Friday, December 28, 2012

Financial Interest And Citizens

Cheaper Than Dirt .223 Rifle, Empty 12/24/12
10 Round .223 AR-15 Mag, Bullet Trap Inc, 12/27/12 Cost: $75.
Academy Sports .223 Rifle, Empty 12/27/12

Cheaper Than Dirt 9mm Handgun, Empty 12/24/12
In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, the national political climate has taken an apparent shift from toleration of an armed citizen to open mockery of a free citizen being armed. It has apparently troubled more then a few, as stores which I have never seen an empty ammo shelf have become the norm. 

Within hours, the national outcry for the reinstatement of the 1994 Abridgement of the Second Amendment Assault Rifle Ban swept the internet and media outlets. The result? A run on the existing supply of such rifles, and a rapid increase in the private holdings of such rifles. To wit, the result of intoning increased control of fire arms is to increase the number of fire arms in private hands, and to drive the existing supplies of ammunition off the shelves and into the closets of private citizens. 

Anecdotal evidence from a local gun show on 12/22 was compelling. The doors opened at 9am, we arrived and stood in line from 8:45am to 9:15am to even enter the show floor. After 11:30am, I was no longer able to locate a dealer of ammunition selling .223 Rifle at any price. 

Equally of note, the AR-15 style rifle has become exceptionally difficult to locate and purchase. At the show we visited, most vendors began the day charging double the previous going rate for rifles, with many rapidly increasing prices until selling out within only a handful of hours. 

The standard magazine for these rifles holds 30 rounds, and were priced with a 800% increase from the price a month previous. Supply and demand functioned efficiently, these prices reflect a selling of magazines in 3 days equivalent to 42 months of sales.The picture above of the magazine priced at $75 is representative of a magazine with 1/3 the capability for 8 times the price of the standard magazine in the beginning of November. In essence a cost growth of 2400% as a result of a few words spoken in public. The short run inelasticity (Inflexible, difficult to increase supply in the short run) of the quantity supply is seen by rapid increases in prices as the retails cope with very elastic (increasing quickly in the short run) demand.

An AR-15 rifle is known to the industry as a 'Sporting Rifle' and has a more tactical look and feel then does a traditional hunting rifle. To those who do not understand the tools they seek to condemn, these are frequently referred to as 'Assault Rifles'. The fear and hysteria surrounding these implements is such that before anything approaching clarity was available regarding the Sandy Hook story, officials were decrying the presence of an AR-15 style rifle without regard for the facts regarding it's use, or even the legality of its presence on the school grounds. 

 Really, it is almost as if Diane Feinstein and her compatriots have a large financial interest in increasing the sales of all arms makers and ammunition manufacturers. Think about it, millions of extra rounds of ammunition purchased in the past year for non-combat departments of the Federal Government were done with some cause.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Hobbit

In the early months of 1999 my mother hauled her two boys to the Grapevine Public Library. While I was busy casting about the children's book section, she went out of her way to pull a large, dully colored book down from the shelf and force me to hold it and look at it. While I gaped in impatience at the cover, she explained that although she had never read the book or the author, it was a book I would probably like.

As mothers tend to be, she was correct in her assessment. After all, I had plowed through CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia nearly six times.Taking her consultation into account, and with all the skills of discernment I possessed,  I looked at the book with the map with a lonely mountain and the desolation of Smaug, decided it was silly, and returned it to the shelf. Thus ended my first interaction with J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit.

Accelerate now to the end of 2006. I had read the account of the Baggins adventure twice, the companion Lord of the Rings thrice. I still reckon on the four part cycle by Tolkien as one of the finest reads on my shelf, and relished the movies by Peter Jackson.
Enter 2012, as the Hobbit receives a three movie rendition of its own and audiences across the United States visited beloved Middle Earth yet again, enthralled by the deeply human story of the Halfling struggling amidst all the joy and terror and perils this fantasy world can offer.

The movie represents the book quite well. Tolkienoids will appreciate the inclusion of the musical numbers which were often notably absent from the LOTR trilogy. Continuity folks will revel in the inclusion of Ian McKellen reprising Gandalf the Gray. Purists will adore the time lovingly spent in Bag End, the lines of the script taken straight from the quill of Tolkien, and the dedication to a properly blown smoke ring. Young and old alike ought to be entranced by Smaug, the Kingdom Under the Mountain, the Goblin kingdom, the Trolls and the Eagles.

