Thursday, September 24, 2009

Socialism: The Morning After

Filmmaker, Michael Moore, has recently squatted down and dropped another steamy pile of “documentary” into the can. His new film is an attack on Capitalism which I have not seen, and don’t plan to see. Because I have not seen it, this article will not be an attack on the content of the movie. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that Moore has abandoned his previous techniques - sensational and sophomoric attacks - and has decided to finally become a true seeker of the truth.

I assume he went to the Mises Institute to interview Lew Rockwell, Jr. and discuss the economic theories of Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, and Murray Rothbard. I’m sure Moore provided an in depth argument explaining why prices should be determined by the Labor Theory of Value and not by supply and demand in a laissez faire system. Moore no doubt backed up his arguments with Rockwell with volumes of evidence to show how planned economies have out performed free economies.

While at the Mises Institute, Moore probably sat down with Thomas Woods, author of Meltdown, since Moore’s movie is supposed to be a look at Capitalism’s role in the financial collapse. They surely discussed the Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle and the role of interest rates in the market. They probably also discussed the role of the Federal Reserve in inflating the money supply and artificially setting interest rates and how that caused the housing bubble. Moore no doubt was able to show how it was capitalism that caused these problems and not the manipulation of the market by the Federal Reserve, government-owned enterprises like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and government action such as the Community Reinvestment Act. Moore also probably pointed out how the Stimulus and all of the Bailouts have saved capitalism just like the New Deal “saved” it in the 1930’s.

After Moore’s intellectual economic debates with Rockwell and Woods, he probably hopped aboard the Amtrak and rode with the “common people” down to California to meet with Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Institute to discuss the moral and philosophical implications of capitalism as explained by Ayn Rand’s Objectivism vs. Marxist and Rousseauian Socialism. Moore obviously made reasoned and logical arguments for why the ideas that people should be “forced to be free” and goods should be distributed “to each according to his need, from each according to his ability” are morally and philosophically superior to ideas like voluntary cooperation and working in one’s self-interest.

I’m sure that he didn’t resort to his usual tactics and stand in front of AIG with a megaphone shouting that he “is making a citizens arrest of the board of directors…” Oh wait, he did that in the trailer?!? I’m sure that was just to attract an audience, but the rest of the movie will be full of facts, logic, and deeply thought-provoking arguments.

Anyway, what I really want to know is, how is he going to handle ticket sales and paying his employees? As we know from Michael Moore, profit is bad and he is the defender of the “common man” (i.e. the proletariat.) Therefore, is he going to be using Marx’s Labor Theory of Value when deciding how much the movie should cost and everyone should be paid? How will he determine the cost of the labor applied to making the movie by his cameraman, writers, producers (wait, is that like an evil CEO? Screw that guy then!) grips, editors, etc.? How much is he going to pay himself? Is he making the same amount as the cameraman?

Then next question is how will he decide what people should pay to watch the movie? Will people have to bring a pay stub and their recent tax return to determine their ability to pay? Will they also need to bring proof of their political and economic affiliations to show their “need”? Obviously libertarians and objectivists are the most in “need” of watching this movie since we are the ignorant masses that still believe that capitalism is the only way to ensure individual rights and liberty. Conservatives will have to pay slightly more, and progressives and socialists will pay the most (unless they are poor) since they don’t even “need” to watch this movie. How will we determine “need” vs. “ability”? How much would a rich conservative pay? Would a poor libertarian actually make money if they go? A rich progressive would have to sign over the lease on his Prius for a ticket.

Or does this movie belong to the people (read: State)? How can Michael Moore claim any ownership of this film? Film is art and art belongs to the people right? How very greedy of Mr. Moore to try to keep this movie to himself AND to make money on it! He should sign ownership of this movie over to people of the world, and give all the money he has made from this movie and any of his other films to the government. Once he has signed over all of his property, he should work in whatever job the collective decides would most help the collective (the show Dirty Jobs has some great ideas), send all of that money to the government and sign up for welfare and Medicaid, so the government can take care of him just like in his favorite country, Cuba.

This Article also appears on DC Write Up

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lesson on Inflation from Duck Tales

This is a great video to show the damaging effects of the Federal Reserve and Inflation.

Go to The Mises Institute to find free audio books, pdf books, articles and more about Austrian economics and free market capitalism.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Don't look to Washington, Look to Yourself

With all of the problems we are facing, it is understandable that people are looking for a leader to show us the way out. The worst place we can look, however, is Washington, DC. The Democrats look to Obama as their savior, while the Republicans search for this generation’s Reagan. Looking for a good politician, however, is like looking for a good hurricane. There are no good hurricanes; there are just less destructive ones. It is the nature of the political profession to be meddlesome and to use force to control people and destroy liberty.

Politicians are largely a reflection of the people. It is often said that people get the government they deserve. That is what has gotten us into the mess we are currently facing. We are looking for the government to fix the problems that we wanted them to create in the first place. We have allowed the government to swell to unbearable levels and now we are looking for other politicians to try to override the expansion. It is a noble undertaking for activist organizations to fight the growth of government and for grassroots organizations to try to elect freedom fighters, but at best they will only slow the growth but not reverse it. We must not look to Washington or to the parties to fix our problems. We must look to ourselves.

