Things I've Tagged ‘Politics’

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#I Voted, #Politics

There’s nothing morally wrong with being ignorant about politics, or with forming your political beliefs though an irrational thought processes—so long as you don’t vote. As soon as you step in the voting booth, you acquire a duty to know what you’re doing. It’s fine to be ignorant, misinformed, or irrational about politics, so long as you don’t impose your political preferences upon others using the coercive power of government.

Jason Brennan, on The Case For Not Voting

I’ve felt this way for quite some time; the real reason politicians are constantly pushing for higher participatory rates is because of the power of political ignorance.

#Economics, #Politics

When economic times are bad, animosity is directed at foreigners: “They’re taking our jobs!” So it’s unsurprising that the presidential campaigns feature charges and counter charges about outsourcing, the employment of foreign labor by American companies…Adam Smith observed, “The division of labor is limited by the extent of the market.” If the extent of the market is artificially constricted by politicians (no one else has such power), the division of labor and its concomitant progress are stunted—and we are poorer than we would have been.

Thus we should worry whenever politicians attempt to incite the public against global trade in goods and services.

Sheldon Richman on Outsourcing

This is partially why I hate election time–especially now that a politician’s statements are likely to be taken out of context and used as tool to bludgeon them into political submission. Also, the pandering to special interests is disgusting at best.

#Fallacies, #Politics

Oddly Constructed Argument

I’ll make an attempt to refrain from political commentary; I’m more interested in the oddity of the argument presented, but I won’t say much.

If you are successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

I get that argument, but it’s kind of odd. For example, your parents may have had you, spawned a new life, and raised you, but they weren’t the first to conceive of such plans. Their parents had to do the same for them, and so on. Each generation relied on the one before it, but at what point is this no longer the case? We are constantly relying on the foundation others have built. It’s absurd to conclude otherwise, yet, this is given as a justification for the coercion of increased taxation?

I don’t buy it.

#Belittle, #Economics, #Politics

For economists, the puzzle is not why voting participation rates are so low in voluntary systems, but why they’re so high. The so-called paradox of voting, highlighted in a 1957 book by the political scientist Anthony Downs, occurs because the probability that any individual voter can alter the outcome of an election is effectively zero. So if voting imposes any cost, in terms of time or hassle, a perfectly rational person would conclude it’s not worth doing. The problem is that if each person were to reach such a rational conclusion no one would vote, and the system would collapse.

Mandatory voting solves that collective action problem by requiring people to vote and punishing nonvoters with a fine.

Peter Orszag

Not an advocate of compulsory voting myself, I am willing to make note of the implications in the above quote and conclude that if our goal is simply to improve voter turnout, then it is the only way to do so effectively.

#Economics, #Politics

What Justice Means

Outcomes often seem unjust. The poor are in a constant state of suffering, while the privileged are continually extracting wealth from them. This state of affairs has the appearance of a zero-sum game–where one takes, the other gives–and those that have continue to accumulate at an accelerating pace. The poor have no chance at success in these conditions.

I have yet to read nearly enough to justify throwing the name Bastiat around.

The upper class discovered the keys to success long ago. They learned how to manipulate the system, to extract wealth from it, and to use it to enjoy many privileges for generations. The primary tool, of course, is the control of the state and her resources. This is done at the expense of the middle and lower classes. As in all things, however, the example the upper class sets will eventually be mimicked.

They, the masses of the people, imitating the upper classes, cry in their turn for privileges. They demand their right to employment, their right to credit, their right to education, their right to pensions. But at whose expense? — Bastiat

If the poor were to obtain these privileges, who would be left to pay? There are no lower classes to extract from or to ultimately confer the responsibility of payment. Because the upper and lower classes are constantly in a battle over control of the state’s coercive powers, wealth and power are unevenly and deleteriously distributed amongst the people. The wealthy use their vast influence over the state to sate the desires of the poor–at the expense of long term outcomes–in an effort to reduce their desire to gain influence.

We could always turn the tables on the well-off; the privileges the poor seek could be easily gained from them through taxation. But, and this goes for all classes,

If we wish to preserve a free society, it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion.–F.A. Hayek

Wealth and resources are not obtained and distributed in zero-sum fashion. Value can be created, and in a level playing field, sans the coercive resources of the state, all classes of people can be free to obtain and create without issue. This is justice: freedom from coercion.

#Economy, #General Feeling of Despair, #Politics

Could It Get Any Worse?

