Saturday, May 30, 2009

Miracles of The Market II

In my last post in this series, I talked about traveling across the country for business. That is not, however, the biggest part of my job. My primary responsibility is assisting users of my company's software when they get stuck and need help. Those users are motorcycle dealership employees, managers, and owners from all over North America.

The utilities that I have available to use are amazing. Even though these users are located all over the continent, and beyond, they are able to talk, in real-time, to me in a matter of minutes, and sometimes seconds. As amazing as that is, my support capabilities go even further. Without pre-installing any additional software, my users can give me remote access to their computers, and while talking with them on the phone, it is as if I'm sitting with them at their desk.

I literally can talk and control the computer of someone anywhere in the world. The furthest I've ever "traveled" in this regard is Hawaii. Everyday I help twenty to thirty users from the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, and even Jamaica. And I am only one support technician on a team of over thirty. All of us talking and remotely controlling computers all around North America, helping motorcycle dealers run their business and keep their systems in order.

Having the software that we have developed is amazing enough when it comes to efficiently running a power-sports business, but to get the kind and quality of support that we offer that makes our dealers' lives easier, is nothing short of a miracle of the market.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Anti-Gun is Anti-Life

Yes, I believe that's true. Currently, I only own one gun. I'd like to own more. I'd like a smaller one that's easier to conceal than what I've got, and I'd like a small shotgun. I'm glad I live in a part of the country that I'm free to own as many guns as I'd like, and carry open without a license, and concealed with one. This is one of the greatest freedoms most people enjoy here in America. I've recently come across two great articles on this topic that I'd like to share. The first is by a liberty-loving woman named Karen De Coster, and the second by journalist Charley Reese (the introductions):

Women, Stop Watching Oprah and Learn to Love Guns - Karen De Coster
Women never cease to amaze me. The majority of them are still "afraid" of guns. Afraid, as in "oohhhh, they are so scary." They say things like "I don’t like them around" and "they’re dangerous." I know of women who have defense-minded, pro-gun husbands and they will not let their guy talk about those nasty things in their presence. Shhh, the children will hear, or, they might actually see an evil gun! Keep them locked away. Don’t tell the neighbors you have a gun in our house, or we’ll be outcasts. And in the background you can almost hear another feeble Oprah sermon keeping women stupid, but oh, they feel good about themselves and their newfound self-esteem.

All the time, women are shocked, shocked! to hear that I have a gun, and worse, I have several guns. And then, oh no, I actually carry one with me. That’s so odd, they think. Oh she’s different. Why more than one gun? She must be the aggressive type. After all, the Oprah way is to trust everyone and insist that all people have good intentions always.

Although I tend to think that most women don’t make sense, period, I especially believe this concerning the gun issue. It’s not only difficult to get women to come around to wanting a gun of their own, but they still can’t get to the point where they will understand and accept why others want to own them.

Let’s face it – women are more vulnerable to attack because, most likely, their aggressor will be a man. Women are physically weaker, and criminals know that we are less willing to be mentally prepared for aggression because, unlike men, most of us just aren’t wired to be combative. A woman’s attacker will be bigger, stronger, and faster than her, and by nature they will be more aggressive, and that’s before considering any mental or drug problem that may be associated with a criminal attack. So why do women not want to take that into consideration and equalize the situation by learning to use and love guns? Dr. Thomas Szasz, libertarian scholar and Professor of Psychiatry at Syracuse University, once stated, "self-defense is not merely our legal right but our moral duty; because women are more vulnerable than men, their need and obligation to defend themselves is even greater than that of men." Dr. Szasz is a wise man.
Dumb, Dumber, and Dumbest - Charley Reese
The positions of most urban liberals on firearms are dumb, dumber and dumbest.

It is dumb to suppose that the way to decrease crime is to make sure all potential victims of violent crime are disarmed. It is dumber yet to believe that a criminal will obey a gun-control law. No bank robber or rapist has ever set out and then stopped and said, "Gosh, I don't have a permit for this weapon, so I guess I'd better not rob that bank or rape that girl." No serial killer has ever said: "Gosh, I can't kill this person with an unregistered weapon. That would be against the law."

The dumbest idea is to suppose that an inanimate object can turn a noncriminal into a criminal. To believe that guns cause crime is as stupid as believing that hammers and saws cause houses. It is the grossest kind of mindless superstition to suppose that some magical qualities of an inanimate object can overpower the human will.

