Yearly Archives: 2013

Minority Report

This past Friday (December 27) a federal judge ruled that it is perfectly fine for the NSA to collect and review your phone and Internet records . Why is that? Well, those records don’t actually belong to you. This ruling is consistent with an interpretation of the 4th amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure known as the “3rd party doctrine.” Under this doctrine anything you disclose to a third party is no longer yours and therefore loses all expectation of privacy. Since it is no longer private the government has free reign to sink their teeth into it without any of those annoying justice-impeding anachronisms known as search warrants.

Innocent until proven guilty will soon be replaced by harassed until proven innocent.

As with all government propaganda there is a thin veneer of truth that shamelessly attempts to obscure the larger lie – but these truths are about as effective in that goal as Miley Cyrus’s underwear are in making her appear demure in her Wrecking Ball video. Yes, if you disclose something about yourself to a third party that information is technically no longer strictly private (private meaning known only to yourself). However what eludes this judge and those before him is that it is possible to convey private information to a third party under the protection of a contract. The privacy policies of some companies inform their customers how the company will and will not use information collected in the course of the business relationship. This establishes a reasonable expectation of privacy concerning any information stipulated to remain private. Therefore the 3rd party doctrine does not apply (even though the government wishes otherwise) in those situations where the consumer has a reasonable expectation of privacy per agreement with the third party. It would appear the mantra of the government is that expediency in catching the “bad guys” trumps all other concerns.

The judgment in this case is moving this country backward. Back to the 18th century that is. Back then the use of the “general warrant” by the British rulers was commonplace. A general warrant is distinguished from other types of warrants (i.e. arrest warrant, search warrant, etc.) in that it permits the holder of such warrant to pretty much do anything they want. They can search anything, anytime, anywhere and arrest anyone for any reason. If the principle of the 3rd party doctrine is applied consistently in future cases then it means the federal government has a general warrant to search anything not in your house. There is therefore no barrier to the government demanding the bulk disclosure of: patient records from doctors, purchase records from credit card companies, banks or other businesses, or school records from universities. This data could then be placed into a massive database and “mined” in order to uncover patterns and connections in a futile attempt to flush out the “bad guys.” Today the bad guys are the terrorists, the drug dealers or organized crime (ironically all entities created as a result of government interference). Perhaps tomorrow the enemies will be anyone who dissents from the approved public opinion of his or her masters, that is, The State. Someday soon the world’s mightiest super computers will employ predictive algorithms upon this ocean of data as they attempt to predict undesirable future behavior. Department of Pre-Crime at your service.

Perhaps the above sounds a bit far-fetched, but remember, there is nothing in the arguments currently employed to justify mass collection of data that would preclude these alternative forms of data collection. Just ten years ago the currently revealed mass collection of data would have seemed far-fetched. Just imagine what they can do ten years from now.

In this brave new world that is fast approaching our freedom will be instantly curtailed at the pleasure of any investigatory bureaucrat who doesn’t quite like our answers as they relate to our algorithmically questionable activities. If you become ensnared in this trap then you’d better hope you have an alibi. Innocent until proven guilty will soon be replaced by harassed until proven innocent.

Popular science?

If you were ever looking for proof that climate science is based more on consensus than actual experimentation, you need look no further than the IPCC’s recent “Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis” report in which the report’s “Summary for Policymakers” states it is “extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” Really? Extremely likely? You sure that isn’t just “very likely”? Is climate science based on nothing more than subjective opinions of probability?  There is no possible way to isolate this one variable (human actions) from the ocean of factors that may influence global temperatures and state with near absolutely certainty that this one variable is not just a cause, but the dominant cause. Unless of course they have a time machine stashed away we don’t know about in which to explore the outcome of alternate timelines. Popular opinion is an illegitimate means to finding truth. The pronouncements of scientists are not endowed with scientific certainty by virtue of them having been made by a scientist. Truth is determined by the evidence, not by the credentials of the messenger. The scientific method (observation, hypothesis, confirmation, prediction) is the only objective means we have to uncovering truth about the physical world. We must understand what science is and is not in order to recognize those who would claim to stand for science but in fact have adulterated the method in order to serve their own interests. Oh, and for those wondering where I get off discussing the scientific method, I have a Ph.D. in organic chemistry – so I know a little something about the scientific method.

