Monday, February 26, 2007

The irresistible force meets another immovable object

In the predecessor to this post, I wrote about French laziness meeting the requirements of the socialist welfare state. Specifically, the French back in May 2005 protested losing a paid holiday, even though the government would collect their wages to put into a slush fund for elderly people. "So there are limits to the French people's love of the welfare state," I noted, "when it threatens to limit their indolence."

Well, now Airbus wants to increase its workweek to 40 hours "without compensation" (meaning no overtime), and you know how well that will go over in France. Airbus has to cut costs somehow, whether it's selling off plants, reducing pay (especially overtime), or improving productivity. No amount of the French government "priming the pump" will help here, because the subsidies only encouraged Airbus to avoid streamlining operations, and moreover, subsidies come from taxes.

It's the same old game of protectionism: tax others to keep your industry alive, and true to Bastiat's parable of the broken window, claim that the redistribution promotes economic growth. It's bad enough that a government taxes someone $1 to subsidize a $2 item, claiming that the item costs only $1, but it's far worse when the person will never buy the item. That person, then, is coerced into paying for part of a product he never wanted and will never get, so that others will have it at a cheaper price.

Der Spiegel recently had an interesting analysis of the French national government's interference in commerce, and not just its Airbus dealing. But the writer misses the mark by crediting France's continental dominance during Louis XIV's reign to Jean-Baptist Colbert's anti-laissez-faire policies. In fact, the dominance came from military strength, not economic success. Colbert was a mercantilist, and while mercantilism can be incredibly successful for a while (witness Spain in the 16th century), collapse is inevitable once the colonies' wealth is exhausted. Instead of developing colonial trade that would create a mighty economic force, both Spain and France merely seized their colonies' wealth to fund military dominance that never lasts.

France is doing the same thing today by pumping money into domestic industries, but with no more colonial wealth to fund the mercantilism, it hasn't any hope of success (which before was short-lived at best). Chirac has recently made overtures to former French colonies in Africa, fearing that France might lose the trade that it's managed to keep alive since their colonies became independent. But things just aren't the same anymore, right, Jacque? After all, there's no more using the military to take the wealth back home -- France has to actually trade by offering something of value in return.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

For I speak now in parables

I've been meaning to write this for a long time, as a response to those "Christians" who believe it's right to redistribute wealth by taxation, and that it's justified because a majority vote for it. Such people are not of Christ's flock, I assure you. If they cannot understand plain words, perhaps they'll understand it as a parable.

As it has been written: he who has ears, let him hear.

There was once a merchant who always dealt justly with others, which is to say he never forced another man in any way. For he feared God, and he knew a fair agreement required only that he and the other decided peacefully between themselves alone. The Lord saw this and caused him to prosper mightily in the sight of heaven and men.

Fearing God, this merchant gave of his substance to aid the poor and the aged, never forgetting to bless the name of the Lord for the bounty through which he could help others.

One day, his neighbors came unto him saying that a certain widow was in difficulty, for she was bent and could no longer labor, and her children that season did not give her as much of their harvest. The merchant, made wise by God, said unto them, Ye do well not to judge whether her children cannot honor her or willingly do not, for it is not for us to say: they may have reason, which God alone shall judge, and meanwhile I shall indeed help her.

Another day, his neighbors came unto him and said that a certain bridge needed repair, asking him if he could contribute, since God had seen fit to make him prosper more than any other. The merchant said in his heart, Indeed the Lord given me much, and as no other man hath wealth sufficient for this task, so it shall be good for me to do this. And the merchant said unto his neighbors, I shall help.

Through the years did the merchant give willingly to others, and as he blessed the name of the Lord in each instance, so the Lord blessed him further, that he might help others even more. Then his neighbors, who had greed in their hearts and only pretended to fear God, said among themselves, Let us seek even more from him. In their evil they decided to obtain more from the merchant, although none of them were in need, but because they coveted his greater possessions.

One day they appeared at his door, saying, Give us this amount, for one of us hath need. The merchant pointed to that man among them and said, He hath no true need, for he toils not and instead makes his wife labor for him so he can waste his days away in drink. Then his neighbors left, grumbling to each other, for the merchant knew them well and could not be deceived.

The next day did they appear at his door, saying, A certain woman hath need for herself and her children. The merchant said unto them, Nay, I shall not support her sloth, for she refuses to work, though she has five children and no husband. Again his neighbors left, grumbling to each other, for the merchant saw into their hearts and knew they also meant to seek excess for themselves.

Then the neighbors asked each other, What shall we do that we may obtain our neighbor's wealth? Dare we seize it, knowing we have no right to aught of his possessions?

The next day, they appeared again at the merchant's door, demanding only that he give them money, and stating no purpose for it.

The merchant replied, Nay, for this time ye have given no reason why I should give you any, and I know ye have no true need.

Give us what we demand, cried out the multitude, lest we take 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 do we have 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 give us tribute.

Then did his neighbors, armed with swords and staves, seize a great amount 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.

Little children, I pray ye know that those neighbors have no promise of eternal life, but instead a special place in hell, prepared for them alongside the devil and his angels. For inasmuch as a man does it unto one of the least of my brethren, whether righteous or unrighteous action, he has done the same unto the King.

He who has ears, let him hear. For if a man can hear, it shall be demanded of him on the day of judgment, Wherefore then didst thou not heed?

Conversations with a statist, part II

Perry, you of all people, prosetilize your economics and if in power will impose it on others. Value judgment is certainly correct. It's all about values.
This is the very source of your confusion! I do not wish to impose my "values" upon others. So how could I possibly force others into my value system by allowing them to choose their own?

The people I want to see "in power" are those who don't want to exercise any power over others. After 16 months, do you still not understand that?

You have your own values, and others have their own. You are not God. Let them live according to their own consciences -- that is a moral value worth having.

> "The ultimate goal of human action is always the satisfaction of
> the acting
> man's desire.
Materialism? The accumulation of wealth? I thought you said you believed in materialism.
[Note: the quote is from Mises' Human Action.]

That is not materialism. It is merely stating a fact about the general purpose behind every individual's actions, whether it's scratching a nose, working in an office, or cooking a meal.

I never said I believed in materialism. You are again putting words into my mouth. Good lord, are you so relatively young that you cannot remember things properly? I have said that I am a bit materialistic, but that does not mean I believe it is a proper course of action.

For some people, materialism is a way of life. I have never said that is the right way to live, but that is how they choose. I leave it up to them to live their lives as they see fit, and I leave it up to God to judge them.

And I ask, who the hell are you to set yourself as equal with the Most High, that you can judge others? That was Lucifer's thinking.
There is no standard of greater or lesser
> satisfaction other
> than individual judgments of value, different for various people
> and for the
> same people at various times. What makes a man feel uneasy and
> less uneasy
> is established by him from the standard of his own will and
> judgment, from
> his personal and subjective valuation. Nobody is in a position
> to decree
> what should make a fellow man happier."
Motherhood statements. Your arguments are full if them. I believe in freedom. Who does not?
Clearly, you do not. Your concept of freedom has such vast constraints of forced morality that it's more properly called expanded servitude.
> You really do not understand what I am saying, do you? You have your
> opinions, I have mine, others have their own.
I certainly do. And, I disagree with your policies. You and I are poles apart intellectually and in terms of human values and background.
The key difference is that you wish to impose your values on others, whether they like it or not. And if they refuse, you and the rest of the majority will have them thrown into prison and/or fined. Such arrogance is sin, and it leads straight to hell.
There are, what,
> 5 billion
> people on this planet who don't believe Jesus had any authority?
> I am not
> saying they are correct, merely that you cannot appeal to what
> is a matter
> of opinio
Again, a non-position. Do you believe in Jesus? This is the central difference between the two of us. I believe in his authority. You say you do at one time, quoting left and right. Then, the next hour you say you don't. We are not talking about what other people think. This discussion is about what you believe and what I believe. Perry, you are brainwashed and confused.
If you believed in his authority, then why is your very life about blaspheming the entirety of Matthew 25?

My religious beliefs, and yours, are completely irrelevant, and if you think I reverse myself in the course of an hour, then you are in complete fantasy about what I am saying.

What you just cannot understand is that just because I believe people should have the freedom to live a certain way, that doesn't mean I believe it is the right way for them to live. Once again, I am not arguing what is right in an absolute sense, only that others should have the freedom of conscience. Clearly, you don't believe that. That is what this discussion is about. Leave the other 6+ billion people on this planet to live their lives without you dictating to them.
> And if people find what they perceive is happiness from their own
> materialistic endeavors, what is that to you? Why are you such
> a busybody
> about other people's lives? You have such a misguided sense of saving
> others' souls when you need to worry about the beam in your own
> eye. I
> recognize the one in my own, which is why I strive toward the
> libertarianideal of leaving others be with their own lives.
If I see an incorrect policy, I say so. Like forever since we've been arguing. I never say "not necessarily", do I? I am not a busybody. Now, saving souls, that's another matter. I see you as misguided and directionless (the absence of values or better still the confusion of values). Again, with your preaching about libertarian economics, you are not leaving other people alone. If you really want to leave other people alone, you would not say a thing.
When I see incorrect policies, I likewise say so. So what is your point there? That I say "Not necessarily" at times? I say "Not necessarily" to mean, "It depends," because the answer is not going to be in an absolute sense.

