Sunday, April 30, 2006

 

Excellent

This is a good first step towards individual freedom.

Mexico has decided to decriminalize most drugs.

Although they are allowing only a small amount for personal use to "focus" on bigger targets, this is still a step in the right direction.

Read more here! This will also bring a lot of American down South!!

Friday, April 28, 2006

 

Classic

This is precious:

Liquor agency chief out in DUI

 

Problematic

Last week, a judge ruled that schools were allowed to ban images and phrases from t-shirts in K-12 schools. Understandibly this limits individual rights of autonomy and free speech. Yes, autonomy is already lost in the prison system called public education, however the ability for administrators to effectively ban undesirable matters from schools creates a much larger precendent for limiting freedom of speech on public property.

It seems that the main motivation for limiting freedom of speech is because the students are on property that is owned by the state ("public"), where they have to follow particular behavioral and non-offensive guidelines like diversity-driven and PC friendly activities. So...

Isn't it very easy to pursue this agenda for all public lands and property -- so that all undesirables can be avoided. Like roads, parks, sidewalks, the open-air, beaches and all other publicly owned facilities. In fact, most private establishments that are not explicitly private member-limited clubs have already been under public health regualtion (Clean Air Laws).

Additonally, yes freedom of speech is already limited by purported "hate crimes" and derogatory (generally race-based) slurs and other limitations based on local "decency codes" and at-risk public behavior like yelling "fire" in a crowded theatre.

However, isn't this sort of ability to ban always a dangerous power? Why would we ever expect it to stop, when it is some bureaucrat's ultimate pipe dream to remove all social undersirables (insensitivities) from greater society. We just have to remember that they are acting in our own best interest. You know...it's for your own good.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

 

The Old Switch(eroo)

Continuing the theme from yesterday, I figured we would start off with a very good question posed by Mssr. Student. Here it is:

I've never seen a "right". What do they look like?

Indeed, how do we define a right? What is a right and how do we quantify its existence and its expansive nature of entitlement?

My first attempt to answer this question comes from how we define humanity. It seems that by our very conciousness of our existence, we are aware of certain aspects of nature that are distinctley human, like property and the idea of ownership (this can differ based on interpretation of some territorial animals)

My take is that we wouldn't have property without rights and likewise, we wouldn't have rights without property, so it seems that rights come from the sheer dominion of humanity over himself and his creations -- namely, his life, liberty, and property.

I know that this still doesn't define a right, but I think this is a valuable area of discussion. Much can be gained by delving into this difficult subject.

How would you define rights? What are they? Where do they begin and where do they end?

 

Education Nation

You gotta read this WSJ article. Why are we forcing government to spend more on public education? What do we get in return? Is it "worth" it?

There have been a number of other articles on this judicially mandated approach to "equalizing" the playing field. Check it out. Is legislator-based largess any better than judicially-mandated?

Some thoughts?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

 

From Rags to Richly Rags

A recent study on the "American Dream" of going from rags to riches was done by Tom Hertz from American University. The name of the paper is "Understanding Mobility in America" and was published today. The reality of the paper is that it does not compare apples to apples.

Making the comparison that "the likelihood that a child born into a poor family will make it into the top five percent is just one percent" to "a child born rich had a 22 percent chance of being rich as an adult" is not really appropriate.

In fact a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland said that, "this debunks the myth of America as the land of opportunity, but it doesn't tell us what to do to fix it". I have to disagree with this statement -- I doubt that it debunks anything!!

Not only is there an upward limit in these statistics, making it generally easier for someone "rich" to maintain "richness" (whether wealth or income). My opinion is that to make it a like-to-like comparison, we have to look at the relative upward mobility in wealth or income. To me, atleast, it would make more sense to compare an upper-low income individual with an upper-middle class income individual and see how they compare in upward mobility. Same for lower-upper and lower-middle. By looking only at the lowest quintiles of income or wealth and comparing it the highest quintile, leaves a lot out.

It will also be interesting to see how he corrects for many of the reasons why some people are poor and some people are rich.

I have not been able to find the paper online and therefore have not yet read it. This is just my analysis for the article, which you can find here.

 

Guns and Butter

Asserting that the federal government had failed to curb gun trafficking, mayors from 15 cities gathered yesterday at Gracie Mansion and agreed to intensify efforts to combat illegal firearms.

How do you like this statement by Mssr. Bloomberg, who has made gun violence a signature issue of his second term, "When Congress does not take the lead on a major problem that affects the whole nation — whether it's global warming, welfare, immigration — it's up to the cities and states to do it."

