Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sinners into saints

I was listening to Rush and he made a great point which I have to pass along. He was talking about the hypocrisy of liberals (no surprise there) and referring to the current treatment of Goldman Sachs employees and how they are portrayed as greedy, selfish, villainous thieves robbing this country blind. Then he openly wondered why it's the case that when these people go from working at Goldman Sachs to working for the government, the very same people are instantly transformed into selfless saints working for the public good, protecting us from the villainous thieves. Good point. For the record, former Goldman employees:

Jon Corzine - Chairman and CEO, Democratic Governor of New Jersey

Henry Paulson - Chairman and CEO, United States Treasury Secretary under Obama

Robert Rubin - 26 years at Goldman Sachs, member of the board and served as Co-chairman, United States Treasury Secretary under Clinton

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The tax man is coming

The one saving grace of the income tax is that there is a natural counterweight to excessive taxation. The more progressive the tax rate, the more you penalize the productive, the so called "rich", the more incentive you give these people to just stay home.

As a result, a progressive income tax is a very poor way to collect revenue. The marginal income which is taxed the most is also the very same income which can be most easily forgone. What's the difference really between $400,000 and $500,000, or better yet $1,000,000 and $1,100,000? People who earn these wages place a lower value on each marginal dollar and this means that they are more willing than most to give that dollar up, especially when the government takes a bigger and bigger bite out of it.

In order for government to raise a lot more revenue, it cannot do it by taxing those who are easily able to live on less (because they will); government must dip into the pockets of those who really need those dollars and cannot afford to just stay home (also known as the middle class). Excessive government spending means excessive taxes and anyone who thinks only the rich will finance it are sorely mistaken.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It's the environment stupid!

One thing striking to me, is that as society progresses we become more and more liberal. Attitudes which would have once been thought unthinkable are now accepted without batting an eye. Tea Party protests aside (and those are in reality very minor), no one is seriously arguing for the dismantling of the welfare state. From its far left perch, the press paints the continuation of the status quo as a vast right wing conspiracy, likening the pausing of the liberal agenda to the reinstatement of Jim Crow. Regardless, the evidence is clear, we are and have been moving leftward and my question is why?

The reason is not reason, logic, or argumentation. Liberalism, it is widely acknowledged, ran out of ideas long ago and what can only be described as twisted irony, the only place it wants to progress is to the 1930's. Liberalism is triumphing because our environment gives rise to liberalism. The free market has succeeded in reducing the cost of liberalism, making it plausible for health care to be a "right", and giving credence to the ridiculous idea that not all work is "dignified".

Each and every one of us came to our beliefs not by rational choice nor deliberation, but because of our nature and the environment which surrounds us. Reason and deliberation came after we already thought the way we do and when we found others whose logic and reason was compelling, we embraced them because they confirmed our existing beliefs. We never needed convincing.

The danger of the welfare state is not that it takes unfairly from some to give to undeserving others. The danger is that the welfare state creates an environment which degrades everyone through perverse incentives. Incentives which degrade work and self reliance as "undignified", implying that living parasitically off your fellow man is dignified.

Altering the current situation requires convincing your fellow man to change, and I argue this cannot be done through logic and reason because you were not convinced through logic and reason. The only successful strategy is to change his environment, to change his incentives, thereby causing him to convince himself.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Principles or progress?

I think school vouchers are a wonderful idea. Parents, on behalf of their children, ought to be able to send their kids to the school of their choice. This simple act introduces competition into public education, and allows children to escape failing schools. There's a catch however, not all children have loving parents, and some of those parents won't do what's best for their children. These kids will be left behind and that's unfortunate.

What's more unfortunate, is that many of us would sacrifice a better educational system because it doesn't aspire to perfection. Because there are children, who we acknowledge will be left behind, the system is unacceptable. Is it rational to sacrifice a better educational system because it isn't perfect? Of course not, no system will ever be perfect and it's a sad reality that the current system fails too many.

When I talk to fellow liberty minded individuals, they often play into the same fallacy. While I advance school vouchers, their ideal is the federal governments complete retreat from education. To them, the federal government has no business involving itself in your child's education and any involvement is a violation of your liberty. You know what, they may be right, but being right is not all it's cracked up to be.

We don't live in an ideal state, we live in the present, imperfections and all. And in my mind the only judge of progress is whether tomorrow is closer to our ideal than today. Don't let rigid adherence to idealistic principles blind you to a better tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Words Matter

We all know the New York Times is nuts, but what is most enlightening about this article are the words used to frame the issue. If you ever had a doubt about liberal bias and how the way something is described indicates that bias, this article is case and point (emphasis mine):
The Department of Labor has begun a long-overdue campaign to protect workers’ rights, a core part of its job that was sorely neglected in the fiercely antiregulatory Bush era...