You are not even talking about saving souls. There is a difference between talking to people about religion, and using the force of government to make them live according to your ideals. You support taxation as "fulfilling the doctrine of Jesus Christ," and I ask again: how do you support that when there are 5 billion non-Christians on this planet?

And how can you possibly say I not leaving others alone? You are the one who wants to tax people and give their money to others. I'm the one who wants to let people keep their wealth, and make peaceful economic transactions with those they choose.

"If you really want to leave other people alone, you would not say a thing." Do you not realize the illogic there? It is you and the rest of society who will not leave me alone, because the majority of them want to take a percentage of my wealth at every turn. If they left me alone as they properly should, then I wouldn't need to say anything at all.

Walter Williams' challenge is this: "What's just has been debated for centuries but let me offer you my definition of social justice: I keep what I earn and you keep what you earn. Do you disagree? Well then tell me how much of what I earn belongs to you – and why?"

Conversations with a statist, part I

One reason I haven't been blogging as much is that I'm working a little later than usual, and though it's only an hour or so later when I come home, that's a significant amount of time to do other things, and it leaves me even more tired than I already was.

Another reason is that a friend of mine has been e-mailing me a lot. He's Filipino, so English wasn't quite his native language, but I still cannot excuse his false recollections of certain things I've said. So, he's taken it to e-mail where we'll have things in writing.

This and my next few posts will be what we've been talking about, because it illustrates the fallacial thinking of so many Christians today: it's not just the erroneous faith in government as having the power to do good things, but the damning (I say that in a literal sense) belief that it's morally acceptable to tax people and give to others. There's also a bit of economic discussion, where my friend has completely misunderstood things I've said in the past. This is sort of jumping into the conversation halfway, but you can get the gift of what's being discussed.

Part of my disillusionment with the Christian church is how so many self-professed Christians think it's just fine, even necessary, for government to forcibly take money from the successful and redistribute to others. That, right there, is not only supporting theft of others' property, but the very worship of government. True Christians, it is written, cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and Mammon, nor can you worship both God and the very forces that put Jesus to death.

That said, his comments are indented, and mine follow. Some things will be double-indented, which were my earlier comments he was replying to:
I have listened, Perry, and understand what you are saying. Second, your definition of economics is . . . is so constructed, one is forced to agree. No argument but that is not the question I have asked repeatedly. What is the purpose of Economics? It is you who have chosen to avoid the question, a question so fundamental.
How can you not understand what I have said all along? Your "economics" goes beyond the original scope. You're not even dealing trade deficits, interest rates, trade patterns or business cycle theory. You're saying how things ought to be, i.e. your agenda, which is politics.
Ah, maybe a point of agreement. Maybe. If you mean that Credit in an economy can never be destroyed, I agree. Now, if you mean that the money supply never shrinks when there is debt deflation, we differ. I never read Bastiat. But, the money supply does shrink as debt is collected. He must be talking about a long gone era when gold was currency.
I'm speaking relative to the money supply. For example, whether you're dealing with gold, stones or paper, a 50% cut in the money supply will tend to result in a doubling of prices.

But adjusting for such changes, if someone earns a dollar, no matter how it is ultimately valued, that dollar is never lost, regardless of how that person saves or spends it. You need to read Bastiat.
Human economic activity will continue regardless of central bank actions, even when a central bank goes bankrupt. But, Bernanke is not childish. He just following the norms of neo-liberalism. Now, I don't believe in a natural rate of unemployment because the practiced policy is to whip interest rates up when inflation increases instead of creating more production.
Bernanke is no neo-liberal, even in the confused sense in which you use the term. Bernanke is an interventionist. Now, if he were wise, the solution to rising inflation is not to raise interest rates, but to slow the increases in the money supply.

The problem isn't really the belief that there is a balance point between unemployment and inflation. The problem is what was done with it. In my Austrian way of thinking, I believe markets (including labor markets) are always in a state of flux, and there is no "right" level of unemployment at any time. You might find that a certain economy, at a certain time, might have a specific unemployment rate that happens to have a stable level of inflation. I say, so what? Economic conditions, and therefore the new NAIRU, could and probably will change next month. Why bother to force its duplication at other times, then?

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, 6% unemployment in the U.S. was considered normal. Then in the prosperity of the late 1990s, a 5% rate started to be seen as normal. Some even said 4% and change.

Who is right? No one is. Let the free market work itself out.
And, when that money goes into Treasury Bills and lies idle. No one benefits. Except them. Why do you think we have an inverted yield curve, huh? There just too much of it going into the financial sector and little going into the real economy.
Actually, the money does not lie idle. Do you really think nothing happens to it? The treasury of any government (state, federal or foreign) issues bonds, gets money, and then spends the money however it sees fit.

Don't put so much stock in an inverted yield curve. We haven't noticed enough of them to figure out what they really mean, if there is in fact an underlying meaning. Some say inverted yield curves are impending signs of a recession, but that hasn't happened yet. Some say it's because people have different expectations of short-term and long-term inflation. I think it's partially that, and because foreigners are preferring long-term U.S. bonds more than short-term, because they have increased confidence in long-term U.S. economic growth.
He lives in a dream world. Income inequality is a reality that is getting worse. At a certain point, if it is allowed to continue, you will see rioting. That is the world you want.
There you go again, putting words into my mouth. Why do you say that is the world I want? All I say is that people have no right to riot because they want others' property. If they want it, then they can provide goods and services to earn it.

For the rest of the world, there may be income inequality, but Reynolds is talking about the U.S. Do you not find it strange that the people who earn the least are those who tend to work only part-time, and the households in the top 10% of income have two wage earners?

In your demented vision of society, you would have hardworking people like my aunt and uncle be taxed down until they're equal with a Harlem woman with six babies and a part-time job at McDonald's.
Did you know that Jesus reminded us that the poor would always be with us? Now how is that for economics?
Totally illogical. And, taking him out of context, is almost blasphemous. He continues by telling us to take care of the poor and needy. Now, don't regurgitate the your "stealing" argument. It's not stealing. If your economics is good enough, maybe, you will see elected congressmen repeal all tax laws. I doubt it though.
Your "Totally illogical" is nothing short of your mundane vacuous arguments, but I expect nothing less (or more) from you.

Now, your invocation of Jesus to justify taxation is not blasphemy? How can you accuse me when you have never read that particular verse in your life? You don't even know what "the context" is. Go crack open a Bible, find that verse, and give me your own explanation -- not what some sodomy-driven priest told you.

The fact is that Jesus said there will always be poor people. You and others of your ilk, no matter how noble you claim your intentions are, will never be able to solve this "inequality," nor should you. There will always be inequality because different people produce different things of different value.
The world will always be full of inequality.
And, I am willing to do something about it.
Why do you believe I wish to do nothing about it? Just because I believe government should not do something doesn't mean I believe it shouldn't be done privately.

The difference is that you worship government, not God's works, as the solution. I say, set an example by being more charitable on your own.
There are some who produce more than others. Why do you and I earn more than janitors and food preparers in our building?
Because we are more educated. We have more in life.
Because you and I produce things that, to those who "buy" the products of our labor, are more valuable.
No, because we have had more opportunity. We are more educated. We have had more in life.
It's not just opportunity. We have been given additional abilities. Some people are more intelligent, more charming, more physically able, based on the gifts God gave them. Such is life, and it is unfair to force others to be "equal" with those who are less successful.
You completelyignore, or is it that you forget, that "Man acts to improve his condition as he sees it, and "People respond to incentives."
Why do we earn more than a janitor? Because people respond to incentives???!!!??? SAME PARAGRAPH, TWO SENTENCES AWAY. Illogical.
You are ignoring that I am talking about different things, albeit in the same paragraph. Why do you think the same paragraph must be restricted to a single line of thought?

[Additional note: actually I probably confused him here, talking about Austrian/libertarian concepts in the same thing. But the fact is that incentives matter when it comes to economic production. If I made no more than a janitor, then why would I want to do my job?]
Voluntary charity is a fine thing and a bedrock principle of most religions, but you want to force people to be "good" according to your ideals.
Again, this a rehash of your stealing argument. Different words, same "forced" idea. You are truly brainwashed.
This is merely your vacuous, repetitive argumentation again. I could easily counter that it's you who's brainwashed, courtesy of a 1600-year-old church that has perverted the Gospel, in no small part because it doesn't realize the differences between church and government. The difference is that you are again saying nothing of actual substance, and I would be correct.