This is more about limiting gun owner's rights, making them less available to all individuals, and tracking the movement of guns (and therefore individuals), than trying to limit gun-related crime (which is rather problematic in the statistics).

Here's more from the article:

They signed a six-point "statement of principles" that called for punishing gun possession "to the maximum extent of the law," prosecuting dealers who knowingly sell guns to criminals through so-called straw purchasers and opposing two bills before the House of Representatives that would restrict cities' access to gun-tracing data.

The statement also called for better technologies to detect illegal guns, coordinated legislative and litigation strategies and outreach to other cities.

The leaders pledged to meet again before the end of the year and to expand the number of mayors involved to at least 50. Several said they hoped the meetings would be the start of a national movement to draw attention to gun deaths, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, total 30,000 a year in the United States. Scholars believe that the vast majority of guns used in crimes in this country are acquired illegally.


So they are going to punish the purcasing and possession of guns, not the criminal acts of loss of life, liberty, or property. I guess this is the trend in activism -- extending the criminal spectrum.

Question: What is criminal about moving or owning guns? Why is it treated differently from other potentially dangerous goods/services. What about screwdrivers, pocket knives, and aerosol cans?

Read the whole article here.

 

Greed is Good

Stossel gives a nice explanation on why greed is good.

It reminds me of I, Pencil.

If you haven't read that latter yet, you should.

Also, why don't people see this? Why is altruism so highly regarded, when so much more can be gained from greed? Or, are we giving to much credit to self-interest?

This could be a nice topic for discussion.

 

W.W.

Good article on the minimum wage by Walter Williams this morning:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Sixty-three percent of minimum wage workers receive raises within one year of employment, and only 15 percent still earn the minimum wage after three years. Furthermore, only 5.3 percent of minimum wage earners are from households below the official poverty line; forty percent of minimum wage earners live in households with incomes $60,000 and higher; and, over 82 percent of minimum wage earners do not have dependents.

Want some of the data, check out the BLS website and some tables.

Good news is that there has been a downward trend in the number federal minimum wage earners ($5.15/hr) since they started collecting the data in 1979.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

 

Pick Your Switch

I was having a conversation with Chris yesterday about taxes and something came to me. Usually when Chris and I talk, it's about how retarded politicians are, or how offensive different types of taxes are. This time I got an interesting image: it was Uncle Sam telling me (in a stern voice, pointing that finger) to "go pick a switch." For those of you not from the Southern part of these United States, parents used to (maybe they still do) tell their kids to "go pick a switch," which is a small branch from a tree or bush used to whip the ever-loving crap out of the kid when he did something wrong.

Now there is no good switch to pick, and there are no good taxes to pay. But Uncle Sam, like an abusive parent, does in fact love you deep down (in his pockets). The bad part is, the only thing you did wrong was make some money, or spend it, or own something, and you got whipped.

So the next time you think about April 15th, or just about how much you hate paying taxes, think about Uncle Sam telling you to pick a switch. Trust him, since he knows what's good for you. I know you hate it now, but he will prove his wisdom over time.

And if you believe all of that, you deserve to get whipped. Maybe believing that Uncle Sam actually cares about you is what you did wrong. Now go get some ointment for your backside.

 

Catallaxic Oath

"First, do no harm" or if you prefer the rough latin translation "Primum non nocere".

I think there should be the equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath for economists.

It seems to me that in the short history of modern economics, individual economists have done a sufficient job in influencing politics, and the direction of many economic systems. Because of this, there have been many successess and failures. Much of Latin America and Africa are two of those failures. Additionally, much of modern Anglo-American influenced countries have been highly successful.

Obviously this influence has come at the cost of freedom and individual liberties, as know-it-all economists (economist kings) steer the ship of prosperity and many times hit and iceburg or two.

For some reason, I can not help but think of the teaming up of U2's Bono, JP II, and Jeffery Sachs to rid the world of poverty. And year after year, in their attempts to "help" the poor through mass coercion and the river of largess that they should, "first, do no harm".

 

Say it, don't spray it

Unlike Theodore Roosevelt's "speak softly and carry a big stick", president Bush appears to be doing much the opposite. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Later today, we are supposed to hear him say that he will not tolerate any price gouging from the oil companies. Now if he just says what everybody wants to hear without actually doing anything, then that is not such a bad political approach. He can please both sides and do little.

Perhaps instead future presidents should follow this motto:

"Speak strongly, act swiftly, and do little"

Monday, April 24, 2006

 

Saying YES

I finished up Jacob Sullum's book Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use, on Friday and started his other book For Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of Public Health.

