The Rise of Radicalism

In my prior article I made the argument that the real reason the terrorists target the US and other Western countries is not because they “hate us for our freedom” but rather that they hate us for interfering in their lives. The US and other Western nations (such as France) have a long and sordid history of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, be it either operative-fomented coup d’états or outright military actions. There is a willfully selective blindness in the west that allows us to only see where we are but not how we arrived. But, my point is not to rehash my prior thesis but to respond to one of the stronger objections to it. It has been pointed out that this sort of argument ignores the fact that radical Islam truly wants all non-believers to die, that it is akin to Nazism and must be wiped out – those making that argument are correct, but not in the way they presume. Yes, indeed there are some adherents of Islam that believe these sorts of things. They are called radicals. Within any group of humans that subscribes to some ideological concept there are those who lie on the fringe and have their own unique interpretation of the group’s ideas. These ideas, by virtue of being “fringe,” are in the minority; the rest of the group quietly ignores such types lest mere acknowledgement of their ideas imply tacit acceptance.

For example, there are fringe groups who use the Bible as justification for their belief that the earth is flat, that “kinds” should be separated and thus racism is a “Godly” viewpoint, or that firebombing abortion clinics and murdering the abortionists is legitimate. Now of course all of us in the majority disagree with these viewpoints and claim their interpretation is obviously faulty, but nevertheless they still make the claim. So maybe, just maybe, radical Islamists fall into the same category of distorted interpretation. I imagine for every cherry picked outrageous phrase from the Koran one can find an equally outrageous cherry picked line from the Bible. Are we to honestly believe that ALL of Islam 100% agrees on the violent and hateful interpretations of such cherry picked lines? Christianity alone is proof of man’s inability to agree on anything. For something that is supposed to be the absolute word of God (the Bible) there sure are an awful lot of denominations with differing viewpoints on various aspects of scripture. Yet somehow we are supposed to believe that there is absolute solidarity among Muslims with regards to their scriptural interpretation.

The truth of the matter is that yes there are indeed radical Islamists that do believe we should all die, but it is the ignorant and ham-fisted actions of the west in the Middle East (primarily since the end of World War II) that have given their crazy viewpoint more credence and expanded their sphere of influence among fellow Muslims. When the radicals preach that the non-believers are devils who will come to kill them and destroy their way of life and then an endless onslaught of non-believers comes in and does exactly as they predicted year after year that tends to strengthen, not weaken, the position of those making the prediction. So the more any country occupies, bombs, and overthrows ruling regimes in Muslim countries the more they play right into the narrative the radicals are selling. This bolsters their authority and makes it that much easier for them to win more recruits and adherents. More bombs feed the flame of radicalism, they do not extinguish it.

Think of it like this: the majority of people view white supremacists as radicals, but now imagine what would happen if there were a massive and organized movement wherein all non-whites started killing white people en masse. Do you not believe this would have more and more people listening to what these white supremacists had to say? The longer such attacks continued the more and more people would turn to their ideas and do whatever they said in order to protect themselves. Then, one day they would no longer be a “radical” group but instead would represent the mainstream. This is what nearly 70 years of open and clandestine interference in the Middle east has wrought: turning the followers of a small and obscure sect of Islam into a growing force that will someday soon become the dominant authority. Apropos the Hitler reference: the only reason we had to fight Hitler is because the American government (by virtue of Wilson’s desire to plunge us into WWI) had a hand in creating the onerous Treaty of Versailles that primed Germans to welcome his radical rhetoric and ensured his rise to mainstream power.

If a drug company invented both a disease and the drug to cure it there would be outrage, yet when the state creates our enemies that only it can now slay we welcome it with open arms and applause.

November 24 / 2015

Games without Frontiers

As the horrific events unfolded last Friday in Paris before a world stage, we, the audience, sat in stunned silence as waves of helplessness washed over us. If only we could protect those in harms way and end the madness. This sense of helpless resignation caused me to reflect on a line from Peter Gabriel’s song “Games with Frontiers” – ‘In games without frontiers, war without tears.’ Indeed this would seem contradictory, as this was a time for tears; however, for those in control of the game, there are no tears. This ‘war on terror’ is a boundless chess match in which the ‘leaders’ on all sides are utterly lacking in remorse when a few of us pawns get knocked over. They may wear their heart on their sleeve when addressing the masses, but when the cameras are off the mask of empathy is stripped away. Were this not true they would endeavor to engage in peaceful dialogues or simply withdraw rather than doubling down on the violence (which as I write this France has already done). As each side lobs their bombs at each other, we pawns become haplessly caught in the crossfire (the 9/11 attacks, Malaysia Air 17, Pan Am 103, Iran Air 655, Bali bombings, Russian Metrojet 9268, London bombings, countless others, and now, Paris). When will it end? If our ‘leaders’ have their way, never. All leaders have an agenda. Agendas require power to execute. Leaders derive their power from others willingly giving it to them. So like the con artist, they use deception to trick their target into willingly giving them what they want. When we feel unsafe we turn to those who claim they will restore what we desire. Problem is, those who promise that are the ones who precipitated the events that we now fear. But like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football, we fall for it every time.

