Thought Police?

The dynamic between liberals and conservatives is more like sibling rivalry than anything remotely resembling adult discourse. It seems they are simply not happy unless they are fighting over some new outrage du jour. And as with most childhood spats it’s never really clear who started it. Such is the case with the whole brouhaha over these “bathroom laws”. It is unclear if the Charlotte, NC ordinance permitting transgender individuals to use the bathroom of the gender for which they “identify” was in response to some specific case or was merely part of the liberal agenda of memorializing into “law” a panoply of perceived “rights”. The liberal worldview: anyone who disagrees with us is a bigot and should be thrown in a cage for not sharing our enlightened views. Of course conservatives are no better; they are well known to adopt new “laws” to prevent things they find distasteful even if they have never happened. The rich irony, or perhaps it is hypocrisy, is that the normal narrative is that we of course need a strong central authority to ensure small little enclaves of people won’t do bad things. Of course the states must submit to the Feds, we’re one country after all! But when the only way to push a progressive goal is from the bottom up at the small local (city) level, such as these pro-transgender statutes, suddenly they will triumphantly tout the important role of decentralized authority. And now what a crime it is if the central authority overrides the smaller group. But if the small group were doing something “bad” then we of course need the large group to overrule them. So basically the approach to governance is that we should rely on the wisdom of whichever authority happens to be doing the thing I agree with. Here’s a novel idea – why don’t people just be allowed to live their lives as they see fit without some outside “authority” forcing them to conform to some standard.

Now, on the subject of this whole notion of transgender rights: it is all utter nonsense – in the same way that gay, women’s, worker’s and every other adjectival “rights” are nonsense. There is only one set of rights: human rights. And those rights do not necessitate the initiation of violence or the threat of violence to be upheld. If you want to “identify” as something other than what your chromosomes say you are, more power to you, I really couldn’t care less how you or anybody else lives their lives. That’s what freedom means, living your life as you see fit and leaving me to do the same. And leaving me to do the same means you do not have the right to make me “accept” you as whatever gender you think you are, you do not have the right to make me call you “zie” or “zim” or whatever silly neologism that was concocted to satisfy tender sensibilities. The possibility that someone somewhere might experience hurt feelings is insufficient cause to initiate violence in order to prevent such hurt feelings. If a business wants to permit non-gendered bathroom access that is their right and no one should force them to not permit it. And if another business wants to maintain more “traditional” bathrooms that is their right as well. If you don’t like either, then go somewhere else otherwise comply with their rules. That’s what private property means; your house, your rules and my house, my rules. Just because a business has a so-called “public” face does not change the nature of private property. “Public” is merely that adjective government apples to an activity in order that they may justify their intrusion into said activity, nothing more.

This whole trans-gender rights thing is not vey well thought out though. It is quite unlike “traditional” anti-discrimination laws which related to objective outward appearance. Transgenderism is a function of thought, not biology. So if gender exists only in one’s mind, how is one to distinguish between authentic transgenderism vs someone merely pretending in order to gain some advantage they wouldn’t normally have, like in sports perhaps? If you set the precedent that one’s gender is defined by thought then upon what basis will you keep men off of women’s’ teams or vice versa? So if Bruce Jenner decided he’s really a women I guess he could compete against other women runners, right? Oh, wait a minute…

In the end both sides will “win” as these pro or con laws will be about as effective as “Gun free zone” signs.

May 25 / 2016
Author Greg Morin
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The Rise or Fall of Socialism

Is socialism on the rise (Bernie Sanders)? Or is it on the decline (Venezuela’s economic implosion, Brazil’s impeachment of their socialist President, Cuba and North Korea’s decades of abject poverty)? To be fair, one could likewise cite the relative success of China, Denmark, Norway, or Canada as proof of socialism’s success. Why the difference? Why are some putatively socialist countries not total economic basket cases whereas others clearly are? To uncover the answer we must understand why some groups of people come together and achieve their goals while others fail. In any endeavor there is a group of individuals who have tight control over the means of goal achievement. This allows them to direct those means so as to ensure an efficient operation that will achieve the desired ends. Does that not remind you of something else? Like say a business perhaps? The reality is that the modern nation-state is simply a really big company, with shareholders (citizens), a board of directors (congress/parliaments) and a president running the show. Unfortunately this is one corporate stock you can’t sell if you disagree with how the company is being run.

