that's not true. Here to elaborate how giving back our property rights and putting the choice back in the hands of owners is a better alternative, both for our health and for our freedom, is Andrew Cohen writing for FEE's The Freeman in 1998. An excerpt:
Besides a concern about the proper scope of law, smoking regulations undermine two important foundations for voluntary relationships, one economic, the other social . Economically, regulations direct merchants’ attentions away from customers and toward the demands of bureaucrats. That undermines the discipline a free market imposes, where merchants must satisfy customers or go out of business. Merchants must tune less to the signals customers give and more to the demands imposed by regulators.

Perhaps more important (and more fundamentally), a regulatory regime undermines the basis for voluntary social relationships. In a civil society, one can request that others accommodate your needs. In relationships defined by mutual concern and trust, people would (and perhaps should) voluntarily stop doing things others see as a nuisance. Mature adults in voluntary relationships do not need to be chaperoned by the state in matters of basic civility. Regulatory supervision undermines the authentic concern people can and should show one another on the way to developing meaningful relationships of all sorts. But smoking or dinances give individuals no choice but to do what regulators want them to do. They are deprived of the chance of expressing genuine concern for others.

Where individuals greet one another as equals, the give-and-take of ordinary human encounters can, over time, foster relationships where they learn to care about one another’s needs. When regulations define their relationship in advance, they are as children on a vigilantly supervised playground. In such circumstances they have less reason to rise above the petty squabbles that maturity and concern for others should serve to resolve.

The President vs. Economists

The Cato Institute has ran a full page ad today in most major newspapers across the country defending the view that President Obama was wrong when he said, "There is no disagreement that we need action by our government, a recovery plan that will help to jump-start the economy." The ad contains the names of over 200 accomplished economists, including Nobel laureates James Buchanan, Edward Prescott, and Vernon Smith. The ad and relevant resources can be found here. The statement reads:
Notwithstanding reports that all economists are now Keynesians and that we all support a big increase in the burden of government, we the undersigned do not believe that more government spending is a way to improve economic performance. More government spending by Hoover and Roosevelt did not pull the United States economy out of the Great Depression in the 1930s. More government spending did not solve Japan's "lost decade" in the 1990s. As such, it is a triumph of hope over experience to believe that more government spending will help the U.S. today. To improve the economy, policymakers should focus on reforms that remove impediments to work, saving, investment and production. Lower tax rates and a reduction in the burden of government are the best ways of using fiscal policy to boost growth.
This should cause skepticism towards the idea that a fiscal "stimulus" will have a positive effect on the current economic crisis.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama = Bush II

As time goes on since President Obama took over as Commander-in-chief, the possibility that America will continue to be involved in oversea wars is strengthening. As he said during the campaign, he wants to send more troops into the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Obama very well could leave an Afghanistan War legacy, when it's all said and done. Unfortunately, that doesn't sound like the "change" we were led to believe in. And it's reasonable to assume that as the American presence increases in Afghanistian and decreases in Iraq, terrorists organizations could relocate westward. Then back to Iraq we go. Where would it end? What's the solution? I find myself leaning more and more toward the position that Texas Congressman Ron Paul has been proposing since the war began, namely, stop occupying and policing the world, leading to more and more international conflict and domestic debt. Here's Ron Paul on Obama's Foreign Policy thus far:

Rep. Ron Paul on Obama's Foreign Policy

Blog Names Changed

Changed the naming convention of my blogs. They are as follow:

Truth | Skyler Collins --> Truth.SC
Faith | Skyler Collins --> Faith.SC
Life | Skyler Collins --> Life.SC

Does World Trade Need World Government?

