Monday, October 31, 2011

My Take on an Interesting Article

Read this first:

I agree with the author that what these groups are protesting is more similar than the news lets on. They do both identify the same problem: too much power in the government/corporations, brought on by the too-close relationship between those entities. However, this is the easy part; solving that problem is much more difficult. The movement’s proposals for solving our problems are what really distinguish them from one another, and what really determine which movement deserves support. Each group blames the opposite half of the corporate-government relationship, and each group proposes to curtail the power of the side they blame. Tea Partiers blame government and trust business to drive the economy, whereas OWS blames businesses and trusts the government to regulate them. The thing is, only the Tea Party cites the correct culprit.

Why is the government more to blame for these crony-capitalism relationships than business? Because the government, unlike corporations, has a constitution. The government, unlike corporations, has a civic duty, a role to play, and a monopoly on the use of force in order to serve that role. A corporation's only purpose, it's only objective, it's only goal, is to make money. Corporations are succeeding in that goal. A government's purpose is to defend the rights and freedoms of its citizens. The government is failing in that goal. Therefore, the government is to blame. If a high level corporate executive strikes a deal with a high level politician, the politician is corrupt, but the executive is merely executing a wise business move. The executive, unlike the politician, has no legal responsibility to do what's best for the American people: his job description is to do what's best for the company, and he has done so.

The constitution was so brilliant because it restrained the government’s power by specifically enumerating the powers that government can and cannot exercise. However, today, we essentially ignore the constitution. Many of the checks and balances on the powers the government may undertake are no longer observed, and the government can run wild and do what it likes. It has become tyrannical, and the Tea Party is a pun on history to symbolize the protest, then and now, against that tyranny.

Ultimately, the government has a monopoly on force. For that reason, businesses must rely on government if they are to expand their power, but government needn't rely on business. If we restrict the power of government, if we stop them from giving the special favors and enforce equality under the law, the power of large corporations will naturally fall as well, because they won't have the government helping them. But if we restrict the power of corporations using the government, the result will be an even stronger government that can still reward certain corporations by punishing their opponents. One solution will restrict the power of both government and corporations; the other solution will exacerbate the problem. We cannot tell businesses what they can and cannot do with their own money; we must tell the government what it can and cannot do with other people's money. The constitution is what tells the government just that, and the longer it's ignored, the longer this nation will remain broken.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


The Underage Thinking blog is entering a new arena: Youtube! I will now be uploading many of my posts in video format. This is for two reasons. Firstly, video can be a more effective communicating tool, because people can get bored of reading my infamously long sections of text and face-to-face communication transmits details and emotions that written text cannot. Secondly, a lot more people browse around Youtube than do browse around Blogger, so hopefully this will both bring more followers to my written blog and incite comments or reply videos from others on Youtube, furthering the discussion I wish to engender. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Our Tax Dollars at Work

If the State Department had used that 70,000 dollars to give every Americans exactly 2 cents, it would have been money better spent than what our government is pissing away right now. Don't tell me we can't cut spending.

Monday, October 24, 2011

QOTW: 10/23-10/29

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” -- Voltaire

“If you are not liberal at 20, you have no heart. If you are not conservative at 40, you have no brain.”--Winston Churchill

“Golf is a game in which one endeavors to control a ball with implements ill adapted for the purpose.”--Woodrow Wilson

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Great Videos on Economic Freedom

All around great website. Sponsored by the always controversial Koch brothers, and they just so happen to be right.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

QOTW: 10/16-10/22

“Action expresses priorities.”—Ghandi 

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree." -- Martin Luther  

"You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom." -Malcolm X

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Unsavory Options are Still Options: Why a Lack of Resources is NOT a Lack of Freedom

Recently I was at debate practice and somebody brought a case about whether or not trans-fats should be taxed, with the revenue those taxes generated being given to poor people in the form of food stamps. They should not be, but that’s an issue for another post (perhaps the next one!) More specifically, one of the arguments they used to support the proposal was that presently, poor people could not afford the vegetables they needed to be healthy, and so were resorting to trans-fat heavy foods in order to feed themselves. When his opposition (which was not me, unfortunately) brought up an argument about the economic freedom of companies to sell what they want and of people to buy whatever they want, the person proposing the case called bullshit. “In order to have freedom, you need to have options”, he said. “And if you’re too poor to afford healthy foods, your only option is to buy unhealthy foods. Therefore, our option gives people more economic freedom, because it opens up more options to poor people”.