So if states are structured as a business, why do some fail and some thrive? For the same reasons any business might fail or thrive. Success entails the optimization of three factors: consent, control, and resources. All factors play a role, however any one of them can overwhelm the others. This is the reason we see very different outcomes in a variety of nominally socialist countries, e.g. Venezuela vs. Denmark. It is not enough to cite Cuba (excessive level of state control) as a failure and therefore close the case on socialism. Were that the case then one would be susceptible to charges that capitalism can’t “work” because sometimes a business goes bankrupt. However it is just as disingenuous for those on the left to cite oil-rich Norway (abundant resources) as proof of socialism’s success. If Cuba had Norway’s oil resources it would be faring far better. Or maybe not, as in the case of oil rich Venezuela which too suffers from excessive state control of the economy and is presently circling the drain.

Countries that exert a high degree of control (totalitarian) over their citizens will always experience less “success” than those that exert little control. Less control means greater freedom to innovate and solve problems from the bottom up rather than the top down. Formerly socialist/communist countries (China, Vietnam) that have embraced the benefits of freedom (that is, free vs. state managed markets) within their borders have seen improved standards of living relative to those that have not (Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela). As a country or business grows in size, efficient control becomes exponentially more difficult. This is due to the Hayekian knowledge problem. Stated simply it is the reason that a family farm runs smoothly but a state run collective not so much. Unfortunately, those in charge don’t realize they lack the appropriate knowledge and thus make sledgehammer style choices that only serves to undermine the endeavor. The solution to the size-control problem is to move toward less control and smaller size through decentralization. Large businesses with autonomous subsidiaries have mastered this problem well.

A critical and often overlooked factor in the success of a state is consent. Without consent the process will be crippled if participants undermine or refuse it. This is a key difference between business endeavors and state endeavors; states always compel those who do not consent to participate. Businesses cannot force people to work for them or for customers to buy their products. Apathy was not an option when it came to the rise of 20th century socialism. The motto of Russia, China, Vietnam, and Cambodia: join us or die. Democracies maintain an illusion of consent that mollifies a credulous citizenry into the quiet acceptance of being ruled. They are better than dictatorships, but not by much, and fall far short of the benefits one would see with true pluralism.

To make America great again we must recognize that while our resources are substantial our size puts us at a disadvantage. The only way to overcome that disadvantage is to loosen, not tighten, the reigns of economic control and to foster true consensual pluralism by permitting those who wish to not participate in the dominant system to work toward building alternatives that will expand, not constrain, choice.

Crocodile Tears

We often hear that that manufacturing is dying in the US because of unfair overseas competition. US manufacturers are either going out of business or shifting operations overseas. However global competition plays a role across all industries, not just manufacturing. Something else is at play. US tax policy singles out manufacturing (actually nearly any business dealing in tangible goods) with unfair rules designed to extract more tax relative to a service-oriented business with the same income albeit while claiming the same tax rate. As the owner of a small US manufacturing firm, I have sadly gained firsthand knowledge of the severe disadvantage one must contend with if they have the audacity to try and make or sell goods in the United States.

The signs of this are not immediately apparent since the nominal tax rate for all corporations (non-pass through) is 35%. The trick though is in the sleight of hand where the focus is on the tax rate while it is the definition of profit that is critical. The common definition of profit is any money remaining after subtracting all expenses from revenue. And we all know what an expenses is, right? Anything you spend in furtherance of the goal of obtaining said revenue. Well unfortunately it’s not that simple, at least as far as the IRS is concerned. In business there are both overhead expenses and capital expenses. Capital expenses are not immediately deducted against revenue but rather depreciated over many years. So if you buy a $100k piece of equipment you don’t deduct the $100k, you deduct maybe $10k that year and for the next 9 years. There may be legitimate business reasons to view the numbers that way for accounting purposes however beyond a certain minimal size a business may not use the cash method (which does not employ depreciation) for tax computation but instead must employ the accrual method which invariably yields a higher figure by shifting more future income into the present. This puts such businesses (primarily manufacturing which is a equipment intensive industry) at a severe disadvantage insofar as the part spent but not deducted accrues tax. But it gets worse. Manufacturing maintains inventory and the inventory is treated as a capital expenses as well therefore none of it can be deducted until sold. And even when sold it is not taxed at lower capital gain rates but at higher regular income rates. The IRS knows the game of “heads I win, tails you lose” quite well.