Washington cannot fix our problems because most people are not willing to accept what is necessary to fix them. The solution to 99 percent of our problems, especially the domestic ones, is more liberty and less government. Most people, even those who may support liberty in their own lives, favor governmental tyranny over the lives of others, and look to the government as a security blanket. A candidate that truly advocated liberty could never win an election today. Too few people understand what it means to be free. We have become a country of jealous spoiled children, always looking for someone to kiss our boo boos and constantly whining that life isn’t fair.

We no longer strive to achieve as individuals. Rather, we complain about those who have more than we do. The homeless man complains about the man who makes $40 thousand a year. The man who makes $40 thousand complains about the man who makes $100 thousand. The man who makes $100,000 complains about the millionaire. Instead of looking to those who have achieved as role models or as competition pushing us to work harder, we complain about how unfair their success is and hope for their downfall. We are no longer a country that admires success; instead we celebrate and reward failure. Is it any wonder that as spoiled children we now have government acting like an overbearing parent?

If we want to break free and become adults, we must grow up and accept responsibility for ourselves. We must use our minds and stop expecting someone else to take care of us. We must defend capitalism and work within our reality, using our rational minds, rather than escaping to a fantasy world. We live in a concrete reality, we can not change reality, we can only adapt to our surroundings by using our rational minds. This is what separates humans from animals, and adults from children. We must face the world free of contradictions and inconsistencies.
The government only functions to protect your life, liberty, and property. Government is only force-it can only act to physically stop something. It cannot give something to someone unless it first takes it away from someone else. We cannot demand that the government protect us from thieves and then expect it to steal on our behalf. We cannot complain when the government restricts our liberty and then demand it restricts the liberty of another.

Only when we are a people free of contradictions and inconsistencies in their beliefs and actions; only when we embrace reason and reality and use our rational minds to make decisions, rather than rely on our emotions in a fantasy world that cannot exist; only when we accept that voluntary trade in a capitalist system is the only moral and practical method for allocating scarce resources; only when we are worthy of liberty will we have a government that protects liberty.

We must stop looking to others for leadership and guidance. We must take it upon ourselves to learn about the economics and philosophy of liberty, and then spread that message to others. We cannot look to Washington or the government for leadership. We are individuals. We are rational, thinking beings. We are producers. We are free men and women, not spoiled children. It is time we started acting like it.

This article was also published at The D.C. Writeup

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Do we want Principles or Pandering?

Last week, Representative Eric Massa (D-NY) was caught on tape saying, “I will vote against their opinion if I actually believe it will help them,” and many conservatives and Republicans freaked out. I am not sure what the big deal is, isn’t that what we want from elected officials in a Republic? We shouldn’t be focusing on the fact that he will ignore his constituents if he thinks he is doing what is right, we should be focusing on the idiotic ideas he thinks are right.

Rep. Massa was referring to the Obamacare bill that is being debated across the country. Massa supports this bill and will support it regardless of public opinion. If you ignore the specific bill for a minute, isn’t this the sentiment we want from our officials? People always complain about politicians like Bill Clinton, John Kerry, and John McCain whose beliefs change depending on focus groups and polling data. These spineless weasels are not concerned with principles, only with popularity and remaining in power. We want our politicians to have strong convictions and do what they think is right. When President George W. Bush fought an unpopular war in Iraq, supporters of the war and of the President admired his courage to go against the popular opinion and do what he thought was right. The same can be said for many of President Reagan’s policies. At first his proposals to cut taxes and deregulate industries were incredibly unpopular. He believed very strongly in the power of free markets and ignored the will of his constituents to do what he believed was best for the country.

Do the people who are now criticizing Massa believe that Bush should have abandoned the War as soon as the approval dropped below 50%? Do they believe Reagan should have abandoned his policies when they became unpopular? Do these people also support alleged conservatives in farming districts that abandon their free market beliefs to support farm subsidies because it is the will of their constituents? Should we have a tyranny of the majority where representatives support whatever 51% of their constituents want?

We elect people to vote their convictions. If you don’t like what they believe, don’t elect them. Rep. Massa should not be criticized for saying what he said or for voting against his constituents. He should be criticized for believing that Obamacare is a good idea. He should not vote against Obamacare because it is unpopular, he should vote against it because is a terrible idea. He needs to critically look at the bill: its effects, Constitutionality, impact on the economy and liberty, etc., and decide if it is a good idea or not. He should listen to the arguments for and against it, but he should NOT consult polls and focus groups to decide if he should support it or not.

By embracing this inconsistent and ridiculous argument conservatives not only discredit their alleged belief in Representative Democracy, but they become distracted by this red herring. We should be discussing Massa’s poor judgment, economic illiteracy, and dangerous progressive philosophy that leads him to trust Obamacare. We should also be looking at his motives for supporting the bill. Does he actually believe it will be helpful or is he doing it to help powerful special interests or to expand his own power in Congress? If he genuinely believes this bill will be helpful, he should absolutely go against the will of his constituents to vote for it. His constituents should then vote him out of office for being a statist with terrible judgment, not because he didn’t cave to public opinion. The last thing we want in this country is a government that rules based on the daily whims of the people and public opinion polls.