I am saying it bluntly: you want to use the force of government, of "law," to make people "good" according to your ideals. Someday, I hope, you will be enlightened with the principle of freedom of conscience.

Get your congressmen elected. Then you can force your ideas on the rest of us.
Funny how you don't think beyond the policies you espouse. We will end up in the same "forced" situation.
Do you not realize the stupidity of your claim there? When 49 people out of 100 have more than the rest, of course the other 51 will vote for someone who will tax those 49 more. That is how politicians get elected, by promising the majority that they will give them things, paid for by the minority.
Perry, stop using "stealing", "forced", whatever. It's the system you have to live with. In all forms of government. Especially in your ideal economy. There is a must for elected officials. There are just too many people involved.
There is a "must" only because you define it that way. And yes, there are too many people involved, the majority who want to take from the minority.
If you care so much about the poor, why are you not out there helping them?
How is that so? Where are your own charitable works, or do you have so few (if any at all) that you must side-step the challenge?
Why do you choose the easier path, the one leading to destruction, whereby you coerce others into doing what you think are "good" things?
Here we go again. . . add coerce to my list above.

Set an example for others, but do not force them to escape damnation for their own actions or inaction. And don't damn yourself by submitting to force.
You are truly on the road to hell, but you want to call it heaven.

> > *What is the purpose of Economics? By your silence on this essential
> > point, I take it that it has none except the accumulation of
> wealth. *
Not the definition of, the purpose of. Do you have an answer?
[Note: he had here removed where I explained, for the millionth time, how Austrian economics defines economics.]

Do you not understand that that is the purpose? Economics is not about the accumulation of wealth, as you falsely accuse me of believing -- an accusation which "a friend" ought to know better than to make.

Once more for the class: economics is the science of human choice and its consequences. Therefore, its simple purpose is to study human choice and its consequences. Why do you insist on making it more complex than it has to be?

Then again, you're Catholic, so I apologize. Your entire religion is based on making faith and salvation more complex than they have to be.

By the way, I missed something you said before. Why is it wrong to make a profit? Without profit, we are merely scraping out livelihoods.

On the other hand, when we make profits, and those evil capitalists reinvest the profits back into the businesses, that expands the businesses and creates jobs. Why do you think that is a bad thing?

When those evil capitalists spend the money on landscaping, fancy dinners, luxury cars and jewelry, that creates jobs. Why do you think that is a bad thing?

When those evil capitalists save the money, the rest of us borrow it in the form of mortgages, auto loans, and loan capital for our businesses. Why do you think that is a bad thing?

None of those are bad, because profit is not inherently bad. That we make greater and greater proportions of profit only means that we are creating more and more wealth. Why do you think wealth is such a bad thing? I'm not talking about "the rich man," which I'm sure you'd otherwise have been quick to cite. I'm talking about prosperity that allows us to live better lives with each generation.

The reality is that those who spur the creation of most wealth (note that it is different from physically creating the wealth) do so because they can make a profit. If they are greedy in their intentions, what is that to you? You are not their judge. God is, and God will judge you for being a busybody in their lives. Intruding into others' lives is conduct which I presume even Catholic scriptures warn against, because you are being nothing more than a modern day Pharisee.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

We're almost there

A month after upgrading to Blogger Supposedly-No-Longer-Beta, my blog is looking very close to what it was before, except I can't get the header's blue background to work. The new Blogger HTML parser won't produce it whether I put the background color in the table element (where it was before) or the header style definitions.

It took a lot of work tonight, playing with margins and resorting to HTML tricks I shouldn't have needed to use. I'm really tired.

Update: there. The new HTML parser wants a # in front of the color value.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Just when you thought you'd heard every abuse of "rights"

The following is a candidate for "Stupidest lawsuit ever," but the underlying problem is that government enabled it.
Man Sues IBM Over Adult Chat Room Firing

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. Feb 18, 2007 (AP)— A man who was fired by IBM for visiting an adult chat room at work is suing the company for $5 million, claiming he is an Internet addict who deserves treatment and sympathy rather than dismissal.

James Pacenza, 58, of Montgomery, says he visits chat rooms to treat traumatic stress incurred in 1969 when he saw his best friend killed during an Army patrol in Vietnam.

In papers filed in federal court in White Plains, Pacenza said the stress caused him to become "a sex addict, and with the development of the Internet, an Internet addict." He claimed protection under the American with Disabilities Act.

His lawyer, Michael Diederich, says Pacenza never visited pornographic sites at work, violated no written IBM rule and did not surf the Internet any more or any differently than other employees. He also says age discrimination contributed to IBM's actions. Pacenza, 55 at the time, had been with the company for 19 years and says he could have retired in a year.
Did you notice the four words that allows this self-professed "sex addict" to claim protection?

A wise man once warned:

The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!

If this is true, it is a serious fact, and moral duty requires me to call the attention of my fellow-citizens to it.

Bastiat wrote further on:

See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.

Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because it invites reprisals. If such a law—which may be an isolated case—is not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply, and develop into a system.

While Bastiat referred there to protectionism, it's applicable to property rights in general. Pacenza wants to continue using (abusing) the property of IBM's owners (the shareholders) contrary to their wishes. Now that they've made their refusal clear, he is attempting to use the force of law -- and a bad law at that -- to coerce IBM into permitting his conduct, and to prevent IBM from hiring someone else. More fundamentally, he wants to get paid for trespassing. Why do I say that? Oh, he might give IBM some productivity, but no matter how good he is at it, clearly IBM would rather replace him. So IBM wants to revoke the permission it gave him to use IBM property, and if he persists, that's trespassing. That the law (the ADA to be specific) "enables" him to force IBM is irrelevant; that only means government has become complicit by backing Pacenza with the use of force.

This case is about "rights," but the only one that matters here is that of property. The ADA and other laws are liberals' way of circumventing property rights, based on the belief that businesses "abuse" their property rights by "discriminating" against certain people. However, by definition it is impossible for owners to abuse property rights: since it is their property, it is their right to exercise full discretion over the use, delegation, disbursement, etc. of their property -- so long as they do not harm others. Abuse of property rights, therefore, can be committed only by non-owners, and as we can see here, it's typically because "benevolent" government wants to make it easier for some people.

In an ideal world, such frivolous lawsuits would be punished by summary dismissal, and the plaintiff thrown into a prison cell for a while...with a roommate who'll give him all the "sex talk" he can handle.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

"Things a man should know about style"

I first read this several years ago and have since it reposted here and there. Some are good, others depend.

Sergio Valente put it best when he said, "How you look tells the world how you feel."

Some years ago, I walked into work with my dress shirt not quite tucked in, my hair not combed well and a bit of a haggard expression on my face. Someone later commented that I looked as if I'd been beaten up. No, I merely had had to hurry to work and felt really, well, rushed. It showed.

1. If you can slip two fingers between your neck and the buttoned collar of a new dress shirt, the shirt will fit comfortably after laundering.

Perry's comment: my Adam's apple is pretty large, and for comfort's sake, I get shirts a half-inch larger than my actual size. I can easily insert four fingers between my neck and the collar. While this makes the collar a little looser, I never do the top button and instead rely on my tie knot to pull the collar together. It's more comfortable, and I think neater, too, because you don't see the little bit of collar fabric above the knot.

2. The shirt placket, the belt buckle, and the trouser fly should all line up.

Perry's comment: I thought this went without saying.

3. Speaking of belt buckles, the point of your tie should never fall below it.

Perry's comment: conversely, don't leave a gap between your tie and buckle, will make you look like a small boy wearing a clip-on. Barely touching looks good for all torso lengths. But if your torso is very short compared to your legs, a tie tied slightly longer will help even your proportions -- keeping this rule in mind.

4. Rent no clothing.

Perry's comment: for the price of a few rentals, you can buy an inexpensive tuxedo and have it well-tailored. It will look better than a rented, expensive tux that doesn't drape quite right on you.

5. Ninety-dollar shoes last half as long as $180 shoes, but $360 shoes will last you your whole life.

I don't think I was ever so disappointed with a clothing purchase until I wore out the soles of $90 Rockports in only four months (wearing them perhaps twice or three times a week). Granted, I'm very hard on my shoes, but my first and only experience with those "EVA" soles was less than impressive.