Ironically it is a rapidly growing business that is most susceptible to such tax harm as most if not all the profits are invested back into the company in order to grow the inventory to keep up with increasing sales. So if you make a $1 million but use it to buy $1 million in inventory you owe $350k in taxes even though you don’t have $350k on hand. Oops. So you either have to borrow it, incurring even greater costs, deliberately slow your rate of growth, or just go out of business. But wait, it gets even worse. If you do so well that your sales exceeds $1 million the IRS redefines expense once again (Section 263a) and says a certain percentage of your payroll, rent, utilities, insurance, etc that is indirectly associated with producing the inventory must also now be capitalized into the value of the inventory. This shifts even more money from the expense column to the profit column. So based on pure available cash flow you may have made $350k but based on IRS capitalization requirements they say you made $1million. So the entire $350k you made is sent to the IRS on your phantom $1 million income and you end the year with nothing.

Only manufacturing is subject to these absurd redefinitions of expense and profit. Service industries have no inventory and nearly no equipment so their profit more or less equals their cash flow. Farming gets a million loopholes to avoid these issues. The rules governing profit/income are far more germane to ones tax bill then the tax rate itself. If we want manufacturing to flourish in this country again perhaps we should stop punishing those who try to engage in it while crying crocodile tears about how US manufacturers are fleeing this country.

May 10 / 2016
Author Greg Morin
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Earning Freedom

With each election cycle the people grow wearier of politicians who can’t get anything “done” – perennial gridlock maintains a perpetual status quo that breeds disdain for all things political. History teaches that as a community grows into a nation, then a country and finally an empire, the ensuing proliferation of voices brings action to a standstill. This sets the stage for a strong leader with a message of salvation. Finally! Someone who will do something! People get so frustrated they almost don’t care what is done as long as someone is changing things. At least with change there is at a chance their lot might improve. Witness the broad popularity of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders; they both tell the people exactly what they want to hear, namely that their problems are not their fault and that if you only give either one the power he’ll make their lives great again.

However, there is an alternative to resigned acceptance of a dictator in chief. To uncover the alternative we must first be brave enough to ask: why is nothing getting done? Is it because a handful is maliciously plotting to undermine good ideas? Quite the contrary. It is our greatest strength, our ideas, our freedom of thought, that is the “downfall” here. Too many ideas all competing brings about not gridlock but equilibrium. No one idea can dominate because so many are equally appealing. But this will not stand! How can one rule without dominance? Perhaps dominance is not needed because human societies require no rulers to maintain order. Witness the “anarchy” among Protestant denominations. There are over 30,000 of them and without a single Protestant “ruler” somehow it all works just fine. Is this religious anarchy a thing to be feared? Quite the contrary, we universally welcome it as part of fundamental human liberty. Odd then that political free association is not likewise permitted and is instead smeared with fear-tinged epithets such as “anarchy”.

The real enemy is the notion that government can only “work” as long as unwilling people are forced to participate. It is like if a hundred people went into a McDonalds to order but food could not be served until at least 51 of them agreed on what to eat, and then all 100 would have to have the same meal. Let’s instead go to Burger King where everyone can have it their way. If I can order a hamburger while you order chicken nuggets then why is it so hard to let me opt out of Social Security even while you voluntarily choose to opt in? Life insurance doesn’t require participation of the entire country to “work”, so then why should a simple income insurance policy need it.

What if we just let each group implement their ideas as they desired, holding only those who voluntarily consent to such rules to be subject to them. If the progressive democrats want to have a single payer, massive minimum wage, cradle-to-grave-social security system then let them. Likewise if the social conservative republicans want to have drug, alcohol, gay-marriage, abortion-rejecting set of standards then let them. Nothing is stopping them from forming voluntary associations where all like-minded people agree to abide by such rules. If either side does not want to live among those who disagree with them then each is free to form private communities (á la the Amish) where no outside ideas will intrude upon their peace. If your ideas can only work if others are forced to participate in them then it’s time to examine the morality of your ideas.

A carriage goes nowhere if some horses refuse to move, some wish to go left, and some right. Better to release those with their own ideas and move forward rather than employing brutal force to bring all in line. In order to receive freedom, you must first be willing to give it.