This pattern of misdirection to reinforce one’s power position is not unique to the West. All conflict involves two parties fighting over some real or imagined initial injury. But human pride is such that neither side will ever back down. You attack me, I attack you, ad infinitum. At some point all conflicts distill down to the point that no one even remembers what started the conflict, only that they must strike back to get back for the prior strike upon them. This is where we are today. Feuds going back dozens, hundreds, or thousands of years drive just about every conflict in the world today. The leaders justify continued attacks by dehumanizing the opponent and his motivations into an absurd caricature that allows us all to feel justified in mass murder. Both sides do it, but the irony is we laugh at the ludicrousness of others being angry at the US because they think we are the “devil” but take with deadly seriousness being told we are attacked because we are free. To see the lie in that statement all we need to do is witness the words and deeds of these so called haters of freedom. Osama bin Laden put that one to rest over 10 years ago when he stated “If Bush says we hate freedom, let him tell us why we didn’t attack Sweden”. Then even more usefully he tells us how we can end their motivation to attack us, “the best way to avoid another Manhattan is to not threaten the security of Muslim nations, such as Palestine and Lebanon”.

If we truly wish to “do something” to prevent future attacks then please channel some of the energy you used in changing your Facebook profile to demonstrate solidarity with France into the more useful endeavor of supporting leaders that promise to withdraw our military and political presence from foreign soils where we have no business. If we withdraw from and ignore those who hate us we defuse the ability of their leaders to demonstrate how “bad” we are to their would be fighters. Few want to fight an enemy that has done nothing to them in ten years. Let’s start that clock now.

Consider how angry and upset we are over these attacks in Paris and then reflect on the fact that similar attacks occur on an almost monthly basis by drone and yet we hear nothing about it. Innocents murdered in cold blood and yet from the media all we hear are crickets. Those affected are just as upset as we are now and such actions only serve to keep the feud alive.

If a drone destroyed your child’s school or a mall where your loved ones were shopping (or even a hospital) would you not feel a sense of overwhelming rage and a desire to “get back” at whoever sent that drone? I am not suggesting such actions motivated by revenge are justified, but rather simply pointing out that this desire for revenge is a natural, primal human response. So given this knowledge, why do we keep throwing rocks at the hornet’s nest if we know the hornets will without fail sting us?

November 16 / 2015

Fun stereotype

Sometimes stereotypes are just fun… :-)


In Heaven…
The mechanics are German
The chefs are French
The police are British
The lovers are Italian
And everything is organised by the Swiss.

In Hell…
The mechanics are French
The police are German
The chefs are British
The lovers are Swiss
And everything is organised by the Italians.

November 12 / 2015
Author Greg Morin
Category Fun
Comments No Comments

Do no harm?

A recent conversation with a friend highlighted the fact that even among conservatives there is a pervasive belief that “unfettered” markets require some level of “control” by the government. The poster child for this viewpoint is Rockefeller’s Standard Oil which at its peak achieved 90% market share. The formation of such a “monopoly” (it wasn’t, a monopoly would be 100% market share – something only a government can achieve in the many areas it deems worthy of nationalization) is sufficient proof in their minds of both ill deeds and ill intent. Unfortunately the facts do not support a narrative of ill will. In 1865 when Rockefeller was just starting and had virtually no market share kerosene cost 58¢/gallon. By 1870 Standard Oil’s (SO) share was a mere 4% and yet they had driven the price down to 26¢. Only 10 years later SO’s market share had shot up to 90% and did prices skyrocket as well under this “monopoly”? No, prices declined to 9¢. And by 1890 still at 90% market share prices fell even further to 7¢.  So who exactly was harmed here? Certainly not the consumers of kerosene.

One could argue that the competitors were “harmed” but so what? SO achieved its market position by becoming more efficient so that it could profitably charge lower prices. It did not engage in violence or the threat of violence to achieve its goals, as the state/government is wont to do. Mere “harm” cannot be the nebulous standard by which we invoke the necessity of state intervention. If five people apply for a job then the four that did not get the job are arguably harmed, so, should the state step in and penalize the person who got the job by making him or her share it with the others? When two sports teams play each other is not the losing team “harmed”? Upset fans, potential decreased ticket sales, lower potential ad revenue – all these things constitute types of harm, yet no one is (yet) screaming for the state to step in. Most likely because all recognize the solution would be absurd – they would simply mandate all games end in a tie or that wins and losses must be equalized. We certainly can’t have an unequal “win” distribution, how unfair.