Despair, pessimism, and hopelessness. All classic signs of depression, though, I am not depressed; I am, however, looking at the conditions around me and without fail I feel some mix of these emotions. It’s tough to imagine something more than our current conditions allow–a failing of evolution, perhaps–but seeing our leaders fail to make the decisions that will create a more harmonious budget and debt burden, whether left or right, Democrat or Republican, is a little tough to handle.

Yes. It can get worse. The DJIA went from close to 13k to a little above 10k in a few short weeks.

Our economic outlook hasn’t been particularly positive for over three years. Our political system is failing to live up to its own lofty standards, and I’m getting tired of this sense of uselessness I feel. I have only so much control over my future, and the rest is at the feet of politicians pretending to know what is best for my life–how they think I should live, what they think my needs and desires should be.

Perhaps things will turn around and our futures will get brighter. But that can’t happen until our national, and personal, budgets are in order. The debate surrounding the national debt is likely to continue for some time–the debate concerning entitlements needs to happen soon and with earnest if the national debt is to ever be retired.

But we can’t do anything about it if citizens are unwilling to sacrifice in the form of increased taxes and heavily reduced benefits. And before that happens, politicians need to sacrifice their careers in order to nudge people in that direction. The more people receive, the harder it is to ween them from it, and the harder it is to get a politician to vote to reduce it.

#Benton Harbor, #EFM, #Politics

Emergency Financial Managers In My Neighborhood

Boy, oh boy, I should have been discussing this all over my website, but I’ve been a very busy worker the past three weeks. As some of you are aware, particularly if you a) have a passing interest in politics, and b) are located in my neighborhood, quite a bit of excitement has been taking place in my neck of the woods. Namely the recently enacted emergency financial manager law.

If you’re not aware of what this is, I’ll give you a quick run down. The city of Benton Harbor has had it’s share of financial woes of late due to mismanagement, corruption, closing businesses, decreased tax receipts, etc. The problem goes deep, needless to say. If left to its devices, the city would likely have sought bankruptcy protection. In the past, to stave off such happenings, the state could appoint a financial manager to help steer the local government towards a sound fiscal future.

A recently enacted law gave that financial manager a great deal of power; the law also strips power from local officials, though this has been widely reported as the removal of elected officials. The governor’s office, in a document that originates from the ether: “Despite the misinformation being spread by the media and on the Internet, the legislation does not give
the governor the ability to remove elected officials at will. Claims that it does are simply not true. 1

And this last bit is what set off a nationwide storm of misinformed rhetoric, overblown generalizations, and many videos posted from Rachel Maddow, the Glenn Beck of the left.

I wholly support this law; from what I can tell the state has every right under its laws and constitution to do what it is doing. Cities are chartered or incorporated through the state government, and as a result are subservient to it. This philosophy was codified quite a long time ago and is essential to municipal law–it is known as Dillon’s Rule. Simply put, the rule gives local governments only the powers specifically granted to it, powers that are necessary to execute those that were granted, and those that are deemed essential.2 While this may sound a lot like Federalism under the American arrangement–with a federal government, and state governments subservient to it–it is not. Theoretically, the Federal government was given power by the states that ratified the constitution. State governments were not created by an act of any cities.

I’ve been told a number of things about my position on this issue, as has my wife. Namely that we’re crazy for holding such views. “How can you give up your rights and civil liberties?” I’m not giving up anything when my local officials have power because of a state act and the state takes that power away. One particularly onerous anarchist-libertarian seems to believe that I am supporting tyrannical acts of government to gain a little financial security. I’ll claim to be libertarian–of at least one flavor–but this individual goes beyond a decreased state role to seeing all acts as illegitimate.

There was a time when I could have written a much longer diatribe, but I’m burned out on this one. Less emotion wrapped up in defending myself when it looks like the law is on my side; I participated in a city government simulation when I was in High School, called Operation Bentley. The one fact I remember hearing was what I described above, that cities are chartered through the state. That one little fact has been the basis of my thinking here. So, there.

  1. EMF Fact Sheet. Accessed 4/26/2011.
  2. Dillon’s Rule. Accessed 4/26/2011.

#Politics, #Unions

This is What Civility Looks Like

This is a particularly disturbing email, if true, simply because of how heinous and graphic it is. The individual(s) has/have threatened the lives of not only the Republican Senators in Wisconsin, but that of their families as well. From what I can tell this has not been widely discussed in the media, and considering the events of today (the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan), may not be any time soon.

