Trust, but Verify

By the time you read this the election will have been decided. No matter who won, the Earth will continue to rotate on its axis and life will go on without nary a concern over the grand egoists in Washington (or Atlanta) who would presume to be our guardians. And that is as it should be. Children require guardians; adults do not.

But, if you are desirous of returning to the womb and feeling comforted in the knowledge that selfless and wise public servants will protect you from all harms, then by all means you have the right, nay, the obligation to demand they prove beyond a reasonable doubt their wisdom and selflessness. In the past all we had as evidence of their competency was their word, or the word of a B-list celebrity on their behalf. If the race was important enough, there might actually be some investigative journalism (back when journalists actually took pride in their work and fully vetted their facts and sources). Whoever was most capable at marketing themselves – apropos in a market driven economy – would ultimately be the winner.

But this election cycle has seen a sea change in terms of trust. As old Russian proverb say, “trust, but verify.” Surely Trump’s puppet master Putin has taught him that one. The Internet has conferred power to the powerless. It has democratized information distribution as the citizen journalist plies his wares in the form of blogs, YouTube videos, and social media memes; a million different opinions and viewpoints all vying to be heard. Some good, some bad, but the for the first time in history everyone has an equal opportunity to be heard (even if fewer today listen as each wrestles for control of the podium). It is the anonymizing power of the Internet that made such platforms as Wikileaks and Anonymous possible. Were they printed media sources they would have been instantly squashed by those in power seeking to silence the Truth they disburse.

History shows that wherever technology ignites the flames that will clear the old ways for the new, there is resistance; the obsolete rarely goes gently into that good night. From the likely apocryphal tale of Dutch workers whose jobs were threatened by industrialization throwing their “sabot” into machinery to undermine its efficiency, to today’s taxi unions pushing to outlaw or undermine crowd-sourced systems such as Uber or Lyft we see the similar desperate grabs at retaining power in journalism. CNN’s Chris Cuomo (wrongly) asserted that only they, the anointed acolytes in The Media could read and interpret the contents of WikiLeaks email dumps. I believe Martin Luther took similar issue with the Pope over proper authority to interpret the Written Word. The Protestant Reformation ensued.

If we are to be ruled like children, then we the People have the right to learn all we can about those who would presume to rule us, by any and all means necessary. Those who would attack the truth because they find its means of delivery distasteful are undeserving of our trust or obedience.

November 09 / 2016
Author Greg Morin
Comments No Comments

Party of Choice?

There was a moment in the recent third presidential debate where Hillary Clinton sounded downright libertarian in her rhetoric. She said: “I can tell you the government has no business in the decisions that [people] make … And I will stand up for that right.” The original quote referenced “women” rather than “people” but I think it’s safe to assume Hillary would consider women to be people. The “decision” under discussion here is abortion. Oddly this seems to be the only individual right the left is willing to defend against government intrusion. Indeed, the refrain of “my body, my choice” is reserved exclusively to abortion but not to say prostitution or recreational drugs. Why is that? Because Democrats (like Republicans) are crass opportunists who will do or say anything to get elected. Recall how Hillary was against gay marriage when it was unpopular but is now for it since public opinion has shifted. Prostitution and illicit drugs don’t garner votes but abortion does. What an odd world we live in where paying for sex is frowned upon, but paying to undo the results of sex is not.

The Democrats claim they are the party of “choice,” unless it’s an activity where they think you’ll make the “wrong” choice. Can I choose where I send my children to school? No. Can I choose to not join a union? No. Can an employer and employee choose a mutually agreeable wage? No. Can I choose to not participate in an inter-generational Ponzi scheme (Social Security)? No. Can I choose to put into my body whatever I want? No. Can I buy (or sell) any good or service? No. Can I choose to start a business without first asking, “mother may I” of the state? No. Can I keep my health plan if I like my plan? I think you get the idea. Now it is true that Republicans are also backers of many of these same prohibitions, but, Republicans have never held themselves up as the “party of choice.” It is for this core hypocrisy I skewer Democrats today. Being for “choice” means supporting it in ALL arenas, not just the politically expedient ones.

Briefly, to return to the topic that started this column, it should be pointed out third trimester abortions could be eliminated without making them illegal. Medical technology is now at the point where just about any child delivered between 7-9 months can survive outside the womb. Groups fighting abortion should shift their resources from sticks (more laws) to carrots. Use those resources to pay the full medical costs of any child that would otherwise have been aborted in the third trimester in exchange for a transfer of guardianship rights from the mother. Perhaps such an arrangement is “illegal” today. I do not know. But if so, hopefully the Party of Choice will lead the way in restoring the right for people to make such mutually beneficial arrangements, turning former foes (abortion opponents) into allies in the process.