The workers — many undocumented immigrants — told of employers who ignored the minimum wage, denied overtime, illegally docked their pay for the cost of tools or transportation, or forced them to work without pay before or after their shifts. More than a quarter had been paid less than the minimum wage, often by more than $1 an hour. Violations typically robbed workers of $51 a week, from an average paycheck of $339.

The new campaign rightly points out that all workers, including the undocumented, deserve to be paid for their labor. These are truths too often forgotten. If you work in this country, you are protected by its laws. And if unscrupulous employers can exploit the most vulnerable employees, no workers are safe....
Does it even need to be said that undocumented=illegal. Why it isn't said is because the New York Times supports illegal immigration and they are afraid that by describing these workers as what they are, this might actually put some people off.

And of course Bush (and conservatives in general) are "fiercely" against any sort of regulation. Didn't you know that eight year olds were working 70 hours a week in the evil reign of Bush? Thank g-d Obama changed all that and brought hope to undocumented toddlers everywhere.

But more striking is that without an once of irony, they cite the laws of this country while implicitly advocating the flouting of our laws. I don't believe in the exploitation of people either, but maybe these people wouldn't be exploited if they didn't live in the shadows because they were here illegally. Just a thought.

Oh, and those "unscrupulous" employers, the ones who provide legitimate work for these "undocumented" workers, the same work which entices people to break our laws, leave their loved ones, and risk everything for a better life, pure evil I tell you. But if you don't believe me, just do a little math and figure the outrageously low wage they are paying: $339/40hrs = $8.47/hr, and the minimum wage: $7.25/hr.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Who's against a little liberty

Why do liberals insist that the entire country, every single American, adopt their version of health care reform? It just seems odd that liberals would not, no could not, be satisfied with socialized medicine in Massachusetts, California, New York, or any other number of liberal bastions. Why can't there be one, ONE state without socialized medicine?

What about education? Why is the federal government involved in education at all? Is not each state capable of educating its citizens? And if the state fails at that task, then cannot the parents move to another state, one better for their children?

What about social security? Social security takes from one set of tax payers (the young) and gives to another (the old). Is a state not capable of this miraculous feat?

What about welfare? Again we take from one set of citizens (the "rich") and give to another (the poor). Are you telling me that only the Federal government can do this? Californians are too stupid?

There is no reason these things must be done at the federal level. The only reason is that if done at the state level, people just might choose not to participate, and that's the real sin. The real sin is giving up control over other people's lives.

I have heard from my liberal friends that if we do things at the state level, then people may be "stuck" and cannot afford to leave. Perhaps the local school is bad, we can't let people stay in that situation, we must impose federal standards and bring them up to par. This is a valid concern, but it weighs a hypothetical concern with a stark reality: you are forcing your views on unwilling people. That immediate immorality doesn't seem to stack up with their hypothetical immorality.

Here's my proposal. Let's move more functions to the state. Functions which in essence take money from one group and give to another don't require the federal Leviathan. And if there are people who wish to move but can't, then let's give them the money to move.

So I ask anyone, liberals included, why can't we adopt a proposal like this? All I'm asking for is just a little bit of liberty and moving costs.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The law's intent

I was watching a C-span debate between Justice Scalia and Breyer about various aspects of the law. Breyer made a very interesting, and scary, point about how judges ought to handle ambiguity and impreciseness in laws. To illustrate, he talked about a case where the intention of a law is circumvented by strict adherence to the law. The intention may be that wages are fair, but because of impreciseness in the language, wages are unfair even though the law is followed to a T. In Breyer's opinion, when ruling in these types of situations, judges ought to take into account the intention, fair wages, and base their decision off of that. In essence, amending the law to "fill in the gaps". This is dangerous.

Think about this: you want to follow the law; you adhere to the law; but if you fail to anticipate what someone intended instead of what the law states, you could be breaking the law. This is a perversion of justice. It is not the responsibility of an individual to behave as one thinks he ought to behave. He must live by the rules of the game, and those rules are written down for everyone to see. Rules which no one knows, which are intentional, are not rules that can or should be enforced.

Breyers is trying to use the wrong tool for his purpose. Law by it's very definition is imprecise, lacking. It cannot account for all possibilities. It is not a means for codifying intentions and desires. You cannot write a law that states society will be fair and judges ought not whimsically attempt the practice of engineering a fair society. They should interpret the law.