This article was also published at The D.C. Writeup

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Global Warming “Solutions” Are Worse Than the (unlikely) Problems

**This article originally appeared at on August 12, 2009**

At ATR, we have told you about the devastating costs that will come as a result of the Waxman-Markey Energy Tax: Cap and Tax is only the tip of the still very frozen ice burg. Two new documentaries show the costs, not only the financial costs, but also the devastating effects on standard of living and human lives, of the proposed “solutions” to global warming.

Marlo Lewis, Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) released a documentary called Policy Peril: Why Global Warming Policies Are More Dangerous Than Global Warming Itself.

The threats of global warming are greatly exaggerated and we will do more harm than good with these drastic proposals to stop global warming. This clip illustrates the Human costs of global warming “solutions:”

The full 40 minute documentary can be streamed for free here.

A feature length documentary, Not Evil, Just Wrong, will have a world wide, simultaneous premier on October 18th at 8pm EST. This film shows “the true cost of global warming hysteria.”

Friday, August 7, 2009

Some are More Equal than Others

A new ad campaign has begun in the DC Metro system with posters featuring an 8 year old Florida girl asking “President Obama’s daughters get healthy school lunches. Why don’t I?” The easy answer is because Obama’s daughters go to a prestigious private school rather than a government-run public school.

The real question that should be asked is, “Why are government schools good enough for other people’s kids, but not his?” Earlier this year he and the Senatorial Democrats had a chance to help low income students escape failing DC public school, and they did not.

Back in March 2009, the Senate Republicans proposed an amendment to the $410 billion omnibus spending bill that would continue and expand the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. This Amendment was killed by the Democrats, ending the program.

In May 2009, President Obama set aside enough money in the budget to let the students currently enrolled in the program to finish. How generous of him to not pull the rug out from under these kids, while his daughters attend private school. The compromise by Obama, however, does not allow any new students to enroll in the program and escape their failing public schools. This video from Reason.TV shows some of the people who are hurt by the actions the President and Senate.

These actions are typical of progressives like Obama and Senate Democrats. Costly and ineffective government programs are good enough for the common people, but not for the political elites. They are trying to force a health care plan on us in which they will not participate and they do not send their kids to the schools they claim are good enough for the rest of us. They have one standard for themselves and another standard for us.

This also appeared at

Union Chief Facing Corruption Charges

Just when you thought Unions (the people who brought you bankrupt auto industries, failing pensions, and organized crime) were starting to clean up their act, the Union Chief of the New York District Council of Carpenters and Joiners of America and nine others are facing corruption charges.

The 29 charges include “racketeering, bribery, fraud and perjury.” Bribes of about $1 million were paid to the men by contractors so they could pay workers below union scale, hire illegal immigrants and non-union workers, and skip contributions to the union’s benefit fund.

This is not the Union’s first brush with these types of accusations. In 1990, Manhattan prosecutors brought up similar charges in a civil racketeering lawsuit. The lawsuit led to a court appointed “corruption monitor,” which is still in place and as effective as most government appointed regulators.

The Union’s “history of mob influence, labor racketeering and bribery” has not caused politicians to distant themselves. Just six weeks ago, Mayor Bloomberg released a press release that the union had endorsed him for a third term. At a recent Union event, Michael J. Forde, one of the men facing indictment, introduced the Mayor as their “endorsed candidate” and gave him a hug.

Another man included in the indictment is Association of Wall, Ceiling and Carpentry Industries of New York executive director Joseph Olivieri. Olivieri has strong ties to the Genovese crime family, according to the FBI and law enforcement officials. The indictment does make reference to the Genovense family, but as of now, they are not included in the indictment. The investigation is ongoing.

Lev. L. Dassin, the acting United States attorney who announced the charges, said, “Instead of protecting the financial interests of union members and their families, corrupt union officials and the contractors who bribed them are charged with betraying the carpenters’ union and its benefit funds to enrich themselves.”

For more information, visit the AWF Union Transparency Page.

 This article also appeared at

Don’t Read the Bills, Just Vote No

There has been a lot of heated debate about whether Senators and Congressmen should read the 1000+ page bills that are being proposed, most notably the healthcare and Cap and Trade bills. Protestors at town hall meetings are demanding their representatives read every page of the bill before voting for it.

This seems like a reasonable request, though many senators and congressmen have taken offense to the idea that they read these bills. Representative John Conyers didn’t know what the point was in reading it because he wouldn’t understand it anyway. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer laughed at the idea of reading the health-care bill saying, “If every member pledged to not vote for it if they hadn’t read it in its entirety, I think we would have very few votes.” Representative Henry Waxman admitted he didn’t know the details of his own Cap and Trade bill. And Senator Arlen Specter said they couldn’t read the whole bill, because they have to “make adjustments very fast.” There is a simple solution to this issue, Senators and Congressmen don’t have to read the bill, just vote no.

