Friday, July 13, 2012

Much Ado About ... Clothing?!

So, apparently Congress has nothing better to do than worry about what the U.S. Olympic Team is wearing.  So much so, in fact, that John Boehner crossed the aisle to join Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid in speaking out yesterday, attacking the USOC’s choice regarding the athletes’ outfits.

One can just picture Gopher and Doc
standing on the podium.  (AP Photo)
So what has their collective panties in such a bunch?  Is it that they prefer American athletes to not look like French athletes (a la berets)?  Is it that they object to the athletes looking like part of the crew of the Love Boat??  No, what is apparently so absolutely unconscionable, on a level warranting the scorn and condemnation of federal policymakers is that their outfits were manufactured by Ralph Lauren…in CHINA!

Setting aside the numerous follies and fallacies of mercantilist protectionism, what strikes me about this is these people’s ignorance of the basic economic principles of tradeoffs.  This doesn’t surprise me, mind you, given their repeated demonstration of ignorance and/or stupidity regarding any number of basic economic principles.  But even a very basic thought-experiment that follows from the huffing and puffing of these Congressional blowhards shows the shortsightedness of their suggested remedies.

First thing to note is that the USOC is a private, non-profit organization.  They face very real economic tradeoffs on how to spend donors’ contributions.  So, when one examines Harry Reid’s suggestion to burn these outfits and start over (or even if one wants to examine the generalized, hypothetical case of “The USOC should have known better and bought American from the start”), one must ask the question, “At what cost?”

So what is the opportunity cost of going with American-made outfits?  The short answer is:  whatever else the USOC could have spent the money on that they saved by going with the CHinese-made outfits.  The most obvious and impactful example is training.  Should the USOC forego some valuable athlete training in order to pay more for outfits??  That strikes me as a dubious tradeoff, but regardless, if that's what the USOC wanted to do, then good for them.  But I don't have any problem with them choosing to use their money as wisely as they see fit (just like any other private citizen or group).  And before anyone in Congress criticizes what a private organization or person spends their OWN money on, they really should think about that old adage regarding glass houses and throwing stones, given the frivolous things they choose to spend OTHER PEOPLE'S money on!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Call Out Licensing Requirements For What They Are

Here is a letter to the editor I sent to my local paper regarding an example of this lesson in political economy that affected me personally.  In this case, recent action was taken by the Spotsylvania County Health Inspector to put a stop to my local barbershop's practice of performing a relaxing head, neck, and upper back massage at the end of a haircut.

July 12, 2012

To the editor,

One of the best barbershops in the Fredericksburg area is the one located on Bragg Road, next to the Towne Centre.  For the low price of $13, one can get not only a very good haircut but also a relaxing neck-and-upper-back massage.  It really is one of the best haircuts I’ve ever had, which is why I am a long-time repeat customer.

So what is my point in sharing this?  A few days ago, I found out that the Spotsylvania Health Inspector has recently put a stop to the shop’s practice of providing the neck-and-upper-back massage.  Apparently, such a service requires a license or certification, which the barbershop did not have.

Why should any license or certification be required?  Some would say ‘safety.’  Ludicrous.  Nobody who gets a haircut there fears they will somehow be harmed (if they did, they would stop going).  Others would say ‘liability protection.’  Again, ridiculous.  That is why we have the rule of law.  The barbershop, given the option, would clearly choose to offer the service on the extremely off-chance that they might get sued one day for accidentally causing damage.

The fact of the matter is that this kind of licensing regulation is nothing more than government-enforced monopoly protection for politically connected cronies.  Such restrictions are typically lobbied for by the very beneficiaries of such regulations:  existing businesses.  Why?  To restrict entry of would-be competitors.  Similar regulations prevent many African-American women from being able to run braiding businesses (without a cosmetology license) or even a monastery in Louisiana from selling caskets to raise money.  The same goes for this barbershop, where they were simply making the haircut experience more enjoyable and relaxing to customers willing to pay for it.  Over-reaching regulation has now robbed Fredericksburg residents of this luxury.  This decision should be over-turned.