I have to say that I really like this author.

Check out this section titled Paternalism's Price:

The fact that drug use is usually not the end of the world, or even a cause for regret, has important implications for the drug policy debate. To be sure, it does not change everything. Even if the vast majority of people who use drugs is still justified because of the harm that would otherwise be caused by the minority who don't. Empirically, this is a shaky proposition. It's not clear, first of all, that prohibition is very effective at preventing people from developing drug problems. The barriers it creates--cost, inconvenience, risk of arrest--are more likely to deter casual users, and potential addicts who are deterred may instead become alcoholics, thereby exposing themselves to more serious health risks that if they had taken up, say, heroin. Assuming that at least some people manage to avoid addiction only because of the obstacles erected by the drug laws, any harm thereby prevented has to be weighed against the enormous costs of the war on drugs, which include not only the explicit expenditures ($40 billion or so annually) but violence, official corruption, disrespect for the law, diversion of law-enforcement resources, years wasted in prison by drug offenders who are not predatory criminals, thefts that would not occur is drugs were more affordable, erosion of privacy rights, and other civil liberties, and deaths from tainted drugs, unexpectedly high doses, and unsanitary injection practices encouraged by anti-paraphernalia policies. These costs, which bear a striking resemblance to the side effects of alcohol prohibition, are hard to measure, and some of them cannot be expressed in financial terms, but that does not make them any less real. It's doubtful that they can be justified even on purely utilitarian grounds.

This reminded me of the current difficulties arising from buying cold medicine in North Carolina. This weekend, I went to go purchase some allergy and cold medicine and was stopped in my tracks. I had to hand over my license, give my telephone number, and wait for the pharmacist's assistance to purchase these simple items.

I don't know how the costs associated with North Carolina legislation could possibly outweigh the benefits. Who actually believes that this difficulty will stop drug use or drug manufacturing?

In fact, I heard somewhere that we aren't even buying American any more. Where are all the protectionists now? We are outsourcing Methamphetamine jobs to Mexico and increasing the chance of illegal trafficking. Gotta love the unintended consequences to the best of intentioned legislation.

Friday, April 21, 2006

 

One for the money....

In 1964, 95 percent of the [mass] transit industry was privately owned. Even while, the annual ridership had fallen to 8.3 million trips, or 62 trips per urban resident in 1964, these private companies still managed to be profitable.

Only the cities New York, San Francisco and others had taxpayer supported city-owned transit agencies. That was, until Congress passed the Urban Mass Transportation Act in 1964. The act was quite generous. It created many adverse effects and incentives for private foreclosure and sell-out of the transit companies to the public sector. With such generous federal largess, it gave publicly funded transportation agencies a direct market advantage.

Fast forward to modern day:

Randal O'Toole, in a January 2006 policy paper for Cato Institute, pointed out that "total inflation-adjusted subsidies to tansit--buses and trains--have more than doubled since 1990, yet total ridership has increased by less than 10 percent".

Additionally, he compares this to the increase in urban driving by 42 percent during the same time period.

Question: How did we get here? Why is this? Why do we continue to fund these sort of projects?

O'Toole recommends returning transportation funding to state and local agencies, rather than through federal packaging. This and other reform would minimize these adverse incentives that it currently creates.

What do you think?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

 

The Transformation Is Complete...

The Democrats have finally become modern-day Eisenhower Republicans. Now they're party of balanced budgets and limited government. And N&O columnist Rick Martinez is leaving the GOP to join the party.

Before the day is done, I'll make my way down to the Orange County Board of Elections and become an unaffiliated voter. That will bring to a close my 34 years as a Republican. Like Ronald Reagan when he left the Democratic Party, I'm not abandoning the Republican ideals of self-reliance, fiscal responsibility and limited government. It's the party has abandoned those principles and waved goodbye to me.

I'm a political pragmatist. I rarely believe what politicians say. I pay attention to what they do. Like many Americans, I vote my pocketbook. Politicians mainly do one thing well: spending our tax money. When candidates detail all the good things they're going to do, they're really describing how much they're going to cost.

When it comes to being a fiscal burden to the American taxpayer, there is no greater drain than Republicans.


Has the party of the Third Way lost its way?

 

At work

While at work today, I was listening to some folks from the Census Bureau (both central and regional offices) and they were speaking about the changes in the formal census -- from a once every ten years to a random sample selection of about 1:8 households in five year cycles. By the way, this doesn't replace the decennial, it simply replaces the "long form" from the decennial.

