Sunday, October 6, 2013

We've Moved!

I've moved my blog to a new home and a new platform.

Our new address is:

Hope to see you there.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Quote of the Day - Where the Blame Lies

I had taken a bit of a break from reading philosophy to give my mind a bit of a rest.  I re-read for the umpteenth time, "Beguilement" by Lois McMaster Bujold.  This is one of my favorite books, series actually.

It was something of a different experience reading it after having read of lot of Ayn Rand's philosophy as I could see similar themes, especially in the main characters who, over the course of the series, go against what is expected of them and instead work for what gives them the most fulfilling lives and in the process improve the lives of everyone around them.

At any rate, I am back reading "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" by Ayn Rand and soon came across another great quote.

Remember that private citizens-whether rich or poor, whether businessmen or workers-have no power to start a war.  That power is the exclusive prerogative of a government.  Which type of government is more likely to plunge a country into war: a government of limited powers, bound by constitutional  restrictions-or an unlimited government, open to the pressure of any group with warlike interests or ideologies, a government able to command armies to march at the whim of a single chief executive?
Yet it is not a limited government that today's peace-lovers are advocating.  [emphasis mine]
Corporations receive a lot of blame for the supposed ills of the world (while at the same time not receiving any credit for the good that has come from them) especially for their "influence" on government.  It seems that few people stop to ask themselves how much corporations would lobby and try to manipulate government if government was limited and restricted from interfering in the economy?  As Yaron Brook points out in a number of his talks, before the Department of Justice went after Microsoft, the tech giant spent virtually nothing on political lobbying.  Corporations, like individuals, respond to incentives.  When government interference and regulation make it more profitable for a company to spend their money lobbying than developing innovative new products, is it any wonder that is what they do?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Quote of the Day - History Repeats Itself

Today's quote comes from a talk by Ayn Rand, I believe from the 1960's, about the so-called Robber Barons of the 19th century, and how they were actually the greatest benefactors of the United States, contrary to what popular history tells us.  About 5 minutes into the recording, which you can find here, she made a statement that jumped out at me enough to go over it repeatedly to write it down.  The groups she is referring to are the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads.

In both cases, the main motive of the men involved in building these railroads, though not the exclusive but the main motive, was to acquire the subsidies, not to build a railroad.  More than that, there was as yet no economic need for a transcontinental railroad.  There was not enough freight to justify private investment, but the government, under propaganda similar to today's and such excuses as the prestige of the country, decided to build a railroad and it did so by means of giving subsidies to private groups.

You could very easily substitute "green energy" for "transcontinental railroad" and the quote would be applicable to current government policy.  How often do we hear "We are falling behind in green energy technology!" or similar slogans when the government touts its subsidies for such projects?

I guess the old saying is true: "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Another Quote of the Day - Freedom is Fundamental

For those that may be curious, the quotes I have started posting are from my current reading, pretty much posted as I come to them.  They are passages that jump out at me as I go along.  

This particular quote is from Ayn Rand's book "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" and is in the section discussing reason as man's means of survivial.  As she says a bit earlier: "The action required to sustain human life is primarily intellectual: everything man needs has to be discovered by his mind and produced by his effort."  You have only to look around and see all things that are needed to allow man to survive in the world (food, shelter, clothing, defense, and etc) and enjoy life (books, movies, music, travel, and etc) to see that this is true.
"Since knowledge, thinking, and rational action are properties of the individual, since the choice to exercise his rational faculty or not depends on the individual, man's survival requires that those who think be free of the interference of those who don't.  Since men are neither omniscient nor infallible, they must be free to agree or disagree, to cooperate or to pursue their own independent course, each according to his own rational judgement.  Freedom is the fundamental requirement of man's mind."

Monday, June 17, 2013

Quote of the day

While waiting for MAN OF STEEL to start, I was reading "Basic Economics" by Thomas Sowell.  I found this quote interesting in regards to supposed scarce resources.
"In some ultimate sense, the total quantity of resources must of course be declining.  However, a resource that would run out centuries after it becomes obsolete, or a thousand years after the sun grows cold, is not a serious practical problem.  If it is going to run out within some period that is a matter of practical relevance, then the rising present value of the resource whose exhaustion looms ahead will automatically force conservation, without either public hysteria or political exhortation."
This came after a discussion virtually all natural resources have decreased in real cost over time and increased in known reserves.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Quote of the Day

Came across this quote today in Ayn Rand's essay titled "The Nature of Government", found in the book "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal."  It seems appropriate given all that is coming out of Washington these days:

"...instead of serving as the instrument of objectivity in human relationships, the government is creating a deadly, subterranean reign of uncertainty and fear, by means of non-objective laws whose interpretation is left to the arbitrary decisions of random bureaucrats..."

This seems to me to be a spot on description of how large portions of the government operates today.   From the EPA to the IRS to Obamacare, the actual decisions on how to implement a rule and when are left to the whim of the bureaucrats involved.  We have seen this in the targetting of certain groups for extra scrutiny based on factors unrelated to the issue at hand and in the large number of instances of the phrase "as the Secretary shall decide" in the Obamacare legislation.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Theft and Taxes

I received this short and to the point comment on a post I made on Google+ recently regarding the difference between subsidies and tax breaks: 

Ah, it's the same old 'taxes are theft' horseshit. Your kind never gets tired of that malarkey.
This caused me to stop and think.  Is the idea that "taxes are theft" malarkey or is there some basis for it in reality?

