Friday, January 30, 2009

Pragmatic Politics

There are many people who resist labeling their political beliefs by insisting that they are merely pragmatic while everyone else is idealistic. They suppose that gives them an edge in political debates because unlike the ideologue they are simply being practical when they expound their own ideology.

It is a rhetorical tool used to sway the emotions, an attempt to make the opposition appear to be not grounded in reality. In most cases it amounts to little more than a trick. Sometimes those saying that their politics are simply pragmatism actually believe what they say, and that is when the discussion gets difficult.

Someone who actually has no ideology has nothing to say about politics. Someone without ideology is not only not liberal, conservative, or libertarian, that person is not moderate or middle of the road. Someone who actually has no ideology actually doesn't care one way or the other about the outcome of any political contest.

When confronted with that, most who try to avoid claiming no ideology say that is a mischaracterization and that they actually only care about what works.

The problem is how to define what works. What is it they want to accomplish? That will define what works. If the goal is to ensure inflation, increasing the money supply works. If the goal is to ensure greater unemployment, supporting the Employee Free Choice Act works.

What works depends on what goal. As Ayn Rand wrote, "practical" depends on what you want to practice.

What goal is ideology. Nobody who is pragmatic and practical lacks an ideology; everyone who claims to be pragmatic and practical is pragmatic and practical towards some particular goal. Someone with no ideology doesn't participate at all.

When others offer solutions for the recession that involve bailouts, and decry opposition to those solutions as "partisanship" or "ideology", throw the accusation back in their face. Their own ideology is what causes the pro-government solutions, not the lack of an ideology.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Employee "Free" Choice Act

Organized labor leaders supported Obama. They did not do so selflessly, but out of a desire to have a certain law passed that would greatly increase the strength and wealth of organized labor. They look forward to the passage of the Orwellian named "Employee Free Choice Act."

That act does not give employees free choice; it gives union organizers free choice over the employees.

Currently, if there is a drive to form a union, it is a two step process. First employee signature cards are collected to show sufficient interest, and then a secret ballot election is held to determine whether or not a majority of employees actually want a union. The biggest complaint of the union organizers is that employees who sign the check cards that leads to the election then vote against forming a union on their secret ballots.

The EFCA will eliminate the requirement for a secret ballot election. The employee check cards will be considered sufficient to form a union.

Allegedly this is done to prevent employer intimidation. The theory is that during the time interval between the collection of the signature cards and the balloting, a sufficient number of pro-union employees would be fired to ensure the election goes the way the employer wants, presumably anti-union. This flies in the face of currently existing employment laws which protect union organizers from being treated in this manner.

Also allegedly somehow employers would know how employees voted in the secret ballot and therefore punish those employees who support the union. The truth is that union organizers are disgruntled that they do not know how employees voted and therefore can not punish those employees who oppose the union. Some organizers even make the Orwellian suggestion that in the interest of fairness the ballot should not be secret.

Instead of being a protection for the employee, this EFCA is actually a way for unions to abuse employees. Signing the union card is a public act, analogous to registering to vote. Peer pressure can move people to act in ways that they wouldn’t act if granted privacy. The Employee Free Choice Act allows Guido and Nunzio to walk up to an employee and say "Youze gonna sign the union card? You don't want no 'accidents' to happen so youze gonna sign it."

For the sake of the employee, the EFCA should not pass.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The need for police to police each other

Those who distrust government often extend that distrust to the police themselves. That leads to the criticism that police have a very difficult job and do not need the opprobrium that is often heaped on them by those who dislike their enforcement of unconstitutional laws. Attention should only be paid to those who are actually bad, and good police should not be judged by the bad seeds in their company.

The law enforcement structure, consisting of both the police and the district attorneys, may very well be full of well meaning people. That cannot be denied. While it is obvious some of those in the structure entered it because of a desire for power over others, others entered it out of a genuine desire to serve or protect the public.

Unfortunately they do not police themselves enough. Every police officer who does not arrest a bad seed is in himself a bad seed because he did not do so. Every district attorney who does not file charges against a bad seed is in himself a bad seed because he did not do so.

That’s what it comes down to. People talk about “the thin blue line”, a phrase meant to indicate that police will protect other police when one of them is accused. Police will not take action against other police unless public outcry is so great (as in the case of the BART subway shooting) that they cannot afford to do otherwise.

Although solutions have been proposed, until and unless they are acted upon the only way the law enforcement structure can earn the respect that was once their due is to break the blue wall of silence.

Until that happens the bad opinion people have of the police in general, as a result of the "bad seeds", is entirely justified.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Factors of Reneging on the National Debt

President-Elect Obama has recently announced that the national deficit will be in the trillions over the next several years as he proposes to spend the United States out of depression. China may stop buying United States bonds, which means the money will not be available for the trillion dollar deficits being proposed.

Worse still for the government, creditors may start demanding repayment of the debt.

There are three solutions for repayment. The first is a mix of tax hikes and spending cuts. The second is to print the repayment. The current policy appears to be a mix of the two. The third is to renege on the National Debt.

The third is the policy favored by most libertarians. Although there is ample historic precedent, most people seem not only unfamiliar with the idea, but seem to think that it is a unique idea when it is proposed. Even the United States has already engaged in the practice twice, once under F. Roosevelt and once under R. Nixon, when they refused payment in gold. Additionally many states reneged on their individual debts after the looting that took place after the War Between the States.