There are two camps of opposition to globalization, or global capitalism. The first, on the left end of the political spectrum, worry about third-world exploitation. I have blogged about this here and here. The second, on the the right end of the spectrum, worry about ever more expansive world government. To the second group this post is directed. Writing for the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Llewellyn Rockwell answers the question "Does World Trade Need World Government?" An excerpt:
The case for free trade has been made for hundreds of years, and yet the fight for the right to buy and sell outside the borders is never ending. The situation is complicated by a major confusion that exists among free trade advocates. Many believe that world trade, because it is a good thing, ought to be sanctioned, managed, and otherwise regulated by the government or a coalition of governments. Thus was the intellectual error behind the creation of the World Trade Organization, an international bureaucracy that was supposed to open up trade but has ended up politicizing it and creating international conflict where none need exist.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Austrian Economics Predicted Crisis

In this incredible video, Ron Paul is shown in several clips and quotes from the beginning of the decade predicting what is now upon us. It's unfortunate that our government continues in the error of their ways. For more on the Austrian school of economics of which Paul subscribes, visit the Ludwig von Mises Institute homepage. You will find a plethora of resources, dating back decades, calling for an end to the Federal Reserve system:

The U.S. Economic Collapse

Friday, January 23, 2009

Obama = Bush

Yes, 3 children. No worries, they're just collateral damage. See here. An excerpt:
Missiles fired from suspected US drones killed at least 15 people inside Pakistan today, the first such strikes since Barack Obama became president and a clear sign that the controversial military policy begun by George W Bush has not changed.

Security officials said the strikes, which saw up to five missiles slam into houses in separate villages, killed seven "foreigners" - a term that usually means al-Qaeda - but locals also said that three children lost their lives.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fannie Executive Discusses Scope of Housing Bust

Edward Pinto, Chief Credit Officer of Fannie Mae from 1987 to 1989, discusses the reasons for the recent housing bubble bust in a podcast with Chip Hanlon of Market Neutral. It is certainly an interesting interview. Take from it what you will. It can be found here. An excerpt:
Edward: Congress is the only entity. It's a congressionally granted charter. The only way to protect their [Fannie and Freddie] charter and the provisions under it that were very, very valuable - the high leverage, the high portfolio that they could do, the implicit government guarantee, the exemption from taxes, the exemption from SEC oversight - these were all part of their charter.

And in order to protect that, the decision was made to embrace the charter and the strategy for protecting it was affordable housing. And Congress embraced tha strategy with a vengeance.

Chip: Getting into it for the first time.

Edward: In 1992, put in a provision requiring Fannie and Freddie to do affordable housing in a certain percentage to be set by HUD. So now they had HUD setting the goals. And HUD has been a disaster when it comes to affordable housing.

Chip: And thus our first slide into this mess.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Do We Own Our Organs?

That's right, do we, each of us, own our organs? Do we own ourselves? If we own ourselves then surely we own our organs. If we own our organs, can we sell them or donate them to others? We can donate them, for sure, but what about selling them? Why can't we? Several thousand people die every year waiting for organ donation. For kidney's, over 3,000 people die each year. That's how many people died at the hands of Osama bin Ladin on September 11, 2001. Why so many? Why the shortage of organs?

Well, economics tells us that when the price of something is kept artificially low, demand increases as supply withers. And since the price of organs is kept at $0, the result is death. People die because other people can't sell them one of their extra kidneys. If they could, I'm confident that organ shortages would disappear and lives would be saved. Such is the case in Iran, of all places. In Iran, it's legal to sell one of your organs, and they have no organ shortages. Why isn't it legal here? Everyone else profits in the procedure except the one who gives up the organ. Here to really demonstrate all that's involved in the fight to make organ selling legal is Reason.tv's host Drew Carey:

Organ Transplant - Kideys For Sale, Drew Carey, Reason.tv
For a Quicktime HD .mov version, right-click, save-link-as here.


Monday, January 19, 2009

21 to Drink, Costs vs. Benefits

Radley Balko, senior editor for Reason magazine, recently spoke with former president of Middlebury College, John McCardell. John McCardell is known as the founder of "an organization called Choose Responsibility, which waged a national campaign to lower the drinking age to 18. The soft-spoken scholar soon found that many other campus executives felt the same way. In early 2008 he started the Amethyst Initiative, a collective of college presidents urging a public discussion about the drinking age. At press time, the Amethyst Initiative had 130 signatories, including the presidents of Duke, Tufts, Dartmouth, and Johns Hopkins." The short interview can be found here. An excerpt:
Q: Why lower the drinking age?

