31 January 2011

NEWSFLASH: ObamaCare Ruled Unconstitutional!

ObamaCare has been ruled unconstitutional by a Florida district court.  More from Fox News and The WSJ.  (HT Karl Denninger)

Georgia on My Mind

Karl Denninger has some good news from the Peach State:

A state lawmaker from Marietta is sponsoring a bill that seeks to do away with Georgia driver's licenses.
State Rep. Bobby Franklin, R-Marietta, has filed House Bill 7, calling it the "Right to Travel Act."
In his bill, Franklin states, "Free people have a common law and constitutional right to travel on the roads and highways that are provided by their government for that purpose. Licensing of drivers cannot be required of free people, because taking on the restrictions of a license requires the surrender of an inalienable right."
Yes they do.
The State can Constitutionally require licensure of those who wish to use the roads for commerce.  That is, if you want to drive a truck and deliver goods for hire, or a bus delivering people for hire, the State has a right to require a license to use the roads for the purpose of commercial activity.
But an inherent part of fundamental liberty interests of a free people is the right to change one's location.  You have a right to use the means common in the present day to do so for personal, non-commercial purposes.

I’ve never understood how anyone could justify licensure of noncommercial motorcraft.  I guess it’s intended to promote safety, but this analysis seems flawed.

It’s important to keep in mind that safety is not absolute.  Safety is a tradeoff, and it’s a tradeoff with freedom.  The more you have of one, the less you have of the other.  Furthermore, the constitution has already determined for people living within the United States what the limits to this tradeoff are.

I hope this bill passes in Georgia, and I hope that other states follow suit.

Why Even Bother With College?

The Best Article Every Day posted a list of the ten most worthless college majors.  (HT: The Cap'n.)  Among them:  art history, philosophy, American studies, English Lit, and religion.

Seriously, who goes to college for these majors?  If you want to know art history, philosophy, or English lit, all you need is a library card and the internet.  You don’t need a $50,000 student loan or structured classes.  You just need self-discipline.

For American studies, all you have to do is observe people at malls and watch television.  Frankly, though, if you’ve lived in this country for ten years or more and can’t figure out America, college is probably a hopeless proposition for you anyway.

As for religious studies, I recommend staying away from formal education.  Simply study whatever religion you’re interested in from its sacred texts and make up your own mind.  And if you simply must have some sort of instructor, get yourself a set of commentaries and read them for yourself.  It’s the same level of quality at a fraction of the price.  Furthermore, you don’t have to listen to self-important blowhards wax eloquent about arcane theories that are most likely wrong.

Frankly, unless you plan to major in a hard science, engineering, or medicine, I would recommend that you avoid college altogether.  If you’re truly interested in learning about something, simply get a library card and get in touch with experts who are willing to give you some of their time for free.

Good News: More Banks Required to Obey the Law

Yves Smith brings this good news to our attention:

Even though this example involves only three judges in Ohio, don’t underestimate its significance. The fact that judges of their own initiative have started insisting that all attorneys provide certifications of foreclosure-related documents, a standard now in effect in New York state, shows how much their credibility has fallen.

Let’s hope these requirements spread to every jurisdiction before things are too late.

Paragraphs to Ponder

Deansdale is back, and with a punch:

There is no such thing as an “alpha woman”. What is a coherent concept about males is fractured beyond any meaningfulness when used on females. Feminists pushed women into the hierarchy of men by forcing women into the workplace but they didn’t realize that by doing this they actually became men in a way: the status they acquired is men’s social status to attract a wife, and it cannot be used to attract a husband. They fought for status but didn’t recognize that the price for it was way too high. It’s not a difficult concept to understand though; the more they fight to rise in the male hierarchy, the more male-like they have to become, thus losing their feminity and in turn they become less and less attractive to men. Dominant women are unattractive to men, I’d even say outright repulsive. Not because “men are afraid of strong women” – which is the usual feminist BS showing they don’t understand even the most basic concepts about relationships – but because a dominant woman is a pain in the ass. Evolution is a tricky business; it shaped men to fight against anything to protect his family. But dominant women fight against everything, including their family. No sane man wants that at home. Dominance in women is not a positive trait, no matter what feminists say.

Notice especially how he handles the hackneyed canard that “men are afraid of strong women.”  This claim is pure nonsense.  Men dislike “strong” women because “strong” women are annoying at best and a complete migraine at worst.

By the way, ladies, if you want to attract men, don’t ever talk about how strong or independent you are.  When a man hears that, all he thinks is “unmanageable feminist.”  We men simply see “strong” and “independent” women as a pain to be with.  Thus, saying these things is akin to trying to bait fish with dog feces.  It just doesn’t work.

Thinking Beyond Stage One

This story is a perfect example of applied economics:

In light of news this month that ethical shopping and the success of Fairtrade has grown in spite of the recession, I felt it was about time to defend sweatshops. Outrageous as it might sound, I would rather buy sweatshop-produced than Fairtrade-labeled goods. Far from being evil, sweatshops are a necessary rung on the ladder of economic development and lift millions of people out of poverty across the developing world.
Although the long hours, low pay and unpleasant conditions associated with sweatshops may seem abhorrent to us in the West, it’s pointless comparing their pay and work environment to those in the developed world. If we were to enforce a minimum wage and our work conditions in factories in the developing world, then there would be no reason for manufacturers to build there. The lack of a minimum wage and high labour supply are what give people in these the competitive advantage when it comes to manufacturing. Remove these advantages and sweatshop workers would be forced back into destitution or relying on unpredictable subsistence farming. The choice is between poorly paid work in a sweatshop and terribly paid work in agriculture.

Fairtrade goods mostly appeal to SWPLs, who often emote their way to economic truths.  Naturally, they are generally dead wrong in their conclusions, and often hilariously so.

The simple truth of the matter is that bad pay is better than no pay at all.  That some are willing to work in these sort of conditions for these sort of wages should be proof enough that these jobs are both good and desirable.

Furthermore, I fail to see how depriving people of jobs, and income, is good for them.  Perhaps someone could explain it to me.

Freedom in Sudan


It is one of thousands of cases where one group of people wants to live differently than the way in which another group of people forces them to live. In this case, those who were not allowed to live as they wanted have now been given the choice to vote their way to freedom. Low and behold, 99% of the people chose to live differently.
The world is celebrating Southern Sudan independence as a great thing. But in most cases in history, those who want to secede are violently stopped from seeking the freedom they want. Even in our “free” country of America today, one who talks about secession is seen a quack and a nut, even though secession is precisely what our country was founded on.

Let’s hope, for the sake of those living in southern Sudan, that there is no Sudanese version of Lincoln currently presiding over the country.