May 03 / 2016
Author Greg Morin
Comments 2 Comments

Mixed Signals

Recycling as a concept is not a bad idea. It is in the execution where things go awry. A logical leap fallacy occurs when assuming that because the recycling of materials A-D makes sense it must mean also that the recycling of materials E-Z makes sense.

Generally speaking the recycling of metals and glass make economic sense because reuse involves less effort than production. Due to the chemical nature of plastics it is practically impossible to recycle them for their original application. And the whole notion of recycling paper to “save a tree” makes about as much sense as not eating tortillas in order to “save corn.” If paper weren’t being used, then tree farmers would not plant trees. Contrary to popular mythology paper does not come from old growth forests – it comes from tree farms. In fact an argument can be made that virgin paper is actually better for the environment than recycled paper. Trees remove carbon from the atmosphere. Recycling of paper just tosses that same carbon back and forth like pitcher to catcher; virgin paper use creates a steady withdrawal of carbon from the atmosphere.

How do we know when recycling is “good” vs just “feel good”? If money is offered or it’s something best not released into the environment are two key indicators. Sometimes those two things coincide as in the case of lead acid batteries. Recycling these batteries creates a “double-whammy” effect: you make money and protect the environment! Who could object to that? The EPA apparently. Read on.

Last year our company had to replace the lead-acid batteries in our corporate power back up system. We had to unload over a thousand pounds worth of them and I was not keen on just dumping them in the trash. Fortuitously enough I was able to locate a company not far from us in Watkinsville that would not only take them off our hands but also cut us a check for them. This provided an incentive for me to stockpile my own used lead-acid batteries at home. After about a year or so and a hundred pounds later I was ready to divest myself of these batteries. Unfortunately that local recycler was out of business. No problem I thought, there is a county recycling station not far on Highway 15. So I drove on over only to discover for some bizarre reason they are not open Tuesday or Thursday, and my luck being what it was, it was Thursday. Artificially constrained hours of operation accompanied by a gate for an open-air facility is truly puzzling. Are they afraid someone is going to steal the recyclables? Wouldn’t that be a good thing? Artificially constrained access encourages people to not even bother if they have to make a special trip vs simply taking care of it when most convenient.

However, it turns out the closure did not matter as they don’t accept lead-acid batteries. Ok, so does my curbside garbage service take them in their recycling? Nope. Ok, surely the county dump takes them! Everything ultimately ends up in the dump, right? It’s the trash bin of last resort. So I drove to the Oconee county dump only to be told, no, they can’t accept lead-acid batteries due to EPA restrictions. So, let me get this straight, the EPA, the organization charged with ensuring the environment is protected from harm has set up regulations that prohibit a DUMP from accepting a known environmentally harmful agent (lead) but then provides no alternative to the those trying to properly unburden themselves of this material? EPA “protection” creates a perverse incentive to improperly dispose of it in the general trash. The agent at the dump then suggested I try the local Autozone. Ultimately this is where I took them and they were all too happy to take them off my hands.

So in conclusion, a non-governmental entity, enticed by market forces, helped me do the right thing, whereas when I tried to do the right thing, government (local and federal) thwarted nearly every attempt to do so and actually incentivized me to do the wrong thing. The first rule of behavior modification is provide an easy, not obstructed, path toward the desired end.

April 26 / 2016

False Equality

This year the so-called “Equal Pay Day” was April 12th. It’s “celebration” is a weak attempt at capitalizing on the notoriety of the entirely valid “Tax Freedom Day” (i.e. the day after which a country’s citizens get to keep all their income if they were theoretically taxed at 100% until their tax burden was satisfied). In 1900 in the United States Tax Freedom Day was January 22. Today it is April 24. We have lost a lot of freedom in the interim. Many real injuries to women’s right have been reversed in that same interim; however pay inequality has always been a phantom menace. Equal Pay Day is but a disingenuous mischaracterization of a statistical truth as proof of willful malfeasance.