Shoes, no matter how expensive, generally don't last me more than a couple of years. My second favorite brand is Allen-Edmonds, whose $300+ dress shoes are good values, since they'll easily last several years (the soles are very durable and can last a couple of years before wearing out, heels might need replacing once a year). However, the calfskin creases too much, and I have a near-fetish about shoes looking new. My favorite shoes are the Johnston & Murphy Melton Waverly, which are made of veal. That leather is a few weeks older than calfskin and not as supple, but it doesn't crease as much as calfskin.
6. Three-hundred-sixty-dollar shoes will not last your whole life if you break their backs by refusing to use a shoehorn.

7. Three-hundred-sixty-dollar shoes without a shine can look like $90 shoes.

Perry's comment: treat your shoes well. Using $20 red cedar shoe trees pays for itself many times over by absorbing moisture inside the shoe. They also maintain the shoes' shape so that they don't crease as much.

Unless you're in the military, use shoe cream, rather than wax. Kiwi and other inexpensive pastes will give a mirror-shine, but they're napthalene-based and will eventually dry out the leather. On the other hand, cream to leather is like hand lotion to your skin: its lanolin base keeps the leather supple, moisturized and newe. Bostonian makes my favorite cream, because it has extra dye that deepens the color. Some polishes, creams and waxes don't have much dye, so eventually a black shoe will look more like dark charcoal.

8. Women notice shoes.

Perry's comment: oh yeah. Someone recently mentioned that I wear nice shoes, made all the more important because I have such a crush on her. Was that a happy sigh I just made, or just a sigh?

9. They also notice nose hair; so should you.

Perry's comment: ditch the scissors and get a good trimmer.

10. Good shoes and a good haircut matter more than a great suit.

Perry's comment: good hair and good shoes can compensate for a mediocre suit, if the suit is decently tailored and is paired with a good shirt.

11. Neckties decorated with cartoon characters, golf tees, or the paintings of dead rock musicians coordinate with nothing.

Perry's comment: I have a Warner Brothers tie with Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam, Elmer Fudd, the Tasmanian Devil, Sylvester, Tweety and Daffy Duck. Can you guess how often I wear it to the office?

12. It is never acceptable to loosen your tie, except during the process of its removal.

Perry's comment: I suspect that whoever wrote this has never lived in a humid climate. If you're working retail, are meeting clients or are at an important event, keep your tie tied properly. But if you're at your desk and the air conditioning needs cranking up, loosening your tie an inch or two is perfectly acceptable.

13. You are in your car an hour each day; you are in your clothes from morning to night. Spend accordingly.

Perry's comment: which would people, at least those you want to make good impressions on (or impress), notice more often?

14. The seat-belt shoulder strap goes under your necktie.

Perry's comment: yes. Follow this because it's hard to remove creases from ties. Wrinkle-remover sprays can make delicate silk soggy, and irons can leave it "shiny." You'll have to use a steamer, which you probably don't keep at the office.

15. You can't wear a bow tie with anything other than a tuxedo if you're under forty-five or not a famous novelist or not a total geek, professor.

Perry's comment: right. Just before my high school graduation, the boys were told to wear neckties, not bow ties. One guy insisted on the latter, which looked too odd.

16. Very few people want to see you in compression shorts, and those who do might not be your target audience.

17. Likewise tight, black leather pants, Mr. Bon Jovi.

Perry's comment: completely right.

18. A $250 shirt will look like a $25 shirt if it is professionally laundered instead of hand-washed.

19. Still, you will be happiest if you regard dress shirts as disposable.

Perry's comment: I usually buy my shirts from the Men's Wearhouse. The non-iron, French-cuffed shirts stay virtually wrinkle-free during the day. At $55 or $60 each, I don't feel too bad if one gets a hole.

20. By the way, this blue-shirt craze is getting really tiresome.

Perry's comment: I love blue shirts and believe that a man can never have enough. Just rememember that if you wear blue shirts two days in a row, be certain they're of noticeably different shades so that even a casual observer won't think you're wearing the same dirty shirt.

21. Buy the lightest-weight tuxedo you can find, because dancing and drinking and scantily clad women cause formal affairs to become overheated.

Perry's comment: tropical wool.

22. One ring, maximum. On a finger. Not from college. Not from high school. Silver or platinum, not gold.

Perry's comment: applicable only to the unmarried man, obviously.

23. On airplane trips, briefs are more comfortable than boxers, as contents may shift during takeoff and landing.

Perry's comment: I prefer boxers for, well, the ventilation and comfort during the flight. Takeoffs and landings last only a few minutes each.

24. There are no bargains.

Perry's comment: a belief held only by those who think that spending more for the same item makes it better.

25. A man in a good suit and tie looks chic; a man in a good suit without a tie looks more chic.

Perry's comment: depending on the setting, a colored shirt with a good suit can look really chic. Don't try it with a white shirt, because then it looks like you forgot your tie.

26. A man who uses the word chic had better be kidding around.

Perry's comment: why?

27. A man in a suit without a tie can wear loafers; a man in a suit with a tie cannot.

Perry's comment: President Bush recently wore a suit and tie with loafers, proving once again that he's wrong about more than one thing.

Personally, I don't believe loafers can be worn with a suit, period. Dress pants and a coat, yes, but not a suit.

28. Ed Bradley doesn't look as good with that earring as he thinks he does.

Perry's comment: he didn't, no.

29. Jack Nicholson can wear two-tone spectator shoes only because he is Jack Nicholson.

Perry's comment: that's rather unfair to Jack, claiming that if he weren't Jack Nicholson, he wouldn't be cool enough to wear two-tone spectators!

Yes, I know what he's trying to say, but spectators like these can look great on most any guy with the right outfit:

30. It is far better to arrive at an event overdressed than underdressed: people will think you've got somewhere more important to go afterward.

Perry's comment: yes, if you dress only one level, maybe two, above the event. A dress shirt and pants will suit watching a sports event, for example, and a coordinating coat can also work.

However, no matter what, don't don a tux when you'll be the only one, even if all the other men will be wearing suits. There was an episode of "Coach" which started with Hayden getting measured for a new suit. He thought he'd win the top recognition at an awards dinner, and he then he decided to make it a tuxedo. He showed up, and even if he did get it, he looked like a yutz. You want to appear well-dressed and stand out if you happen to be noticed, not be noticed because you stand out.

31. Cheap cashmere is less soft and more fragile than expensive wool.

Perry's comment: yes, and "Seinfeld" aside, don't give cheap cashmere as a gift. Similarly, some less-expensive "calfskin" items are made of the calfskin that better shoemakers rejected as inferior.

32. A T-shirt that shows through a dress shirt is the male equivalent of visible panty lines.

Perry's comment: your white dress shirts should be thick enough that white T-shirts underneath won't be too obvious. For non-whites, try gray undershirts. The only part to be really concerned about is the hem of the sleeve, which might form an outline.

33. Do not wear button-down collars with double-breasted suits.

34. Do not unbutton double-breasted suits, Letterman notwithstanding.

Perry's comment: very true. I don't wear button-down collars at all, and when younger I had a couple of double-breasted suits, but I haven't worn any in years. They're just not as in fashion these days, no matter how tall a guy is.

35. The only thing worse than wearing socks that don't cover one's calves is wearing patterned socks that don't cover one's calves.

Perry's comment: if you like to cross your legs, over-the-calf socks are essential. For the rest of us, just make sure your pants are long enough.

36. If you lose one cuff link, remove the remaining orphan; this will make it look as if you have insouciant personal style and omitted them on purpose.

Perry's comment: a good idea, though if the cufflink is well-constructed (i.e. the lever isn't loose), I can't conceive how it can be lost.

37. Keep a lint roller in your office. And in your car.

Perry's comment: almost there. Use actual lint brushes, not the rollers with masking tape layers. There's a tremendous difference.

38. A good suit treated well shouldn't be dry-cleaned more than twice a season; a good tuxedo treated well should never be dry-cleaned.

Perry's comment: dry-cleaning weakens fabrics and can fade some colors, depending on the fabric and strength of the dye. Much also depends on the quality of the solvent, and how dirty it is. Ask different places how often they change their dry-cleaning fluid, and go with the one that changes it with greatest frequency. No doubt you'll pay more, but it'll be worth it in the long run.

39. Unless you're a quarterback, never wear anything with your name and/or number on it.

Perry's comment: who does that sort of thing, anyway? Besides quarterbacks.

40. Jeans should never meet an iron.

Perry's comment: until I read this some years ago, I never even dreamed that some people actually do that.

41. What you find at an outlet store is what other people refused to buy or what a company thinks you will buy because you're the kind of person who shops at an outlet store.

Perry's comment: not necessarily. Sometimes you can find nice things at outlet stores. It depends on chance, and especially your tolerance for high search costs.

42. Khakis religiously worn on Fridays are no less a uniform than a business suit worn the prior four days.

Perry's comment: true, only if you consider a business suit a "uniform" as opposed to an expression of one's personal tastes and style.