A: We’ve had a law on the books for 24 years now. You don’t need an advanced degree to see that the law has utterly failed. Seventy-five percent of high school seniors have consumed alcohol. Sixty-six percent of high school sophomores have.

The law abridges the age of majority. It hasn’t reduced consumption but has only made it riskier. Finally, it has disenfranchised parents and removed any opportunity for adults to educate or to model responsible behavior about alcohol.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

In Defense of Sweatshops II

Believe it or not, the New York Times actually printed a column in favor of factories in third-world countries commonly called "sweatshops". Op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote and created a short documentary about the benefits that these sweatshop give to foreign workers. I can't say enough how much I support efforts to increase the number of these factories appearing in the third-world. I truly believe it is the only way to raise their standard of living and to save lives. And I believe measures taken that oppose such are evil. The article and video can be found here. The introduction:
Before Barack Obama and his team act on their talk about “labor standards,” I’d like to offer them a tour of the vast garbage dump here in Phnom Penh.

This is a Dante-like vision of hell. It’s a mountain of festering refuse, a half-hour hike across, emitting clouds of smoke from subterranean fires.

The miasma of toxic stink leaves you gasping, breezes batter you with filth, and even the rats look forlorn. Then the smoke parts and you come across a child ambling barefoot, searching for old plastic cups that recyclers will buy for five cents a pound. Many families actually live in shacks on this smoking garbage.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Greed: Capitalists vs. Politicians

From a short excerpt of a 1979 interview with Phil Donahue, economist Milton Friedman contrasts greedy capitalists with greedy politicians:

Milton Friedman - Greed

Separation of State and Marriage II

After the November elections, I posted some observations on the outcome of California's Proposition 8 determining how marriage should be defined. I reasoned that because society has chosen to use government to define marriage, that Proposition 8's passage was fair. Now, having government define marriage begs the question on why. I gave reason for that as well. None of this is to say, however, that I agree that government should define marriage. In fact, I lean heavily towards marriage being defined privately, with government taking a limited, judicial role in enforcing the rules of private contracts. To understand this point of view, read this article from 1997 by Cato Institute's David Boaz. An excerpt:
So why not privatize marriage? Make it a private contract between two individuals. If they wanted to contract for a traditional breadwinner/homemaker setup, with specified rules for property and alimony in the event of divorce, they could do so. Less traditional couples could keep their assets separate and agree to share specified expenses. Those with assets to protect could sign prenuptial agreements that courts would respect. Marriage contracts could be as individually tailored as other contracts are in our diverse capitalist world. For those who wanted a standard one-size-fits-all contract, that would still be easy to obtain. Wal-Mart could sell books of marriage forms next to the standard rental forms. Couples would then be spared the surprise discovery that outsiders had changed their contract without warning. Individual churches, synagogues, and temples could make their own rules about which marriages they would bless.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Free-Market has Greater Incentives for Progress

The free-market has always provided greater incentives for technological progress than any beauracracy ever could. Just last year, John McCain came up with the "brilliant" idea of rewarding anyone who could invent a battery to efficiently power a car $300 million of taxpayer money. What he obviously didn't consider is that such an invention would make the inventor just as much if not more on the free-market. The incentives for progress are already there, so long as the government gets out of the way, ie through lower taxes and burdensom regulations. The free-market has a track record a million times bigger than government in solving our problems. And it's no different when it comes to our energy problems.