It is a waste of everyone’s time to try to read 1000+ pages of a bill just to find out it is a bad bill. There is a handy, “cheat sheet” if you will, for every member of Congress to tell them whether or not they need to read any piece of legislation. It is called the U.S. Constitution. “What’s this U.S. Constitution you speak of?” A Senator or Congressman might ask. I’m glad you asked. It is a clever document written by some wise men in the late 1700s that tells the federal government exactly what they can and can’t do; some might even go as far as to say it is the “highest law in the land.”

My copy of the U.S. Constitution, which I got for free from the Cato Institute, is about 4 inches high by 3 inches wide, and including a Preface, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution with all Amendments, is 58 pages.

Article I of the U.S. Constitution lists the powers of the Legislative Branch and Amendment X of the Bill of Rights states “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Basically, if it doesn’t explicitly say the federal government CAN do something that means it CAN’T.

Let’s practice. We will start with the Cap and Trade energy tax bill which was passed by the House a few weeks ago. No one could have possibly read this bill before it was passed, because an official copy didn’t even exists. No problem though, all they had to do was look in their trusty Constitution and see what it has to say. It does not have a section granting the United States the authority to regulate invisible gases. Ok, so now we look at the Amendments section…not there either. It’s not in the Constitution, therefore Congress can’t do it, so Vote no.

On to Healthcare. This is a heated debate, so let’s consult the Constitution. Again, nothing in there about the government providing health care, health insurance, or anything else having to do with doctors or medicine. It’s not in there, so you don’t have to read the bill, just vote no.

This works with other bills as well. The Employee Free Forced Choice Act (EFCA) would allow the government to step into negotiations between Unions and Employers and arbitrate their contracts. The Constitution does not say anything about the Federal Government arbitrating contracts between two private organizations. Vote no.

It is unfortunate that no one in the government had found their handy Constitution sooner. Does it allow them to use tax money to bailout banks? No. Does it allow them to use taxpayer money to buy auto companies? No. Does it allow them to “Stimulate” the economy by printing paper money out of thin air? No. It does allow them to borrow money, but it also says, “No state shall…make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Depts.”

If reading the Constitution is still too much for the average Senator or Congressman, there is an even shorter way to decide how to vote. All they have to do is consult one part of the Declaration of Independence, “[T]hat they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness-That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their Powers from the Consent of the Governed”(Emphasis mine).

Before voting for a bill they only need to ask two questions. First, will this bill deny anyone of their Life, Liberty, or Pursuit of Happiness? For example, if one person is forced to pay for the health insurance of another that is denying him of his Liberty to spend his money in the manner he chooses without coercion. Second, because the rights of government are derived from the rights of the governed, does the average citizen have a right to do what is proposed in the bill? For example, can Joe Sixpack down the street, go to his local factory and force them to reduce their carbon emissions? If he doesn’t have the right, how did the government derive their right from him?

This should help to simplify things and allow members of Congress more time to raise money for reelection campaigns, go to luaus at the White House, and enjoy all of the other perks of being in Congress.

This also appeared on

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shut up about Obama’s Birth Certificate!

We are six months into Obama’s first term as president and rather than focusing on outrageous spending and money creation, oppressive regulations, and a general loss of liberty which has been accelerated since the Bush Administration, there are still stories about Obama’s Birth Certificate. Why? What is the point and the goal of talking about this?

Let’s assume that he doesn’t have a US Birth Certificate for a second. Ok, now what? Now we remove him from office? Joe Biden becomes President? Is that really an improvement? How would we benefit from having the guy who admitted the country is going bankrupt and then said we should spend more to get out of it, as President?

Or would this invalidate the entire ticket? John McCain becomes President? We have another election? How long would that take and how much would that cost? Is it really a good idea to add political instability to the economic instability? The economy is already suffering in part to huge amounts of uncertainty; how would not having a President lessen that uncertainty?

If we assume that we could get Obama out and replace him with someone else, let’s say we vote in a nice conservative Republican. How does X President (it really doesn’t matter who) change anything? Wouldn’t progressives still control the House and Senate? Wouldn’t the Senate still have 60 votes? It might be somewhat difficult to override a veto in the House and Senate, but after ousting their President, do you think any Democrats would side with the Republicans on anything again?

A new President, no matter who it was, would do nothing to stop the Federal Reserve, the bailouts, or the stimulus. Sonia Sotomayor would probably be pushed through even faster under the guise of maintaining stability. Their reasoning would be that we wouldn’t want to have a President removed AND only 8 Supreme Court Justices.

This argument is as ridiculous as the 9/11 Truth arguments and it serves the same purpose. The 9/11 Truthers waste their time following a stupid conspiracy theory and serve only to make libertarians (and a lot of progressives, but their entire philosophy is crazy) look like nuts and discredits the sane libertarians. The Birth Certificate argument is the conservative equivalent. It makes conservatives and Republicans look like nuts, idiots, racists, and sore losers. Following this path accomplishes nothing except providing some small (but unlikely) glimmer of hope that it could get rid of Obama. It would not fix any of our problems; it would not shrink the government or restore freedom or capitalism. All it could possibly accomplish would be to remove Obama from office.