43. Nonetheless, you can never have too many khakis. Or white heavyweight-cotton T-shirts or canvas tennis shoes. For Saturday.

Perry's comment: I never understood the white T-shirt and khakis thing.

44. Numbers to remember: one half inch of shirt cuff; one and a half inches of trouser cuff; two inches more belt than inches on your waist.

Perry's comment: sleeve cuffs (I presume that's what the writer meant, not the collar cuff) should extend a quarter-inch past the coat sleeve. A half-inch is too much. French-cuffed shirts, which I love, can work with a half-inch, but I still have my coat sleeves cut long enough so only a quarter-inch shows.

45. Your belt and shoes should match in color, if not in material.

Perry's comment: and match your watch band, if possible. If it's non-metal, match it to your belt and shoes. If it's metal, match all your hardware: belt buckle, watch, cufflinks and tie chain too. For example, when I wear my diver's watch that's all stainless steel, it matches a stainless steel belt buckle, silver cufflinks and a silvertone tie chain. My gold dress watch with a black leather band matches black shoes, a black belt with goldtone buckle, gold cufflinks and a goldtone tie chain.

Some even say to match your wallet to your other leather items, but that's a bit much.

46. Speaking of color, there is little use for pink, peach, or teal.

Perry's comment: you'd be surprised. Guys with lighter complexions can wear appropriate shades of pink and peach shirts. Almost all guys can coordinate teal shirts with black and charcoal pants. Now, pink and peach ties are a different matter, but

47. It's not the name on the label or the numbers on the credit-card statement but how good you look in it.

Perry's comment: yes.

48. Even Al Gore shouldn't wear a watch with a built-in calculator.

Perry's comment: this last Christmas, I bought a dress watch for a friend who I hadn't seen in a few years. I was shocked to learn his only watch was a digital one.

49. Like cars and stereo equipment, clothes are not really 'investments,' because they cannot appreciate. They're clothes.

Perry's comment: "investment" is not just about money. It's about putting money in something that will give you a greater yield, and not necessarily in money. Cars and stereos are not "investments" (except for some cars that become more valuable over time), but spending money on clothes can certainly be an investment because of what you get in return. A good suit of clothes for an interview might make all the difference. Flowers for a date can be an investment, though they don't appreciate in monetary value.

50. It's more important in a man's daily life to have a good tailor than a good doctor.

Perry's comment: I hate doctors, and I like good tailors. I like competent clothing salesmen even more.

51. Clothing salesmen can change your life in a good way, but not many of them.

Perry's comment: if any of you ever go to the Men's Wearhouse at the Danbury Fair Mall, ask for Bill -- he's great, always friendly, and treats me like a best friend. On the other hand, I have found at least one reason to dislike every single one of the salesmen at the MW on Madison Avenue.

52. Two elements of style that will last longer than any man who is smart enough to own them: a sterling belt buckle from Tiffany and simple cuff links.

Perry's comment: those two may last longer than a lifetime, but I personally prefer my own variety of several belts and a continually expanding collection of cufflinks. No doubt my sons will have their own preferences.

53. A restaurant meal tastes better when you're wearing a suit coat.

Perry's comment: I find that a meal tastes better because of the company, not because of what I'm wearing.

54. Band-collar shirts make you look either stupid or like a priest or like a stupid priest.

Perry's comment: I used to wear them, and it depends. An all-white one is most certainly too clerical, but one with colors, or white with stripes, can be a nice look in spring or summer. Try it with light khakis and a navy blue blazer.

55. Whether a tie is too fat or too skinny should be decided by you, on a tie-by-tie basis.

Perry's comment: this goes to show that there are few hard and fast rules.

56. When in doubt, ask a woman.

Perry's comment: it's very rare that you'll regret it.

57. Know that she will often be wrong, too, and that ultimately a man is alone in a vast sea of indecision that he must ply.

Perry's comment: a woman wrong? Well even if she is, you might have a lot of fun getting and following her advice.

58. Never trust a fashion magazine. CelebrityTrendZ is not a fashion magazine. CelebrityTrendZ likes you very much and is only trying to help.

Perry's comment: trust your instincts, but fashion magazines can give you good ideas.

59. Cigars are never stylish in mixed company.

Perry's comment: I find cigars are stylish only if your name is Dennis Haysbert or Jimmy Smits, and you're featured on the "Cigar Aficionado" cover.

60. If you hang your jacket on a chair and then sit on the chair and lean back, your jacket will look as if you had hung it on a chair and then sat on the chair and leaned back.

Perry's comment: it seems obvious, but a lot of guys forget this. I'm guilty of it myself. When possible, use a coat hanger -- wooden, preferably cedar.

61. Drape your scarf on that chair and you're going to lose it, and we are not your mother.

Perry's comment: I fold mine up and stick a good part into the side pocket of my overcoat.

62. A black knit tie coordinates with jeans and a blazer as well as it does with a French-cuffed shirt and a custom-made suit.

Perry's comment: no ties with jeans. Ever.

63. Levi's.

Perry's comment: or whatever looks good. Some guys like designer jeans. I like my Calvin Kleins (the only jeans I own).

64. Deep in the heart of the Middle West, some people are actually wearing those baggy, printed workout pants again, and you owe God your deepest thanks that you have the presence of mind to not be among them.

Perry's comment: amen.

65. The most important thing about selecting a hotel is the ability of the staff to press a shirt instantly, anytime, day or night.

Perry's comment: I prefer to iron things myself, and I'm pleased that just about every hotel room contains an iron and ironing board.

66. First suit: navy solid. Second suit: gray solid. Third suit: navy pinstripe. Fourth suit: gray chalk stripe. Fifth suit: black. Sixth suit: You need no sixth suit.

Perry's comment: it all depends on personal preference...and what the security guards wear. I wear only black, gray and blue, in solid colors. No stripes. Some guards where I work wear charcoal suits, which puts a crimp on my available choices.

67. To have absolute style is to break absolute rules - sometimes even these.

Perry's comment: as I have demonstrated, a lot of these are questionable.

68. There is no foot pain so severe, no dress shoe so fragile, no commute so arduous, as to justify the sartorial holocaust that is wearing sneakers with a suit.

Perry's comment: this one is unquestionable. Dress pants and dress shirt, maybe. But a suit, let alone with a tie? At least wear semi-dress walkers and change at the office!

69. Unless you have a harelip or happen to be Wilford Brimley, you look exactly half as attractive with a mustache.

Perry's comment: Tom Selleck, anyone? Some guys can make mustaches look good.

"What is there to stop them from taking yours?"

So ended our friend Dan at Searchlight Crusade, commenting on Mississippi's state government forbidding State Farm "from refusing to write new homeowners and commercial policies in the hurricane-battered state," if it continued to offer automobile policies.

I had read a few days ago that State Farm made the decision, and I should have known Big Government would step in to stop it. Dan put it so well:
State Farm is not a "robber baron." Nor is any other insurance company. At least here in California, they have to defend their rates to actuaries working for the state.

But when you make them pay for things which were explicitly not insured, don't you think they're entitled to second thoughts about whether to do business in that state? State Farm is not a charitable organization. They are entitled to charge enough to make a profit - otherwise there is no reason to be in business. If they decide they cannot do that within the environment in a given state, they are entitled to decide to leave. If they can't do it at all, the correct decision is to go out of business.
I add that it's a tragedy of liberty (not to be confused with Herbert Hoover's misuse) when State Farm, or any business for that matter, must "defend" itself to government bureaucrats. If potential customers don't like it, they don't have to buy it.

The state of Mississippi can certainly try to insure its citizens, and if it does, I will, here and now, predict the inevitable result. It's not hard, really, because I merely have to examine the success (rather, the lack thereof) of every other government program. The government will claim superiority over the free market as it offers nearly everyone lower rates than what private insurance would offer, ignoring and obfuscating the fact that the collected "premiums" are insufficient revenue to fund all the payouts -- just like Medicaid and every other pseudo-insurance program run by government. Taxes must therefore be used (and quite possibly raised), meaning the vast majority of recipients will dutifully pay a little while the top income earners virtually pay for everyone else. And once the top earners take their wealth to other state, everybody else will be that much poorer as they lose jobs and loan capital that were courtesy of "the rich."

What's to stop government from taking our property? Nothing but the force of arms. Storm's coming, people. That day approaches.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

How do markets clear? Valentine's Day edition

The rule of law, "overpriced," market clearing, and information in markets
Happy price-gouging day!
How do markets clear?
How markets work with imperfect information

Earlier today I found myself recalling a "Married With Children" Valentine's Day episode where Al and others, procrastinating in buying gifts, scramble for the last few items remaining. The store turns it into an auction where the husbands reveal how desperate they are, and prices reach several times the regular retail price. I won't say anything really new tonight, but I thought for tonight I'd help us guys feel better and post a reminder about why we're spending more.