Why am I talking about this? Because I just read an article about an invention that will help restaurants save money spent on energy and recycle their used vegetable oil. It's called the Vegawatt, and was designed by James Peret. It didn't require any government intervention for Peret to design his machine. In fact, government intervention could have made it more difficult. Thankfully, the (mostly) free-market is there to provide just the right incentives for men like James Peret to use their inherent self-interest to advance the position of mankind. The article can be found here via the Wired magazine blog. (Pictured below is restaurant and first Vegawatt owner George Carey.)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

An Interview with Thomas Sowell

I owe a bit of gratitude to economist and intellectual Thomas Sowell for his awakening my senses to the field of economics. Not only was his the first book I read about economics (Basic Economics), but his others books were the first I read that challenged my theretofore understanding of the world. In promoting his latest book published in early 2008, Economic Facts and Fallacies, Thomas Sowell is here interviewed by Peter Robinson on February 21, 2008. They talk about such topics as the incomes of women, income levels, college tuition, and the misconceptions of Black America. I encourage you to both watch the interview and to buy one of his books the next time you're browsing around Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com.

Uncommon Knowledge - Thomas Sowell - Fora.tv

The Benefits of Open Immigration

With the start of the 111th Congress, not only new issues, but old unresolved issues are sure to be debated. One of those could be immigration reform. Obviously, it has been a pretty hot topic over the last couple of years and is likely to resurface in the near future. It's important to know what is and what is not good immigration policy. For that, I give you an article from The Freeman from 1995 titled "Coming to America: The Benefits of Open Immigration," found here. The introduction:
For centuries, the American culture has been a beacon of hope to the oppressed peoples of collectivist economies and authoritarian or totalitarian governments throughout the world. Why then do the American people—descendants of immigrants, beneficiaries of open and unregulated immigration, whose culture, economy, government, and way of life are so deeply tied to open borders—exude such a passion against free immigration? Why do they wish so desperately to deny late twentieth-century immigrants the benefits to which their own eighteenth- and nineteenth-century ancestors were privileged? What do Americans have against open borders?

American immigration policy is a labyrinth of regulations and barriers to free travel and migration. One wishing to enter this country must possess all the legal and “proper” documentation in order to be permitted entry. The poverty-stricken and homeless foreigners who expect to benefit most from immigrating into the American economy rarely possess resources adequate for legal entry. Hence, they are denied. Such immigration policy is based upon a xenophobic confusion regarding economics, the mobility of labor, the American welfare state, and cultural diversity.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Great Myths of the Great Depression

Yes, you read that title correctly. The public's understanding of the causes of the both the 1929 stock market crash and the ensuing Great Depression is full of myths. The good news is a greater number of economists and historians over the last 40+ years, starting with Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz's A Monetary History of the United States published in 1963, have begun to unravel the real causes of the 1920's boom, the bust, and the depression. These causes are governmental in origin, not free-market. There have been several scholarly works published since then including Murray Rothbard's America's Great Depression to the recent New Deal or Raw Deal? by Burton Folsom. There are several others, but a smaller compilation of all the myth-busting facts has been written by the Foundation for Economic Education's president Lawrence Reed in an essay titled Great Myths of the Great Depression. I have just completed it and believe the arguments summarized are sound. The 1929 crash and Great Depression were caused and prolonged through government action, not the free-market. In mine and a large (and growing) number of economists and historian's view, that is an indisputable fact. Please take the time to read the article in it's entirety. It can be found here in html and here in pdf. A few excerpts:
"The stock market crash was only a reflection — not the direct cause — of the destructive government policies that would ultimately produce the Great Depression: The market rose and fell in almost direct synchronization with what the Fed and Congress were doing. And what they did in the 1930s ranks way up there in the annals of history’s greatest follies."

"The genesis of the Great Depression lay in the irresponsible monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government in the late 1920s and early 1930s. These policies included a litany of political missteps: central bank mismanagement, trade-crushing tariffs, incentive-sapping taxes, mind-numbing controls on production and competition, senseless destruction of crops and cattle and coercive labor laws, to recount just a few. It was not the free market that produced 12 years of agony; rather, it was political bungling on a grand scale."

And in his final remarks:

"Are you tired of politicians blaming each other, scrambling to cover their behinds and score political points in the midst of a crisis, and piling debts upon debts they audaciously label “stimulus packages”?  Why do so many Americans want to trust them with their health care, education, retirement and a host of other aspects of their lives? It’s madness writ large. The antidote is the truth. We must learn the lessons of our follies and resolve to fix them now, not later."