1. On Fair Share

    I may as well call this rant On Envy, because to me the idea being preached ad infinitum that “we all need to do our fair share,” is a problem of envy not of fairness. Allow me to make the case:

    Envy is defined as the feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions. The keyword here is “resentful.” A person filled with envy has an ever-increasing, painful awareness of another person’s good fortune. Not only are they aware of and cringe at the prospect of others’ fortune, but they desire to bring that fortune to an end through any means (remember consequentialism…?). Therefore, envy is not merely jealousy, as some dictionaries might suggest. It is a highly destructive emotion, that the person has to realize will not bring happiness but will bring social harm. I’m sure many of you have heard of the 7 deadly sins and that envy is among them. I think the reason for this is because upon exercising envy, a person satisfies a lust for wrongdoing to come to others.

    I’m sure by now you’re wondering how such a negative term could be used in comparison to such a noble cause like ‘doing our fair share.’ Unfortunately, not many people realize that listening to cable news, reading the paper or editorial pages, or articles from political sites allows for a very personal connection of media to individual. If the individual has no inner filter, media can manipulate the way people view the world and spur some otherwise disagreeable behavior. By inner filter I mean that the person needs to understand that someone with just as much emotional bias and flaws as anyone (and with even more of a hidden agenda) is attempting to provide the person with seemingly unbiased information. They need to process the information given to them and independently make a decision as to whether or not the ramifications of what is being said to them stand true or false. Let me try to clear this up, when someone in office preaches “we need to do our fair share,” and the media and pundits alike relay this phrase back to your ear as a positive remark, you need to question it. What if everyone doing their fair share meant “we all need to make sure no one raises the bar” or “we need to prevent individuals from succeeding too much because that makes other people question their self-worth" or even "we need to redefine success as achieving the not more but equal to average"?

    Envy is one of the major tenants of our present redistributionist government and is being endorsed everyday by media. It is what motivates people in Washington to attack high class society (and mind you D.C. has some of the highest of high class members). Sadly, envious people will not stop until their goals of harming those who succeed are seen through, even when carrying out the task causes personal harm. Look no further than taxation to see policies driven by envy. Progressive income tax (where the tax rate increases as the taxable base amount increases) and the inheritance tax (a tax imposed on someone who inherits property or money) are a few examples of these policies, and none of them help society. Sure they gather some revenue, but the revenue gathered would be a lot more if taxation was low and natural to the market and overall production.

    There are volatile social consequences to the individual pursuance of envy. Let’s say I own a nice car or home or accessories. Living in a society where envy is embedded into our livelihood by recognizing the rich as ‘evil and unwilling to do their fair share,’ I would not want to physically show my riches. I’d be fearful that showing any sign of high class would incur reprisal. Thus, this envious society would act as a deterrent for me to pursue classical success in my workplace. I’d be pressured into settling for mediocrity. Ideally, a government for the people should create laws that elicit excellence from its citizens, appealing to the highest impulses of human nature not the lowest.

    People say capitalistic societies welcome in winners and shun the losers. Yes, in a market setting, foresight and good judgment do lead to profitability. Instead of condemning this behavior and looking at it in a way of “how dare that person succeed and leave me to fail,” I wish members of society would celebrate and emulate others’ success. That way a scenario of ‘winners-and-losers’ becomes ‘winners-and-soon-to-be-winners.’ American society used to mean something of this sort - an immigrant coming to our country looked at it from the shore and realized at that moment “I can achieve my highest dreams” - until envy emerged. Collective change must be brought about individually.

    Fortunate people acting charitably and unfortunate people acting opportunistically - now that’s a society worthy of being envied.

    /rant
    EDIT (2/25/2013): I realize that some of you reading this post might disagree by saying “Dependency is not a bad thing. You shouldn’t pass it off as the reason for societal stagnation.” To make myself clear: This is not a black and white issue, I find it easily defensible that over the past few generations our society has grown more dependent on the government precisely because the size and scope of government has grown as well. I feel self-reliance is a worthy trait to keep, but you must also recognize that someone in your community, school, family, church etc would be able to help you whenever you chose to depend on them - someone as impersonal as government would not be able to help you nearly as much.
     

  2. On Taxation

    When it comes to taxation, I always hear people talk about that quote “taxes are the price we pay for civilization.” Now I don’t know whether or not they believe in that adage, but to me that mindset seems a little disturbed. I always thought freedom was necessary to build a civilization through which socioeconomic and moral development occurred. (I suppose civilization is wherever a Walmart is built…but never mind that). I thought that government’s power to tax had to be done scrupulously - an ostensibly impossible task - and that any overabundance of power lead to destruction of civilization.Think about the idea of taxation at its core: forcibly taking money from productive citizens in order to fund the national (and as a result, global) economy. We can shake our heads either way to this notion, but when taxation is taken to the extreme, it poses a threat to productivity, national wealth, and natural rights.

    Now I understand that whenever I use historical examples for arguments the rebuttal usually follows: “yeah, but we live in different times now. Do you want to go back to a time of slavery too?” (or something of the sort). Although technology advances and society progresses, principles do not change. For the first few decades of our country, Americans paid almost no taxes directly as it was posited unconstitutional. How did the federal government attain revenue then? Well that was provided by tariffs (which was a poorly executed indirect tax). Once the 16th Amendment rolled around, income of citizens could be taxed in order to gain federal revenue, and the public-private relationship changed immensely. The mindset now became one of government having a right to individual productivity. This created more dependency of citizens upon the government. Of course we all know tax rates way back when started low, but because government created such a dependency, those recipients as well as the politicians themselves make sure taxes rise in any way, shape or form.

