Category Archives: Current events

Domestic Enemies

It is with not without an enormous amount of irony that mere days after this country celebrated Memorial Day – the day upon which we honor the fallen soldiers who selflessly gave their lives to protect our freedom – that we learn of yet another way their sacrifice was for nothing. The enemies of freedom are no longer foreign – they are domestic. To wit, a Georgia couple recently lost custody of their son after it was discovered they had been giving him marijuana to treat his seizures. Stated differently: armed men forced their way into someone’s home and kidnapped a child because a roomful of (mostly) men hundreds of miles away think it is bad to inhale smoke from a burning plant. The marijuana had kept him seizure free for 71 days, but since having been “saved” by the state his daily seizures (up to 10 a day) have returned. But hey, what’s the suffering of a child when compared to the public good of knowing someone somewhere is not inhaling microscopic particulate matter. But it gets even better. Not only was their son kidnapped by the state, but they are also now facing criminal charges (reckless conduct), for you guessed it, a victimless crime. Indeed the state action has created victims where there were none previously. The arresting officer in Twiggs County defended his actions, saying, “It is my duty to enforce state law.” Yes – “I was just following orders” – music to the ears of every totalitarian regime that craves an army of mindless automatons that can’t figure out right and wrong for themselves.

 

The arresting officer in Twiggs County defended his actions, saying, “It is my duty to enforce state law.” Yes – “I was just following orders” – music to the ears of every totalitarian regime that craves an army of mindless automatons that can’t figure out right and wrong for themselves.

 

The sad reality here is that the parents would not have had to obtain “illegal” marijuana if the state of Georgia allowed them access to the legal THC oil they needed. It is actually legal in Georgia to possess and use low THC oil – but only if you have a state-issued medical card…which has a six-year waiting list (naturally). But even if you somehow manage to get one of these Willy Wonka golden ticket of a medical card, there is nowhere to obtain said oil in the state of Georgia. Its sale is illegal. Its importation is illegal. But if the stork magically drops it from the sky onto your front porch then you’re golden.This is what snarky good ol’boy lawmakers do when they think they’re being oh so clever – they can satisfy two sets of constituents simultaneously. They can claim to be looking out for those in pain who need help while simultaneously claiming to be “tough on drugs”. As the parent of a child who suffered through a period of epileptic seizures when young all I can say is these folks did what any decent parent would do – whatever it takes to alleviate the suffering of their child. They should be commended, not vilified. To the lawmakers in this state who continue to obstruct access to ANY substance that will alleviate suffering, all I can say is that you are vile and despicable monsters. Anyone who would consign their fellow man to unyielding pain in order that their own peculiar notion of propriety is satiated is a callous barbarian unworthy of being permitted any engagement in civil society let alone the respect they so openly crave.

Anyone who would consign their fellow man to unyielding pain in order that their own peculiar notion of propriety is satiated is a callous barbarian unworthy of being permitted any engagement in civil society let alone the respect they so openly crave.

In a country that purports to be the shining city of freedom on a hill there sure is a colossal lack of freedom here. How does the state despoil freedom? Let me count the ways: civil asset forfeiture, criminalization of all manner of victimless “crimes”, conversion of liberties into licenses necessitating bureaucratic permission to regain what was stolen, formerly forced disassociations, now forced associations, forced labor (jury duty), theft of income and assets (taxation) at levels vastly above that which would be paid to fund basic services in a voluntary model, a quagmire of rules that citizens must follow to simply reenter their own country, the 100 mile “liberty free zone” around the US border where not even citizens are immune to the potential 4thamendment abusing CPB agents.Events like this should open all of our eyes to the reality that we are not free. Constraining your actions to fall within the scope of rules established by those with no authority to establish them does not make you free. Even slaves are “free” by that standard. Rules are only legitimate when there is consent. Voting is not consent. Just because the mafia lets me vote for the new mob boss doesn’t mean I consent to their purported authority over me. If slaves got to vote for the nice slave master or the mean slave master it does not somehow legitimize their condition of servitude. If the exercise of a freedom impacts another then as long as there is consent there can be no legitimate boundaries.