Very respectfully,
Ben Bursae
Fredericksburg, VA

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"Let's Draft Our Kids"???

I came across this July 10 NYT op-ed today, and I was almost blown away by the vast number of downright fallacious and inane assertions that the author (Thomas Ricks) puts forth.  It's almost overhwelming to try to address them all in one sitting.  So, it's better to pick a few and start from there.

Here, Don Boudreaux takes on the ludicrous idea that we would be better off by turning over tasks currently performed by older, experienced military members to younger, inexperienced conscripts.

Ricks closes his "Ode to Inanity" by repeating the tired (and historically inaccurate) argument of how a draft lends itself to "wiser war-making."  The draft didn't prevent the atrociously wrong-headed and ultimately tragic policy that was the Vietnam War.  It doesn't follow logically that a government that has reduced the cost of a military (or any of its agencies) is less likely to use it.  Ludwig von Mises wrote about how it is in the nature of a bureaucracy (of which the U.S. military is most certainly one) to try to expand its power base by spending all of its budget and making the case for additional responsibilities (and accompanying budget plus-ups) to be added.  The only case the U.S. military can make for additional responsibility is to attempt to justify it through finding additional wars to fight, additional campaigns to plan for, and additional "enemies" to preemptively attack.  There is also the compelling point that a conscripted force has no recourse in the event the government errs and enters into a misguided war.  With an all-volunteer force, the government must be more careful not to unwisely engage in conflict (else it risks losing its workforce).  One can see this in a simple and analogous thought-experiment:  Ask yourself which private company is more likely to treat its workforce better:  Company A, who must hire its employees, or Company B, who is permitted to own slaves?

My last point I'll make here is regarding the title, which is simply infuriating (and should be to anyone who abhors slavery as a human practice).  "Let's Draft OUR Kids"?!?  As if OUR kids belong to HIM (and others like him)!  If Mr. Ricks wants to sell his own kid into slavery, that's between him and his kid.  But to assert that he (and other Progressives like him) have a claim to anyone else's kid should be a huge flashing warning sign about the potentially unlimited uses Mr. Ricks and people like him sees for "our kids" once the government has them in its clutches.  It belies a downrigth scary view regarding the relationship between the U.S. government and U.S. citizens that is 180-degrees off from the principles underlying the United States's fouding.  This kind of policy is only logically supported by the view that we are slaves to the government, and by extension, slaves to our fellow citizens, devoid of any individual rights, most certainly those basic and inalienable ones proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Justifiable Terrorism?

A friend shared this Washington Post article on Congressman Peter King and his apparent hypocrisy regarding the use of terrorism for obtaining political goals.  I found the article to be quite thought-provoking.  It definitely makes one think about how best to compare and contrast the IRA with Fundamentalist Muslim extremists.

An early point in the article reminds me of why I love the story of V for Vendetta so much, since that story also makes one think about terrorism and potential double standard one faces when condemning terrorism for an "objectionable cause" while elsewhere, if it's for a cause that's near-and-dear, celebrating it as a potentially valid (and effective) strategy.

I can kind of see King's point on the difference being the ultimate goal (that being the achievement of peace).  On the surface, that would seem to be a difference between the two terrorist organizations.  That being said, it's only a valid point if two things are true:  (1) it really was the goal of the IRA's violence, and (2) it's not the ultimate goal of the Muslim extremists.  Regarding (1), it's not clear that it was.  King's statements could just be revisionist history from a "political power chaser," attempting to paint past deeds in a positive light.  Regarding (2), I don't think we can say it's a definite difference with Muslim extremists, since it just might be the goal of at least some of them, if you define "achieving peace" as "finally convincing non-Muslim (Western) governments to stop interfering in their soverign affairs."  That would be a peaceful outcome, and it might undermine such extremism (just as the Irish peace undermined the existence of the IRA, making it obsolete).  Of course, if there are more sinister goals beyond "peace" for the Muslim extremists, then maybe there really is a difference and King is not just rationalizing.

