About This Blog

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) was the greatest economist of my time. His greatest works can be accessed here at no charge.

Mises believed that property, freedom and peace are and should be the hallmarks of a satisfying and prosperous society. I agree. Mises proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the prospect for general and individual prosperity is maximized, indeed, is only possible, if the principle of private property reigns supreme. What's yours is yours. What's mine is mine. When the line between yours and mine is smudged, the door to conflict opens. Without freedom (individual liberty of action) the principle of private property is neutered and the free market, which is the child of property and freedom and the mother of prosperity and satisfaction, cannot exist. Peace is the goal of a prosperous and satisfying society of free individuals, not peace which is purchased by submission to the enemies of property and freedom, but peace which results from the unyielding defense of these principles against all who challenge them.

In this blog I measure American society against the metrics of property, freedom and peace.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Crony Capitalism: A Real Life Example -- How Big Government And Big Tobacco Are Teaming Up To Kill Teenage Vapers

I write about crony capitalism here all the time. It all seems pretty abstract until you read something like this: Today's Teens Say No to Drugs and Tobacco, Yes to Vaping.

Apparently, the electronic cigarette craze is tremendously popular with young people. Teens today are smoking less and "vaping" more. Great news, right?

Not if you're a billion dollar cigarette company or a big-time tobacco grower. Not if teens are one of your most profitable demographics. So what does big tobacco do? It runs to government to put the vaping industry out of business, thus killing the competition and potentially millions of teenagers who will be deprived of their preferred, non-tobacco alternative to cigarettes:
Though this is the first YRBSS report that includes any data on teens and their use of vaping devices, 44.9 percent of the teenagers surveyed said they have used a vaping device.

The release of this report comes at an interesting time for the vape industry. Recently, the FDA has passed new regulations that classify e-liquid, the substance used in vape devices, as a tobacco product. Though the rise of vaping is largely attributed to the fact that the e-liquid contains no tobacco and is, therefore, a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, the FDA’s new rules will require vape product manufacturers to go through the same regulatory process as big tobacco companies.

These new regulations require that each vaping device be put through a “Pre-Market Tobacco Applications” (PMTA) process before it can be sold on the market. However, this is not something that can be done by simply filling out some paperwork. For each separate device needing approval, it will take the FDA upwards of 1,700 hours and cost the manufacturer millions of dollars.

Since the vaping industry is relatively new and comprised of mostly small business owners, many of whom are Millennials, the new regulations will put many of these companies out of business. The only players in the vape industry who will not be subject to these new regulations are the big tobacco companies, who have seen a major decline in sales since vaping has become more widespread.
Of course big tobacco is spinning these new regulations as "safety measures" to protect naive and vulnerable consumers. And politicians are happy to concur because the cigarette lobby is a huge source of campaign income.

Oh, did I forget to mention that cigarettes are punitively taxed as a tobacco product and e-cigarettes are not? Do you think the politicians might also be worried about lost government revenue if cigarette sales decline?

Nah, everyone knows that politicians look at tax revenue as property that rightfully belongs to the taxpayer and NOT to the tax collector. LOL

Today's Earth-Shattering Controversy: Melania Trump Is An Illegal Immigrant And May Be Deported!

So this morning I get up and tune in FOX and Friends. The three hosts are in the bag for Trump. Everybody knows that. They are showing video of Hillary Clinton saying that FBI Director James Comey said she had been totally honest about her emails and that she had done nothing wrong.

Then the hosts start complaining that she said this Wednesday and "doubled-down" on it three times since and Donald Trump has not said one word about Hillary Clinton's oft-repeated lie because he's been beating up on the father of a KIA US soldier and a crying baby.
 
So I tune to CNN. The big story there is Melania Trump. Did she enter the country and work as a model in 1995 or 1996? She says 1996, but they've got evidence she did a photo-shoot in 1995!

What difference does one year make?

Well, Melania obtained a work visa in 1996, so if she got paid for the photo-shoot in 1995 she would have violated US immigration laws. Ergo, she could have her citizenship stripped from her. Ergo, she could be deported.

But wait, CNN ends their prerecorded expose by interviewing the photographer who took the pictures of Melania in 1995. He said Melania did the photo-shoot for free. She was young, needed exposure and WASN'T PAID!

End of report, right?

No. No. No. They followup the prerecorded expose with a five to 10 minute panel discussion with "experts" on US immigration policy. Then, they put a statement from Melania on the screen in which she says she followed all immigration laws...period.

So, CNN goes through all this nonsense to allege (contrary to its own prerecorded conclusion) that Melania is a liar.