One type of specific harm that anti-trust proponents say must be banned is the practice of “predatory pricing”. This is the practice of a competitor temporarily lowering their price and losing money in order to drive out competitors that can’t afford to lose money as long (the economic equivalent of a game of “chicken”). Problem is, this has never actually happened. Sure there might be temporary “price wars” between competing retailers that go on for a few days, but neither side gets ahead and at the end of the day no company has ever actually been driven out of business this way. The reason for this is the following: either you have to buy up the whole world (impossible) or the act of driving competitors into bankruptcy creates replacements that can more readily compete on price. For example, if a competitor went into bankruptcy then someone else would buy up their assets at pennies on the dollar and reopen the business with a much lower operating overhead. Now they are in a much better position to compete with you. Not a useful outcome.

But lets say for the sake of argument somehow it all worked and you could drive out competitors this way. Where is the natural rights violation? What is essentially happening here is large competitor A is using their deep financial resources (savings) to compete with small competitor B in a way that B is incapable of because of their smaller size. Is this unfair? Well before you answer that consider that this goes on all day long in the business world. Larger companies can spend a lot more of their financial resources (savings) on: more sales personnel, larger R&D budget, improving efficiency through automation and so on. That is deemed perfectly fair, however using those exact same resources to facilitate deep pricing discount is not. Simply put, there is no reason to arbitrarily single out such a practice and threaten to throw people in cages if they engage in it. It is no more of an excuse for state intervention in the market than is a dislike of the font in a company’s logo.

As long as no aggression (fraud, violence, or the threat of violence) is occurring then any and all actions or businesses or products should be permitted. No one should live in fear that men with guns will throw them in cages because of someone’s subjective opinion of what constitutes fairness or harm. Opinions are fine, but opinions backed up by a threat of violence violate everyone’s natural right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.


This one still gives me chills. It touches on a visceral emotion that all humans share, namely the instinct to defend oneself and ones loved ones from actual (not hypothetical) aggression. We know how we (Americans) would react… why is it so hard to understand that others respond the same way?


Ron Paul, March 11, 2009

“Imagine for a moment that somewhere in the middle of Texas there was a large foreign military base, say Chinese or Russian. Imagine that thousands of armed foreign troops were constantly patrolling American streets in military vehicles. Imagine they were here under the auspices of “keeping us safe” or “promoting democracy” or “protecting their strategic interests.”

Imagine that they operated outside of US law, and that the Constitution did not apply to them. Imagine that every now and then they made mistakes or acted on bad information and accidentally killed or terrorized innocent Americans, including women and children, most of the time with little to no repercussions or consequences. Imagine that they set up checkpoints on our soil and routinely searched and ransacked entire neighborhoods of homes. Imagine if Americans were fearful of these foreign troops, and overwhelmingly thought America would be better off without their presence.

Imagine if some Americans were so angry about them being in Texas that they actually joined together to fight them off, in defense of our soil and sovereignty, because leadership in government refused or were unable to do so. Imagine that those Americans were labeled terrorists or insurgents for their defensive actions, and routinely killed, or captured and tortured by the foreign troops on our land. Imagine that the occupiers’ attitude was that if they just killed enough Americans, the resistance would stop, but instead, for every American killed, ten more would take up arms against them, resulting in perpetual bloodshed. Imagine if most of the citizens of the foreign land also wanted these troops to return home. Imagine if they elected a leader who promised to bring them home and put an end to this horror.

Imagine if that leader changed his mind once he took office.

The reality is that our military presence on foreign soil is as offensive to the people that live there as armed Chinese troops would be if they were stationed in Texas. We would not stand for it here, but we have had a globe-straddling empire and a very intrusive foreign policy for decades that incites a lot of hatred and resentment towards us.

According to our own CIA, our meddling in the Middle East was the prime motivation for the horrific attacks on 9/11. But instead of re-evaluating our foreign policy, we have simply escalated it. We had a right to go after those responsible for 9/11, to be sure, but why do so many Americans feel as if we have a right to a military presence in some 160 countries when we wouldn’t stand for even one foreign base on our soil, for any reason? These are not embassies, mind you, these are military installations. The new administration is not materially changing anything about this. Shuffling troops around and playing with semantics does not accomplish the goals of the American people, who simply want our men and women to come home. 50,000 troops left behind in Iraq is not conducive to peace any more than 50,000 Russian soldiers would be in the United States.