In fact, there is something in this movie for everyone to enjoy. It is long. It is obsessed with the world of its creation. It does bear obvious foreshadowing and superfluous additions to the story. Regardless, The Hobbit remains enjoyable and even memorable, which is something many films, sequels, and prequels fail to achieve. (Here's looking at you Lucas!) Do yourself a favor and spend a few more hours in enthralled by Middle Earth.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

How to Watch Netflix: Last Train Home

Last Train Home is a documentary crafted by Lixin Fan and released in 2009. Fan follows three years in the life of a family swimming in the annual labor migration of the Chinese industrial revolution. In many respects, this family presents a non-typical image of modern China. Courtesy of the barbaric One Child policy, the fertility rate of the Chinese mainland has fallen 6 births per woman in 1970 to a low of 1.4 birth per woman in 2010. What is also notable, the first born is a daughter. For variety of reasons, this is not as common as it statistically should be in china. (Freakonomics: Misadventures in Baby Making)

Father and Mother are Zhang Changhua and Chen Suquin, both among the 130 million textile workers who live and work and eat and breathe the factories of Guangzhou (near Hong Kong).Despite the low wages earned in the factory, they are able to save enough Yuan each year to more than offset the earnings of their agricultural options at home.  Meanwhile, their children are raised in the agricultural homestead by their grandmother. Last Train Home begins as the parents near the end of their fifteenth year of migrant labor. They work to save enough to send both children to school.  Each year, they return home to celebrate the Chinese New Year, duration of one to two months. On each occasion it is an ordeal of immense proportions to journey home by the trains which navigate the Chinese countryside.  Fan does a fine job capturing the scope of humanity which travels at this time, comprising nearly 130 million souls headed back home at the same time. To miss the train going home is to miss home entirely for the year.

The first born is Zhang Qin, a daughter of high school age who appears to have nothing but distain for the efforts of her parents and her grandmother. Her coming of age story unfolds with remarkable alacrity and feeling throughout Fan’s work. Her younger brother is struggling academically, and the reasons develop over the years as well. There exists a powerful tension between the three generations, as the young and old clash over ideals and lifestyles. Distance and time spent apart remain enormous obstacles to overcome, and like all families in history, there is no final conclusion to the joys and struggles of life.

The obvious question is never asked, but I will address it here after finding my own answer. Why would this family not move to the city? Due to the hukou of the Chinese political system, the farmer families are unable to access public services beyond their district. The hukou status grants government services to people, provided they remain in the proper place granted to them. These include education, medical care, housing, and pensions. To move into an area where the hukou is not applicable is economic suicide. Wealthy city dwellers are unwilling to debase their hukou benefits and refuse to grant a change in hukou status to migrant families. In consequence, a population comprising nearly 40% of the United States migrates hither and yon on a yearly basis.  

Last Train Home is presented only in Mandarin with lively and responsive English subtitling. Before this begins to daunt, consider this: It is rare that you will devote your entire attention to what is on a screen before you, because you can simply turn away and listen to the audio whilst your mind cleverly fills in the void. Not so in Mandarin with English subtitles, as the subtitles require constant attention.
Use your Netflix for good tonight, this is highly recommended viewing. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Redistribution and Times of Tempest

In a nation racing towards insolvency at the speed of a falling falcon, the state of Pennsylvania is worth a look. But first, some reality.

The redistribution of wealth by government entities has two consequences which are seldom discussed. First, the wealth must be removed from the hands of citizens who possess it. In our national system this means taxing people with income and profitable investments. Second, the confiscated wealth is utilized to encourage individuals without income or profitable investments to retain such vocations. In our rational world, we punish that which is productive and reward that which is not. Even bypassing the moral arguments against theft of wealth by the power of guns, this is a miserable set up and provides negative incentives to both parties of the transactions. 

Take note of the following graphs from the Department of Public Welfare of Pennsylvania in conjunction with the American Enterprise Institute. 

Exhibit A: The income curve of a Pennsylvania family of a single mother and two children. The red line indicates the level of earnings. Blue bars indicate net earnings and are representative of take home pay and benefits following Federal and State taxes. Notice that while a progressive tax rate is active, it is in all cases better to increase earnings. 

