Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Do You Still Have All of the Liberty You Were Born With?

Think back to when you were growing up. What things could you do then that you can no longer do now? What things did you have the liberty to decide for yourself that is now a mandate? How many federal, state and local laws were passed since you were born? How many new bureaucracies and agencies have been created since you were born? How many new regulations have they imposed? How many tax increases have you seen in your lifetime? How many new government programs have replaced your ability to do it yourself?

Every single one of those things increases the government’s power over you and reduces your liberty by a corresponding amount. Every dollar that you pay in taxes is a dollar that you do not have the liberty to spend as you see fit (including donating to charity or just helping a neighbor). Every dollar you pay in taxes represents minutes taken from your life -- the time you worked to earn it. The government is literally taking your life, dollar by dollar, minute by minute. The truths that our founders once felt were self-evident -- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- statists today are taking incrementally in ever-increasing quantities.

Every bill passed by congress imposes a mandate or restricts your activity in one way or another. Legislators legislate. It is what they do. It is in their job description; they cannot help themselves. Every time someone says “There ought to be a law”, they express another wish to impose their will on the rest of us. When are we going to say, “Enough is enough?”

Statists took some of my liberty before I was born. Social Security was supposed to be a retirement insurance trust fund. Participation is mandatory. I have been paying into it for my entire working life. It has not been compounding interest. If it were, I would be rich by now, and I could retire today. As it is, I probably can never retire. The government has been stealing my retirement savings in a legalized Ponzi scheme for the past 35 years. At least in private Ponzi schemes, participation is voluntary. It was sustainable during the post war years, because the baby boomers were a huge workforce, each paying into their Social Security retirement account for a comparatively small number of retirees. The number of deposits far exceeded the number of withdrawals. Well, now the baby boomers are coming of retirement age, and the next generation is not remotely large enough to support us. The government squandered my liberty to retire and enslaved my unborn children while I was still growing up.

The next big infringement on my liberty came when I was in grade school, with the Great Society – primarily Medicare, Medicaid and the beginning of the federal takeover of public schools. Every one of those initiatives reduced my liberty – the first two by costing me ever-increasing taxes, and by government intrusion into the formerly private medical industry. Prices have increased, and choices diminished. Now, they're getting ready to finish the job. The federal takeover of public schools introduced a completely new uniformity (uniformity is the opposite of diversity) and reduction of local choices in school curriculum.

Richard Nixon spawned the Environmental Protection Agency while I was in high school. This bureaucracy is empowered to make regulations having the force of law, without any responsibility to We the People: We do not elect EPA bureaucrats. The EPA has infringed on private property, private enterprise and plain old everyday liberty, all in the name of the environment. I understand that we need to preserve the environment. That is what the first amendment is for: If you have concerns about the environment, you get on radio, television, on the Internet and in print, and bring your fellow citizens around to your point of view. We are then at liberty to fall in line, or to ignore you. That is what liberty is all about. You don’t always get what you want. You do not get to use the force of government to coerce your fellow citizens to follow your agenda against their will. That is the very definition of tyranny.

While growing up, I watched gun control legislation at all levels of government erode the second amendment. What part of “infringe” do they not understand? Infringement does not just mean taking my guns; it means, eating away at the fringes of my liberty. I am a responsible, law-abiding citizen, who happens to like firearms and marksmanship. I used to enjoy going off into the fields after school and plinking, or target practice. Today, guns and ammo are so expensive that shooting is nearly unaffordable, assuming I can find a place to go shooting anymore. Infringement comes in many forms: direct restrictions on the right to carry, registration requirements, banning of certain types of “bad” weapons, the high cost of guns and ammo caused by government actions deliberately designed to limit availability. It should be self-evident that regulations do not apply to the bad guys, but it has a tremendously bad effect on the citizen who has both the responsibility and the explicit right to bear arms against tyranny, for self defense, and the defense of his community, should the need arise.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act began reducing my liberty while I was in high school. Again, I understand that unsafe working conditions are a bad thing. Nevertheless, top-down, collectivist rules and regulations, mandates and standards do not make society better if the hidden costs make society worse. That is one big problem with government regulations: They pick a priority and drive it all the way to the top of the list, while they completely ignore conflicting needs and unintended consequences. Sometimes another government regulation or agency takes up the cause of the problems caused by the first. If government were less intrusive, politics would be less divisive.