 Popular opinion is an illegitimate means to finding truth.


It is one thing to make observations and conclude the earth is warming, however it is quite another to leap from that observation and conclude there is one and only one possible cause. It is the height of cognitive dissonance to accept that local weather patterns are far too chaotic to predict beyond a few days but that global long term weather is a vastly simpler system, so simple in fact that we can say with high confidence it is a function of only one variable: carbon dioxide. We can’t predict next month’s weather, but somehow we can say that in one hundred years the temperature will be X. Properly conducted climate science could only be done if we held godlike powers over all activity on the planet (in the same way the chemist can control the conditions of his experiments in the lab). Obviously we do not posses godlike powers. So to get around this lack of omniscience we build an environment in which we can be omniscient: the computer model. But models are imperfect; they rely on both empirical evidence and assumptions. Computer models work well over very short time spans but are inherently flawed at making long-term predictions. The difficulty arises out of the attempt to predict unpredictable quantum level events. Just as we can make reasonable short term predictions about what the traffic around us will do we will utterly fail to predict what that same traffic will be doing 30 minutes later.

And then there is the problem of the unknown unknowns that plague even simple models. For example, if one knew nothing about humans and tried to build growth models based on the first five years of life one would predict that by age 20 humans should be 20 feet tall and weigh 400 lbs. Climate models are now bearing this truth out. In the journal “Nature Climate Change” (that wellhead of conspiracy nuts) a study was published that showed during the last 20 years observed warming was half of what the models predicted and only one quarter of what those same models predicted over the last 15 years. The power of science is prediction, but when the predictions do not pan out one must reevaluate their hypothesis.

Even those demanding “something be done” about climate change should call for a reevaluation of what we think we know. It would be quite disastrous indeed if we made drastic changes in society that resulted in the deaths of billions (due to higher energy costs resulting in decreased food output) only to find out that while global warming is indeed real – it turns out humans have actually played little to no role. We could waste decades prescribing aspirin for the patient’s headache while remaining blissfully ignorant of the brain tumor.

Ignore the Cause and Suffer the Effects

The Washington Post recently published  a retrospective account of the deaths of 91 children in 2012 to highlight the one year anniversary of the senseless shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut in December 2012. Clearly this article was intended to strike an emotional chord that would resonate with any sane person. The media revels in painting emotionally charged landscapes in the hopes that it will rouse the public to call on their saviors in government to save us from ourselves. And while the stories are indeed heart wrenching they actually undermine the narrative that these deaths are entirely a consequence of the prevalence of guns in society. Although the deaths were indeed the direct result of gun fire per se, the stories broadly fall into two categories of causation that have nothing to do with guns themselves being the causative agent of death. The first category is the most heart wrenching: that of the child’s parent or paramour of the parent being the killer. These were not accidental shootings; these were clear and deliberate murders of these children at close range. Had there been no guns available in these situations clearly a knife or any large blunt object would have done the job. In other words, absent guns, the outcomes for all of these stories would have been tragically identical.

The second category is that of accidental crossfire in drive by shootings or other gang activity. Obviously distance based killing is more easily facilitated by guns, however consider the fact that gangs are simply groups composed of criminals (people who already ignore all laws) so how could one reasonably expect even a total ban on all guns to have affected such activity? Criminals are no more going to obey laws banning guns than they obey laws against murder or theft. However, it is important to step back for a moment and ask why do these terrible drive by shootings occur? What is the source of so much gang violence? Drugs, or rather the prohibition of drugs. The prohibition of an economic good drives up its price and thus the incentive for people to engage in providing that economic good to those wiling to pay the high price. However, being outlawed, the trade of such goods lacks any formal legal protection, therefore those parties involved in its trade have no choice but to resort to violence in order to settle their disputes. The result? Far more innocent people being killed by drug prohibition related violence (as well as wrong-address-no-knock police raids) then have ever or could have ever been harmed by the drugs themselves.