On the matter of whether or not Hillary Clinton is lying about Comey's testimony? Crickets...

Now CNN is interviewing the 11-year-old kid who asked Mike Pence yesterday if he was Donald Trump's apologist!

Whether or not the media is dead in this country is debatable. However, I think it's safe to say we can all agree that the media is BRAIN-DEAD.

*Footnote: You have to kind of smile about Melania getting beat up over her iffy citizenship status in view of the fact that The Donald made a huge point of saying in the primaries that Ted Cruz was not able to be President because he was born in Canada and is not an American citizen. LOL. I wonder if Trump is going to take this bait and waste another week or two of campaign time responding to it?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

To Trump Or Not To Trump?

A great many Americans are having a hard time this year deciding who to vote for. Folks who normally vote conservative Republican have to decide whether or not to vote for a nationalist candidate who gives a whole new meaning to the acronym RINO. Some Democrats are sailing in a similar boat. Those who are far-left, progressive Democrats are wondering if they can vote for a candidate who is the epitome of the play-for-pay Washington establishment and easily lies about it.

As an individual who believes in private property, individual freedom and peace, I'd have to have a screw loose to vote for Hillary Clinton. Anyone who can't understand that hasn't been paying attention. On the other hand, blackening that circle next to Trump's name is about as easy as putting Fido to sleep.

When I say I believe in property, freedom and peace I'm not just speaking rhetorically. I believe that just about everything in existence should be owned by somebody. I believe that just about every exchange possible between human individuals should be free and voluntary. I believe in free market capitalism, small government and The Constitution...literally. Anyone who has been listening to Donald Trump knows that his ideas and mine have very little in common. Indeed, lately I read the Republican platform and have a difficult time rationalizing my Republican voter registration.

I register as a Republican because the party is one of the two major parties in our American system. Virtually all of our modern Presidents have been either Republican or Democrat. Our federal legislators with a few exceptions belong to these major parties. As a Republican, I can vote in the Republican primaries. I like to think I am instrumental in sending hard-core conservative Republicans to Washington.

Lately, however, I've become frustrated. I've helped send a Tea Party Republican to Congress and was deeply disappointed when he turned into a RINO after his first term. I don't know what it is about Washington. Maybe it's an ego thing. A young man wins a seat in Congress and heads east thinking he's going to change the world. Then, like Jefferson Smith, he soon discovers that Washington is an exclusive club of "good ole boys." In order to become a member you have to pay your dues and sell your soul, i.e., learn the fine art of "you-scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours."

I'm tired of getting my hopes up, thinking that the Republicans are going to actually put their money where their mouth is and stand up for my principles. First they tell me that the Democrats control everything -- House, Senate and the Presidency. Before they can get anything done they need some clout.

So I work hard to elect some Tea Party boys and the GOP wins the House. But when our guys are still rolling over and playing dead, they say they only control 1/3 of what they have to in order to affect real change. So I work hard again and the GOP takes over the Senate. But now they tell me they need the Presidency or it's just like smashing their noggins up against a brick wall.

So here I am this year being told by the Washington GOP that I should vote for Trump. With the Presidency in hand, they say, I'll see some real honest-to-goodness action. Well, I have my doubts. I'm wonder how Trump can lead a free market/individual liberty rebellion in Washington when he doesn't seem to understand what that means -- at least the way I understand what that means.

Maybe I should vote for a 3rd party candidate who believes in what I do. Yeah, but then I'm criticized for "wasting" my vote on a candidate that is sure NOT to be elected. I'm told voting 3rd party will somehow help Hillary get elected. (I guess the GOP strategists are projecting she's going to win by one vote.) And then there's that bogeyman about the Supreme Court. You know, Hillary gets elected and appoints a Supreme Court leftist or two, and there goes the country down the crapper.

I don't know what I'm going to do. Sometimes voting for Trump appeals to me. He's got that independent, unpredictable, anti-establishment persona that would surely shake the good ole boys out of their knickers. On the other hand, Trump's unpredictable part worries me. The Donald brags himself up so much as the best deal-maker whoever lived, I'm thinking he just might make too many deals with the good ole boys and things would get worse than ever for us saps in flyover country.

We might even wind up with an interloper on the Supreme Court if Trump becomes too enamored with his  deal-making prowess.

LOL. Maybe I'll flip a coin. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Donald Trump's "Sacrifice"

Politics is a window into our culture. But individuals often don't see the same thing when they gaze through that window. The controversy surrounding Donald Trump and Khizr Khan regarding the latter's presentation at the Democratic National Convention is a case in point.