Even outside of sitcom absurdity, we guys will spend much more for the most prized flowers on Valentine's Day than we would any other day of the year. Those who understand free market processes know there's nothing wrong with that. As I've explained previously, when prices are left free to adjust, then markets will eventually clear, given time. It's dependent on the quality of participants' information, of course, but as the quality approaches perfection, then markets will clear perfectly. In reality, information is not perfect, and because information has a cost, both buyers and sellers will settle on prices where, they judge, the cost of improving information won't exceed the benefit. A common example in the real world is advertising something for sale in additional venues, which certainly improves information for potential buyers, but in the end it may not yield an increased profit as great as the cost of the additional advertising.

Last year, I noted that the high prices also minimize search costs, because prices fundamentally are information about an item's scarcity. You might spend $100+ on a dozen roses, arranged and delivered in glass, but be glad you didn't spend $10 in cash only after spending several hours trying to find the last roses at that price. In the end, buyers and sellers will settle at an equilibrium point where the price reflects the "convenience" of not having to run all over town. Remember the auction toward the end of "Jingle All the Way"? In a real situation, some people would be glad to pay double the price, and much more, so they can stop searching.

Besides, the flower shop, candy store, et al, take the risk of offering a certain quantity of items, counting that they'll all sell (or at least enough to make a worthwhile profit). As risk-bearers, they are particularly justified in seeking whatever profit they can get; they do not force customers to pay the prices.


North Korean lies -- and I again repeat myself

Talks had stalled because of North Korea's "aid" demands (I personally suspect because we offered only VSOP cognac at best, but Kimmy Kook demanded Louis XIII). And now there's hope...supposedly:
N. Korea agrees to nuclear disarmament

BEIJING, China (AP) -- North Korea agreed Tuesday to take first steps toward nuclear disarmament and shut down its main reactor within 60 days before eventually dismantling its atomic weapons program.

Under the deal, the North will receive initial aid equal to 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil for shutting down and sealing its main nuclear reactor and related facilities at Yongbyon, north of the capital, to be confirmed by international inspectors.

For irreversibly disabling the reactor and declaring all nuclear programs, the North will eventually receive another 950,000 tons in aid.

The agreement was read to all delegates in a conference room at a Chinese state guesthouse and Chinese envoy Wu Dawei asked if there were any objections. When none were made, the officials all stood and applauded.

North Korea and United States also will embark on talks aimed at resolving disputes and restarting diplomatic relations, Wu said. The Korean peninsula has technically remained in a state of war for more than a half-century since the Korean War ended in a 1953 cease-fire.
Good lord, are our American negotiators that naive? What do they think happened in 1994? Never forget: that's another thing for which we can thank Jimmy Carter.

Some might argue that this time is different, that at least we're only giving "aid," not helping North Korea build light-water reactors. However, John McCain noted in his blogging debut,
I would remind Senator Hillary Clinton and other Democrats critical of Bush Administration policies that the framework agreement her husband's administration negotiated was a failure. The Koreans received millions in energy assistance. They diverted millions in food assistance to their military. And what did they do? They secretly enriched uranium.
I added,
There's an old term "guns and butter," illustrating the concept of tradeoffs. In North Korea's case, until now they haven't had to worry about spending any national income on butter: they've been able to spend most of it on guns, because the U.S., Japan, China and others have been stupid enough to supply the butter.
And our stupidity continues, borne of and perpetuated by government. Each of us individually, had we a crazed neighbor who starved his family in order to build up his arsenal, would never give a thing to him.

When the Bush Administration's negotiators are themselves exhibiting Neville Chamberlain Syndrome, what more could North Korea want? How about Hillary winning two full presidential terms and continuing her husband's legacy, and Obama starting on his own first term?

For further reading: John McCain's blogging debut


Iranian lies -- but I repeat myself

Madman Mahmoud is at it again, and how does the Allah-Akbar Press report it?
"Iran leader softens his tone on Iraq"

Iran's hard-line president, who has berated the United States and refused to compromise on his nuclear program, is now softening his tone, saying Monday he wants dialogue rather than confrontation in Iraq. Tehran also denied it gave sophisticated weapons to militants to attack U.S. forces.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted that turmoil in Iraq is bad for his country and dialogue - not force - was the solution to the region's conflicts.

"We shy away from any kind of conflict, any kind of bloodshed," Ahmadinejad told ABC's "Good Morning America." "As we have said repeatedly, we think that the world problems can be solved through dialogue, through the use of logic and a sense of friendship. There is no need for the use of force."
Say this in your best Captain Kirk voice:


Ah yes, those Iranians are certainly staunch believers in solving problems through dialogue, logic and a sense of friendship. Sarcasm aside, Ahmadinejad is technically correct: Iranians don't see a need to use force, but it's their preference.

"I think this was childish of the U.S. government to do something like arresting defenseless people, not allowing them to talk to anyone," he said. And just what were those camel-fuckers doing to the Americans they seized in 1979?

Be wary of jihadists who want to discuss "peace": it's been their practice for centuries to use that as a distraction while they regroup and rearm.

Meanwhile, Agence France-Presse helps perpetuate Mahmoud's latest lie:

Yahoo News carried this picture with this caption: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad puts on an Arab outfit during a public meeting January 2007 in the southwestern city of Sousangerd. The European Union welcomed possible new talks to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions but pushed ahead with UN sanctions to punish Tehran for its refusal to stop enriching uranium.(AFP/File)

The other day, Ahmadinejad claimed that Iran and Iraq share a "brotherhood, common history, culture and beliefs" -- sure, about as much as France and Germany do. Iran is Persian while Iraq is Arab. Until about the middle of the second millenium AD, they were spending centuries conquering each other, making the 1980s war look like a mere skirmish. They don't even share a common language: Farsi is the language of the former, while Arabic is the language of the latter. "Common history" is no more than the Arabs once conquering what is now Iran, allowing the Persians to maintain their own culture (including language). Then again, the Mongols did the same after conquering present-day Iran, but who touts a "common history" between Mongols and Persians?


Monday, February 12, 2007

Will conservatives ever understand property rights?

Michelle Malkin says:
YouTube is a private company, and it can do whatever its wants. But it has an obligation to their users to be transparent about their standards, to be responsive to their millions and millions of users, and to be consistent about it.
Not only is that wrong, but it's a common fallacy of both conservatives and liberals. Conservatives, however, should know better than the proto-commies.

The basic principle of property rights is that you have no right to use someone's property beyond the extent that the owner agrees to permit. Thus newspapers have no suchs "obligation" as Michelle maintains. Readers of the New York Times have no rights, natural or contractual, to expect the least bit of truth, "responsiveness" or "consistency." The Times conversely (and wisely, some of us would add) makes no such promises, implied or implicit. If you don't like those conditions, then don't read it -- nobody's pointing a gun to your head.

YouTube is also private property, and Google's owners can do what they want until they commit force or fraud. (Here it's important to note that a company may be publicly traded, or it may be owned by a publicy traded parent company, but the company is still private property.) If you or I host a server, it's perfectly within our rights to delete someone's account merely because we don't like what they say. The "offensive" person, meanwhile, is perfectly within his rights to post elsewhere that will permit him, or set up his own server. That's the nature (and beauty) of private property.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Democratic games

Previous: Who still believes in Democratic "fiscal responsibility"?

Via our friend McQ at QandO, I was a bit amused to read that, a couple of days ago, the House Sergeant at Arms became the patsy for Nancy Pelosi's hypocrisy.
"The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me to request an aircraft that is capable of making non-stop flights for security purposes, unless such an aircraft is unavailable. This will ensure communications capabilities and also enhance security," House Sergeant at Arms Bill Livingood said in a statement. "I made the recommendation to use military aircraft based upon the need to provide necessary levels of security for ranking national leaders, such as the Speaker." ...

"I regret that an issue that is exclusively considered and decided in a security context has evolved into a political issue," Livingood added.
Livingood's statement does not make sense, once you remember that it's already been policy for the Speaker to travel via military aircraft, and Pelosi's C-20 (inherited from Dennis Hastert) is a military plane. Also, the excuse of "communications" is moot, as Pelosi can still be in touch whether she's in the air or refueling on the ground. Then, as McQ suggested, the "security" issue of refueling can be eliminated by the use of an Air Force base. What it comes down to, then, is Pelosi's desire to travel in a nice big military version of the 757, rather than a "mere" converted Gulf Stream 3 jet.

At best, it's a very poorly worded statement, or inexcusable incompetence on Livingood's part. At worst, I can see him being chosen as the fall guy: a little bit of a lie, a red herring or two, the American people will forget, and nobody gets hurt...right?