Yes, if you lump all female workers together and all male workers together the females earn about 79% of what the men earn. But through willful blindness of the trees (different jobs) in observation of only the forest (aggregate salaries) this statistic fails to make the case that it is employer discrimination that robs women of their rightful earnings. To highlight this failing consider another similar statistics. Comparing workers below age 45 against those over age 45 we find a similar gap. Those 45 and under earn about 80% of those 45 and over.  Clearly there must be a bias toward paying older works more. Or consider not pay but rather work place fatalities. On average, for every female workplace fatality there are twelve men who perish.  Again, clearly this must be a sign of a negligent disregard for the safety of men in the workplace relative to women. Oh, what’s that you say? There are obvious reasons why an older worker would earn, on average, more than a younger worker? There are obvious reasons why more men would die in the workplace than women? True (to both), yet somehow the “obvious” reasons that would also contribute to a difference in aggregate pay between men and women are dismissed out of hand whenever issues of gender pay disparity are discussed. Why is that?

If one were to look at wages at a hypothetical hospital where all the men were doctors and all the women were nurses would it not be surprising that the women made less than the men in aggregate? In reality, when numbers are adjusted for age and education, women (pre-child birth) earn just as much if not more than men in several fields. The shift occurs as couples start to have children and women take on the traditional role of staying at home and raising children.  This means they leave the workforce (reducing earnings based experience) or take on lower paying, more time-flexible positions.

Now the strident feminists among us might actually agree and say it is this cultural “patriarchy” that must be changed – by force. I’m not sure what they would have us do though – have the government decide which parent must raise the children in order to keep the distribution of male/female stay-at-homers equal across society? Even though feminists may privately admit that culture is the real reason for this wage “gap”, publicly they persist in casting employers as the scapegoat. This stance though demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of basic economics. Unsurprisingly, the type of person who will loudly clamor for more government intervention in the workplace to ensure “fair” pay for women will also decry the “greed” of the employer in paying them less. The irony of that position is that if the wage gap were employer driven, their supposed vice (greed) would quickly neutralize it. A properly “greedy” employer would seek out every women they can find in order to achieve a 20% discount on their payroll. In turn the unemployment rate for women would be 0%. But of course it is not. This lack of 0% female (or any supposedly discriminated group for that matter) unemployment should put to rest the notion that discrimination is the proximate cause for such pseudo-pay disparities.

Honey I Shrunk the Seat!

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently introduced an amendment to an FAA reauthorization bill that would have required the FAA to set minimum values for how narrow and close commercial airline seats may be. Fortunately, this amendment was rejected last week.  While those of us who have flown in recent years (and experienced firsthand the “Honey I Shrunk the Airplane Seat” phenomena) can all certainly sympathize with the goals of such legislation, it would nevertheless be a gross violation of the rights of the airlines to dictate how they may or may not utilize equipment THAT THEY OWN. Of course there already exists an ever-expanding regulatory framework that strangles other businesses similarly. So how is this any different? It’s not. And that’s what is so scary – it was rejected not on principal but rather because it was visible. Visible government intrusions send the wrong vibe to a supposedly freedom loving populace. But invisible intrusions go on every day and are of course perfectly fine. If the death penalty were required to take place in public it would be ended immediately; but when done behind closed doors the public in general couldn’t care less.

Such reflexive urges to regulate by those “in charge” of our lives are a predictable outcome of their glaring ignorance of basic economics. It is the usual story: government engages in Practice A which stealthily causes Harm B and so our great benefactors must now step in to save us from the very harm they caused in the first place. For example, the federal government, through its puppet the Federal Reserve, is constantly inflating the US dollar. This steadily erodes the value of said dollar until after many years the drips of annual inflation have carved a canyon of lost value. There are two ways to respond to this declining value: raise prices, or, maintain prices while reducing quantity/quality. For example, boxes of cereal now contain 15% less than they did only a few years ago but are marketed at the same price point. It is a surreptitious form of inflation that consumers don’t immediately recognize but is just as injurious to their buying power as is rising prices.

Competition has become so fierce that a game of chicken has ensued where no one wants to be the first to raise nominal prices. This has occurred with airlines as well. Although ticket prices may have risen or fluctuated with fuel prices, such prices are, all things equal, less than they otherwise would have been had seat sizes not shrunk. Getting 10-15% more seats on a plane means lower average cost for each flyer. It is simply a natural response to the incentives created by government interference in the economy (Fed money printing). Eventually seat sizes will decline to a level where ridership will drop off. At that point the industry will know they can go no lower. But that is how the market works; the feedback of profit and loss tells businesses if they are doing good or doing poorly. Top down regulations subvert that process and prevent the voice of the consumer from being heard.