If removing him from office wouldn’t reverse the path we are on, what is the point? Do the Republicans do this because they are upset that their progressive candidate lost to the Democrat’s progressive candidate? The situation today would be very similar if McCain had won, so removing Obama doesn’t solve anything. Or is it because he is black? Most people who oppose Obama do so because they oppose his policies and philosophy and could care less about his skin color. Ultimately, by continuing with this farce, we are no longer discussing his destructive policies or furthering our goal of undermining them. Following this path will discredit those of us with legitimate complaints against his agenda, and paint us as racists who just can’t stand the idea of having a black man in office. I’m sure, however, that there is a minority of small-minded (read: stupid) people that do oppose him because of his skin color. Those people should be shunned from the movement and we should not allow them to distract those of us with rational and intelligent claims against the President and the progressive agenda in Washington.

Not only is this path dangerous because it discredits our side, but it overlooks the fact that Obama is a master of misdirection. If he has a Birth Certificate why doesn’t he just go on TV and show everyone? This is likely part of his plan. Conservatives and Republicans would be forced to stop talking about it if he debunked it. They would stop wasting their time with this pointless argument and focus on what Obama is really doing. Obama is a political magician. He has us all focused on his left hand while his right hand pulls a Climate Bill/ Energy Tax or government health care plan out of his FDR top hat. While we discuss superfluous things like where he was born, The Fed materializes trillions of dollars out of thin air.

If your goal is simply to get Obama out of office at all costs, then nothing I can say will stop you from wasting your time. However, if you have higher goals in mind, like restoring liberty and capitalism to this country, then I applaud you for realizing that this birth certificate debate is an inane distraction from the real problems we face.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My Email to Wal-Mart

The following is an email I sent to Wal-Mart urging them to rethink their support for the government health care plan. They replied with a generic form letter which was exactly the same as the response another person I know received. If you would like to contact them visit

"Please forward to the Corporate Headquarters:

I am outraged to learn that Wal-Mart is supporting the ridiculous Socialized Medicine scheme being proposed by the President and Congress.

I realize that Wal-Mart believes this will lower costs by passing the burden of health coverage to the government, however, this is a shortsighted and dangerous game that you are playing. The health care system does need some work, though it is still the best system in the world, just ask all the Canadians that come here when they don't want to wait in long lines in Canada.

The solution, however, is not more government, it is less! The solution lies in the free-market not in government control. People should be given more freedom, lower taxes, and greater choices. Wal-Mart should know this better than anyone.

Your company, while acting in its own interest to make money and become the biggest supermarket in the world, has done more to improve peoples' lives, especially the lower class, than any government program in the history of man. If you believe the government should provide health care, maybe you also believe the government should provide food and should come up with a bipartisan supermarket reform bill? Food is much more important than health care, I need food everyday, so you must also believe that food is too important to be left up to the free-market and should be provided by the government. Maybe the government should use tax money to make low cost food retailers to compete with you, you would support that, right?

If you are going to get in bed with the leaches in Washington, DC and support a system that will increase taxes, take away our freedom, destroy capitalism, and destroy our health care system, than that is not a bed I would like to be in, and will no longer shop at Wal-Mart.

Please, go back to doing what you do best: providing quality goods at low prices and do not sell out yourself and your country by supporting dangerous government schemes for shortsighted gains. Do not change your mind because you will lose me as a costumer, because I will be insignificant compared to the pain you will suffer if supporting a course of action that continues to drive this country towards socialism.

First they came for the banks, then they came for the auto industry, now they are coming for health care, next they pass EFCA, and Cap and Trade, and then they regulate profits and prices, and salaries, and then one day you will wake up and wonder what happened to your company, your country, and your freedom? Once you start this chain of events, you will not be able to stop it. Stop it now before it is to late. Do not support your own destruction!!!"

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Jobs are a means, not an ends.

A dangerous and disturbing trend has taken over in America. This is not a recent movement, but it is one that must be understood and stopped before it brings about the end of capitalism and liberty. I am referring to the idea of “creating jobs” as though that is the goal of a productive society. Everywhere you turn, especially during the current economic problems, you hear people talk about how we need to “create jobs” or “get people back to work.” It seems that the only thing President Obama can say without a teleprompter is some version of the above statements. This is a grand misunderstanding of economics and how to create a prosperous economy. Jobs are not an ends, they are a means to an ends and a consequence of prosperity.

People choose to go into business for one goal, to make money. Many times they will also go into business because they enjoy what they are doing and they have a passion for their craft, but if they don’t make a profit it is not a business, it is a hobby. No one starts a business to create jobs. In fact, jobs are a tremendous cost for most businesses. That is why labor tends to be one of the first things cut when I company is in financial trouble. Wages, training, taxes, and benefits are all tremendous costs for a business. So why do businesses ever hire employees if they are such a cost burden? At a certain point the marginal benefit of having the employees will outweigh the marginal costs. That means that once a company grows to a certain size (depending on the company) it becomes more profitable to hire employees and create jobs and less of a cost burden. Therefore, jobs are a result of a growing company and of profit. The less profit a company has the fewer jobs it will provide. If politicians and talking heads understood this and truly wanted to “create jobs” they would encourage companies to make profits and help them cut costs to free up resources for growth. They would cut taxes across the board, corporate, capital gains, property, etc. They would also ease regulations which increase costs and act as barriers to entry for new competitors. This would provide an environment of prosperity and productivity which would lead to more jobs and better paying jobs.