Anyways, Upon further though, I realized that I am not really a fan of any attempts by the government to limit and record the mobility and movement of individual citizens. Essentially, if I am not doing anything wrong, why are you keepin tabs on me?

So... I was thinking that it is rather inappropriate for the government to physically mandate individuals to fill out this form of personal information by means of a Census count. It is not like some simple form either. It is sixty questions long and covers a wide variety of topics that most people would not voluntarily pass over, if it weren't for governmental coercion. FYI, fines range from $100-$5,000 depending on the descretion of the DOJ.

What do you all think? Interestingly enough, I feel the same way about identification mandates, limits to mobility and travel (like closed borders), and anything else that makes me pass along information I would not otherwise give.

Is that a matter of privacy and personal property, or am I just being paranoid?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

 

Behind the Gates

One interesting fallacy that continues in the Drug War and in many debates on the subject is the fallacy of marijuana as a "gateway drug".

According to the National Academy of Sciences, "there is no evidence that marijuana serves as a stepping stone on the basis of its particular drug effect".

Additionally, the Canadian Senate's Special Committee on Illegal Drugs likewise concluded that "cannabis itself is not a cause of other drug use. In this sense, we reject the gateway theory".

Some of this can be found in Janet Joy et al., eds., Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base and Pierre Claude Nolin et al, Cannabis: Our Position for Canadian Public Policy.

When it comes right down to it, many of the problems of the analysis done by those supporting the gateway drug effect is both their predetermined conclusion and the self-selection bias.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

 

The End of Poverty

I was thinking this on my drive in this morning...

If wealth can only be created by private individuals, why do we believe that poverty can be solved by governmental institutions?

If the accumulation of wealth is an entirely private enterprise, why is the public sector involved in this game at all?

What do we stand to gain by using governmental coercion to "create" wealth?

Monday, April 17, 2006

 

The Good, The Bad, and The Profitable

It is good to profit off of labor!!

Why is this good?

It is good because individuals would not be hired in the first place if it were otherwise. You are of greater "worth" than they pay you in wages -- that's why you still have a job. If your productivity transformed into profit were of equal or less value than the wages paid to you, then there would be little reason to continue to pay you that amount of money or even to extend your employment contract.

While many of our bleeding heart friends would be appalled by this statement, I think this mostly stems from a rather Marxist 'class warfare' approach and a misunderstanding of markets, especially the notion of labour and profits.

Profits are built-in incentives to further the production of goods and employment of labour. Without capital and labour, there would be no goods and no profits. So there is this web of interdependence created -- all at the betterment of humanity, not at the expense of the proletariat coerced by the bourgeoiseie caste of land owners or some corporatocracy.

So...profits are actually good??? How can worker exploitation be good??

Sunday, April 16, 2006

 

Sunday Night

I was just hanging around the internet and checking things out and stumbled across this Walter Williams collection of lectures. There are ten parts and Wendy McElroy's site got me started on it. It is very good. You can find it here.

Also, be sure to check out the new movie. Thank You for Smoking. It is at Raleigh Grande.

Friday, April 14, 2006

 

Question II

Why aren't there more markets for human blood?

I only know of the American Red Cross. How many are there? Why isn't it more visible?

We can carry this over to the lack of markets for organs and that might help explain the lack of visbility, but why aren't there more?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

 

Question

Does Zacarias Moussaoui deserve the death penalty?
Why? Is a death sentence justified?

His alternative (which seems unlikely), as an expert on prison policy and management testified, is that "he would spend the rest of his life in the highest-security federal prison facilities after he is sentenced".

Perhaps it would be cheaper to have a life sentence rather than a capital punishment.

Thoughts....

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

 

Yeah, about that

I often question the criminality of traffic offenses...

If an officer sees a number of people committing the "crime" of speeding, they tend to pull over just one or simply the first one to hit their breaks (since they have now confessed).

Yes, it is true that we never catch all the perpetrators of any crime and the inability to universally enforce does not take away from the criminality.

However on the road, an officer is a witness to this illegal activity and disregards the "crime" of a few to catch one. Why is this? Additionally, the crime of speeding is not considered criminal if it is not caught, while all other normal criminal activities still are.

Why are traffic violations criminal at all? Do they serve their purpose? Have they increased safety, lowered accidents, or reduced travel times -- or do they simply serve as a source of revenues for local and state law enforcement?

 

Discussion at the SPEL Banquet

While attending the Society for Politics, Economics, and the Law's end of year bash, I was discussing a few topics of interest with the folks at my table.