GDPR: End of the World

“It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”

This sentiment from the well known R.E.M song encapsulates most succinctly the state of affairs with the E.U.’s “General Data Protection Regulation” (or GDPR). Like you, I too received an onslaught of (promptly deleted) “updated privacy policy notice” emails last week. We all scratched our heads at the oddly timed confluence of these emails but soon went back about the business of life. In short, we felt fine, nothing to see here, move right along. In reality these email notices were the harbinger of the end of human civilization as we have enjoyed it (that is, relatively free liberal western democracies with some semblance of local autonomous governance). GDPR is the first step on the road back to serfdom, albeit a rather different path then the one foreseen by F.A. Hayek. This path follows the same instinct toward fascism (fascism=state control of otherwise putatively private interests, in short a fascism is the façade of socialism dressed up in a cloak of capitalism).

“Oh, c’mon now, I think you’re overstating things here just a bit!” you’re probably thinking by now. Sadly, I’m not. This is the first time that any law or regulation has had GLOBAL reach.

“There is nowhere to run to, no where to hide.”

It does not merely pertain to companies operating in Europe, no, it governs any company anywhere in the world that may at any time count an EU citizen as a customer or even merely a website visitor. That might be all well and good if it were merely a recitation of privacy best practices. But no, this regulation has teeth – velociraptor sharp and deep. The fines for violation of this regulation are specifically designed to put all small to midsize businesses into bankruptcy overnight. The fines range from 10 – 20 million Euro (12 – 24 million dollars) at a minimum! And that is for a single offence! To put that into perspective, according to IRS figures (2013 latest year available) 99.685% of all US business make less than 12 million a year in profit. Or stated differently only about 18,000 US businesses out of approximately 6 million could conceivably withstand such a fine. That is the recipe for serfdom. That is the recipe for what all regulations do to some extent (favor large businesses at the expense of the small) but at a scale that would all but ensure no one could ever again rise above the station they were born into by starting their own business. The least little misstep in following every little dot and tittle of this (and most assuredly future) regulation would leave the nascent entrepreneur crushed like a bug under the heel of Paul Bunyan. “But I’m in the US, they can’t touch us!” you say. Unfortunately our government will be all too willing to help out their EU cronies just in the same way that the EU has been complicit in enforcing the absurd US tax law known as FACTA (which basically treats any US citizen with an overseas bank account like a criminal). GDPR fines are the equivalent of the death penalty for jay walking.

The premise behind this regulation is itself flawed as well. When even someone’s name is considered “private” information I think we can say that privacy regulations have “jumped the shark” and entered full on SJW territory of head spinning absurdity. In short, there is no right to privacy. You do not have the right to walk through the public park and then insist that everyone who saw you must be beat over the head until they have no memory of you walking through the park. That is what this regulation does. It substitutes state violence for personal responsibility. If you don’t want some website to have your information, then don’t use the website, it’s that simple. If you don’t want some company to know where you live because they had to ship product to your house, then don’t buy from them. Don’t ruin society and the internet for the other 99% of us who don’t give a crap if some website stored a cookie in the web cache about the last visit there.

Privacy is a negative right  – it is up to you protect it. Using the state to point guns at people to make them do what you want doesn’t count as you doing something – unless you think violence is the best way to solve problems.

Cultural Appreciation

A dress is once again in the news (prior ones being Monica’s blue dress and the “what color is this dress” internet meme). In this case it is a red dress, or more precisely a red cheongsam or traditional Chinese qipao, worn by an 18-year-old (Keziah Daum) to her prom. Daum set off a Twitter-storm after posting photos of herself in it. Why the fuss? Well, she’s not Chinese so obviously has no right to wear Chinese clothing (at least according to someone going by the name of “Jeremy Lam” who tweeted at her “For it simply to be subject to American consumerism and cater to a white audience is parallel to colonial ideology.” Fortunately some sanity was injected into the brouhaha wherein other self-identified Asian-Americans thought his criticism was silly. Likewise many in China and Taiwan proper saw nothing wrong with it whatsoever and saw it as a sign of cultural appreciation.