November 01 / 2016
Author Greg Morin
Comments No Comments

Just vote “NO”

Georgia residents will see four ballot initiatives in the upcoming November 8 election. When in doubt you should almost always vote “NO” on any constitution changing ballot initiative. The overwhelming tendency is for government power to expand as personal freedom declines – and ballot initiatives generally reflect this reality. I invite the reader to review the exact wording of the initiatives as well as a more comprehensive overview of the true motivations behind them here. In brief though they follow a formulaic pattern that goes something like this: “Shall bad or disreputable thing, children, children, be fixed by implementing innocuous sounding program?” The new program is invariably a Trojan horse designed to expand the state’s purview of unaccountable authority.

Ballot Question 1 proposes to “fix” “failing” schools by allowing the state to take them over. Sounds good, right? Who could be for failing schools? What is omitted is that the entity proposing to take them over would also sets the standard of what constitutes “failing.” All it takes is a legislative tweak to the standard and suddenly all schools in the state are “failing” and require a takeover. Also omitted is that the state turns control over to private companies in a classic cronyist-fascist-public-private “partnership” model. While there is nothing wrong with private entities running schools, they should do so on their own without help from the government to gain clientele.

Ballot Question 2 is even sneakier. It tries to capitalize on widespread distaste for the sex-industry (prostitution, strip clubs, etc.) to sneak in a new layer of government. It proposes new fines and penalties (there are already fines that are quite high) for illegal activity but then slyly adds a new tax on a legal business type (strip clubs) for the express purpose of establishing yet another program to help supposed “victims” of these consensual activities. Even if you find the sex-industry distasteful, please realize they are using that distaste as a pretext to sneak in constitutional permission to impose a tax on ANY type of business to fund ANY new program (strip clubs are merely the “random” example chosen). That’s picking winners and losers. Legislators don’t like Uber? Ok, new “fee” assessed on it to fund a program to retrain cabbies that lost their job or perhaps subsidize cab companies to “help” them compete with Uber et al. That’s what this is about. It’s not about the sex trade. They just know most people will unthinkingly vote for anything that sounds like it might punish that industry.

Ballot Question 3 just gets even worse. What they don’t tell you speaks mountains. Restating without the omissions, “Shall the independent and not accountable to any branch of government Judicial Qualifications Committee (that is, can’t be influenced by those in government) be abolished and a new one be created that is populated with political appointees who owe allegiance to the very entity they are supposedly overseeing (that is, the government)” Yeah, the foxes are tired of the dog guarding the henhouse – they want a fox to guard the henhouse.

Ballot Question 4 sounds the most reasonable and straightforward; no flowery language here. The deception relies on the fact that most people have no idea how the General Assembly funds programs in Georgia. So they are duped into voting for a less efficient system than the one we already have. And as usual that deception is based on tapping into fear; fear that fireworks are harming untold thousands. So we must DO something! The thing is we already fund the programs they cite. Earmarking funds this way sounds good but in reality is less effective because there is no direct correlation between fireworks sales and public safety services. Creating a special fund means those services could be either over or under funded depending on the vagaries of such sales or the random distribution of injuries

So, to sum up, vote “NO” on all four proposals. Each is nothing more than a deceptive attempt to expand the power and influence of individuals within the state government at the expense of all the citizens.

October 28 / 2016
Author Greg Morin
Comments No Comments

Actions Trump Words

I’m certainly no Trump fan, but the level of hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance of the Clinton campaign is breathtaking. So when Bill Clinton came under fire with decades old charges of sexual assault, well that was just part of a vast right wing conspiracy to smear his good name and obviously had no impact on his ability to govern. However, when Donald Trump is the target of similar charges (although Trump barely made it to first base whereas Clinton made several home runs) from years gone by, well that is an obvious reason to disqualify him from the Presidency. Hillary’s tepid defense of women runs only as deep as their politics. If they are opposed to her or her husband then they are liars. But, if they are aligned with her, then their word is sacrosanct and it is up to the accused to prove his innocence.

Now of course the mainline Republicans aren’t much better. They were all too eager to skewer Bill Clinton over his indiscretions many years ago, but seem content to whistle past the graveyard of sexual escapades now that the Donald has come under similar fire. So it seems the general rule in politics is this: if my candidate does X that’s no big deal, but if the opposition does X then that instantly disqualifies them from holding office.