All of this, though, is really beside the point when the man is going to hold a hearing that is, on its face, at least somewhat reminiscent of ugly stains on American history like McCarthyism and the process that led to Japanese internment camps.  Whether or not his motivation is duplicitous and hypocritical with past beliefs doesn't change the inappropriateness of such hearings.

Friday, February 11, 2011

We Should Not Be Embarrassed

Regarding a friend's sharing of an article where a British MP blasted Glenn Beck for being a bigot, many of his friends chimed in about how it's so embarrassing to us as Americans that Beck even has a show on TV.  I don't buy this at all.  In fact, it ought to be a point of pride for all Americans.

I think the fact that we even have people on TV who can espouse whatever views (dimwitted or otherwise) that they see fit is a positive for our country, no matter what opinion foreigners may have about the specific TV personalities.  Our freedoms, like those of speech and the press, are what make our country great, and no American should be embarrassed.  Because the TV personalities are not dictators forcing adherence among the citizenry to a specific agenda or dogmatic set of beliefs, we are all free to change the channel.  That's not embarrassing at all.  It's something to be celebrated.  Hence why I would defend to the death the right of Keith Olbermann to spew his own brand of vitriolic hatred.

Responses I got to this seemed to be lukewarm at best.  Some obviously took issue that I would lump Olbermann in with Beck.  Apparently, if it's something they agree with, it's okay.  But if it's rhetoric of the temperature but a different flavor, it's suddenly unacceptable and embarrassing.  Is it ignorance that causes people to be so hypocritical regarding tolerance?  Blind faith in "their side"?  Maybe being a libertarian helps me out in this regard, since I am not dogmatically and staunchly invested in one of the two "sides," no ifs, ands, or buts, no matter what they are selling.  I suppose I find it easier to call out people on either side on any given issue.  So, I can very safely put Olbermann and Beck in the same category, since they both yell at the top of their lungs about what they think is the right path forward, dismissively denigrating any opposing viewpoint with generalizing platitudes, unhelpful insults, and divisive attacks. To a lot of people, Olbermann is incredibly bigoted...just not against the same people or ideas that Beck is accused of being bigoted against.  Neither one helps achieve any semblance of progress or compromise on any issue.  And above all else, they are both all about ratings and entertainment. They both make a ton of money off of the art of blowing a lot of hot air.

One commenter remarked, "Yes, freedom of speech is an amazing part of our country, and something to defend vigorously. But the lack of civility, sense, and regard for the truth is what's embarrassing. No one's proud of rabble rousing and appealing to the baser nature of fools."  I told her she'd hit the nail on the head...mostly.  We don't have to be proud, per se, of the specific TV personalities or the stuff they say.  But one needn't be ashamed either, especially if it's not what one believes.  The existence of the TV personality or of their opinion, for that matter, within our country does not necessarily make any categorical statement about any other American, other than those who would agree and make the same statements.  And I'm guessing they don't really feel embarrassed.  Either way, it's no skin off our backs.  So don't be "embarrassed."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why We Need Government

This post at Cafe Hayek is excellent (link below). The answer that is provided by the biased government agency to the question of "Why we need government" is so ludicrous and ignorant of private property rights, market dynamics, the principles underlying the founding of our country, and other economically explicable phenomenon that counter its explanation that we would essentially be lost little children without government. It's well worth reading the comments section where readers offer their suggestions for a better explanation.

Why we need government

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Should NCAA Football Players Get Paid?