Sadly, opinion’s like Lam are not isolated. This politically correct ideology of so-called “cultural appropriation” has been around for a few years, most notably rearing its ugly head each Halloween wherein little children are made to feel guilty for wanting to dress up as Indians (take your pick) or Eskimos. But even big kids can’t play; last year at Princeton University a Cinco de Mayo party was shut down over concerns about cultural appropriation (can’t have white people wearing sombreros you know!).

Proponents of this concept will deploy terms like “imbalance of power” or “form of colonialism” in their rhetoric to provide a veneer of intellectualism. But this is all just nonsense; this fact being underscored by their claim of it being a violation of “collective intellectual property rights.” Collective intellectual property rights can’t exist because intellectual property is a fallacious concept. You can’t own an idea any more than you can own another human being. Sure one can “legally” do these things; slavery used to be legal and was enforced by the state just as today intellectual property (trademark, copyright, patents) are made legal and enforced by the state – but that doesn’t make them real rights or forms of property. The state could make it legal to own a star. That’s right, you sir can own Betelgeuse! Here’s a piece of paper that gives you title to it. So the law can say one thing but logic dictates the true reality of things.

So it is with intellectual property. The only reason property rights exist is to eliminate (or at least minimize) conflict over (1) scarce, (2) rivalrous, and (3) alienable resources. There are only two options when two people are in conflict over the same object: agree on a set of uniformly applied rules that clarify who owns what, or, bash each other’s heads in until one person is dead and the other takes control of the item in dispute. Even though thieves and the state practice the latter, most sane people prefer the former.

All attributes must be true for something to be categorized as property. The air we breathe satisfies 2 and 3, but not 1 (air is basically super-abundant), therefore we don’t own air, what would be the point? A physical object, say a car, is scarce (they aren’t falling out of the sky), it is rivalrous because if I’m using it you can’t use it at the same time and alienable (if I give it to you then I no longer have control over it). This is why ownership of another is not a real property right: a person may be scarce and rivalrous, but they are not alienable in the sense that you, the slave, can choose to do something other than what the “master” wishes (so that is why we don’t own our children or pets per se, we provide custodial care, but they own themselves).

Likewise ideas can’t be owned because they satisfy neither 1,2 or 3 above. If I have an idea and I tell you, now you have the idea, but I still have it; it is not rivalrous or alienable because we can both have it at the same time. So in the same way when someone “appropriates” the trappings of another cultural (fashion, food, language, music) they are not taking from that cultural, rather they are augmenting it by spreading those ideas to a further audience. Although it is not a rights violation, there is still good and bad cultural “appropriation”, so Keziah Daum = good, but Justin Trudeau = bad (google images of him in India recently, dude, please just stop).

P.S. To head off the obvious objections borne out of the pragmatic “but how would X work without IP…?” please see this page.

Facebook Unfriended by Congress

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is the latest in a long line of corporate leaders called to the principal’s office err, that is, before Congress. So apparently this entity known as the United States Government (which has been spying and monitoring its own citizenry at a level that would make a former Stasi agent blush) has called Mr. Zuckerberg to task for apparent “privacy” breaches on the Facebook platform. Let that sink in for a minute: the US government monitors, records, and intercepts all of your web traffic and phone conversations but it is they, of all people, who are concerned about your privacy. Right.

So what exactly is Facebook accused of doing wrong? Apparently they allowed an outside company (Cambridge Analytica) to purchase PUBLIC information about Facebook users from an intermediary. In other words Facebook normally sells this information to advertisers (that is of course their entire business model), but instead someone else got the info for free and sold it. So it seems like Facebook is the wronged party here, not its users or the US Government. It’s the equivalent of the stock boy tossing loaves of bread in the trash and then selling them in the alley after his shift is over. And don’t even get me started on the whole “they allowed Russian trolls to buy ads and influence the 2016 election” nothing burger. Please, everyone who was going to vote for Clinton but then saw a Facebook ad disparaging Hillary and thus changed your vote, please raise your hand. Anyone, anyone? Bueller? Bueller? That’s what I thought.

