Friday, May 29, 2009

California Bleeding

The voters have spoken, and have decided that not only would they voluntarily tax themselves further, they also rejected measures that provided a quick fix to budget problems without raising taxes - raiding special purpose funds that had been "underutilized" in the time leading up to the budget failure. The only measure that passed is a hit against legislator pay - a weak hit but still a hit.

There are those with an ideological bias against any restraint on government. That the voters actually stood up to the state is considered a travesty. Economic commentator Paul Krugman blames the whole mess on Proposition 13 which made it difficult to raise property taxes and impossible to reassess upwards without a change of house ownership, and requiring a 2/3 supermajority to raise taxes, which is considered holding the majority hostage to the minority. Since the Democrats do not have a 2/3 majority they are forced to come to terms with the permanent Republican minority in order for taxes to be raised. Paul Krugman is against any form of spending cuts.

Even with the requirement for a 2/3 majority, California is already one of the most heavily taxed states in the nation, showing how little the requirement for a supermajority hampered the ability to raise taxes. It should also be noted that for all of Krugman's claims to being an economist, he completely failed to predict the recession that started unofficially in 2007 and officially in 2008 - the biggest economic news of the decade.

So Governor Schwarzenegger is striking back. When forced to cut, he made some interesting choices. Some of them make sense, such as the park closures, but he also wants to have it so that if stolen property is recovered by the police they have no requirement to notify the owner that the stolen property is recovered. This would ultimately result in a new form of civil asset forfeiture, forfeiture by default.

He's also proposing a 5 percent pay cut for state employees.

Since Chapter 9 bankruptcy is only available to municipalities the only option the state has if bailouts fail is to default. It has been many years since a state defaulted on its debts, and doing so would lead to a domino effect of state debt.

That is probably why Governor Schwarzenegger is targeting his cuts at certain services. He’s not laying off auditors, but he is closing state parks. He has proposed cutting state salaries by 5% since that would mean he doesn’t have to fire state employees, but instead of firing state employees he’s cutting funding for medical care and school busses. Granted while the state should not be in those, the cuts seem designed to inconvenience the residents of the state as much as possible.

But these programs are also the reason many people believe the state exists. This is a dangerous move for Governor Schwarzenegger because if he follows through on his threats people may discover that they do not need the state to provide these services, and will wonder where their tax dollars are actually going. This could even result in a freer California.

No wonder Peter Schiff, in a sentiment shared by all liberty lovers, advised Obama to reject any bailout of California, advice Obama is likely to reject for the very same reason that any libertarians hope he takes it.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Times have been difficult for the public relations department of the TSA. A story was released on CNN describing the MMW imaging system being introduced as a new security measure. Included in the CNN story was an image as the TSA screener would see.

This image was considerably more graphic than the one the TSA has been using to assure everyone that there was nothing improper going on with the imaging system, that this was not an electronic strip search, that the images were "family safe" and could be used "on the cover of Reader's Digest."

Scanner Images - NSFW

The image on the left is the one provided by the TSA. The image on the right is the one provided by CNN. The only change to the image is to make the CNN image larger to be of comparable size to the TSA image - meaning that even when smaller the CNN image showed considerably more detail than the TSA wanted the American public to know about.

The TSA spokespeople assure the traveling public that the capability of the computers to store those images has been disabled. As any technical person knows, that the capability exists means that it can be reenabled at any time with no difficulty. The assurance that the capability is currently turned off offers no reassurance to anyone who understands how computers work. This capability is turned off as long as the public is worried, and can be turned on at any time.

Because the images were so graphic, a major concern was whether or not children will be subjected to these searches. As it turns out, Children will be screened, although any informed parent may choose to opt their child out of MMW screening to opt for a frisking instead. Any child old enough to stand unassisted with hands raised will be a possible sbject for this screening.

This makes the TSA the world's foremost child pornographer. Every single TSO who works around one of these machines could be considered a criminal for their participation in this procedure. Every TSO who is in a position of authority of them, going all the way up the chain of command to the head of the TSA (and higher) is potentially liable for conspiracy to and aiding and abetting child pornography.

The TSA is already seen as criminal by most people Apparently it was decided that the reputation of the TSA wasn't bad enough in the eyes of the public. Those who work there are already seen as criminals. Now those who work there risk being seen as sex offenders.

Friday, May 15, 2009

What Recovery?

The economic news this year was already going to be bad. Those who did foresee hard times last year also foresaw that this year would have a commercial real estate bust. Those who own strip malls still have to pay the mortgage, even if there are no stores renting space in the strip mall. The commercial real estate bust is on top of the continuing residential real estate bust. But now it appears that matters are going to get much worse.