Exhibit B: The income curve of a Pennsylvania family of a single mother and two children. Note the remaining red income line and the blue area of net income. Note also the stark level of redistributed wealth. The dashed horizontal line is important, as this individual earning $29,000 per year will rationally refuse any increase in income, unless such income were to exceed $69,000 per year.

Exhibit C: The outcome of increased redistribution of wealth. The programs we collectively call welfare are not the only source of redistributed income, wealth producers are subject to an additional form of exploitation.  Government employees are paid from this same pool of forcibly collected wealth. At this very hour there are only five privately employed wage producers for every 4 individuals collecting from this sour pool of redistributed wealth. For a look at the growth of government employment in comparison to the growth in private employment, look at slide 14

Clearly there is room for disagreement on the role of government and the level of employment under the banner of the government system, but there ought be no dispute that every dollar used to pay the wages of government employees is that which stems from taxation or excise. My umbrage is not with the individuals who have rationally chosen work within the government apparatus, but with the apparatus as it exists and from where the resources for it's existence are derived. 

Can it happen here? Will the motor continue to turn? Have we passed the event horizon

Big questions with no easy answer, and the sky continues to darken uncomfortably. It was without error when Romney declared 47% of the electorate would be firmly opposed to a candidate who even pretended to rearrange this acrimonious construct. We may be watching as that 47% swiftly surpasses the 50% mark over the coming two years. The political firepower simply does not exist on a national level* to reduce the spending on these any policy. The rational and expected action of an elected official at this time is to encourage redistribution of wealth just as Senators of Rome pursued headlong the panem et circenses politics of the republics latter days. 

The time is past and present to remedy this insult to human dignity. We must no longer sanction the punishment of the productive on behalf of the collective society. Equally important is to restore the hope that comes when an individual is capable of improving themselves. It is implausible to believe that a single mother with receive a promotion from $29,000 a year to $70,000 a year. Short of that pay rate, she is told that her most valuable place in society and for her children is to earn less then $30,000 year. In the desire to provide for a low income family at the expense of others, we have managed to strip away hope and pride and desire for personal and professional improvement. 

Irrevocably and predictably our solution falls once again upon the shoulders of the individuals who make the teeming mass of people we call Americans. Will the hearts and minds of the people change to alter the course we are set on? Human history is rife with societies who have quibbled over the gold on a sinking ship, but of equal abundance are ships righted in times of tempest. May God be with us.

*(Ryan, Gowdy and Paul notwithstanding)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How to Watch Netflix

You have Netflix. You have an Instant Queue sitting full of shows and movies yet unwatched. The time has come to stop scrolling past these artifacts of interests past and watch something new with an eye for learning.

Introducing  Food, Inc, a 2008 documentary by Robert Keener on the state of food in these United States. The promotional tag line goes, “An unflattering look inside America's corporate controlled food industry.” At 94 minutes, it is an easy and informative watch. It earned an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary, along with other critical accolades.  

Food, Inc is compelling and engaging. Keener clearly had an agenda when putting this film together. However, he does not cloud the delivery of his message: the food we consume is far from what we imagine it to be. As we drift farther away from an agricultural lifestyle, people no longer understand what food is, where it comes from, and how it is processed.  Keener faults the handful of multinational corporations creating and delivering the food supply. These are the consequence of the fast food industry’s titanic purchasing power, as driven by consumer demand for cheap, fast, and filling food, regardless of nutrition provided. The result is a food industry sacrificing safety for the sake of cutting costs with little advocacy on behalf of the consumer.

Most of the documentary discusses problems which are well identified, but they are only symptoms. It is apparent to a viewer who watches and thinks about what is being said that the root cause tying all of the symptoms together is that of agricultural subsidies. Corn, wheat, and soybean crops are heavily subsidized by the US Federal Government. The way this works is a price floor, where there is always an absolute minimum price that a farming corporation can sell his grain for to the US government. The cost of production has diminished from where this price floor is set that farming corporations have incentives at all times to increase the production of corn.

Suddenly, the supply of corn vastly outstrips traditional demand and prices fall. When these prices are low enough, livestock producers begin to purchase corn to feed animals not designed to subsist on corn. Eventually this leads to health issues in the livestock, but it is still cost effective to medicate the livestock with antibiotics and maintain the corn based diet.

