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Posts Tagged ‘government’

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A few absolutes about human ideas…

  1. If you can conceive of it, chances are someone has already thought of it before.
  2. If you try to do anything about it, someone will claim they thought of it first (whether they did or not) and try to stop you.
  3. If you try to build it, some union boss is going to say you need to do it with union labor.
  4. If you actually build it, some advocacy group is going to claim it is dangerous to the environment, harmful to children, unfair to minorities, etc.
  5. If it turns out to be beneficial, some religious group will say it’s a miracle and try to give the credit to their chosen god or gods.
  6. If it is cutting-edge, some other group is going to say it’s evil and try to get it banned, protest your workshop or declare a holy/social war against you.
  7. If it is useful, someone in the military is going to try to find a way to weaponize it.
  8. If you created it for a specific purpose, someone will eventually find a way to misuse it regardless of how many warning labels you put upon it. (See #7 & #12)
  9. If it can be used in any way to hurt somebody else (see #4, #7 and possibly #12) then someone will use it that way on others despite the labels and warnings in #8.  Refer back to #6 for the consequences.
  10. If you try to sell it, someone in China will quickly make a knock-off version of it for less.
  11. If it makes money, someone in government is going to find a way to tax it. If it makes people’s lives simpler and easier, someone in government will require 14 forms to get one and further regulate it to make it more difficult and complicated.
  12. If people buy it, someone will eventually find a sexual use for it.
  13. If you make it durable, someone will find a way to break it.
  14. If it makes you rich, some liberal is going to say you exploited your customers, workers or the environment getting that way.

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The following is a response I recently sent to an email that was forwarded to me.  The email included a number of quotations of sales figures of Walmart (with what appeared to be old numbers) comparing them to other chains and eventually criticizing government operations going on in the present. From what I could tell it was praise of Walmart in light of all the demonization going on by the progressive left. But I expanded on it a bit.

From the original email:

  1. Americans spend $36,000,000 at Wal-Mart Every hour of every day.
  2. This works out to $20,928 profit every minute!
  3. Wal-Mart will sell more from January 1 to St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) than Target sells all year.
  4. Wal-Mart is bigger than Home Depot + Kroger + Target +Sears + Costco + K-Mart combined.
  5. Wal-Mart employs 1.6 million people, is the world’s largest private employer, and most speak English.
  6. Wal-Mart is the largest company in the history of the world.
  7. Wal-Mart now sells more food than Kroger and Safeway combined, and  keep in mind they did this in only fifteen years.
  8. During this same period, 31 big supermarket chains sought bankruptcy.
  9. Wal-Mart now sells more food than any other store in the world.
  10. Wal-Mart has approx 3,900 stores in the USA of which 1,906 are Super Centers; this is 1,000 more than it had five years ago.
  11. This year 7.2 billion different purchasing experiences will occur at Wal-Mart stores. (Earth’s population is approximately 6.5 Billion.)
  12. 90% of all Americans live within fifteen miles of a Wal-Mart.

I then went on to add:

Here’s some other numbers. Walmart currently employs 2.1 million people worldwide. For those of you counting, that amounts to about 1.5% of all the working people (amounting to 140 million) in the country. i.e. if we had about 9 more companies like Walmart, there would be no unemployment right now. The average wage of those employees is not high, but the average skill needed to work at a Walmart isn’t incredibly complex. The average is about $11.75 per hour. (the national average for retail employees is right about $12 per hour, but Walmart also has many programs that involve part-time employment of retirees and special ‘needs’ people. This average is also well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25)

The national poverty line is currently at $22,000 which would also place the annual wage of walmart ($20,744) slightly below that amount, but they also offer benefits and profit share programs to many of their full-time employees. But one should also consider that if a single household has two people working at Walmart making the average wage, that places the total household income above $40,000 per year, well into the so-called ‘middle class’.

Just for sake of argument though, Walmart did post $15 billion in profit last year. So perhaps they should increase wages. With 2.1 million employees and annual (net profit) earnings of 15 billion, if they spent every cent of their profits on raises, that would amount to a great big whopping $3.50 per hour raising the average annual earnings of each employee to $29,000 per year.

Of course, large corporations don’t exist to post no profit. Stockholders don’t buy stock to have no earnings.

So how’s about some other numbers? The US government spends $121,000 dollars per second. To pay for this, they have to borrow $52,000 every second. This means that in 1 minute, the US government eats up $7,264,020 in money that otherwise could have been profits for companies such as Walmart. That’s $435,841,200 per hour, $10,460,188,800 per day.