Buzz Lightyear Politics

Whenever I hear about governments spending beyond their means, I’m reminded of Buzz Lightyear’s catchphrase from Toy Story:  “To infinity, and beyond.”  It appears that this is also the catchphrase of politicians, which has led to this turn of events:

And I watch countless news stories about people who are criminals (illegal aliens, felons) liars, cheats, or just stupid getting help with their mortgage loans because they “need it”. And people getting free medical services because they “need it”. And people declaring bankruptcy because it’s just too hard to pay the bills, they “need to”. All the while I see my government crushing people like me–expecting us to just keep doing, just keep paying, just keep being responsible in order to make up for all of those people who were not. (HT: Vox Day)

Resources aren’t infinitely available, which seems to be lost on most politicians, and the idiots citizens who vote for them.  As such, every election cycle politicians promise more and more benefits for everything without once stopping to consider where all these resources are coming from.

These resources, for those of you who are clueless politicians, come largely from the middle class.  The lower class contributes very little; in fact they mostly absorb resources.  The upper class is small and better able to avoid taxes.  Therefore, the resources promised to everyone will largely come at the expense of the middle class.

Resources are limited, and they must be distributed in some way.  The governmental way is redistribution, and this is starting to lead to problems of its own.  The government refuses to shut down entitlement programs; most of the time it expands them.  These programs need to be paid for, and there are three ways to do it:  taxes, inflation, or debt.  Debt has to be repaid eventually, either by inflation or taxes, so there are really only two ways to finance entitlement spending.  In either event, the middle class takes it in the shorts.

And now we see the reality of Buzz Lightyear politics:  financing an ever-expanding welfare state leads to the disillusionment of those whose resources support it, leading to its eventual crash.  Too bad voters couldn’t walk away from the hype from the get-go and that we cannot, in fact, have everything.  It would have saved us from an inevitable heartache.

Interventionism


Thaddeus may be well-intentioned but ex-post-facto analysis usually is.  The United States has a history of supporting this thug that goes well beyond the last few weeks and days.

Indeed, the US has had quite a history when it comes to intervening in foreign affairs, particularly where the Middle East is concerned.  For some reason, Americans feel the need to control foreigners’ lives, and I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why.

I will say it now, and I repeat it as often as necessary:  the United States is not the world’s policeman.  Period.  This idea, this worldview is not to be found anywhere in the Constitution, nor was it espoused by the Founding Fathers.  Furthermore, we are not asked to be the world’s policeman.  When we have done so, it has resulted in problems.  The US has backed terrible men who have harmed their citizens.  And for what?  Oil?  To feel good about our military might?

If two sandbox dictators want to get into a pissing contest about a sandy plot of land (like, for example, the Gaza strip), what matter is that to us?  If two European countries can’t seem to get along, why should we care?  If there is genocide occurring in some backwoods African country, why should we even give them the time of day?  The countries are run by adults; let them sort their own problems out.  And if they can’t do that, let them kill each other.  It’s their prerogative.

In simple point of fact, most of the military problems we’ve faced since the beginning of the 20th century were a result of our own doing.  This is especially true for 9/11.  Do you really think trying to control other people’s lives goes over very well with them?  Then why do expect them to just sit there and take it?  And remember: bin Laden’s biggest complaint wasn’t about western decadence, it was about American foreign policy.  Why?  Because he got tired with the US trying to manipulate everyone in the middle east.  He, and many others like him, got tired of seeing the US irrationally defend Israel.  He simply got tired of American interference.

This doesn’t justify the events of 9/11, but it does explain them.  And when you think about on a micro level, it makes sense.  What neighbor do we generally prefer:  the neighbor that’s in our business, or the neighbor that minds his own?  Why, then, do we expect human behavior to be radically different on a macro level?  Quite simply, nations hate it when other nations get involved in their business.

How about we leave them alone and see where that gets us?  Is that really too much to ask?

29 January 2011

There’s No Compromise Here


Her books provided wide-ranging parables of "parasites," "looters" and "moochers" using the levers of government to steal the fruits of her heroes' labor. In the real world, however, Rand herself received Social Security payments and Medicare benefits under the name of Ann O'Connor (her husband was Frank O'Connor). (HT: Yves Smith)

A small disclaimer is in order:  I hate Ayn Rand’s writing and general philosophy.  I read Anthem, which I thought was decent enough on its own, though I didn’t particularly care for the style of writing.  I tried to read The Fountainhead, but it was just so boring and long-winded that I gave up on it after the first chapter.

I know all libertarians are supposed to gush over her writing and talk about how important it was to their intellectual development.  I can’t do it.  Her writing is bland and boring, and intellectually insulting.  Yes, it’s insulting to have such obvious metaphors throughout the book.  I’m smart enough to figure this stuff out; I don’t need you to spell it out.

Plus, objectivism is nonsense.  Sure, reality exists outside of sensory perception, but perceiving reality is inherently subjective.  There is no way to make it objective.  But I digress.

Anyway, I simply wanted to point out that Ayn Rand is a hypocrite who sold her principles for a few dollars.  There are no ifs, ands or buts about it.

Outsourced

For some reason, Outsourced has managed to upset a lot of critics, who in turn call the show racist.  I’m not entirely sure why that is.  Using cultural differences to make a joke is a staple of comedy.  The Marx brothers did this to great effect with Chico’s Italian slyster character, which was far more racist than anything I’ve seen on Outsourced (it was also really funny).

I guess that critics object to how Indians are portrayed as eager and obedient but not particularly intelligent, at least in an entrepreneurial sense.  This is an absolutely correct portrayal of Indians, at least as far as I’m concerned.  Granted, I only spent a month over there teaching in a mission school, but my impression of the students I had at the time was that there were all eager to learn, but not necessarily capable of independent thought.  In fact, Indian teaching consisted of little more than telling students what to think, which they would be expected to regurgitate immediately.

There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this method of learning, but it does produce certain results.  Among those results are a dependence on being told what to do, whether by another person, or by heavily scripted marketing routines.  This is simply the way things are in India.

The show also stays true to certain elements of Indian culture, like the street sellers, tiny taxis, population density, prevalence of disgusting bugs and amphibians, devotion to Bollywood productions and the presence of cows.  Furthermore, the male Indian characters dressing in western-style clothing is believable, as are the references to arranged marriages.  Frankly, this level of accuracy is surprising to me.

Thus, I am simply unable to understand why critics call this show racist.  Sure, the acting is a bit weak in places, and the comedy isn’t always there, but the show is far from racist.  American culture is significantly different from Indian culture.  The show has done a good job of representing Indian culture, far better than I would have imagined. Analyzing Indian culture through the American way of thinking is a laughably impossible task.  I just understand how doing so offends people.

