Thursday, February 24, 2011


...the relationship of business and regulation is sort of like understanding the relationship between plants and cattle.

Edible plants that are good for us should oppose the existence of cattle, who consume them out of existence.

Grass should reluctantly support the existence of cattle, who, though they eat the grass, keep other plants from outgrowing and overtaking them.

And noxious and poisonous plants should applaud the efforts of cattle, who eliminate all competition to the fields.

The only difference is that people wouldn't bring cattle into a cornfield to eat the weeds, yet they introduce regulation to attack unethical businesses - businesses who have no problem turning regulation to their advantage.

5 Rules to Arguing as a Libertarian

More to come, possibly:

Rule #1: I know we're all tired of the Left attacking corporations.  Defend them where relevant.  Don't where not.  It's sometimes hard to remember, but corporations are -not- our friends.  They aren't our enemies, but they aren't our friends, either; they're as likely to oppose capitalism as anybody else who would benefit from an entrenchment of the status quo.  This is the #1 beginner's mistake.

Rule #2: We didn't get where we are overnight, we won't and shouldn't get out of it overnight.  Remember that rule of law is critically important; rapid changes to the legal system are in fact -arbitrary-.  They erode freedom, even where they purport to create it.  Privatization of public institutions should be done through sunsetting existing systems, not destroying them outright.

Rule #3: Cutting taxes is fine, but cutting spending is better.  Taxation is a long-term target, and "starving the beast" has not only been grossly unsuccessful, it's moved us deeply into dangerous territory.  We have helped to create a coming state of emergency which may very easily be used, not to dismantle government power, but to grossly expand it.

Rule #4: Compromise when it gains you something, not when it causes you to lose a little bit less.

Rule #5: All regulation benefits large corporations.  All.  Consider carefully the difference between pro business and pro capitalism.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why -Not- Anarcho-Capitalism

This is not an argument against anarchy; I have arguments against anarchy, this is not where I am going to put them forward.

This is an argument against specifically the notion of anarcho-capitalism, which is, in short, the idea that -all- government functions can and should be exported to private enterprise, including particularly that of police work.

Let's imagine an anarcho-capitalist society for a moment, shall we?

We have a nice pleasant neighborhood.  Everybody except Sam subscribes to the local Hamsfield Policing Corporation; Sam, who lives in the corner lot, subscribes to the Unity Corporation, a massive policing corporation which services people all across the continent, and which is a popular choice for individuals living in areas with local policing corporations because it refuses to negotiate with them.

Tom comes to knock on Sam's door one day; they've had a longstanding argument about where exactly their property lines lay.  Tom comes into the house, things get angry, and Sam shoots Tom.

Sam calls the Unity Corporation, who come out, investigate, and declare that it was self defense.  Hamsfield Policing Corporation is called by Tom's wife, and Sam refuses to let them in; after talking to the neighbors, they conclude it was likely murder, and demand entry into Sam's home to investigate further.

Who has jurisdiction over Sam?

Either Unity hands Sam over to Hamsfield - which destroys its reputation and the very reason people subscribe to its services - or Hamsfield and Unity face off; most likely, Hamsfield, with more limited resources, will back down.  But in either case, either Sam or Tom are not getting the service they paid for because there is no way to provide it for both.

There is no substantive way to resolve this issue, which is even assuming the police forces are acting in good faith and neither of them are favoring their subscribers over the neighbors.  Anarcho-capitalism does not resolve the fundamental problems government exists to resolve; at best it creates a form of agency-facilitated vigilante justice.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Income Advantage

Suppose you have a choice between two jobs in two cities.

Job A is in City Z, Job B is in City Y; Job A pays 100,000 a year, Job B pays 50,000 a year, but offsetting this is that things are twice as expensive in City Z as in City Y.

Which job is better?

The answer depends on what year it is.  In the year 1900, they're exactly the same.  In the year 2010 (putting taxes aside for the moment) Job A is definitively better, because even though things are twice as expensive in City Z, there's nothing stopping you from ordering your luxury goods shipped from City Y.

If you are a company hoping to produce goods to sell, which city looks better?

Well, you can open up shop in City Y, pay your employees half as much, and ship your goods to City Z.  City Y is much better.

Unless you are providing local services, of course, in which case City Z is more attractive, because your 5% markup on your goods becomes more substantial.

Companies and their employees have fundamentally conflicting interests in terms of location.  This is a specific case of the broader problem that is the coexistence of high wages and unemployment.

Other cases include minimum wages and what I call Lottery Jobs - jobs which normally have absurdly low pay, but which have rare individuals making absurd salaries attracting large numbers of other people into the field.  These are typically the kinds of jobs armchair economists refer to as "sexy" - which is to say, attractive on a basis apart from the salary.  Owners of bars, fashion models, actors/actresses, game developer/designer (your flash game may be fun to design and play, but isn't likely to net you the fortunes of Peter Molyneux).  These are jobs at which one is likely to barely be able to afford to live, much less make the fabled fortunes.  (Even the success of a game like Dwarf Fortress doesn't net its creator massive fortunes; he makes less than I do, although I suspect he has lots of room to grow yet.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Hundred Years Ago...

