Friday, February 27, 2009

Yet another Obama "reversal"

Obama has filled his cabinet with people who have positions in alignment with Obama's voting record but at variance with his campaign rhetoric and the wishes of his true believers. One example is that "peace candidate" Obama has appointed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. It is no secret that she was one of the most hawkish members of the Senate.

Also Obama supposedly is not as bad on gun liberty as most Democrats are, based on one speech he gave where he expressed some support for the second amendment. This stands in contrast to his record, but with Obama the image has been shown to be more important than the reality time and again. Then, like the appointment of Hillary which reflects questionable positions on war, he appointed Eric Holder who has never met a restriction on gun rights that he did not like to the position of Attorney General.

When confronted by the dissonance between the position and the appointment, Obama supporters are quick to assure people that these subordinates will take their cues from Obama, that they will not press their own agenda. A more interesting question to ask, and one avoided by Obama supporters, is whether or not these appointments reflect Obama's actual positions and therefore there is no need for Obama to rein in his underlings.

According to Attorney General Holder, Obama has recently come out in favor of renewing the "assault" weapon ban.

The Obama administration will seek to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 during the Bush administration, Attorney General Eric Holder said today.

"As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons," Holder told reporters.

The "assault" weapon ban was one of the worst pieces of firearm legislation ever passed, and its renewal should be opposed by both who believe in the liberty of self defense and those who oppose the liberty of self defense.

There is no actual definition of "assault weapon." Firearms are classified by operation. Primary classifications are fully automatic, semi-automatic, and those that are not automatic at all. Secondary classifications include muzzle velocity and caliber.

The "assault" weapon ban did not impact a single fully automatic weapon. Not only did none of them fit into the bill's definition, fully automatics were already generally forbidden to the public before the "assault" weapon ban passed.

Every firearm banned by the "assault" weapon ban was a semi-automatic, but it did not ban all semi-automatics. Nor did it ban semi-automatics according to classifications such as muzzle velocity or caliber. It banned some due to cosmetic effects, and failed to ban others that were functionally equivalent in every way.

It was a horrible bill, one that deserved to expire. Only someone with absolutely no regard for any form of common sense with regards to gun control could possibly support it. Eric Holder supports it, and according to Holder, Obama also supports it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Libertarian responses to Darwin

Thursday, February 12, 2009, was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. Many years later he codified the theory of evolution, and more than a century afterwards it is still a subject of debate.

Unfortunately it is still a subject of debate among libertarians. Gary North, Bill Sardi, and especially Fred Reed all took time away from the useful task of promoting libertarian ideas to criticize the fact that Darwin made a major contribution to understanding the science of biology.

The most common accusation against evolution is that, somehow, it leads to the idea of Social Darwinism. The problem is that Darwin never advocated anything of the sort as he tried to understand the source and diversity of life. Evil people will find whatever excuse they want to justify their actions, including religious texts of all sorts as well as misinterpretation and misapplication of scientific theories.

Honest, Informed or Creationist. You can at most have two. You can have less than two. You cannot have all three.

Gary North commits guilt by association by pointing out the similar timelines of Lincoln and Darwin in the advancement of their careers and how they both managed to change the world at about the same time. But not all changes are equal and guilt by association is not an honest rhetorical tactic.

Bill Sardi goes farther with guilt by association by attributing to Darwin's theory many things not included in the theory, such as militant atheism, purposelessness, and Social Darwinism. The last in particular is used to say that because some people looking for justification for misbehavior have latched onto something that isn't even in the theory, the theory must be wrong. Social Darwinism is not part of biological evolution, and Darwin's theory was about biological evolution.

Sardi goes further to show a basic misunderstanding of science. Yes, evolution doesn't answer "who am I" but then no other science does either. It's a question of philosophy, which means it is in the wrong field. Evolution no more answers that then it explains why falling objects accelerate to the earth at 9.8 meters per seconds squared. That latter bit is physics, and physics fails to account for the diversity of life. He also commits many of the basic errors of those who dislike this scientific theory by committing the 2nd law of thermodynamics error and mentions the frauds but never mentions the fossils that have been found. Creationists always mention Piltdown, they never mention Homo Erectus. It is true that at one time that there was little evidence, but it is no longer 1860.

Fred Reed goes the farthest in his criticisms. He also commits guilt by association by creating from scratch an association with cultural Marxists, as well as arguing that the subject of evolution versus creation is somehow inexplicably related to the court battles over nativity scenes. His refers to those who support science as "Knights Templar" in order to make them appear as if they are on a holy crusade. He also makes knowledge errors such as ignoring the difference between evolution and abiogenesis. He says the mechanism is mutation, when the mechanism is both mutation and natural selection. For some reason creationists never talk about both mutation and natural selection at the same time, perhaps because either one of those alone would actually be insufficient. But they are not alone. He makes assertions about what evolution would predict that are not reflected by the theory of evolution itself. And the reason that people who understand the subject agree with the theory is ... they are marching in lockstep and dare not deviate from each other.