Why I Don’t Rely on the Cloud

After blocking Twitter on Tuesday and, intermittently, Facebook and Google on Wednesday, the Egyptian government has upped the ante, throwing a complete Internet access block across the whole of the country. Additionally blocked are Blackberry service and SMS.
Reports are pouring in, many to Twitterers via landline, that the country has been "cut off" and is now a "black hole."
I hesitate to rely on the cloud for three basic reasons.  First, I have a very slow internet connection.  Trying to keep and maintain a media collection is a headache for me.  Hulu is the only cloud service I use, and only because it’s faster than downloading shows.  Even then, I use the lowest resolution settings and still find that I often have to wait for shows to buffer, and that shows will occasionally black out on me.  I hate when this happens, and simply want to avoid altogether if possible.

Furthermore, there are occasions when cloud services go offline or get overloaded.  Last.fm has been having this problem of late, and I do not want to have to deal with it.  I would rather use my own disk space than have to hope that my favorite site is working again.  It’s simply easier to acquire my own media and store it locally.

Finally, as the recent events in Egypt have demonstrated, I don’t want data access to be dependent on the whims of the government.  If I want to listen to Blue Chandelier sing about the problems facing society (from a libertarian perspective, of course), I don’t want to have to hope that the president is in a generous mood.  I’m sure there are some who think that this sort of thing can’t happen here. Well guess what? Thanks to the FCC and net neutrality, we’re already on this path.  The government has asserted that it has the right to regulate the internet, and you can be sure that will eventually come back to haunt us, even if it seems beneficial in the early stages.  I want no part of it.

So, if you’re paying attention, it should be obvious that the best course of action is to store up as much media as possible on your local hard drives.  If the government wants to shut down the internet, you’ll have plenty of resources at your disposal.  And even if the worst-case scenario never occurs, you’ll at least be able to entertain yourself in the event of a network outage.

Words of Wisdom

From Athol Kay:
When she is expressing less interest in you, add Alpha.
When she is expressing you don't seem interested in her, add Beta.

27 January 2011

That Little Inconvenience Called Reality

There’s nothing like wanting things you can’t have:

We have a safety net, but I wouldn’t call it “strong” by 21st-century standards. Some elements that are inadequate or altogether absent:
The 2010 health care reform, even if fully implemented, likely will leave millions of Americans uninsured.
Early education (preschool, child care), beginning at age one, is a very good idea. Not all states have full-day kindergarten; few have preschool for four-year-olds; none have much in the way of public funding of education for kids age one to three.
Paid parental leave is available in only a few states and covers a relatively short period.
Sickness insurance: ditto.
Unemployment insurance covers too few of us.
Unemployment insurance should be supplemented by or folded into a new wage insurance program.
Social assistance benefits have been decreasing steadily over the past generation.
If markets are now structured in such a way as to severely limit real earnings growth for those in the bottom half of the distribution, we may need to massively expand the EITC.
We ought to do more for children, working-age adults, and elderly persons with assorted physical, cognitive, emotional, and social disabilities. (HT Tyler)

Well, these are laudable goals, and will probably have a lot of support from lots of people.  They all just sound so good, so noble!  Allow me to pour some cold water on them, Socrates-style.

Do you really think that people don’t want these things? Obviously people want these things.  These things are great and wonderful and awesome and all the fawning adjectives people use to describe utopic wonderlands.

Why don’t people demand these things?  Because there are limits to what we can have.  People always want more than they can ever hope to have.  It’s what people do.  Since people can’t have whatever they want, they must prioritize what they get.  Thus far, the average American prefers having an HDTV to having early education for their kids.  The market tells us this.

If people want these things but haven’t acquired them due to placing low priority on them, what does acquiring these things entail?  Obviously, getting all the wishes on the checklist will require government intervention in the economy to realign it to attain these stated desires.  The free market has obviously failed to attain these goals.  The reason for failure is pretty obvious:  as much as people claim to want these things, there spending habits belie reality.  People really don’t want these things as much as they claim to.  After all, actions speak louder than words.

A Shift in Thinking


For most of the past 20 years I have served on selection committees for the Rhodes Scholarship. In general, the experience is an annual reminder of the tremendous promise of America's next generation. We interview the best graduates of U.S. universities for one of the most prestigious honors that can be bestowed on young scholars.
I have, however, become increasingly concerned in recent years - not about the talent of the applicants but about the education American universities are providing. Even from America's great liberal arts colleges, transcripts reflect an undergraduate specialization that would have been unthinkably narrow just a generation ago. (HT Robin Hanson)

What Ms. Wilson has apparently failed to realize is that colleges have shifted their focus over the last twenty years.  It used to be that college was a consumer product.  As such, it was viewed as a way to become more sophisticated and urbane, or at least appear that way.

Now it is viewed as an investment.  People view college as a way to become credentialed for the job or career they want.  Unsurprisingly, jobs are exceedingly narrow in focus.  Therefore, education must likewise be narrow in focus.

Given how the government, mostly at the behest of liberals, has subsidized postsecondary education for years with the goal of ensuring that every last citizen has a college diploma, it should come as no surprise that the shift has occurred.  Most people simply do not care about appearing sophisticated and urbane.  In fact, most people care about making money.  Since the composition of college attendees has changed from primarily consumers to primarily investors, it should make sense that colleges have shifted the focus of their curricula to reflect that.

Saving the Taxpayers Money


The New York Times of January 22 reports that the Obama administration has created a “billion-dollar government drug development center to help create medicines” as part of the federally funded National Institutes of Health.
According to the article, its rationale is to undertake research leading to the commercial development of drugs that has mysteriously lagged in the U.S. The article makes no mention of the regulatory costs drug firms face. The moving force behind this new center is NIH Director Francis Collins, famously (and embarrassingly) associated as runner-up in the Human Genome Project to Craig Ventner’s privately funded effort.

Well that’s funny.  I seem to remember a certain president talking about how America needed to more competitive.  In a speech about a union, if I’m not mistaken.  I think it had to do with the state thereof.

Anyway, if the president were actually committed to ensuring that America leads the way in drug creation, he would do well to do everything he could to make sure that the government got out of people’s way.  By this, I mean that he should just go ahead and abolish the FDA.

The insidious thing about putting the government in charge of inventing drugs is that it will end up becoming a virtual monopoly, mostly because the government just hates competition.
Also, it will likely end up circumventing its own laws and bowing to corruption.  I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that it winds up faking studies.