Not one year ago, our government saw fit to bail out the automakers at great expense to taxpayers and future generations (remember, taxation erodes life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness). Why did the auto manufacturing industry fail? We can trace most of the reasons to intrusive government. For one thing, the economy collapsed because of mismanagement of government run financial institutions, which the Constitution does not authorize it to run. Government has been hobbling the car companies for years with safety and environmental regulations. Who can oppose safety and the environment? Well, I can, for one, when the regulations are imposed by government, and not by consumers demanding product features in the free market. You might argue that consumers do demand it by electing politicians who pass those regulations, and create the regulatory agencies, but no. The feedback loop is far too long and slow for there to be any real responsibility. Once the bills are passed and the agencies created, it is nearly impossible to remove them, regardless of how well or how poorly they work, or how many unintended consequences they create. The free market is much faster, more adaptable and nearly immune to political pressure. Everybody votes with their dollars every day of the year. Moreover, special interests do not control the election, which is maddening for the special interests.

Seat belt laws and helmet laws came along after I graduated from college. Seat belts and helmets are good ideas. I have used them religiously all my life. But not every good idea needs to be a law. I am an adult. I can reason. I can prioritize. As an individual, there might be good reasons why I would not want to use my seatbelts. On the other hand, maybe there aren’t. Why is it anyone else’s business? The argument I hear most frequently is that when I am killed or injured (not a given, with or without seatbelts), it costs society money. Well, it wouldn’t, if society wasn’t so all-fired busy taking care of me. If I could be responsible for myself, it would not be anyone’s business but mine. Again, if you think I should be wearing my seatbelts, you can use the first amendment to convince me. Don’t take my liberty; it’s mine, you can’t have it!

Ever since I was born, I have seen the alphabet soup of government initiatives, agencies and regulations come and not go. Each one adds to my tax burden, adds mandates and reduces degrees of freedom. How great it would be if, for every new law that congress passes, they had to remove three.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Deprecated: I Hope Barack Obama Fails

A kinder, gentler anti-kakistocrat: This is the last article that will carry the label I Hope Barack Obama Fails. As an engineer, when I discover that something is not working, I use negative feedback to correct the error. People were reading this label, and mistaking me for a racist, or being just plain mean-spirited. The new label will read I Hope Statism Fails.

A statist is someone who thinks 545 people in government can provide better solutions to our problems than 300 million individuals (they can in special situations, but only very rarely). A statist is someone who aims to use the force of government to ram their agenda down your throat. A statist is someone who aims to increase the size and scope of government beyond that specified in and authorized by the Constitution -- axiomatically, at the expense of individual liberty.

There are statists in both the Democrat and Republican parties. The only difference is in the nature of the agenda that they aim to ram down our throats. Barack Obama is a particularly radical and virulent statist, but he is not the only one, so the old label was way too specific. My goal is to have all statists fail, not just Barack Obama.
The policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits. -- Thomas Jefferson
In the interest of historical and archival integrity, I will not change the existing articles festooned with the old label. But new articles will use the new label.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Statism, Characterized

The following paragraph by J. Robert Smith, better characterizes the left in a few words than I have seen in a long time:
...statists - call them progressives, liberals or leftists - have worked diligently to advance government, to centralize authority in a political elite and bureaucracy and to, thereby, abridge the rights of the individual. They dismiss the original intent that undergirds the Constitution, claiming a right to make interpretations that are frequently aimed at pressing their causes and increasing their power. Many disdain our values, faith and traditions.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Conservative Alternative

The tea party movement has uncovered a strong aversion to both political parties, presenting a risk of a new third party. I have long believed that a third party simply serves to divide the conservative vote, and thus awards the election to the Democrats.

The Republicans have traditionally been the more conservative party. But they have in recent years, moved left to embrace the statist agenda in the mistaken belief that the electorate have moved left. They have not. The far left have gotten noisier. The far left have taken over the Democrat party leadership, giving the illusion that the entire country has moved to the left. Our choices at the ballot box last election were between statists, and more statists.

The Republican party would start winning elections again if it would return to the founding principles, and offer a true conservative alternative, and stop trying to be Democrat Lite.

Hidden Cost of Socialized Medicine

My wife just had gallbladder surgery. Twenty years ago, she would have had a longer hospital stay, and come home with a nine-inch incision and six weeks' recovery time. Yesterday, she came home with four tiny holes in her belly where they sent in the fiber optic camera and the instruments. Her recovery instruction is "activity as tolerated". She has no sutures; just tape covering the wounds that will dissolve in a week or so.

I would say that is a tremendous leap in technology, driven by the private, free market. History teaches us that government control of anything tends to remove any incentive to innovate, advance the technology or improve service. Ironically, when the progressives take over health care, progress, and therefore patients, will suffer. We'll never even know what we're missing.