You’d think Facebook got caught disclosing social security numbers and other sensitive information, oh, wait, that was the IRS. Come on people – what did you expect would eventually happen with all that personal info you’ve been happily typing away into their platform? This is a FREE service. Nothing in life is truly free. As they say, if the service is free, then you’re the product. Or more precisely your metadata is the product: your age, your gender, your likes, your dislikes, your hobbies and on and on. Now I may be showing my age but I do recall a time when television was “free” (and as an aside it is humorous to read about millennials just now discovering this “secret” method to get free TV! Over the air! Who knew?) Why was it free? Because advertisers paid for the entertainment you received just to have the opportunity to try and sell you something. Yes ads are annoying, but that is the price you pay (your time) for that “free” service. Facebook is no different. If you don’t want Facebook to use your private info then don’t use the service or limit what you expose of your life on that platform. This isn’t rocket science.

But, with respect to the Federal government’s snooping into our lives, there is no way to opt out of that short of never using any digital device ever. No phone, no computer, no internet. The men in black are plugged into all of these by virtue of their ability to threaten companies into submission in order to use their products as a backdoor into our private lives. That is the difference between private and public spheres of influence. Private ones are voluntary and can be left if desired. If I don’t want Amazon’s Alexa listening to me then I just turn it off and put it in the drawer. If I don’t want Uncle Sam listening to me then my only choice is to send a physical letter or go meet the other party in person. Also the worst outcome of a private company using your info is an attempt to sell you something you have no interest in. The worst outcome of the state doing so is throwing you in a cage for a myriad of its victimless “crimes.”

The fact that Congress believes they have the authority to call private citizens before their court betrays the reality of the world today. We are not a free people. We have masters. And when the master calls, you come. This is not the same as the employer/employee relationship. That is a voluntary interaction. Our interactions with the state are involuntary (assumed “consent” to their authority via voting notwithstanding). Tolerating bullies (the state) does not equate to voluntary acquiescence to their perceived “right” to order you about; it is simply tolerance of a bully, nothing more, nothing less.

World War III ?

“What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.” Donald J. Trump, August 29, 2013, Twitter.

Perhaps Donald Trump should start re-reading his own tweets and take his own advice. Of course Trump’s failure to follow the Constitution with respect to waging war is the least troublesome aspect of the US’s latest incursion into Syria (Presidents have been doing this since Reagan). What’s more frightening is that Trump can be so easily manipulated by such an obvious attempt at foreign policy puppetry by the Deep State (aka The Swamp, the entrenched unelected bureaucrats of the various intelligence agencies both foreign and domestic).

Just step back for a second and consider what we have witnessed this past few weeks. On March 29 Trump announced plans to begin pulling US troop presence out of Syria (much to the consternation of his hawkish advisors e.g the war monger John Bolton) and by that evening he already began to back pedal on that promise. Then a mere 7 days later there was an apparent chemical weapons attack by Syrian forces against rebel groups putatively ordered by Assad. For Assad tactically this makes no sense. So an occupying force in your country, whom you do not want there, says they are leaving and your first instinct is to do something so belligerently provocative that said occupying force would have no alternative but to stay? That does not benefit Assad at all. But do you know who it does benefit? It benefits the war hawks who are plugged into the military industrial complex (that Eisenhower so presciently warned us of) looking to enhance their own fiscal or power gains. Or the sad ideologues who still drink their own lemonade of believing they can somehow transform the Middle East into some sort of Western Democratic utopia. Yeah, because that model has worked so well in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So while there was much conflicting information on the ground coming out of Syria about who carried out these attacks or whether they even took place at all, the war hawks realized they must strike fast while emotions were still running hot lest they lose the wind filling the sails of the ships headed toward war. On this past Friday the US launched a strike against supposed Syrian chemical weapons sites. Unfortunately they (and we) may get a lot more than they bargained for. Russia clearly and unequivocally warned that any such strikes would be met with an equal response. For those unfamiliar with World War I, this is exactly how World Wars get started. Each side drawing lines in the sand and gathering ever larger groups of allies on both sides. As each side begins to escalate their responses we may quickly find ourselves embroiled in nuclear war. And for what? For nothing. For either a blatant lie or for an internal heinous act that is quite frankly not in any way related to the defense or security of the United States. It would be like Russia stating it is in Russian security interests to bomb ATF headquarters after our government slaughtered innocent civilians and children in Waco, Texas.