    When I ask some of my friends to tell me some forms of harmful taxation, the answer is almost always “excessive income tax.” Sometimes we do not realize it, but there are so many other forms of taxes: property tax, county tax, city tax, state tax, sales tax, excise tax, inheritance tax, and even inflation (give it a minute) … to name a few. It all comes back to dependency - the greater the amount of government taxation, the greater the dependency by its citizens. However, because government cannot manage money as well as the individual, this revenue is improperly allocated. If I can so easily point out the discrepancies in taxation, why is it that the majority of Americans see it as a necessary part of society? Well, I could blame the media, I could blame the government propaganda, and I could even blame ‘parenting,’ but really it comes down to the individual themselves. As long as people refuse to question morality of the society they live in, a decline in the state of that society is inevitable. Not only that, but the ‘laxed approach by some Americans toward taxes stems from the fact that they have some inherited wealth or support system. Once this wealth is decreased and productivity shunted, tax revenue obviously falls. So instead of realizing the problem was increased burden on the individual in the first place, government of course attempts to solve the problem with increased taxes (we need more revenue right?!).

    Early American society understood for the most part the destructive nature of taxation. But what happens if today’s society started vehemently opposing higher taxes? Well, all the government has to do is borrow and create new money. Easy enough, but because unnatural increase in the money supply causes inflation, prices go up to pay for it(ding ding ding, inflation tax!). So what is society to do? Again, we need to reduce our dependency on the government. The played out idea that it is ‘fair’ for citizens to pay taxes because they receive compassion and largess from the government is harmful to societal progress. Think about your own life or when you were growing up. You considered independence from your parents the goal of maturing, because self-reliance was the one attribute you felt necessary to become an adult. What happens when you continue to depend on your parents? Your self-reliance or urge for responsibility over your own life drastically diminishes. The same effect results from our relationship with the government.

    The free market system works because the individual is responsible and has the say in how he or she allocates his or her money. Government spending interferes with this system because of the moral hazards that come into play (a rant for another day). Politicians, bureaucrats and special interest groups all benefit from these government spending programs, while society collectively suffers. But people often consider compromising taxes - some taxpayer funding is noble, some is not. For example, over the years the media portrayed free public education as a good use of taxpayer funding. As I’ve ranted on previously, public education has not turned out well. More Americans are sending their children to private/parochial schools or homeschooling them. Public schools are inefficient and extremely costly. The costs for public education are wastefully spent. Government controlled healthcare system paid for by taxation is not and will not be successful, yet loads of Americans are demanding universal healthcare. I mean, even if there are some partial successes with taxpayer-funded programs, we have to ask ourselves “what would be another way of offering the same services without taxpayer money?”. Opening up these programs to the private market and reducing or eliminating taxation would allow those tax dollars already collected to be utilized more efficiently and productively.

    Government regulations are another method of taxation that sounds more appealing to the masses. People believe that without the regulations “capitalism would corrupt our nation!” - no, that’s corporatism not capitalism. What capitalism would provide in the free market would be property rights, accountable money, voluntary exchanges and necessary bankruptcy laws in order to establish efficiency and economic order. The freer a country is, the more civilized and productive it becomes. Economic and political stability is threatened by the apparent ‘need’ for increase in government revenue to build a civilization. This need spurs a collectivist philosophy. Rather, we need a minimalist approach to government and taxation.

    The spreading ideology of welfarism (a stem of consequentialism where actions are justified by the end result… a rant for later) produces an entirely different society - one that is wholly reliant upon its government. We haven’t seen the lasting effects of this era of government spending because the government continues to delay the inevitable. When that inevitable approaches, maybe then real societal change will take place.
    /rant
     

  3. On Healthcare

    I take a logic course in my university and every now and again the class finds itself with a few minutes of downtime to discuss whatever topic we feel debatable. A classmate who happened to be Canadian-born and I were in a group discussing our healthcare system, and as always my laptop was available at the table for me to practice my stenography and shorthand the conversation. Here is an excerpt:

    Me: so wait, whats your major again?

    Scott: Business. but hopefully one day i could donate money for people like you, we need more scientists, doctors, etc.

    Me: dude, Id appreciate it, because our healthcare system is going down the toilet so it’s gonna be rough

    Scott: which is why people should donate more money to it. it should be free for everyone, everyone deserves the right to live

    Me: yes, you have a right to your life but no, healthcare should be dealt with privately. government should have no control over it.   people have this misconception that if healthcare weren’t universal then people would go untreated and die. walk into any local hospital right now without insurance, without money and asked to be treated.

    Scott: i don’t think so. everyone should have free healthcare, it’s cheaper for everyone. i could right now. no wait time, no bill

    Me: it’s not cheaper for everyone. You would be stealing from one man to pay for another

    Scott: that’s what welfare is

    Me: doesnt that delve into moral hierarchy?

    Scott: it’s better to use our tax dollars for something important

    Me: government shouldnt be responsible for taking care of the individual. once you step into the moral hazard zone, government gets corrupt

    Scott: yes they should. that’s why we elect them

    Me: no, it is fine that we support the government, but the government shouldnt explicitly support us.. except for national duties such as defense and upholding civil liberties. citizens take care of each other

    Scott: i personally think that defense **** should be all cut. it costs too much and war solves nothing

    Me: we were talking healthcare, but yeah I agree about war solving little. i believe that we should focus our resources on our own borders, rather than overseas

    Scott: i mean we should stop pirates and stuff, but theres not need to spend millions on a rocket that’s just going to blow up

    Me: if you want an example of government run anything: go to the DMV or post office or veterans hospital or Native American land

    Scott: maybe where you grew up, but the reserve down the road from my old house makes millions every year. and they don’t have a casino. a wait period is at most 2 weeks

    Me: I wouldnt know about that, but the fact is government should not be involved in healthcare. that should be left to the private market

    Scott: but then how would a poor person have his prostate cancer taken care of. he wouldn’t. he’d die.