...the Left was making noise about taking over the means of production.

Today, the Left makes noise about taking over the means of -consumption-.

What a horrible world globalization and capitalism have wrought, that our gravest threat is that we might not want everything we're capable of producing.

[Ed] First they wished to take over production, because they thought industry too inefficient - and the factories belonged to the state.  Then others tried to take over distribution, because they thought capitalism inequitable - and income belonged to the state.  Now they try to take over consumption, because we do not consume all that we can produce - and you belong to the state.[/Ed]

Monday, February 14, 2011

Moral Codes and Politics

For the purposes of this post, let us express the typical moral duality in terms of a JFK quote, because I think it sums up a dichotomy nicely: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

Let's call these two moral codes, for the purpose of this discussion, Selfishness and Altruism, where Selfishness is "What can my country do for me?" and Altruism is "What can I do for my country?"

Let's call Egoism the rejection of these two moral codes; that you should be doing nothing for your country, and your country should be doing nothing for you, as a matter of deliberate course.

Let's call Communalism a similar rejection but from a different angle, substituting in the question "What can my country do for itself?" as a rejection of the notion of individual addition or subtraction from the whole as a meaningful debate.

Some introspection: How would you classify your moral and political principles on these four codes, and how would you classify your political opponents?  How would you classify how you live up to your principles, at least if you subscribe to selfishness/altruism?  And your political party?

I am an Egoist; how I live up to those principles isn't particularly meaningful to anybody but me, but I do quite well at it.

I regard liberals as primarily Altruistic in theory, but in practice primarily Selfish (owing to that their primary support is derived from individuals who benefit from its programs); I regard conservatives as primarily Altruistic in theory, but in practice primarily Communalistic (owing to social conservatives' emphasis on moral law, which rejects individuality as a matter of course and purpose).

I regard my party, the Libertarians, as primarily Egoistic in principle.  In practice we tend to be Altruists; very few libertarians are libertarian as a matter of principle, but because they think the outcome will be better from a libertarian government.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Global Warming: Debate Over?

The debate seems to be over, folks.

This isn't to say one side one.  But as far as I can tell, the two sides have just stopped paying significant attention to each other.  This is likely because the economy is a slightly more pressing issue for everybody right now, but I find it intriguing that both sides have, at this point, decided they've won.

I'm with the skeptics.  I can't take the climate "scientists" seriously when, confronted with divergences between predictions and data, suggest the DATA is wrong.

I can't take the scientists seriously when they cherry pick their comparisons.  (The average of 19 models is close to surface warming?  Great.  That's fantastic.  That says absolutely fucking nothing about the validity of those models.  Particularly when there are more than 19 models running around.  I can get the results I want, too, by taking the average of the models that are close enough to real results not to be interpreted as insane.)

I can't take them seriously when they suggest the lack of any alternative explanation is proof for theirs.

I can't take them seriously when the first response to criticisms is to investigate the work history of the person doing the criticizing.

I can't take them seriously when their idea of peer review doesn't involve replication.

On and on and on.

None of which says they're wrong, incidentally.  It only says if they're right it's by accident rather than good science.  And that's another part of why the debate is over; the "scientists" refuse to debate on those terms.  They don't want their models torn apart; they want something to replace them.  And that's not a debate the skeptics generally want to have.

Constructive destruction is the heart of skepticism, and why a skeptic isn't going to take you up on a bet that warming won't occur.  Because they don't know.  And all they're saying is that you don't know either.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Glenn Beck and the LGBT Movement

Glenn Beck has a particularly interesting and unique position, I think, within the LGBT movement.  Yes, within it.

No, he hasn't expressed support.  But his is quite possibly the single most important voice in the movement right at this moment.

It's not because he's saying it's okay to be gay - he hasn't.  It's not because he's saying gay people should have the right to get married - he hasn't said that, either.  It's not because he's standing up for their rights - he hasn't, and probably won't.

Indeed, if he did any of these things, he'd be useless.  He's not telling the opposition they are wrong; that's been done dozens of times, over and over again, and it sure as fuck hasn't worked yet.

It's because he's pushing "common sense," and demolishing their platform without ever outright opposing it; he's using his position of influence over precisely those who need to be influenced, to shame homophobia at its roots.

He doesn't tell Republicans to support gay marriage.  He tells them it is ridiculous that a gay man can't see his terminally ill life partner.

He doesn't tell the Religious Majority that being gay isn't a sin; he tells them that gays aren't out to get them and pose no threat to the country.

He doesn't tell statists to overturn antigay legislation - he says it's none of his business, and none of theirs, either.

He is -exactly- what the LGBT movement needs.  Not because he converts anybody to their side - not everybody can be converted.  But because he quietly subverts the people opposing them, people who will never join them, convincing them to stand on the sidelines.  And he does it with firm conviction and principle.