If we are truly desirous of decreasing not only gun violence but all violence we must address the causes and not simply attempt to put band aids on the effects. Absent drug or other economic goods prohibitions all gang violence would cease insofar as most if not all gangs would dissolve as their central raison d’être (exorbitant profits from the sale of prohibited goods) would cease to exist. In terms of violence committed by parents against their children it is immaterial to question the means by which such violence is perpetrated: gun, knife, rope, hands – you can’t ban them all. All we can do is resolve to be more engaged with our neighbors in order to see the signs of potential violence.

If we wish to change the society we live in, we must individually act to be part of that change. It is our responsibility, not government’s. Delegating our wishes to government is the act of the indolent and cowardly; too lazy to try and persuade and too afraid to carry out the violence needed to force your neighbors to follow your worldview.

Minimum Wage: Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it

Last Friday a group known as “Fast Food Forward” (tightly affiliated with the SEIU union) led a series of demonstrations in over 100 US cities at fast food restaurants where they called for a near doubling of the federal minimum wage to $15/hour. In further news there were a number of similar demonstrations in which short people demanded to be declared as tall, the overweight demanded to be declared as thin, and the un-athletic to be declared as athletic. Oh, wait, that last bit didn’t actually happen. Sure would have seemed silly if such events had taken place wouldn’t it? Well, if you can see why a “raise the federal minimum height” rally would be silly you’re on the first step to understanding why calls to increase the minimum wage are equally absurd.

A wage is nothing more than a point system used by each of us and applied to all of us that allows us to rate how valuable we find each other’s labor. This value assessment is however tempered by the immutable law of marginal utility: the more there is of something, the less we value any one unit. Water is the most valuable material on the planet (as our day to day survival depends on it) but it sells at a mere 0.7¢ a gallon (from the tap) because of its abundance. Likewise, in any given profession, the more people capable of doing a job, the lower the wage for that job. The wage is lower, you see, not because the buyer (employer) is deciding what it shall be, rather it is the result of the numerous sellers (employees) bidding prices down in order to make the sale. If your wage is lower than you’d like, don’t blame your employer, blame your peers and yourself. You can blame your peers for being willing to work for less than you. You can blame yourself for not improving your skills or productivity so that you can distinguish yourself from your less productive brethren and thereby demand a higher price for your services. To blame your employer for paying you minimum wage when you would prefer to have double that wage is as silly as the shop owner blaming his customers for not buying his wares and opting instead to purchase from his competitor who charges half as much.

If workers latch onto sympathetic politicians (interested in buying votes) who pass laws that raises their wage then the employer is still free to explore all options that might get the job done for a lower price. Minimum wage law does not require employers to buy the product (labor), only that if they do buy the product they must pay at least the floor price. Thus enters the specter of automation: a machine that is economically unviable when competing with low wage rates will suddenly make more economic sense at much higher mandated wage rates. Those looking for a minimum wage increase are going to price themselves right out of the market. The truth of this statement is already evident today in the growing trend of automated self-checkout systems becoming commonplace. In a few years we may find the concept of a human cashier as alien as a full service gas station (and if you don’t know what “full service” at a gas station means, then all I can say is: point made.)

Whenever there is a call to raise the wages of this or that class of worker (whether it be fast food workers, teachers, or police or what have you) there is a major insight that is always lacking by those making the call. They believe that if they get what they desire they will be the ones to enjoy the higher wages. But they are mistaken. It is the more highly skilled and more productive worker that will replace them. The less productive or skilled worker can’t compete with the highly skilled worker if the mandated wage is set at the productivity level of the more skilled worker. Would you buy a Kia or a Mercedes if the minimum car price were mandated to be $70,000? Bonus question: what do you think would then happen to the Kia car company?