This is a classic liberal argument against the free market, that poverty negates freedom by leaving people with only one option, thereby forcing them to do the bidding of others. But this argument employs a false definition of two words: “option” and of “force.” Firstly, they confuse options with good options. Everyone has options, because everybody is exclusively in control of their own actions. Their actions may be very strongly influenced by very powerful interior or exterior motivators, but ultimately it is your brain that decides how your body acts. The poorest person in the world has options. Perhaps his choice is between buying a glass of water and dying of starvation in a week, or buying a sandwich and savoring it but dying of dehydration in three days. It’s still a choice. Just because most people would choose something doesn’t make the alternative option disappear.

Secondly, they falsely define the word “force”. People cannot be forced by their own desires, they can only be motivated by them. Ultimately those desires are merely components of decision they freely make. As Dale Carnegie once said “Nobody does anything unless they want to do it.” Force requires an outside influence, an action by somebody else which affects the options available and/or induces desires which didn’t exist before. This outside force is what distinguishes between a choice and a free choice.

For example, let’s say I am pressing a gun against your head in an alley and saying “give me your money!”. You do so. You have made a choice. You did what was in your best interests, and therefore what you wanted to do. I have created in you a very powerful desire to give me your money: the desire to survive. The action of giving me your money was unsavory, but not as unsavory as the alternative, so you choose the lesser of two bad options. But that was not a free choice, because some external force was restricting your freedom. By using force or the threat of force against you, I took away something you had a right to: your property.

The distinction between that case and the case of a poor person who cannot afford vegetables is that in the latter, nobody uses force to restrict your choices. Nobody holds a gun to your head at the supermarket and tells you what to buy. You can buy whatever you like, even if doing so might result in you not having enough money for something else you desire. Perhaps the poor man could afford the vegetables by driving a cheaper car, or cancelling his TV service, or putting off something else in his budget. This is not a matter of affordability, but a matter of budgetary priorities. That many people choose to live X standard of living and eat unhealthy things and get fat instead of eating healthy at a lower standard of living is not an absence of choice, it’s an absence of choice that liberals find desirable.

But what if he literally CANNOT afford it? Like, let’s say he has $3 to his name and vegetables cost $4. He is butt-naked and without any possessions at all, and so crippled and stupid that he cannot work for money. It is literally impossible for him to choose to purchase vegetables. Let’s even pretend there’s no charity, and no opportunity for him to acquire any sustenance at all. In that scenario, is the supermarket’s decision to price vegetables at a level he cannot afford equivalent to me holding a gun to your head and using force to threaten your life?

Of course not. In one, force is used to take something you have; in the other, no force is used and you merely are unable to obtain something you need. You don’t own the food; you do own your property. You are entitled to your property; you are not entitled to food, much less healthy food! Food is not a right. Unlike rights, which are inherent at birth, you are not born with food. You must acquire food if you are to survive. Not acquiring food and dying of starvation may not be a desirable option, and it may be an option that 100% of people will choose to avoid 100% of the time. But that is very different from them being forced to choose differently by an outside actor.

The point is that if somebody has no good options available to him, he may be unlucky, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t free. Freedom is restricted not when an insufficient amount of good options exist, but when external force is employed to restrict the existing options. More often than not, the government uses that force in the name of “expanding freedom”, and in turn it only restricts it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Regulations Hurt Consumers Once Again...and CNN Blames Banks

Read the following article, at least the beginning of it if you don't have time to read all of it, before proceeding.

What CNN frames as literally "big, bad banks" being greedy is actually the direct result of government regulations. In a blind attempt to cut into profits that liberals felt were too high, the Credit CARD Act passed by Congress a few years ago restricted how much banks are allowed to charge retailers for every debit card purchase. The average rate before the new regulations was 44 cents per purchase, but now these have been capped at 21 cents per purchase. Banks were then faced with a choice: say "aw, that's a bummer", and take the hit in their bottom lines, or make up for that lost revenue by shifting the fees elsewhere: namely, us. You can guess what they chose.

The predictable happened: banks said "fuck you!" to the government, and passed those costs onto the consumers! Consumers now have to pay more than they did before for the same banking services as DIRECT CONSEQUENCE of government regulations.

There are two ways of looking at this: the naive, ignorant way which evinces no understanding of incentives, and the realistic, pragmatic way which understands the primary purpose of any business is to make as much money as possible. CNN chose the former. The "breaking news" story on the front page is a blatant anti-bank article I posted above, describing how people are "mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore" about increased bank fees. They show people switching to smaller banks without those fees, insinuating that those smaller banks aren't greedy like the "big bad banks" (verbatim quote) are. They don't mention the reason those fees are rising until 2/3 of the way down the article, and even then they portray it as if the banks are being selfish and not paying their patriotic fair share. Then they slip in, in one tiny little sentence, that the small banks are exempt from the new regulation, without even writing that maybe that's why they're not raising their fees also.