And of course, the government doesn’t exist to post any profit. So what are they paying as an average salary from all this money they are spending from other people’s productivity? The average federal employee made about $68,000 per year in 2008. And we are upset at Walmart? For what? Making money? THOSE BASTARDS!

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I was listening to this address on the way home and found the first portion highly pertinent in this coming election cycle:

Ayn Rand Institute Multimedia Library

From Ayn Rand’s address “A Nation’s Unity” on October, 1972 at the Ford Hall Forum (click the graphic or link to hear the full audio of the address)

Every four years, at about this time, we begin to hear louder and louder appeals for national unity. We hear them between Presidential elections as well—particularly when something is about to be put over on us—though they are uttered in a more perfunctory manner.

Observe, however, that in recent years it has become fashionable to disparage unity, between elections, and to praise dissent as a kind of moral or patriotic duty. But the pattern of a Presidential election remains the same: first, there is a campaign in which the candidates denounce each other and seem to appeal to some sort of unstated principles; then, when the election is over, the appeals become, in effect: now let’s forget all about principles—national unity comes first.

This is, therefore, an appropriate time to examine the issue of national unity and to ask certain questions: Is such unity necessary? Is it possible? What makes it possible? What is the alternative? What are the consequences? The present election campaign offers many clues to the answers.

As in the case of many other errors or evils, today’s appeals for national unity are based on a perverted element of truth. It is true that, in order to exist as a nation, the large number of men who live in the same geographical area and deal with one another, must agree on some fundamental principle(s). And more: any two men who choose to deal with each other must have some sort of basic agreement, at least for the duration of their joint action. If you joined forces with another man in order to lift a heavy boulder, and you strained to lift it while he strained to push it down, nothing would come of both your efforts but failure, frustration, and—if the issue were important enough to both of you—the recourse to blows and mutual extermination.

The fact that in case of disagreement men can resort to physical force, i.e., to human destruction, is the reason why every human association is based on some sort of agreement, which is implemented by certain rules of conduct. An agreement, in this context, does not necessarily mean a common purpose: you may make an agreement with a neighbor that you will not attack him so long as he does not attack you—and if both of you abide by it, you are free to go your own ways and, perhaps, never see each other again. The fundamental agreement which is required of a nation is an agreement on the rules of peaceful coexistence. A territory inhabited by men engaged in perpetual conflicts, chronic fighting, physical violence, and general hatred of all for all, is not a nation nor a country, but a bloody mess. Internal peace and some sort of harmony are the precondition of the existence of a nation.

The big questions, however, are: Peace—at what price? Harmony—on what terms? Agreement—about what? And more: Can such terms and agreements be chosen arbitrarily? Can men choose any terms and make them work simply by wishing them to do so? Or are there objective factors which necessitate certain principles of human association, and defeat all others? In sum, the fundamental social question is: What principles should men agree upon in order to live and deal with one another?

The best way to answer questions of this kind is to start not with an enormous, floating abstraction, such as “society as a whole,” but with one member of society, the one you know best: yourself. Ask yourself: What rules of conduct would you be able and willing to accept in order to deal with your neighbors?

Let us say you are a young man who knows that he must work in order to support his life. You have a good job, a small family, and a home in the suburbs. Since you do not intend to stagnate, you maintain a certain financial and intellectual balance between the present and the future; you budget your money and your time: your money, to provide for your present needs and to improve your standard of living, For example, to pay off the mortgage on your home—your time, to do your present job well and to study in order to qualify for a better one. You like some of your neighbors, and you dislike others, but you are not afraid of any of them: they are not a threat to you, nor you to them.

This is the normal pattern of your life and you take it for granted, as if it were a fact of nature. But it is not. It took thousands and thousands of years to achieve it. Let us see what it depends on.

Suppose this country’s political system was changed. It was decided that the affairs of each community are to be determined at a monthly meeting of all it’s citizens – by general democratic vote, and that the rule of the majority is absolute – without limits or appeals. It would mean that you could be thrown out of your home and out of your community if the majority so voted. It would mean that you could be sentenced to die, if not liking your manners or your ideas, the majority so voted.

This is not fantasy. This was the social system of many Greek city-states – pure democracy, unlimited majority rule. Would you agree to accept it in the name of communal unity? No? Than would you agree to accept it on a much larger scale and by remote control?

Suppose it was decided but never announced openly and explicitly that the nation holds the absolute power of a Greek city-state. But since one cannot convene an entire nation to a monthly meeting, the people are compressed into groups representing various interests, and the government acts as arbiter and ruler – who listens to their clashing demands and enforces the will of those it deems to be representative of the public interest.

