Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Irrationality with other people's money is because it's other people's money

Over at Alarming News, Von Bek and Walrus were at each other's throats. I disagree with them, but I respect them. Since they're not liberal twits, I know they're interested in actual discourse, so I can be civil as I lay out simple truths:
Von Bek and Mark: I've pointed out before to bryan that, fine, it would be nice to get Osama. However, as in all things, the question is: but at what cost? A million dollars? A billion?

You both have the clear desire to bring him to justice. But how much money — how much of other people's money (for such is the nature of taxation) — are you willing to spend?
I wasn't going to get involved at all but figured I'd make a point about the cost of getting Osama, and then I threw in my two cents about Charles Krauthammer:
No problem, VB. I see that you and Walrus are actively engaged. I agree with some of what each of you say, and I'll let you two keep thrashing it out between yourselves, but I'll just say that Krauthammer is hit-and-miss in my book. He's certainly a smart fellow but too often Doesn't Get It. For example, a couple of months ago he advocated taxing employer-provided health insurance, partially justifying it as "a $250 billion annual loss of federal revenues." My free wake-up call for him is that, uh, that's my money. It's a "loss" to the government only in the same sense that a mugger "loses" money because I fought him off. Krauthammer is advocating a sort of "equality" in that my neighbor got mugged, so I should be mugged too.

Individuals tend to be (but are not always) rational about their own property and circumstances, but we get irrational when we can use other people's resources without permission or effective limitation. This, I've come to realize in the last couple of years, is the unavoidable nature of the state. As Milton Friedman said, when you spend someone else's money on yet someone else, you don't care how much you spend or what you've spent it on, "And that's government." It's the legalized means by which people can irrationally dispose of other people's property.

My dad and I figured Iran was behind the bombing over Lockerbie, and he said if we found out the Iranians did it, he wanted "a fleet of a thousand bombers" to destroy the entire country. Easy for him to say! It wouldn't be his money paying for it, or his own actions to kill people (justified or not, it's different when you do it yourself). I myself always envisioned a squad of Marines finding Osama and playing soccer with his severed head. We can dream of saturation-bombing any suspected hideout, or other grandiose plan that's beyond our personal abilities and wealth.

Would you pay a dollar to see Osama executed in a public spectacle? How about a hundred? A thousand? I wouldn't, though some might even for 10 thousand. You see, at each point we can make a very rational decision for ourselves. But when it's advocating the spending of other people's money, we no longer tend toward rationality. This is particularly true when we choose a few among us to decide how to spend everyone's unequally "contributed" money (taxes), and it's the fundamental reason we're failing in Iraq and Afghanistan. There's no incentive for the decision-makers to make the most rational choices, because it's not their money or their lives on the line. I say this as someone who hated Saddam and originally welcomed our invasion. Now I understand better.

As far as I'm concerned, Osama is only one man, and there's already enough military muscle to keep him in hiding. He's just a figurehead, and any mastermind planning he could do can be (and is) easily done by others, so there's no point in the U.S. government expending any extra resources to get him. However, I'd probably thrown in a five-spot if you passed the plate around. Find 20 million Americans to do the same, and there's $100 million to hire, equip and send in the most elite ex-military hit men for the single objective.
I then found Krauthammer's op-ed on health care that was more miss than hit:
Here is Krauthammer's op-ed I referred to. Like too many conservatives, especially ones of prominence, Krauthammer lost his way in spots. He calls for people to be able to buy insurance from across state lines, but he talks about it in the sense that government "allow" us. Isn't it our right in the first place? So the proper phrasing is that "government should stop prohibiting from exercising their right to peaceful commerce."

What I found odious was his claim, "Insuring the uninsured is a moral imperative. The problem is that the Democrats have chosen the worst possible method — a $1 trillion new entitlement of stupefying arbitrariness and inefficiency."

No, the problem is that he began with a false premise. The only "moral imperative" is that the government stop robbing me to pay for others. He's forgetting that "Insuring the uninsured" is impractical, because not everyone needs insurance (I never had any for virtually all my adult life until I got married, because I was healthy enough and visited doctors maybe once every few years), it is financially impossible because of the costs involved, and it is immoral because it's forcing some to pay for others.
My next comment was a reply to Walrus:
Walrus, while I won't and shouldn't presume to speak for Von Bek, "American" can be used in a different sense. I have a friend who routinely declares that various scum (usually in D.C.) "are not American." Perhaps it was someone featured in the news for getting a bailout, or walking away from an upside-down mortgage and being proud of it. These people are not Americans, either.

"American" in that sense isn't about being born within U.S. borders. "American" means adopting the philosophy of liberty under which this country was founded, the same philosophy that prompted Patrick Henry to say that he wasn't a Virginian, but an American. That standard must be objective and absolute, because even liberals can claim they "love this country." Which country, the one whose national government will pay their mortgages and put gas in their cars? Or the one that declared in 1776 that men have certain rights, enumerated how the British Crown constantly violated those rights, and as such those several states deserve to be separate and free?

There are conservatives who call themselves "proud Americans" but actually care nothing for real liberty. One old-timer stupidly opposes free trade and blames "outsourcing" for unemployment, while another wants to make a deal with Iran. Mark Levin, for all his attacks on Obama socialism, doesn't quite get it. He's actually claimed on his radio show that he supports free commerce, as long as you don't break any laws or fundamental morality. So who gets to decide what is "moral," and what if "the law" infringes upon the individual's liberty (as it tends to do)?

So I have no compunction to lump their kind with Obama, Pelosi, Reid at all. None of them want me to be truly free, only "free" by a limit they determine, which is no real freedom at all. Some want to control what I do with my body, or to another person's body with that person's permission, when no one is being harmed against his will. Others want to restrain me from peaceful trade with willing participants, again harming no one against his will. Yet others want to take my money to wage war in your name and mine, when frankly I'm now tired of it all want no more part of the botched efforts.

Such people can drape themselves in the flag and claim citizenship of this country all they want, but they're far from the "American" philosophy of freedom from which this nation emerged. This is a high bar indeed, and by that standard there are damn, damn few "real Americans" today. It just goes to show how bad this country has become. This is a philosophy that must be consciously adopted, so someone escaping Cuba who comes here for real freedom (to work for himself and not live off the labor of others) is far more of an American in my book than someone who uses "the system" to live off others' taxes.
The "real American" is the single genuinely endangered species on the planet, whose deliberate eradication by the state should worry anyone worried about keeping liberty alive.