Again, Trump is no saint, but it does seem odd to get so upset over his mere words in contrast to Clinton’s deeds. As they say, actions speak louder than words. Clinton was actively involved in the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians in Libya and Syria. As Secretary of State she directly shaped policies of the Obama administration that led to destabilization of Libya by overthrowing Kaddafi. This Libyan power vacuum led to a widening of the conflict in Syria as the US-armed rebels in Libya moved into Syria and morphed into ISIS. So while some may fear what sort of rash behavior the loudmouth blowhard that is Donald Trump might engage in, I’d say we should be more fearful of the person for whom we have an actual record of action. Clinton either knew that this bloodshed and destabilization would result or she was unable to foresee the obvious consequences of such interventionism – either is sufficient to disqualify her from being given even more responsibility.

Trump is a businessman. Businesses try to achieve their goals with the least expenditure of resources. War is costly in comparison to peace, so that supposition and Trump’s own words suggest he would be more likely to invest in non-violent resolutions. Peace is far more profitable.

So whereas Gary Johnson is the far better candidate than either of these two loons, if you are convinced voting for Gary is “wasting” your vote (however false that premise may be) then at least vote for the candidate less likely to get us embroiled in World War III with Russia (as Clinton’s mentor Obama seems poised to do right now). After all Trump and Putin are pals, right?

October 21 / 2016

Color of Law

If you, like me, have been periodically receiving recorded messages on your voicemail from a heavily accented hypnotized Haldol user purporting to be from the IRS you will be relived to hear those calls were actually fraudulent. Yes, I know it is hard to believe. Indian authorities recently raided and arrested hundreds involved in this scam. If you’re curious to hear first-hand how the scam plays out for those willing to take the bait, have a listen to podcaster Tom Woods as he has a little bit of fun with them. It basically ends with the victim being instructed to purchase Target Green Dot cards (of all things) to stave off an imminent IRS raid. We may laugh at the notion that anyone could be so gullible as to fall for this scam but sadly at least 1 in 100 people did indeed fall for it. After the raid it was reported that these scammers raked in from one-hundred to one-hundred fifty thousand dollars every day.

Although we can agree their actions were contemptible, there is actually little separating what they were doing and what the IRS itself does everyday. Granted the IRS does not threaten people over the phone. No, the IRS is much more polite; they use the mail instead. I know. I’ve received many such letters over the years. And in every single case it was due to an error on the IRS’s part. In other words, guilty until proven innocent. Fortunately my issues were all resolved but not without unwarranted time and expense. But more to the point, the IRS is no different than these scammers even when the amounts owed are correct. Why are such amounts “owed”? Because someone somewhere scribbled ink on a piece of paper and bellowed the incantation “lllllaaaaawwwwwwww” over said paper in order to sanctify its legitimacy. The ostensible use of the idea of “law” in order to extract money from a victim is no more legitimate than the actions of such con-men. The fact that a “law” must be made to extract payment proves the transaction is not voluntary – were it so then no law would be needed. We don’t pass laws that stipulate you must purchase food everyday or else.

The same phenomenon exists with money. Counterfeiters are excoriated as contemptuous thieves who extract goods from society without producing anything of value. Their nefarious duplication of currency parasitically extracts value from all other currency holders. True enough. But if a “law” says the government, excuse me, Federal Reserve, may do the exact same thing, well, that is perfectly fine. This is the economic equivalent of a state granted license to kill and no one bats an eye.

So the next time we are cheering for the apprehension of a villainous criminal lets take a moment to shift focus from the mote in their eye and toward the beam in the eye of the state who is more likely than not engaging in the same practice but under the color of law. Remember, don’t steal, the government hates competition.

October 21 / 2016
Author Greg Morin
Comments No Comments

Pot, meet Kettle

Who here would voluntarily pay more income tax? Anyone? Now be careful and think hard here, after all taxes help support so many aspects of society (roads, schools, welfare, defense, science, economic expansion, etc.) that benefit everyone wouldn’t it be selfish to not do all you could do? Sure the government says you can deduct your mortgage interest, property taxes, and other expenses, but should you? Wouldn’t it be more patriotic to forgo those deductions so that you can more fully participate in the community of this great nation?

If this sounds both familiar and ridiculous at the same time there is a reason for that. The whole message of taking part in the common good of taxation is directly from the statist’s propaganda playbook. The ploy is to guilt you into compliance: if you are opposed to taxation you must also be against all those things taxes fund, right? So while we are instinctively “for” the things taxes fund, we each individually endeavor to keep our share of that obligation to a minimum. A tragedy of the commons in which we extract from the tax pot as much as we can (concentrated benefits of special interests) while limiting what we put in that pot. This tragedy of the commons is nowhere more apparent than in the hypocrisy of ideologues like Clinton who claim the “wealthy” aren’t paying their “fair share” all the while she and her ilk are none to happy to take advantage for themselves every wrinkle in the tax code that allows them to limit their tax liability. Pot, meet kettle.