I know it has been a while...I am going to try to be better about getting over here to post a bit more. That being said, I had to share my thoughts on an article a friend shared regarding the paying of college players. The article is here. (HT: Dave Hebert)

And these are my thoughts on it:
Cam Newton (the subject of the article) is paid...a full scholarship. And I'm sorry, but $3,000 a year in extra expenses is a pretty paltry Stafford loan amount. So they graduate college with an education and $12,000 in school loans (and a chance at playing in a league with a minimum salary of $310K (2010)). Or, they leave early with the guarantee of being drafted into that league. Pretty sure that'll cover their expenses.

This author actually did the right thing in calculating per-player "earnings" but doesn't draw the right conclusion, imho. $17,000 per player is less than many tuitions these days (BCS Champs Auburn's out-of-state tuition is $21,916 in 2010-11). They are getting a bargain. Plus, they get exposure and a proving ground, helping them towards the potential big payoff in the NFL.

I'm certainly not for the draconian rules that Pryor, et al. violated...they should get to keep and profit off their personal effects from their accomplishments. But I'm not going to feel sorry for these football players not getting "paid."

Monday, August 09, 2010

Refreshing Conservatism

It pleases me so much to see such a learned Constitutional scholar as Ted Olson making the same case as I have repeatedly made regarding what's wrong with California's state constitutional amendment on gay marriage. He really holds his own in this interview on Fox News, and I love his response to the question of why 7 million Californians, why society, doesn't have a say as to who is allowed to marry. This man truly loves liberty, and it comes out in his vocal support of it in this case. Enjoy the interview.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In response to an article by Maggie Gallagher re: Constitutional challenge to California's Prop 8:

But Maggie, there are Constitutional limits on what a majority of people can vote to do to a minority of people. You set up this entire argument based on the idea that the will of the majority is being thwarted and that the court in question in overstepping its Constitutional authority. But this line of thinking disregards the role the courts have in determining whether laws (and state constitutions and their amendments) are Constitutional, whether they infringe on the rights of the minority. In this case, they are determining whether the amendment in question violates any part of the Constitution.

By my read, a legit case can be made that it does violate the 14th amendment, insofar as the government involves itself at all in the doling out of favors and benefits based on marital status. By being involved in the doling out of said status and precluding a certain individual from said status thusly, it is discriminating. To me, this doesn't seem such a far reach for judicial review (and I am a strict constructionist, "original intent" advocate who deplores the judicial activism of the far left). If something is as plainly unconstitutional as Prop 8, it cannot be allowed to continue. And more generally, if any law infringes on the rights of a minority of people, the mere existence of the (even possibly overwhelming) majority voting for it does not make it Constitutional.

While there is a "core Constitutional right to vote for" any and every thing under the sun, that does not mean that whatever people vote for must stand as law, regardless of its own (un-)Constitutionality.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Here is an interesting article that breaks down the "number of uninsured" that is thoughtlessly being thrown around by liberals and the media. The nice thing is that it doesn't pass judgment on whether any amount of taxpayer-subsidized care is appropriate. It rather serves to clarify how many people are actually uninsured (and what categories they fall into). Nice apolitical economic piece, imho.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Who is John Galt?

I found this article quite interesting, for a couple reasons. While not a member of the $250k+ club (yet), I'm smart enough to realize that taxes are soon enough going to be going up for me, too (hence why I started looking into tax shelters during last year's election). Not only does this article's advice on political protest make sense for anyone with a work ethic who doesn't want to be supporting a President who relishes enslaving them and throwing them under the bus of socialism ("From each according to their ability to each according to their need"), but it also makes financial sense for people to scrutinize their expenses and ask if something is really needed, now more than ever.

I know I have found myself actively choosing not to support this President's socialist agenda by holding back on certain purchases. Then again, no one can blame a person who has been needing a new car and can now get a helluva deal. Still, in searching for the answer to the question above, the answer can be found in all of us!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

"Opponents of Health Care Reform" ... Let's Rephrase That Now!