These groups are not elected. They are formed informally, spontaneously, democratically. Anyone is free to form them and to clamor demands for anything. How will you adjust to it?

First, there is a business lobby. But you don’t mind it, it helps your boss.

Then there is a labor lobby. But you don’t mind it – it helps you!

Then there is a farm lobby. But you don’t notice it. It is too remote from your activities.

Then a neighbor on the next block forms a group demanding better roads, and two blocks further a woman forms a group demanding better schools.

Another group demands ‘free lunches‘ for all school children and a rival group demands ‘free textbooks‘.

Your windows are smashed one night by a group of the ‘local juvenile delinquents’ or ‘problem adolescents‘. They show non-negotiable demands which you cannot quite untangle, but you gather it has something to do with ‘Youth Power’.

The residents of the local old-folks home form a group demanding ‘Senior-citizen power’.

The old-maid file clerk at the office – that you can’t stand because she can’t keep the files straight – is given a promotion with the help of a group that demands the liberation of women.

You have no time to keep track of it all. You notice only that your taxes keep rising and rising, and your money keeps buying less and less.

You are late getting to the office one morning because the local ‘welfare recipients’ group lies stretched out across the highway demanding a yearly income greater than half of your’s. You slam on your breaks just in time to avoid running over the group’s leader: a lady known as ‘fatso’ who has 12 children and no visible husband.

You had planned to have three children but you decided to wait a little for the third one – you cannot afford them.

A long haired, young man forms a group to forbid anyone to have more than two children, and a short haired young woman forms a group to forbid abortion and the use of contraceptives.

There’s a group that demands the display of sexual intercourse on the screen and another group that demands censorship of all movies above the intellectual level of a 6 year old. So you give up going to the movies.

You fall behind in your mortgage payment but your property taxes keep rising and rising. You consider giving up your house and renting one in a new development five miles away. But a local ‘birdwatchers’ group is suing the developer, demanding that the land he cleared be turned into a public park.

Your boss has promised you a promotion: the job of managing a new branch factory he is planning to build in your district. But he does not build it. The lady who used to have the local poetry club now has a group that demands the preservation of the beautiful ‘swamp’ he was going to kill.

Then, an educational group decrees that you cannot send your children to the local schools which so much of your property taxes has gone to pay for. So your children are bussed to a distant town: a daily trip of two hours going there, and another two hours coming back. This you are told will achieve ‘racial integration’.

You have never thought of it before, but you have become race conscious and try to untangle your own ancestry. You find it so mixed that you cannot qualify for any of the groups into which your community is [based]. The afro-americans, the chicano-americans, the italo-americans, the jewish americans, the irish americans, etc. And you … you are just a ‘mongrel-american‘. (so am I)

A title of which you would have been proud at one time but which is becoming ‘dangerous’. If you lose your job, there will be no preferential quota to help you get another one, and no way of knowing how many ‘ethnic’ applications will be pushed ahead of you. There will be no preferential quota for your son’s admission to a college when the time comes.

You are alone, unprotected, defenseless – and the only reason you know that you are living in a human society and not on a deserted island is the fact that your ‘taxes’ keep rising and rising.

How do you adjust? To whom and to what? The first thing to go is your future.

You can barely keep up with your current expenses. You have no way to plan ahead. If you try to save, you do not know which demands of which groups will eat up your savings in the form of new taxes and higher prices.

Why study to develop your skills? You do not know if you will ever get a better job or what new obstacles will spring up overnight or whether there will be anyone left to hire you.

You used to plan your course in terms of years. The range of your concerns shrinks to one year, then to one month, and then to next payday. You can see nothing beyond but a black void.

Strange things happen to a man without a future. You begin to act like the type of man you once despised.

You become sloppy at your job. You can barely summon the effort just to get by.

You get drunk too often. You buy a luxurious lawn mower which you have no time to use and you quarrel with your wife over the expensive cut of lamb chops she bought for dinner.

And when you hear a seedy lecture at the group meeting that declares that Horatio Alger’s stories are a myth, [and claims] that man cannot rise by individual effort and ability, you applaud defiantly and beligerently.

Oh yes! You have joined a group! You have joined several groups.

You do not know exactly what they stand for but they talk of community action and mutual protection and they denounce other groups. You do not know clearly which ones or why. You had tried to get it clear but gave up.

Everytime you read the newspaper or listen to the snarling voices on television, things grow murkier.

You do not know by what steps your attitude toward your neighbors has changed. You have begun to watch them suspiciously.