If Trump is truly concerned with ending the deaths of innocents perhaps he should end our support of Saudi Arabia in their incursion into Yemen that is resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of Yemenis children. Oh, but the Saudis are our allies, so that makes it ok when they slaughter innocents. Right, got it, murder is ok when it’s our friends. Donald Trump is just Hillary Clinton with tax cuts. As a New York Times best-selling author and historian Thomas Woods says, “No matter who elect you always get John McCain.”

Respect is a Two Way Street

This past week the Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 673, which broadens the existing Georgia ban on texting while driving. The bill requires the use of hands-free technology when such devices are in use. The putative goal of this legislation is then to keep more eyes on the road and fewer in the lap. Certainly a laudable goal and for the most part it should have the intended effect (once drivers are pulled over – 99% of people are not plugged into the news cycle and will remain ignorant of this subtle change in the law until they themselves are informed by the local constabulary).

However it seems no new law is complete without smuggling in a perverse incentive clause. Such lunacy is the hallmark of government imposed rules. A perverse incentive produces the exact opposite of the desired outcome. One of the more humorous examples is the one in which 19th century paleontologist in China would pay peasants for dinosaur bone fragments they happened to find when plowing their fields. Win-win, right? Wrong: the villagers, they learned later, were smashing the bones into numerous tiny fragments to maximize the per piece payments. So in similar fashion this new law has a backdoor that will maximize, rather than minimize, eyes in the lap. It does not recognize an exception on the prohibition of device usage even when stopped at a stop light or stop sign. Since it is much more likely to be noticed using your phone while stopped (beat cop, motorcycle cop, or nearby patrol car) this continued prohibition will have the entirely predicable outcome of incentivizing people to clandestinely use their phone in their lap where nearby eyes are less likely to notice phone manipulation. It makes zero sense to disallow use while stopped. When your vehicle is not moving you present zero danger to anyone. At worst you may get honked at for not moving when the light turns green. If people know they can check their phone every few minutes at the next light they will be far more willing to simply wait until that opening arrives. But if that opportunity is proscribed and made even more fine-risky relative to use while in motion, then people will choose the less fine-risky path and do so while in motion.

If we must have road socialism (state ownership) then it shouldn’t be too much to ask that such owners provide the people with a safe product. To encourage a safe environment there needs to exist legal liability for the owners along with a set of fairly enforced and rationally understandable rules. We’ll never have the former but two out of three is better than nothing. When the rules (traffic laws) are neither fair (e.g. letter of the law rather than spirit of the law enforcement), nor rationale (ban on use while stopped) and to top it all off driven by blatant self-interest (fine collection) then drivers lose respect for those rules and the institution that enforces them and that loss of respects hurts all on the road. If people respect the reasons behind the rule, they’ll respect the rule. In Germany speed limits are set to maximize safety, not revenue. Drivers there will be slow down or speed up in unison upon changes – because they respect that the sign is conveying real information about the driving environment rather than a desire to hand out speeding tickets. If the state respects the driver, the driver will respect the rules.

Words Speak Louder Than Actions?

Why so much hate for the Donald? If we look only at his actual policies they are in fact no different than any of his predecessors. Differences that may exist are in degree, not kind. Or non-existant at all. For example ICE deportations are both up and down under Trump when compared to Obama. They are up from FY2016 (61,094 vs 44,512) but dramatically lower under Trump than under Obama’s first years (averaging over 225,000 from 2008-2012). The point being before you start jumping up and down about what a monster some president is in comparison to “your guy” chances are high that “your guy” at some point did the exact the same thing or far worse. That goes both ways my Democrat and Republican friends. That’s because they are all the same. Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump – they’ve all been responsible for murdering innocent civilians in other countries by the truck load. But nobody cares because we wave the flag and chant “US interests” or “national defense” as if somehow that incantation is supposed to bring absolution. We’re all too eager to protest the president over something he said (mere words) but then stand silent with respect to their horrendous actions (murdering innocents). I guess actions don’t speak louder than words when it comes to Presidential concerns, at least where it concerns Trump.