We talked about immigration and the proposed great wall of America. We also discussed the minimum wage and ended up talking about South Park a lot. We also commented on sex education and a variety of other topics.

We then listened to Dr. Yuri Maltsev speak on the two types of socialism and how the lack of economic freedom is killing much of the world. Oh yeah... and socialism doesn't work.

I will let Travis talk about the Maltsev talk a bit more.

I want to pose this question, which I have often thought about and am not sure what empirical work has been done on the subject:

Does an increase in the minimum wage slow upward mobility? In general I wouldn't think so since job change is frequent, but is this increased job churn related to the inability for an individual to move upwardly in one firm? Is upward mobility slowed within a firm because of the increase in the price floor on wages?

Also, from a policy standpoint, have increases in the minimum wage coincided with increases in the standard of living of the lowest tier or lowest quartile of income earners? It would be interesting to see the "efficacy" of a minimum wage policy from this point of view.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

 

Threats

What does the libertarian ethic say about threats of violence or coercion? What about other ethical approaches? What are all the issues at hand?

Someone told me yesterday that the sentence for threatening the President of the United States is 30 years in prison.

Is that justified, even if he is the president? Even for a threat and no violence? Is violence the only crime or is a threat of violence a criminal act as well? Does someone deserve compensation for a threat of violence against them?

Discuss....

Monday, April 10, 2006

 

The Virtue of Democracy

The virtue of democracy, which is often times touted as its downfall is inefficiency. Democracies and governments in general are notoriously inefficient and long in decision making. This is actually a positive aspect of governmental action that is quite often confused as negative. As someone once said: "Gridlock is good"

Why exactly is slow and inefficient governmental action beneficial? Why are long-winded discussions beneficial?

My take is that the more inefficient the government is, the less actively coercive it can become. Tripping itself along the way, the seperated parts can not communicate effectively into an efficient totalitarian state.

Now, none of this is necessarily beneficial (on the net), but what is rather counter intuitive (at least to economists) is to desire lesser efficiency. I think there are a few good reasons to favor inefficiency and the public sector might be the prime example.

 

Drugs are Bad...mmkay...

Upon reading Jacob Sullum's book Saying Yes, I felt the need to do a little more research on the topic of drug use. So...I picked up Season Two of South Park and watched the Ike's Bris/Mr. Mackey drug episode.

After watching the episode and pointing out the reason that drugs are bad (mmkay) is because (1) If you do drugs you are a hippie and hippies suck and (2) There is a time and place for everything and its called college (you just forgot to stop). The latter is used by both Chef and the woman at the Betty Ford Clinic.

I came across a passage in Sullum's book that matched with these sort of anecdotal arguments that really are used in modern day commercials and other anti-drug propaganda:

..."For the individual," the report said, "harm resulting from the abuse of a cannabis may include inertia, lethargy, self-neglect, feeling of increased capability, with corresponding failure, and precipitation of psychotic episodes...The harm to society derived from the abuse of cannabis rests in economic consequences of the impairment of the individual's social functions and his enhanced proneness to asocial and anti-social behavior.
(This is from a 1965 World Health Organization study. More info here)

Sullum goes on to talk about other expert's studies showing drugs primarily as an escape from society and in asocial and anti-social activities. And although, this is primarily a continuation from my previous post, it sheds light on the reality that modern day prohibition is based primarily on the false premonition that society looses as individuals choose not to participate in 'social' activities. In all reality, this is a very statist and many times nationalistic argument.

Anyone want to comment on the declining marginal contribution to GDP from increased drug use or increased quantity of drug users?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

 

Why Is Coercion Bad?

It seems that a lot of arguments against taxation are based on the assumption that coercion is immoral. But why is coercion immoral? Or, more accuratley, why is coercion immoral in this context?

Even anarcho-capitalists like Murray Rothbard can see times when coercion could be justified. But Rothbard prefers to draw the line at the "initiation" of force. Apparently, coercion is only justified when it's in responce to another act of coercion. Why?

If anyone knows of a book/article/paper that explains the foundations of these arguments, please let me know.

Friday, April 07, 2006

 

What European City Do you Belong in?



Chris Belongs in Dublin





Friendly and down to earth, you want to enjoy Europe without snobbery or pretensions.

You're the perfect person to go wild on a pub crawl... or enjoy a quiet bike ride through the old part of town.


What European City Do You Belong In?

 

The Good and The Bad

News:

Informed-consent law on abortion upheld

Judge says that internet sales ban on alcohol is unconstitutional

Maryland's clean air act

New Hampshire smoking ban snuffed out

Hate crimes for the homeless?? Only in Maine...