Shutting down military bases and ceasing to deal with other nations with threats and violence is not isolationism. It is the opposite. Opening ourselves up to friendship, honest trade and diplomacy is the foreign policy of peace and prosperity. It is the only foreign policy that will not bankrupt us in short order, as our current actions most definitely will. I share the disappointment of the American people in the foreign policy rhetoric coming from the administration. The sad thing is, our foreign policy WILL change eventually, as Rome’s did, when all budgetary and monetary tricks to fund it are exhausted.”
Imagine!: speech written & given by Ron Paul

Ron Paul for the speech
Voice & Music: Jeremy Hoop
Video animation: Nicholas Bozman & MysteryBox.

November 05 / 2015


If you were to visit a friend’s house and they asked you to take your shoes off before entering, or requested you leave your wet umbrella outside, would you comply? If you entered a business and they asked you to not play loud music or to wear shoes, would you comply? I think the answer virtually anyone would give in these scenarios is “yes”. Now consider this: if any of the people from the prior examples entered our home and requested the exact same things would we not, after staring at them quizzically, tell them to go fly a kite? Why the difference? Why in the former examples are the requests completely reasonable but in the latter they strike each of us as, if not entirely nuts, at least fairly rude? The difference is authority. Authority over a resource is an inherent right flowing from its legitimate ownership. We honor the request of our friend or proprietor because we recognize their ownership as legitimate. We desire the same respect of our authority and so we conform our behavior to a system where in order to receive such respect, we must give it as well. We are free to refuse the request but it is understood that necessitates exiting from that sphere of authority (ownership).

When someone connected to the state (i.e. government) is said to be an “authority” over us there is a rather sinister implication here: everything, even our very selves, is owned by the state. If the state did not truly own all, then one could at least safely retreat to their home and not fear an invasion by state agents. But alas that is not the case. Call us what you will; serfs, slaves, inmates – they are all treated the same by their owner. In every case of “authority agent” violence toward a citizen, the “respect authority” crowd offers the perennial excuse that if the victim had simply followed the orders of the agent, then their fate (often death) could have been avoided. It is the victim’s fault for not recognizing that they are not free men and that they have an obligation at all times to assume a supplicating prostrate pose if so requested. The slightest deviation from this principal is worthy of a death sentence.

The land of the free indeed: on some streets you can be stopped and searched for no reason whatsoever, you can be pulled over and have your car searched and all electronic devices seized if you happen to be within 100 miles of the US border (that includes the coasts) – no warrant necessary,  the contents of your home are subject to search and seizure on the mere suspicion of a whole litany of victimless “crimes” – or none at all if they get the address wrong, any “substantial” amount of cash is subject to confiscation for no reason whatsoever if it happens to be in your car if you get pulled over. These are experiences of livestock, not free people. Indeed, no one would regard it as unusual at all if a farmer treated his animals this way.

But even the farmer will treat his livestock better than the state treats us. If his animals misbehave he doesn’t just pull out a gun and shoot them. He doesn’t shove them to the ground and beat them into submission. Even if you believe we must give up some (or all) of our rights in order to have safety and “order” there should still be respect for the concept of proportionality. That is, if someone punches a cop, he can punch back, if someone shoots at a cop, he can shoot back. It does not mean a cop gets to shoot pets or people because they “might” pose a threat. If they can’t adequately evaluate risk, then they should find another profession; no one is drafting people into policing. Proportionality does not mean if someone is pulled over for not having their physical driver’s license on them they should end up dead from 7 bullets.  Instead send a ticket to the car’s owner (easily looked up by the license plate). It does not mean if a student refuses their teacher’s instruction they should be slammed to the floor and thrown across the room.  Instead drag the recalcitrant student’s chair into the hallway and close the door.

Even if one accepts the notion that we are but mere guests on the state’s plantation, it is doubtful such a person would accept having a bat swung against their skull as an appropriate response for refusing to wear shoes at a McDonalds. So if you are inclined to feel guilty about not supporting every single police action against the citizenry, remember, it is ok respect their authority if you choose to do so while still not respecting the disproportionate means they sometimes use. The “authorities” should never escalate non-violent encounters into violent ones merely because they are too shortsighted to find any other means to their ends.

November 02 / 2015
Author Greg Morin
Comments No Comments

Apple TV 4th generation Review (it sucks)

I’ve been an Apple user for over 30 years. I’m on one of those “early adopters” who enjoys playing with the latest and greatest from Apple. The 4th generation Apple TV is the first product I have ever hated. It is just such a huge let down in so many ways from the 3rd generation (and prior) Apple TV.