    Me: Please understand my point: no doctor, with any sense of morality, would turn away a patient. it’s treatment first. insurance later.

    ______


    The prevailing mindset of the American people is that we all have a right to medical care. No, you have a right to your life, liberty, work and a right to keep work, but you don’t have a right to some “thing-” especially when that thing is from the government. Government has nothing; it has to take it from somewhere and reallocate it to you. This attitude is a major reason for the continued push for universal healthcare which would destroy the good aspects currently left in our healthcare system. When people say they have a right to medical care, that right can only be guaranteed at Americans’ expense - and through no volunteering of their own. I always talk about government being less efficient that the free market in terms of production. This applies to medical treatment as well. Forcing citizens to finance a government employed universal healthcare system creates over-utilization of resources, and stagnating technology and R&D. We all have a right to pursue medical care without being impeded by government policies, but that idea is not currently present. Our lackluster system is a result of years of regulations, taxation, mandates, inflation, HMO and insurance blockades, licensing and subsidies. So to resolve our problems, the recent solution being offered?: more government involvement. Does that strike you as redundant?

    Let me spur some imagination: what if 30 years ago the government made a universal cellphone system, because it thought everyone had a right to a phone? We do not have a right to materials. The cellphone would have undoubtedly been slow in production, technological expansion and not to mention the price would be drastically high. Fortunately, we let the market take its course, and as a result it seems society cannot keep up with cellular developments at reasonable prices.

    People have this opinion that the private market allows for price manipulation. Think about this: what hospital would get away with a $500 pillow - unless it had government intervention? None - and it is the nature of government in terms of production to produce lower quality yet higher cost goods and services. Sure I’ll admit that the idea of “fair share” and “universal healthcare” sounds noble, but the inevitable result of such an inherently socialist system will be more harm done and at very high costs. Is there not a negative correlation between the loads of government medical spending over the past 40 years and the quality of our system? Even those patients relying on Medicare/-caid have to realize that the method of funding those programs deems it virtually unsustainable. (I’ll mention insurance briefly, but that’s a rant for another day…)

    We also hear talk about government mandatory health insurance. For free markets to properly function, we need insurance for risk measurement. However, the health insurance being talked about in the media for the past couple years is unwittingly being mistaken for social welfare. I say social welfare, because again, most Americans view medical care as a right. This implies insurance is an assumed right. If health insurance can be considered a right then, what about car insurance? There is plenty of competition within the car insurance provider field, and states require it - but even then, mandatory health insurance is miles beyond auto insurance to the point it would not be fair to call both policies “insurance.”

    Let’s keep our imagination going then: Suppose the federal government decided car insurance was a right, because it was necessary for a citizen to work. We could thus say that the citizen could not get to work unless the insurance provider provides all the services that go into maintaining a car (gas, repairs etc). Poorly conditioned cars or cars with lower than average mpg would not be allowed to have more cost to them for fears of discrimination against the less fortunate. With this newly implemented government car insurance, every problem regardless of size and scope would be payed for or fixed. Sounds like trouble doesn’t it? Well yes, so the government would then need to monitor the whole mandated car insurance program for superfluous repairs, excess fuel consumption etc by making citizens obtain approval to buy the insurance. When they do this, the media will portray the action as “Government Saves Money By Cutting Waste, Reduces National Debt!” Of course, they never had money to save in the first place. Insurance companies would not survive being forced to pay for all the regulations. But then again, since the government requires insurance companies to carry out certain tasks, the service no longer becomes insurance - rather, it becomes a social welfare mandate. So what happens to the car insurance companies then? Either they go bankrupt, or the government bails them out imposing further bankruptcy on itself. How efficient would it be then for government-mandated health insurance, maybe on foods… to promote healthy eating habits? It would save money by helping eliminate the rampant obesity problem in our country, right? Or what about hurricane insurance for beach houses, or fire insurance for woodland houses? These are all just examples that it seems citizens might reason to be outrageous proposals. Why then, are we making a government mandated health insurance program an exception? Here’s what would happen if you free up the insurance industry: deregulation -> loads of insurance options for all individuals with varying situations -> adjusting coverages -> costs go down.

    "We all need to do our fair share." Well, why should those who have better health habits pay more to take care of those who don’t? When buying for example home insurance, the buyer fits exactly what he or she wants insured to his or her budget. This screening process must be allowed when buying health insurance as well. In these healthcare proposals, coverage for prescription medicine, office consultations etc are thought to be a noble cause. However, they have to be paid for by raising insurance premiums. Our healthcare system is full of HMOs and PPOs and mandates and first-dollar coverages (which is an insurance plan under which the third-party payer assumes liability for covered services as soon as the first dollar of expense for such services is incurred, without requiring the insured to pay a deductible). Before the Nixon era, medical charges were usually the minimum rate (with minimal government intervention). Nowadays, those charges are almost always the maximum rate possible because there is no incentive for neither the patients nor the providers to keep charges down. Those third-party payments found in first-dollar coverages encourage abuse, which again results in price controls which will lead to shortages.