A gun is neither a romantic nor a sinister object. It is just a plain tool, like a hammer, a saw or a router. It can be used for recreation, and it can be used for self-defense. Like a chain saw, it can hurt its owner if the owner is careless or stupid. But the modern firearm is inherently safe. The gun cannot load itself or fire itself. Properly stored and used, it is safer than a stepladder or a swimming pool or an automobile. It is even safer than eating.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Federal Government Expenditures

Here's a great graphic (2mb) on the 2008 budget and where everything (supposedly) went:

Miracles of The Market I

I wanted to start a little series that I could post to regarding the over-looked, taken-for-granted miracles of the free-market that I (we) encounter in my everyday life. So here's my first post on this, coming after my trip to Michigan for business.

It's absolutely amazing to me that I can travel across the country and find waiting for me all of the things I enjoy back home. When I first arrived in Detroit, via a 3.5 hour miracle of a plane ride, I picked up my rental car and proceeded northwest. On the way, I started craving Wendy's. I knew there would be a Wendy's nearby and I knew that once inside, it would have the exact same look, feel, menu, and quality of food that I get in Salt Lake.

Truth be told, I was right. It was perfect, and all right there waiting for me. Similarly, later in the week I found a McDonald's, Burger King, IHOP, Panda Express, and Pizza Hut, all completely the same as I what I enjoy back home. This is certainly one of the greatest miracles of the market. That these companies, through providing a great product and great service, have been able to expand across the country and across the world. And because they each are in competition with the other, an area where one is built, another is sure to follow, thus providing me, and all of us, with options galore.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Bail-out of Big Journalism

I say, let the big newspaper companies fail. The market has spoken and they have become increasingly irrelevant and inefficient. It's silly that we're even having this conversation. Here's a video from (6m, 16s) on this subject:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Man Who Saved a Planet

Nobel laureate and founder of the Green Revolution, Norman Borlaug recently turned 95 years old and an interview conducted by the Reason Foundation nine years ago was re-posted on their Hit & Run blog. I was unfamiliar with Mr. Borlaug and the Green Revolution until I read that interview and his Wikipedia page. It seems to me that this man could very well be credited with saving our planet. I recommend educating yourself on what he accomplished. An excerpt from the interview:
Reason: What do you think of organic farming? A lot of people claim it's better for human health and the environment.

Borlaug: That's ridiculous. This shouldn't even be a debate. Even if you could use all the organic material that you have--the animal manures, the human waste, the plant residues--and get them back on the soil, you couldn't feed more than 4 billion people. In addition, if all agriculture were organic, you would have to increase cropland area dramatically, spreading out into marginal areas and cutting down millions of acres of forests.

At the present time, approximately 80 million tons of nitrogen nutrients are utilized each year. If you tried to produce this nitrogen organically, you would require an additional 5 or 6 billion head of cattle to supply the manure. How much wild land would you have to sacrifice just to produce the forage for these cows? There's a lot of nonsense going on here.

If people want to believe that the organic food has better nutritive value, it's up to them to make that foolish decision. But there's absolutely no research that shows that organic foods provide better nutrition. As far as plants are concerned, they can't tell whether that nitrate ion comes from artificial chemicals or from decomposed organic matter. If some consumers believe that it's better from the point of view of their health to have organic food, God bless them. Let them buy it. Let them pay a bit more. It's a free society. But don't tell the world that we can feed the present population without chemical fertilizer. That's when this misinformation becomes destructive...

Reason: Environmentalists say agricultural bio-tech will harm biodiversity.

Borlaug: I don't believe that. If we grow our food and fiber on the land best suited to farming with the technology that we have and what's coming, including proper use of genetic engineering and biotechnology, we will leave untouched vast tracts of land, with all of their plant and animal diversity. It is because we use farmland so effectively now that President Clinton was recently able to set aside another 50 or 60 million acres of land as wilderness areas. That would not have been possible had it not been for the efficiency of modern agriculture.

In 1960, the production of the 17 most important food, feed, and fiber crops--virtually all of the important crops grown in the U.S. at that time and still grown today--was 252 million tons. By 1990, it had more than doubled, to 596 million tons, and was produced on 25 million fewer acres than were cultivated in 1960. If we had tried to produce the harvest of 1990 with the technology of 1960, we would have had to have increased the cultivated area by another 177 million hectares, about 460 million more acres of land of the same quality--which we didn't have, and so it would have been much more. We would have moved into marginal grazing areas and plowed up things that wouldn't be productive in the long run. We would have had to move into rolling mountainous country and chop down our forests. President Clinton would not have had the nice job of setting aside millions of acres of land for restricted use, where you can't cut a tree even for paper and pulp or for lumber. So all of this ties together.