Cockamamie Cash for Clunkers

From an email circulating on the Internet:
  • A vehicle at 15 mpg and 12,000 miles per year uses 800 gallons a year of gasoline
  • A vehicle at 25 mpg and 12,000 miles per year uses 480 gallons a year
  • So, the average clunker transaction will reduce US gasoline consumption by 320 gallons per year
  • They claim 700,000 vehicles so that's 224 million gallons/year
  • That equates to a bit over 5 million barrels of oil
  • Five million barrels of oil is about 1/4 of one day's US consumption
  • Five million barrels of oil costs about $350 million dollars at $75/bbl
  • Therefore, we all contributed to spending $3 billion to save $350 million
I will add
  • Most of the new vehicles sold were not domestic brands
  • The environmental impact to destroy the clunkers and build and operate the new vehicles may exceed that of running the clunkers for their normally expected lifespan
  • Destroying these older vehicles puts them out of the grasp of lower income families
  • Government significantly hurt the used car industry in a predictably misguided and futile attempt to "stimulate" the economy and "help" the environment
While I haven't run the numbers myself, they are close enough to convince me that this is one of the most cockamamie schemes ever dreamed up by any government. It had no beneficial effects; it was pure negative side effects. I think this proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are living in a kakistocracy.

Politicians, if you're going to screw things up this badly, I think it's best if you just step away from the controls.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The process of demoralization is complete and irreversible...

This interview with ex-KGB agent and defector Uri Bezmenov was recorded in 1985. If he is correct, then our current congress and administration are the "end game", and our politicians are just tools. "The process of demoralization is complete and irreversible..." is a quote from the interview.

Even though the KGB is gone, the statist ideology lives on. We may still be able to save ourselves, but it won't be easy, because an entire generation or three may be lost to our government-controlled public education system.

Research: I searched Snopes and other fact-checker websites, and Googled "Uri Bezmenov". I found nothing to dispute the authenticity of this video. That doesn't alter the fact that Uri himself could be lying or mistaken. I actually hope that he is.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Van Jones Post Mortem

Dr. Victor Davis Hanson has this to say about Van Jones:
Van Jones can do his “whup ass” through corporate benefactions, but not on Joe Sixpack’s weekly tax deductions. At least I think that is what the controversy is all about. Had Jones been white, Asian, or Hispanic, and in his many diatribes just substituted the word “black” when he employed “white”, and replaced “Bush” with “Obama,” then the Left would really have conducted a smear campaign. But such are the times we live in, that a Jones feels he can abuse the public discourse and insult the intelligence of the public, confident that when called on it, the refuge of “racist”! is always there.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

US Government Record

This is going viral in email:
The U.S. Post Service was established in 1775 - they've had 234 years to get it right; it is broke, and even though heavily subsidized, it can't compete with private sector FedEx and UPS services.

Social Security was established in 1935 - they've had 74 years to get it right; it is broke.

Fannie Mae was established in 1938 - they've had 71 years to get it right; it is broke. Freddie Mac was established in 1970 - they've had 39 years to get it right; it is broke. Together Fannie and Freddie have now led the entire world into the worst economic collapse in 80 years.

The War on Poverty was started in 1964 - they've had 45 years to get it right; $1 trillion of our hard earned money is confiscated each year and transferred to "the poor"; it hasn't worked.

Medicare and Medicaid were established in 1965 - they've had 44 years to get it right; they are both broke; and now our government dares to mention them as models for all US health care.

AMTRAK was established in 1970 - they've had 39 years to get it right; last year they bailed it out as it continues to run at a loss!

This year, a trillion dollars was committed in the massive political payoff called the Stimulus Bill of 2009; it shows NO sign of working; it's been used to increase the size of governments across America, and raise government salaries while the rest of us suffer from economic hardships. It has yet to create a single new private sector job. Our national debt projections (approaching $10 trillion) have increased 400% in the last six months.

"Cash for Clunkers" was established in 2009 and went broke in 2009 -- after 80% of the cars purchased turned out to be produced by foreign companies, and dealers nationwide are buried under bureaucratic paperwork demanded by a government that is not yet paying them what was promised.

So with a perfect 100% failure rate and a record that proves that each and very "service" shoved down our throats by an over-reaching government turns into disaster, how could any informed American trust our government to run or even set policies for America's health care system -- 17% of our economy?

Maybe each of us has a personal responsibility to let others in on this brilliant record before 2010, and then help remove from office those who are voting to destroy capitalism and destroy our grandchildren's future.

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labours of the people under the pretence of taking care of them.