People who complain about the tax code don’t have any actual experience with it beyond filing their 1040. I do (unfortunately) as a business owner and I can guarantee you there is no secret “check this box to get out of paying taxes this year” box on any of the forms. If the current rumors are true that Trump has not paid taxes for the last 20 years it’s not because he’s some sort of clever businessman or has really great tax accountants. There is one simple reason. He lost a whole lot of money! It is after all called an “income tax.” You must have income in order to tax it. If you lose money in one year and make money in the next you are allowed to offset the profit with the prior loss. If that seems unfair to you then I suspect you’d find nothing wrong with gambling following rules of “heads I win, tails you lose.”

That Trump has apparently carried this loss forward 20 years makes his hesitancy to release his returns all the more understandable. He is tremendously embarrassed by the fact that he hasn’t made any money in over 20 years. In other words, imagine if you had invested $100,000 in the stock market in 1995 but it quickly declined in value to $20,000. Now 20 years later it was again $100,000. Have you made any money?

If it somehow seems unfair to you that people not making any money don’t have to pay “invest in the system” then perhaps it is time to abolish the income tax and shift toward a voluntary user-pays system. Those that consume more will pay more and those that consume less will pay less. You know, like every other good on the open market.

October 04 / 2016
Author Greg Morin
Comments No Comments

In Defense of the Gouger

There was a recent disruption in the supply of gasoline to Georgia due to a ruptured pipeline. The resulting shortage was the predictable result not of the constrained supply but rather busybody price controls imposed by the Governor. The universal support by the public for the Governor’s actions betrays a breathtaking ignorance of basic economics. The law of supply and demand cares not one whit for your desire to maintain a constant supply of a good while forcing its price down.

Not only should “gouging” be “legal,” but in fact welcomed. Gouging ensures a supply of a good even when supplies are constrained. For example, gouging of event tickets ensures that you can get a ticket at a moment’s notice. Although the price is high would you prefer high price and ticket vs. no ticket? Rising prices due to increased demand is the market-natural rationing system. If prices stay low, then no one cuts back and the good is quickly consumed. High prices incentivize conservation so a given supply last longer and is available to those that desperately have a need of it. Hypocritically the state blocks private business from such practice but happily engages in it on a regular basis in the PeachPass toll lanes of I-85. I have personally seen prices go from 7¢ to over $11 for the same stretch. Of course this is a good thing, and the state knows it, so it is rather disingenuous for them to block it in other arenas.

The most common objection is what of the station that raises their prices during the day on the mere rumor of a disruption? They’ve already paid for the gas in the tanks in the ground – how can they possibly justify reaping these windfall gains? Easy. The higher price (and profit) ensures the station itself can buy more from their supplier at the soon to be higher prices. If the gas in the ground cost 25 and is sold for 30, then the station takes from those sales 25 and buys the same amount again. But if they are not allowed to raise prices and it soon will cost 100 to refill the station’s tanks, then they can only buy 1/3 of what is needed and so will run out that much faster each time. If they can charge 120, they can take 100 and fully replenish the tanks ensuring a steady supply.

A tertiary benefit of high prices is as economic alarm. It signals too society that resources are more urgently needed where prices are high. People then swoop in to access that higher profit potential and so the supply immediately begins to swell and prices fall. So even when such “gouging” occurs it will not last long as the market corrects itself naturally. No need for men with guns running around threatening people.

The usual objection here is that people can’t afford the higher prices. Please. No one is going to be filing bankruptcy because they spent extra on gas for a week or so. The above average amounts are no more than typical monthly discretionary spending (movies, eating out, etc.) The prospect of possibly foregoing a few luxuries doesn’t seem like the sort of essential human right that rises to a compelling state interest. Indeed, state intervention only makes matters worse – when it comes to economics, there’s no free lunch.