All of the problems identified in Food, Inc can be traced back to the root issue of subsidized cereal grains, this American Hydra of unintended consequences. So long as this economic reality exists, the Sisyphean task of providing government oversight to ensure food safety will be unsuccessful. Keener actually does a fine job demonstrating how powerless the FDA is in the food industry, and inadvertently showcases why a trust in government to protect people is a vain faith.

Go on, use your Netflix and Amazon Prime for good tonight.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Christmas Gift List for Leaders Of Liberty

Christmas Gift List for Leaders Of Liberty

Look at it
Christmas is coming, and you have people to give to. Some of those people are even politically oriented, with a penchant for the liberalism of the enlightenment.
This list is for you, for them. I have personal experience with each item on this list, and not a bad apple in the bunch. (No, this is not the list for myself)


The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents--The Definitive Edition 
 F. A. Hayek, a man under appreciated in economics and political theory. Sure to be loved.

A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World
How individuals trading across borders made life better and worse, and why the world is as rich as it is today on account of increased trade.

 Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom
Ron Paul, an man under appreciated in political theory and the Republican party. If you are like myself in 2008, you are unable to fathom why there are so many who love this man's principles so dearly. This book will help illuminate why. (Then when you finish with it, it makes a great Christmas gift for someone who is already oriented to liberty)

On Liberty
John Stuart Mill, a man possibly over appreciated in economics and in political academics. Nevertheless, this is a classic of the genre, a rational exposition of liberty which should be read at least once.

The Tyrannicide Brief: The Story of the Man Who Sent Charles I to the Scaffold
Liberty and revolutions against tyranny are no mere american function. This is the story of John Cooke, a lawyer tasked by the revolution of 1649 to lead the prosecution of King Charles the I. It was the first time that a king would be tried in a court of law for Tyrannicide, the crime of killing those whom he was tasked by God to defend. It is also notable that John Cooke was a devout christian, and this story pulls no punches in acknowledging his faith, and the role of the christian faith in the establishment of the short lived English Republic.

Generation Kill
Evan Wright, an embedded reporter with a US Marines Recon battalion in the first months of the Gulf War in 2003, unparalleled look into the faces on the ground. Not for children. To run a simile  think Band of Brothers but for this generation.

End the Fed
Ron Paul again, with a book that will make any one interest in the expansion of liberty sit up and think.

The ESV Study Bible
There is no man who has done more for the cause of the individual then Jesus Christ. This is the definitive book about him, and rife with notes and maps and cross references to help with study. I use this myself.

Atlas Shrugged
Ayn Rand, this is a book both fascinating and controversial. It will find a permanent place in a home, but is also not child friendly.

Fahrenheit 451: A Novel
It is no secret that this book is adored by this blogger. Of all the prominent dystopian novels. Bradbury crafted the best, an onrushing torrent of wit and verve and wisdom packed inside of a story which has become cliche due to the numerous and frail derivatives of it we must deal with today.

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
The moon is communist. The moon wants freedom. The computer achieves intelligence. Let the revolution begin, and forget not: There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Firefly - The Complete Series "Firefly! I love Firefly!...Although that is one thing we will probably not let our kids watch until they are eighteen." - Jenny. Don't fret, its the best network TV series. Ever. Science Fiction and western and libertarian thought all rolled into one marvelously scripted bundle of joy.

Other Goodies: 

Silver Dollar coins. this was given to me by my Oklahoma Uncle when I earned the Eagle Scout award, and it has been on a key ring ever since. Ironic that 6 years later I would be pining for a return to a metallic currency and a cessation of the fiat currency.

Cold Steel GI Tanto Knife with Secure-Ex Sheath
Because men who value liberty also value knives. This one is fun to hold, fun to use, fun to throw, durable and a great value.

 Leatherman 831206 Style? Cs Keychain Multi-Tool
It's not TSA compliant, and it sure is handy to have on a key ring. Jenny carries it everyday and is quite happy with it, particularly the scissors.

  Panasonic RPHJE120K In-Ear Headphone, Black
To listen to Dvorak and MacMaster and these here listed podcasts.

