Sunday, May 25, 2008

When will conservatives get a clue?

Q: How do you know when a conservative is saying something stupid?

A: His lips are moving.

Now, many of my friends are conservative, and some do "get it" as far as economic freedom (just not social freedom), but sadly they're a minority. Liberals aren't the only ones who fail to grasp basic principles of economics and business. Conservatives, regardless of any claims to believe in "markets" or "capitalism," are often just as ignorant.

For example, "see-dubya" griped about poor "airline service," specifically that many no longer offer "free" food:
What really chaps your hide about that isn't the five dollars so much as it is that something that you think ought to be free suddenly sets you back some change.
What a fool! Provided meals are hardly "free" -- they're part of the ticket price. I find Cathay Pacific's provided meals aren't too bad and much better than on other airlines, and snacks are "complimentary" throughout the flight, but I'm not naive enough to think I haven't somehow paid for the better food. Conversely, see-dubya is like many modern consumers, having fallen for the fallacy of his self-worded "ought to be" service (a form of liberals' "entitled" mentality). Didn't he ever learn that if you want service, you'll have to pay for it?

Airlines can't force him to be a customer, so he doesn't have to be one if there's no included meal. He can always bring his own food, buy something at the terminal before boarding, or go with something like SkyMeals. Perhaps he goes without. Whichever he does, his complaint still isn't severe enough to deter him from airplane travel. The lack of a meal, really, deters few who travel longer distances: bringing your own food, or relying on any provided snacks, is a small price to pay for the convenience of speed. The first airlines to cut meals correctly determined that passengers tend to prioritize the combination of fares and schedules above "free" meals. That's why they lost fewer customers by eliminating "free" meals and keeping prices the same than had they raised prices to cover the cost of the meals.

Most people know that most airlines are struggling to cut costs, but most people don't realize that meals can be significant savings. It isn't just the materials and putting them together, but also refrigeration and transportation. Then on board, a sandwich costing several dollars is the price that the particular airline decided will maximize profit. Like in other industries, there's no standard markup: the bean counters attempted to construct a curve (just like Laffer's) of how many people would buy food at a certain price. Increase the price, and you'll get more revenue up to a point, after which revenue will decrease. The airline can't just bring enough food for each passenger, because not everyone will buy.

Because I am a rational person who understands that I'm not being "forced," my "hide" doesn't "chap" at all at what many airlines are doing. American Airlines will soon start charging economy passengers $15 for the first checked bag, unless you bought the full-price fare, but nobody's being forced into it. What it really is is a $15 across-the-board increase for economy passengers who buy discounted tickets, but with a $15 discount for bringing only carry-on baggage. Take the difference between 50 and 15 pounds, multiply it by a few hundred people, and that saves fuel.

What gets me is that if people are so angry about it, why are they still going to fly American? And why should this create "chaos" at ticket counters? If people want to argue, they should (but probably won't) be reminded that they don't have a "right" to fly. It's not even a contractual right, because buying a ticket didn't mean an included charge of checked luggage. Again, people are not being forced and can go to a different airline. And frankly, I don't think much of someone's writing skills if he uses "frankly" more than once in an article. It's frankly annoying how often people say "frankly" when other words will do.

This explanation is rather simple and nothing new; you don't need an economics or business degree to understand it. The solution, as in the case for everything, is simple: let the free market work, or more properly stated, free the market. But so many conservatives just don't fathom that.

Then take the two dimwits I met a few nights ago at the Young Republicans social. I'm a member of the independent New York Young Republican Club, not because I'm a conservative, but because of the friends I've made there and the occasional great speakers at the monthly events. Twenty bucks a year isn't much, but there's an additional cost, a very high one, of meeting the occasional schmuck. Now, these two epitomize everything wrong with Republicans and conservatives today. Our argument was primarily one of free speech, which they clearly don't understand -- or cherish.

One of them is from Queens and is running for City Council (just when you thought its collective IQ couldn't get any lower!). He believes that elected officials should be respected always, because of the office. I counter, why? Just because enough my neighbors elect some sonofabitch (nowadays for the typical purpose of taxing me to benefit them) doesn't mean I should express or harbor the slightest bit of respect for him, let alone the morons who used "popular vote" to make him lord over me. Because of the power they wield over the non-consenting, office-holders should be accustomed to no respect whatsoever.