Leave my Genes Alone

The aphorism “No good deed goes unpunished” has its counterpart when applied to business, “No good innovation can remain unscathed by the FDA.” To wit: last week the Food and Drug Administration all but ordered the company 23andMe to shut down. Their crime? They have the unmitigated gall to market their Personal Genome Services without having received prior “marketing clearance or approval” from the FDA. Those silly saps at 23andMe forgot they have to kiss the ring of their overlords if they wish to operate a business in this country.

For those unfamiliar, 23andMe sells a $99 genetic testing service wherein a customer submits to them a saliva sample that the company then performs a variety of genetic tests on in order to reveal any potential health concerns (e.g. the presence of genes predisposing one to certain types of cancer or sensitivity to certain drugs, etc.). The tests can also reveal hereditary information to provide one with possible ancestry background as well. All of this is wrapped up in a pretty slick website (that actually works!) that allows the customer to explore his or her results. They’ve basically turned something rather dull and boring (medical testing) into an exciting process of discovery that is actually affordable. With that said, the processes and testing they employ are all well vetted industry standard type testing procedures. They are simply taking existing technology and repackaging it into an easy to understand and affordable package in order to make it available to a much wider cross segment of society.

So what is the FDA’s beef with them? It’s basically semantics. You see, when either the FDA or EPA gets involved with business then all common sense goes out the window. Water becomes an insecticide and aspirin a dangerous drug. A fanciful example will help illustrate: screwdrivers are used to turn screws, and so they can be sold to turn screws, no problem. But if you now decide a screwdriver can also be used to poke holes in things or to act as a tool to pry something open and you wish to market it as a “device for poking holes or prying”, then you are now guilty of selling a “mislabeled and misbranded” product because you have not engaged ABC federal agency to plead for approval of this new application of existing technology. You will need to submit studies and analysis demonstrating that the screwdriver can indeed do these things.

That’s basically the hole 23andMe has fallen into. The FDA is concerned that they are marketing a process in a new and therefore unapproved way and they are also concerned that consumers of this service are incredibly and remarkably stupid. The FDA believes that if someone gets a false positive from one of 23andMe’s PGA tests that naturally that someone will simply take immediate and drastic actions without any kind of follow up testing or consultation with their physician. If a woman finds she has the breast cancer gene, well, she’ll just get a double mastectomy, no questions asked. If someone finds out they are prone to blood clots, they’ll just go out and start eating rat poison (the blood thinning agent warfarin is found in rat poison) in order to self medicate. Yes, as absurd as these concerns are, this is what the FDA is trying to protect us from. Of course never mind that 23andMe has very large and obvious warnings on their site that one should always consult with one’s physician before taking any steps based on test results.

So, at the height of concern in this country about rising medical costs a company steps up to the plate, provides a low cost non-invasive test that affords the customer the ability to proactively manage their health thereby preventing future costs. And how are they rewarded? The FDA valiantly steps in to all but put them out of business by forbidding them from marketing their product. Smart. Really smart. It is through actions such as these that the FDA has caused and will continue to cause far more pain, suffering and death then they have ever prevented.

Obamacare Kills the Family Farm

Obamacare is poised to put the family farm out of business. Although not directly applicable to the food industry, it has spawned sibling legislation whose ends are aligned with the Obamacare mandate of lowering health care costs for the nation – by any means necessary. Toward that end the “Food Safety and Modernization Act” was passed in 2011 which has now spawned a new round of FDA rulemaking known as proposed rule “Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food.” The primary stated goal of this proposed rule (according to the FDA) is to “reduc(e) the public health burden of foodborne illness associated with contaminated produce.”  A worthwhile goal, I’ll grant that. However setting aside for now the question of constitutionality of a federal agency laying down rules to govern activity that is wholly intrastate in nature, there are a number of problems with both the implementation, results and costs associated with this end goal.