First, what exactly is theft?  Unfortunately we cannot simply go to the dictionary and find out in one quick look because the main definition of theft doesn't tell us very much.  (All definitions come from  
The dictionary defines theft as "the act of stealing," which is not terribly helpful.  Referring back to the dictionary, we find that stealing is, "to take the property of another or others without permission or right, especially secretly or by force."  That helps, but what does it mean to do something by force?  Back to the dictionary where we find that force is “unlawful violence threatened or committed against persons or property”, “the power to influence or control”, and when used as a verb “to coerce.”

With that we have a pretty clear definition of theft:

To take the property of another or others without permission or right, either secretly or through the threat or commission of violence against their person or property.
Does our definition reflect the reality we observe when we see theft?  

“Your money or your life!”  says the mugger as he brandishes a gun or a knife.
“I have a gun, put all money in an envelope, no dye packs, no alarms, no one will get hurt,” says the bank robber’s note. These examples of what I think of as “confrontational” theft certainly fit our definition.  The thief is attempting to take the victim’s property without permission by the threat of injury.

Thefts such as burglary, pick pocketing, fraud and other crimes that I think of as “non-confrontational” also fit the definition as the property is being taken without the knowledge of the victim.  In the case of fraud, it is being taken by deceiving the victim as to the nature of the reality of the situation.

Now that we have a clear idea of what theft is, let’s take a look at taxes.  Taxes are defined as "a compulsory financial contribution imposed by a government to raise revenue."  We should clarify what is meant by compulsory, which is defined as "required by regulations or laws; obligatory."  We have two choices here to clarify things - required or obligatory.  They both get is to the same place, obliged.  The definition for oblige is "to bind or constrain (someone to do something) by legal, moral, or physical means."  Constrain in turn brings us to compel which is defined as "to secure or bring about by force."    With force we are back to ground already covered in the discussion about theft.

After this, our definition of tax has become: 

The transfer of money to the government under a declared, or implied, intention to inflict legal, moral or physical punishment for failure to comply.  

As with theft, we need to look at some real examples of taxes to see whether our definition matches reality.  While there are many types of taxes they are similar in many respects.  They all involve the transfer of money to the government and they all carry the threat of punishment for failure to do so.  For property taxes, the threat is the loss of your property even if you own it without mortgage or other claim against it.  With sales taxes, individuals have no choice whether or not to pay them, but if the merchant fails to collect them and remit them to the government they can face, in Vermont, up to $10,000 in fines and 3 years in jail, depending on the amount involved.  Similarly, failure to pay income taxes can lead to monetary penalties, forfeiture of property and jail time.  

So in both theft and tax, we have a transfer of property from one person or group to another under the threat, explicitly stated or implied, of punishment.  In neither case do we need to consider what the transferred property will be used for, the victim only cares that he no longer has his property.  Also, we do not need to consider whether the government has the right to take your property or whether their use of force is lawful.  If the government has a right to part of your property, they have a right to all of it and simply haven’t decided to take it.  Yet.  As to lawful, well, who writes the laws?

In order to flourish, individuals must have a right to their property, to use and dispose of it as they see fit.   This right is not something granted by the government, but arises from the basic necessity of life.  If you lived on a desert island, you have to work to stay alive.  You would need to gather the goods necessary for your survival, be it food, materials to create shelter, tools, clothing and etc.  Imagine if periodically a canoe arrived at your island and strangers came and took part of your food, raw materials, tools, clothing, and destroyed your shelter.  If this continued, you could not flourish on your island and, if they took enough, your very survival would be in jeopardy.

It is no different in modern society.  If you do not have the right to use and dispose of your property in the way that you see fit, you are in exactly the same position as on the deserted island.  When someone else is able to take some or all of your property to dispose of how they see fit, your chances for thriving and even surviving will certainly be in question.

The Founding Fathers recognized this fundamental right of the individual and secured it in our founding documents.   The Declaration of Independence states, "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."   Liberty and the pursuit of happiness require that man be free to work, to keep the fruits of his labor, and to dispose of them as he sees fit.  Further, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution says, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated."  While this is most often quoted in terms of criminal matters, it can also be read as affirming the right of an individual to keep his property.  The Fifth Amendment contains similar language - "shall not be deprived of life, liberty or property" and "nor shall private property be taken for public use."

As the Founders noted, these rights are unalienable, i.e. they cannot be separated from the individual by any means.  We recognize, for example, that we have the right to freedom of speech regardless of whether a majority of the people disagree with what we are saying, as long as the exercise of that right does not demonstrably injure another person (the classic example of crying fire in a crowded movie theater).  In the same way, we have the right to use and dispose of our property in any manner that we choose regardless of what others may think, as long as such use does not demonstrably injure another person or actually damage their property.  

It is obvious that theft is a violation of the victim's rights and immoral.  It should also be obvious that taxes are violations of individual rights and immoral, and for the same reasons.  The fact that the government, the majority, or some group currently in power has decided that taxes are legal and "necessary" does  not make them any less so.