In truth, the Theory of Evolution doesn't even contradict Christianity or the Bible in the first place. All it does contradict is one particular heretical view of the Bible. Creationism is not a Christian doctrine.

The only intersection between evolution and libertarianism is that since we have government schools people are not free to choose a school that teaches religion in the science classroom. The only subject allowed in the science classroom in a government school is science.

But trying to argue that there is a libertarian issue in creationism versus evolution itself is frankly embarrassing to other libertarians. Every attempt to convince people one doesn't have to be saddled with the baggage of the religious right in order to prefer small government and free markets is undermined by scientific ignorance and dishonest debate.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Partial Reneg of the National Debt

Although debt repudiation is slowly becoming a topic outside of libertarian circles, one could make the counter-argument that people are responsible for the debt because the government that accrued it is the government elected by the people.

One could counter argue that the politicians in power weren't the one supported, and therefore the person who voted against the politician in power isn't liable. There are two different, and contradictory, counterarguments used against that. First, by voting at all, the person agrees to the outcome. Second, by not voting, the person agrees to the outcome. It is the deadly double-bind of democratic statism used to ensnare all who dare dissent by showing that they agree.

In truth the debt is owed by the politicians, past and present, who voted for it. But as they not only will never be held accountable, and they cannot afford it, they also insist the rest of us owe the debt, let us examine taking them at their word.

For some of the following calculations, both of those are going to be assumed to be true, in spite of the fact that they contradict each other. It is a common practice to say that the debt, divided by the population, gives us the share of debt owed by each person in this country. Given that debt, the following figures are the result.

President Debt Population Share
Kennedy / Johnson 311,712,899,257.30 180,671,158 1,725.31
Johnson 347,578,406,425.88 191,888,791 1,811.35
Nixon 427,260,460,940.50 200,706,052 2,128.79
Nixon / Ford 620,433,000,000.00 209,896,021 2,955.91
Carter 907,701,000,000.00 218,035,164 4,163.09
Reagan Term 1 1,572,266,000,000.00 227,224,681 6,919.43
Reagan Term 2 2,602,377,701,041.16 235,824,902 11,035.21
Bush Sr 4,064,620,655,521.66 244,498,982 6,624.28
Clinton Term 1 5,224,810,939,135.73 254,994,517 20,489.90
Clinton Term 2 5,674,178,209,886.86 265,189,794 21,396.67
Bush Jr Term 1 7,379,052,696,330.32 281,421,906 26,220.61
Bush Jr Term 2 9,007,653,372,262.48 293,655,404 30,674.23

Those figures are crooked. They hold people liable for debt accrued before people could vote, or before people were even born. Whether by voting or by not voting a person gives consent, it is impossible to give or withhold consent when a person is not able to vote, whether by virtue of age or not yet existing.

A more honest figure would include the debt accrued only during that term, and dividing it up among the population in various ways. Using term debt (debt accumulated during the term of the president) instead of national debt (debt accumulated by all previous presidents) and dividing it up among the population in various ways different results emerge.

Using the assumption that both the contradictory arguments are true, that all eligible voters are responsible, then dividing up the debt of each term by the eligible voters of each term yeilds the following results.

President Term Debt Share by Voting Age
Kennedy / Johnson 25,382,138,408.93 232.52
Johnson 35,865,507,168.58 314.36
Nixon 79,682,054,514.62 662.21
Nixon / Ford 193,172,539,059.50 1,372.20
Carter 287,268,000,000.00 1,886.08
Reagan Term 1 664,565,000,000.00 4,037.53
Reagan Term 2 1,030,111,701,041.16 5,904.37
Bush Sr 1,462,242,954,480.50 8,000.10
Clinton Term 1 1,160,190,283,614.07 6,121.44
Clinton Term 2 449,367,270,751.13 2,286.73
Bush Jr Term 1 1,704,874,486,443.46 8,283.53
Bush Jr Term 2 1,628,600,675,932.16 7,360.68

Thus someone who only able to vote in the 2004 election is only to be held liable for the $7,360.68 of debt accumulated during that term, while someone who was able to vote for the first time in 1992 is to be held liable for $24,052.37 of the debt. Those who are not able to vote are not liable for any of it, which should come as a relief to anyone under the age of eighteen.

If that is too broad, and only those who actually registered to vote are counted a different outcome is the result.

President Term Debt By Registered
Kennedy / Johnson 25,382,138,408.93 391.50
Johnson 35,865,507,168.58 486.54
Nixon 79,682,054,514.62 975.80
Nixon / Ford 193,172,539,059.50 1,984.75
Carter 287,268,000,000.00 2,734.90
Reagan Term 1 664,565,000,000.00 5,878.83
Reagan Term 2 1,030,111,701,041.16 8,297.27
Bush Sr 1,462,242,954,480.50 11,570.24
Clinton Term 1 1,160,190,283,614.07 8,669.71
Clinton Term 2 449,367,270,751.13 3,073.40
Bush Jr Term 1 1,704,874,486,443.46 10,899.25
Bush Jr Term 2 1,628,600,675,932.16 9,316.94

Thus someone who was only registered to vote in the 2004 election is only to be held liable for the $9,316.94 of debt accumulated during that term, while someone who was registered to vote since 1992 is to be held liable for $31,959.29 of the debt.

