Browsing the archives for the government category.

Ancient Wisdom

intervention

ancient_wisdom

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Human Bait

government, war
funeral

Funeral in Afghanistan

The US Military has a new tactic that they are using with there bomb-dropping drone airplanes. First, they will bomb a building, killing some and wounding others. Then the drones wait. When neighbors come to pull their friends and family out of the rubble, the drones drop another bomb, wounding and killing the rescuers. Then the drones wait. When the survivors manage to sort through the carnage and distant relatives come for the funeral, the drones drop another bomb, wounding and killing the mourners.

Each of these three bomb droppings makes sense. The first makes sense because dropping a bomb is a good way to kill a terrorist. It may kill people besides the terrorist, but if you are near a terrorist, then you are probably a terrorist, too.

The second bombing makes sense because if you are trying to help a terrorist, or someone who was near a terrorist when a bomb was dropped, then you must also be a terrorist, terrorist sympathizer, etc.

The third bombing makes the most sense of all

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Death by Regulation

economics, regulation

Total bliss is just one more regulation away.

Anyone who has read the Black Book of Communism knows that government kills. Death by government even has a name: democide. The staggering death toll of government in the 20th century has been estimated over 150 million people, not including wars. That means the number only includes people killed by “their” government.

Sadly, these studies ignore what Henry Hazlitt called the forgotten man. The forgotten man is not murdered in the night by government agents or starved to death by a dictator. No, he is murdered by bureaucrats who do not know or ever see him. He is killed with regulation.

For example, when the government mandates that cars have good gas mileage, car companies have to make them lighter. Lighter cars give less protection in the event of a collision, leading to more deaths each year. These unintended consequences are not limited to cars, but apply to all consumer products.

Another sad example is when the FDA outlaws potentially life saving medication.

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Will I Still Help People If Government Doesn’t Force Me To?

government
social workers

It costs $1,000,000 / year to keep each social worker, like the ones pictured above, helping people in Iraq.

One objection to anarchy is that many people will not choose to help others unless the government forces them to through taxes and wealth redistribution.  My main objections to this point are that government does not help people and the free market turns selfish people into public servants.

Why doesn’t government help people?  Well, the presumption is that government steals a dollar from rich Peter and gives it to poor Paul, and this helps Paul more than it hurts Peter.  The first mistake is that the government does not give Paul a dollar.  First, twenty five cents is used to murder brown people, mostly foreign ones.  Then another 25 percent is paid to government employees and retirees.  After all the corporate welfare, bank bailouts, boondoggles and bridges to nowhere, after every friend of every politician gets a cut, 12 cents are left over for welfare.

So the question should be: if there were no government, would I still spend twice as much money trying to destroy other countries as I did trying to help the poor?  If the difference was to spend only 20 cents on blockades to starve “insolent” people into submission, that could be considered a net positive for anarchy.

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Equal Opportunity

finance, government, intervention

The poor need not apply.

I was discussing hedge funds with my uncle a few weeks ago and he was impressed that many had very high annual returns.  Of course, with higher returns comes higher risk, as demonstrated by the massive losses hedge funds suffered during the 2008 stock market correction.

However, he was interested enough that he asked me how he could invest in a hedge fund.  I explained that he would have to buy into one with a large sum of money, typically $1-$5 million dollars.

He was disappointed, not so much that the investment was out of his reach, but that the system seemed rigged against poor people.  He didn’t like the idea that there were opportunities only available to the rich.  Rich get richer, and all that.

Well, I didn’t know exactly what to say about that.  Sure, having more capital will always open up more opportunities.  Not many individuals have the savings to start a competitor to FedEx.

I considered trying to justify the minimum buy in by arguing that it lowered administrative costs of dealing with lots of clients.  However, there are other investment vehicles, like close-end mutual funds that are exclusive, too.

Then today, I was reading a little bit about hedge fund history.  Apparently, Regulation D of the Securities Act of 1933 requires that hedge funds be offered solely to “accredited investors.”  What is an accredited investor? 

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Stupid or Evil?

government

The Stupid Party versus the Evil Party

A question that occurs commonly in libertarian discourse is whether government agents are stupid or evil.

The reason this question comes up is because government agents do things that are detrimental to the economy (and life in general). They impose price controls that lead to shortages. They enforce edicts that have numerous unfortunate consequences. Etc, etc.

So, does an agent do these things because they don’t understand the consequences of their actions? Do they understand the consequences, but do them anyway?

The question turns out to be incidental from an ethical point of view. Not understanding the consequences of your actions does not indemnify you. “I didn’t know that feeding your dog anti-freeze would kill it” is not a valid excuse.