 

Alcoholism

The idea that Alcoholism is a disease was first introduced by a gentleman named Benjamin Rush. It was later adopted by Alcoholcis Anonymous around the time of the Prohibition. An interesting history can be found by reading Harry Levine's "The Discovery of Addiction: Changing Conceptions of Habitual Drunkenness in America", Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 1978: (15) pp. 493-506.

Anyway, I came across an interesting approach to understanding alcohol policy in Jacob Sullum's "Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use". According to him and other historians, alcoholism was only adopted as a disease when drinking was beginning to become socially unacceptable. The idea that alcohol was "bad" and should be banned from everyday usage became commonplace in 19th century America and is continued into much of contemporary America (State wide bans began in the 1850's with Maine)

So, Sullum gives us a few things to think about:

The meaning of this new disease model, which today is widely accepted, has always been murky. What sort of disease is alcoholism? A metabolic defect? A brain disorder? Is it inherited, acquired, or both? How can the permanent disability known as alcoholism be distinguished, before the fact, from a passing phase of heavy drinking? How can a disease be treated through programs that aim primarily to change people's beliefs (in particular, by getting them to accept the disease model itself)?

He goes on to state the empirical evidence against the model, individual's response to incentives in experimental situations, and how moderate drinking can be a better "cure" for this disease than abstaining.

I think the model hinges on the idea that individuals are not fully capable of controlling their own behavior and that abstinence is the only solution.

Now, these statements do not take away the negative aspects of alcoholism and alcohol abuse or deter from its serious addictive and harmful effects. Instead, it puts into question the notion of seeing alcoholism as a "disease".


You can actually see parallels in the sex education, drug use, and smoking policy realms.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

 

Global Warming Is Upon Us

Time's cover story last week: Earth has reached a tipping point and Global Warming is upon us.

Here is a nice post by Prof. Tim Haab describing the conflict over Global Warming between his inner economist and his inner enviromentalist.

Here is a cartoon for the kids.

 

Drug Commercials

I remember that it went something like: "this is your brain...this is your brain on drugs(frying egg). Any questions?"

Just recently I saw another commercial about this very underinflated girl and her best friend. The best friend was complaining to someone (I guess other kids) that her friend (who appears to be "high") is no fun anymore. Apparently all her friend does is sit around and its like boring and junk.

One question: Why do you still hang out with her then? Why is she still your friend?

This advertisement shows the absurdity of the current anti-drug prohibition. Apparently drug use (specifically marijuana) causes idleness and unproductive activity (laziness and sloth). So what's the point exactly? The problem stems from a commonly held economic fallacy that an individual's decision to not maximize productivity is some how a "drain" on society. That these sort of idle and potentially self-destructive activities are negative externalities associated with the underproduction of goods and services and a decline in overall GDP.

This problematic assertion regularly comes up in the smoking and obesity debates. Moreover, this fallacy could only be true if there was no such thing as self-ownership and if there were currently no private markets where varying levels of productivity were rewarded with varying levels of compensation.

What are some other problems with these commericials and the current drug policy?

Oh yes, let's not forget to thank the current propaganda machine called the Ad Council for much of this misinformation. They have done an excellent job over the years -- almost as good as the public schools!

For your entertainment: some well known public service announcements.

 

Practical Legal Issue

I tried to pay my rent online last night. Everything was going smoothly, logging in, etc. until I went to the "pay online" link, where it informed me that "We're sorry, this property no longer acccepts credit card payment online." Turns out they don't take credit card payment at all right now, which is the way I have always paid my rent.

This was the 5th of April and rent is late on the 6th. When I went to the front office today with a check for my normal amount of rent, they told me they wouldn't accept the check unless it included a 5% late fee (about $20). They said they had put fliers in all the residents' doors announcing a change of management and that they wouldn't accept credit cards, but I have never seen that flier. I'm sure it was in my door at some point, but it never got to me.

I told them I wasn't going to pay it because it was their change of policy that made my payment late; they said they would have to tape the check on my door because I had five days to pay the rent; I got the information of the regional manager and left a short message on his voicemail about the whole ordeal. I hope he'll be more sensible about this, but who knows?

This is the third time management has changed and I'm getting really frustrated with the different policies for each different property management company. Do you have any advice for me? Shouldn't they make it easy for me to pay them? Help me out, because this thing aint over.

 

Goings on

The Rawls Test @ Mungo's.

Hispanics Unite!! March on Washington!!