Some people appear to think that the economy is recovering. Stocks are up somewhat and therefore everything should be better soon. This is according to officials in the Treasury and the Federal Reserve, the very same officials who failed to see the recession coming in the first place.

If a bucket has a hole in the bottom, it will eventually drain of whatever is in the bucket. But if water is added to the bucket at a faster rate than the hole can drain it the water level in the bucket will, for a while, rise. Bush and Obama, through their stimulus packages, have pumped so much money into the economy that the bubble has partially re-inflated in spite of it deflating just as much as before.

What has instead happened is an increase in debt of unprecedented scale. The end result is that when this trickles through the economy prices will skyrocket. This is the leading indicator of severe inflation.

But while that would be bad news on its own, the government has decided that stricter rules are needed for credit cards to prevent the raising of rates or the lowering of available credit for those who have them.

Any act of lending is a risk, which is one of the reasons lenders charge interest. If it becomes impossible to recoup the risk of lending, such lending will cease. It’s already the case that payday loans are under heavy fire. This will shutter the other means of short term unsecured debt that people have access to. This is not to suggest that debt is a good thing, especially in the current economic environment, but responsible use of debt and short term loans will be hurt by the attacks on payday loans and credit cards.

Combine that with the proposed Employee Free Choice Act and a new mercantilist pro-America policy coming from the White House it becomes apparent that this year the United States is in for a very rough time.

It is no wonder that the administrators of the Social Security Trust Fund recently announced that they are foreseeing trouble.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Libertarian Accusations

Finding it relevant to the discussion at hand, a post from The Humble Libertarian was referenced in an internet discussion forum.

The response was quite unworthy of a forum alleging intellectual discussion.




It is ironic.

Libertarians say "we have no desire to take from you what is yours" and are called "greedy". Libertarians say "we have no desire to run your life for you" and are called "arrogant".

Orwell would be proud of modern political debate because it so closely mirror the doublespeak he wrote about in 1984. Libertarians are constantly accused of saying the exact opposite of what libertarians actually are saying.

How else could someone accuse a libertarian of selfisheness for saying "I have no desire to take your money or that of your descendants"? It makes no intellectual sense, but the desire to deficit spend for wealth redistrubution and continue enslaving future generations in programs such as Social Security is considered altruistic. A libertarian is willing to say "look, we'll continue funding it for you, and sacrifice our own ability to receive payment, if you will allow our own kids to not have to pay us. We have no desire to rob our own children for our own benefit, we desire to do our best for them." That is considered selfish and greedy.

What kind of doublethink does it take to respond to a libertarian saying "I can't tell you how to live your life. Nobody can tell you how you should live your life. It's up to you." by accusing that libertarian of having profound arrogance? What is more arrogant, to leave others alone or to insist that one does indeed posess the knowledge necessary to run the lives of others?

Accusations such as these are not meant to be believed. They are projections, trying to convince the credulous that the one making the accusation is not the one actually guilty of the accusation. It is useful to confuse and distract, to ensure as C. S Lewis described, people are bailing out the water furiously when the ship is on fire, but spraying water everywhere when the ship is flooding.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Authoritarian Mindset

When encountering those who have a desire to tell others what to do, to dictate to them, one can try to classify them into different categories. C. S. Lewis did so by discussing the difference between the dictator who dictates out of greed and the one who dictates out of a desire to help others. The former, he said, was preferable because his greed could sometimes be sated.

Another way of looking at this is to compare those who desire to dictate because of a specific action they see (or fail to see) in others that they want to correct. While they consider themselves lovers of liberty they are all too willing to violate it for "just this cause" or "just that purpose." It could be the moral authoritarianism of the war against vice or it could be the socialist authoritarianism of the war against differences of ability. In neither case does the person involved see himself as anti-liberty, but they see themselves correcting a flaw in liberty.

But the worst dictators are the ones who most strongly desire to be dictated to.

Some people, a minority but they actually do exist and are the antithesis of libertarians, are actually comfortable in an authoritarian system because it frees them from the necessity of decision making. They do not need to rely on their own judgment. Experts, who have been recognized by the government as experts, are more qualified to make decisions for them.

These people hate libertarians because libertarians are willing to challenge the experts. Paul Krugman won a Nobel Prize, and libertarians reply with "So what? He's still an idiot." Libertarians even say that the Supreme Court has erred on occasion, and not just when later courts overturned earlier judgments. And sometimes the libertarians who say these things are self-educated and do not have the necessary certificates to prove that they know what they actually do know.

An individual must not challenge the decision making of the proper authorities. That one could do so challenges their worldview to the core.

These people also make the most severe dictators. When given power their decisions must never be challenged because they have to be right because they have all the certificates and credentials that say they are right. Dissent is not to be tolerated.

These people make the most docile slaves and the most demented dictators.