Sunday, May 29, 2016

Climate Gestapo

And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgment of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song
--The Who

Another aspect of DOJ lawlessness has been agency attempts to use law enforcement resources to stifle debate on global warming, a.k.a. climate change. In particular, energy companies such as Exxon (XOM) have been threatened with legal action for issuing statements that oppose the Obama administrations energy agenda.

Such action, of course, is a blatant violation of the First Amendment.

Now, five senators have written AG Loretta Lynch and demanded termination of all related DOJ activities. They also want an explanation of what steps the DOJ will take to prevent the infringement of the rights of US citizens who disagree with prevailing climate change orthodoxy.

My sense is that the louder and more visible this pushback becomes, the worse its gets for the administration and the Democratic Party in an election year.

no positions

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Open Borders in Welfare States

After three days in the desert fun
I was looking at a river bed
And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think it was dead
--America

Jacob Hornberger argues that, in order to remain ideologically consistent, libertarians must support open border policies in welfare states. He says that "the best way for libertarians to fight tyranny is not by supporting more tyranny, but rather by a steadfast adherence to libertarian principles."

However, in welfare states the tendency is to let immigrants have access to healthcare, education, and other resources that must be funded by taxpayers. Opening borders in such situations mean that the burden on taxpayers will increase.

Hornberger suggests that if adhering to his principles means paying higher taxes, "then so be it." But by consenting to higher taxes for both himself and others, isn't he in fact supporting the same tyranny that he purports to fight? He is using strong armed government agents to forcibly take from some in order to get what he wants.

To be fair, Hornberger does mention that laws could be passed that preclude immigrants from going on welfare. If such laws were passed and adhered to, then open borders would be more consistent with libertarian philosophy because no aggression has been added to the system. Unfortunately, Hornberger's argument does not stay on this track--perhaps because he suspects that the likelihood of passing and adhering to such laws in welfare states is low.

Absent such laws, however, open borders in welfare states further compromise the liberty of some, which should be unacceptable to lovers of freedom.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Outsourcing Immorality

You're begging me to go
Then making me stay
Why do you hurt me so bad?
--Pat Benatar

Interesting article suggesting that one purpose behind politics in society is to create a channel for outsourcing wrong yet expedient conduct to others. While the article calls this 'moral outsourcing' it is actually a process for outsourcing immoral behavior.

Outsourcing immorality provides a mechanism for maintaining a positive self-view while still getting what we want. It allows us to avoid the social and psychological costs of unethical actions because someone else (the politician) is seen as responsible for that poor conduct.

When they contract with political agents, people believe that they are not doing anything wrong--someone else is. This is, of course, supreme self-deception.

They are the ones creating conditions of agency. They are, by definition, the principals of immorality. They are outsourcing violence.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

DOJ Lawlessness

Highway to the danger zone
Ride into the danger zone
--Kenny Loggins

Judge Nap discusses recent lies of DOJ lawyers in the case of President Obama's illegal plan to make undocumented immigrants US citizens. On several occasions, the lawyers told federal judges that the plan had not yet been implemented when in fact it had. As a consequence, a federal judge ordered the lawyers to take ethics classes, amounted to a mere slap on the wrist.

This DOJ continues to operate above the law as it does the bidding for a lawless administration.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hit Man

With a little perseverance
You can get things done
Without the blind adherence
That has conquered some
--Corey Hart

Saw Don Mattingly managing the Miami Marlins yesterday. The Hit Man was one of my faves during my 80s playing days. Some huge years with the Yanks at both plate and in the field. League MVP in 1985. Career .307. Nine gold gloves.


I particularly recall his 8 consecutive game home run streak in 1987. That was my last year as a player. Loved how he got ready at the plate and incorporated a bit of his style into my preparation in the box with good success.

Mattingly's injury shortened career has kept him out of the Hall of Fame due to the "not enough years" excuse.

Seems wrong to me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

GOP Roots Not Libertarian

And the parting on the Left
Is now parting on the Right
and the beards have all grown longer overnight
--The Who

Heard today that "the Republican Party needs to return to its libertarian roots." The Republican Party was not rooted in libertarian principles. The GOP was rooted in Hamilton's Federalists which became the Whigs. Its platform was the American System--a collection of interventionist policies designed to consolidate power in centralized government. The first Republican Party president, Abraham Lincoln, nailed those planks into his platform in 1860.

Instead, it was the Democratic Party of Jefferson founded in 1800 that more closely resembled what we know today as libertarian philosophy. Its anti-federalist motto was 'that government is best that governs least.'

As Rothbard recounts, the libertarian roots of the Democratic Party were extracted by the progressive movement nearly 100 years later.

Although the current political landscape might suggest the GOP as slightly closer to libertarian ideals than the Democratic Party, it is a mistake to think that the Republican Party was grounded in libertarian roots.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Venezuela

You see it in the headlines
You hear it every day
They say they're gonna stop it
But it doesn't go away
--Glenn Frey

The latest socialist state to collapse is Venezuela. The handiwork of former president Hugo Chavez is now coming home to roost big time. As is always the case in socialist states, economic resources have been grossly misallocated. Production and distribution have withered.