Actually, progressives like Schumer should appreciate the spectrum of market prices engendered by this seating freedom. It incentivizes those who value comfort over money to pay ever-increasing prices for the larger seats. These higher prices can be used to subsidize other ticket classes thereby expanding fare access through lower prices or halting the size decline. By allowing consumers to vote with their dollars the market delivers what consumers, in aggregate, are willing to accept. While any single consumer may disagree with where that point is, it should no more be the right of a minority of consumers to dictate to all what they should be able to buy any more than a minority of busybody senators should be able to dictate to a nation how they may live their lives.

Policy by Prediction

Science is supposed to be the domain of testable (and thus falsifiable) claims the evidence for which is a body of empirical studies that have stood the scrutiny of reproducibility. With the advent of computers that method of science seems to be growing increasingly passé. Why, we don’t need to bother actually doing the grunt work of experimentation, we can just sit back, press a button and let a computer model tell us the results. Of course the fault lies not in our machines but in ourselves (with apologies to the Bard). Computers are but tools that make some of that grunt work easier. But computer models are not so infallible that their output should solely be relied upon. They are imperfect not due to some failing of the technology but rather because they can only do what we tell them, and we humans are far from perfect or omniscient.

The flaw in computer models is two-fold: assumptions and unknowns. Assumptions are made about the contributions of certain factors and those assumptions are often wrong or even if close to being right can still introduces tremendous variability in outcomes from small differences in input. Unknown unknowns are an even greater contributor to the phenomenon known as “garbage in – garbage out” of modeling. We can’t account for the contribution of something we don’t even know exists.

Models are supposed to be part of an iterative process where you do the actual experiment, compare the results to your model’s output and then modify your model. To test the model you then change some of the variables and see how well it holds up in comparison to “real world” results. But, as soon as a new variable is introduced or a new unknown comes into play, then the model’s usefulness must be called into question.

Now by this point you might think I’m going to delve into an indictment of the climate models poor record of prediction but actually I’d actually like to talk about nuts. Or rather how we should all expect the price of nuts along with a host of other crops (pistachios, almonds, soybeans, tobacco, peanuts, cotton, lettuce, alfalfa, tomatoes, watermelon and bell peppers) to increase in price in the coming years due to the EPA banning a pesticide known as flubendiamide.  EPA determined that flubendiamide could break down in the environment and potentially cause harm to a few aquatic species. Ok, sounds like some dangerous stuff, fair enough. But, it turns out this alleged harm is not based on empirical studies but is rather based on computer models that attempt to predict toxicology – “predictive toxicology” they call it. BayerCropScience, the manufacturer of flubendiamide, went on record stating that such models “exaggerate environmental risk.”  Well imagine that, a computer model overstates the likelihood of a deleterious outcome in order to justify governmental intrusion into the market. Although science cannot be manipulated to service political interests, models surely can – click, click, here comes the desired result.

This ultimately is the true danger of such models. It is one thing if scientists want to put all their faith in such models, the worst that can happen is that eventually someone is made to look the fool when actual empirical studies prove them wrong. However it is far more dangerous if the cart is pushing the public policy horse by having bureaucrats and our supposed intellectual superiors run our lives and then justify their actions by pointing at selectively funded model-based “research” that can be tweaked to magically provide an outcome that conforms with the policy prescriptions desired. All that is needed to shut down debate is to claim “it’s science” and that it is “settled.”

Party Time

The American political party duopoly is a curious thing. Every other modern democratically run state has multiple political parties that freely compete for votes in order to establish their representative share of the people’s voice within the government. But that’s not the case in America; here we have two parties that share total control of the state apparatus on a semi-regular seesawing 8-year cycle. The curious thing is that no one questions why this would be? Is it that in other countries there are four, five, or six different more nuanced mixtures of political opinion but somehow when you cross the American border human minds undergo a transformation that imparts upon them the capacity to only hold allegiance to one of two political mindsets?

As you might have guessed there is no magic involved at all. Wherever you find constrained or limited options you will find government pulling the strings from behind black cloth. Political parties are not institutions established by the constitution. Indeed they are not necessary at all for our government to operate. Political parties are private institutions, businesses really, and are the product of the natural tendency of people with similar views to work together for common cause. That is all perfectly fine. The problem occurred over time. Whenever one party gained control, they would pass laws (erect barriers) making it that much harder for opposing parties to gain access to the ballot box. If your opponents can’t get their name on the ballot that tends to increase the likelihood you will remain in office.