1) No keyboard support? What on earth were they thinking? And to rub a little more salt in the wound, the new virtual keyboard layout is much more tedious and slower to use… no longer can you go up and down and side to side to quickly get to characters, now you can only go side to side. Better hope your passwords doesn’t have any “z” and “a” combinations

2)The touchpad remote is nice, but did they have to _remove_ button navigation. I thought the + and – would be a substitute for up/down scrolling. No. Apparently it is for volume? But volume of what? It does nothing on my unit. Apparently Apple never considered those of us hosting our our iTunes library with literally hundreds of movies. No longer can you simply hold the “down” or “up” portion of the remote and let it scroll down (even that was not the best of navigation methods)… no now you must sit there and constantly ‘swipe swipe swipe swipe” with your finger. I’m sorry that gets very tiring after more than few seconds… try doing that for 30 seconds and you’ll see what I mean. Going to get carpal tunnel in my fingers here

3) What was the point of setting up the device with my phone? It didn’t get my password so I have to constantly enter it over and over and over again. Please, authenticate ONCE to be sure it is me and then STORE the password. It’s a TV device. Security concerns are minimal, no one is breaking into my house to buy movies on my Apple TV.

4) Ok so the “channels” in the prior Apple TV was getting out of hand, but what do they replace it with? Nothing at all. Now you get to go to to the “app store” and try to remember and then search for all the channels you used to frequent (“was that History or H2? I don’t remember).

5) This is not directly targeted at this device but at Apple in general with their TV system. Why oh why can you not build a secure database of every username/password and authentication combo for all the third party channels and retain that information so when we set up a new device it is linked to our AppleID and automatically gets applied to the new unit. It seems the Apple keychain would be be a natural place to store such information. Nothing I enjoy more than looking up passwords to a multitude of different accounts and then going through this laborious back and forth of “go to your computer and type in this code, then go back to this device and type in the code you got”

6) With my previous Apple TV (3rd gen) I had an issue with both an Onkyo receiver and my current Yamaha RX-A3020 where the Apple TV will not sync to the receiver when it reboots or if you switch the receiver on, and then turn on the Apple TV, so I have to switch to something else, let it sync then switch back. But at least once that was done it stayed synced. I was hopeful this issue might have been resolved with the new unit. Nope, now its even worse. Now it just randomly goes out when I’m in non-Video mode (i.e. changing settings, or simply scrolling around). There is no rhyme or reason, just blanks out and the receiver says “no signal” Unfortunately this is one of those unsolvable dilemma as everyone blames everyone else. Apple will surely blame Yamaha, Yamaha will blame Apple or Epson (my projector) and so on. Nobody’s fault, yet I can’t consistently use this stupid device now because of all this HDCP content anti-piracy garbage. yes, better than a million be inconvenienced then for one person to copy some movie. And no, it’s not the HDMI cable, I have the highest quality cables money can buy and I do not have this issue with _any_ other device, only Apple TV (not even an Amazon Fire).

7) When watching TV shows I have ripped myself you have to watch all the way to the end of the credits in order for the “not watched” blue dot to go away and you’re stuck with the “half watched” button. If you stop watching as the credits roll it still thinks it is ‘unwatched” and you must manually change it by first changing it fully unwatched then to fully watched. Sigh. And then even when you do that it remains on the list if you are in “unwatched” list mode. With the Apple TV 3 if you stopped watching at credits it assumed you were done and the dot was gone and it was removed from the list. Minor annoyance but it is these minor things that additively make a UI great vs just serviceable.

So I paid $199 to upgrade a device that is even buggier than the last model, has fewer features, is slower and more tedious to navigate and offers not a single UI improvement over the prior version – not even folders/groups to put similar “channels” in.

It’s not like we’ve achieved the pinnacle of the state of the art and there are no real improvements to be made with such devices. There are. There are plenty. But the fact that Apple achieved not a single UI improvement (their traditional hallmark) is perplexing and disappointing indeed. Is this the beginning of the end that marks their slow descent into ‘meh’ design?

