What’s the Solution

The real problem is that there are NO solutions possible to most human problems. There are only tradeoffs. Even so, people emotionally demand the impossible and that’s where the ideologues step in with their invalid premises and promises.

The only thing that is unlimited is human desires. All resources are finite and their most efficient economic allocation is learned through the mechanism of prices. Some win, some lose but most people, on average, improve their lot. No politician or appointee or committee or any other human-created group can possibly have sufficient information to more efficiently allocate those resources.

That is assuming that people actually have the freedom to make their own decisions as to what they really want and at what price they’re willing to pay for it, no matter whether or not that’s what some elite thinks they do or should want.

The self-proclaimed elites on all sides insist that they are the ones who should decide what people can or can’t have or do because they are so much wiser or more moral or more caring or whatever label they chose to use. They may mean to rule well, but they do mean to rule. What they do with the economy is just one of their tools.

The Morning After The Night Before In Ferguson

A Grand Jury is created to decide if there are grounds for criminal charges to be pressed against a person, if they are criminally liable for what happened. It’s a more formal procedure than a common court based indictment, but it also goes into more depth and can last much longer.

As with any court proceedings, the question is solely about whether one specific person in one specific case acted with criminal intent or willful negligence. “Society” is not on trial, nor is any subgroup such as police officers or members of a given race.

Justice is blind. Justice for one is justice for the other. It’s not an emotional plea for “fairness.” Justice does not take into account any matters of race, creed, sex, or any of a number of other irrelevant pieces of information.

A Grand Jury is to decide if the physical evidence and testimony of witnesses is sufficient to recommend going forward with an actual trial. Has a crime, according to the law, been committed?

The pertinent law in Missouri:

563.046. A law enforcement officer in effecting an arrest or in preventing an escape from custody is justified in using deadly force:

(2) When he reasonably believes that such use of deadly force is immediately necessary to effect the arrest and also reasonably believes that the person to be arrested

(a) Has committed or attempted to commit a felony; or

(b) Is attempting to escape by use of a deadly weapon; or

(c) May otherwise endanger life or inflict serious physical injury unless arrested without delay.

In other words, an officer can use deadly force when it’s necessary to prevent bodily injury or death to himself or others.

I’m working my way through the evidence right now, so more later.

Ferguson Decision

Any minute now …

Watching the live broadcast, but they haven’t announced yet

Sounds like two more hours.

8PM Central Time

Riots and more ahead. Officer Wilson was not indicted.

What does it actually mean? The Grand Jury, by a vote of 10 or more out of 12, decided that there was not enough evidence to suggest that an arrest leading to a trial was warranted. All the evidence is to be released, including witness testimony that was in accordance with the physical evidence and others that were inconsistent with it.

I have to wonder, if everything was exactly the same with just the difference that the officer was black instead of white, if the whole story would have been anything more than a back page story. Somehow, I doubt it.

Inflation Definition And Why You Should Care About It

So what is inflation? Where does it come from? What does it actually do?

Whether it’s paper currency (fiat currency, that isn’t directly backed by anything of value), digital or even physical clams, it’s what we use for trading with other people when the economy is too big to do direct trades of I have what you want and you have what I want. It also allows us to store earnings for later spending or investment. If the clamshells are pretty enough, you can even wear them as is. Which, incidentally, works for Gold and Silver too, but that’s a topic for a different post.

So let’s set up a simple example. You have 100 people with an average of $100 each that have, on average, $95 worth of stuff (physical goods, services, etc) to sell. That works out pretty well. Everyone can pretty much get what they want with something left over for saving or investing in increased future productivity. But two of the people, let’s call them the Freds, realize that they can set up a printing press and get more money to spend without having to actually work for it or take it directly from the other 98. So off they go, and before you know it they’ve printed an additional $1000 worth of bills that you can’t tell from the original. Now they get to go on a buying spree.

Of course, the amount of stuff available for sale hasn’t increased, or at least not by nearly as much as the money supply. Next thing you know people can’t get what they want because the Freds already bought it with all of their “extra” inflationary money. So the next time around, they realize if they want something they’re going to have to be willing to pay more for it. The prices start to go up. And up. Those who sell for more have more money to buy with though, so they’re not too bad off. Eventually, it all settles out to where the prices and dollars available equal back out. Ah, but those Freds still have their printing presses.

Now, let’s look at something interesting. At first glance, it seems that it all comes out in the wash and nothing really changes. But that’s not what happens in reality because of the time it takes for that money to work it’s way through.  Who really benefits the most from the inflated money supply? The Freds, of course. They got to do their buying at the pre-inflation prices. The people they bought from (usually big business) get the extra money when the prices haven’t gone up nearly as much as they eventually will. The big losers? The average Joe has to pay the inflated prices long before the extra money cycles through the economy enough times to get to him. So the poor get poorer and the rich get richer.

Isn’t it amazing what the Feds … I mean the Freds … can do with a couple of blocks of carved metal and some paper? Even easier now when most of it is digital bits on computers.

Polarizing Adjectives

I did an experiment once and bought two newspapers from cities over 100 miles apart, one very left leaning and one very right leaning then looked at stories that they published from the wire, i.e from a national reporting agency and only edited for the local paper. On almost every one of them, you would think you were reading about two completely different happenings even though the original writing came from the exact same source.

It’s in the details that were thought relevant to the story and the subjective adjectives used to polarize the story in one direction or the other.

Say one of the stories involved a person who was high and had been out of work for 6 months committing a crime. One paper would say that he was on drugs and imply that’s why he committed the crime, but not mention that he had been out of work and the other would highlight the fact that he had been out of work and imply that he was desperate to feed his family, but not mentioning that he apparently had the money for drugs.

On adjectives, there are some that are objective … it was a “red” car, a “glass” bottle, things like that. Then you have the subjective adjectives … they were “needlessly” loud, it was an “outrageous” situation. Objective adjectives are simply facts, with no emotional bias one way or the other. Subjective adjectives arise from the beliefs of the writer and/or editor. Others leave a question open, such as my saying “that he ‘apparently’ had the money for drugs.” Which says that it looks like this is the case, but we’re not sure.

Then you have the purely economic fact that like it or not, people are more interested in bad things happening than good and so news agencies give far more weight to negative and conflict laden stories and even create them if they weren’t bad enough to begin with. That’s what drives the ratings and that is what drives the profits. It is their JOB to make things sound as bad and divisive as possible and pound on them day after day.

In the online population, it’s the comment trolls that perform that function. Gotta get those talking points out there. Anyone who disagrees with what they say is obviously a _______— (fill in the blank). They like trouble. They love feeling holier than thou by pointing out the evil in their opponents, regardless of any facts to the contrary.

It’s also interesting to see what I get called when I write something like this in comments. Depending on the audience and the comment it is in response to, (if any) I am just as likely to be called a “libtard” as a “winger” or other equivalent insults. I’m always curious to see what, if any, response it gets. It usually gives me a good chuckle.

Liberals vs Religion

I just ran across one of the best calls for reaffirming the roots of liberalism with respect to religion that I’ve read in many a year. It talks both about things that really make me mad at a lot of liberals and yet find myself falling into on occasion. Tolerance includes tolerating intolerance and free speech means nothing if it’s not free for people you despise as much as for those you agree with.

Check it out …

http://theweek.com/article/index/269462/why-do-so-many-liberals-despise-christianity

Civil Forfeiture – Arresting Your Money (or House Or Car Or …)

Civil forfeiture, or civil asset forfeiture, is a legal action where your property is arrested and seized even if you aren’t. Get stopped on your way to buying a used car and having a couple of thousand dollars in cash on you? The cop can take the money, saying he thinks you’re really on your way to buy drugs and keep it, no proof needed.

It can cost thousands of dollars and years of work to get your property back if you even can. Most people wind up walking away. One airplane owner in Arizona had his plane confiscated because they said it was being used to transport drugs. He was never even arrested, much less convicted, of anything. Over $50,000 and years later he finally got his plane back … in the pieces they’d taken it apart into to search it.

Originally conceived as a way to cripple organized crime bosses so they couldn’t buy their way out of trouble when being prosecuted, it has morphed into the biggest crime ring of all, run by the police themselves. You see, they often get to keep that money or the proceeds from the sale of property to spend pretty much however they want. It’s off budget and un-accountable.

What brought all this to mind is a video I ran across on Cafe Hayek. Longish and hilarious, but well worth watching:

Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That E-Cigarette

I admit it. I smoked for over 30 years. I enjoyed it. I knew it wasn’t good for me, but I did it anyway. I had no idea how bad they smelled, having been around it my whole life. I finally quit. How? I don’t really know why that time worked and the others didn’t.

But even after quitting, I found myself irritated by the anti-smoking crowd. I had no problem with a business that doesn’t allow smoking in it. I had no problem with people who didn’t want smoke in their homes. What I do have a problem with is people who take that choice away from me and others via the law. I also have a problem with “sin” taxes.

Before I quit there were places I didn’t eat because I couldn’t have a cigarette after dinner. After I quit, there were places that I didn’t eat because they did allow smoking. It never crossed my mind to be upset with either. The businesses made their choices and I made mine. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Now my irritation has grown to anger. Why? Because I chose to try e-cigarettes. I put on a lot of weight when I quit and now I’m taking it off. They have no smell. They’re not loaded with the carcinogens that were in regular cigarettes (and a lot of those were actually caused by government mandate, but that’s a whole different story). But they look like cigarettes and people are upset about it and are calling (and in many places already succeeding) to lump them with regular cigarettes in all the places that those are now banned.

It’s exactly the same mentality as the anti-gunners. I’m sure that at some time in the past someone might have been murdered with a bayonet on a gun instead of being shot, but having a bayonet lug for mounting for one is hardly a real-world risk factor. Why then does having one turn a gun into a so-called “assault weapon”? Because it looks scary to some people and, as we should all know by now, feeling bad matters as much, if not more, than any facts. Fantasy is more important than reality. Ban first, question later.

What’s next? The color chartreuse? It sure looks bad to me.

In A State of Nature

John Locke In a State of NatureJohn Locke was one of the most influential political philosophers that the Founders drew from. In particular, his Second Treatise On Government. His starting place was from what he called being in a “State of Nature.” Here’s my short form take on it.

In a state of nature, i.e. no government, an individual human being by himself has the absolute freedom to do whatever he wants and has no choice but to accept the consequences, for better or worse, of doing so. But people are pretty weak, compared to other animals. Our only real survival tool is using what’s between our ears.

The primary goal of any individual is to survive, having the absolute natural right to life. Survival depends on taking the actions needed to do so, the absolute natural right to liberty. It also depends on keeping the results of your efforts; food, shelter, tools, clothing, territory, and so on. So people have an absolute natural right to defend, with deadly force if needed, themselves and their property (which is what the term of art “pursuit of happiness” means in expanded form to include intangibles).

Now, what happens when other people come into the picture? Working and interacting with other people greatly increases your odds of survival. People can spend some of their time doing what they’re best at or prefer to do and trade that with others who do what you don’t. We can choose, if we see it’s in our best interests to do so, to combine our efforts to accomplish what no one person could do by themselves. But none of this changes the basic absolute individual natural rights.

We have some weaknesses too. We don’t know everything and often make mistakes. If they aren’t fatal, we need to learn from them and go on. All too often, we act on emotion rather than reason. Again, if those actions aren’t fatal we need to learn from them and go on.

But when other people are around, we need to find a way to keep the consequences of acting on those weaknesses from outweighing the benefits of interacting with each other.

If someone takes what you’ve spent time and effort on making or trading for, you’re angry, very angry. If you think you know who did it your normal reaction is to try and get it back and punish the person who did it so badly that they’re never going to do it again.

But what if you’re wrong and it was someone else? What if the punishment you would dole out based on your emotional reaction is way too harsh for the actual damage done? Now we have the need for an external organization that equally protects the rights of all parties to the best of its ability. It puts reason and deliberation and judgment back into the picture.

LadyJustice In a State of NatureAt least in theory, the people who are judging don’t have an emotional bias. They have the time to actually look at the evidence and decide if the person accused really is the person who did it. They can weigh the harm done against the range of possible penalties and decides what seems sufficient. They can require restitution (which is something we do too little of) to the person harmed.

There is one caveat in all of this which is that the organization has to have the authority to use force, deadly force if needed, to enact its decision. It is exactly the same force that an individual has an absolute natural right to use when in a state of nature to defend himself and his property that is delegated to the government and is the derived source of all proper government powers.

Some forms of government do a much better job of protecting the absolute natural rights of individuals than others. If the current form isn’t getting the job done, in the judgment of the people who are subject to it, they can withdraw their authorization and set up a new organization (government) that they believe will work better at maximizing the benefits of living with others while minimizing the costs in terms of what seems most important to them.

Take all this and then put it into the context of the Declaration of Independence and see if it sounds familiar.

Rights And The Declaration Of Independence

This is an expanded version of a comment I made on PBS at (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/finding-empowerment-words-founding-fathers/). A fascinating discussion of how one little change in punctuation makes the Declaration of Independence even stronger.

As normally written:

Declaration of Independence“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that 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 just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.”

With one little change:

Declaration of Independence“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that 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 just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.”
 
Changing the period after “happiness” to a comma makes the preface “We hold these truths to be self evident” apply to all five following phrases. It’s not really clear on the original text and punctuation rules weren’t as strict then as now. Read it a few times.
 
On to my comment:
 
The setting for the word “equal” here is in a political document. Political equality is equality under the law and legislation (not always the same thing).

Natural rights are concepts arising from the nature of members of our species, regardless of race, sex, religion, or any other division you care to make except one: That you are capable of understanding that the rights you claim are equal to the rights of every other person and that you refrain from actions that infringe on the equal rights of others.

Natural rights are completely and solely negatives on the actions of others. They do not require anyone else to take any actions, only that they refrain from infringing on your rights.

Procedural rights, such as voting or trial by jury aren’t strictly necessary by nature but have been found to be good methods within our general societal structure for handling how those rights are defined in general and protected in specific cases.

Children, the insane, or those disabled in any other way that prevents them from being capable of understanding the concept of rights are not regarded as fully equal under the law. There are actions that they may not be free to take and there are consequences they would normally face as a result of their actions that they may be shielded from.

Almost every other political use of the word “rights” is actually an infringement on the natural rights of some people for the benefit of other people. Jefferson and the other Founders seem to have been very aware of those differences and were careful where they used the word “rights.”

Liberty and freedom are liberty and freedom to act without government permission, or indeed without anyone’s permission, as long as those actions do not infringe on the equal rights of others. There are no guarantees of outcome, only the freedom to “pursue” what you consider to be what is needed for your happiness. There is no guarantee that other individuals will treat you justly, whatever you consider that justice to consist of. Only the government must be restrained because only the government is authorized to use force and only in response, aside from the immediate self-defense right of individuals.

Those shackles on government have been rusting away for a long time and they’re getting pretty loose.