These are free. These have no commercials. These are informative. These will make you smarter if you listen. Do so while you have some free time this December.

Russ Roberts, professor or economics and a guest discuss a given topic for roughly an hour a week. Recently discussed are the topics of Healthcare, Economics Price Gouging, John Locke, Public Pensions, Geographic distribution of voting, Education and the Internet. All personally recommended.

No Agenda
Crackpot and Buzzkill, media assassins. No formal political training required, these are two men who have a conversation about the news, the media, and the smoke and mirrors we call the news. It's twice a week, roughly 2 hours each, and no commercials. Unique in that it is listener supported, enough so that it provides full time income for both me. No Agenda just passed the 5 year mark, and I have been a follower for that entire time. Recommended, but bear in mind it is considered PG-13.

Hardcore History
This man produces stellar historical narratives that can take 40 minutes to complete, or 5 2 hour shows. I have never once listened to an episode of Hardcore History over the past 4 years and felt like it was a waste of time. The common sentiment upon reaching the end of the show is: "WAIT!! DAN, THERE IS MORE TO COVER! DON'T STOP NOW!!"
Dan Carlin doesn't stop, he just comes back with another episode worthy of your attention.
The current series is on Genghis Khan and his conquests, other topics include the Fall of Rome, the Eastern front of WWII, and the effect of hysterical fear on the courses of history. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Inflation Blues

Pandora does, on occasion, bring forth wonderful music specifically for my ear.
Behold, BB King and the Inflation Blues

Now you take that paper dollarIt’s only that in nameThe way that buck has shrunkIt’s a lowdown dirty shame
That’s why I got the bluesGot those inflation blues'Cause I have
Mr. President, please cut the price of sugarI wanna make my coffee sweetI wanna smear some butter on my breadAnd I just got to have my meat
When you start rationingYou really played the gameAnd things are going up and up and up and upAnd my check remains the same

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Elections 2012, or "Was That the Event Horizon?"

Following the 2008 election I posted the following, ripe with all the wisdom contained in the mind of a first time voter:
"I attribute this election lost to a lack of conservative energy, and rightly so. The GOP betrayed its principles, and is paying a heavy price for it."
While there is some truth to this, I am sickened by the reality that GOP betrayed few of its principles. With the exception of the Reagan anomaly, the Republican Party has long held for an expansionary government role in the lives of Americans. 

There is despair in the camp of classical liberals.  The results of this election drive home a point seldom acknowledged. Our people no longer desire opportunity, but handouts. Our people no longer desire responsibility, but to be coddled. Our people no longer care for accomplishment of the difficult, but for the contrived comfort of welfare. 

Yesterday was a reflection of two voices trumpeting near identical ideologies. The increase of scope and magnitude of the federal government is only celebrated and never disparaged.
Absent are the days of Cleveland: "Though the people support the government; the government should not support the people.”
Coolidge's maxim lies cast aside: "Collecting more taxes then is absolutely necessary is nothing more then legalized robbery".
Kennedy is lionized yet ignored: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

How have we come to this?

The answer lies in a concept I have not yet fully developed, but I will proceed to venture forth with it due to the hour we are in. The expansion and regression of the recognition of individual human liberty is directly correlated with the level of individual worship of Jesus Christ. The state ought not present God to a people, nor should the state attempt to be God to a people. Faith and a relationship with the creator is an individual choice, independent of the collective. The eloquent consequence is an increased understanding that the individual is primary on earth, for man will not be held to account for the sins and righteousness of his brothers, but for the heart and actions. Individual responsibility is the keystone, and no amount of control, distortion or substitution by the state can alter this fundamental reality. 

This mindset has escaped the greater part of our citizenry over the past century. More work is needed to locate the roots, but my hunch is that it lies in a partial combination of a failure of Christians to love and in the malignant structure that is public education. Scriptures were cited and frequent references to the Almighty were a feature of so recent a president as JFK in his inaugural address. Such a speech would be decried today as excessively Christian, bleeding over the separation of church and state. We have come so far from a communal understanding of a Christian faith that it is now terrorizing to the nation to hear it spoken. This is beyond politics and the rhetoric of the parties; this is an issue of historical import centuries in the making. A people can change greatly in a short period of time, as a Jonathan Edwards should remind us.

