Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A tale of two thieves

In his unmitigatedly warped notion of "benevolence," George W. Bush signed legislation "to boost availability of student loans." It sounds great, but after you read how it's being done, it's a great deal for students, a great deal for Bush and bureaucrats who will brag about how much they're "helping" people, and a raw deal for the rest of us who pay taxes.

"The measure is intended to inject liquidity into the student loan market by allowing the U.S. Department of Education to buy federally guaranteed student loans that lenders haven't been able to sell to investors." Investors don't want to buy the loans because they're crap investments, relative to what else is available. It tells us something about this "non-crisis economic crisis" (the one the mainstream media wishes the U.S. were in) that, even though these student loans have the guarantee of repayment by the federal government should any borrowing students later default, most investors would still prefer investing in normal markets like stock exchanges!

But this still won't stop Bush and Congress from using our money to buy the loans, touting more of this "injecting liquidity" bullshit that we've heard too much about from the Federal Reserve. The federal government will buy these loans, using money coerced from the rest of us via taxation. If the students default, the federal government will then assume the payments to the loans' owner -- itself. And we won't even see a dime, because the repayments will simply go to the U.S. Treasury.

Such accounting practices in the private sector are called fraud. Bernie Ebbers received a 25-year prison sentence for what amounted to "merely" a few billion dollars. What, then, should politicians deserve when they do this all throughout a budget of $3 trillion dollars?

My Congressman, John Hall (former member of the band Orleans who found religion socialism and went into politics), sent me an e-mail with a subject line, "How to Combat Medicare Fraud Workshops this Friday." New York State spends nearly $48 billion each year on Medicaid, and it's been estimated that a tenth of it is "fraudulent," but the pure fact is that it's all theft. It is not theirs to give by any true sense of moral principle. If David Paterson, Joe Bruno and Sheldon Silver want to be charitable, or George W. Bush, John McCain, Barack Obama, Hillary and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, let them give of their own money and encourage -- not force -- the rest of us to give. South of us, John Corzine would rather tax New Jersey residents every which way he can to fund state programs, instead of giving from his own extreme wealth. You see, when a liberal like Corzine criticizes "excessive executive compensation,"

That article at Empire Center talks about "market-driven reforms," when such a thing is impossible when government is behind it. As I tried explaining last year to my friend JK when talking about Medicare Part D, there is no "market" when government is involved, because government by definition will coerce at least one person into doing something he normally wouldn't do in a truly free market atmosphere. People can talk about "choice" all they want with some new "reform" in a social program, but ultimately it's "choice" at somebody else's expense.

This article talks a bit more about NYS Medicare fraud, and talking about how the New York State Legislature "agreed to only about $700 million in savings" for 2006. That's nonsense. When politicians talk about "savings," it doesn't mean they actually reduced the size of a program, but that they reduced the previously planned growth. The spending still increased. How long could you or I run our households this way when facing a financial crunch? "Honey, we have to cut back. Now, I had previously projected a $700 monthly increase in our car budget if we got that new car. But look, if we get that less expensive new car, it will cost us only $500 more per month. That saves us $200 per month!!!"

Such "logic" seems absurd, but that's how government operates. We normal folk must work for our wages, because we cannot use compel those who hire us or otherwise trade for our goods and services. But because government can take people's property by force, it need not worry about being "worthy" of what it takes. It simply takes, and ultimately it takes from you upon pain of death -- your death. I was starting to read "Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax" by Sheldon Richman, with a wonderful introduction by Dr. Richard Ebeling. Sheldon and Richard are true lovers of liberty, and I am proud to call them friends.

[Correction: I was blogging on vacation and didn't have the book with me. It was actually Walter Williams who wrote the following in his foreword, not Richard in his introduction.] Williams explains far more eloquently what I've said before, that all taxation is coercion, and so if government takes from you anyway, it's theft. But what do you do if you refuse, believing sincerely that you will not submit to thievery? Well, then the government will "fine" you, which is merely a declaration that if you don't surrender your property, you must give up more. If you resist enough, you must give up your freedom by going to prison. What if you will defend yourself, as is your God-given right against oppressors? Then the government will send in "police" and take you by force, killing you if necessary, all because it says you don't really own what you think you own, because a majority of your neighbors banded together and elected some "government":
Give us what we demand, cried out the multitude, lest we seize it by force.

And the merchant replied, Depart in peace while ye yet can, for ye have no right to my possessions save with my consent, and as I have done no wrong to any man, none of ye have any authority to seize any of my possessions.

Behold, cried out his neighbors with one voice, that we have declared ourselves a government, and as such we have given ourselves the authority.

The merchant replied, Ye have no authority, for one cannot give authority unto oneself.