Freedom of speech is fundamental and sacred. If I want to call Barack Obama a "boy," it doesn't matter whether I use it as a slur, or as a disparaging observation of his naive foreign policy. My usage happens to be the latter, which I was explaining to a new acquaintance when the aforementioned two invited themselves into the conversation and aggravated what had been pleasant. But even if my usage were the former, that's still protected speech. It's "debated" today, but it still is, regardless of what the "offended" or courts decide. A minority, majority or government can declare something right or wrong, but that doesn't make it so.

The other played the geography card: "I'm from the South, where that has a very bad meaning." Notwithstanding Miami is hardly the hotbed of racism he'd like to imply, being from there doesn't make him automatically correct or an authority; it wouldn't matter even if he were from Birmingham. The other even tried to disparage me with, "I can tell you haven't lived here very long." Notwithstanding my eight years in the NYC metro area are completely irrelevant, does he say that because my supposed "racism" means I couldn't possibly be from this "multi-ethnic" city? Then how does his logic explain Al Sharpton and Charles Barron? Or perhaps my skin tone and accent don't happen to fit his concept of "New Yorker"?

Like many conservatives, they confuse what is right with what is proper. It wasn't the point whether it's appropriate to call someone an insult (whether or not it's "racist" in connotation); I was telling the other person that it's a right to say it. Furthermore, "boy" is so appropriate for Obama, who has a child's understanding of foreign policy in wanting to disarm the United States' nuclear weapons (complete with "negotiating with Russia"!) and proposing peace talks with terrorist nations. But the two twits who barged in are so concerned with not offending anyone and winning popular support -- as if that's been helping Republicans in elections! It's no secret that Republicans gravitating to the "political center," talking like Democrats, will still lose to Democrats.

I tried to reason with them (big mistake). Why are they so concerned about winning debates and elections? Those are based solely on popular support. What if the masses are wrong? The majority of Americans today are so ignorant that the rest of us, those who believe in freedom, should shudder every time we consider that they can vote on our lives. Why should I be so focused on diluting or even ignoring my principles so that others will approve of what I say? I'd rather focus on being right, on being true to myself. Henry Clay is sometimes mocked for saying, "I'd rather be right than President," because he ran four times. His statement is a principled one, however. Ron Paul campaigned this time, though he must have known he didn't have a chance, but he didn't once change his message to win more support. He wanted to win support because he was right.

Egads, the two's stupidity exceeds mere ignorance of freedom of speech. The candidate made an incorrect definition of libertarian and then proceeded to tell me I'm not one: "A libertarian is a fiscal conservative and a social...moderate." Yes, he did pause there, I think because he just couldn't bring himself to say "liberal," as some have described libertarians. It's still a wrong definition.

A real libertarian believes in individual liberty: the rights to life, liberty and property, limited only by the same freedom of others (somewhat imprecisely contained in "Your freedom to swing your fist ends at my nose"). Liberty includes freedom of speech, which I champion it no matter how offensive it may be. In fact, I personally hold that the best use of speech is to offend: only state-worshippers should fear that freedom. The God I worship took on a human body, then was eventually arrested by the Sanhedrin and executed by the Romans. Why? Because Jesus said an awful lot that threatened the religious hypocrites (such as in Matthew 23), and calling himself a "king" amounted to treason, though Jesus was never truly harming anyone. Should Jesus have refrained from condemning the scribes and Pharisees, so that he'd appeal to them and win their support? According to these two conservatives' argument, yes.

Candidate-boy even said Ron Paul would never support me. He's flatly wrong. Ron Paul might disagree with what someone says, but as has been wrongfully attributed to Voltaire, Paul would defend a person's right to say it. Ron Paul would say that he doesn't care what someone else says, because he has no authority over the person's speech, so therefore the other person is responsible only for himself. On that I can safely assume what another person would say, but what about these two Republicans who presume to correct me on my own political philosophy? Conservatives do themselves a great disservice when they display such ignorance, but it's becoming less and less surprising.

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