Full transcript at the source (h/t):

Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your familes will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks. Please explain to them that this is because if we get rid of you and your families then it will save the rights of 300,000 people and also be able to close the deficit that you have created. I hope you have a good time in hell. Read below for more information on possible scenarios in which you will die. 1

While it is possible that this email is real, it is also just as likely that it is as fake as it gets. BUT, if it is real, it presents a rather disturbing example of the hyper-partisan world we live in.

I’ve not participated in many discussions about the public union disputes going on throughout the country because of the kinds of attitudes represented in that letter, though most clearly do not hold views that are as extreme as exemplified above. So much emotion is tied up in anti-republican sentiment that people are not looking at their proposals rationally. Not that Republican ideas have been perfect, but this situation demands that cooler heads approach the problems.

All of this makes me want to step back from thinking about and digesting politics for a while. Its all getting to me. I get the feeling that people view me with pity when they find out I disagree with most Democratic ideas. As if I’m an uneducated slouch with no hope; why can’t I just see that only one party is for the little people and the other for ‘big-business?’

  1. Sykes, Charlie. Death Threats. Newsradio 620 Sykes Writes. Published March 10, 2011. Accessed March 11, 2010. <>


When is Civility Inherently Uncivil?

Speech need not be hindered. Particularly in cases when it is decidedly boorish; unpopular speech deserves a hearing, plain and simple, no matter how disgusting it may seem. We must respect converse views at all costs!

Unfortunately, over the course of the United States’ historically brief existence many localities have restricted speech, and so while we respect free thinking in principle we do not hold it to be a universal truth–we make a habit of restricting that which is most difficult to restrict–and we lose an important opportunity to weigh our views in light of a diverse array of opinions.

In this context then I want to visit something that has been vexing me since I first heard commentary relating the tragic shooting in Arizona–a view that will hardly seem unique, but will promptly relieve me the anxiety I have felt.

Perhaps it is the blatant lack of evidence supporting such hypotheses that perturb me the most, but it is likely the charge that the views I hold, and the resulting rhetoric that supposedly surround it, is a contributing factor in the shooting death of so many that I find to be infuriating. Once such a charge is leveled, how can you defend yourself? Once you try, you’re promptly accused of living up to the expectation.

The fact is, you’re accused of being so uncivil, while your opposition has merely been trying to speak with you in meek, soothing tones in order to have a “national conversation.” Why can’t you just get along with them, give up your ideas, and move on?

Because my ideas hold as much legitimacy as yours, and you were just as antagonistic when your ideas held less sway.

I’m a libertarian. Some think that means I’m an anarchist, which is ridiculous, or that I favor some other nefarious out-of-the-mainstream views; but what it really means, in sum, is that I favor maximizing liberty at the expense of government largess. How this gets construed as extreme is…perplexing.

#Politics, #Tired

Just stop blaming the right for violence.

The recent attempted assassination of U.S. Representative Giffords, the deaths of six people, and the injuries of fourteen others is as senseless as it gets. This is the act of a gunman that was very likely unstable in some way. But how many more times do I have to read in commentary that right-wing, conservative ideas automatically lead to these sorts of extreme acts of violence?

Does it matter who incited this? No. All that matters is that this gunman was a nutjob, who apparently bought into a lot of loony conspiracy theories purported by the extreme right. You know, just like almost all would-be political assassins and domestic terrorists.

Where in the world did these ideas come from? Conspiracy theories on the right somehow are responsible for “almost all” of the reasoning behind acts of political assassination and domestic terrorism? This makes no sense.

Claims like this are even more infuriating because I fail to see any evidence to support them:

In contrast, when Beck declares that the non-profit organization Tides Foundation is the driving force behind leftists who want to illegally seize control of the government, destroy capitalism and dismantle organized religion, and is assembling an army to this effect, he supplements his conspiratorial rhetoric with explicit calls to violence. Again, in contrast, his supporters frequently follow-up his comments with violence.

Where are all of these violent acts being committed because they’re not being reported anywhere?

I really am curious as to the origin of the notion that right-wing ideology leads to violent extremism. Conservatives are really only after a certain set of things, and that is the preservation of traditional mores, laws, and ideas (I hate that I even have to say this, but that does not include the abhorrent treatment of any social class).

It really is a shame that political/philosophical debate is impossible; everyone wants us to go back in time to a place where both sides discussed so nicely the merits of their ideas. But it didn’t happen. Politics is a contentious affair. Frankly, it has and always will be. That doesn’t mean that a set of philosophical ideas certainly lead to violence–particularly when those ideas are mostly interested in increasing liberty–but what it means is that it will always be a highly partisan, dog-eat-dog experience.

But stop blaming one side for something that has nothing to do with its philosophy.