The New Pork Book! Where's your state? As you can imagine, it is very large, so here are some honorable mentions:

$500,000 for the Sparta Teapot Museum in Sparta, N.C.
$13,500,000 for the International Fund for Ireland (World Toilet Summit)
$6,435,000 for wood utilization research
$1,000,000 for the Waterfree Urinal Conservation Initiative
Here's the site and the pdf.

Economic Development without Kelo. It's worth a look.

Banning funeral protests for the military...
This is an odd issue and one worth further inspection. I suppose it is appropriate to have respect for the dead, but I am not sure banning anything really solves the issues. On the other hand, why are they protesting at a funeral in the first place? The anarchist in me hates it, but the nationalist appreciates the respect for the fallen soldier. Here's the story. Apparently a number of other states have already passed this piece of legislation.

Reactions to McKinney...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

 

SouthPark

Is it as good as it used to be? Personally, I dunno. I just like it!
Travis thinks it keeps getting better and so do Trey and Matt.
Here's the Time Magazine interview.

 

Daily

Some interesting things in the news:

What are they good for...Absolutely nothing....Good God ya'll...
Republicans have to figure out what it is they stand for. I don't particularly buy this, since the Democrats didn't really stand for anything the last few years and they have managed to maintain a fair share of power. The two party system pretty much ensures it.

Sounds like an Onion Article -- Huge Alcohol Cloud coming this way!!!!

States Ranked by Total Taxes and Per Capita Amount: 2005
Where do you live? Vermont...it's not just for hippies any more!!

California Bill to Limit Global Warming Gases.
A simple shutting of the mouth might fix a lot of those hot gas issues (that means you too Arnold).

 

Wiki-learning

Ethics lesson

Deontological ethics (from the Greek Deon meaning obligation) or Deontology is an ethical theory holding that decisions should be made solely or primarily by considering one's duties and the rights of others. Deontology posits the existence of a priori moral obligations, further suggesting that people ought to live by a set of permanently defined principles that do not change merely as a result of a change in circumstances. One of the most important implications of deontology is that praiseworthy goals can never justify the immoral actions; ends do not justify the means. Deontology is directly in opposition to consequentialism, an ethical theory in which the ends can justify the means because decisions are judged primarily in terms of their consequences.

Consequentialism refers to those moral theories that hold that the consequences of a particular action form the basis for any valid moral judgement about that action. Thus, on a consequentialist account, a morally right action is an action which produces good consequences. As its name suggests, consequentialism focuses on the outcomes of actions, emphasizing the results rather than the kinds of acts involved.

In general, consequentialist theories focus on actions, however, this need not be the case. Rule consequentialism is a theory that is sometimes seen as an attempt to reconcile deontology and consequentialism. Like deontology, rule consequentialism holds that moral behavior involves following certain rules. However, rule consequentialism chooses rules based on the consequences that the selection of those rules have.

Various theorists are split as to whether the rules are the only the only determinant of moral behavior or not. For example, Robert Nozick holds that a certain set of minimal rules, which he calls "side-constraints", are necessary to ensure appropriate actions. There are also differences as to how absolute these moral rules are. Thus, while Nozick's side-constraints are absolute restrictions on behavior, Amartya Sen proposes a theory which recognizes the importance of certain rules, but these rules are not absolute [8]. That is, they may be violated if strict adherence to the rule would lead to much more undesirable consequences.

Comparison:

Consequentialism is often contrasted with deontological ethics. Deontological theories focus on types of actions rather than the particular consequences of those actions. Thus, deontological theories hold that certain actions are wrong simply because of the nature of that action. Consequently, a deontologist might argue that we should stick to our duty regardless of the consequences. For example, Kant famously argued that we had a moral duty to always tell the truth, even to a murderer asking where their would-be victim is.

However, consequentialist and deontological theories are not necessarily mutually exclusive. For example, T.M. Scanlon advances the idea that human rights, which are commonly considered a "deontological" concept, can only be justified with reference to the consequences of having those rights. Similarly, Robert Nozick argues for a theory that is mostly consequentialist, but incorporates inviolable "side-constraints" which restrict the sort of actions agents are permitted to do.

For more, check out Wiki.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

 

Miracle Update

I was watching South Park Episode 504 the other day about the Magician David Blaine and his cult followers (who always happen to look like Mormons). The episode also centered around Jesus and the Super Best Friends and their "super powers". Now SouthPark has never been friendly to religions in general and they continue to push that button time and again.

Anywho..the above episode came to mind, when I saw this headline this morning: Jesus walks on ice.