Whenever you see two of them in a heated discussion or observe several cars parked in front of a house you feel a touch of anxiety. You do not know what they might be up to, what ‘new group’ might be formed and what it will do to you.

You learn to feel ‘fear’. You are afraid of your neighbors – of any human being.

You are afraid to speak. You smile and you agree with everyone you meet.

You are afraid to think.

One day, you discover that what you feel for men … is hatred.

In that moment, you wonder ‘what has happened to your neighbors?’ They were decent people once – you remember vaguely. They did not act like wild packs, scrambling to get at one-another’s throats – and pockets!

You do not know how many of them are wondering the same thing about you.

You know only that there was a time when the local bird watcher, and the problem adolescent and the poetry-club ladies and ‘Ms fatso‘ were of no danger to anyone – but now they are! Why were they better in the past?

If someone answered:

Because – they – did – not – have – a – GUN!

you would not understand it.

You have come to believe that people are no good and that force is the only practical way to deal with them, since ‘reason’ – they all tell you – has failed.

You cannot cope with the enormous complexity of an entire nation’s problems. You have no way of knowing – you conclude – who is right or wrong, so let some groups force others and re-established order.

No one has explained to you that the ‘golden rule’ applies to politics. If certain conditions of social existence are unacceptable and unbearable to you, you cannot expect others to accept them and make them work. And what these conditions do to you, they do to society as a whole.

Do you agree to accept a social system of this kind?

It is of course, the system under which we are living today, but which we have never ‘chosen’.

It is important to consider it now because, in the coming presidential election one of the candidates is asking us to agree – and in the name of ‘national unity’ – explicitly to accept the principle that society has an unlimited power, and that our lives belong to the state!

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The problem with demanding regulation on the cheap

(originally posted to facebook on Saturday, June 26, 2010 at 3:38pm)

The following was a comment made on a thread where people were demanding regulation of the meat industry. One of the comments suggested I should eat some ‘unregulated meat’ and get sick.

Me: Well, seeing as how I procure my own food as often as possible, good luck on that one! Besides, if you pay attention to who you buy from and how they do business (this sticky little thing I’ve mentioned before called ‘taking responsibility’) you don’t need regulations. He who sells me food that makes me sick, never sells me food again.

Imagine if you will three scenarios (we live in a mixture of 1 and 2 now)

Scenario 1: Customer goes to store, plops down money for meat. Customer buys whatever meat is most affordable. Lacking significant regulation, the producer sees a demand for low priced meat. Producer churns out as much high demand, low priced meat as possible to make the biggest profit. Customer ultimately gets lower quality meats. Customer eventually gets sick from low quality meat. Customer got what they paid for!

Scenario 2: Customer cries to government to regulate their meat. Government slaps tons of regulations on producers. Customers still just slap down money for meat feeling assured that the government is ‘protecting’ the quality of said meat. Customer still tries to buy the cheapest meat they can find. Producer sees high demand for low price meat. Producer monitors production not for quality but for minimum adherence to the plethora of regulations. Customer gets minimum legal quality meat. Customer eventually gets sick from low quality meat. Customer gets what they cried for.

Scenario 3: Informed consumer seeks to buy a specific quality of meat. Said customer stays on top of information about the producers their seller is buying from. Customer demands only top quality meat and is willing to pay a little more to get it. Producer sees demand for ‘quality’ meat. Producer monitors meat production to meet the demand for quality. Customer gets tasty num nums! Customer is happy, producer is happy, seller is happy – government can go fuck off!

Which would you rather live in?

———-

As an added note on this one – I’ve spoken to other people on the nature of ‘free markets’ including a recent discussion on such regulation in the auto industry and goods at Walmart.

There are a couple of common responses that I hear to arguments like this. In that discussion, one of the responses was in regards to an example raised regarding the requirement placed on automakers to include safety restraints in cars. The question was, ‘what if my friend buys a car with no seatbelts and I need to ride in his car? Are you saying I need to choose better friends???

My short answer to him was “YES!!!! THAT’S THE POINT!” In other words, it should not be society’s or government’s responsibility to make choices for you or to protect you from the consequences of YOUR OWN choices. That includes getting into a car that has no seatbelts!!!

The longer answer included pointing out that “choosing better friends” is not the only option. You could offer to drive. You could choose not to get in. And, if you aren’t a puss, you would tell your friend ‘why’ you choose not to get in or why you are going to drive with your car (because it ‘has’ seatbelts) and hit him up for a share of the gas money. If it is really that important to you, and your friend remains belligerent as to your safety or puts up a fuss as to your choice not to ride in his vehicle and to require him to ‘pay’ to ride in yours, are you really going to want such a person as a friend?