    The rapidly rising cost of healthcare cannot be completely fixed unless the source of inflation and excessive government mandates are heavily addressed. And even with all of these changes, we must also address reforming tort law (which is a body of rights, obligations, and remedies that is applied by courts in civil proceedings to provide relief for persons who have suffered harm from the wrongful acts of others). Seemingly, tort law should help benefit the injured patients. Sadly, our current healthcare system yields tort law benefiting trial lawyers much more than the patients - if at all. Not only that, but doctors’ additional costs in order to run the required tests puts more internal pressure on the medical care system, driving up the costs further. Today’s regulations and tort law often result in successful suits against hospitals for injuries with no one at justifiable blame. We hear the argument to fix tort law by endorsing national tort reform with restrictions on awards given. This is only eliminating one problem and replacing it with another. The patient has been dealt with unjustly and deserves appropriate compensation. The only way to solve this complex situation, is to simply open up medical care to the free market - maybe even legalize contracts between doctors and patients (which would not hold up in court today). Using the example of car insurance again, when a person buys a car he or she knows what the warranty offers, how long it lasts, how much extended warranty costs etc. What if every car accident (even minor ones) needed a trial lawyer to determine the injuries sustained and the benefits to the patients? Fortunately, car insurance disputes in this case would be settled quickly. Implementing health insurance into the free market would result in swift compensation, and most likely the doctor would take responsibility for any mistake occurred under his or her watch (regardless of whether or not the complication was the fault of his or her own doing). In the free market system, tax credits should be offered for all healthcare costs (insurance and liability included). 

    I mentioned licensing as well. Licensing limits the number of people (doctors) who can provide patient medical care. I remember reading a report done in the early 20th century that showed medical schools being closed and thus the number of doctors greatly reduced. This was done to limit specifically the schools that catered to homeopathic/alternative medicine, which allowed physicians’ income to remain elevated and the allopathic school of medicine to be promoted. In the free market, improvements would be made at the pace of the consumer (patients) - which may or may not lead to the support of one school of medicine over the other - but will definitely result in more treatment options for the patients.

    The quality and cost of healthcare will not be improved by forcing citizens to buy insurance. Medical programs such as Medicare and Medicaid have already imploded. The upcoming healthcare bill which utilizes trillions of dollars we do not have will hurt our healthcare system even further.

    I realize that this rant got a bit skewed as I tried to fit many points into a cohesive argument, so I will make bullet points to summarize!

    • Medical care is not a right
    • Government provided healthcare can be achieved only by reducing individual liberty
    • Corporatism is a result of the poor economic ideologies that government regulation on medical care improves quality
    • Government healthcare programs reduce quality and increase cost of services
    • Government is not nearly as moral and efficient a service provider as that of the free market
    • Every issue is related back to the economy - debased currency plays a large role in increased healthcare costs
    • Third-party payers only complicate the doctor/patient relationship
    • Tax credit must be given for all medical expenses
    • Tort laws need to be reformed to make sure injured patients receive compensation instead of trial lawyers
    • Health insurance should be opened up to the free market to allow for more competition between insurance companies
    • In a free market, the purpose of insurance is to provide measurements of risk, not social welfare
    • Threatening individuals with huge fines by forcing them to buy insurance is a benefit to the insurance companies.
    • Increase competition for people wishing to enter the medical field
    • Alternative medicine should be available free from regulations to the consumer

    Just remember, releasing medical care into the free market for people like you and me to have more control over our healthcare service is what is necessary - not more government intervention and ‘universal’ healthcare.

    /rant
     

  4. On The State of the Union

    Yes, it has been a while - working On the Constitution where I go through each amendment/bill and its effect on society, as well as more On Society (creationism vs. evolutionism, defining success etc), and regular posts such as On Unemployment, Inflation and QE. However, after watching the President’s address and Senator Rubio’s response on Feb. 12, I feel the need to address the State of the Union myself. I use the transcript of Obama’s address from washingtonpost.com.

    Early on in his address, President Obama said, “Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before… and we can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger.” Perhaps, right at that instant compared to an early report there would be some “rebounding.” George Bush said the union was strong back in 2007 just before a major stock market crash. Of course presidents are going to say the union is strong, even though now we are on the precipice of disaster if the administration continues its push for expansion of government intervention. In reality, stock market does not reflect economic vitality, the state of our union is doing everything but gaining in strength, and patients and homeowners are hardly enjoying anything at all. Of course the statement I just made is as broad and maybe as untenable as the President’s - but it goes to show how his arguments are emotionally laden. Statements like the one he and I made have to be dealt with by first recognizing your personal situation, consulting statistics that you have been keeping up with weekly, and making a judgment based on the logic of before, during and after situations. However, without much surprise his statement was met with roaring applause.

    Pres. Obama began with talk about the sequester, “In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if both parties couldn’t agree on a plan to reach our deficit goal, about a trillion dollars’ worth of budget cuts would automatically go into effect this year. These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would jeopardize our military readiness, they’d devastate priorities like education and energy and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. And that’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts — known here in Washington as “the sequester” — are a really bad idea.” The president says that the sequester was a bad law which congress passed, right? Well, if you remember congress passed the bill, which the president subsequently signed into law. If he thought it was such a bad idea, why didn’t he veto it? And on top of this, in the following months he was seen in the media well before the election defending these automatic ‘cuts.’ I put cuts in quotation because these cuts are trivial reductions… half a program here, half there. The only way we will actually achieve increase in productivity is to make substantial cuts of government. I’m talking about cutting entire departments. The problem with rhetoric in this situation is that now President Obama has been reelected, he can afford to be a bit more revealing to the American public. It is pertinent for principled politicians to take advantage of this in order to put pressure on him to create these legitimate cuts in government spending. Unfortunately for us, the only way it seems anything develops further from talking into taking action is to have a disaster. An economic collapse in the next few years will be the catalyst to produce substantive change in our American government.