Update: why does Pelosi really want the plane? Well, here is a telling quote I found. After claiming she'd be happy flying coach, and all but blaming the Sergeant at Arms for requiring her to fly in a military craft, she said:
"I don't even like having the security," Mrs. Pelosi said. "I would rather travel on the plane with my friends to get some work done."
Note that she didn't say "with my staff." The two aren't mutually exclusive, but it's an interesting choice of words, particularly when we consider how much larger the C-32 is than Pelosi's currently issued C-20. Would she really be as happy to fly in the C-37A that, McQ declared, "will call the security bluff"?

And Pelosi's non-denial denial of requesting the plane? Republicans "have nothing to say to the American people about the war or about the economy or about global warming.... They have this game they are playing."

Yeah, it's that terrible American economy again. You know, the one which grew "only" 3.4% last year (after adjusting for inflation, remember), with 4.6% unemployment. Maybe Pelosi should stop jet-setting and come down to Earth for a while.

Oh, absolutely there are millions of Americans who are being "left behind" in what's in fact a great economic situation -- and as I said the other night, it's about time they started producing like the rest of us. Not working, but producing things of economic value. One can sweat all day digging a hole that no one needs, but at the end of the day, it's just a hole. The physical exertion is irrelevant, because most anyone can dig a hole: there's no reason for the pay to approach that of the less-common person who's smart and talented enough to get and allocate money so the hole can be dug.

And the more I look at what both parties do, the more I lament how they're doing nothing more effective than digging useless holes, courtesy of our money.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Government's motto: "When it's not your money, why try to be careful?"

FEMA Wants Over $300M in Katrina Aid Back

NEW ORLEANS Feb 6, 2007 (AP)— In the neighborhood President Bush visited right after Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. government gave $84.5 million to more than 10,000 households. But Census figures show fewer than 8,000 homes existed there at the time.

Now the government wants back a lot of the money it disbursed across the region.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration has determined nearly 70,000 Louisiana households improperly received $309.1 million in grants, and officials acknowledge those numbers are likely to grow.
It wasn't the bureaucrats' own money they were handing out like candy, so why should they exercise even the least bit of caution?

Katrina's aftermath: $62 billion in fraud, and growing.

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Announcing the first "State-Worshipper Award"

I always loved Frédéric Bastiat's term "worshipper of the state," which he used in The Law to describe those confuse, pervert and ignore the true purpose of law:

Law is justice. And let it not be said—as it continually is said—that under this concept, the law would be atheistic, individualistic, and heartless; that it would make mankind in its own image. This is an absurd conclusion, worthy only of those worshippers of government who believe that the law is mankind.

Nonsense! Do those worshippers of government believe that free persons will cease to act? Does it follow that if we receive no energy from the law, we shall receive no energy at all? Does it follow that if the law is restricted to the function of protecting the free use of our faculties, we will be unable to use our faculties? Suppose that the law does not force us to follow certain forms of religion, or systems of association, or methods of education, or regulations of labor, or regulations of trade, or plans for charity; does it then follow that we shall eagerly plunge into atheism, hermitary, ignorance, misery, and greed? If we are free, does it follow that we shall no longer recognize the power and goodness of God? Does it follow that we shall then cease to associate with each other, to help each other, to love and succor our unfortunate brothers, to study the secrets of nature, and to strive to improve ourselves to the best of our abilities?

My blogging and replying to e-mails has been sporadic for a while now, but if you all find this "award" interesting, and if you'd like to send me nominees, I'll try to give one every day. It's imperative that we learn of the little things in each other's lives through which government exerts more control over us. Tyranny rarely manifests itself all at once. It creeps slowly, and this is a prime example.

The first winner of my State-Worshipper Award is New York State Senator Carl Kruger, who wants to "ban using an iPod — and any other electronic device that is a distraction — while crossing traffic, he told FOX News on Wednesday." It's a shame we can't instead ban stupid politicians like Kruger, or ban the stupid electorate from voting such politicians into office. What the hell are we supposed to do, then, hang up and call back repeatedly?

Matthew Sheffield at Newsbusters says that if Kruger were a Republican instead of a Democrat, this would have been splashed all over the news as the stupidest legislative idea. Maybe, maybe not. It's been getting a lot of coverage all over the blogosphere and in some news channels, and I think people of most political persuasions will agree that this is one of the stupidest legislative ideas ever. Sadly, I'd expect most liberals and conservatives would oppose it merely because it would make their pedestrian excursions inconvenient, failing to realize that the real argument lies in the principle of personal liberty.

What prompted Kruger's madness? A few people in New York City, clearly Darwin Awards candidates, were killed crossing the street. So Kruger thinks that banning electronic devices which may induce "distraction" will help? What about people who are simply inattentive even when not talking on cell phones? Will Kruger seek to ban "inattentiveness" regardless of the source? Probably not, because that would come down to a general ban on stupidity, in which case he'd have to ban himself.

Some will no doubt argue that if only these people had been prevented from crossing the street while "distracted," there wouldn't have been damage caused to the vehicles that struck them. But law and government can never prevent violations of life, liberty and property. They can sometimes deter, but only in the way that the present application of punishment will naturally make future offenders think twice. We have myriads of laws against bodily harm to others, against property violations, but when did those laws ever stop infractions? Only the threat of punishment (the fulfillment of the promise of enforcing the law), makes criminals think twice -- and typically only some criminals, anyway.

No matter how much you warn people, no matter how well you "idiot-proof" crosswalk signs and signals, you can't prevent everyone from being stupid. The best you can hope for is ensuring that, if a pedestrian pulls a moronic stunt and damages a vehicle that hits him, the vehicle driver can seek compensation. That's assuming the vehicle driver is not at fault in any way, which we can't really tell from the news reports that cite these "distracted" victims. If a pedestrian is listening to music or talking on a cell phone while crossing the street, it might not matter if a crazed driver speeds through a red light.

We also have the question of who defines "distraction," or will it be the same way the NYPD can define "suspicious" however the hell they want? Also, what will this legislation do, except enable the police to go on even bigger power trips? Never mind stop-and-frisk quotas -- if it's a slow day for a pig, and you just happen to be holding your "electronic device" in your hand but not using it at all, I can see the usual tricks of making shit up to issue a $50 or $75 ticket. Most people would rather mail a check than fight over such a relatively small amount.

Last year, the pigs started enforcing new subway rules, particularly one forbidding placing objects on seats, even if empty. Everything government does comes down to the "Law of Unintended Consequences," and while this regulation was meant to ensure all seats can be available on crowded trains, it instead allowed the NYPD and MTA police to issue tickets for the most ridiculous reasons. One woman was given a $40 ticket, as I recall, for placing a bag of groceries on the seat next to her, traveling on a nearly deserted train. She refused to accept her $40 ticket and eventually got it thrown out, but not without heavy cost to her in time. Now imagine if she hadn't been deprived of her Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Do you think some flatfoot would have bothered her, or someone whose only "offense" is to talk on the cell phone while crossing the street? Just a little something to think about.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Who still believes in Democratic "fiscal responsibility"?

Nancy Pelosi is complaining that her C-20, the 12-seater jet for the Speaker of the House's use (which suited Dennis Hastert just fine), isn't good enough. So how does the mainstream media report it?

Pentagon Rejects Speaker Pelosi's Request for Military Aircraft

But the very first paragraph of the article explains, "A source close to the controversy over the request made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for use of a military plane that can fly to and from her home district in San Francisco, Calif., without having to stop to refuel, tells ABC News that the Pentagon has rebuffed Pelosi's request." What, then, are the "security concerns" stemming from having to stop to fill up? Or is Pelosi just making up an excuse because she's now the Big Bad Speaker, Third-in-line-to-the-throne, Blah Blah Blah, and damn it, she'll be treated like the queen she envisions herself to be?

Of course, who would pay for her new able-to-cross-the-continent-in-a-single-leg jet? That's right, we taxpayers. And since the Democrats are proud of their "fiscal responsibility," we should be happy that they'll eliminate deficits, right? Sure, but we'll have to forget the higher taxes the Democrats need to carry out their plan, and that they want spending increases just as bad as (if not worse than) the Republicans.

According to Wikipedia, "The Pelosi family has a net worth of over US$25 million, primarily from Paul Pelosi's investments." So you know what I say? Give the bitch a bicycle, and if it isn't good enough, she can fly coach like most people, or pay for her own first-class ticket.

For our country's first decades, it was assumed that a public official's salary was sufficient to cover the expenses of travel, just like for most of us in the real world. According to Isaac Asimov, George Washington had to borrow money from a friend so he could travel to New York for his inauguration, because he had spent virtually all his fortune on the War of Independence. Congress fixed his salary at $25,000 per year, which Washington refused. Instead, he withdrew from the Treasury only reimbursement for his war expenses, but in the end, it turned out to be very close to his official salary.