It will also eventually be governed by political pandering.  I would imagine that there comes a point where the only drugs that get funded are the ones that attempt to cure whatever diseases can pull the most political support.

Sadly, all the government needs to do to avoid this outcome is deregulate.  This promotes systemic efficiency and saves the taxpayer money.  Naturally, this proposal has no chance of ever happening.

Rand Paul is on a Roll

First, Rand does this:

In his first major legislative proposal, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has proposed cutting government spending by $500 billion in a year, including eliminating the Departments of Energy and Housing and Urban Development and most of the Department of Education.
Paul, R-Ky., said the plan he rolled out Tuesday would cut almost 40 percent of the country's projected deficit by abolishing programs that he said are outside the government's constitutional scope.

Then he does this:
Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) introduced U.S. Senate legislation Wednesday to audit the Federal Reserve while his father, long-time Fed critic Rep. Ron Paul (R., Texas), re-introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House.
 “We must take a critical look at the Fed’s monetary policy decisions, discount window operations, and a host of other things, with a real audit–and not just pay lip-service to the idea of an audit,” Sen. Paul said in a statement. “It is more crucial than ever that we have real transparency at our own central bank.”

Given that there are roughly 95 idiots in the senate (give or take four), I don’t think his bills will succeed.  It’s nice that these issues are being addressed seriously in the senate, though.

Ethics and Economics

The Econ blogosphere has had a little bit of buzz over the idea of ethics lately. Specifically, the question has been whether there should be a code of ethics for economists.

I understand the theory behind the question.  I get that people would be more inclined to trust economists if they swore to conduct their research ethically, without allowing bias to enter the picture, etc. ad nauseum. Implied in the desire for trust, though, is the hope that economists will have their ideas taken seriously and implemented as public policy.

Unfortunately, given the relative disarray in the field of economics, giving more credence to the dismal scientists seems incredibly misguided.  How many economists foresaw the housing market implosion?  How about the tech bubble?  How many economists believe in the need for deficit spending?  These answers to these questions are unsatisfactory at best.

In addition, giving economists more credence isn’t just misguided, it’s also pointless.  It’s downright difficult to get a majority of people to agree on one issue, and economists are worse than people when it comes to, say, addressing budget issues, fiscal policy, regulation, and so on.  Even if people were to put more trust in economists, they would still have to choose which economist to trust the most, since all of them differ on major policy issues.

Finally, the signal that economists can be trusted would likely have negative long-term results.  Scientists were once considered a very trustworthy set of people, worthy of emulation, and possessing the answers to the most complex questions.  Now, some are starting to regard them as bull(spit) artists, especially when it is discovered that they, just off the top of my head, manipulate temperature data.  Given how the scientific method itself is starting to show serious flaws, there really isn’t much reason to rely on the word of scientists anymore.

The same thing can happen to economists.  They, like scientists, can abuse the trust that people place in them.  Eventually they will become discredited, and undermine all the gains that have been made thus far.  Frankly, no one will be well-served by this.  The absence of a code of ethics should help to provide the level of skepticism necessary to keep researchers honest.

So, in answer to the question posed at the beginning, a code of ethics has the potential of high costs coupled with minimal benefits.  You don’t need to be an economist to figure out that a code of ethics is a bad decision.

More Proof

More evidence that the banks are run by spineless liars:

In violation of a law intended to protect active military personnel from creditors, agents of Deutsche Bank foreclosed on his small Michigan house, forcing Sergeant Hurley’s wife, Brandie, and her two young children to move out and find shelter elsewhere.
When the sergeant returned in December 2005, he drove past the densely wooded riverfront property outside Hartford, Mich. The peaceful little home was still there — winter birds still darted over the gazebo he had built near the water’s edge — but it almost certainly would never be his again. Less than two months before his return from the war, the bank’s agents sold the property to a buyer in Chicago for $76,000.”
And it only gets worse from there.
The Sergeant (retired, disabled) has been on a legal odyssey that is in its 7th year. He is battling Deutsche Bank Trust Company and Morgan Stanley subsidiary Saxon Mortgage Services.

Basically, there are laws on the book that give service members on active duty special protection from legal issues that may arise due to their prolonged absence.  I can’t think of any reason why these sorts of laws are problematic or immoral, nor can I think of any reason for banks to not comply with these laws.

The simple fact of the matter is that banks have run roughshod over these laws, and more besides.  Anyone who thinks that there is respect for rule of law in America is sadly mistaken. This story is a microcosm of what’s been happening across the country for the past several years.  And, that story does not have a happy ending for anyone, except the kleptocrats at the top.

Enjoy the decline!

26 January 2011

College is Still Worthless


Thus, as the global monetary crisis accelerates in 2011, this year will be the year we move from the eye of the financial hurricane back into the hurricane.  Given that the modern educational system  teaches students absolutely nothing they need to know about surviving the crisis, after four years most students will only graduate with a mountain of debt and face a bleak economic landscape. Thus, I firmly believe that setting aside the money targeted for tuition, books, room and board and investing that money in gold and silver today (and take advantage of this banker created pullback in gold and silver prices now!) will leave any young adult a thousand times better prepared to face this crisis in two to four years’ time than the choice to enter university or graduate school today.  But I'm not the only one that believes this. The National Inflation Association also believes this. At the very least, if you have a child you are sending to college or graduate school next term, do yourself a favor and finish reading this article. Whether you agree or disagree with me, at least you will have the information as well as my perspective AND the perspective of the National Inflation Association to make a proper decision. 
In a recent US study called “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses”, researchers studied more than 2,300 students that attended 29 different US universities. Here is what they concluded:
(1) 45% of the students showed no gains in learning the first two years of college, and (2) 36% gained little learning even after four years of college level courses, even though the average GPA was 3.2 among the sample of students.

I wrote a while back about how worthless college is, and how people should avoid it like the plague.  This Zero Hedge post, though, made me realize that parents need to be more proactive about their children’s education.

If at all possible, home school your children.  I was home schooled for the first ten academic years of my life, and when I finally entered high school, I was considerably further ahead of my peers academically.  This even had a carryover effect in college.  Quite simply, public education and college do not offer a significant advantage over a dedicated parent in terms of education.

Furthermore, most of what is taught in public school and in college is completely worthless.  Lit classes are a hotbed of secular postmodernism with a nihilist bent.  In two words:  horse feces.  Science classes are watered down to the point of worthlessness, especially given the amount of grade inflation in schools.  Really, the only valuable courses are math classes.  And those can be taught at home.