    The President then goes on to say “Corporate profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs, but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged. It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth: a rising, thriving middle class.” He refers time and time again that it is the government’s task to strengthen the American economy. He thinks the American economy is strong because we have a strong middle class. However, we had a strong middle class because our economy was strong. Where did the strength come from? It did not come from consumers buying goods - it came from the producers creating goods. The middle class was a result of entrepreneurial creativity. What defined the middle class was the wages that allowed most people to afford a standard of living substantially higher from previous times. The American middle class was born from the productivity from limited government. Because we were freer than the rest of the world with much lower taxation and regulation, we were able to increase productivity and real wages. This is what allowed the middle class to live out their American dream - not the other way around. The outcome of what Pres. Obama proposed will result in further destruction of the middle class.

    The first legitimate proposal he made had to do with increasing so-called manufacturing hubs, “… I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of 15 of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made right here in America.” During the Industrial Revolution, America didn’t have any of these hubs - our entire country was one big manufacturing hub with the government having little to nothing to do with its success. I can say briefly that the government having a hand in production is far less efficient than freeing up production back to the private sector. The president focuses on American energy sector as a major area for manufacturing. Energy independence again cannot be produced as efficiently and without corruption (remember Solyndra?) under government influence than in the free market.

    Obama did mention that energy imports are at a decline which is true, “Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy. After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years.” I say this is true, but not for the reasons the president provides. He feels our statistical decline in energy imports is due to an increase in full-efficient car usage and production of oil. The actual reason for this statistic is because Americans are using less gasoline and oil. Because the economy is contracting, citizens use less mechanical means of transportation (perhaps due to lack of daily commute to jobs…). But gas prices are rising, anyway though. Basically, we are exporting the energy that Americans do not need anymore. Our trade deficit contracted because of this reason. This will be a common trend of using less of everything but paying more.

    The president goes on to mention that energy is just one of many infrastructure repairs needed to be done, “I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country….And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children.” Unfortunately, the mindset that government repair programs legitimately create jobs is misguided. I am not the first, nor will I be the last, to point out the Broken Window Fallacy. In a nutshell, this fallacy lays out how government cannot create jobs, it can only reallocate resources. By taking resources (i.e. taxpayer money) and shifting it toward repairing and rebuilding damage to our infrastructure, what the public sees might seem like prosperity and job creation, but what is not seen is the potential use of those resources for production. Under this philosophy, natural disasters would be beneficial to the economy (I mean why not, if they create jobs needed to rebuild all the damage?).

    Speaking of job creation, Obama then addresses creating an immediate-impact proposal which would increase the amount of money poor and low middle class workers have in their pockets, “Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, 19 states have chosen to bump theirs even higher….Tonight, let’s declare that, in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty — and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.” No, that’s wrong actually. I have ranted about minimum wage before and how it should cease to exist. Yes, one of the primary objectives of our nation is to increase the standard of living and potential wages that workers earn. But to increase wages unnaturally would result in a decrease of standard of living. It would result in more pressure on those unemployed to attain a job. If employers would not higher them at $7.50/hr, under what logic would those employers higher the same unemployed people at $9.00/hr? And for those Americans who struggle to earn a living at the minimum wage - by increasing the minimum wage, employers would have to seriously decide on whether or not their struggling employees are even worth paying more to! Think about it like this: why would you want to make hiring people more expensive… the way you reduce the demand for something is by increasing the prices. Of course, minimum wage is not everything the employer has to deal with - it’s payroll taxes, workman’s compensation, healthcare regulations etc. In fact, what this administration is doing puts more pressure on employers to survive (which is why we are seeing more companies put employees from full-time to part-time status). Even those minimum wage workers that do end up with a raise, where does that money come from? The employers either have to reduce the profit for themselves or raise up their prices. The president’s proposal would transfer purchasing power, not create it.

    Another proposal that the president seemed especially giddy about was that of refinancing, “Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Democrats and Republicans have supported it before. So what are we waiting for? Take a vote and send me that bill… why would we be against that?” So $3000 dollars in American homeowners’ pockets, right? Well, where is that money coming from? Again, it is coming from the lender (bank, pension funds etc) who has to take the $3000/yr reduction in the income that is generated from that mortgage. Companies have to make greater contributions to their pensions, insurance companies raise their premiums to those insured, and banks become less viable because of reduced value of assets. We do not see the ramifications of this until interest rates rise. Banks fail as a result of low-yielding mortgages. Who bails them out, you ask? The homeowners with $3000 in their pockets, of course! It’s the circle of life in the eyes of the government. The detraction of this money from the homeowners is seen in the form of a debased currency, because printing money + not raising taxes + creating inflation and denying its existence = politicians favored choice of bailing out anything.

    What he should have addressed to the nation is not a false sense of hope and empty promises and “fair share” philosophy. He should have been frank with the American people by saying promises have been made which cannot be followed through, how the government has brought us to bankruptcy, and how their has to be some sacrifices (not more entitlements) by Americans. The government doesn’t care for profits or losses because taxpayers are the ones who have to deal with the consequences. Any investment the government makes is done for political reasons. The only role of the government in this economic situation is spending money (by reallocating resources). Limiting government spending is absolutely key for the rebirth of our nation. It is just as morally unjust to lead our country on by saying everything is getting stronger, as it is for someone leading their partner on through a struggling relationship. Admitting their is problem is not enough. Admitting the right problem and suggesting immediate and legitimate action to be taken is a better course. But politicians wouldn’t want to do this, because they are afraid of the possible outcries of the American public. We need that fear. Our State of the Union should be fearful, if nothing else.

    /rant

     

  5. On Self-Worth

    Before I take a break from writing On Society, I would like to make this post after hearing a few cases of near-suicides. Of course, this is a problem in today’s society, but I will make an attempt to address the youth primarily. Because this is a broader tackling of the subject, further expansion of this post may be necessary in the following months.