November 02 / 2015
Author Greg Morin
Category Tech Reviews
Comments No Comments

This Gentle Town

According to Wikipedia, gentrification is “the buying and renovating of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighborhoods by wealthier individuals, which in effect increases property values and displaces low-income families and small businesses.” At face value this would seem to be a positive turn of events: transforming something of low value into something of high value, just as one might transform sand and carbon into a computer or granite into a statue. But leave it to the SJW’s (Social Justice Warriors) to find the cloud in every silver lining. Instead of welcoming improvements (both aesthetically and commercially) they instead decry these changes as destroying the “character” of a neighborhood or town. As though “character” were a tangible, ownable thing that residents had a right to enjoy ad infinitum. This sentiment is best captured in the following quote from a recent article in The Flagpole (an Athens, Georgia local paper):

“There is still a powerlessness that black residents feel against affluent, mostly white 20-somethings overtaking what’s theirs. ‘There’s a certain community ownership that the long-term residents have,” says Ellison. “… They’re feeling squeezed out of the their communities.’ ”

The attitude expressed in this quote demonstrates a fundamentally flawed view of the world that all too often infects political action. Notice the use of the possessive pronouns and homage to notions of communal property. When people take up residence or frequent certain areas they invariably tend to identify that territory as “theirs”: “my” town, “our” city, “our” park, etc. Although usage is colloquial and people understand they do not hold title to the city in which they reside – they often act as though they do own it. For example, zoning laws are the political manifestation of this view of the world: “we don’t want that in OUR town.” Zoning laws are a way for nearby non-owners to behave as though they were owners. It allows them to exert control over something that is not theirs merely because they happen to live in an ill defined geographical boundary around said property.

Fortunately there are few substantive anti-gentrification measures that can be legally attempted. The only effective measure would be a grossly egregious violation of private property rights. It would entail simply prohibiting the sale of any private property in certain areas arbitrarily identified as worth “saving” – unless of course it is to someone the SJW’s approve of. In other words, it would be a direct transfer of ownership en masse from the individual to the collective. That is straight up communism, and fortunately, for now, America isn’t quite ready for that.

The irony is that the SJW’s think they need the state to “fix” gentrification when in fact it is the state that is the proximate cause of the biggest objection they have to gentrification: the pressure to leave. They typically blame “unbridled capitalism,” for these forced expulsions, but, they are taking aim at the wrong entity. This compulsion to exit is predominantly a function of state influence (i.e. the government). Between eminent domain and property taxes the state has done more harm in the way of pushing people out of their homes then any supposedly free market in real estate. It’s certainly not part of a free market for government cronies to condemn properties, give financial aid to private developers, or to extract a tribute (tax) from the serfs who happen to live on the master’s land.

As property values increase during the gentrification process, so do property taxes. This more than anything accelerates the process of gentrification as residents who would not otherwise sell have no alterative but to leave if they can’t afford the higher taxes. Without property tax there would be no coerced impetus to sell. Likewise property taxes compel landlords to raise rents – those taxes have to be passed onto someone (yes, renters pay property tax, all expenses, including taxes, are accounted for in the cost of every good sold). Although it is true that rents may rise due to higher demand for housing, unless you want slums, rent control is not the answer. Ownership is the answer. Unless one owns the property, then no one has a positive right to live in some particular place. To suggest that someone who has rented a home for many years has a right to live there as long as they wish for whatever price they deem is fair is as goofy a concept as it is to suggest that because I enjoy Fruity Pebbles, Post Cereal has a positive obligation to me to never discontinue it or raise its price – gosh darn it, that is “my” cereal after all!

October 26 / 2015


Computer programmers use the term “backdoor” to describe covert methods the programmer can use to bypass the normal user interface in order to more expeditiously accomplish certain tasks. Normally the motivation behind installing such devices are not sinister; their purpose is to assist in debugging or to clean up other messes. The apparatus of the state has similar backdoors, although the motivation there is usually not so pure. These backdoors are set by legislators but only become apparent to those who possesses a perspicacious view of the state. For example, the way government is supposed to work (at least according to Schoolhouse Rock) is that bills are introduced in Congress, voted on, and then sent to the President to sign into law. If the people don’t like the laws they can vote for new Congressmen or appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn the law on constitutional grounds.

That system does still exists, but government power rarely originates that way. The vast majority of power comes from the backdoor: administrative “law”. Regulations promulgated by the EPA, DOE, IRS, etc. do not come from Congress. They are written, proposed, and approved by career bureaucrats who are as much a part of Washington as the marble buildings. The politicians enter, ride the coaster and then exit, but the bureaucrats, like the coaster operator, remain. Although bureaucrats can’t introduce extensive reforms, they can implement piecemeal changes that ultimately have the same effect. Can’t ban fossil fuels? That’s ok, just require (via regulation) anything that directly or indirectly uses such energy must use less of it. The amount is ratcheted down ever so “reasonably” every few years until fewer and fewer can clear the regulatory hurdle. If the outrageous costs for compliant goods don’t decrease usage, then the constrained supply from manufacturers exiting the market will.