In addition, as Zero Hedge rightly notes, these institutions fail to teach kids how to survive a crisis.  The closest they get, at least in high school, are shop class, home economics, and agriculture classes.  And these are in the process of being phased out.  If you home school, you can also teach your children how to grow a garden, how to cook, how to preserve food, how to repair things (like cars, houses, etc.)  Or, as I like to say, you can teach your kids real skills.

Also, you can also teach your kids the classics, something that public schools, and even colleges fail to do.  Make sure you have plenty of good books for your children to read, and make a point of eating at least one daily meal together, so you can talk about these things together as a family.  I consider family suppers to be one of the most important contributions to my intellectual development.

If you can give your children silver, as recommended by Zero Hedge, instead of an education, encourage them to buy their own land and build on it, and develop it for their own use.  This will be far better than encouraging them to get a job in middle management, especially since those jobs are more expendable in the middle of a recession.  Also, those jobs won’t exist in the event of a collapse.

So, if you want your children to be prepared for the future, you’re going to have to take matters into your own hands.  I wish you luck

Five Empty Promises

(Note: this list was originally compiled by the fine folks at Zero Hedge)

Empty Promise #1: America Will "Out-Innovate" The Rest Of The World And This Will Create More Jobs

Innovation does not necessarily lead to job growth.  In fact, most innovation is intended to make more efficient use of current resources.  The most expensive resource in America is labor, so innovation may lead to net job loss, as production becomes more mechanized.

Really, the only way this claim is true is if there is growth in the service sector, which is a rather precarious position, to say the least.

Empty Promise #2: America Will "Out-Educate" The Rest Of The World And This Will Create More Jobs

Seeing as how there is no link between aggregate education levels and GDP, this claim seems tenuous at best.

Empty Promise #3: America Will "Out-Build" The Rest Of The World And This Will Create More Jobs

Government spending, on the whole, is systemically inefficient, so “out-building” the rest of the world simply means a net waste of resources.  How this actually leads to sustainable jobs is beyond me.

Empty Promise #4: America Will Become "The Best Place In The World To Do Business" And This Will Create More Jobs

Let me guess: Mr. Obama plans on cutting corporate taxes, getting rid of labor laws, and deregulating the economy?  I bet this actually is code for, “we’ll engage in more Keynesian stimulus packages and see how it plays out.”

Ultimately, he won’t address the fundamental problems, and so America will continue to stagnate.

Empty Promise #5: Barack Obama Pledges To "Take Responsibility" For Our Deficit Spending

Well, this would certainly be a refreshing change from his first two years (ZINGER!).  For this promise, I’ll believe it when I see it.

A Word of Advice

This brilliantly titled piece brings up a rather interesting observation:

Earlier this week I wrote that from cradle to grave, men are getting a raw deal. Men work longer hours, die earlier, but retire later than women. I also noted that while some say we should be less precious about light-hearted banter between the sexes, you can’t have it both ways. If sexism is wrong, the same standards apply to men and women. On the other hand, if you buy into the whole Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus theory of gender difference – with all its pseudo science - you can’t complain about inequalities of outcome that flow both ways from those essentially sexist distinctions.
Take this, for example: one commentator recently complained that: 'High-flying women are programmed to go for high-flying men. Most men aren’t attracted to women who are more successful than they are.’ Can you imagine the outrage if such trite generalisations were made about women, or other minorities? Feminists are now amongst the most obnoxious bigots.

I have some advice for feminists, although it applies to everyone equally:  don’t treat the people who make your life comfortable like they are the scum of the earth.

At the risk of sounding sexist, I’s like to point out to women that the reason why they are able to enjoy all the wonderful things that civilized society has to offer them is primarily due to men.  Most of the things we use on a daily basis were invented by men: cars, the internet, computers, cell phones, etc.  Yes, women have played a part in the technical development of the modern world, but it is a very small part.

Furthermore, men are far more likely to take the crap jobs that make modern society so wonderful.  Men make up the majority of law enforcement, construction, sanitation, military, and mining jobs.  These are incredibly dangerous jobs, and women enjoy their benefits as much as men do.  Therefore, if women want to continue to enjoy that labor and protection of men, they would do well to not denigrate them.  This is especially true since most career women work in “soft” jobs that are quite marginal.

So, to all the feminists out there:  keep your stupid mouths shut.  I know you don’t like being told this, but you will thank me later.

Why Americans Don’t Trust Free Trade

Don Boudreaux, in his latest linkage roundup, points out this interesting fact:

Here, in French, is a report on a poll that finds that 33 percent of the French want to abandon capitalism, while the number of Chinese who share this opinion is 3 percent.  As for Americans, only 39 percent of us regard “the development of international trade” to be good.  This figure is the lowest among all countries surveyed.

I can’t speak for all Americans who are distrustful of free trade, but I would be willing to bet that some people don’t trust free trade because it attempts to correct a market distortion without actually fixing the fundamental problem.

One of the causes of higher prices over the last several decades has been caused by the sheer level of government intervention in the domestic market. As I have pointed out elsewhere, the government has interfered in the market in significant ways.  It has imposed costly and onerous environmental regulation on businesses.  It has imposed costly taxes on corporations.  The government has also seen fit to interfere in the labor market as well, mandating minimum wages and mandatory benefits.

These costs are borne by consumers, for businesses have passed their costs on to buyers.  Buyers have complained about higher prices, and so the government looks to free trade.

I would imagine, then, that one of the complaints people may have is that the government has made it difficult for domestic businesses to compete with foreign businesses while simultaneously making it easier for foreign businesses to do business here.  Now, there are too many variables to account for, so it’s impossible to tell what sort of effect this has had on domestic businesses.  I would bet that it hasn’t been positive.

So, the distrust of free trade probably stems from the government trying to fix its interference in the domestic market by making it easier for foreign businesses to sell here.  This is akin to treating lung failure with oxygenated blood transfusions.  Sure, it works pretty well, at least initially.  Unfortunately, it isn’t sustainable, and it doesn’t address the underlying problem.

Perhaps, then, Americans would be more amenable to free trade if American businesses were actually free to compete as well.  Thus, deregulating the domestic market may be the key to inspiring more support for free trade.

The Morality of Walking Away


Scott Dickensheets writes in the Las Vegas Sun of his tossing-and-turning over whether to walk away from his underwater Las Vegas home. The voice of his departed father still convinces him to honor his obligations no matter how bad an economic decision it might be.
However, what troubles the Sun writer most seems to be that he has to make a decision about this at all. “I don’t like the way homeownership, cornerstone of the American dream, kindles this kind of moral quandary,” writes Dickensheets. “This kind of self-re-evaluation.” For many people it is much easier mentally to keep paying, even if it doesn’t make financial sense. “People tend to experience losses even more acutely when they feel responsible for the decision that led to the loss; this sense of responsibility leads to regret,” explains Hersh Shefrin in Beyond Greed and Fear: Understanding Behavioral Finance and the Psychology of Investing.