Finally if you only count those who voted, there is yet another outcome.

President Term Debt By Voted
Kennedy / Johnson 25,382,138,408.93 368.72
Johnson 35,865,507,168.58 507.69
Nixon 79,682,054,514.62 1,088.38
Nixon / Ford 193,172,539,059.50 2,485.54
Carter 287,268,000,000.00 3,522.35
Reagan Term 1 664,565,000,000.00 7,681.48
Reagan Term 2 1,030,111,701,041.16 11,117.99
Bush Sr 1,462,242,954,480.50 15,964.28
Clinton Term 1 1,160,190,283,614.07 11,112.39
Clinton Term 2 449,367,270,751.13 4,658.76
Bush Jr Term 1 1,704,874,486,443.46 16,146.74
Bush Jr Term 2 1,628,600,675,932.16 13,316.99

Thus someone who first voted in the 2004 election is only to be held liable for the $13,316.99 of debt accumulated during that term, while someone who was registered to vote since 1992 is to be held liable for $45234.88 of the debt.

These all operate on the principle that there can be no taxation without representation.

While the these calculations do increase the debt per person on older voters all fo them hold younger voters to be not responsible for taxes levied without their representation. Assuming an average age of 40, enabling a person to cast their first vote in the race between Dukakis and Bush, that gives an of age debt of $32,052.48, a registered debt of $43,529.53, and a voted debt of $61,199.16.

But they also leave one third of the debt unaccountable. One third of the debt is owed by absolutely nobody.

Even further and more advanced calculation would also reveal that a good share of the older debts are not owed by anybody, because some who voted for older presidents have died and therefore so has their share. So the 232.52, 368.72, or 368.72 owed by each person who could be held accountable in the election of Kennedy isn't shifted from those who have died to those who haven't, but is instead to be written off as the debtor is deceased.

This does make an excellent argument for not voting and not registering to vote when the system itself is corrupt. It is also very sad that two thirds of the national debt occured within most peoples lifetimes, and that is true in both regular and constant dollars.

Of course the best argument is that the debt actually belongs to those who accrued it, the Senators and Representatives who voted for it and the Presidents who signed for it. Let the debt be divided up amongst the gang of 540.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The State of the State of California

California is in a dire financial condition. The state has a budget deficit of $40 billion, and the state is not supposed to have an unbalanced budget. The only reason taxes haven't gone up to pay for this is due to the work of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer's Association. Propositions sponsored by the HJTA have made it difficult to raise taxes. Any measure that increases taxes must pass with at least 2/3 of the vote. While the Democrats have a permanent majority in the State Assembly and State Senate they are short of the 2/3 necessary to pass tax increases.

The Republicans have, until now, actually stood firm against tax increases. California is already one of the most taxed states in the United States.

At one point the legislature tried to pass a tax increase by simple majority, in defiance of the law. Governor Schwarzenegger appeared as if he was going to sign it until a lawsuit made him back down.

Now negotiations are going on to try to sell a tax increase to Assembly and Senate Republicans, with the promise of a spending cap and a rollback of some environmental regulations.

The unions are furious about the spending cap, and the environmentalists are furious about the regulation rollback. Meanwhile the average Republican is against any further increase in taxes. Constituents from both parties are against this deal for different reasons.

The spending cap is an interesting proposal. It's interesting in that it is indicative of a false deal that Republicans fall for so often it is cause to wonder if they are actually fooled or merely pretend to be so in an effort to appease constituents.

At the federal level, budget balancing deals usually go like this:

The Democrats propose to increase taxes now and in two years will implement spending cuts. The Republicans agree.

Two years later the Democrats have conveniently forgotten about the promised spending cuts, and any efforts by Republicans to remind them are met with "everything's different now."

The interaction is so regular and so routine it gives serious cause to wonder if the Republicans are actually fooled, or if they hope that by pretending to be fooled they can fool those who vote for them.

A better deal, if the Republicans actually support a balanced budget would be "spending cuts now, and if that's not enough tax hikes later". An even cannier move would be to conveniently forget about the tax hikes when "later" arrives.

The spending cap is just such a proposal. It will be overturned as soon as it is met unless stringent controls are put in place. These controls would need to be stronger than the 2/3 majority needed to raise taxes. It should require at least 75%, and preferably 90%, to overturn the spending cap in the face of an emergency.

Offering that sort of a spending cap will reveal just how genuine the Democrats are in their efforts to balance the budget by more than just raising taxes.