I would suggest to "Madam Speaker" that she also look to the example of Thomas Jefferson: after walking to his first inauguration, Jefferson walked back to the boarding house where had been staying. Imagine that, a common boarding house, rather than some opulent lodging, let alone a grand procession to and from! Now, Jefferson returned to find all seats at the dinner table were taken. He was the new President, but nobody offered to give up a seat, save one of the women after a while. However, like any Southern gentleman, Jefferson refused.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Where the hell has John Edwards been?

Previous: John Edwards' hypocrisy

John Edwards at least said it plainly: he wants to raise taxes on the rich to pay for universal health care. Those who understand free markets will find it strange that Edwards wants government to create a "health market," because government coercion (taxes and spending) and markets (real markets where supply and demand are free to work) are diametrically opposed.

First, let's address his last point:
"Finally we need to do a much better job of collecting the taxes that are already owed," he said, specifically targeting what he said are large amounts of unpaid capital gains taxes.

"We should have brokerage houses report the capital gains that people are incurring because we're losing billions and billions of dollars in tax revenue," Edwards said.
In January 2006, my blogfather Don Luskin cited Dan Clifton of the American Shareholders Association, noting that the 2003 capital gains tax cut has paid for itself. We can see that a tax cut produced greater revenues in the end, proving that Laffer's Curve is very much real. More recently, Don again cited Dan, who examined a CBO report and concluded, "Well in what could now be considered the worst forecast in modern times we find out today capital gains tax collections were actually $51 billion in 2003, $72 billion in 2004, $97 billion in 2005, and $110 billion in 2006. For 2005 and 2006 collections nearly doubled the initial forecast."

So, where the hell has John Edwards been for the last few years, as capital gains tax revenues have surged? Is it never good enough that "the rich" made more while still paying more taxes? Evidently not. It's never enough for liberals: they have to get their greedy hands on every last dollar.

Now, as I've pointed out time and time again, taxing "the rich" may fund social services for everybody else, but it simultaneously deprives everybody else of jobs as "the rich" have less to spend and save. Bastiat has tried to tell us for over 150 years that taxation is merely a shift in economic expenditures, but socialists (including those who identify themselves with the euphemistic "progressive" and "liberal" labels) are too blinded in their "noble" endeavors, too willfully ignorant in their greed for others' money, and/or too stupid to learn.

If John Edwards is so adamant that "the rich" pay more taxes, then I challenge him to do it first and do it even better: I hereby challenge him to sell his new multi-million dollar houses, then give the money to charity. I'm sure even if he got only 50 cents on the dollar, he could still fund a lot of clinics that provide free or low-cost health care to people of low incomes.

Better yet, the next time he even thinks to build/buy an expensive house, he should just give the money away. Oh, but that would deprive the architects, planners, construction workers, et al, of jobs, right? Well, what did I just say in the first paragraph, and in previous posts? When "the rich" have less to invest in stocks and corporate bonds, companies create fewer jobs -- specifically, jobs for everybody else. When the rich have less to save in government bonds because we tax them more, what is the difference? Well, the difference is that when they are taxed, they have less incentive to earn as much as when they can instead lend money to governments.

Even luxury taxes only mean that "the rich" have less to spend on fancy jewelry, cars and boats that regular middle-class people make. "The rich" do not make Patek Philippe, Bentleys and yachts for each other. Oh, you might be well-paid to make fancy jewelry, but unless you're at the top, you won't be a multi-millionaire by merely assembling things that "the rich" buy.

Still, liberals argue, it's better to tax the money and spend it on social programs, rather than letting "the rich" spend it on what they want. But which is preferable: to have a "rich" person taxed $10,000 more to fund social programs, when a thick percentage will be lost to bureaucracy, or to let someone have a shot at the full $10,000 by offering goods and services? Well, liberals don't care about efficiency, or the deadweight loss that results from disincentives. To them, your money is theirs to spend as they see fit, everything else be damned.

However, Edwards has recently said a few things that are completely right -- just not for the reasons he said them.
HANOVER, N.H.–Contrary to President Bush's arguments in New York yesterday that the economy is going strong, the administration's economic policies have been a big failure for millions of Americans, says Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. "They're not working," the former senator from North Carolina told U.S. News
Absolutely correct. It's these millions of Americans who aren't working, whether not working enough or not at all. Jon Henke put it so well: "we don't have inequality in income—we have inequality in output. Some of us haven't been producing our share."
Edwards, interviewed while he was campaigning yesterday in New Hampshire, admitted that there has been economic growth but said there is also a "fundamental problem. The positive fruits of growth are not being shared by the American people at large." He said that the benefits of Bush's policies have mostly gone to "those with capital and a high level of education." As for those who don't have those two assets, "you struggle," Edwards said.
Edwards is talking about having capital, forgetting that it works just as well to use someone else's money. I'm not talking about coercing the money from them via theft or taxation (I repeat myself there), but to appear attractive to those who will invest capital in you. And that doesn't always require starting up your own business: a firm can certainly invest its money and other resources in you, in the hope you will grow in value and return.

Still, Edwards is correct about people without the two critical assets. People who are idiots and incompetent will most certainly be unattractive to those with capital. They'll certainly have a hard time competing against the smart and educated (which many academics prove are not the same thing). Why should a night janitor's paychecks be anything close to a supervisor who undertakes far greater responsibilities, or a filing clerk's pay begin to approach that of a portfolio manager's? It's not a matter of working "hard" hours of physical labor, or what you think you produce in value, but what value others place on your efforts. Their property, their rules, their judgment.
His prescription includes reducing the benefits in the tax structure for the wealthy, increasing benefits for the middle class and overhauling the nation's "dysfunctional" healthcare system, which he said imposes huge costs on everyday Americans. "We want real opportunity for everybody," Edwards said. He added: "I will get rid of George Bush's tax cuts for the richest people." And he said, "It is not true that I will raise taxes on the middle class."
Edwards probably isn't lying here. He won't raise taxes on the middle class -- he'll just tax "the rich" and deprive the middle class of jobs, explained above.

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Is this what "compassionate conservatism" is about?

Bush's successor in Texas, Rick Perry, and his Merck friends deserves a special place in hell for this:
Texas governor orders anti-cancer vaccine for schoolgirls

AUSTIN (AP) — Bypassing the Legislature, Republican Gov. Rick Perry signed an order Friday making Texas the first state to require that schoolgirls get vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.

By issuing an executive order, Perry apparently sidesteps opposition in the Legislature from conservatives and parents' rights groups who fear such a requirement would condone premarital sex and interfere with the way parents raise their children.

Beginning in September 2008, girls entering the sixth grade — meaning, generally, girls ages 11 and 12 — will have to get Gardasil, Merck & Co.'s new vaccine against strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV.

Perry, a conservative Christian who opposes abortion and stem-cell research using embryonic cells, counts on the religious right for his political base. But he has said the cervical cancer vaccine is no different from the one that protects children against polio.

"The HPV vaccine provides us with an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer," Perry said in announcing the order.

"If there are diseases in our society that are going to cost us large amounts of money, it just makes good economic sense, not to mention the health and well-being of these individuals to have those vaccines available," he said.

Merck is bankrolling efforts to pass state laws across the country mandating Gardasil for girls as young as 11 or 12. It doubled its lobbying budget in Texas and has funneled money through Women in Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators around the country.

Perry has several ties to Merck and Women in Government. One of the drug company's three lobbyists in Texas is Mike Toomey, Perry's former chief of staff. His current chief of staff's mother-in-law, Texas Republican state Rep. Dianne White Delisi, is a state director for Women in Government.

Perry also received $6,000 from Merck's political action committee during his re-election campaign.

Texas allows parents to opt out of inoculations by filing an affidavit objecting to the vaccine on religious or philosophical reasons. Even with such provisions, however, conservative groups say such requirements interfere with parents' rights to make medical decisions for their children.
What that son of a bitch actually meant was that it makes good political sense if he can make legislation (the Texas equivalent of a Presidential executive order) that will benefit those who bankroll his campaign. This is so flagrantly dirty.

Parents can opt out for "religious or philosophical reasons." Why should it have to be those? Parents should be able to object simply because they don't want it. If Texas' governor (I refuse to soil my name by mentioning his) is really that worried about pre-teen girls contracting HPV, then the state has far bigger problems that can't be solved by a vaccine.

One of my friends, after I sent him the link to this story, said that infants are now being vaccinated against Hepatitis B. All I could think was, my God, what kind of a sick government do we tolerate? I IMd back, "What for, to protect them from all the pedophile medical staff and incompetent blood-handlers?" At the same time, he was replying that Hep B is contracted only through needles and sex, adding that, "Yeah, my infant's going to go out and get knocked up and shoot heroin right now." But I guess if I were Catholic, I'd insist my son get it before his first confession.