From a moral perspective, I don’t really see any problem with walking away from it all.  Most likely, the loan agreement that you signed stipulates that you must pay a certain amount every month, and if you fail to do so the bank will assume the title to your property.  Both sides knew this going in, and both sides understood that the value of the mortgaged property could go up or down.

In essence, then, the bank was willing to accept the property as payment in the event that you fell behind on your payments.  In so doing, they also assumed the possibility of the decline in property value.  Thus, if you walk away, they will take the house and accept is payment in full for your outstanding debt (unless your specific loan agreement specifies otherwise.  Always consult a legal professional before making a decision of this magnitude.)

Thus, there is nothing immoral about walking away from your mortgage.  The bank, through the loan agreement, has stated that taking ownership of your property in the event of a default is sufficient as payment.  That they were unable to foresee the collapse in housing prices is not your fault, and does not obligate you to make payments, especially when thy have essentially stated that your property will suffice as payment anyway.

So what are you waiting for?  Walk away.  Just walk away.

The Lid is Off

WikiLeaks has opened a Pandora’s box of goodness:

Although the mission of WikiLeaks is to "open governments," it's done quite a lot to make us think about how to open journalism as well. We've seen a number of new whistleblower sites crop up - OpenLeaks and Rospil, for example - as well as major news organizations - Al Jazeera, and perhaps even The New York Times - investigate ways to facilitate more whistle-blowing and leaking.
But why wait for local newspapers to roll out their own anonymous tips pipeline when a project from CUNY Graduate School's Entrepreneurial Journalism program has designed just that thing.
Using Localeaks, you can send an anonymous tip, including a file, to over 1400 newspapers in the U.S. through one online form. Choose your state. Choose the newspaper. Enter your information and submit your anonymous tip.

At this point, it’s too late for the government to stop this, unless it literally shuts down the internet.  It’s difficult and generally fruitless to play catch-up on defense, at least in the realm of information technology.  Thus, there is no way the government can expect to keep the lid in much anymore.  Really, the only thing it can do is ensure that government employees are loyal to the government.

Alternatively, the government can clean up its act and make all its dealings public. I won’t be holding my breath on it, though.

UPDATE: the NYT is preparing to release a book on WikiLeaks, and includes some of the original cables as well as detailed analysis of the leaks.

Market Valuations

The Mad Hedge Fund Trader explains a market philosophy:

Karl is convinced that the current move up in equity markets is a load of baloney and is nothing more than a replay of the dotcom bubble of the 1990’s. One of many measures he tracks is the ratio of stock prices to underlying tangible asset value. A low number is good and a high number is bad. It hit two during the nineties, rose to 4 during the crash, and has since soared to 12 today, six times the bubble peak.
Rising values today are being driven by multiple expansion and this will only end in tears. Flavor of the day “cloud computing” companies are trading at multiples of over 100. Sound familiar? Traditional cost/push inflation, which historically takes eight months to hit stock prices, started in earnest six months ago.

Always look at fundamentals.  If you’re going to play the market, don’t get caught up in hype.  Instead, stay grounded in reality.

Always ask yourself, what products or services does this company provide?  What’s the long-term tenability of their product?   How much hype surrounds this company?  What’s its P/E ratio?  What’s its track record?  How much debt is it holding?  What is the value of its assets?

Trying to play the market by guessing tomorrow’s valuations is risky and dangerous.  This method is very susceptible to bubbles.  Stick to the basics, and play it safe if you want to win in the long run.  Of course, if you really want to win in the long run, you should buy silver.

Is God a Meme?

Several atheists, including Dawkins, if memory serves me correctly, have argued that God is a meme.  A meme, to put it simply, is a unit that transmits an idea or symbol.  The argument that God is a meme, then, suggests that God is really a symbol of what might be described as collective knowledge or collective tradition.  This is certainly a compelling argument, given how “science” has confirmed that some moral practices are generally beneficial.  (Some moral practices regarded as beneficial include, but are not limited to: abstinence, marital fidelity, and honesty.)

Certainly, then, God could have memetic qualities.  The problem with this argument, though, is that it can only really prove that God has memetic qualities.

You see, God can be both a meme and a spiritual being.  There is nothing to suggest that memes are inherently false, nor is there anything to suggest that memetic status precludes said meme from being real.  The meme that Asians are generally smarter than most has been demonstrated time and again.  Claiming that God is a meme doesn’t inherently preclude God from existing.  Thus, if he does, in fact, have memetic qualities, it does not stand to reason that he doesn’t exist.

I realize that the argument of God existing as a concept is offered as an alternative explanation for belief in God’s actual existence, but this argument implicitly presents a false dichotomy, since being a meme does not preclude God from existing.  Indeed, it may be that his existence is the reason he is also a meme.

Paragraphs to Ponder

From Karl Denninger:
In any event, let's put forward a few things for the police to ponder, assuming they care to.
You might get more cooperation from the local citizens if you didn't smash in people's doors - most-especially the wrong ones. It used to be that when you wanted to arrest someone you performed a job function called "police work", where you sat outside someone's home or apartment with a nice stake-out and waited for a good opportunity to apprehend them when there'd be little chance of violence. Now you initiate the violence, no doubt because it's really important to show off all that fancy hardware you bought and justify its purchase. Unfortunately there's a rapidly-growing list of people who did nothing that was actually criminal, or who weren't the criminal you were after, that get shot up and even murdered - all by "accident." If they survive the felonious assault (and that's exactly what you'd call it if a random citizen did it) their property is usually destroyed. That sort of incident tends to **** off the people in the neighborhood who are not the bad guy you're looking for and leads them to want to do things like flip you the bird instead of help you. The next time you have a criminal in the area you're not going to get any cooperation from anyone once you do something like this.
You might also get more cooperation from the local citizens if you actually arrested some of the bad guys who have been buttraping the people for the last three years or so with impunity. You know, like the banksters who are stealing houses? Or maybe you could bust the minions that they send out to change locks on homes they haven't foreclosed on yet and in which people are actually living. That's happened a few times in the last couple of months and in at least one famous recent case, in Florida, the woman who owned the house was reduced to cowering in fear in the bathtub while the thugs smashed glass to get in. It also appears that she couldn't count on the local Sheriff to actually arrest the bad guys when she called 911. Yes, I consider someone breaking and entering into a home they don't have title to a "Bad Guy", even if you do not. So does pretty much everyone else. Now about that cooperation you were interested in again....
The rest is here.  Read Vox Day's take here.