Khan's son was an American soldier who lost his life in the war in Iraq. Speaking at the DNC Khan said: "Our son, Humayun, had dreams too, of being a military lawyer, but he put those dreams aside the day he sacrificed his life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers."

Later in his presentation Khan spoke directly to Donald Trump: "You have sacrificed nothing and no one."

The next day, in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Trump responded: "I think I've made a lot of sacrifices. I've worked very, very hard. I've created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs …"

Stephanopoulos followed up by asking: "Those are sacrifices?"

All this generated commentary and controversy as Americans began to ask themselves: Just what does "sacrifice" mean?

Ann Althouse defined sacrifice in her blog: "Sacrifice means to give up something of value to obtain some higher value, and it's interesting to think about when we use that word — in religion, in baseball..."

If sacrifice means what she says it means, then a sacrifice is nothing special. It's something each of us do every day when we buy and sell. We give up something we value (say, money) for something we value more (say, a new pair of shoes). I think Althouse has something more in mind when she uses the term "higher value," but we'll get to that in a minute.

Dissatisfied with the Althouse definition of sacrifice, I searched for the definition of sacrifice in the Ayn Rand Lexicon, expecting a different take on the subject. I was not disappointed: "Sacrifice is the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser one or of a nonvalue."

Well, what do you know? In Ayn Rand's philosophical system of Objectivism "sacrifice" takes on a definition contrary to the one Althouse presented. So which is it? Is "sacrifice" trading something of lesser value to obtain something of greater value? Or is it the other way around?

The science of human action teaches us that human individuals always act with purpose. When we act we always trade something we value less for something we value more, else we wouldn't exert the energy required to act. Thus, the logic of human action refutes the Objectivist definition of sacrifice. Does this mean the Althouse definition of sacrifice is correct? No.

We all understand the word "sacrifice" to signify something extraordinary. Althouse hints at this when she compares Trump's "sacrifice" (giving up the comfortable life of a billionaire for the rough and tumble of politics) to the "sacrifice" of a soldier who gives his life for his country:

Is hard work a sacrifice? Trump seems to have swapped in the idea of doing good in this world. He makes no mention of giving anything up to pursue his line of work, though he could have. When people work long hours, they sacrifice leisure time. That's what the word means — giving up something of value for a higher value — but it's not politically wise to say that in response to a man who seems to be saying my son sacrificed his life for the greater good.

But, as we've learned, sacrifice is not merely "giving up something of value for a higher value." Somehow sacrifice must distinguish itself as something far more significant than a teenager spending her allowance on a new pair of shoes. Is it possible that the true meaning of sacrifice hinges on the nature of the "higher" value for which the lower value is traded?

Perhaps there exists an objective hierarchy of values. Perhaps some values are intrinsically more noble, more valuable and better than other values? However, the problem with objectifying value is deciding upon the standard of good and bad against which each possible value must be measured, and then arranging all of these values into an objective hierarchy -- an impossible task.

So what then is sacrifice?

"Sacrifice" is an act defined by culture. In our culture we value celebrity and wealth to a great degree. An individual who has both is considered the pinnacle of success. Purposely or not, for better or worse, celebrity and wealth is what we train our children to strive for. An individual can say he sacrificed leisure time and resources in pursuit of fame and fortune. He can even claim he created thousands of jobs in the process. But that line of argument is going to be a hard sell to the American public because giving up leisure and chasing success is something we all do.

On the other hand, our culture also values selfless service to our country. When an individual gives up a life of celebrity and wealth in the National Football League in exchange for the modest and dangerous life of a soldier, the story makes headlines across the nation. Such an individual is touted as a hero who has made a great sacrifice for his country. An American would never claim he sacrificed an opportunity to serve in the military in order to play in the NFL. He knows such a claim would be ridiculed as being no sacrifice at all.

Now, when a famous American billionaire gives up an opportunity for even more fame and fortune in order to pursue the position of President of the United States, he also earns a modicum of admiration from the American public because politics has been regarded over the years as "public service" and we Americans respect that.

But nowadays politicians are showered with more and more celebrity. And, thanks to the system of crony capitalism (pay to play) that they created, politicians become more and more wealthy the longer they serve. Consequently, their claim that participating in this self-serving racket requires sacrifice becomes less and less believable.

For these reasons, Donald Trump has an uphill battle on his hands in his war of words with Khizr Khan. In the mind of the American public, Humayun Khan made the ultimate sacrifice, giving up his life to save his buddies. For Trump to equate his "sacrifice" with Khan's is downright laughable.