Mankind has a proclivity to seek answers larger then ourselves, and if the answers are not sought by faith, they tend to resolve as a demand of the state. It was not on the behalf of God that the contemporaries of Samuel demanded Saul.
Our contemporaries who vote have done likewise, further demanding the rise of what will rightly be called socialism in the pursuit of a false deity to answer their needs.

The placement of trust and hope in the actions of men will lead to despair, so let us not put our trust for the future in men, for men perform miserably. 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Night Websites

Interesting splash screens on the four major networks as of 6:46pm CST

Abc, what is wrong with you?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Rumbling You Hear

That rumbling is the sound of the shifting landscape of education. Here are 8 sites, listed in no order that are turning things over.

1. MyAlgebraBook.Com, a free and interactive online course put together by the overachieving Eric Kean, a math professor at Western Washington University. Home school students, home school teachers and private educators take note, this can save you time and money.

2. MITx - A combined effort of the MIT,  Harvard, UC Berkley and the University of Texas system to put college level courses online, for free, for anyone willing to take the time to learn subjects ranging from artificial intelligence, circuits, and solid state chemistry. While the classes are not currently transferable to a university system, independent exams are available to certify the completion and knowledge gained through the course. 

3. Udacity - Udacity operates in a similar manner, offering university level courses taught by university level educators with independent certification available following completions. 

4. MRU - Marginal Revolution University is constructed by Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrock, both part of the esteemed economic faculty of George Mason University. Their initial offering is on developmental economics, and is less lecture intensive then other offerings. They prefer smaller segments, so it is easier to work into a busy schedule. I'm most interested in this, if only because I am a huge fan of the blog these two gents run. 

5. Khan Academy - Perhaps the granddaddy of all online courses, the Khan academy offers a full range of learning materials at no charge to students and educators young and old. K-12 subject matter with quizzes to verify understanding in each subject. Anecdote,  I have seen classmates in university level calculus successfully skip greater then half of the lectures in a semester and learn their material at home with a text book and the Kahn materials. He came to the end of the class with an A.  If you look at one thing on this list, you should look at this. 

6. Mises Institute - Ludwig Von Mises Institute is the finest home of Austrian (see, good, applicable, predictive) economics in the world, with a vast array of written and recorded material available. They also do online courses from time to time, designed for High school / university level reading comprehension. 

Coursera - Coursera is similar to Udacity and MITx but is far more expansive in scope of subject matter. The caveat is that the certification is not as robust. Nevertheless, the material is university level and can sharpen a mind for zero cost with materials and courses from 33 national level universities. 

8. Udemy - Udemy is for grown up who need to learn practical skills. Office, Python, Tablet Programming, Music Theory, Operations planning. It's designed to go beyond the university and be applicable in the workplace. I see this becoming big. 

Teaching children of all ages at home has never been easier nor more informative. I find it an increasingly untenable position to support the public education of children, even on a personal level. If you care about the education and critical thinking of a child, the is the public education system only hampers their development. 

Open the tool box for your mind and you will be surprised what is available.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Comprehension of the Past as the Cure of the Future

The Most Interesting Man in the WorldAmidst the political discussion swirling through the veins of America this electoral season, there is a greater question worthy of our time. Have we come so far into the future that we no longer remember the past? Are the lessons of history understood, or even acknowledged? Do we care enough about the wisdom harvested from the fields of experience to sow a different future? 

 The federal government of America has become the government we deserve. It is no accident that a nation rooted in personal debt is governed by an entity unapologetic of deficit. It is no deviation of human behavior wherein the nation so oft clamoring for imperial war is mired in our longest conflicts. It is no artifact of history that the society pleading for the government to care for it in the 60’s is asking for ever increasing levels of provision in 2012. The means of governance are quietly and quickly regressing to that loathsome standard of the human condition, tyranny over the actions of man. 