Simultaneously they made the process of their campaigning that much easier by passing laws (providing assistance) that authorized the government to use public resources to assist with internal party business (i.e. nominating primaries) thereby supporting the illusion that party business is really state business. That is to say, these private businesses (Democrat Party™ and Republican Party™) have the cojones to get the public to pay for their private primary elections that ultimately are entirely pointless, as it is the party delegates that decide the nominee, not the voter. This process is merely an insidious trick to dupe the people into feeling as though they have a voice in the process so that they come to view the primary process as party of “democracy” when it is nothing more than a privately run, and publicly paid for, straw poll. This process has gone on so long that most people are unaware of the distinction and simply view the “primaries” as part of the normal political process of electing someone to office. They are not. They are private events held in public, paid for by that public, masquerading as democracy in action.

These political parties care not one wit about your vote or what you think. Because they are both private organizations they can ultimately pick whomever they want to be the nominee. They prefer to have the blessing of the voters upon their anointed candidate in order to give the people the illusion of choice. People are more easily controlled if they feel like they have some control of their life – if they feel like they have a choice, even the illusion of choice, they will accept a result even if they do not agree with it.

Duopoly control is further assured since most elections do not require the winner obtain a majority of the vote if by some miracle a third candidate appears on the ballot. This rules out runoff elections, which afford voters the ability to rank their choices. The deck is then further stacked against the third party candidate as people make a pragmatic rather than a principled choice to ensure the “most evil” candidate does not win

Political parties have co-opted the authority of government in order to ensure their continued stranglehold on power in this country. This is not democracy. This is not freedom. False choice is not real choice. We laugh at countries with only one name on the ballot and yet somehow only two names on the ballot seems perfectly reasonable. If you truly believe in democracy then you must demand the people be free to choose from all options. Every flavor of ballot access laws should be repealed, campaigning on the ballot (D or R next to the name) should be banned, all winners must have a majority decided through instant runoff style elections, and the Democrat and Republican parties should either have private nominating conventions or pay for their own public elections.

Muh’ Science!

Even among those that profess a belief in limited government there is an ready willingness to join hands with the big-government progressives on the subject of science funding. I mean, any fool can see we need government to fund science – no profit-oriented business would fund basic science research if the probability of a marketable product resulting were unknown. A recent article in Scientific American (Feb 2016, pg 11)  editorializes on this very viewpoint – that “without government resources, basic science will grind to a halt.” The irony within the article is that the author doesn’t realize the evidence he cites to advance his position in fact undermines, rather than bolsters, his argument. He claims private profit seeking businesses would never have an incentive to pursue such research… right after citing how such businesses used to do exactly that (AT&T Bell Labs and Xerox PARC). Gee, I wonder why they stopped? You don’t suppose it had anything to do with the ever expanding growth of government funding of basic science research? Indeed, why would any company make investments into basic science research if some other large entity (the government) is going to do it for them by publicly funding the research and freely publishing the results? The author then doubles down on the cognitive dissonance by calling those who believe that profit-driven companies will altruistically pay for basic science naïve. So people are naïve to believe that something that the author just cited as a past occurrence (privately backed basic science research) could occur in the future? Indeed, although it did snow last winter, now that it is summer I think it is naïve to believe it could ever snow again.

Truly there is no clearer case of the cart pushing the horse. The increase in public funding of basic science research was not a response to declining private funding; rather, it caused that very decline by providing an incentive for private industry to shift the risk burden onto the public.

If one is still unable to imagine a world without socialized science funding, then let’s examine history to see what the future might bring. Not only did we have the private labs of AT&T Bell Labs as well as Xerox PARC as free market models, we also had non-profit philanthropic foundations, such as the now over one-hundred year old Research Corporation for Science Advancement. Research Corporation, while philanthropic, follows a sound business model. They invest in basic scientific research at universities and when that research yields results that can be commercialized they package the technology and transfer the patents and use the profits to support future research grants.

Imagine that, a free market approach to funding basic science research that is both sustainable (success breeds more success) and does not require theft (taxation) in order to fund it. These are but a few examples of how the free market did, and can once again, provide support for basic science research and puts the lie to the assertion of the state-worshipers that such things are impossible without government support.

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