It is the same tactic the left uses to chip away at the 2nd amendment and the right at abortion ‘rights’. If you aren’t allowed to close the gate the only alternative is to erect a series of hurdles and obstacles that make the journey more burdensome. Any performance (not safety) based regulations are a fascistic interference of the state in the functioning of private markets: “sure you own your business, but we’ll tell you when, where, and how to operate it.” I don’t know whether to laugh or cry: educated adults actually come together in the belief that their personal views on how much water it takes to flush a turd down the drain or how many gallons of water are sufficient to de-soil underwear is a compelling interest of the state. But if the state does not appease Mother Gaia, then who will? Faux environmentalism has become the state religion in the 21st century. One is not worthy to pass into the Temple of Political Piety unless they have shown the proper level of obsequiousness before the altar of “sustainability.”

And what has this wrought us? Gas cans that don’t pour, toilets that don’t flush, showers that dribble water, light bulbs that either cost a days pay or require a hazmat unit if they break, and hot water that isn’t – we are moving backwards as a society.  Like the frog in the slowly boiling water the process occurs incrementally enough that the “way it used to be” is lost down the generational memory hole. Younger people today simply assume the way thing are today are the way they have always been. They assume appliances don’t work well because of poor design rather than the imposition of strangling regulations by the state.

Now it is true that many of the products I cited have seen improvements. Some are almost as good as the original product. However that was not without a cost. Consumers played the role of unwitting beta-testers for subpar equipment. Once the bugs were finally worked out there is then an ongoing cost to all who purchase this more “efficient” equipment either upfront or in time loss. But hey as long as the planet will be 0.00001 °C cooler in a hundred years it’s all worth it right?

Since government’s role in society is apparently to “fix” things, then in order for it to justify its continuing existence it must seek out new problems and new victims, to boldly re-fix those things it just fixed last week. Those in government seem to believe we live in an artificial Matrix-esque reality where passing laws is the equivalent of writing computer code than can magically make cars go from 25 mpg to 45 mpg overnight or dishwashers switch from using 6.5 gallons to 5 gallons and soon to a mere 3.1 gallons.  To see how awful that will be, fill your sink with 3 gallons of water and now wash all your dishes by hand with just that water. Yeah, yuck.

So perhaps someday we’ll regale our grandchildren with wild tales of machines that used to wash dishes for us. And as they stare at us in wonderment, we will begin the tedious task of washing the dinnerware by hand – just as our great-grandparents did – except we’ll only be permitted the use of cold water. Hot water is way too damaging to the environment, what with all the energy it uses. Ah, yes, progress.

October 19 / 2015

Free Market Gun Control?

In the wake of the horrific Oregon shooting a few weeks ago each side in the pro-gun/anti-gun debate engaged in a kind of holiday-esque ritual: unbox one’s standard talking points, adorn social media and the press with said arguments for a week or two, and then when the furor has died down quietly pack them back up for the next gun-related incident. The problem with the standard talking points is that although they may resonate with the owner, they do little to sway the opinion of the opposing side. They have become stale and useless.

Government prohibitions of market transactions do nothing to eliminate those transactions. Prohibition raises their costs and consequently the profit potential. This induces more, not fewer, people to ply that trade. Decentralized markets are the most efficient means of delivering to people the goods and services they want. People do not want themselves or anyone else to die a violent death. Let’s see if the market can provide this good. Since it is the left’s position that our government has been ineffective at stopping gun violence and it is the right’s position that the government has no business stopping gun violence, then let’s just pretend for a moment there is no government at all. How could this problem be solved absent any sort of bully running around threatening and intimidating people? Insurance. Yes, that’s right, insurance. Insurance companies are in the business of providing financial protection for unforeseen events. Consequently insurance companies are in the business of mitigating risk. If someone owns (or rents) a home they will, if they are smart, carry a liability policy. This protects the policy owner from financial ruin if they are found guilty of causing some sort of harm to another. In order to minimize such claims involving guns each insurance agency could impose their own (varying) set of regulations on gun ownership for their policyholders. Depending on the level of policy owner regulation some insurers would see more losses related to gun incidents and some fewer. Those that had fewer would find their policies and regulations being copied. The market would soon converge on the most efficient and set of regulations that allow people to own guns while still preventing gun related incidents.

A decentralized system is superior to any one-size-fits-all top down approach because it is self-regulating through an alignment of incentives. In other words it is a “carrot” and not a “stick” approach. Gun owners don’t want to be sued into poverty if despite their best efforts something unexpected happens. Insurers prefer fewer claims over more, so they will make sure their policy owners do indeed make good on those best efforts.

Would this system have prevented Sandy Hook or the Oregon shooting? Maybe, maybe not. Since both shooters got their guns from relatives perhaps those relatives would not have be able to afford the higher premiums (due to other risk factors), or perhaps they would have been compelled to have kept the guns better secured, or perhaps other policy rules would have given them second thoughts about allowing others to access to their guns. We can’t know for certain what might have happened, but the point is that there are at least several possible barriers under this system. Not a single “sensible” new law would have imposed the tiniest of impediment had they been in place prior to those incidents.