    Last week, I addressed briefly the confusion over how people measure their worth. I said happiness becomes superficial when people equate their worth to how many materials they possess. Well, this implies that people have variable worth to begin with, that humans at some point aren’t equal to each other. But before we explore this further, let’s define ‘worth.’ Of course, worth is used in many forms - we hear a stock worth a certain amount, or some thing’s worth in gold, or the worth of higher education. I’m more interested in the latter example. ‘Worth’ in its earliest form meant “equal in value to;” but I’d go as far as to say worth is the potential to reach a certain value.

    Because this value is ever changing and each person affects society in an unknown yet necessary way, you can consider people’s worth as invaluable. That being said, humans have an innate equal worth. No man deserves life any more than his neighbor. So if worth is such a concrete term, no one should have any less self-confidence or consider themselves ‘worthless’ or ‘useless,’ right? Well, I’m writing this post because unfortunately society - especially its youth - has a twisted sense of self-worth.

    That is the key word - sense. This issue comes down not on what we are worth but we think we are worth. Perception is always tricky, because unlike reason, it is influenced by what you know and your emotions. Depending on your mood, let’s say, if it rains outside you might react with “Oh… great.” instead of “Oh, great!” (Lame example, but the point still remains). After talking to a few people over the years that have problems with self-worth, what happens is usually as follows:

    Bad experiences (i.e. relationships that probably shouldn’t have started failing harshly) -> feeling sad more often than feeling happy -> placing blame on self -> extrapolating bad experiences to never being able to have good experiences -> finding comfort in sadness (because of how personal it seems) -> not accepting help (because no one understands) -> lowered self-worth.

    Somewhere in there, the individual needs to understand that they can take control of their lives with a simple change of attitude. With a shift in focus, perception can allow the person to understand their lives a bit clearer. A piece of advice that worked for me would be to make a list of ambitions that you can imagine yourself doing - work from broad to specific. This will provide some remnant of meaning in your life (whether it be necessary or not).

    Try to understand, however, that we do not derive worth from value created by society. We are worth what we have always been worth - no more and no less than anyone else.

    /rant

     

  6. On Happiness

    A revelation I experienced not too long ago that I would undoubtedly rank above any other piece of advice I’d carry forward (hope I didn’t hype that too much) had to do with happiness. Happiness, when you think about it, is less complicated than society portrays. Being “happy” back in the 14th century meant you were favored by fortune or luck. The definition of the word happy has remained synonymous with prosperous till this day. Unfortunately, what it means to be prosperous has been shrouded over the years. 

    Should a person achieve some sort of preordained rank or pass some mark of income in order to become prosperous? Surely this would make happiness superficial. It would mean your worth (I’ll rant about self-worth soon) is directly tied to how many materials you possess. Then why is this so hard for some people to admit? Because they are looking for as much control over their life as possible. It’s like creating something just to call it rare. 

    What is it, then, to prosper in today’s society? Well, I’ll get to that in a bit, but I will say that it has more individual control than that of any material you can think of. However, I want to address those reading this who aren’t currently happy with their lives. Apart from any empathy I can give you (and I wish you all the strength imaginable), I want you to think of someone you know that seems pretty happy. How would you describe their attitude? How genuine do you think they are? How is it that your view of the world right now appears more negative than their view? Well, the answer to that is what my revelation was about.

    If your reality and their reality are one in the same, how can they ‘feel’ different? It has to do with perception. Moral relativism vs absolutism, free will vs determinism are all arguments for future discussions perhaps, but for now I will keep it short and simple.

    In order to be happy, you must decide to be happy. I’m sure some people reading this might wish to have read something else, but trust me, it is that simple. In fact, don’t just take my word for it (that would go against the principle of everything I’ve ever written), go out and research it for yourself. If you aren’t happy, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Grievance is a fine prospect. But if you do feel ready to be happy, or rather finished being dreadful, simply force yourself to smile and choose to be happy.

    You’ll find you have much more control over your life than society leads on.

    /rant

     

    EDIT (2/18/13): Someone I know approached me today asking for advice. It was one of those “I have this friend…” questions that had to be dealt with sensitively. Regardless, her concerns were similar to this topic of finding yourself spiraling with emotion to no apparent end. The advice I gave her (which was none too surprising) was simply: find joy. I found mine in music. Bare in mind lots of people play instruments, especially the drums; however, to me, drumming became a constant in my life. The feeling of happiness may seem tentative, but joy lasts long enough to become tangible. Like any relationship, I had to work hard - accepting failures, rejoicing successes - to become proficient at the drums. Soon enough, drumming became a place for me to introspect and eventually find freedom and happiness and ultimately joy. She said she found hers in the violin - but that her mother took it away from her a while back. My response? - you’ve already found joy, get it back and don’t ever lose it again.

     

  7. On Violence

    NB: The following post is part of a series On Society and is based almost purely out of speculation and inference on my part. It is meant to offer some sort of basis for explaining the atrocities that occur in our society at an almost ceaseless rate. It is not as complicated as the media makes it out to be. This post is not meant to offend anyone.


    I recently heard an argument about why the criminal in the Newtown tragedy made the decision to commit a mass murder-suicide. Basically, the pundit said that instead of leaving the world as a nobody, the criminal felt the need to leave the world with a mark - some sort of twisted immortality. As I wrote in my previous take on hatred, people like this have the urge to fill their life with meaning if nothing had already satisfactorily met their standards.

    The way I see it, if there is one thing that stings people just enough to commit violence, it is the feeling of powerlessness. I’ll use the term ‘weak’ again. If weak people feel they lack control over their environment and cannot influence others, then they reach a point where violence is the only remaining option. In order to influence others, there has to be mutual respect and a willingness for communication. In order to have environmental control, there has to be an understanding of customs, and ability and permission to act.