The supporters of Obama's ideas for health care reform really should keep in mind that just because others don't like Obama's or Pelosi's ideas of "reform" doesn't mean they are opponents of health care reform. There are other ways to try to fix some of the current problems with the system, especially ways that don't involve growing a behemoth socialist entitlement that (a) isn't affordable and (b) will fail like so many other examples of centralized planning.

I know it shouldn't shock me, but I read that liberals are honest-to-goodness attacking concerned citizens' reactions in the town hall meetings, labeling them as "becoming nasty." In reality, the people getting nasty are the leftosphere and liberal commentariat who can do nothing more than savagely attack the motives of people who care enough to show up, who simply don't want to see one group's ideas get railroaded down their throats without nary a mention of other potential options (and who are tired at this point of having hugely expensive bills get passed without sufficient debate, bills that address far-reaching and substantial issues).

But, I don't expect this to matter to people who think that their opponents are simply "opponents of health care reform" and who parrot Obama's talking points, dismissing any dissenting opinion as "bought" and "fake." It's absolutely sickening.
An EXCELLENT article from Peggy Noonan in yesterday's WSJ!

Here is SUCH a good article from Peggy Noonan, that really captures how ridiculous, insulting, and divisive the liberals are being with their responses and reactions to actual concerned citizens who have myriad issues with Obamacare! I've even seen mindless, thoughtless insults spewing from members of my own family towards people who are simply concerned enough to want to make their voices heard.

Some examples: Janine Garofalo calls them "hickish d***hebags." My own cousin (who hypocritically professes to be "tolerant" of all but the "intolerant" yet will tolerate a person's intolerance if she happens to agree with that person) can only react by hurling labels at them like "dupes" and tries to undermine the power of their grassroots reaction to what's going on nowadays in DC by sheepishly following the administration's talking points and ignorantly referring to it as "astroturf." (Apparently she and so many other liberal reactionaries like her are oblivious to the actual historical grassroots origins of the conservative movement before it became linked with a particular party.) It's the same as the unconscionable reaction to the tea parties that have taken place this year. Apparently it's okay for them to protest redwoods getting cut down or the War in Iraq (both legitimate bases for protest, don't get me wrong), but people who dare protest against their own issues are only worthy of elitist insult and contemptuous dismissal. The liberal reactionaries don't seem to realize that so many of these people are the very key people who helped elect Obama by buying into his message of "hope and change" and who are suddenly very concerned with what their votes may have bought them. If they do realize it, they appear not to care as they hurl insulting epithet after insulting epithet.

This article captures some of the themes of Noonan's excellent book "Patriotic Grace," most especially a concern for the tone of the political debate over such important, far-reaching issues (in this case, health-care and/or the deficit). She has captured some of my own concerned reaction to the tone being set by liberals, starting from the top down. Obama purported to hearken a new political tone, an era of coming together. Way to set the example, Mr. Prez! Apparently, that new tone only applies if everyone agrees to go along with every little thing he and Pelosi/Reid want to push through. It's absolutely sickening, and I think the article really does a good job of capturing that feeling.

Again, click here to read the article.



Friday, July 24, 2009

And here is an EXCELLENT article from Peggy Noonan on the healthcare debate. This is a must-read! And it even expounds on some points I was making to some friends elsewhere today (specifically, the idea of paying for the healthcare of people who don't make great lifestyle choices and the intrusion that invites when gov't (i.e., the taxpayers) is paying the bill). I pray she is right that the plan will be stopped altogether.
Here is an interesting article on Obama's recent missteps in commenting on the recent arrest of an African-American Harvard professor just outside his home.

I have to agree with this criticism of Obama sticking his nose into something he didn't fully understand. He should be using his pedestal in a manner consistent with his campaign foster improved relations between police and the minority communities they serve, rather than to aggravate tensions. Isn't he the one who declared a post-racial America?!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Over at Café Hayek, Russ Roberts has posted the link below to the org chart that shows how the Democrats' healthcare plan will work. And he rightly notes that our current system wouldn't look all that much better.