Some of the more absurd components of this proposed rule include (a) WEEKLY testing of water “before it touches the surface of any fruit”, (b) where manure has been spread one must wait 9 MONTHS before harvesting, and (c) the maintenance of DAILY clipboards of records of every event that takes places on the farm related to food production. As with any regulation there is a cost involved. Irrespective of the industry it is always the large entity that has the advantage relative to its smaller competitors in terms of bearing the additional costs of new regulation. Therefore it should come as no surprise that this proposed rule would have the effect of putting many small farmers out of business (there are exemptions for “small” farmers, however these merely delay the timeframe of implementation). But don’t take my word for it, you can read the comments of such farmers themselves at the FDA’s comment site.

Now at this point the progressive may be protesting, “But, but, this rule will save lives and if some small farms must be sacrificed to achieve that goal then as long as the greater good is being served this is an unfortunate side-effect.” Although seeing as how most progressive types are proponents of buying locally grown produce (itself not a bad concept) I imagine their heads will explode when they realize this “greater good” will have the net effect of putting so many small farmers out of business it will all but kill the “buy local produce” industry.

Even by FDA’s own best estimates this rule would potentially reduce the incidence of food borne illness by 2-5% (i.e. save no more than 67 lives per year or about $14 million per life). And while I would gladly spend $14 million to save the life of a loved one, I don’t have $14 million nor do I (or anyone) have the right to use government to fleece my neighbors pockets for that $14 million on the off chance it might save a life I care deeply about.

The emotional response of “we can’t put a value on a human life” runs afoul of the economic law of diminishing returns. Whenever a brand new type of regulation was introduced (pollution, car safety, etc) we witnessed massive improvements – because nothing existed before that (not that such regulation was necessary however, seeing as how these types of regulations were merely a response to prior government induced market distortions). As a hypothetical example, seeing that $1 billion in regulatory costs reduces deaths from 1 million to 1 thousand legislators naturally will assume even tighter regulations costing another $1 billion will do the trick – but it doesn’t work like that. Those new regulations reduce deaths to only 900, another billion to 850 and so on. The low hanging fruit was picked with the initial round of regulation; the minuscule amount of fruit at the top takes exponentially more effort to pick.

Ok, fine, you may say, a human life should not have a dollar value attached – we should spend and spend to stop all deaths. Although publicly we may profess such sentiments, our actions speak very differently. If our safety were paramount to the exclusion of all monetary and non-monetary costs then we would either choose to drive at 1 mph at all times or spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to drive a military grade armored tank. But we don’t do that because safety is a luxury and we can only afford luxuries to the extent we have produced above more than the bare essentials. This, by the way, is why human conditions were so much less safe years ago and are so in third world countries today – not due to any lack of government oversight but rather due to lower productivity, which puts luxuries (such as safety) out of reach. So although we are bound by our productive capacity when determining how much we personally want to spend on safety, government knows no such bounds. Whether it might cost $100 billion or $100 trillion to potentially save one life is of no concern to those that bear none of the costs.

Marietta Braves?

Unless you are a baseball fan or local politics wonk you may have missed the big news last week: the Atlanta Braves will be leaving Atlanta for greener fields in Cobb County beginning with the 2017 season (speculation has already begun whether they will change their name to the Marietta Braves). This move has created a teachable moment concerning bureaucrats who credulously believe they can derive a net benefit by subsidizing the profits of private business via the public tax trough.