Why are these solutions not being explored by the people who claim to want jobs? One reason is economic illiteracy in this country. Most people do not think about economics or understand much of how it works. They know they want a job or want a better job and they expect the government to be able to get it for them. They believe that jobs are all that matter and that if we create jobs it will lead to prosperity. This is the thinking behind the different “stimulus” packages and other corporate welfare schemes. There was a ballot initiative in Colorado Springs which thankfully failed, that was cleverly called the “Jobs Now” bill. It was nothing more than a corporate welfare scheme which would have redistributed money from property taxes from one group of people and give it to another group (i.e. friends of the city council) with the ridiculous promises of more jobs. How does taking money from one group and giving it to another create anything? Also, how do they expect a company that depends on government handouts to last? They will shakedown the city by promising to move there and create jobs, but what happens then that money runs out? They will be running back to the city with their hands out and threatening to leave. Rather than creating an environment based on low costs of business for the companies, they make the companies dependent on the handouts, like a crack addict looking for his next fix. All of this gets sold to the voters with the promise of creating jobs.

If the goal was just to create jobs, the government could ban heavy machinery on new construction projects. Think of the number of people that would be employed building a new office building if they didn’t use bulldozers and cranes and could use only shovels, ropes, and pulleys? Not only would it take many more workers, but it would take much longer to build, which would provide job security. One man can dig a foundation for a house using an excavator, 100 men can dig it using shovels, and 1000 can dig it using spoons. So the question is, do we want to have a productive society and have one person dig the foundation with an excavator, or do we want to create jobs and have 1000 people dig it with spoons?

Whether the motive is personal gain at another’s expense, stupidity, or a conscience effort to destroy capitalism in the pursuit of power the result is the same. These actions promote corruption, rob some to reward others, and retard progress by creating a society of beggars rather than producers.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Legalized Plunder Becomes Plain Old Stealing

Governments have stolen from their citizens for as long as governments have existed. Fredrick Bastiat, in The Law, used the phrase “legalized plunder” to describe this theft. Legalized plunder is theft that becomes legitimized and legalized when the criminals make the laws. It is commonly known as taxes. The looters have conditioned us to believe that this is how it has to be; we are told the only constants in life are death and taxes. They have also led us to believe that when money is forcibly taken from us without our consent that it is ok when the government is the one holding the gun.

Due to “recent budget problems” (a.k.a. the states spent too damn much of your money) California and Kansas are going to “delay” paying income tax refunds. They will not be paying the citizens any interest or fees for keeping the money, and who knows if they will ever actually pay the money back. These states have crossed the line from legal plunder to plain old stealing.

The income tax refund is when the government takes more from you than it is legally allowed to steal so they give part of it back (without interest). Up until now, they have been nice criminals and gave back some of what they stole (in Colorado they were forced by TABOR to give it back). Wouldn’t it be great if the mugger in the park would send you a check for some of the money he took from you?

These governments have decided that in these tough economic times they need your money more than you do (just like the mugger in the park). Better be careful next time you buy a car. Use exact change because GM might decide to keep the change to help with their budget problems.

Colorado did this in 2005 with the passage of Referendum C. At least they had the decency to ask us if they could steal our money and let the tyranny of the majority punish the minority. California and Kansas didn’t bother with that formality.

Where is the moral outrage from the citizens of these states? Where are the cries of “No taxation without representation?” How much more abuse are we going to accept from our governments?

Selfish Students

Everyday there is talk about selfish, greedy businessmen interested only in profit. They say these selfish people should “give back” to the community and have “social responsibility.” These businessmen don’t need so much money and it isn’t fair.

What about the selfish, greedy high school and college students who are only concerned with grades? They get better grades than they need to graduate. They do nothing to help those who are struggling to get by. Students drop out of school everyday because they can’t make it and these selfish students are getting A’s and B’s. When will these students “give back” to their fellow students? Where is their “social responsibility” to sacrifice their 4.0 to help a struggling student?

In college, most students need a C or C+ to pass their class. In high school they need D’s in most cases. If these students only need a C or D to pass their class, why are they so selfish and get A’s and B’s? Rather than spending three hours every night doing homework, why don’t they do one hour of homework to get a C and spend the other two hours doing the homework of struggling students? Some students may not be as smart or as ambitious. They might work, play sports, or like to party and not have time to study and do their homework. Is it fair that they should fail while others get better grades than they need?

These selfish students then use their excessive grades to get into good colleges or graduate schools. They then go on to get good jobs and become the selfish businessmen. Other students have to go to community colleges or go straight to work after high school. Is it fair that some students should get to go to better colleges just because they spent extra time studying and doing homework?

In order to have the same type of fair school systems that many want in our business world, we need to denounce these selfish students just as we denounce entrepreneurs and CEO’s. These students should be responsible for the grades of their fellow students. The selfish, overachieving students should also be restricted to the number of hours they can study and do homework so that the other students have a chance to compete. In the spirit of “social responsibility,” those students who have the time to study more, should be required to do the work of those students who can’t or won’t. They should work according to their ability, to give to others based on their need.