There are four principle arguments that need to be looked at as to whether the United States Federal Government can renege on the debt: the legal, the international, the economic, and the moral.

The legal argument asks whether or not the government has that authority. The answer is simply "yes". Whereas it is the government that makes the laws, the government can decide that the actions of the government are legal.

Then there is the international argument, specifically with relation to those foreign nations that hold the bulk of the United States debt. Usually this question comes down to the potential for hostile relations with China.

It is not a secret that the Chinese government views the United States as a rival, or perhaps even as an enemy. The purchase of debt is seen in intelligence circles as a deliberate action to gain leverage against the United States by the threat to dump that debt if the United States stands too boldly on a position that is against China's own interests. Dumping United States debt would ruin the value of that debt on international markets, crippling the ability of the United States to act in many areas.

Some outside of military or intelligence circles protest this analysis by pointing out that such an act would hurt China as well. The assumption is that the Chinese government would never take any actions that would hurt China. Based on that assumption no country ever goes to war against any other country because even the victor in a war is hurt by the war. The question is who is hurt more and some think that China would be able to take the blow but the United States would be hurt more.

In addition to hurting the United States, this move would also hurt Japan, an ancillary benefit. Historically either China or Japan is strong, making the present situation with both of them strong historically rare.

If the United States were to renege on the debt, that would nullify the threat of the Chinese held debt on a timetable more acceptable to the United States. While it would hurt the United States, a planned dumping of the debt by the United States is much more manageable while it hurts Chinese plans, if any, to use the debt as a weapon.

The third consideration is the economic one. It is said that dumping the debt would be a financial catastrophe for the United States economy. Actually it would only really hurt the credit rating of the United States government. It should be remembered that the debts of individuals, corporations, cities, and states are all not part of the national debt. A renege by the United States government would only impact the credit rating of the United States government, not the credit rating of every entity in the United States.

Some claim that the repercussions of such a renege would send the United States further into recession. Perhaps it would, but it would also remove many of the destabilizing factors of that are presently in the economy and more quickly enable the United States to climb out of recession.

Some claim that a renege would make it impossible for the United States to fund various obligations. So would a dumping of the debt.

The economy is in bad shape. Such a move, while painful, is a restorative move.

The final consideration is the moral one. Does the United States have a moral obligation to pay the debt?

In contract law, one cannot make a contract to receive stolen goods. It is not allowed, and any contract that says otherwise is considered null and void.

Another consideration is that once is not required to inherit debt. If someone dies with massive debt, nobody is required to inherit it. Many of those expected to pay this debt were not alive when the debt was initially acquired, and many of the rest were not voters when more of the debt was acquired. Given that much of this debt is in the names of people who were not able to consent to it, this debt is inherited.

Thus those who purchased the bonds should not have an expectation to receive payment, and those who are expected to pay have no obligation to do so.

The United States not only does not have an obligation to pay the debt, it has an obligation not to.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Libertarianism is Comprehensive

It really was my intent to write an entry last week even though it was the week of Christmas. However having a cold while having family visit during Christmas made three strikes and I was out. On the plus side conversations with a family member did contribute to the idea for this topic.

A common refrain from those who are libertarian but hesistate to use the name to describe their ideological leanings is that if some part of the libertarian platform were implemented it would cause problems because of the way it would react with the status quo. For instance, if drug laws were liberalized right now then the resulting stress on the Medi/Medi system would increase taxes on everyone else to pay each time someone uses drugs to excess and cannot afford treatment.

There are actually many issues like this, contingent issues in which people would be libertarian except for the consequences of fulfillment of a plank. What they are really having a problem with is partial fulfillment of the libertarian platform because of perceived omissions.

But the omissions are only perceived. The libertarian platform would indeed allow someone to ride a motorcycle without wearing a helment, but would also not pay for the healthcare of a person who rode a motorcycle without a helment. Both the rule giver and the care giver aspects of government are addressed in the libertarian platform.

Not only are people able to make their own decisions (not "allowed" but "able" since "allowed" connotes that the government has the proper role of decision making but has delegated it to the person) but people are forced to bear the consequences of their own decisions.

The financial markets would be deregulated AND nobody would receive a bailout if they failed. Education would not be mandatory AND nobody would live off the public largess for failing to receive an education. Drugs would be legal AND nobody would get Medi / Medi health care for scrambling their brains.

In each and every case, it’s already in the platform.

Then it is said sometimes that certain aspects are not sufficiently emphasized. That’s not the case. Republicans exposed to libertarianism wouldn’t pay much attention to opposition to government sponsored health care because that issue isn’t important to them and they already sort-of agree with libertarians on it, but they will immediately think of the status quo of government health care when they get to the motorcyclist without a helment. Having failed to pay attention to healthcare they see only hedonism. But a Democrat exposed to libertarianism would indeed say that the opposition to government health care is a major point. It’s reader bias, not platform bias.

One could make the case that certain issues should be more heavily emphasized than they currently are. The problem is that since libertarianism is such a contrast to the current system as represented by the socialist warmongers in both parties, that would require that every aspect of the platform receive primary emphasis. That means equal emphasis, and in many ways that is currently the case, or at least was in 2004.