The particulars of this prospective Braves relocation are rather interesting in light of the epidemic of head-in-the-sand disease that is sweeping through Cobb County government. The Braves have released an infographic that details the massive extent to which Cobb County will be bribing, err, supporting them. The Cliff Notes version is this: Cobb will cover 45% of the overall $672 million cost of the project through a mix of new and increased taxes amounting to $18 million per year over the next 16 years. This tax expense will however be offset by increased local retail spending that will bring in an (estimated) whopping additional $89 thousand per year in sales tax revenue. I don’t know, maybe I’m being unfair: Would you pay $180 a year for the opportunity to possibly earn as much as a cool 89¢? The math for this deal just does not work. Cobb County would have to realize an ADDITIONAL $1.8 billion in retail sales just to break even. Given that the current total amount of retail sales in Cobb County is $2.1 billion that seems a bit of stretch to imagine that a mere baseball team could nearly double the entire retail economic output of the county.

There is nothing wrong with the Braves relocating to wherever they desire. However, they should bear 100% of the cost of their relocation speculation. It’s lose-lose for the taxpayer. If the move goes well for the Braves then the taxpayer has paid for something the Braves could have paid for themselves. If the move goes poorly then the Braves are shielded from the effects of that bad decision via the taxpayer picking up nearly half the tab. Some will invariably argue that the local community should bear some of the costs to lure the Braves to their neck of the woods because the local community will indirectly benefit. To accept such a flawed argument one must also accept the premise that Walmart should likewise demand to be subsidized by other businesses nearby because those businesses will derive increased traffic owing to the “anchor” location of the Walmart. Everything each one of us does will conceivably benefit someone else indirectly. This argument, taken to its logical conclusion, demands that we should all attempt to extort money from our neighbors before we do anything.

But, we can’t really blame those in charge over in Cobb County for making such absurdly wrong-headed decisions; they are simply following precedent. Those who can think, think, those you can’t, follow precedent. Local (and national) governments have been hooked to the same economic voodoo for decades. They wish/hope/believe that if they offer up financial support to a private business looking to relocate within their territorial boundaries that the potential increased economic activity will provide a net benefit to them and their constituents. Unfortunately wishing for something doesn’t make it so. In fact there has never been a situation where such subsidization has bore net economic fruit. So why do governments keep making the same mistake over and over? Because government has no feedback mechanism to correct their mistakes. There is no profit and loss test. If they subsidize some boondoggle and it doesn’t pan out (a loss), oh well, the taxpayers will still have to continue paying for it for years after the private entity they were subsidizing is gone and those elected officials have left office. Government legally can’t go out of business, so they are free to make the same mistakes over and over. The people may “vote the bums out”, but the institution remains. The aphorism “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” is nowhere more true than with government.

Where’s the beef? Sorry, it’s been banned.

This past week the FDA proposed an outright ban on artificial trans fats in prepared foods.  Trans fats occur naturally and artificial ones have been used for decades in foods. As a foodstuff they are safe insofar as they don’t make you sick upon ingestion and have known physiological benefits in proper amounts (and known harms if consumed to excess, which is the case with all food components). The FDA is not banning some new dangerous unknown substance. They are banning something that has, in large part, already been voluntarily reduced in the past few years to the point that average US consumption of trans fats is now half of what the American Heart Association recommends as being safe. So if it’s already hardly used, where’s the harm in a ban you might say? Setting aside the ethics of the ban, the direct type of harm that can be envisioned would be a situation wherein the use of trans fat solves a problem for which there is no good substitute. Furthermore any substitutes might very well themselves be more harmful than the trans fat. That’s called “unintended consequences” and occurs with every single government mandate ever issued.

Some examples where trans fats are used include cake frosting, microwave popcorn, frozen pizzas and various fried foods. These are mere treats, things eaten a handful of times in a month if even that (how many cakes have you eaten in the last month?). But given the government’s penchant for quixotic battles against virtually riskless activities (trillions of dollars spent fighting terrorism even though jaywalking kills more people each year than terrorism) it should come as no surprise that Uncle Sam would relish the role of micromanaging the minutiae of our lives (“exactly how many calories are in the candy bar sir?”).