These are the ideas that are expected of our businesses, why shouldn’t we expect it at all levels? We denounce the rich and the successful as having more than they need. Why do we celebrate students who get better grades than they need? We hate the rich and want the government to level the playing field, but we call the selfish students “valedictorians” and let them give speeches at graduation. We give them honors, respect, and pride them on their selfish pursuit of excessive grades.

The problem is not that we celebrate those who earn better grades than they need, but that we denounce those who earn more money than they need. We celebrate scholastic achievement but denounce productive achievement. We don’t expect students to go against their self interest and give back to the less fortunate students, but we expect it from the producers. Our heroes should be the people who live to pursue their own happiness and self interest; those who do not sacrifice for others or ask others to sacrifice for them. Ayn Rand described man as a, “heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Time for Bat'leth Control

Today a man wielding a Klingon Bat'leth blade robbed a 7-Eleven. Where are the calls for Bal’leth control? How did this man obtain this dangerous weapon? If he was able to get this “deadly weapon,” how easy is it for our children to get one? They can be obtained online, at pawn shops, and weapons stores with no regulation. There is no background check to make sure the buyer is not a felon, insane, or a member of a murderous race of humanoids intent on destroying the United Federation. If we don’t do something soon, today it was a petty robbery, next it will be a school Bat’leth killing spree, and then there will be blood in the streets ending in galactic conquest. How many people have to be robbed before we institute a 5 day waiting period and registration of all Sci-Fi themed weaponry?

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Dirt on Restaurant Inspections: Health Department Gets Failing Grade

(Originally written September 4, 2008)

The El Paso County Health Department says it can't perform all required inspections of retail food establishments, public pools, and tattoo parlors. There is a solution that doesn’t require increasing taxes or added bureaucracy.

Rosemary Bakes-Martin, an El Paso County Public Health Administrator, says, “With increased populations, more restaurants are opening up. We can’t get out and do the inspections we are supposed to do, even those that are mandated by state law, so we are seeing more people get sick from eating in some of our restaurants.”

For each of the last three years, complaints and food-borne illness outbreaks have increased. The reported illness or complaints requiring Health Department attention rose from 60 in 2005 to 299 in 2007. In 2007 there were two reported food borne illness outbreaks, and in the first half of 2008 there were 14.

On August 2, 2008 the consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest released a report listing cities with the dirtiest restaurants. Colorado Springs ranked as the fourth dirtiest with 46 violations in 30 restaurants and Denver was seventh with 35 violations in 30 restaurants.

Surprisingly, the situation in El Paso County may lead to improved health conditions. Restaurants are now responsible for the safety of their customers and can no longer pass it on to the government.

In 1993, a chain of Jack-In-The-Box restaurants in Washington started an E. coli outbreak hospitalizing 11 children, killing one, and leaving eight on kidney dialysis. The outbreak came because the chain did not cook their burgers at the new, higher temperature established by the Health Department. The restaurant passed its previous inspection, but the Health Department admits they may not have properly informed the restaurants about the change. The Health Department gave Jack-In-The-Box a false sense of security. The restaurant had no reason to change their actions because they trusted the government inspection. This failure not only caused many to get sick, but gave the restaurants an excuse to pass the blame to the government.

The private sector can help provide solutions to this problem. There are private inspectors for homes and building, why not restaurants? A Florida inspection company, BSF Food & Alcohol Testing, picks up the slack for the government’s failures. Vincent Giordano, Vice President at BSF, explains that the Florida government “inspectors would allow establishments to remain open with 50-150 critical violations and only perform inspections once or twice a year…Usually an [official] inspector is in and out within an hour; we usually take about 3-4 hours and leave a very detailed report.” The company has been contacted to do inspections in two Colorado tattoo parlors and says they would be eager to work with Colorado restaurants.

It is important for businesses to provide a safe and clean environment for their customers.

If a restaurant cuts corners and does not maintain a clean facility, control pests, and properly store and prepare food, the customers will not have a pleasant experience. Few people want to eat in a dirty restaurant or have mice or cockroaches scurrying around. Beyond that, one of the most effective ways to lose customers is to make them sick.

Private inspections would make restaurants more responsible for the health of their customers by taking the sole burden off the government. Hiring private inspectors, secret shoppers, and better managers will attract diners by assuring them that the restaurants are safe and clean. Supplemental private inspections also help assure the businesses that they will be able to pass their next county inspections.

Consumer advocates and the media can also step in to make things cleaner and safer. They provide another incentive for cleanliness by exposing dirty and unsafe conditions to the public.

If a restaurant or inspection company fails, they lose money and go out of business. If the government fails, it asks for more tax dollars. By hiring private sector inspection companies, El Paso County restaurants can make themselves known for exemplary standards of safety.

The Philosophy of Liberty

Is Greed Good?