Clinton, Bush, Obama, and now Trump have all escalated the drug war. They have all been responsible for caging millions of people for the “crime” of having in their possession something that some other people think they shouldn’t have in their possession. If we threw people in cages for owning certain books there would be a groundswell of public outcry; yet change that word from “book” to “drug” and somehow it all makes perfect sense. There is no constitutional amendment (like alcohol prohibition had supporting it) mandating a drug war, so any of these presidents with the stroke of a pen could have ended this senseless and costly “war” on drugs. That not one of them has serves as a testament to their cowardice and wickedness.

So it is not Trump’s policies that the left finds so objectionable but rather his delivery. Indeed when he shuts up and bombs people the press fall all over themselves praising how “presidential” he is. For shame. Killing people is presidential? Trump is crude and blunt when he speaks. Not at all how we picture our Hollywood presidents to be. The press and the left would like someone from central casting (like Obama) filling the role – someone who just “seems” presidential. This crudeness is perhaps Trumps only redeeming quality. It puts the lie to the notion that presidents are somehow better, smarter, and wiser, than the rest of us and are worthy of the power we bestow upon them. They are not. With Trump we see the Everyman President. And it scares us. And it should. But it should scare us no matter who occupies that office. Do not be so easily duped by the silver tongue of the professional politician. If you focus on their deeds and not their words then perhaps we might one day reign in their power.

Riding the brakes?

Do you remember when those hurricanes hit Texas and Florida last month and since some people couldn’t access their money to buy food and other supplies the government just waived the law against theft so people could get what they needed more quickly? Yeah, me neither. But in fact the government did waive one law last month: the Jones Act. This waiver applied to affected ports in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico.  But I thought laws were the very immovable bedrock upon which society was based. How can such pillars of civilization be summarily set aside? The answer is that such “laws” are not really law at all. They are but mere whims and cronyist preferences of those with the power to rule over we mere peasants. These “laws” rather than preventing victimization they instead create victims by benefiting one party at the expense of another.

The Jones Act of 1920 artificially restricts the transport of goods between US ports to only those vessels owned, operated and principally manned by US citizens. In other words no “ferners” can move goods from US port to US port. It was established for putative national security interests post World War I, predicated (as all such protectionist measures are) on a fear of the big “what if” nightmarish scenario of US goods being transported mainly by foreigners….shudder. Of course such a policy is amenable to the autarkist interests of any nation eager to engage in war.

So while the Act has benefited the US merchant marine industry, it has been at the expense of consumers, principally those on US protectorate islands (like Puerto Rico) who by necessity must have nearly all goods brought in by ocean. A 2012 study showed that it cost nearly twice as much to ship to Puerto Rico from the US as it would were a non-US vessel permitted to make such shipments. Another study showed it costs Puerto Rico $537 million per year. In other words $537 million more goes to US vessels (seen benefit) and $537 million fewer dollars goes to those businesses and industries (unseen harm) where that money would have been spent had it stayed in the pockets of the Puerto Rican people.

If a law becomes an obstacle in times of distress then think of what it does in normal times. Although one can get from point A to B while riding the brakes on a full tank, does it really require running on fumes to realize perhaps this constant braking is not a good idea? It is time to remove all such artificial drags on the economy. The role of government is to protect our rights, not to benefit one group at the expense of another.

 