So at this point the obvious question might be, “We have insurance today, why don’t insurance companies enact these sort of regulations today?” That is actually such a good question that rather than speculate I called my insurance agent at State Farm and asked him. The reason is simple: gun related incidents not involving an actual criminal (i.e. criminals shooting other criminals) are so few in number they can’t actuarially determine the risk level for them. It’s like trying to calculate the risk of blindness caused by a snowflake injury.

Despite media hype to the contrary, these events, as horrific as they are, are so few and far between that we each have a better chance of being struck by lightning than becoming a shooting victim. Other inanimate objects controlled or used by humans cause far more harm than guns each year (cars, pools, trampolines, etc.)  and yet there is no call to ban those things. Quite odd. Insurance acts as a guide to mitigating risk. Risky things are expensive to insure (be that poor drivers or unguarded pools) and so that tends to minimize those things.

Rather than lamenting violence in this country we should be astounded that in a country with over 300 million guns the murder rate is a mere 4.7 per 100,000 per year.  That is lower than 110 other countries with more stringent gun control or outright bans. We should always strive to do better but since there seems to be no correlation between murder rates and gun control then perhaps the answer is not more gun control but rather to follow the market’s lead and see what works and copy that. Laws shackle us from trying alternative approaches and limit choice. Only the free choice of millions in the market can guide us to the best solution.

* Answers to some obvious objections:

Question: “Well what if someone just chooses to get a policy that doesn’t cover guns or they just don’t get insurance, i.e. they simply take the risk that all will be fine?”

Answer: They are of course free to do so, however, the complete lack of any protection means those they have harmed (or their agents) as a result of their negligence are without any limitation whatsoever permitted to take all that they possess in the world, up to and including their life. In other words there is no limitation of liability if you don’t have insurance or have insufficient coverage. That is a pretty big motivator for 99.9999% of all people to have the peace of mind of being protected by insurance coverage.

Question: “Well what if it is just some homicidal loner who buys a gun and is planning on dying, so they don’t care about insurance or liability?

Answer: Liability laws would need to be eliminated so that one could sue the person that sold them the gun and likewise the person that sold that person the gun, all the way up to the manufacturer of the gun. This would ensure that each person in the chain has an incentive to exercise some level of due diligence to ensure whoever they are selling the gun to represents little risk and is qualified to operate it.

Question: “But wouldn’t that just put gun manufacturers out of business if they got sued every time someone got shot?”

Answer: No, because gun manufacturers would perform whatever actions their insurer said they must do in order to remain protected under their own insurance. As long as they do what the insurer says (i.e. voluntary regulation), they are protected from any such claims. Likewise each person down the chain of sale then has an incentive to be protected by insurance and thus to have their actions regulated by their own insurer. The end result is the final seller then has the greatest incentive to ask for certification of the buyer from some other independent certifying body that has “okayed” the buyer for the seller. That certifying agency takes on the risk and you can be certain they will investigate the heck of the background of each person applying for certification. The certifying agency has their own insurance and their insurer will drive the level of due diligence they must engage in order to approve or deny gun buying permits.

Question: “So gun buyers would be in some sort of database and if they did not possess the purchasing permit they would not be able to buy a gun?”

Answer: Yes and no. Those that want to prove to the world they are low risk and not crazy would voluntarily do so. Once they have their seal of approval they could purchase whatever firearms they wanted and remain protected by insurance. But, being a free system, if someone does not want insurance they can buy guns from others who also don’t want to be part of the system – and this would all be legal. There would be no “black market” per se of people without permits buying guns. There would simply be a small market of some people doing this but the inherent risk of selling to someone like that would be so great it would make the cost of the guns so high this alone would act as a natural barrier to most. Most crazed loners are not financially well off. But given the enormous downsides very few would engage in this sort of activity. Basically the same people that are criminals today and can’t legally buy guns would remain similarly verboten under this system. But the point of gun control has never been to stop criminals from getting guns – everyone knows mere laws won’t stop that. The point has always been to minimize accidental shootings or the mentally unbalanced from obtaining weapons and this approach would accomplish this in an entirely voluntary approach. It would also foster an environment of fewer accidents since today anyone can buy a gun without any training at all. Under this approach one would have to demonstrate competency. We demonstrate competency to drive a car with a license, so why not demonstrate competency to handle a gun with a license? I’d rather have a private system doing this rather than a one size fits all government approach that is immune to improvements from new information.

October 12 / 2015
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