This applies to forestry, too. I'm pleased to see that some of the forestry companies are very modern and using good management, good breeding systems. Weyerhauser is Exhibit A. They are producing more wood products per unit of area than the old un-managed forests. Producing trees this way means millions of acres can be left to natural forests.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Fraud and The Free-Market

These two paragraphs by Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot (1727–1781) explains, quite succinctly, how the free-market better protects against fraud than government:
The general freedom of buying and selling is therefore the only means of assuring, on the one hand, the seller of a price sufficient to encourage production, and on the other hand, the consumer, of the best merchandise at the lowest price. This is not to say that in particular instances we may not find a cheating merchant and a duped consumer; but the cheated consumer will learn by experience and will cease to frequent the cheating merchant, who will fall into discredit and thus will be punished for his fraudulence; and this will never happen very often, because generally men will be enlightened upon their evident self-interest.

To expect the government to prevent such fraud from ever occurring would be like wanting it to provide cushions for all the children who might fall. To assume it to be possible to prevent successfully, by regulation, all possible malpractices of this kind, is to sacrifice to a chimerical perfection the whole progress of industry; it is to restrict the imagination of artificers to the narrow limits of the familiar; it is to forbid them all new experiments; it is to renounce even the hope of competing with the foreigners in the making of the new products which they invent daily, since, as they do not conform to our regulations, our workmen cannot imitate these articles without first having obtained permission from the government, that is to say, often after the foreign factories, having profited by the first eagerness of the consumer for this novelty, have already replaced it with something else. It means forgetting that the execution of these regulations is always entrusted to men who may have all the more interest in fraud or in conniving at fraud since the fraud which they might commit would be covered in some way by the seal of public authority and by the confidence which this seal inspires, in the consumers. It is also to forget that these regulations, these inspectors, these offices for inspection and marking, always involve expenses, and that these expenses are always a tax on the merchandise, and as a result overcharge the domestic consumer and discourage the foreign buyer. Thus, with obvious injustice, commerce, and consequently the nation, are charged with a heavy burden to save a few idle people the trouble of instructing themselves or of making enquiries to avoid being cheated. To suppose all consumers to be dupes, and all merchants and manufacturers to be cheats, has the effect of authorizing them to be so, and of degrading all the working members of the community. (Turgot, "√Čloge de Gournay" (1759), translated by P.D. Groenewegen)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Capitalism vs. The Free-Market

I had only somewhat ventured to know the origin of the word "capitalism" and learned it was first coined by Karl Marx in his book Das Kapital. I've always used it as synonymous with "free-market" and "free enterprise". It wasn't until I read my latest Freeman issue that "capitalism" took on a new meaning. In "Capitalism: Yes and No", author Clarence B. Carson examines the various definitions of capitalism. It's a very interesting article and after reading it, I must admit, the term capitalism has become somewhat tainted. But then again, not really. Let's just say I find the terms free-market and free enterprise preferable. This is a must read, an excerpt:
[Capitalism] does not have a commonly accepted meaning, proponents of it to the contrary notwithstanding. As matters stand, it cannot be used with precision in discourse. And it is loaded with connotations which make it value-laden. Indeed, it is most difficult for those who use it from whatever side not to use it simply as an “angel” or “devil” word, i.e., to signify something approved or disapproved. Meanwhile, what that something is goes largely unspecified because it is hidden beneath a blunderbuss word.

My considered opinion is that capitalism is not a descriptive word at all in general usage. Dictionary-like definitions may give it the appearance of being descriptive. One dictionary defines it as “a system under which the means of production, distribution, and exchange are in large measure privately owned and directed.” On the face of it, the meaning may appear clear enough. We can come in sight of the difficulty, however, if we turn the whole thing around and look at what is supposed to be signified, shutting out of our minds for the moment the word used to signify it. Suppose, that is, that we have a set of arrangements in which the means of production, distribution, and exchange of goods “are in large measure privately owned and directed.” I am acquainted with such arrangements, both from history and from some present-day actualities.

But why should we call such arrangements capitalism? So far as I can make out, there is no compelling reason to do so. There is nothing indicated in such arrangements that suggests why capital among the elements of production should be singled out for emphasis. Why not land? Why not labor? Or, indeed, why should any of the elements be singled out? Well, why not call it capitalism, it may be asked? A rose by any other name, Shakespeare had one of his characters say, would smell as sweet. That argument is hardly conclusive in this case, however, nor in others similar to it. Granted, when a phenomenon is identified it may be assigned a name, and in the abstract one name will do as well as another, if the name be generally accepted. In the concrete, however, the name should either follow from the nature of the phenomenon or be a new word. Otherwise, it will bring confusion into the language.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Milton Friedman on Drug Prohibition

In this interview, the late economist and Nobel laureate Milton Friedman gives sound argument for ending drug prohibition, known as the War on Drugs. I believe both his economic and moral arguments are strong and deserving of serious public discussion, as I've tried to promote on this blog. The interview (7m, 56s, YouTube):