Fallacies

Just as the warm, moist air of late summer engenders the destructive fury of hurricanes, so too do these storms bear the perennial fruit of economic ignorance. Like clockwork the talking heads either eagerly forecast economic prosperity or decry the mendacity of the evil price “gouger.” Or both. The former is the classic example of the broken window fallacy, which like a case of herpes, will never be fully expunged from humanity’s collective consciousness. The error lies in focusing on seen benefits while ignoring unseen harm. We are implored to consider the benefits of jobs that will be created as we set about rebuilding lost homes, towns, and infrastructure. But this economic activity is not enhanced; rather merely diverted. All the money spent on rebuilding would have, absent the hurricanes, been spent on other goods and services. It is those markets and industries that will in turn see economic decline as fewer people spend in those areas. Even if argued that the rebuilding funds come exclusively from the savings coffers of insurance carriers therefore it wasn’t going to be used anytime soon, that still does not change the economic dynamics. A huge influx of “new” cash competing for a fixed amount of supplies does nothing but cause prices to rise for everyone else (e.g. building supplies will be in higher demand therefore all users of such supplies nationwide will experience higher prices). These higher prices mean, again, fewer dollars to spend on other goods. The only sense in which one could argue that net economic activity increases is if we assign no value to leisure. Certainly if one works 12 hours a day rather than 8 to both rebuild what was lost and maintain what one still has, then output is indeed greater. But is that the world we want to live in, where we sacrifice leisure in the name of economic output? Why we don’t need a destructive storm to achieve that, just pass a law enforcing a 16 hour work day and we could double GDP overnight! Destruction is not the path to an economic free lunch. Everything has a trade-off. The only path to prosperity is through savings, capital accumulation, and investment of that capital toward avenues that make production more efficient (i.e. cheaper).

The price gouger fulfills a valuable economic role, namely the rationing of constrained supplies in direct correlation to need. The feedback is immediate and perfect. There is no need for the imprecision of someone overseeing how much has Person A bought in such and such time period if rationing is imposed by pubic or private diktat. This issue is not so much of a fallacy since people do generally understand principle that if supply goes down prices will go up. Rather, it is more of an issue of emotion; each person’s barometer of what a “fair” increase amounts to varies. The fallacy is in believing that someone charging an “unfair” amount deserves to be thrown in a cage. As much as people would like to redefine words, “victim” does not describe someone who paid more than they would have preferred. So, no victim, no crime and thus any laws against price “gouging” are themselves victimizing when those with a true need find nothing but empty shelves. Trading willfully unobserved harms for spurious benefits leaves us all vulnerable.

Vain Pursuits

It is a curious artifact of American politics that the showcasing of a soldier’s widow (as Trump did during his recent address of a joint session of Congress) has the opposite effect one might imagine. If little Johnny were brought before the class by his teacher to show them how he lost a finger playing with firecrackers, one might expect that frightful outcome would instill in the other children a sense that perhaps holding a lit firecracker in your hand is perhaps not a good idea. We would not expect the children to feel emboldened to engage in the same activity.

Likewise, shouldn’t parading the grieving loved ones of fallen soldiers instill in our “leaders” an instinct to be more parsimonious when using this scarce human capital? We would hope they would become progressively less inclined to engage in bellicose rhetoric that necessitates sending soldiers into harms way. But no, it has the opposite effect. In order ensure the recently departed have not “died in vain” and to defend the “honor” of the country, the leaders become even more inclined to retaliate or engage in new overseas adventures with the supposed goal of “furthering US interests” or “consolidating US power.” Why is that? Because for all the high-minded sounding rhetoric (equality, peace, freedom) and apparently “civilized” structure of the modern democratic state these political decisions still turn on raw emotions. The same emotions that drove primitive bands of hunter-gatherers to raid each other’s villages today drive men in suits sitting under gold domes to murder people half a world away. There is no logic, there is no thought, just raw, visceral emotions of revenge, anger, and pride, all wrapped up in some twisted nationalistic package we label patriotism and uniformly applaud like trained seals when shoved in our faces.

Patriotism, literally “love of one’s country” drives not just American leaders but every other country’s ruling elite to engage in the stupidest, most ill advised behavior – from hot wars to trade wars – all to advance the goal of autarky in an “us vs. them” board game. I suppose it is true what they say, “love is blind,” but in combination with political power this aphorism becomes lethal if love of country blinds one to reason and logic. In the war on terror reason and logic would dictate that blowback and the desire to control others is the proximate cause of virtually the entire problem of terrorism. Stop throwing rocks at the hornet’s net if you want to stop getting stung; beating it harder only makes the problem worse.

You’d think we all want no more widows and orphans resulting from pursuing inane policies. That should have been the point of shoving into the face of Congress the results of their polices. If we keep wasting these fine men and women in vain political pursuits, we will one day find no one left to defend us from an actual external attack.