    As broad as these conditions are, they are not so often met in our society. Many people are alienated from one another and have few opportunities to exert any real influence upon anyone else. This case is especially prevalent with poor or uneducated people.

    But I want to address another aspect of violence that is probably just as pervasive if not connected to powerlessness. That is not why people are violent, but why so many men are violent. I mean, women are just as capable as yielding a gun or knife as men. Yet it isn’t women who are tearing through schools or temples or theaters.
    I’d attest this observation to the social expectations men and women must abide by, or in other words gender roles. So much of what people learn is from their environment. There seems to be this stigma where women are taught to be yielding. They are not expected to forcefully express their desires. However, men are taught to be dominant. Somehow it is effeminate if a man expresses his feelings or any tendencies for that matter in a yielding manner.

    I think it is worth reiterating that mentally healthy men are those who openly express a broad spectrum of emotional and behavioral characteristics. Being healthy requires a balance of being forceful and gentle, steadfast or yielding. Unfortunately, society has wholly changed the definition of a gentleman. The acceptable range of emotions for a man to express is now narrow. They have only a few ways to display exaggerated feelings (i.e. those thought clusters mentioned in the previous post).

    Basically, you have conflicted men who feel powerless yet have an urge to express control and satisfy their gender role. This can only mean trouble if society doesn’t change the values it afflicts upon our youth.

    /rant

     

  8. On Hatred

    NB: The following post is part of a series On Society and is based almost purely out of speculation and inference on my part. It is meant to offer some sort of basis for explaining the atrocities that occur in our society at an almost ceaseless rate. It is not as complicated as the media makes it out to be. This post is not meant to offend anyone.


    Hatred is defined as an intense animosity or hostility towards an individual, group or idea. We all know what hatred looks like - and some of us know how it feels - but where it came from has been tossed around for years. Hatred is usually connected with some sort of projection of those feelings in the form of abuse (I’ll rant about violence in the next post). It is puzzling how society almost unanimously agrees that hatred is never justified (especially through violence), and yet ‘there will always be hatred.’ I mean, we aren’t in a society where people are cast off as witches if they are different from the rest of the people. But it seems nowadays we coin the presence of hatred as ‘just another part of human nature.’ I’d argue against this. I would think it has more to do with selfish rejection of ‘good’ choices (i.e. love instead of hate).

    I believe every person is innately good with an absolute sense of morality. Society, our parents and well our environment tends to push ‘weak’ people a certain way. Why do I call the people who stray away from their sense of morality, ‘weak’?  Considering people like to fill their lives with purpose - they set high standards for themselves. And as it should happen, we don’t always meet these standards in the way we would have hoped. Now, quite a lot of people will, instead of pushing themselves harder to meet their expectations, lower the bar. They adjust their self-image. They start taking the easy way out. Tentatively, this seems like a viable solution, where society doesn’t have to know the difference. So the person we see coming out of the rough patch is actually ‘weaker’ than the person he or she could have been.

    What happens now is whenever these people have thoughts or feelings that don’t fit their false self-image, they feel threatened and have to constantly keep these feelings in check. These thoughts linger in their minds as much as they push them further down. Just as a writer’s thoughts flow through his pencil - one similar thought attracting another - thoughts that people fear are no different. These thoughts branch together, forming clusters of disturbed hierarchies pressing against the back of their minds. When something reminds weak people about these clusters, they will experience a sudden jolt of hatred, fear or disgust as their minds attempt to reject the prospect that the thoughts formed inside themselves.

    Because they cannot accept these thoughts as part of themselves, they assume that the feelings they generate are coming from whatever or whoever reminded us of them. This is known as projection. If you remember growing up and maybe you forgot to do a chore properly and your parent walks in and flips out. Then your parent later sits down with you and says “I’m sorry for lashing out at you like that, I just had a bad day at work.” It is the same principle. Anyone that seems vaguely antagonizing can cause weak people to project their own suppressed anger onto them. This anger seems to be separate from “their own” thoughts, making it easy to believe that the anger is coming from the other person. Someone with different culture, background or custom can prompt them to project so called antisocial thoughts of their own that disturbed or disgusted them, making the other person seem disturbing or threatening. Depending on the magnitude of their suppressed feelings, people who are in fact harmless or “without criminal record,” as it seems to be the case recently, can appear to be capable of vastly terrible deeds.

    A way to bring about sustainable change, is for everyone to own their thoughts as natural and a part of themselves and no one else, no matter how disturbing those thoughts may feel.

    /rant

     

  9. On Bipartisanship

    http://cache.boston.com/resize/bonzai-fba/Globe_Graphic/2009/03/20/haselbyin__1237607960_9809/410w.jpg

    I read an article by Kevin Liptak of CNN the other day about how Americans are eager for the politicians to reach an agreement on the fiscal cliff. “The Gallup survey released Tuesday showed 70% of all adult Americans want to see Congress and the White House reach a compromise agreement that would avoid the tax hikes and spending cuts included in the fiscal cliff. That’s up from the 62% who said they wanted compromise in a Gallup survey conduced last week.” I want to use this opportunity to challenge the conventional belief that bipartisanship promotes a healthier nation - one that compromises.

    Growing up, I always heard that what this country needs is for politicians to stop bickering and just get the job done. “Bipartisanship! I say.” I wondered, ‘what if they are compromising between two poor solutions? where would that leave us?’ I figured a politician regardless of his party should strive to remain principled to the Constitution. Unfortunately, for the past century the political policies have resulted in a steady increase in the size and scope of the federal government.