That matters not, they replied and began to grumble, for we are a greater number than thee and thy family, and because of our greater numbers, we have decided that thou shalt pay us tribute.

Then did his neighbors, armed with swords and staves, seize a goodly portion of the merchant's possessions. The merchant did not consent in his heart, but for the sake of his wife and children, he did not resist in his actions.
Anyway, I'm blogging from Davao, the largest city in the world in terms of area. My fiancee and I were visiting her family here, and this afternoon we're going to Manila. We stayed in Davao longer than planned, because we couldn't get tickets to Bohol. This being "summer vacation" time in the Philippines, all the flights were fully booked. It's probably just as well, because Mindanao and the Visayas have been quite cloudy, and the beaches wouldn't have been as enjoyable.

Yesterday we went to "Paradise Island," a resort on Samal Island, just a few minutes off the coast of Davao. It's beach isn't one of beautiful white sand like Boracay's, and in some places a little pangit with the tide out, but it's a wonderful little getaway if you're in this part of Mindanao. Mr. Tungol, our host, was extraordinarily gracious. He was always checking on us and the other guests, ensuring our comfort. He also brought over the four-piece band to serenade us, inviting me to join in, which I couldn't resist when they did a Sinatra/Bennett/Elvis medley. Victor Heiser, an American doctor who spent a lot of time in the Philippines in the early 20th century, wrote that he believed you could give musical instruments at random to Filipinos and hear sweet music at once. Perhaps an exaggeration, but it was truly amazing to hear what bongo drums, two guitars, a bass and three voices could produce.

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Blogger jk said...

Have a great trip!

Thursday, May 08, 2008 2:17:00 PM  
Blogger johngalt said...

"Ye have no authority, for one cannot give authority unto oneself."

And here, at the very beginning, the merchant has lost the argument.

If, as the merchant asserted, a collection of individuals calling themselves a government cannot give themselves authority then how can a single individual do so? He means, of course, authority over the lives of others but by failing to make that distinction he diminishes his right to authority over his own life. In essence it constitutes "giving" his right to others rather than himself. And he's doing it voluntarily! Through an incomplete epistemology.

But that right exists nonetheless, and it derives from man's mere existence as a volitional being. If he abandons that right he is no longer fully human and instead becomes an animal.

Free men must choose to act as individuals in voluntary self-interested cooperation or as a primative lynch mob by rule of the jungle. There is no middle ground here. (Although by variously choosing to be a man or an animal at different times and for different purposes many men attempt to find "balance" between individual and group rights. No such balance exists, in reality.)

Thomas Jefferson wrote a declaration to do the former and lesser men who succeeded him have done their best to undo it through constitutional amendment and every other subordinate form of law. I believe we will see in our lifetime whether Americans wish to live like Jefferson or like the subjects of every civilization which preceeded Americans.'

Sunday, July 13, 2008 2:14:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

God (and I say this in a "natural rights" context) gives us the authority, the rights, over our own lives. We can't "give" that power to ourselves. So you either have your God-given rights (including taking it back), or you don't.

You don't even have to believe in natural rights, per se, to agree with this. By virtue of being human, you have these rights from birth. You don't need to "give" them to yourself, or "receive" them.

But the real reason the merchant lost is because of force.

Sunday, July 13, 2008 2:25:00 PM  
Blogger johngalt said...

Dagny thinks I'm splitting hairs unnecessarily but I continue to think this is an important distinction.

When you say "God" gives something or another then you lose credibility with those who are not believers. You can get many of them back if the right is attributed to a Creator, to the extent the non-believer is willing to insert his mother and father into that role.

But you get it completely right Perry in your second paragraph, which I find a far more compelling and objective argument. "By virtue of being human" you have these rights from birth. Deity, Creator or creator notwithstanding, for without these rights - as I said - you're merely another animal.

When I say "give yourself" the right to your own life and liberty it is in counterpoise to the idea of giving them to another - individual, state, deity or other some such. (If you don't actively "keep" your rights then you effectively "give" them to the first knave who says what's yours is his.)

If the merchant had said "one cannot give authority over others unto oneself" then he would be making the same argument you are, and he might have won over any rational men among the multitude.

I realize the point of the example was to show that there are no rational men in a mob that would sieze the property of other men in the name of government. And yes, the merchant did lose the fight because his force was inadequate compared to the government's. But my point is that if you don't understand the true source and extent of your inherent human rights then you'll be less able to protect them from other men - even rational men - who may possess the same incomplete understanding.

Monday, July 14, 2008 2:07:00 AM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

For those interested, we continued the conversation here.

Saturday, November 01, 2008 12:34:00 PM  

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