Lifelong dependency of the citizen ensures eternal power for the state.


There is nothing wrong with the FDA educating the public about the healthiness or lack thereof of certain kinds of foods (although forcing the public to pay for such education through taxation rests on ethically dubious ground). However, the outright banning of this or that substance crosses a line. The metric upon which prohibitions have been based (such as drug prohibition, however ill conceived) is one of “imminent harm”, i.e. if someone is about to jump off a bridge we can plainly see their free will is immediately deleterious to their own well being therefore one could argue intervention is justified. However, the bar has been moved from “imminent” to “eventually possible” i.e. should we tear the bridge down so as to make it impossible for anyone to ever jump off it? Should we now ban every conceivably risky activity?  If so, that’s going to be a mighty long list! Nearly every action in our daily lives carriers some level of inherent risk.

The FDA’s justification for this ban is a mere estimate (i.e. best guess) that it will result in 20,000 fewer heart attacks and 7,000 fewer deaths each year. The rationale is of course the “Greater Good” argument. This ban will naturally lead to lower health care costs for the nation. Why stop there? Perhaps the FDA could implement other policies that have the net effect of lowering health care costs. Perhaps they could ban foods that naturally contain trans or saturated fats (all meat, cheese and dairy). Next they could ban all foods that are not considered to be “healthy” (according to the whim of whoever happens to be in power at the FDA). These directives would surely save more lives, so how can one object? Eventually the government could require all citizens join a gym and exercise each day… because this would lead to fewer deaths each year… so how can one object? Oh, and what of those that refuse to do their quota of exercise? Well, we’ll just levy a fine, err, I mean tax on those that refuse the directive of the collective.

This trans fat ban is just the first step in sacrificing the individual on the altar of the collective state. If you agree to take what the collective offers (free or subsidized health insurance), then you must submit to having your life directed by that same collective. Children accept the care of their parents and thus are obligated to follow their rules. Likewise government demands we follow their rules because they view us as but children. Lifelong dependency of the citizen ensures eternal power for the state.

Lost in translation

Like millions of Americans you probably have received a letter like this (see below) from your health insurance provider (for both individual or group plans). As the farmer said to the pigs about to be slaughtered, “We’re going to be transitioning you to an environment free of worldly concerns.” Reading between the lines can often be critical to our own well-being, therefore, in that vein I shall endeavor to offer a translation of the following:

 Dear Subscriber:

The federal Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) has been changing how Americans get their health care coverage. The next big step begins in 2014. For many individuals like you with coverage through their employers, it includes important changes to coverage.

 ACA requires us to make significant changes to our health benefit plan designs. We have redesigned our entire employer portfolio to include new health benefit plans that comply with 2014 ACA requirements.

 There is nothing for you to do at this time. Your employer’s existing policy will continue until your next renewal. We are unable to renew your employer’s existing plan in 2014, but your employer can purchase any of our new plans with the 2014 ACA requirements for your coverage.

 We value you as a member and look forward to a long-standing relationship with you.


Health Insurance Company


Dear person-now-required-to-buy-our-product-under-penalty-of-law,

Obamacare has transformed a government manipulated healthcare market into a government controlled healthcare market. Unadulterated fascism rears its ugly head once again in America in 2014 (fascism = state control of a putative private market). For those of you who already get insurance through your employer, the paltry level of choice you used to have will be whittled down to next to nothing.

Obamacare requires us to add on coverage options we formerly begged you to buy but now you are forced to buy, therefore we have the perfect excuse to inflate premiums as high as possible. Apparently Nancy Pelosi thinks you are too stupid to make your own decisions when it comes to buying health insurance, therefore she has empowered bureaucrats to make those decisions for you. Do not fret gentle citizen; you will be well cared for in Obama’s gentle bosom.