    One of the more unseen problems with bipartisanship is essentially which faction will have the power to dole out the benefits. This is known today as ‘special interest’ targeting. When this sort of moral hazard enters the realm of government, civil liberty is severely threatened. They may as well keep on fighting and withhold passing any sort of legislation. Especially with the fiscal cliff, as I ranted about previously, this is nothing new or unexpected. For the past few elections, I have been pretty troubled in hearing why people vote one way or the other. They might say “I’m choosing the lesser of two evils” or “I’m a straight party voter.” Well, my interpretation of this is basically “The other candidate has no chance, so I might as well choose this candidate because at least I won’t get stuck with xyz.” Where this might be valid to some people, I find it alarming that American citizens are willing to so easily reshape their values just to cast a vote. Citizens should not conform to a generalized value system; that is to say, we are supposed to elect politicians that explicitly represent our independent principles.

    I remember back in June, when the Affordable Care Act was upheld by the Supreme Court, the swaying vote cast by Chief Justice John Roberts was a shock to many. But if you think about it, did he really support it? The current administration got his signature but not his approval. He wrote “Upholding the Affordable Care Act under the Commerce Clause would give Congress the same license to regulate what people do not do. The Framers knew the difference between doing something and doing nothing. They gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it. Ignoring that distinction would undermine the principle that the Federal Government is a government of limited and enumerated powers." Even though the act was coined as a commerce, it was passed as a tax - the only way legally plausible. So, this was Roberts’ way of telling the American people, ‘elections have consequences.’

    Diction plays a key role in this debate as well. Saying I am ‘compromising’ my principles sounds a lot more appealing than saying I am ‘selling out.’ I think compromise in this scenario would be dubbed a weasel word. Speculatively, this allows a politician who runs openly with socialist agendas to be held with much more restraint than a politician who has similar values but runs on a ‘bipartisan’ platform. The latter politician might consider himself a moderate. Lately, I have felt as if moderates are the supposed clear-thinkers of the country, and every politician’s goal is to become a moderate (in order to get more of the independent vote, perhaps?). I would disagree with this, because I feel as though having polarizing parties is a good thing - arguments are healthy because they scintillate the true American principles.

    However, in order to have this sort of partisan discussion, citizen’s need politicians who are committed to their core values. I have always found it sad how the word politician has become synonymous with flaky. Bipartisanship is deemed necessary for progress. I am all for progress but not at the expense of liberty.

    /rant

    Image Credit: http://tinyurl.com/aycesq2

     

  10. On Immigration Reform

    http://www.motherjones.com/files/images/Blog_Immigration_Sign.jpg

    On Dec. 4, former president George W. Bush said “As our nation debates the proper course of action relating to immigration, I hope we will do so with a benevolent spirit and keep in mind the contribution of immigrants.” Since I had no idea we were all talking about immigration, I might as well jump in!

    When it comes to immigration reform, I like to look at the reason this topic is so heavily debated in the first place. For instance, there are economic reasons, concerns for violence, illegal immigrants ‘stealing’ jobs from American workers, federally mandated benefits to illegal immigrants, etc. There exist two extremes to this issue: more/completely open borders vs less open/completely closed borders. Of course, there is also a constitutional argument of more open borders which would be heavily regulated by private property owners.

    The sad part about the political effects of illegal immigration is how biased immigrant votes are toward the left. And even more alarming is how there have been cases of illegal immigrants voting as well (don’t believe me? open up another tab and check it!).

    What about the libertarian party? Well, libertarian purists will tell you that because they argue for freeing up the marketplace and production, they would argue for freeing up the borders as well. How could this possibly work? You have to consider how ‘open’ they would really be, because again there would be no established welfare benefits and new immigrants could only come through sponsor programs. If we fix the problems of government-mandated free services and subsequent unemployment, the immigration picture would be a bit clearer. When you have a freer economy, growth follows. With new growth, labor demand would be higher, thus opening up plenty of work opportunities for willing immigrants. The standard of living from this scenario would increase simply because of eliminating the benefits illegal immigrants receive and closing their easy route to permanent citizenship.

    There are so many questions as to how to approach immigration reform: how do we deal with the drug war? what do we do with the illegal immigrants that are already here? how much freedom should we extend? As complicated government-induced problems become, the solutions aren’t any simpler. We should keep in mind that aiming for maximum freedom is possibly the most efficient way to approach this issue. It’s not as though every issue is totally unrelated from the other; this type of entitlement society mixed in with government infringing upon citizen’s privacy rights are all interconnected. Being able to keep certain people out of our country is one thing, but keeping ‘free’ individuals inside  our country who wish to travel is another thing entirely. How can we expect either party to strive to protect our civil liberties when they have so openly tarnished others (undeclared wars, Patriot Act, bailouts etc)?

    You see, I could spend hours writing about immigration reform and end up more confused than when I started. So, I’ll just sum up with a few ideas, and we’ll see if anything sticks:

    -Free up the economy -> produce high domestic labor demand

    -Get rid of minimum wage -> increase incentive to take up jobs -> welfare state will become weaker -> economic growth will keep wages high

    -Utilize private property -> create some sort of sponsor assisted worker program

    -Increase number of border guards

    -Allow states and private property owners to both enforce security -> more efficient

    -No naturalization

    -No amnesty

    -No free education/medical care mandates for illegal immigrants

    -Do not incriminate churches/businesses for dealing with illegal immigrants

    -Police should be allowed to use reasonable cause, not reasonable suspicion

    -Law-breaking immigrants should be prosecuted and lose their citizenship

    I think the government will soon realize that instead of strengthening outside borders, we need to focus our resources on strengthening our own borders.

    /rant

    Image credit: http://tinyurl.com/bgaxt7k