To compensate for hard times, bureaucrats have inflated the currency. Rather than increasing prosperity, this action has only led to hyperinflation.

Shelves are bare. The bolivar is next to worthless.

Socialism strikes again.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Great Enrichment

No more running down the wrong road
Dancing to a different drum
Can't you see what's going on
Deep inside your heart?
--Michael McDonald

Prof Deirdre McCloskey ponders why we are so rich. For thousands of years, average world income remained essentially unchanged. Two centuries ago it was about $3/day. Today it is $33/day, an eleven fold increase. Of course, developed countries like the US greatly surpass the world average.

Why? What happened a couple of hundred years back that explains the tremendous increase in standard of living that McCloskey refers to as the Great Enrichment?

Marxian types attribute it to increases in exploitative market practices--capitalists seizing surplus value from workers and keeping it for themselves. But this does not explain why those who have purportedly been exploited are far better off today than even kings were not long ago.

Others, according to McCloskey, think it relates to capital--excess saving that can be allocated toward productivity improvements. But this is a circular argument of sorts. Excess saving is only possible when people are productive enough to set aside some resources for future rather than present consumption. It does not explain the increases in productivity that enabled savings and capital to be accumulated.

To others, it has been the development of legal institutions such as English common law that has brought about progress. But many of these institutions preceded the Great Enrichment. Besides, it can be argued that legislative and judicial bodies can be (and have been) readily employed to expropriate wealth rather than to create it.

What explains the Great Enrichment, then? Liberty. Freedom from being under the control of others. Liberated people are free to pursue their ideas, to innovate, without fear of having their creations (i.e., their property) forcibly taken by others. Slaves, serfs, subordinated individuals, bureaucrats frozen in hierarchy are not.

McCloskey suggests that with liberty comes the principle of equality. Not the Marxian notion of equality of income. The idea is equality under the law. All people treated the same, no favors given to special interests or 'protected classes.' Knowing that justice treats all people the same regardless of position on the social pyramid emboldens people to pursue their interests. The prospect, not the guarantee, that hard work will lead to improved prosperity unleashes human ingenuity.

As these pages have observed, the idea of liberty remains new and radical. Continued progress along the curve of the Great Enrichment depends on the expansion, not the contraction, of liberty.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Worker Exploitation

Standing in line marking time
Waiting for the welfare dime
'Cause they can't buy a job
--Bruce Hornsby & the Range

One of the many myths regarding capitalism is that it exploits workers. As discussed here, Marx's definition of exploitation involved the extraction of surplus value from workers. Because Marx's theory has been refuted over the years, sympathizers have broadened the definition toward the concept of taking unfair advantage of others' vulnerability.

This definition leads many to believe that capitalism is rife with opportunities for exploitation. In particular, powerful capitalists are often proposed to take unfair advantage of workers in order to maximize profit.

The video observes that many capitalists would indeed like to exploit workers in order to maximize profits, but competition with other capitalists prevents them from doing so. Competition forces employers to pay workers close to the value of their productivity whether they want to or not. If a capitalist tries to pay a worker below market wages, then there is incentive for other employers to hire that individual for a greater salary because the employer will profit by doing so. In competitive markets, wages reflect worker productivities.

What the video does not note is that workers would also like to exploit the capitalists. They would like to get paid more than they are worth in order to maximize their incomes. But competition also forces workers to offer their services close to their productivities, lest they would be let go in favor of individuals who offer their services at prices more reflective of realized productivity.

The video does go on to note that changes of exploitative practices in capitalistic systems are reduced because exchanges in unhampered markets are voluntary. No one puts a gun to the head of either employers or workers to contract with each other. Even in examples often presented by interventionists, such as payday loans and child labor, both parties expect to gain more in the exchange than they give up, lest they would not engage in trade.

Mutually beneficial exchanges are how wealth is created in society. The more wealth that is created, the lower the vulnerability for exploitation by those engaged in trade.

The alternative to capitalism, intervention by the state, leaves individuals much more vulnerable to exploitation--exploitation by politically connected interests--than unhampered markets ever could. By definition, forced exchange brought about by the strong arm of the state guarantees that exchanges will not be mutually beneficial.

Exploitation in labor markets is reduced by reducing interventionary forces and freeing people to make more voluntary exchange.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Economics in One Lesson

And nobody wants to show you now
And nobody wants to show you how
--Corey Hart

What one book would I recommend to anyone seeking basic understanding of economics--particularly as it pertains to political economy? Easy: Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson.

Hazlitt was not an economist by formal training. Probably a good thing, as it permitted him to see economic realities much better than most PhDs. He excelled in explanation, which permits him to convey economic concepts wonderfully.

HH demonstrates just how broadly Bastiat's Broken Window Fallacy applies to economic and social action. That lesson alone is worth the price of admission, which turns out to be merely an open mind that is willing to learn.