“Greed is Good.” I heard that three times last summer from three different types of people. First from a socialist professor who said that capitalism is based on greed and when I challenged him, he said that greed doesn’t have to be bad. Really? The next day my marketing professor told an anecdote about her professor who wrote “Greed is Good” on the board on the first day of class and then told all of the students to watch the movie“Wall Street.” I told that story to some people at a free market think tank where I interned, and was surprised when two of them agreed and mentioned that a speaker who would be attending an event we were hosting wrote the book Greed is Good: The Capitalist Pig Guide to Investing. I don’t want to discuss the book or why he chose that title, but rather the idea that greed can be good. Is there a definition of which I am not aware? The definition of greed on is “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed.” This is a poor and vague definition, because who decides how much is needed? A better definition of greed is a desire to take all you can. I cannot see how taking all that you can get can be good and it explains why I have never heard greed used to describe anything virtuous.

Greed is one of the seven deadly sins, and while I am not religious, I agree that things like sloth and gluttony are bad. At the same time though, pride and lust are also deadly sins. Pride can be either good or bad depending on the level to which you are prideful. You should take pride in your work and be proud of your accomplishments, but when you become too prideful you become arrogant and pompous. Lust is not necessarily ever a good thing, but it is natural and can range from neutral to very bad depending on the level of lust. Is this the case with greed? Can greed be good or bad depending on how it is used or to what level? I have never heard it used to describe anything good. Being “greedy as a pig” comes from the pig’s voracious and disgusting eating habits. When you push your luck gambling and lose everything, people will say that you lost because you got greedy. Greed is the reason why Enron executives swindled their employees and stockholders. It is also why businesses lobby elected officials for special treatment and corporate welfare. Bernie Madoff was greedy when he ran a ponzi scheme and stole $50 billion. Greed doesn’t drive people to take more than they need, it drives them to take more than they earn.

In the discussion with my co-workers, they made the argument that greed is what drives people to be the best. To start the best company and to make the most money you can by providing the best service to your customers. They used it to express the rational self interest that drives all of us. They said that we are all greedy to do what is in our best interest and to make the most of ourselves. I argued that a better term for what they described would be ambition. While I believe that greed is the desire to take as much as you can and ambition is the desire to earn as much as you can. It is only one different word, but that one word makes all the difference. To take whatever you want, means that you would be willing to lie, cheat, and steal to achieve your goals. This makes a zero sum game in which one party wins only when the other loses. When you are ambitious, however, you work for what you get and you win only when you provide value to another. Both partied benefit. This is how they described greed to be good. Basically we were talking about the same thing, but they used the word greed where I used the word ambition. Rather than use a different word to fit their argument, they changed the meaning of the word. In the end, I knew what they were trying to say and it made sense. The problem with using a negative word to mean something positive is that every time you use the word you have to make sure that everyone understands the definition you are using.

My first thought is that the liberty movement is trying to do is what they always do when challenged by leftists, accept their premise and fight from behind. It has become the go-to argument for those on the left to call capitalists greedy. Rather than dispute the claim that we are greedy and say that we are ambitious (a term that most consider positive) we try to change the definition of greed from being a negative term to one that is positive. This seems to be a terrible way to market liberty and capitalism to a country that is becoming increasingly socialist due to its ignorance and apathy. Why would you take a negative word and intentionally attach it to yourself in the hope that you can make it positive?

After I considered it for awhile, I thought of another way that changing the definition could be beneficial. It is very difficult to change a word’s meaning, but once you do, you can control the word and destroy it if necessary. The leftists call capitalists greedy, so if we can make it meaningless, it would take the word from them. This is what has happened to the word fascist. It has been used in so many different, incorrect ways that it has become meaningless. Fascism is typically referred to as “right-wing.” Fascism is a leftist movement that is a slight variation on socialism. The simplified difference between socialism and fascism is that under socialism the government controls the means of production and redistributes wealth and property. Under fascism, there is private ownership of the means of production, but the government controls how it is used through regulations, laws, taxes, and intimidation. In the sense that there is still private ownership of the means of production it is right of socialism, but just barely and it is far from being “right-wing.” It would be like calling conservatism left-wing because it is slightly left of libertarianism. However, it became a term used to refer to conservatives and now is pretty much a term for general dislike of anyone in a position of power. The word is completely useless now in any argument, because it is overused and if you try to use it correctly to describe a person or policy, you have to spend the next seven years of your life explaining what fascism means and eventually you just give up. The left has also effectively changed the meaning of the word liberal to get away from calling themselves “progressive” and now that liberal is no longer en vogue they are going back to calling themselves progressives, all of this, of course, to hide that they are socialists and fascists.

If the left can destroy words that are harmful to them, why can’t we? If we can change the meaning of greed to something positive, or at least caste doubt in the meaning of the word, we could render it useless. It would reach a point where you would call someone greedy and they wouldn’t know whether to thank you or punch you. The problem is that while the left has slowly changed the meaning of fascist, they didn’t make it positive. They passed the negative term to the right and then over used it to make it meaningless.

Could embracing the word greed be helpful for capitalists or would it perpetuate the myths about capitalism already spread by the left? Could we successfully convince people that there is virtue in greed, or is this just another way to play into the hands of the left by adopting their terminology? Is this movement to make greed good a way to help spread capitalism or a way to justify greed by the truly greedy?