Nonsense Revisited


December joblessness in the state dropped to 11.7% from 14.5% a year earlier. That is the lowest unemployment rate in nearly two years (since January 2009). The number of unemployed in Michigan fell 20.6% over the year to 555,000 at the end of December. The state’s annual unemployment rate fell in 2010 for the first time since 2005 to 13.1% from 13.6% in 2009.
But, according to the state agency that monitors employment, the December decline “primarily reflected a reduction in the number of unemployed individuals seeking jobs.” In fact, the state’s total employment level hasn’t budged much since July, after rising steadily in the first half of the year, Michigan’s Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth said.

Essentially, the same number of people are out of work as before, but some aren’t counted because they’ve given up hope on finding a job.  The statistics claim that unemployment is down, but reality says otherwise.  And that’s why I don’t trust government statistics.

Time Poorly Spent

One of the latest trending search terms hitting Yahoo has been this story:

The class action lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in California by the Montgomery law firm Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles claims the Taco Bell meat mixture contains binders and fillers.
An attorney for the law firm, Dee Miles, said Taco Bell saves money by adding fillers because the beef is the most expensive part of their products.
"It's giving them a competitive edge. It's an economic edge" over other companies that sell Mexican-style food, Miles said.

No, you think?  Fast food restaurants with dollar menus are trying to keep costs down?  You don’t say.  Hey, I’ve got a news story for you:  the sun rose in the east today!

Seriously, do people really think they are getting Grade A beef at Taco Bell?  I’ve eaten there.  It’s pretty obvious to me that they use low-quality foodstuffs.  Anyone who eats their food knows this.  This is not exactly a surprise.

The problem here, folks, is that the government (and by “government” I mean “all the morons who vote for idiots politicians) has been trying to kill businesses for decades.  Between unnecessary costs brought about by compliance to idiotic regulations and rampant inflation by the Fed, businesses have been bled dry trying to make sure consumers don’t feel the hurt of these developments.  (I worked in fast food for a couple of years, so I know how stupid regulations can be.  The branch where I worked was once fined because the ice scoop was hanging on the wrong side of the ice machine.  Seriously.)

The sickening irony of the whole situation is that when businesses are eventually forced to either raise prices or cut quality, everyone gets their panties in a knot and demands that the government solve the problem, usually by “doing something.”  Who do you think caused the problem in the first place?  Corporate greed isn’t the reason why ice cream went from $2.00/half-gallon to $3.50/one-and-a-half quarts.  The dear old Fed, and its wonderful inflation machine is the reason.  But you want to blame business for dealing with the reality that the government, at the behest of you, the voters, created for said businesses.

So stop complaining, and eat the stupid “tacos.”

Just So We’re Clear


Italians love cash and avoid credit and debit purchases at the highest rate of all the euro region. As a result, they are among the region’s least indebted and biggest savers. It’s estimated that the government loses 100 billion euros of revenue a year in untaxed transactions, while its banking cartel loses out on billions of possible fee revenue when the average Italian makes only 26 credit card purchases a year. Needless to say, the government and banks are joining forces in a war on cash, cash salaries, and cash transactions.

The proposal of any new law or regulation which comes from [businessmen], ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.”

The reason why you never give the government control over money, or any economic sector, really, is because it has the historic tendency of oppressing people through it, especially on behalf of large corporations.  One of the reasons to be especially distrustful of the American government is found in its attempt at controlling the money.

The government has the power to mint currency and distribute it as the government sees fit.  The government regulates the clearance of checks.  The government forces businesses to accept Federal currency.  The government determines what can be used as legal tender.  The government has authorized the Fed, a quasi-private central bank that operates for the benefit of large banking corporations, to directly and indirectly alter the money supply and distort both the domestic market as well as foreign markets.

The result of this control of the money is seen, in part, by the general wastefulness of government spending.  In addition, the various bubbles and market distortions of the last one hundred years were, at the very least, encouraged by government mismanagement.  Some, myself included, would go so far as to say that many of these bubbles and market distortions were caused by the government’s willful mismanagement of the money supply, a burden that it, through coercion, took upon itself.

So, dear readers, learn the lesson of Italy:  if you really want to be free, don’t let the government have control of the money.  Opt out of the system to the greatest extent possible.

25 January 2011

Book Review


It’s been some years since I read this last, so I picked this up at the library while I was browsing the other day with the intent of giving this my undivided attention for a couple of hours.  I had forgotten just how truly depressing this book is.

The book starts off rather memorably with Grant recounting his attempt at rescuing aborted babies from one of the dumpsters behind an abortion clinic. It seems that some babies that are intended to be aborted aren’t actually killed before they are disposed of, and so some advocacy groups make a point of grabbing them from the dumpsters they’re discarded in. Really, it’s quite sickening that there are any who think that human beings are merely waste to be thrown out with the trash.

After this rousing start, Grant moves on to reflecting about how this sort of thing even comes about.  There is a moral element to be sure, and even a cultural element as well, but the main reason why abortion is such a widespread reality is simply because it is a good business.  And Planned Parenthood is the industry leader.

Most of the book is focused on Planned Parenthood, and its horrific history.  Lowlights of this history, as detailed in the book, include how it was founded by the eugenicist Margaret Sanger, how it supported sterilization of blacks, and how it has lied to everyone again and again.  The procedure is incredibly dangerous, even though it is completely legal and doctors are subject to safety regulations.  It also causes emotional trauma, and this aspect of the grisly affair is often glossed over.  Really, who wants to think about how they’re about to be committing murder?

The book also details Planned Parenthood’s supporters.  The usual suspects are in full force: liberal politicians and the mainstream media.  What a bunch of nihilists. For thee, though.  Never for them.

After this emotional roller-coaster, the book attempts to recommend a solution.  It’s not a very satisfactory one, though.  It doesn’t seem practical.  It is a start, though.  Personally, I’m inclined to recommend a little bit more political activism.

In all, the book is an eye-opening look at abortion and one of its biggest profiteers.  It’s sick, sobering, and relentless.  It’s also a necessary read for anyone who wants to discuss the subject intelligently.

Book Review


P.J. O’Rourke is a funny guy.  There’s really no escaping that fact, especially in his latest book, which sees him giving politicians both barrels.  And politicians deserve it.

Don’t Vote is hysterical, if only because it is true.  And it is also sobering, if only, again, because it is true.  The overarching theme of the book is the classic adolescent’s game, Kill F*** Marry, a game that is played to hilarious results throughout the book.  Especially when Bill Clinton is involved.