Can Buy Me Love

There is something eerily similar to the behavior of politicians competing for votes and that of divorced parents competing for the love of a child. There are two strategies deployed in this endeavor. Tear your competitor down with insults or build yourself up through gifts. With either approach there is little daylight between Democrats and Republicans. With Trump’s recent speech directed at working women we see that the difference between Democrats and Republicans is in degree, not kind. Both are quite willing to violate the rights of the individual upon the altar of compulsory collectivism, because you know, feelings. Trump promises six weeks of paid leave for working women. Clinton promises twelve weeks of paid leave for anyone caring for someone. Why so stingy though? It’s not their money after all. Why not promise a year of paid leave? Or two, or ten? Oh, that’s right, because of course we all know there are thresholds of cost that no business could bear. Let’s be reasonable after all. So in the pursuit of reasonableness our wise overlords-to-be dial back the burden-meter until some, but not all, business could manage to survive. Since only 12% of companies currently provide paid family leave we can draw the reasonable conclusion that this is a fairly expensive benefit. Were it not expensive then naturally every business would provide it (duh). And what adjective describes somebody that can afford really expensive things? That’s right: wealthy! So what kind of sorting might we expect to see if a large expense is imposed on large and small businesses alike? That’s right – smaller businesses will shut down leaving only the larger wealthy ones behind. Likewise the (artificial, government imposed) barrier to entry for new competitors will be so high that none will pass. I can almost understand Trump proposing this. As a large business owner it confers a competitive edge to his corporate interests. But the Democrats, those supposed champions of the “working men and women” leading the charge against the evil one percenters, they are in fact giving those ultra-uber rich businesses the greatest benefit imaginable: eliminating sources of competition. The irony is I’m sure Bernie would have supported a similar mandate while remaining blind to the fact he’s helping the very businesses he decries.

Such mandates further the goal of augmenting dependency on the state by slowly dissolving agency of the individual. The state views the employee as being too weak and stupid to make the best decision for themselves. If an employee would prefer more pay and less leave time, that’s not allowed. If an employee would prefer a higher wage in exchange for flexible working hours, that’s not allowed. If an employee would prefer having a job at lower wages vs. having no job at all, that’s not allowed. Mandated paid family or maternity leave is no different than a mandated minimum wage (i.e. price fixing). All benefits boil down to a monetary cost. If you mandate paid leave (the seen benefit), then you’re going to have to pay for it by subtracting from somewhere else (the unseen loss). That could be the rollback of non-mandated benefits, smaller bonuses and raises, or fewer workers hired. The last is most insidious as it leads to increasing unemployment despite no one losing their job. It further increases the work-load (and stress) on existing employees. When that happens many would gladly trade a lower wage for a smaller workload and less stress – but – that’s not allowed because children can’t make those sorts of decisions. Only the parents – the state – are wise and responsible enough to make those kind of decisions. Thank you wise and omniscient Dear Leader.

 

September 22 / 2016

Never Forget

“We will never forget.” This sentiment is nearly universally applied in remembrance of the September 11 anniversary. But what does it mean? Since most do not personally know someone who perished, it is doubtful it is intended to memorialize a particular individual. Rather, it is intended as a warning to those that attacked us, “I will never forget how you hurt us; you will pay for what you have done.” It is a passive-aggressive remembrance. But when a bee stings someone perhaps it is more fruitful to try understanding why they got stung than to wage war against the hive. Yes, the bee stung me and that rightfully makes me angry, but, perhaps my buddy should not have thrown that rock at the hive five minutes earlier. Maybe, just maybe, that had something to do with it. Sometimes we pay the price for the misdeeds of others. It is not fair. It is not right. We can’t change the past. But we can change the future by learning from the past.

Instead of being led by the nose, we need to start asking the questions we’re not supposed to ask. If the 9-11 assailants did what they did because they hate us for our freedom, then why have there not been attacks on every “free” western democracy for the past two hundred years? For some reason the history books seem to be silent on jihad-style attacks in the 1920’s or 1870’s. I wonder why. It is odd that the “modern” notion of Islamic extremist only developed post 1950’s. Let’s not forget that the US and UK governments played a hand in the 1953 Iranian coup d’état that saw the democratically elected Mosaddegh ousted in favor of a puppet dictator (the Shah). Let’s not forget that the Middle East was arbitrarily carved up by European powers in the wake of World War I and II. Let’s not forget Israel was created in 1948 by the UN by forcible removal of people from their homes. There is no single cause to this mess, but, that is the nature of an abusive relationship. A multitude of transgressions, large and small, will after many years culminate in a response. An abused spouse may long endure abuse until finally one day they strike back, violently. Such events do not occur in a vacuum.

To be clear, this is not “blaming America,” unless you subscribe to the fallacy that America is its government. Consider: my neighbor repeatedly tosses his dog’s poop over his fence into another neighborhood despite their protestations to cease such behavior. Then one day those neighbors toss a grenade back which also results in my house being damaged. I’m going to darn well blame them both! My neighbor’s actions precipitated this response. Stating that my neighbor played a hand in those events does not mean I’m disloyal to my neighborhood and blaming my neighborhood. A member of the group is not the group itself. Repeat after me: blaming our government is not blaming America. That is the lesson we should never forget: the actions of those we elect have consequences.

%d bloggers like this: