Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at thinking, intelligent individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

28 November 2008

Federal Regulations - Cure for Economic Ills?

In 1949, after 150 years of Federal government, we had about 20,000 pages of federal regulations. By the year 2000, we had about 120,000 pages of federal regulations. Now, in 2008, we have over 200,000 pages of federal regulations. In the first 150 years this is an average of 133 pages a year of added regulations. In the next 51 years, the federal regulatory burden of pages was increased at the much higher rate of 1961 pages per year. In the eight years since 2000, the number of added pages per year has averaged 10,000 pages/year. I suppose that this means that our Congress is composed of men who are now 10,000/133 times or 75 times smarter than the Congressmen who started our republic! Isn't it good to be ruled by such supremely intelligent people?

Now of course, all of my readers, being much brighter people than the average person, know all of these regulations and are fully capable of living their lives in accordance with them. We know this because it would clearly make no sense to expect people to obey laws that they do not know. Since our Congressmen have never read the laws they have voted for, we can assume that they do not know these laws. We also are aware of this because they are constantly being found to be violators of the laws. But the people are held responsible for knowing these laws. Since the federal agencies can only offer the citizen contradictory advice on what the laws mean, we cannot turn to them. In many cases we could turn to the federal courts which have made many rulings on these regulations, but this means that we have a lot more reading to do and then we still have to figure out what that means too. But, we ordinary citizens have copious free time to devote to this exercise. Unlike our Congress, whose full time job is the making of laws, we somehow have the time to read all of these laws, agency documents, and court decisions. We the people are clearly all geniuses! Isn't it wonderful that our Congress thinks so highly of us!

Now, being geniuses, of course it dawns on us that those who do not read the laws they pass and do not know the law have no business forcing the rest of us to live by their rules. This is like being put back in high school where most of us had teachers who were no better than average students in high school who nonetheless set the rules. How fun was that? How great to be treated like children by teachers who had returned to the only place they ever felt comfortable, namely the over-controlled environment of high school.

Our ever-dependable Mainstream Media constantly barrages us genius citizens with injunctions to have Congress create still more laws and regulations. What does that say for their intelligence?

Our university professorial class agitate for more laws and regulations by eliminating free speech from the universities and using their class lecterns to issue socialist propaganda which it takes many of our youth 10 years of being in the real world before they can see how false it is. But what does this call by professors for more and more laws say about their intelligence?

In particular, Congress, the MSM, and a host of professors are all calling for still more regulations to deal with the slowdown in our economy brought on by endlessly invasive and foolish laws already on the books. Of course, these disparate calls for more interference in our complex economy and with the complex lives of those citizens we have already established to be geniuses, is sowing much confusion and uncertainty. Even our genius citizens cannot figure out how to proceed in growing our economy and investing for the future under these conditions.

How did we invert the pyramid of ability in which the few imbeciles rule the many geniuses? Is this way of governing odd or what? Perhaps some one of you MSM, Congressional, or professor types can actually provide some kind of rational explanation for your fascination with ruling the lives of geniuses with myriad one-size-fits-all life-recipes? This writer naively believes that if you would use the force of government to rule the lives of others, especially your betters in intelligence, you have a severe requirement to prove the wisdom of your laws. You should also be aware of what they are.

Gen LaGreca - Noble Vision

I started reading Gen LaGreca's novel Noble Vision this last weekend. Due to being overloaded with work in the laboratory that I needed to finish prior to leaving very early Wednesday morning to visit Tulsa to be at my Mom's for Thanksgiving, I only managed to read about 40 pages before leaving. But that was plenty enough to convince me to take the novel with me and read it at the airport, on the plane, and once in Tulsa.

I worked through the night in my lab and got as much done as I could, before heading to the airport. I was dead tired once on the plane, but Noble Vision was much too interesting to go to sleep on the plane. Awhile after arriving at Mom's home, I took a two-hour nap and then got up and spent some time with the Tulsa family contingent and my visiting Greensboro, NC sister and her two daughters. In the evening, being a bit tired, I went to bed early and thought I would read a bit to relax before sleeping. I took Gen LaGreca to bed and read and read with great pleasure through the night. I am a slow reader. I like to process everything I read very carefully. If something is worth reading, it is worth reading well. In this case, the noble vision of Gen LaGreca was worth savoring, which I did until a bit past dawn. I dosed briefly a few times when my eyes lost their ability to focus, but I must have been dreaming about the novel because I never stayed asleep long. As soon as my eyes were salved enough to go on, I woke up and continued reading.

Noble Vision is a love story with very evil villains who seek to separate a man, David Lang, from his impassioned love of neurosurgery by forcing him into selfless service to the public. Of course, these evil socialists are really more interested in having David beg them for the right to practice his very demanding profession and to force him to compromise his ethics and his competence. They are aware that the system which provides free healthcare can do so only by arbitrarily cutting off services which the free market would be willing to provide to many who are in need of these services. Yet, they persist in backing a failing New York universal healthcare system called CareFree.

A lovely lady, Nicole Hudson, has become an inspiring ballet dancer despite a grueling childhood of poverty and depredation due to her determination from age six to become a ballet dancer. She has brought a reassuring joy with her exuberant, heroic dancing into David's life as he reels from the ugly senselessness of the brutally bureaucratic state medical system. David also chose his life work when he was a child admiring his father's work as a neurosurgeon. David has been struggling to prove that it is possible to get the brain and the spinal system to regenerate functioning nerves, which many decades of prior research has concluded cannot be done. But David, with a heroic dedication to his work both in the laboratory and in the operating room, needs to see others equally dedicated to their work, rather than the constant parade of those who have given up their dreams. His doctor wife and his father are among those who have made compromises with the CareFree healthcare system and become its advocates.

This system does not want David to succeed in developing techniques to regenerate nerve functions, because the procedure is likely to be expensive and add to the many innovations of new technology which will cost too much when offered free to everyone. Free care is, of course, used unwisely, because it is free. So everyone with even the most remote possibility of benefit from a free procedure wants it. Imagine being the heroic neurosurgeon whose own wife and father wish to put ignorant bureaucrats in charge of a brilliant and highly motivated neurosurgeon! I sure can, since nothing more infuriates me than those who would substitute their judgment for my own in my living my life and my solving materials problems.

Unknown to her, Nicole becomes his solace. But, then tragedy strikes and Nicole is injured and blinded. David becomes her doctor and is the only man alive who can possibly bring back her sight and make it possible for her to return to the inspired dancing she loves. But, at every turn, and I do mean at every turn, CareFree tries to keep David from saving the career, and really the life, of this wonderful lady. He in turn fights back fiercely, inspired by his own dedication to his life's work, by his commitment to his ethics, and by a growing love of Nicole. The odds must look hopeless to any objective observer, but then life is not worth living if you give up the fight.

Gen LaGreca has written a truly inspiring story of people rationally dedicated to making the world a better place for human life. This is a story of people who face terrible odds to try to claim joy in their own lives. This is the story of Nicole who several times tells David that joy does not belong only on the stage, but in real life. This is the story of David who asks "What's left of people after they give up the best within them?" This is a question I remember answering many times as a child. Of course, we also know that Ayn Rand posed and answered this question.

As you read Gen LaGreca, it is clear that she is an admirer of Ayn Rand. Certain phrases are familiar. Some readers may fault her for not having a completely unique expression of her ideas, but my take on this is that she has developed some very fine characters and she is telling a very good story. She has tackled an important conflict of our times in the battle between the individual and the socialist state and handled it remarkably well. Besides, Ayn Rand expressed so much of the heroic individual so well that it is probably foolish not to borrow some of her best expressions just as it would be foolish to insist that every human reinvent the wheel or the uses of fire.

I very appropriately began writing this late Thanksgiving evening. It is now well into the wee hours of Friday, but still this review is dedicated with my heartfelt and mind-felt thanks to Gen LaGreca for the joy this, her first novel, brought to me. I also wish to thank all the doctors, engineers, scientists, dancers, artists, writers, nurses, teachers, and others of many professions who are rationally dedicated to their constructive and voluntary work. Shame should be heaped upon those who would impose their foolish wills upon these dedicated, hardworking heroes of our world with the use of brutal force. I will not let you keep David from saving Nicole without my joining the fight! Such tragedy is too much to bear.

One of the things I like about Gen LaGreca's novel Noble Vision is that while David faces terrible odds, there are people who line up on his side. Several people have to make a choice to do the ethical thing or to betray their values and some do the right thing. So David is not entirely alone. This is still the way things are in America. There are too few people who will consistently do the right thing, but there are enough that our heroes should not have to be entirely alone and unsupported. If you are one of the heroes, it is important that you recognize and give your support to others who are also. Please do not underestimate the importance of gestures such as a smile, a simple thank you, or a hug and a kiss. Your fellow heroes deserve to know that they have allies.

Ladies, please do not underestimate how important it is for a man to feel your appreciation. With it, we are stronger, not to mention happier. For my part, I cannot tell you how often the smile of a woman has given me more energy and joy. Perhaps it is often the same for a woman when a man indicates his appreciation, though many a woman is so suspicious as to completely undermine a good man's effort to be supportive. A certain studied innocence may be a tool for a lot of good. It is a poor life that is filled with cynicism. To be happy and to live in a world in which happiness is the norm, we must banish such cynicism. You will have an easier time doing so after you have read Gen LaGreca's Noble Vision.

24 November 2008

Washington Teachers Union Opposes School Reform

Of course, it is news to no one that the Washington Teachers Union (WTU) opposes the reform of the nation's lowest performing school district. The WTU is the principal reason why this school system which is spending as much or more money per student as any school district in the nation is so miserable in performing the only function that matters: educating students.

New Orleans put most of its 78 public schools into a special Recovery School District after Hurricane Katrina. Now, about half of its schools are charter schools and the district has no union contract. The American Federation of Teachers, which strongly backed Obama, has vigorously opposed the reform efforts in New Orleans. Mayor Adrian Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee of Washington, D.C., have become thoroughly fed-up with the WTU opposing school reforms and the elimination of awful teachers. They are considering restoring the school district's power to create nonunionized charter schools. They may declare the school system in a state of emergency in order to end the need to bargain with the WTU.

Obama has praised their efforts, but will be in the middle between them and the teacher's unions to whom he owes his election. It will be very interesting to see if he helps Fenty and Rhee or if he opposes their efforts behind closed doors. Union leaders regard the chances of the district getting a state of emergency ruling from the federal government to be very remote, given what Obama owes them. They do have some concern that the district might be able to regain its power to charter schools, however.

Rhee has proposed that teachers be more directly accountable for student performance and will offer them much higher salaries in exchange for weaker tenure rules. The 4,000 member WTU has refused to bring her contract offer to a vote. Rhee thinks the teachers will vote for it if they are allow to do so. Apparently the WTU also thinks the teachers might vote for the higher salary and more accountability contract also! It is delicious to see these Democrats fighting so much among themselves.

Fenty is the second D.C. mayor to seriously wrestle with school reform. It is good that D.C. voters have come to care about school reform. The District of Columbia is more heavily Democrat than any state. So this sets up conflict between Democrat politicians and the teachers unions. If the reform ever occurs and if D.C. students ever gain enough self-confidence to believe that they are capable of managing their own lives, it will be interesting to see if many of them start to fall away from the dependency offered them by the Democrats.

23 November 2008

A Government-Troubled Economy

Government is the problem, it is not the solution.

For some time the housing industry has been in trouble. What caused those problems? The cost of lumber has been high for a long time due to heavy world-wide demand for lumber as much of the world has latched onto America's coattails and been carried along into relative prosperity and development. This has led to great increases in the price of steel, concrete, and copper, among many other things. Nonetheless, the housing industry has not been in trouble in much of the U.S., despite these cost factors being universal. Why not? Because the principal reason for the housing crunch has been that many communities have limited housing development in the name of planned growth and in order to maintain undeveloped, green areas. In these areas, and a few areas where the federal government owns all of the available land and makes it unavailable, the cost of housing has simply become prohibitive for people to buy homes. When it is recommended that people commit to a purchase price for a home of no more than 2.5 times their annual family income, but the average home costs 8 times their family income as it does in California, one has a recipe for disaster for the housing industry and those who stretch reality to try to acquire a home anyway.

Such situations brought pressure to bear on Congress to make homes more affordable. Congress was largely of a mind to support local community and state restrictions on home building, but needed to appear to care about the desire of middle class and upper lower class families for a home of their own. After all, this is a very real part of the American Dream. So, Congress used the Community Reinvestment Act to force banks to make mortgage loans to people who would not otherwise qualify for a loan. They used Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac to make it so the original mortgage loaners could unload their risky loans to others. They encouraged the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates down to help make home mortgages more affordable as well and what else was the Fed to do if it was to keep the housing industry afloat anyway? So, in consequence, we had not only a housing industry in trouble in those areas of the country with highly restrictive new housing development, but also many mortgage lenders, banks, government-sponsored corporations (Fanny and Freddy), and securities and investment firms in major trouble.

The auto industry has been sick for a very long time. For a long time, that industry has been under a huge burden laid on it by the United Auto Workers, which government rules for unionization and company actions when it has been unionized very much helped bring about. Of course, some other industries are also badly hurt by labor unions. Then the auto industry was further burdened with CAFE, which requires each auto company to make a set of vehicles whose average fuel efficiency is below a limit set by Congress. Basically, American companies really began losing out to the Japanese and other foreign car makers when this became the law of the land. We were used to cheap gasoline, and in comparative terms we still are. So, American companies never had as much incentive to make cars that were as highly fuel efficient as the foreign car makers. This was really what opened the door for the foreign car makers into the American market. For decades, American car makers have been forced to make money-losing small cars to meet the CAFE mandate. The tens of billions of dollars lost in this way had a multiplying effect upon the car makers to minimize innovation and the development new technology and quality manufacturing methods. Government destroyed the auto industry, with some help from bad management. Of course, when it is clear to good managers that government has it in for an industry, they steer clear of that industry. After all, the best managers are no dummies.

In addition, we have the highest corporate income taxes in the world, save those of Japan where they are equally high. This discourages American companies from bringing profits made abroad home. It encourages them to build more plants abroad and fewer at home. Most countries throughout the world have been reducing their corporate income taxes, but we have not and BO says that he will not do so in his administration. So, we raise the costs for American corporations and make it harder for them to export goods. Our policy is that they should export jobs and capital instead. Except the government pretends otherwise. The government lives in LA LA land. No, I am wrong. The government largely knows what it is doing. It thinks we life in LA LA land and will never catch on to the fraud they are putting over on us.

Then, as I have recently discussed, the government has monopolized a huge fraction of the land, especially in the West. As our population has grown and as we have used more of the resources available in our privately owned lands, these Western federally owned lands have become more and more valuable. Still, the government holds on to these lands and is constantly trying to remove more and more land from private ownership and productive use. This crimps the economy.

The government mandates for ethanol production have resulted in the misuse of much of our privately held and potentially productive farmland. There is no net energy produced by ethanol production and it simply causes less food to be produced and thereby raises our food prices. As more of our income goes to meeting our food needs, less goes to other industries and they start to hurt. American agriculture is the most productive in the world and will do well without ethanol subsidies. With these subsidies, we raise taxes for everyone, including the other industries who will only be hurt by diverting money to farmers and ethanol distillers.

The government has made it exceedingly difficult for companies to drill for oil in the U. S. and in our off-shore areas. They have made it hard to produce natural gas in many areas. They also make it hard to mine coal, use nuclear power, and frequently to deliver electric power, especially from coal-fired power plants.

Government has given over the education of our children to the teachers labor unions. These most socialist unions now pound American youth with socialist propaganda and teach them to hate making money (creating wealth) and industry. They also fail to teach them the skills they will need as productive employees, such as rational thinking skills.

So, governments have done great damage to our economy by damaging the housing industry, lenders and bankers, investors, the auto industry, other industries saddled with blood-sucking labor unions, the electric power companies, all corporations competing on a global basis, the oil and natural gas industries, the nuclear power industry, coal mines, and all companies who wish to hire young employees with critical thinking skills.

But, this does not yet give us the full scope of how government is the source of the troubles in our economy. Not yet even close!

Companies and industries must look to the future and plan how to use their employee's time, invest their capital, figure out what new products are needed, train employees to do the work they will need to do in the future, find ways to improve present products and to transport them efficiently, and figure out where to build facilities and how to heat, air-condition, and light them. Companies and industries must plan to survive. But, governments are insidious in popping surprises upon companies and industries that wreck their planning and development processes. Companies no sooner make an investment than Congress, state legislatures, and local politicians change the rules and turn their investments into losses.

The Federal government is doing just this on all sorts of fronts. With the Bush tax cuts scheduled to come to an end in 2010, the Democrat Congress is surely going to raise many taxes, especially on the wealthy who invest much of their money and on corporations. But, no one knows what the new taxes will be. Consequently, if they invest money, will the new taxes insure that they will have a bad investment? Under such conditions, people sit on their money, which is exactly what the politicians are presently complaining that they are doing. I sure am sitting on my lab's income at this time.

BO has said that he is going to bankrupt the coal-fired power plants. As I have noted several times, coal-fired power plants produce 50% of the U.S. electric power. Does this mean that we are about to lose 50% of all American electric power? If so, the coal mines, the trains that carry coal, the coal-fired power plants, the electric utilities, and all companies that use electricity are going to be hurting. Every blackout at my lab creates havoc. Vacuum pumps stop and air is sucked into some vacuum systems. All data collection stops and some long experimental runs are ruined and may take days of work to reproduce. Many industries have to undergo long processes to restart production when power is lost. At the moment of power shutdown some products are ruined. Power outages are much more serious for many businesses than they are for households. Of course long power outages at home cause concern for our two freezers and about loss of food in them. Frequently power outages and power fluctuations also increase the failures of electronics at home or in the workplace.

What will future energy costs mean for business? The imposition of cap and trade restrictions on the use of fossil fuels will have huge, unknown implications for the cost of making goods, transporting them, will in many cases determine which goods should be made, and will perhaps keep some employees from coming to work. Trained, critical employees will be lost if they live too far from the workplace. Plants may have to be moved to reduce transportation costs or to have more reliable electric power. Of course, many jobs will be exported to India and China where cap and trade does not exist.

As BO induces much of American youth to go to work on road and bridge-building, they will not be available to other industries. BO's service leagues will take still more young people out of the workforce. Labor costs will go up. Industry cannot yet know how much they will go up. Uncertainty again.

BO and Congress are determined to make it easy for labor unions to coerce workers into signing union election cards. Many more businesses will be saddled with unions. How badly will this cost the business in higher wages, less labor force flexibility, and less labor productivity?

What will BO and the Congress impose as costs for a nationalized health insurance and health system upon companies and wealthy individuals? Will this force companies to let employees go? Will this force them to export jobs aboard? Or to build new plants that use more robots and fewer people? Or redesign product to be made by more machines and fewer people?

Many privately held companies will be ruined when the death tax is reinstituted by BO and the Democrat Congress. Many companies will have to be sold to pay taxes. Many will have to be shutdown, since no buyer will be available. Many businesses will either be sold before 2010 or will be shutdown before then to take advantage of the higher threshold for the death tax that will be available before then.

Many capital investments will be cashed out before BO and the Democrat Congress raise the capital gains tax. Many investments will not be made because it is not yet certain what the capital gains tax will be.

Many individual taxpayers do not know what their tax burden will soon be. They think it will go up and will go up considerably. They know that someone has to pay for the bailout, the youth leagues, the welfare checks posing as tax rebates, the building of roads and bridges in accelerated rates, the payouts to the teachers unions, the bailout of the United Auto Workers Union, the subsidies for inefficient alternative fuels, and the nationalized health care and health insurance system coming. So, they are sitting on cash and are unwilling to invest it.

The trillion dollar bailout has failed to save the lenders, the banks, and Fanny and Freddy, and the investment firms. New winners and new losers are being picked by the politicians and bureaucrats daily. No one can figure out if they will be a winner or a loser, but most understand that there will be many more losers than winners. With this uncertainty, who wants to make an aggressive and forward-looking business decision. With no decisions, less and less money will be made, fewer goods will be delivered, and fewer services will be offered and fewer purchased. The economy slows down more due to uncertainty than due to any other cause, because uncertainty stops everyone in their tracks. Everyone feels as though they are in a minefield, so no one wants to make a step for fear of stepping on a mine. This is exactly the response to be expected.

Yes, the economy is hurting. Governments sure have worked overtime to put it in that world of hurt. Government is the problem, not the solution. We need a determined return to the concept of limited government, of Constitutional government.

22 November 2008

Chief Global Warming Scaremonger

Dr. James Hansen started the global warming hysteria with his testimony before a U.S. Senate committee chaired by Al Gore in 1988. He now runs NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which is one of four agencies responsible for monitoring global temperatures. In fact, GISS temperature numbers are the most frequently reported since they are consistently higher temperatures than those of the other three groups reporting global temperatures to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). His friend, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, is chairman of the IPCC. Dr. Pachauri is a former railway engineer with no prior background in climate science.

Dr. Hansen was forced by US meteorologist Anthony Watts and by the Canadian mathematician Steve McIntyre (who debunked the infamous "hockey stick" temperature graph) in 2007 to admit that his US surface temperatures claiming that the 1990s were the hottest decade of the 1900s were wrong. The 1930s were hotter. This is the man who has called for criminal prosecution of those who speak out against the idea that we are facing a man-made global warming catastrophe. He supported Greenpeace activists who damaged a coal-fired power station in England, while claiming that the power plant did more damage than the Greenpeace terrorists did.

So, what is Dr. Hansen up to most recently? Well, earlier this month his GISS released temperature maps showing that much of Russia was 10 degrees hotter than usual in the month of October. Meanwhile, China's official news agency had reported that Tibet had suffered the worst snowstorm ever in October and reports of unusually low temperatures and early snowstorms for the Alps, New Zealand, China, and the American Great Plains were filed in October. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration claimed there were 63 local snowfall records in October, along with 115 lowest-ever temperatures for the month. They said October was the 70th warmest October in 114 years. Note that that makes it cooler than the average for 114 years, most of whose cooler Octobers should have been before the popular claim that the Earth is getting ever warmer.

So how did GISS have such high temperatures for much of Russia? It turns out that it was because they used September numbers both for September and for October! September is usually a warmer month than is October. Their initial response to being found wanting on this once again by Steve McIntyre and Anthony Watts was to claim that they had found a hot-spot in the Arctic. Odd, given that satellite images showed the Arctic ice to have recovered from the summer melt at a rate 30% faster than it had in 2007, which was a year of globally lowered temperatures!

Meanwhile, IPCC Chairman Dr. Pachauri, gave a talk in Australia at a university saying that global temperatures are rising very much faster than ever. Behind him was a temperature graph showing that temperatures have not risen in years, despite rising atmospheric CO2, and that they have dropped since 2007.

These are the fearless leaders who would clamp Cap and Trade limits on the use of fossil fuels on us and wreck our economies. They would yoke us to expensive, dangerous, and inconvenient electric cars, leave us shivering in our homes and offices, and leave us without electricity to light the dark, operate our laboratory equipment, and even to recharge those damned electric vehicles. What is the real agenda that causes them to distort the climate record and work so hard to bring misery to the people of this planet Earth? I think it is a love of socialism and a hatred for individualism.

21 November 2008

Coming Federal Land Grab

Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, intends to pass the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2008 in the lame duck session of Congress. As I recently noted, the federal government already owns ridiculously large amounts of U.S. land. See my post of 17 November 2008. This Omnibus ( I am beginning to associate this word with rampant socialism, as I do the word solidarity.) Public Land Management Act will put further restrictions on property ownership and will make it still harder to explore for oil on American soil. How do they get away with such nonsense?

This lard-filled act will put further controls on privately owned land and property. It will buy up still more land to be added to the more than 650 million acres of land the government already mismanages. The act will put aside land for more wild and scenic rivers, create new heritage areas with property use restrictions, and put more land into wilderness areas, along with about 100 additional land-use restriction programs. It will spend $4 billion on pork-barrel spending projects. Of course, it will also create many jobs for more government bureaucrats and require private citizens to file a blizzard of applications to bureaus and offices simply to use their own land and properties.

Who knows what further attacks upon property are hidden in its more than 1,000 pages? We can be sure that Congress does not know and that the courts will be discovering additional federal powers for decades among its pages.

The removal of more land and resources from productive use and the further empowerment of government is to be dreaded by all who believe in the American concept of the sovereign individual.

19 November 2008

It Depends on What the Meaning of Change Is

Obama, or BO as Prof. David Mayer has dubbed him, is bringing promised change to Washington. It turns out that his idea of change is a return to the old discredited redistributionist socialism of the past, managed almost entirely by bureaucrats and politicians of the Clinton Administration.

The only real change is that it will be harder for Democrats to rally behind the charge that America is hopelessly racist. Given that so many people of European, Asian, and Hispanic descent voted for BO, we ought finally to be able to judge people only by their character, ability, and accomplishments at last. No longer should it be considered racist to do so. Finally, we may be able to enforce the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, particularly as regards equal protection of the laws. No longer should there be race-based college admissions quotas and hirings for jobs. No longer should conspiracy theories claiming that whitey is somehow responsible for the terrible public schools of Washington, D.C., and other cities such as Baltimore and Cleveland with similarly miserable schools, be given any credence.

So, we can expect as vigorous an effort against terrorists as we had during the Clinton Administration. We will return to the level of response seen for the first attack on the World Trade Center, the attacks on the two U.S. embassies in Eastern Africa, and the attack on the U.S.S. Cole. We will see BO's promised closing of Gitmo. Will the troops be trained to give Miranda Rights statements to the prisioners they take? Perhaps they will have to shoot all prisoners for fear they will simply be released later by the courts. These troops had better be good, because Barney Franks says the Defense budget will be 25% smaller. This is change we can believe in!

Among the domestic policy changes, the most prominent is a return to the higher tax rates to be levied upon the upper middle class and the rich which we used to have. These rates have been shown to be so high that they greatly change people's behavior to one of extreme tax avoidance. These higher rates are simply punitive and do not serve the purpose of increasing federal tax revenues. They will decrease federal tax revenues, while also forcing many of our hardest working and most creative and innovative people into modes of activity which are much less productive. This will lead to the levels of unemployment such redistributionist schemes have generally created in Europe. America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, is to follow the leadership of Socialist Europe. This is the change we can believe in!

We can also expect punitive carbon taxes on coal-fired electric plants, on coal mines, on steel plants, the railroads that haul coal and oil, on natural gas-fired electric plants, on oil refineries, and on trucking firms hauling coal, oil, or gasoline. These industries are to be kicked in the teeth. BO says he is going to put all of the coal-fired electric plants into bankruptcy! This in the name of global warming caused by man-made CO2 emissions as we slip into the next Little Ice Age. This is the change we can believe in!

Meanwhile, the United Auto Workers Union will be given a bailout. These semi-skilled workers will be among those who will receive the money stolen from many others of us, those with no pull in Washington. They and legions of people who will not pay their debts will leach a hefty portion of the blood from many of us. Not being able to pay your mortgage or your credit card debt will entitle you to be receiver of stolen goods provided by the kind-hearted BO. That he will threaten the use of brutal and overwhelming force to collect the goodies to be redistributed will be ignored. This is the change we can believe in!

Young workers, those not in the legions of low-paid government service corps modelled after Hitler Youth and the Brownshirts, will ultimately be groaning under the weight of higher taxes to support the retiring Baby Boomers on their cush retirements under Social Security. These Baby Boomers will do no work from age 67 to age 89, on average. Twenty-two years of leisure at the expense of the younger generations. This is the change we can believe in!

The United Nations will be given total control of the seas and will be acceded the right to tax all countries in the world. The United Nations will determine what rights the individual has and condemn any nation with a different concept of individual rights. The United Nations will designate nations with different concepts of rights to be, let me guess, fascist nations. The United Nations will require massive redistributions of income and wealth within all nations and between all nations. This is change we can believe in!

17 November 2008

Excessive Federal Land Ownership



The map above shows the fraction of each state owned by the federal government. It is clear that federal land ownership, especially in the West, is excessive. The federal government owns 84.5% of Nevada. For all intents and purposes, Nevada is really a little state. In fact, so much of the state is owned by the federal government, that people in Reno have difficulty finding land on which to build a home. As a result, home prices are unreasonably high there. Meanwhile, the federal government is under-utilizing the land.

Since the federal government has just taken on more than a trillion dollars of additional debt with the failing bailout, this would be a great opportunity for it to sell most of its land holdings to reduce its debt and as a strong stimulant for the economy. Putting most of the federal lands into private hands would ensure their more productive use. Property owners would also have much greater reason to improve and safeguard their property than the federal government does. A great deal of oil and natural gas field development could then take place. Private individuals would find ways to put land to use better for ranching, farming, housing, retail, and lumbering as it best makes sense. Private investment has always been superior to communist ownership of property in common.

The states listed in the order of the most federal ownership are:

Nevada 84.5%
Alaska 69.1
Utah 57.4
Oregon 53.1
Idaho 50.2
Arizona 48.1
California 45.3
Wyoming 42.3
New Mexico 41.8
Colorado 36.6
Washington 30.3
Montana 29.9
Hawaii 19.4
New Hampshire 13.4
North Carolina 11.8
Michigan 10.0
Virginia 9.9
Florida 8.2
Vermont 7.5
West Virginia 7.4
Mississippi 7.3
Arkansas 7.2
South Dakota 6.2
Wisconsin 5.6
Minnesota 5.6
Kentucky 5.4
Louisiana 5.1

Five states are mostly under communist ownership. Sixteen states are 10% or more owned under the communist system of common land ownership, in which no one really owns anything. Another 11 states are deprived of more than 5% of their land, making a total of 27 states in which the federal government owns 5.1% or more of the land.

The states with the lowest federal land ownership are:

Rhode Island 0.4%
Connecticut 0.4
New York 0.5
Iowa 0.5

Thanks to Paul Cohen for sending this map to me.

Europe's Climate Change Leadership

In March 2007, the European Union pledged that by 2020 it would cut carbon emissions by at least 20% from 1990 levels, get 20% of its energy from renewable sources, and make energy efficiency improvements of 20%. Apparently, it was thought to be politically cute to aim for a series of 20% goals for 2020! Better to be cute than rational in politics.

My 14 November 2008 post addressed Europe's leadership also based on a commentary by Driessen. An article in The Economist in the 4 October 2008 issue adds some information on this issue. It says almost every European country is now complaining about their agreement. Britain says it cannot meet the renewable energy goal and Ireland wants protection for its grass-fed cows which emit large volumes of methane. But, most plaintively, the countries of Eastern Europe are worried and upset by these accords.

Poland gets over 90% of its electricity from coal-fired plants. They hope to replace the present power plants with clean coal technology and nuclear power in time, but they are worried about the intermediate timescale. UBS produced a report in February 2008 that the tax on carbon will be so high that 43% of Europe's coal-fired power plants will switch to natural gas. Well, Poland has huge coal reserves, but it has to import natural gas mostly from Russia! So, for understandable reasons of national security, it is very loathe to become dependent upon Russia for its ability to generate electricity. Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary joined Poland on 26 September to sign a joint declaration that the European climate change program would greatly increase their dependence on some countries for their natural gas supply. Apparently they did not have the gumption to state that it was Russia they were worried about.

The Eastern European countries have good reason to worry. In March 2007, the EU pledged "solidarity", a word so associated with socialism that it makes my stomach crawl, should energy supplies be cut-off. They called for increasing the energy supplier vendors and the Nabucco pipeline to bring gas from the Caspian Sea area without passing through Russian control. But, EU countries are individually making deals to undermine Nabucco, such as Germany supporting the Nord Stream gas pipeline deal with Gazprom. Europe's backbone was found to be a flimsy reed during the war in Georgia, with Russia's role as energy supplier being a part of the reason for European accommodation.

Russia is clearly doing everything it can to make Europe its energy hostage. Russia is investing in new pipelines to deliver gas to Europe. It is even trying to control a pipeline from Nigeria to Europe. It is also building a nuclear power plant in its little Kaliningrad enclave, the same one it is putting missiles in aimed at Europe, which is too big for Kaliningrad's needs. They plan to sell carbon-free electricity to Poland, Lithuania, and other nearby countries. Russia is clearly using energy as a means to control and intimidate Europe.

It sure would make more sense for Europe to take its chances that a little more CO2 will do less harm than being beholdened to Russia. If the earth should warm a few tenths of a degree, this would simply be the equivalent of moving a few miles to the south, while Russian control would be as chilling as moving to the North Pole.

15 November 2008

Hijacking Marriage

In the 2008 election cycle, bans defining marriage as only between a man and a woman were passed in California, Arizona, and Florida. The fact that this happened and did so by a wide margin, is touted as proving that the people are center-right in their beliefs, despite the fact that they voted to make a committed socialist our next President.

I do not find this reassuring for several reasons. Why?
  • Marriage is a highly spiritual and complex bond of love, friendship, loyalty, partnership, and sexuality between individuals, which draws strongly on their minds and conscience.
  • Government is not competent to manage and judge such complex interpersonal and spiritual relationships as marriage.
  • Government is the use of force and force is not the means to deal with marriages.
  • Government does and should offer legal contracts which are really civil union contracts, despite being fallaciously called marriage contracts.
  • Because government civil union legal contracts are called marriages, many people concede to government control of the spiritual content of marriages and do not attend to providing that spiritual content in their own marriages.
  • People with beliefs about what marriage should be, including those with such religious beliefs, want government to impose those beliefs on others because we fallaciously call the legal contracts of civil union by the name marriage.
So, we have the strange phenomena of religious people and others who believe that marriage has great spiritual content, conceding control of that spiritual content implicitly to government. Many of these people want marriage restrictions to be placed on all according to their beliefs, in violation of the freedom of conscience of individuals who do not share their belief. They are making a huge concession to socialism here in which they violate the religious and freedom of conscience rights of others, violate others' rights of association, and generally deny others control of their own lives, their bodies, and their pursuit of happiness. They put government in the position of making some of the most spiritual and intimate decisions one can conceive of in the management of people's lives.

The left views attempts of the right to impose their various religious views with respect to marriage, sex, time of personhood, and the creation of life upon everyone through the use of government force as terribly wrong. Yet religious socialists, like Obama, use the religious teachings such as the obligation to be one's brothers keeper and the story of the Good Sumaritan as the very basis for government redistribution of income and wealth. Religion and other dogmas are constantly clamoring to use governments to force everyone else into living their lives in accordance with their particular beliefs. This is seriously wrong.

The Constitution was wisely constructed to place severe limits upon the role of government in order that individuals would have maximal choice and control in the management of their own lives. Government surely has no business being in the marriage business. It does have reason to be in the civil union legal contract business, so that those who wish to enter into such contracts will be able to control such things as joint property ownership, medical decisions, and providing for children. But, this should not be confused with marriage. Marriage should be left explicitly to the conscience of the directly involved individuals. If marriage draws largely on religion for its spiritual content for them, this is their choice. If it draws such content from their own souls, this is their choice. This is not a choice for government, not even one chosen by a majoritarian principal. In such intimate and personal matters as marriage, a majoritarian government is nothing but a brutal tyranny.

The important issue in every political issue is whether the rights of the individual are honored and the sovereignty of the individual is respected. People are more able to manage their own lives well than government is. Government is brutal force and as such it is the problem, not the solution. Keep government out of marriage.

Require government not to discriminate between individuals in performing its limited functions. In particular, government has no business discriminating against all combinations of people wishing the advantages of a civil union other than that of one man and one woman. Government's role in civil union contracts is like that in a business partnership. We do not have a rule that a business partnership must consist of one man and one woman. There are plenty of examples in which a business partnership consists of two men or of two women. There are cases in which it involves six men or three men and three women. Government does not decide who can form a business partnership by examining the partner's gender or by restrictions to pairs. The civil union contract offered by government is an equivalent of another kind of business partnership and should be treated in a similar manner.

Allow the individuals involved to manage their own lives and maintain the freedom to manage your own life according to your conscience. If you concede the determination of who can be in a civil union contract and who cannot to government, then there is nothing that government cannot stick its nose into. If you wish to maintain spiritual content in your marriage, do not concede control of marriage to government. Keep marriage strictly in the private and personal realm of our lives. If we are to do this, then we must insist upon a strict distinction between marriage and government legal contracts for civil unions.

14 November 2008

Driessen -- Second thoughts on warming

Paul Driessen, senior policy adviser for the Congress of Racial Equality and its Stop the War on the Poor campaign and author of "Eco-Imperialism: Green Power -- Black death," wrote an interesting commentary in today's Washington Times called "Second thoughts on warming." He opens with:

President-elect Barack Obama wants to phase out coal-based electricity generation, switch to renewable energy and follow Europe's lead on climate change. That could prove difficult.

Coal generates half of all U.S. electricity. Wind provides less than 2 percent of all electricity and cannot be relied on when it's needed. Europe's lead can't even be defined, much less followed.

He describes the "leadership" offered by Europe:
  • The Kyoto Protocol called for greenhouse gas emissions to be cut by 7% below 1990 levels by 2012. At this time, Spain is 37% above that level, while Austria is 30%, Denmark 19%, and Portugal 17% above the target level. The EU changed its goal in 2007 to an emission cut of 20% by 2020. Now many countries believe that too ambitious.
  • German Chancellor Merkel promised to eliminate coal and nuclear power in 2006. Now she wants more nuclear and coal power plants and wants to reduce emissions restrictions on chemical, steel, manufacturing, cement, and auto industries.
  • Austria and Italy also want emissions requirements eased.
  • The Eastern Bloc nations all want exemptions from emissions restrictions. They depend upon coal for 90% of their electricity and believe Communism held their economies back for 50 years and now they want to catch up.
  • Britain finds 5.5 million households living in "fuel poverty" due to climate taxes and high energy prices. Many factories are threatening to shut down for the winter.
Driessen says "Following these examples makes sense. But that's probably not what Mr. Obama or environmentalists have in mind." You can bet that they have no interest in a rational plan.
  • China and India are rapidly building coal-fired electric power plants and are rightfully mostly concerned with combating poverty. They figure they can better respond to any warming that might occur later if they are not so poor and technologically backward.
  • African nations are putting their priorities rightfully on having affordable and reliable energy, safe water, modern hospitals, refrigeration, and the reduction of lung and intestinal diseases. Wind and solar power are not high priorities.
Meanwhile in the U.S.:
  • Emissions are 23% above the Kyoto Protocol requirement, had we signed it.
  • But, the growth of our emissions since 2000 is only 0.2% per year.
  • Al Gore flies only private jets, owns a fancy houseboat, and uses more electricity in a week than 28 million Ugandans use in total in a year.
  • Warner-Lieberman cap-and-trade will cost more than $7 trillion. Now, many Democrats want a cap-and-trade law which will cost much more.
  • Hydrocarbons provide 85% of U.S. energy [and will all be hit hard by cap-and-trade, causing hydrocarbon energy cost to soar. All other energy costs will also soar due to increased demand for these other forms of energy.]
  • The EPA wants to micromanage our complete energy system and hence the entire economy.
  • Even without further new restrictions, we face brownouts and blackouts at unprecedented levels in 2009.
Obama will not be following Europe's lead on this. HE, Pelosi, and Democrat Congressional Socialists will be setting new records in insanity. When winter comes and we cannot afford to heat water so we can take showers, then we will be following BO and the French. This odor emissions problem will not be addressed with anything like the urgency which should attend to it. The good news is that we will be keeping our buildings so cold that we will perspire less. Chatter, chatter, shudder, shudder......The new U.S. energy plan is plenty of covers and some serious bundling. Uhhh... you had better have some company under those covers to share body heat with.

12 November 2008

Fein -- Redistribution blather

Bruce Fein, a constitutional lawyer, has written an interesting commentary called "Redistribution blather" for the Washington Times on 11 November 2008. He says,
Morality and economic prosperity militate in favor of turning the prevailing progressive income tax scheme on its head. They also argue against government redistributions of wealth through spending, including the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Act of 2008, which was championed by President Bush, Mr. McCain, and the president-elect alike. It lavishly rewards the prodigal, financially irresponsible, and politically connected at the expense of the thrifty and prudent.
He notes that barriers to voting by the masses have been reduced and the checks against majoritarian tyranny have become less effective. The progressive income tax and massive redistribution programs have allowed politicians to purchase the votes of much of the middle and lower classes. The rich retain influence by making campaign contributions and by providing advertising and think tanks. The politicians then squander many billions of dollars winning the affections and allegiance of the rich, the middle class, and the lower class. Then Fein produces a great argument on the morality of progressive taxation:

In any event, the "ability to pay" standard is morally obtuse. At present, most income is obtained through private market transactions. Income is earned by doing things other persons want done, i.e., giving them satisfaction. The willingness of a private individual to pay from his own resources is the best proxy ever invented for fixing the economic value of the thing provided. Every other standard is hopelessly subjective.

Individuals who earn high incomes through private transactions are thus the true "Good Samaritans" because they give the greatest amount of satisfaction to others. Someone who slaved 24 hours a day digging a hole to nowhere that no one wanted would be economically barren and might be whipped for refusing to do things that others wanted done. So much for Karl Marx's labor theory of value.

By any sensible moral yardstick, high-income earners should be taxed least because they generate the greatest amount of consumer satisfaction. Low-income earners should be taxed most because they create the least social good. Moreover, taxation reduces the amount of the thing taxed by raising its cost. High taxes on low-income earners would reduce their numbers by giving tax relief for earning more.

Then another juicy comment:
An individual whose diligence, industry and wisdom have earned great personal wealth by satisfying the wants of others stands on a higher moral plane than an individual whose indolence, indiscipline and criminality have plunged him into abject poverty.
For my part, I will not propose an anti-progressive income tax with say the first dollar earned at a 39.6% rate, the second dollar taxed at a 36% rate, the third dollar earned taxed at a 33% rate, etc. Well ... at least not as long as government does not insist on doling out more welfare benefits to the lower income groups. No... I am willing to go along with a system with a flat tax rate of say 10%. I understand that it is said that a flat rate of 17% would be needed, but that assumes that we will continue the many redistributionist programs we already have. So either we slash those programs and go with a 10% flat income tax rate, or we keep the redistributionist programs and adopt an anti-progressive income tax. Thems my terms!

But really, Bruce Fein is on to something here. Besides making it apparent that he has probably read Ayn Rand, he is staking out the moral position from which we will probably have to start if there is to be any hope of ending up with a flat income tax. The socialists claim we are our Brother's Keeper even when we do not know our brother and their numbers are too fantastical for any one mother to have borne them all. We need to finally apply the counterbalancing truth in order to get any justice at all. That truth is the truth I quoted Fein on above. We need to start the Anti-Progressive Tax League and parlay that into something approaching a moral income tax.

11 November 2008

Steele: Restoring Confidence in the GOP

Living in Maryland, I have watched Michael Steele develop from Lt. Governor to Senate candidate for the Republican Party. He was a good man then, but sometimes given to assuming too large a charity role for government. Since then he has served as chairman of GOPAC, a Republican organization which develops young politicians and helps them win elections for state and local offices. Michael has also been a Fox News commentator for some time. In his post-Senate run period, he has been developing as a better and better spokesman for the rights of the individual and for limited government. I have long been reading GOPAC e-mails from him and have been increasingly impressed by him.

I read in today's Washington Times that he and Newt Gingrich are vying to become the chairman of the Republican National Committee, though the article said neither is admitting to seeking the position. If this is true, while I have some respect for Newt Gingrich, I am rooting for Michael Steele. The main reason is his understanding of the principles of good government and that society is best when it allows individuals to manage their own lives. But, I also believe he is needed to galvanize Republicans into an improved dialog with African Americans and Hispanic Americans, who should be voting for Republicans for the same reasons that many European Americans do.

Michael published a very good article today in The Wall Street Journal called "Restoring Confidence in the GOP". It is very much worth your taking the time to read it in its entirety. If he becomes chairman of the RNC, the Republican Party will become much better because of it.

Veteran's Day

I always work on Veteran's Day and I am always a bit grouchy on Veteran's Day. As an optimist, I do not particularly like myself on Veteran's Day. But it is a rough day.

My father served as a Navy aviator in the Pacific Theater of WWII and then had a 22-year career in the Navy. Growing up, we lived in many communities, so I always thought of myself as an American, not as a Virginian, a Texan, a Rhode Islander, or Jersey kid. Dad went on cruises to the Western Pacific, the Caribbean, and to the Mediterranean Sea. He was the skipper of VA-75, an attack squadron. Dad and his squadron flew 12-hour flights at treetop altitude to fly under radar deep into the USSR. These would have been one-way trips in war: they did not have enough fuel to return. Then he was a student at the Senior Naval War College and then an instructor at the Junior Naval War College. In 1963, he retired and took a job with American Airlines at their maintenance base in Tulsa, OK.

I was always proud of my Dad and of his dedication to American freedoms. He and I were both proud of his service in the Navy and I was happy to do my best to help him in his work by being the man of the house when he was away on a cruise. But my Dad's service was never adequately appreciated by most Americans.

While in graduate school, starting work on my Ph.D. degree in Physics, I received my orders to report for induction into the Army. They were delayed so I could finish the year in which I was enrolled and I reported for duty in June 1970. I would rather have continued my graduate work, but I was healthy and a proud American. I served a bit over 12 months in Vietnam.

I did not think the Vietnam War was enough in America's interest to justify a draft, but I did then and do now believe that the fight we entered into was in the best interests of the South Vietnamese, most of whom did not wish to live under a totalitarian Communist regime. This of course is predicated upon the condition that we stayed the course until the war was won, which pernicious Democrats and socialists refused to do. The way in which Congress abandoned the South Vietnamese is one of the most dishonorable of all American actions in our history.

In February of 1972, I returned to graduate school. There were some people who treated me as though I were a normal graduate student, some who treated me with a measure of extra respect, and there were some who assumed that I was a baby-killer and had perhaps made a practice of raping women. Women students were commonly the most unkind of all. The Physics Department faculty was generally great, even though some opposed the war. But overall, a returning Vietnam veteran was not well-received on campus.

The socialists are at it again in their opposition to the Iraq War. This time, they are trying not to treat the veterans of that war as badly as they did those of Vietnam. I believe they actually embarrassed themselves a bit with respect to their behavior after Vietnam toward veterans. Or maybe they just realized in time that it had not been particularly smart politically. Nonetheless, when your country largely repudiates the reasons for which you fought your war, you will feel unappreciated as a veteran. The socialists like to blame the war on Bush, despite Saddam's making a regular habit of shooting at American aircraft and despite Congress stating that there were 23 reasons for our continuing the war with Iraq. Yes, continuing the war which Saddam had never stopped fighting as he violated the Armistice he had signed over and over again.

I do not know of a war, outside of one or two fought with Indians, that any American veteran should not feel proud of his participation. Certainly the present Iraq War and the Afghanistan War are both efforts our veterans should be proud about. I wish to be among those who thank you for providing security to other Americans and for your efforts to act as honorable Americans under trying conditions. Thank you.

I will be less grouchy on Veterans Day when almost all Americans come to appreciate that freedom is the exception in man's history, while anarchy or tyranny are the commonplace. In order to avoid the horrors of the commonplace, we have to have a clear idea of what our individual rights are and be adamant in defending them. We need to understand our much ignored Constitution and choose to live by it. And we sometimes need to fight for our freedoms, as our veterans have done. The fight is a constant one in the realm of ideas and a not infrequent one in the realm of weapons. American heroes are badly needed in both realms. My hat is off to all of you who are veterans of these conflicts.

09 November 2008

Home Foreclosure Rates, Economic Freedom, and the Election

It strikes me that it would be interesting to examine the very uneven incidence of home foreclosure rates in the states and see if there may be any lessons to be learned about those states attitudes toward economic freedom and how they voted in the presidential election. So, which states had the highest 2007 foreclosure rates in number per 1000 mortgages? I have indicated which way the state voted in the presidential election using red for McCain and blue for Obama. The second number is the ranking for economic freedom from my post of 8 November 2008. I have looked for more recent mortgage foreclosure rates, but have not been able to find a complete set for all the states, so the 2007 rates will have to do for now.

Nevada 33.8, 6
Florida 20.0, 28
Michigan 19.5, 43
California 19.2, 47
Colorado 19.2, 3
Ohio 18.0, 44
Georgia 15.7, 11
Arizona 15.2, 21
Illinois 12.5, 27
Indiana 10.3, 23

All other states had 2007 foreclosure rates per 1000 mortgages below 10. South Dakota and Vermont had rates as low as 0.1. Maine's rate was 0.4 and West Virginia's was 0.5. The foreclosure rates are very unevenly spread across the country. Attempts to help people avoid foreclosure on the part of the federal government will involve huge transfers of money from some states with no problem to a few states with a really bad problem.

We will note that the average economic freedom index ranking of these states is 25.3, so the degree of economic freedom does not correlate well with the mortgage foreclosure rates. But, the Republican presidential candidate usually wins the vote in the states of Nevada, Florida, Colorado, Ohio, Georgia, Arizona, and Indiana of this set of states, if he is to be victorious. Yet of these 7 states in which Republicans are usually very competitive or winners, McCain lost in all but two. One of these was his home state, which one ought to be able to assume he would win. So of 9 remaining high mortgage foreclosure rate states, McCain won only one, Georgia. Of six remaining states which the Republicans usually have to win to win the presidential election, he won only one.

These usually competitive states have 72 electoral college votes, which would not have been enough to have won McCain the election. But, if we give Missouri to McCain, which still seems to be undecided, then McCain only would have needed to have won North Carolina, which he barely lost. In fact, Missouri had a mortgage foreclosure rate of 9.1 and North Carolina had one of 7.4, both of which are on the high side for the remaining 40 states (Yes, Obama, after the ten states listed, there are only 40 more, not 47 more.), so these two states may have gone into the Republican column without the sense of economic distress that these high foreclosure rates brought about.

Of course, it was not primarily the Republicans who were actually responsible for these foreclosure rates. The Democrats have been the prime movers in limiting home building which drives up home costs and forces more people to obtain subprime mortgages if they are to get a home at all. In some of the Rocky Mountain and other western states, the excessive Federal ownership of land plays a major role in driving up the cost of housing. This is a factor in Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, and in California. Again, the Democrats are more responsible for this. But, the people have a delusion that the party with control of the presidency is in power and responsible for all problems. Consequently, the high foreclosure rates worked against the Republican presidential candidate more than the Democrat candidate.

Of course, there were many problems with McCain in other respects and this one factor was probably not enough to explain the results. But, it was probably not of trivial importance either.

08 November 2008

57 States and Africa

Could it be that the unattributed claim that Sarah Palin thought Africa was a country was simply made up by Democrats in an attempt to counterbalance Barack Obama's thought that there were 57 or more states? Of course, even if Sarah had thought any such thing and I doubt she did, I cannot understand how this would actually counterbalance Obama's mistake. After all, she was trying to be Vice President of the United States and he was aiming to be President. While knowing that Africa is a continent is pretty important, it is even more important that the President should know how many states are in the United States. If the Vice President were not to know this, the Vice President would at least have time to learn it on the job as Vice President. Apparently, the Governor of the 50th state of Alaska already knew this! And she has executive experience too!

Economic Freedom and the Presidential Election

The Pacific Research Institute in association with Forbes produced the U.S. Economic Freedom Index, 2008 Report by Lawrence J. McQuillan, Michael T. Maloney, Eric Daniels, and Brent M. Eastwood and I have been intending to discuss it for some time. Then I thought that it might be interesting to correlate it with the results of the presidential election, which can now be done.

The report says, "Economic freedom is the right of individuals to pursue their interests through voluntary exchange of private property under a rule of law. This freedom forms the foundation of market economies. Subject to a minimal level of government to provide safety and a stable legal foundation, legislative or judicial acts that inhibit this right reduce economic freedom."

They set up 35 indices including such factors as tax rates, state spending, occupational licensing, environmental regulations, income redistribution, right-to-work and prevailing-wage laws, tort reform, and many others. They then assumed that people want to be free, so they search out locations, governments, and situations where freedom reigns. So they made migration their metric for deciding which index among the 35 they had set up as possible good indicators of economic freedom they would use to rank the states for economic freedom.

The formula for the Index is: Index = (0.2313 x Fiscal Score) + (0.2159 x Regulatory Score) + (0.1894 x Judicial Score) + (0.1208 x Government Score) + (0.2426 x Welfare-Spending Score)

The net migration score for the 20 freest states was 27.36 people per thousand. For the 20 most economically oppressed states the net migration score was 1.17 per thousand. For every one place improvement in state rank, a state's net migration per 1,000 people typically increased about one person.

The results of this economic freedom study are given below with the presidential popular vote result for each state, as State, Economic Freedom Score, 2008 Rank, 2004 Rank, 1999 Rank, McCain Vote %, Obama Vote %.

South Dakota, 14.54, 1, 15, 5, 53%, 45%
Idaho, 14.81, 2, 4, 1, 61%, 36%
Colorado, 14.91, 2, 14, 45%, 53%
Utah, 15.16, 4, 5, 3, 63%, 34%
Wyoming, 15.39, 5, 9, 4, 65%, 33%
Nevada, 15.70, 6, 12, 20, 43%, 55%
Oklahoma, 16.74, 7, 6, 18, 66%, 34%
New Hampshire, 17.07, 8, 7, 6, 45%, 55%
Virginia, 17.07, 9, 3, 2, 47%, 52%
Kansas, 18.06, 10, 1, 10, 57%, 41%
Georgia, 18.22, 11, 19, 12, 53%, 46%
North Dakota, 18.56, 12, 18, 21, 53%, 45%
Montana, 18.56, 13, 21, 26, 50%, 47%
Arkansas, 18.82, 14, 23, 15, 59%, 39%
Missouri, 18.90, 15, 10, 13, 50%, 49%
Alabama, 19.03, 16, 25, 11, 61%, 39%
South Carolina, 19.08, 17, 13, 16, 54%, 45%
Wisconsin, 19.15, 18, 38, 37, 43%, 56%
Mississippi, 19.28, 19, 28, 9, 57%, 43%
Delaware, 19.61, 20, 8, 7, 37%, 62%
Arizona, 19.78, 21, 11, 25, 54%, 45%
Iowa, 19.88, 22, 16, 24, 45%, 54%
Indiana, 19.92, 23, 14, 22, 49%, 50%
Hawaii, 19.92, 24, 35, 39, 27%, 72%
Nebraska, 19.93, 25, 20, 23, 57%, 41%
Minnesota, 20.92, 26, 44, 43, 44%, 54%
Illinois, 21.16, 27, 46, 36, 37%, 62%
Florida, 21.16, 28, 22, 30, 49%, 51%
Tennessee, 21.18, 29, 26, 19, 57%, 42%
Oregon, 21.24, 30, 29, 41, 42%, 56%
Texas, 21.32, 31, 17, 8, 55%, 44%
Lousiana, 21.36, 32, 40, 31, 59%, 40%
Massachussetts, 21.72, 33, 41, 47, 36%, 62%
Maryland, 21.73, 34, 27, 35, 38%, 61%
Maine, 21.81, 35, 30, 42, 41%, 58%
North Carolina, 21.87, 36, 24, 17, 49%, 50%
Washington, 21.92, 37, 31, 40, 41%, 58%
West Virginia, 22.55, 38, 32, 32, 56%, 43%
Connecticut, 22.66, 39, 48, 46, 39%, 60%
Kentucky, 22.71, 40, 39, 29, 58%, 41%
New Mexico, 22.82, 41, 37, 28, 42%, 57%
Vermont, 22.87, 42, 36, 34, 32%, 67%
Michigan, 23.08, 43, 34, 27, 41%, 57%
Ohio, 23.34, 44, 43, 33, 47%, 51%
Alaska, 23.38, 45, 33, 38, 62%, 36%
Pennsylvania, 23.88, 46, 45, 45, 44%, 55%
California, 23.89, 47, 49, 44, 37%, 61%
New Jersey, 23.94, 48, 42, 48, 42%, 57%
Rhode Island, 24.18, 49, 47, 49, 35%, 63%
New York, 27.39, 50, 50, 50, 37%, 62%

Of the top 25 freest states by economic freedom ranking, McCain won 16 of the states. In the most oppressed 25 states, he won only 6 states. The voters who consistently pursue restrictions upon our individual economic freedoms, were fairly consistent in choosing the socialist Obama. Of the six states that gave McCain 61% or more of the vote, five were ranked in the top 16 by economic freedom index and four were ranked in the top 7 by economic freedom. The other state was Alaska, whose people think of themselves as being self-reliant and independent, but who are massively on welfare. It will be interesting to see if those states voting for Obama tumble in future economic freedom rankings.

The states of Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, New Hampshire, and Virginia have consistently had top ten rankings in all of the three evaluations in 1999, 2004, and 2008. Until this election, all of these states had voted Republican in the last several presidential elections. Now that New Hampshire and Virginia have defected to the socialist candidate, I expect to see them fall out of the top 10. Indeed, they are barely hanging in there now, both having lost position steadily since 1999. There are other states whose economic freedom ranking has steadily fallen also: Ohio, Michigan, Vermont, New Mexico, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, and Delaware, where I have ordered them from most oppressive to least oppressive. Of the 11 falling states, 8 are already ranked 29 or worse.

There are a few steadily improving states as well. These are Nevada, North Dakota, Montana, and Hawaii. Then there is one state which has been remarkably consistent: New York. It has ranked dead last as the most oppressive state of all in each of the last three evaluations. Most of us will realize that this means it is ranked #50, but for Mr. Obama's sake, I will point out that the last rank is not 57. 57 is the number of Heinz varities, Mr. Obama.

South Dakota at number 1 has no corporate income tax, no personal income tax, no personal property tax, no business inventory tax, and no inheritance tax. Companies are moving into the state. In 2007, the Small Business Survival Foundation ranked South Dakota the best business climate for entrepreneurs. Forbes magazine says Sioux Falls is the best smaller metro area for business and careers. The Milken Institute says it has a low cost of doing business.

The freest states are in the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountain states, while the most oppressed are in the Northeast. South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois have all made major improvements in economic freedom in the Upper Midwest. But, Indiana has fallen somewhat and Michigan and Ohio are both very bad and falling. The fact that Indiana and Ohio have fallen may say a lot about why they voted for Obama and these states may be hard for the Republicans to win in the future given their poor attitude toward economic freedom.

The states with the biggest drops were Texas, Alaska, Delaware, North Carolina, and Arizona. Again, these rapid drops may be a harbinger of future defections to the socialist Democrats of Texas and Arizona and the continued loss of North Carolina.

Among those states having values which have given rise to more economic freedom, the Republicans should find states it will be particularly beneficial to try to swing into the Republican column before the next election. Among these states are Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia, Wisconsin, Delaware, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois, and Florida. OK, maybe Illinois will have to wait until they do not have a socialist Native Son in the presidency. A determined and consistent effort in these states might well provide a big payoff in the next election or two. Meanwhile, the Republicans should make a strong effort to improve the economic liberty of Texas and Arizona, so they will not lose them in the future. They should do the same in North Carolina in an effort to recover it.

Obama's Coming Disappointment

When Obama starts exercising the duties of the Office of the President, after lying that HE will preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, HE is in for a great disappointment. You see, HE believes HE is going to have 57 states to boss around. HE will find out that 7 states have disappeared.

Some commentators have said that HE faces more severe problems than any President upon assuming office! This is nonsense. HIS problems are small compared to those of Lincoln, but HE may think HE has the same problem as HE wonders about the missing states. Did they secede?

Come to think of it, we used to have a regular secession of states threatening to secede in the first 80 years of the republic. In some cases, this may actually have put some pressure on the federal government not to interfere too much with state affairs or those individual rights which some states sometimes tried to protect from the government. True, in the case of slavery in the South, the states were terribly wrong, but when South Carolina had earlier protested tariffs, she had a good case. When New England protested trade restrictions with Europe, she had a good case. In these cases, the states were acting to protect the rights of their citizens. So, will we ever see some Red States threaten secession to impede the march of socialism coming from the Blue States? Will Obama actually have an aide come to him to tell him that Oklahoma and Wyoming have seceded? These good states voted more than 2 to 1 for candidates other than the socialist Obama.

07 November 2008

Obama: Students Required to Serve

Since my earlier post just before polls opened on election day on Obama and his plans for numerous governmental service agencies and goals for students to perform community service, his website as President-Elect put out a call for service which changed the wording for student service from "set a goal" to "require." Apparently, enough people got hot over that that the "require" was quickly changed back to "set a goal."

Unfortunately, the goals of the highly socialist education profession and the teacher's unions are such that HIS setting goals for involuntary servitude will be enough that many more public school systems will add a requirement for community service for graduation.

I live in Maryland, The Free State. This is a joke left over from long ago when Maryland was notable for a higher degree of religious freedom than was found in most colonies and then in the states soon after our independence. Now, it is one of the more tyrannical states of the union. Maryland already requires students to perform community service as a requirement for high school graduation and proudly proclaims itself the first state to have such a requirement. I believe that the requirement is 50 hours, but none of the state or county school board websites I have visited spell out what the requirement is. They spell out the subject requirements clearly, but then they usually have the statement that attendance and service-learning requirements must also be met. Yes, slavery is called service-learning.

I can only imagine the hue and cry if the history books were to describe the slavery of African-Americans before the Civil War as a service-learning requirement.

The highest education official in the state of Maryland has just called for making the high school graduation requirement in the state 100 hours of community service. It appears he is already responding to Obama's call for setting a higher service goal.

Our American tradition has always limited government's role to some subset of human interactions and relationships and to a portion of our community affairs. We did not conflate government with society, but instead had the concept that society was much broader in scope than government. The socialists seek to eradicate this idea and seek to subsume all the relationships and interactions of a society into a broadly expanded government role with government regulation, control, and direction for all human activities. The "service-learning" high school graduation requirement has several purposes:
  • To force students to obey government not only in school, but also in required activities outside school.
  • To accustom students to conflate government with society.
  • To make them believe the dogma that charity must be provided by government or its mandatory requirements and that it cannot depend upon voluntary acts of charity by benevolent people.
  • To reduce the budget costs of some government services by bringing in free student labor.
  • To complement the socialist teaching of history which emphasizes the malevolent and uncharitable aspects of human nature and overemphasizes the number of people who do not fare well under a Capitalist system.
Thanks again to Robert Bidinotto for making me aware of the change Obama made from "setting a goal" to "require" in one of his 7 November 2008 posts.

Reynolds: Obama's Tax Deceptions

Alan Reynolds, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, published an article called "Obama's Tax Deceptions" in the National Review (Online) on 4 November 2008. Some of the interesting facts about Obama's "95% of workers and families will get tax breaks" plan are:
  • About 81% of households will owe less tax. Obama made up the 95% number.
  • About 10% of households will owe more taxes, so the plan is a soak the 10% plan.
  • The top fifth of income earners will pay an average 3.4% more, or about $7,727 per year more.
  • Married couples filing jointly will be hit the worst.
  • Obama wrote in the Wall Street Journal on 3 November that "If you work, pay taxes, and make less than $200,000, you'll get a tax cut." Untrue! Single workers making more than $80,000 will not get a tax cut. Neither will joint returns over $155,000. Liar, liar, pants on fire!
  • The Making Work Pay Credit applies on income up to $8,100 and will provide as much as $500 per earner. But it phases out for income exceeding $75,000 or joint incomes exceeding $150,000. Biden was right that tax cuts apply for those with income up to $150,000, if this is joint income.
  • HIS child care credit phases out as incomes rise from $30,000 to $58,000.
  • HIS exemption for seniors phases out as income rises from $50,000 to $60,000.
  • HIS 50% savers credit dies at $75,000.
  • HIS $4,000 college tax credit phases out with family income from $100,000 to $120,000.
  • A worker earning in the $30,000 to $43,000 range, loses as much as $5.17 for each additional $10 he earns, due to these tax breaks phasing out. This is not a great incentive to earn more if one now earns in this range.
Thanks again Alan for your great research!

Rahn: Is It Constitutional?

Richard W. Rahn, a senior fellow of the Cato Institute and chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth, wrote a very fine article which appeared in the Washington Times on 5 November 2008 entitled "Is It Constitutional?" Rahn discusses the unconstitutionality of the government's financial industry bailouts. He expects the Supreme Court to have to make a ruling on this issue and that it will find the bailout to be unconstitutional. I hope he is right.

He also has a good discussion of what is wrong with the concept of "active rights", which is the same as what Obama has called "positive rights," which are supposed rights that justify using governmentally weilded force to make one person do things for the sake of another.

05 November 2008

John Smith the Creator

One of the really good things to come out of this election was the rise of Joe the Plumber, Tito the Builder, and Cory the Well Driller. Each has built or intends to build a business and each is making or doing something that responds to the needs of others. None of them want handouts from government. They just want to be allowed the freedom to work incredibly hard to produce and create things that others want to purchase from them.

They all have the temerity to think that no one deserves to receive the wealth they created and Obama wants to spread around to others who have not worked as hard and taken the risks they have. I like the fact that each has been identified as a producer and creator of wealth and jobs. These are good men and many people seem to have responded positively to that. There are still good Americans who are not bent on mooching off others and are proud of their ability to be productive and creative.

One of the tragedies in America is that we do not call the parasites who want to receive the money Obama wants to spread around, Sally the Parasite, Joan the Moocher, and Greg the Bloodsucker. We are a nice people who rarely assume that those who produce and earn little most likely deserve to earn little. In reality, there often are good reasons why some Americans earn little.

Of course, many who earn little are also learning the skills or developing the business that will one day allow them to have a very good income. Our upward mobility in America is largely unheard of in other countries around the world. Many of the poor are on their way to wealth. If we spread the wealth as Obama wants to use force to do, then many Americans who want a chance to become wealthy will never be able to do so.

Obama Usurps the Presidency

A few hours ago, Senator John McCain conceded the 2008 Presidential Election to Senator Barack Obama. Obama will clearly win the Electoral College vote. Our Constitutional system of government says that this is the way the presidential election is won. So, how can I say that Obama has usurped the presidency?

The unique American innovation in government was that the individual holds sovereignty over his own life and that all rights are individual rights which are owned by the individual. These rights are not granted to the individual by government, but they are a consequence of the nature of man. Man, by nature, must utilize his mind to understand reality and to find ways to alter his environment so that he can survive and flourish. The act of using your mind is a very individual effort. Our rights derive from the needs we have as a result of this requirement.

Living in society can offer man many advantages, since trading ideas, goods, and services can be very beneficial to the individuals involved. People working together can provide one another enhanced security from threats and minds work differently, so different people can solve different problems. There is much to the saying that two minds are better than one. But, these interactions and trades are well known to work most efficiently when they are as voluntary as possible. Envy and avarice commonly cause many people to try to steal the wealth created by others who have used their minds more effectively. When a society of individuals begins to give free reign to this envy and avarice to allow some to take what they want without having used their own minds and hard work to create it, then society quickly loses its advantages. Indeed, societies often fall into orgies of the brutal use of force.

History is full of illustrations of this. Medieval Europe faltered under a heavy yoke of Christian mysticism and ubiquitous Robber Barons, while a freer Middle East largely prospered and generated much knowledge. The United States rose from a wilderness and became the manufacturing and agricultural envy of the world by WWI. Czarist Russia, with huge land mass and resources, remained primitive. Nazi Germany rose and fell very quickly. Stalin's USSR and Mao's China moblized masses of people, but remained primitive. Pol Pot's Cambodia was a bloodbath. The lack of property and other individual rights in Latin America kept those countries from coming close to developing their potential. Chavez's Venezuela is falling apart and Cuba fell apart long ago. Africa, with its dictators and socialist states remains primitive still. Europe, the envy of the world after the Enlightenment, fell in esteem as it became highly socialist in the 20th century, when it also suffered the bloodbaths of WWI and WWII, before the anxieties of the Cold War. Now, it commonly suffers 10% unemployment and the people are so depressed that they do not have enough children to even come close to maintaining the populations of most European countries. Europe is clearly in decay.

For a long time, most Americans in the Northeast, on the Pacific Coast, and in a midwestern cluster of states including Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, have wanted the United States to be more like Europe. Obama is exactly their man. HE, like most Europeans, is a pessimist. HE believes most people are oppressed by a few wealthy individuals made up mostly of white males. HE believes these oppressed masses are individually helpless and can only better their condition by turning to elite leaders who will use government power ruthlessly to force the wealthy to spread around some of the goodies they have taken from the many helpless people. HE does not believe in the creation powers of the individual mind. HE also does not believe in the sovereignty of the individual, which derives from his need to use his mind. HE believes, as do most Europeans, that government gives rights to individuals and that government is the source of sovereignty. Perhaps, it is slightly more accurate to say that he believes that sovereignty lies in the collective of all the people, rather than in each individual. There is little practical difference in these two concepts, however. Both the fascist/nazi socialist Hitler and the communist Stalin and Mao believed the same thing, that sovereignty lay in the collective people.

As I have pointed out many times, the Constitution of the United States was formulated to so limit the powers of government that it could not mess with the sovereignty of the individual. That remarkable, miraculous document makes no sense except in the context that sovereignty lies in the individual and that individuals have rights whether government is good enough to recognize them or not. The Declaration of Independence clearly and explicitly made this declaration, which was much more important than simply declaring independence from and war on King George III. The Constitution's purpose was to secure American's independence from all despots and all forms of tyranny. Among these forms of tyranny was any democracy which did not honor the rights of the individual. The Founding Fathers were very clear on this subject.

The President is the head of the Executive branch of the federal government. His principal job is to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. This means his principal job is to see that the government recognizes individual sovereignty. He must be committed to governing the government's use of force strictly so that it does not violate the rights of the individual. Anyone taking on the execution of the President's Office is a tyrant and an usurper to the degree that he does not honor the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If he fails in this, our own Declaration of Independence makes it clear he is a despot and that the people, or any part of them, or any individual have the right to rebel and overthrow him for the very same reasons they had the right to rebel against King George III.

Of course the President is not the only officer of the federal government charged with preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution. The entire Congress and the federal courts are also charged with this same task. For each of the three branches of government, this is their primary purpose and function. For a long time, none of these branches have done a decent job, because all of them have failed our Constitution. In doing so, they have failed the American people. But, because we have so democratic a republican government, the people have failed their own great Constitution. Of course, this means the American people have failed themselves. They have failed to guard their own sovereignty.

In his victory speech, Obama once again made it clear that HE does not think Americans are principally individuals. HE says we are something more than that. Well, in a way we used to be more than that. We were a people who understood that we were sovereign individuals and that we were able to manage our own lives. Now, it is clear that we are mostly just like European socialists who beg governments to give them goodies. We used to create wealth and security for our families and friends. Now, we will fight one another to see who can steal the most from others. We used to live in respectful harmony. Now, we will live in constant angst. Perhaps, like Europeans, we will even lose the will and confidence to procreate.

Clearly, we have given up on growth and we have chosen decay. The human being either grows or decays. America long brought on constant change with growth generated by using our individual minds and freely trading the ideas that resulted. These ideas provided a cornucopia of goods and services. Now America will change more slowly by decay and our minds will stultify under the threat of ubiquitous force. It has always been so historically and we have chosen to relive sad and uncertain times. We have chosen to return to more primitive times.