 George Santayana coined the axiom “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.  By forgetting and ignoring the lessons of the past, predicable consequences are upon these United States. Failures of federal fiscal stimulus in the Great Depression, and the subsequent 20 years of Keynesian failure in Japan is evidence enough for any concerned observer to doubt the efficacy of counter cyclical federal stimulus. Intentional inflation was counterproductive in solving the economic woes of Rome, Sung China, Weimar Germany, Chile, or Zimbabwe, yet we pursue increasing the money supply. Wars do not stimulate economic activity; they break valuable creations and kill people. Money that flows through the government will invariably find special interests and corruption, to expect otherwise is to deny the corruption inherent in humanity. It is simply untenable to provide incentives for graft and siphoning and expect officials to behave with character. The fraud of the Transcontinental Railroad’s Credit Mobilier, Rosco Conkling’s Republican Stalwarts of graft and the House Banking scandal are all ample enough opportunities for comprehension. While I find it disgusting that there are many in power fully aware of these events and proceed apace with expanding the status quo, it is far from obvious that anything approaching a substantial minority of the electorate has a sufficient understanding of the lessons of history to properly forecast the results of the future. 

 Liberty is lost when a people have no understanding of the alternatives, and this is the ground we now stand upon. History is understood through two primary lenses, and often like binoculars, a combination of both. The first is to look at history as a grand sweep of the inevitable leading invariably to the present, known frequently as determinism. Today is the product and consequence of socio-economic trends, natural causes and curious accidents of history. Prominent example of this historical analysis is Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, which purports to explain the superiority of some civilizations based on numerous factors. An alternative view of history sees the consequences of the past as a result of the actions of individuals; the human action drives forward the society surrounding it. Liberty is best understood in this lens as the increase in liberty comes seldom without the direct action of individuals. The study of history through the eyes of the individuals provides a far more memorable and applicable understanding of history then does a sweeping narrative of inevitable change. The context surrounding significant events is even better understood in this manner. Pedagogically this is a more difficult approach, as it is difficult to form standardized tests and multiple choice exams in relation to the motives and desires of the individuals. 

 It is the responsibility of those who vote to understand the context and consequences of the past. Read history. Watch history. Discuss history, not as some cathartic vessel of high school days gone past, but as the eclectic, fascinating and vibrant collection of real and personal stories that it is. When you look to read your next book, engage yourself in a work of personal lives which changed the world. Perhaps start on Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard, Thunderstruck by Eric Larson, or Mayflower by Nathanial Philbrick. When the opportunity presents itself, discuss the past and how it effects today with others who are willing to think and engage. I have no pretense to offer a solution which is broad and sweeping and will change the nation. I can only entreat you to begin or continue a lifelong journey of understanding the past, so that we will not always be condemned to repeat it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

On Cities and A Future

He wears his tie and thinks obliquely. I looked up one morning to see the flash of good news upon the horizon. In the heat of Hondouras, a new sun is seen rising.  The private city, the model city, the Regiones Especiales de Desarollo (aka RED), the charter cities will soon be upon us. Honduras will be granting to the MKG group three separate locations[1] to develop new Corporate-States. 

 Nation states are nations of at least several cities or a large land mass, such as Chile or these United States. City states are nations contained within a city, such as Singapore or the Vatican.[2] Corporate city States will soon find their existence renewed in Honduras. The MKG group will soon set up three new cities, in previously under developed regions, with full legal responsibilities. The development, sanitation, law creation, enforcement, property ownership, taxes and services are all the prerogative of the owners of model city. Honduras has done no less then sign away legal authority of these regions to corporate governance with a modicum of oversight.[3] The stated objective of all parties is economic growth and job creation through a mélange of free market policies.

Corporate states are not new, merely forgotten. The colonization of the new world was often through monarchal grants to corporate entities, who would in turn found trading cities. Hong Kong, Jamestown, and Taiwan are good examples. It is interesting to note the discrepancy between locations colonized under British rule and those of other nations in terms of development in the post-colonial era.[4] In general, those managed by British rule have had a higher respect for property rights, in turn leading to increased economic welfare. In the general, these charter cities are different, as the sovereign government of the nation is inviting a separate entity to take over with voluntary economic rational. Where colonization involved the forceful invasion of territory by the newly occupying powers, this is an invitation for a new way of life. Unquestionably there exists objective and moral opposition to the new arrangement, particularly those Hondurans who are to be supplanted. While we see and acknowledge the dark side of this arrangement, it will be interesting to see what will come from it. It is not as if any experiment in human history has been born of perfect surroundings, and the sad reality is these RED locations will not be no different. What should excite all acolytes of liberty are the possibilities of the future. (Click for second half...)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Symptom of Failure