Throughout the book, O’Rourke laments the death of freedom and the rise of politics.  He often mentions that he is a conservative/Republican, but this claim often rings hollow, for he continually references Adam Smith, the Cato Institute, and other venerable libertarian sources.  And he even has a chapter titled “Morality in Politics—And What’s It Doing in There?”  That’s a good question, really.

With a liberal serving of the founding fathers, especially on government, the book attacks nearly every aspect of the modern political process, as if to say “enough already!”  And we have had enough already.

The lunacy of politics is highlighted in a variety of ways:  most notably, on the cost of pennies.  Sure, producing pennies is a money-losing proposition, but seeing as how the government is far more wasteful in just about all of its endeavors, it seems borderline lunatical to make an issue out of this.

His takes on climate change, trade balance, and gun control are all uproarious, and definitely worth the time.  Part three is also good, as well, as it takes an introspective look at the right.  He makes the depressingly keen observation that while it took the Democrats over fifty years to ruin their position in Congress, it only took the Republicans twelve.  Frankly, it seems miraculous that the right has any power, given their ineptitude of the last ten years.

In sum, the book is funny and biting, and serves as the perfect antidote for all the seething rage that inevitably builds up when one becomes too heavily involved in politics.  Read it and weep.

Mark Twain's Radical Liberalism

I stumbled across this while browsing through Mises Institute Archives:
Part of the difficulty of understanding Mark Twain's political outlook is due to terminology and the tendency of politics to corrupt the meaning of everything. As often as you see him called a liberal, he is called a conservative, and sometimes both in the same breath. Critics puzzle about how one person could be champion of workers, owners, and the capitalist rich, while holding views that are antigovernment on domestic matters, antislavery, and antiwar. They often conclude that his politics are incoherent.
Part of the reason for the confusion has to do with the changed meaning of liberalism as an ideology and the incapacity of modern critics to understand its 19th-century implications.
Twain was born as Samuel Langhorne Clemens in 1835, when the meaning of liberalism was less ambiguous. To be liberal was to favor free enterprise and property rights, oppose slavery, reject old-world caste systems, loathe war, be generally disposed toward free trade and cosmopolitanism, favor the social advance of women, favor technological progress — and to possess a grave skepticism toward government management of anything.
The tradition of thought extends from Enlightenment thinkers like Jefferson through 20th-century Misesians and Hayekians. This outlook on the world might be nearly extinguished from politics today (two flavors of statism), but it was the one embraced by Clemens.
The rest of the article is here.  It's well worth a read.
 

24 January 2011

Fallacies in the Defense of Free Trade

Scott Lincicome answers a question:

3) The state showing a "preference" is merely another way of saying the state picking winners (protected American businesses) and losers (American consumers). And, again, that preference is exercised at gunpoint. I, and my fellow libertarians, seek a government preference for freedom, in particular free trade (which, again, has proven to be, by far, the most economically just and beneficial approach).

Before I address his fallacies, I think it best that I clarify my assumptions.  In the first place, I believe that the stateless society is the ideal society.  In this event, there would be no free trade issues at all.  In fact, there wouldn’t be any argument over any governmental policies at all.  That said, for purposes of argument, I will assume the current situation, in terms of society and government.

The first fallacy expressed here is the request that the government not pick winners or losers in the realm of trade. What seems to be ignored is that any government, whether totalitarian or democratic, by nature has to pick winners and losers (aka “show a preference”).  Also, by nature, any government that exists will have to enforce through coercive measures whatever preference is selected.  This is what government does, by definition, which is why in an ideal world the state wouldn’t exist.  Therefore, since the government has to pick winners and losers, why is it preferable to pick consumers over producers?

Theoretically, all consumers are also producers, since, for the most part, no person can trade with another person without first having produced something of value.  Why then the emphasis on consumption over production?

This, then, leads to a Keynesian fallacy, in which it is assumed that consumption is the key to wealth.  Keynesians are correctly lambasted for arguing that boosting aggregate demand is the key to building wealth.  At the risk of being too simplistic in my approach to this subject, it seems rather obvious that production is the key to wealth, not consumption.  And yet, libertarians are arguing that increased wealth is consumption based.

To be sure, there are a ton of problems clouding the issue.  One of the reasons America is so dependent on foreign manufacturing is due to the high cost of operating manufacturing firm in America.  There are onerous environmental regulations, high corporate taxes, a plethora of labor laws, and more besides.  If these government-induced restrictions were removed, perhaps free trade wouldn’t be such an issue, especially since America has the most efficient labor force in the world.

At the risk of being called a liberal, it simply seems unfair to hamstring American production at home and encourage its replacement abroad.  For some reason, I was under the impression that the government was to protect the interests of its citizens.
Since increasing one’s wealth is certainly in one’s best interests, and protecting production encourages the growth of wealth, it seems logical to expect the government to favor a trade policy that sympathetic to production instead of consumption.  Of course, if the government is going to take this stance, it is then behooved to remove legal barriers to national production as well (i.e. it should cut taxes, deregulate, etc.)

Furthermore, if the American people, as evidenced by their voting record over the last fifty years, have demanded that production be hampered by environmental regulation, taxes, labor laws, etc., it is only right that the American people pay for this.  Either American labor and environmental standards are good or they are bad.  If they are good, than Americans should pay for them one way or another (Karl Denninger has suggested wage and environmental parity tariffs).  It is only just.

Finally, I would like to note that advocates of free trade are also essentially advocating a “soft” form of welfare.  I noted earlier that theoretically every consumer is also a producer.  Realistically, there are some who consume without ever producing (more accurately, they consume more than they produce).  These people are known as welfare recipients (this also applies to credit users, but that issue is considerably more complex).

Welfare recipients especially benefit from free trade because their purchasing power increases through the decrease in consumer prices.  Stated in the obverse, if America adopted a protectionist policy tomorrow, the only way welfare recipients would maintain their standard of living would be if they received a nominally larger check.  Thus, the lower prices function as an increase in people’s welfare check.  Since producers are the ones suffer as a result of free trade, the conclusion to be drawn is that free trade functions as a tax on producers.

It should be stated that I’m not opposed to free trade.  However, if the government is going to both exist and interfere in the market, the least it could do is pursue policy that is generally beneficial to production. Right now, it appears to be on a course that is determined to hamstring production and encourage Americans to work in the service sector.  This isn’t necessarily immoral, but it seems foolish given that the service is more marginal production. (Which came first: the computer or the computer repair man?)

I’m not trying to accuse of free trade proponents of subverting American interests (yet, anyway).  However, they need to remember to work with reality, not theory, on this issue.  Free trade is sound within the proper theoretical framework.  Unfortunately, that theoretical framework bears little resemblance to reality.