It then got me wondering when a religious group will denouce the potential findings by this Professor of Oceanography. Is it a really a conspiracy against modern Christianity and Western tradition, or simply a way to sell papers? I am thinking the latter, although I have simpathy for the former.

Besides that, no matter what potentially damaging hypothesis is furthered by the media and academics, we have to remember that it doesn't matter.

If walking on water or any of the other "miracles" are the only basis for belief in Christianity or a higher power, then a reexamination of faith should take place.

Taking away or challenging a miracle does not take away the person or what they stood for or the millions of followers that believe in Him.

 

Tis the Season...

TaxMan -- The Beatles

Let me tell you how it will be,
There’s one for you, nineteen for me,
‘Cos I’m the Taxman,
Yeah, I’m the Taxman.
Should five per cent appear too small,
Be thankful I don’t take it all,
‘Cos I’m the Taxman,
Yeah, I’m the Taxman.
If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat,
If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.
Taxman.
‘Cos I’m the Taxman,
Yeah, I’m the Taxman.
Don’t ask me what I want it for
(Taxman Mister Wilson)
If you don’t want to pay some more
(Taxman Mister Heath),
‘Cos I’m the Taxman,
Yeah, I’m the Taxman.
Now my advice for those who die,
Declare the pennies on your eyes,
‘Cos I’m the Taxman,
Yeah, I’m the Taxman.
And you’re working for no-one but me,
Taxman.

 

The Geek Get's It

16-year-old Englishman, Laurie Pycroft has put together a group called Pro-Test that has successfully countered the militant animal rights activist groups opposing the construction of a new animal research facility.

Here's a NY Times article on him (that explains the title) and his group's new blog. Also, here's his livejournal. Let's give him a little attention.

 

The Labor Market

This is a good approach to understanding Labor Markets and international political and legal structures that influence the formation and evolution of them. Anthony DeJasay at FEE.

 

The OC

Mike Munger on the OC.

Anthony DeJasay on the riots and Public Choice

Good definition of opportunity cost.

Judge: Ban on violent video games is illegal!! Fun in Michigan...


News
Florida wins....Movie Downloading...Microsoft supports Linux??...Lab Organs

Monday, April 03, 2006

 

Obesity

While reading my daily email from the Center for Consumer Freedom I came across an interesting advertisement. It was for a new book titled "An Epidemic of Obesity Myths". You can check it out here. Download the whole 209 page report here.

Also, an interesting breakdown of weight distributions by state.

Check it out!

 

Topics

Sad Medicine

Interesting...The Viability of Anarchy

The Russell Sage Foundation Working Papers

Evidence for Discimmination?

The Economic Efficiency of Antidiscrimination and Affirmative Action Policies.

Longevity from across the Pond.

Two issues of the immigration debate. Here and Here.

Mankiw on Immigration and his new blog.

 

You can't say that

Watching the South Park s*** episode last friday night reminded me of this post from Volokh Conspiracy about a University of Leeds professor who got into some trouble when he wasn't playing nice. Apparently he said many unkind things about blacks, females, and other groups.

I guess that's what happens though. Since the University is subsidized by the state, they are free to regulate it as desired. Then again they regulate everything that's private in the same way.

Do we have a "right" to not be offended? Is someone deserving of compensation if they do not like what they hear or are offended by it?

Here's the post.

It also reminds me of a television show that I enjoyed when I was younger.

And a book.

 

Everyone has AIDS

While I was watching the Duke-LSU game the other night, there was a commercial with the fellow from CSI (I think Grisham) and he was talking about AIDs.

I think he specifically said, "if you think you are safe, you are dead wrong".

Honestly I have very little sympathy for anyone who "gets" AIDs out of their own actions. Perhaps we should feel bad or sorry for their predicament, but I mostly don't... mostly.

I couldn't help but think of the little jingle from Team America, which I guess is originally from the play Rent. The truly comical part of it is that it was a real marketing plan for further AIDs awareness and funding. See here.

So my real issues with all of this is that subsidizing research only distorts the real risks associated with risky behavior. Sex education, free condoms, free testing, and pregnancy counseling, subsidized abortion, and subsidized child-rearing (medical, food, school) are all examples that lead to the distortion of the real risks associated with sexual activity.

The same could probably be said for subsidizing pregnant women (via medicaid, TANF). Since it distorts the real risks associated with sexual activity and the natural by product of that activity, it also distorts the real risks associated with parenthood in general.

Sorry, I am not for AIDs research. Atleast not governmentally funded research.

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