The other argument is in regards to ‘who has the time?‘ As in, who has the time to track all the companies you buy from? The reality is, we don’t.  For most things, the necessity of watching every company behind every purchase we make is way too daunting.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t exercise responsibility as often as you possibly can for your more important or more regular buying choices.

My response to this was coupled with a response to another question poised earlier in the discussion asking how a free market addresses ‘new’ needs or desires. The actual question is ‘where do these [new companies] come from? Out of the ‘ether’?’

At this point, I commented “As I stated earlier, the market abhors a vacuum. If there is a need for a product or service, people interested in profit will try to fill those needs.  People interested in ‘profit’ will fill any and all needs they are able to fill as often as possible. Not out of the ether, but because not all people are stupid! And people who wish to succeed in a free market need to be smart.”

Angie's List

AngiesList.com

I then scribbled down the url to http://www.angieslist.com and handed it to him. “Here you go,” I said. To which he asked ‘what is this?’ I responded, “It’s one of those companies that magically appeared out of the ‘ether‘ to fulfill a new market need for people like you who say they don’t have the time to keep track of businesses they solicit for goods and services.”

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Originally posted to Facebook Notes

Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent but by compulsion, when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing, when you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in goods but in favors, when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you, when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice, you may know that your society is doomed.

– Ayn Rand (Francisco D’Anconio to Hank Reardon in Atlas Shrugged)

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Originally posted on Facebook Notes

Our country is seeing a growing support of socialist (marxist) policy changes. Just about any way you cut it, such governance is taking from one that has to give to one that has not. Last time I checked, taking from someone is stealing. Progressive taxation seems to be the current method being used (taxing more the people who earn more). Are not the people who earn more the people who work harder or are the most skilled in most cases?
And when it comes to taxation, even though the connection is more subtle when applied to a people who try for the most part to abide the law of the land, the fact is taxation ultimately comes down to government taking from the governed at the point of a gun. (don’t believe me? refuse to pay your taxes, refuse to answer the summons you receive as a result and see how long it takes for someone with a badge and a gun to show up at your door)
Besides the obvious insanity of punishing achievement, how can you morally justify taking from one group and ‘redistributing’ it to another?

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Originally posted on Facebook Notes

OK, in case you haven’t figured out by reading my other notes, I love cosmology and ontology – i.e. philosophy. Question everything! To quote Aristotle, the “unexamined life is not worth living”. A subject that seems to keep getting bounced off me as of late is the concept of power, who has it, how they get it and what they do (right or wrong) with it.

One of the things that keeps bringing it up is the obvious, politics. I tend to examine just about everything and anything by breaking it down to basic truths. I tend to think it is a basic truth that any form of governmental control attracts and/or breeds within it power hungry people. And as they say, power corrupts. It’s just the nature of the beast. (although I am prone to disagree with this on face value.  Instead I think ‘the nature of power attracts corruptible men’.  And by consequence, ‘corruptible men should be granted as little power as possible’)

This led me to consider the nature of power and then in turn led me to the following conclusion:

No man has power over another without it being granted or taken and allowed.

Let’s start with the second part because the two concepts really have to go together. Once someone has power, the most likely means to get more if they are corrupt is to take it. If they have no power in the first place other than what was granted to them by someone (or a group of someones), then the only way they can take power unwillingly from one of those someones is for the rest of the someones to ‘allow’ them to get away with it.
But of course the easier way to get power is to have it given to you. This led me to another consideration. What is the easiest way to get someone to give away power? There’s one simple answer that repeats itself throughout our society and history:

convince them that there is something greater then themselves or their own self-interest

Without drawing specific conclusions on whether each is right or wrong, good or bad, we can see examples of things deemed ‘greater than one’s self’ in everything from religion (god) to environmentalism (earth/nature) and even collectivism/marxism (the state).

As a note in conclusion, all of this sounds kind of selfish – well guess what? it is! But it does not have to be a denunciation of the things we find good in any or all of the above. After all, ideas do not gain support if there is not some truth or good in them.
So how can you put your own self-interest before everything else and still exist in society? Simple! Simple because it is in our self interest to maintain and improve our environment, it is in our self interest to be on good terms with our neighbors and for our neighbors to share a similar social and financial status (not identical, but similar). I could go on, but I think you get the idea – self interest does not preclude being a good citizen, good neighbor or good patron to our world – but denying self-interest is the quickest way to grant someone else (potentially tyrannical) power over you.

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