-- Thomas Jefferson

Monday, September 7, 2009

Overheard on VHF Emergency Frequency 121.5 MHz

Email forwarded to me. I don't know if this is true or not, but it is amusing.
Conversation overheard on the VHF Guard (emergency) frequency 121.5 MHz while flying from Europe to Dubai. The conversation went like this:
Iranian Air Defense Radar: 'Unknown aircraft you are in Iranian airspace. Identify yourself.'
Aircraft: 'This is a United States aircraft. I am in Iraqi airspace.'
Air Defense Radar: 'You are in Iranian airspace. If you do not depart our airspace we will launch interceptor aircraft!'
Aircraft: 'This is a United States Marine Corps FA-18 fighter. Send 'em up, I'll wait!'
Air Defense Radar: (no response -- total silence)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Simply Unbelievable

National Review Online has this doozy:
Looking for a quick and easy boost in the polls, President Obama has decided to go to the one place where merit bears no relationship to adulation: the United Nations. On September 24, the president will take the unprecedented step of presiding over a meeting of the UN Security Council. (more...)
Anyone who still questions my label "I Hope Barack Obama Fails" simply cannot see what is going on. He is now moving from merely devouring our liberty, to reckless international endangerment.

Perhaps I'm a Regressive

I have been thinking about whether I'm a conservative, a classical liberal, or something else. For a while, I kept saying "I'm not a conservative; I'm a preservative". Meaning that I want to preserve our founding principles against the onslaught of socialist liberal thinking. Since liberals have rebranded themselves as progressives, and since progressives occur in both the Democrat and Republican parties, I am considering calling myself a regressive. I reject the progressive agenda.

Progressives are statists, that is, they believe the state usually has the most effective solution to society's ills. As such, progressive government would be government that just keeps progressing: expanding without bound, devouring our liberty as it goes -- rather like what we have now.

There is no formal definition for a regressive thinker. According Webster, the word means

1 : tending to regress or produce regression
2 : being, characterized by, or developing in the course of an evolutionary process involving increasing simplification of bodily structure
3 : decreasing in rate as the base increases <a regressive tax>

Definition 1. is a tautology, and is therefore useless. However, definition 2. expresses my belief that we need to simplify, and revert to the founding principles of the US Government. Definition 3. suggests that I might support a regressive tax. No, I would stop with a flat tax. If we did 2., then 3. would be a very minor distinction anyway, since taxation would not be much of a burden for anyone.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

James Madison on the General Welfare Clause

The left often uses the "general welfare" clause to justify "welfare" programs, claiming that it is authorized in article 1, section 8 of the Constitution.
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
James Madison, widely known as "the father of the Constitution" had this to say about it. He had just vetoed a bill that would have established roads and canals to facilitate commerce and military operations (sounds like the interstate highway system, doesn't it?). In his veto message to congress, Madison said it didn't fit the Constitutional principle of enumerated powers:
Having considered the bill this day presented to me entitled “An act to set apart and pledge certain funds for internal improvements,” and which sets apart and pledges funds “for constructing roads and canals, and improving the navigation of water courses, in order to facilitate, promote, and give security to internal commerce among the several States, and to render more easy and less expensive the means and provisions for the common defense,” I am constrained by the insuperable difficulty I feel in reconciling the bill with the Constitution of the United States to return it with that objection to the House of Representatives, in which it originated.

The legislative powers vested in Congress are specified and enumerated in the eighth section of the first article of the Constitution, and it does not appear that the power proposed to be exercised by the bill is among the enumerated powers, or that it falls by any just interpretation with the power to make laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution those or other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States…

To refer the power in question to the clause “to provide for common defense and general welfare” would be contrary to the established and consistent rules of interpretation, as rendering the special and careful enumeration of powers which follow the clause nugatory and improper. Such a view of the Constitution would have the effect of giving to Congress a general power of legislation instead of the defined and limited one hitherto understood to belong to them, the terms “common defense and general welfare” embracing every object and act within the purview of a legislative trust. It would have the effect of subjecting both the Constitution and laws of the several States in all cases not specifically exempted to be superseded by laws of Congress, it being expressly declared “that the Constitution of the United States and laws made in pursuance thereof shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges of every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”
So the guy who wrote the specification for our government, the binding contract between our government and We the People -- the Constitution -- has said the Constitution doesn't provide a blank check for every "welfare" program that pork barrel politicians want to write.

The last time I checked, the original Constitution was still in force, with relatively few changes. If We the People today want something different, we cannot arbitrarily re-interpret it; we must amend it.

Two hundred years later, we have a federal interstate highway system, but still no amendment authorizing it.