You are helpless to avoid this, so sit back and enjoy the ride. You have a few months left to see your doctor before multi-hour waiting room camp-outs and month long waiting lists for medical procedures turn the US into Canada 2.0. We are unable to renew your employer’s existing plan in 2014, but that’s just fine with us because we’re content to get in bed with the government and be more tightly regulated if it means we will be guaranteed a steady stream of customers and profit. Crony capitalism and fascism is what made this country great after all!

We value you as our cash cow and look forward to milking this relationship for all its worth until either the federal government collapses under its own weight or the American public becomes so irate that they finally elect people that will remove all government influences from the medical market so that prices can naturally fall until medical insurance is no more costly than auto-insurance.


Health Insurance Company (a wholly owned subsidiary of the Federal Government, Inc.)

And Justice for All…

The 19th Century saw an end to chattel slavery. The 20th Century saw an end to conscription slavery. Will we now, in the 21st Century, witness an end to the one remaining form of labor slavery, namely jury service? For those that do not consider jury service to be a form of slavery consider this: If a complete stranger sent you a letter ordering you to appear at a specific location at a specific time, what would you think? What if that person then also threatened you with imprisonment if you did not comply and with physical violence if you resisted the enforcement of compliance and you knew full well they could carry out that threat? Who would that person be, if not your master? The State is your master; the judge is merely its errand boy and the police its henchmen.

So if jury service mirrors the master-slave relationship and is thus a variant of slavery, why is there is no public outcry? Why the quiet acquiescence to our own subjugation? There are two reasons. Cost and confusion. The costs of jury service over one’s lifetime are relatively low (since many are never called and those that are get called only 2-3 times over a lifetime). For example, if the state imposed a new tax whereby everyone paid $10 a year and a randomly chosen 10 people would pay $100,000 instead, it simply would not be worth it for the vast majority of people to fight that. The odds you’ll be hit with the “big” tax are infinitesimal and the $10 tax isn’t costly enough to fight. Just because one puts up with something doesn’t mean it is ok or that consent is implied. It simply means that the costs of fighting it are greater than the burden imposed.

But if low costs are not enough to keep the masses in line, the state can rely on the modus operandi of the con artist: manipulate and confuse your victim into choosing to do your bidding. This is accomplished through public school mediated state sponsored indoctrination that convinces the masses that there exists this mystical thing called “civic duty” and that jury duty falls chief among those. There is no such thing as “civic duty” – we as individuals owe nothing to society by mere virtue of having been born and likewise “society” owes us nothing in return. Our only obligations in life are those that we explicitly consent to (employment, parenting, volunteering, etc.) But even if one does believe in the “civic duty” of jury service, does it not strike you as odd that everyone else in that courtroom (the judge, the lawyers, the bailiff, the court reporter, etc) are all there voluntarily and are being paid market rates for their service, yet the jurors are there involuntarily and are paid well below even minimum wage? Given that jurors by and large are present involuntarily the entire incentive structure of jury service is geared toward producing a low quality product as quickly as possible. That is not to say in ALL cases jurors behave this way, simply that most of the time that will be true since most of the time people just want to get back to their own lives, jobs, etc.

There are two ways the jury system can be improved. Just as we did with the military, we can move from a conscription-based model to an all-volunteer based model. I was called for jury duty last year and found the process to be fascinating. The timing was terrible so I was glad to be dismissed. However that is not to say I would be opposed to volunteering in the future. The point is I would be making the choice of when and where I serve.

The second method to improve the jury system would be to switch to a professional juror system. There is no reason that being a juror cannot be a full time paid profession just like any other. Think of it not so much as a panel of jurors and a judge but rather a panel of 13 judges with one judge guiding the proceedings. Those judges/jurors that gain a reputation for judicious verdicts would be sought out and used for more and more cases. Those that likewise had a poor reputation resulting from their unfair verdicts would cease to be used.

Today’s jury system is an anachronism. It pays homage to an era when the abuse of natural rights was commonplace. A slave may work under threat, but an employee works by desire. Which system do you want delivering you justice?