That's so irritating it makes me want to scream. As someone who's debit card fees apparently just increased by $60 a year, yes, I am mad as hell. But the difference between the people CNN selectively chose to interview and me is that I know who to blame. I cannot blame a company for wanting to make as much money as it possibly can. That is their stated intention, their mission, their purpose for existing. Companies are predictable: they will always, without fail, try to maximize profits. That's not wrong, it's what makes the economy run. It's the only reason any business does anything. That should be no surprise to anyone, much less politicians. For that reason, I CAN blame the government for sticking it's dirty hands in and forcing businesses to pass their expenses down onto me, when they KNEW that was going to happen. If they didn't know, they're irresponsible because of their ignorance, and arrogant for creating rules for industries they don't understand. If they did know, they're irresponsible for placing even further costs on consumers in down economic times.

When the government causes your bank to raise its fees, CNN says to change to a bank that isn't so greedy. I say, change to a government that isn't so stupid.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I love Penn and Teller...

Why the Disparity between Rich and Poor Should not Concern You

"Incessant preoccupation with statistical disparities is one of the luxuries of an affluent and sheltered life. Do not expect someone who has ever had to go hungry to get upset because some people can only afford pizza while others can afford caviar." -- Dr. Thomas Sowell

When asked to cite the single largest problem facing the country today, Republicans will probably point to our debt and deficit. What do Democrats point to? Generally, they point to the increasing, historically large income disparity between the very rich and the poor/middle class. I’ve spoken at length on this blog about how politicians have no business engineering certain idealized income levels. Governments can only operate by force, and they have no moral right to use force to bring about whatever disparity in wealth they personally feel is in the “common good”. As far as the constitutional job description of a politician, I feel I’ve sufficiently explained why this disparity should not concern a politician.

But should it concern you and I? Let’s forget constitutionality and social contracts and all that political ideology for a moment. As compassionate people, should it trouble us that Rich Bob makes X amount more than Poor Tom? Ideally, should there be a limit on the value of X, whether or not governments have a right to enforce that limit?

I don’t think so. If that sounds heartless to you, I believe you’ve made a hasty assumption about the relationship between the rich and the poor, and therefore have a false conception of economics. That assumption is the one first promoted by Marx and Engels and ever since dispersed by socialists and the political left: that in order for the rich to get richer, they must abuse, take advantage of, and manipulate the poor. They view wealth as a limited pie which must be divvied in a certain manner, and that if any one  person’s wealth is to increase it must cut into somebody else’s piece of the pie. When viewed this way, it appeals to our sense of fairness that everyone should receive an equal slice of the pie, doesn’t it? That sentiment is what drives communism. But that’s not the only way to increase the size of everyone’s piece; the other way is to get a bigger pie! Expand the diameter! At a party, if you run out of pizza and have a lot of hungry people needing to be fed, you don’t try to reapportion the slices that have already been cut; you buy more food! What the free market facilitates that communism overlooks is this added food. It’s called wealth creation.

Just because the disparity between the two groups is increasing does not mean that the poor are getting poorer. What it could mean is simply that more wealth is being created and BOTH are becoming wealthier, just that the rich are doing so more rapidly. Let’s demonstrate this mathematically. Imagine a graph with two lines, line A and line B. Line A is the real wealth level (not the income level, real wealth is different) of a poor person, and line B is the real wealth of a rich person. The variable X measures the gap between those two lines at a given point in time. Now increase the slope of line A by a little, and decrease the slope of line B by a lot. Both lines get higher, and so does X. But the poor haven’t been harmed by this change, they’ve been helped by it.

Everyone in society can still get wealthier at the same time, and in a growing economy, they are. They may not have a greater purchasing power compared to one another, but society as a whole to become collectively more affluent. They can have a greater abundance of available resources or material possessions than they did before, even if they have a lesser abundance than their neighbors.

It is not that I don’t care about the poor, or don’t want to help the poor. Truly, if the lot of the poor were steadily getting worse, I would be concerned. But economically, the disparity between the rich and poor has nothing to do with this. The variable we should be watching (as humanitarians, remember, not as politicians) is not X, but the slope of line A. Is the wealth of the poor increasing or decreasing? Is their abundance of resources and material possessions increasing or decreasing? Truly, that line is connected with everybody else’s. The most tried and true way to eliminate poverty is by creating wealth, even if at first it is created disproportionately for the already wealthy.

Quotes of the Week, Ronald Reagan Edition

Note: All these quotes came from Reagan's "A Time for Choosing" speech in 1964.
"The full power of centralized government"—this was the very thing the Founding Fathers sought to minimize. They knew that governments don't control things. A government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they know when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.”--Ronald Reagan

“We have so many people who can't see a fat man standing beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion the fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one.”--Ronald Reagan

“Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so.”--Ronald Reagan

“You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery.”--Ronald Reagan, A Time For Choosing, 1964