So even if a government agent thinks that killing foreigners in their own countries (and in their own homes) is self defense, that does not exonerate him.  He is still a murderer, just as he would be if he, in fear of his life, killed someone who was just walking in his general direction.

Some will say, “both” and then go on with their lives. Case closed. Yet, it is important to think about why stupid and evil people are in positions of power.

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Specter of Monopoly

government

the free market lets you choose any pepper you want, or not to buy a pepper at all

Whenever anyone says anything bad about the free market, it is generally a misplaced critique of government.  Whenever someone says something good about the government, it is usually a misdirected praise of the free market.

For example, democracy is often praised as a way for people to get what they want.  Yet, by definition, those who are not in the majority do not get what they want.  Even those in the majority often do not get everything they want, but merely their preference between two unsavory options.

In contrast, the market gives everyone exactly what they want.  You don’t have to choose between a pickle flavored yogurt and sauerkraut bubble gum.  You can choose not to buy either.

A common objection to freedom is that if everyone were allowed to buy and sell whatever they wanted, one person could buy all of the water, and then everyone would be at that person’s mercy.  It is truly a horrifying thought, that someone might have that much power over you.

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The Ridiculous Rahn Curve

economics, taxes

The Rahn Curve indicates two things.  The first is that there exists a single, optimal level of taxation for maximizing economic productivity.   The second is that this maximum is somewhere between 15-25% of GDP.

The first statement is true.  The second is not.

Here is the Rhan Curve:

Notice the pathetic nature of this graph. No grid, no units and no endpoints. It gives us little information but implies a lot.   It implies that GDP can only grow, not shrink.  It implies that what lies outside of the narrow (?) range covered by the graph is unimportant — nothing to see here citizen.  Let’s improve the graph a little:

Here we show that GDP could rise or fall, and some potential values for the curve near 0% and 100% taxation.

I’ve drawn three potential extensions of the Rhan curve.

If the red extension were correct, then without government (0% government spending), then the economy would collapse (presumably due to lack of police services).  On the other hand, giving government total control of the economy would lead to even more impressive GDP growth than the local maximum that was originally marked as optimal.

If the blue curve were correct, then there would not be much to complain about — just that whoever made the original graph was lazy.  One interesting thing about the blue curve is that the economy would remain the same size with either no government or total government.

Finally, if the green curve were correct, then totalitarianism would lead to economic collapse, and anarchy would lead to prosperity.

Of course, drawing lines on the graph does not tell us anything about what is true about the economy.  However, it does help indicate how poorly conceived the Rhan curve is.

In order to maximize economic productivity, there must be every incentive to produce, and little incentive not to produce.  Why do people work?  To get money.  What do taxes do?  Take away their money.  Taxes are clearly a reason to work less.  The higher tax burden is, the less productive people will be.  The lower taxes, the better.  This is not rocket science.  How low can taxes possibly go…?    Zero!

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Social Contract Fallacy

government

Denial is a defense mechanism in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.

You are a slave.

If you’ve ever argued with a government apologist, you’ve heard the social contract fallacy.  It says that even though government does evil things like steal your money and kill people, that is okay because everyone agreed to live under the government’s rule.

Of course, there is no explicit contract.  Nobody agrees to give away 50% of their income when they turn 18 either verbally or with a pen.  So, the statists need to fall back on the idea of an implicit contract.  This is the idea that by living in a certain country, you implicitly agree to follow whatever rules the government comes up with.  This argument is easily overcome by pointing out that if you are on land that you own, then nobody has the right to come onto your land and force you to join their “club”.  That is called extortion.  Extortion is what government does.

Predictably, enablers will continue to change their justification.  The will now assert that the government owns all the land in the country.  If you don’t like it, you can leave.  Of course, this argument also runs into trouble

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Porno-scanners

government

I flew out of Atlanta, Georgia today.  While waiting to go through the TSA checkpoint, I was directed into a special waiting line.  The line was special for two reasons.   The first was that it was about five times longer than the normal lines.  The second was that instead of just having a metal detector at the end, it also had a new millimeter wave body scanner, which is part of the TSA’s Advanced Imaging Technology.

When I had gotten close to the scanners, I saw that a government agent was directing each person to either go through the metal detector or the body scanner.  I loudly asked another TSA agent, the manager, if the second machine was “one of those nudo-scanners”.  It laughed and said that the machine was a “nudo-scanner”.  Then I turned to some teenage girls behind me and asked them if they were going to go through it.  They stared at me blankly.

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