(Cross posted at Advancing Liberty).
 I would like to present a case study on the “success of gun control”. The legal climate of New York City is strongly prejudiced against possession of firearms. While the “Big Apple” may do a lot of things poorly, the Sullivan Act of 1911 and its continuations are enforced with vigor. The city is often cited as the showcase of success for advocates of fire arm control, as the crime rate is low for such a large city.  On the morning of August 24,2012, the only armed individuals in the vicinity of the Empire State Building were Jeffery Johnson and a multitude of the legally armed NYPD.  That Friday morning, Jeffery Johnson walked into his former office, destroyed the life of Steven Ercolino, and walked back out.

Johnson makes a quiet getaway, foiled only by a lone construction worker with the wits to follow and alert police. As he ambles through the concrete jungle, he is confronted from behind and engulfed in a barrage of gunfire from officers of the NYPD. Within seconds, nine bystanders are injured in the flurry of hot lead, with Johnson ultimately downed as well.  This lone gunman was confronted by neither an armed vigilante nor hostile mob, but by trained, experienced and professional police officers. The result is nine injured bystanders and a dead suspect. 

 Consider, for a moment, a thought experiment:  What if Johnson was also without a gun, utilizing a different instrument to commit his crime? A knife, a rope, a candlestick, it does not matter so long as it would be legally possessed within city limits. How many men would have been directly targeted and killed by the murderer? All things being equal, there would be only the murder of Steven Ercolino. 

 The Johnson shooting and subsequent collateral damage teach a valuable object lesson. Observe a situation where gun control is near universally effective, the best resources of the city on hand to handle the criminal, and no vigilantes interfered. The failure was neither the implementation nor enforcement of gun control, but in the disarmed citizenry and counterproductive police response. 

 This is a symptom of failure intrinsic to the very concept of gun control. There exists an inherent fragility in the doctrine, as the illusion of safety can be maintained only as long as no criminal acts are committed. Johnson committed his crime, and the illusion was shattered by both the murder and the response. It is difficult to envision a scenario in which an armed private citizen would cause more collateral damage than did the NYPD in this incident. To remove weapons from the hands of citizens does nothing to enhance the safety of citizens and may increase the danger from both criminal and state actors.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Why Katniss Matters

Not Yet A Phoenix

In March of 2012, the world watched the first round of The Hunger Games unfold. The film adaptation of the novel by Suzanne Collins destroyed box office records, and ensured the remaining two books of the series will also be turned into movies. The book series dominated book shelves, and was to be found on the USA Today Best Seller list for more than 134 consecutive weeks. Scholastic Publishing reports sales in excess of 26 million for the series , a staggering amount of books for a society that allegedly no longer reads.  If you calculate the number of US residents between the ages of 5 and 18 at around 52 million, then we are to understand that nearly half of the target age group has at least a passing familiarity with the Hunger Games. The series has exceeded the bounds of children’s fiction. As an anecdote I am familiar with at least 4 grown men and women having enjoyed the written series, it is not for children alone. Much as Harry Potter before it, these Hunger Games have become cultural icons in the landscape of popular literature.

 It is a curious effect of written stories; stories engaged by active reading have far greater resonance with the consumer then do mere movies or television productions. The intuition available to us is obvious. Reading requires more time intentionally spent engaging with a story, reading a story requires a far greater time commitment then do movies. Reading series of books frequently surpasses even full length television series in time required for consumption. Books read intentionally for pleasure have a long lasting memory in the minds of the readers. While the ‘classics’ which required reading and dictated various assignments in educational settings are swiftly forgotten, books which present delight in turning the page are long remembered. Lord of the Rings, Dune, Atlas Shrugged, and more recent examples including Harry Potter embed themselves in both private and public consciousness in a manner different from films. Where intelligent discussion can take place following a movie, an intelligent discussion is nearly always the norm in a conversation where common ground can be found upon a good book. Novels may not reach as far, but they are accompanied by great depth of understanding and memory. This brings the Hunger Games back into view. Beware, in the lines to follow, there will be spoilers. 

Good Intentions

Are seldom enough for progress:

Example, Before and After:

A restoration unasked for by a church member, who had good intentions, resulted in a none to subtle degradation. Actions have consequences, the intentions are not the primary concern.