He should have realized this from the start and kept his big yap shut.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

"...now will we deal worse with thee, than with them."

Now that the political conventions of both major parties have come and gone, I've been struggling to make sense of the upcoming presidential election. I had planned to compose a definitive post on the subject. I had it all figured out. But, after several fits and starts, I had nothing. I was ready to give up.

And then it hit me. We're not Americans electing the next President of the United States. We're residents of Sodom or Gomorrah electing a new mayor!

Yeah, I know, that's kind of an over-the-top analogy -- and kind of silly to boot, but all I ask is that you give me a few minutes to explain and then think about it.

I love old movies, the ones in black and white starring deceased actors. I just finished watching one made in 1950: "The Next Voice You Hear...." James Whitmore stars as "Joe Smith, American." Wikipedia describes Joe and his wife, Nancy Davis (yes, that Nancy Davis, Reagan's wife) in the movie as "a typical American couple." Some would call the film a corny, little allegory. Maybe it is. One thing is sure. Hollywood won't be making the sequel anytime soon. You see, the movie was produced by a major studio (MGM) and its theme was the inherent goodness and greatness of God.

Whether you agree with the movie's message or not, what's interesting about the film is that it describes life in 1950's America pretty much to a "T." I know. I grew up in the '50's in small town America, smack in the middle of flyover country. My mom worked at home in an apron and packed a lunch pail for my dad who worked at a local factory that made outboard engines for boats.

Our neighborhood was a close-knit group. It wasn't unusual for "Neighbor Gus" to invite me into his home for cookies and milk with his wife, Ella, or to slap me on the butt for getting into trouble when my dad or mom weren't there to do it themselves. Dad carpooled to work with another neighbor and I rode along as far as my Catholic grade school. And oh, like the kid in the movie, I had a paper route too and my dad helped me work it once when I was sick.

Critics and skeptics would be quick to point out that my small-town world at the time was story-book, lily-white and Christian. And they'd be right, but that's just the way things were back then and I'll be damned if I'll apologize for it. Blacks and Muslims simply lived in another part of the world. I couldn't help that. All I know is that the neighbors I knew (and I knew most of them) were good people, friendly and caring, with nice families willing to lend a hand to anyone in need.

The movie reminded me of the values that permeated society back then, the same values I write about here: private property, individual freedom and peace. Joe Smith, American, was an assembly-line worker always pressed for cash. He couldn't afford a radio for his car. He put up with a starter that didn't always crank. When the refrigerator broke down, he didn't call a repairman or 911, he fixed it himself. Sure, he had a one-time, drunken bout with despair, but in the end he persevered because he believed in God, loved his family and lived the American way. He was confident life for him and his family would improve because he was working his way up to foreman.

The problem is that somewhere between then and now the country lost its way. We, as citizens, lost respect for traditional American values and, as a result, we lost respect for our neighbors. Instead of a friendly society we find ourselves now in an angry one. Instead of a healthy respect for the law and those that enforce it, each of us tries to turn and twist the law to our own political advantage. Today citizens and policemen are killing each other in our streets, and some are bragging about it. Instead of the peace I knew in my world of the 1950's, conflict is rampant today and, if we're not careful, the whole thing is going to blow up in our face.

Americans, especially Americans like me who are old enough to have lived the traditional American way, know that all is not right in America today. We can sense it. There is a tension in the air. Black or white, liberal or conservative, Americans feel the country has one foot in the grave.

Consequently, our politics this year is fierce. The political slogan might be: "a matter of life or death," or "you're either with us or against us," or "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Democratic and Republican partisans argue that their candidate is America's savior incarnate. The ironic part is these partisans don't seem to believe it themselves. They commonly end arguments with undecided voters by describing their candidate as "the lesser of two evils."

Hogwash. I don't believe evil exists in degrees. Neither do I believe that the next president is capable of pulling our sorry asses out of the wringer. America's problems are much deeper than that and much more personal.

I believe the traditional, American values of private property, individual freedom and peace are implied by the very logic of a cooperative society which must outlaw theft and murder in order to exist. And this truth implies that the only acceptable way to live within a cooperative society is by means of voluntary, peaceful exchange. The happy result of a highly cooperative society is an extremely small government (to enforce the taboos against theft and murder), maximum prosperity for all individuals and peace (a minimum of interpersonal conflict).

Do the major party candidates believe in these American values? Hardly. They represent large factions of modern day America and this country is no longer Joe Smith’s America.

You've probably been thinking this very thing the whole time you've been reading. Americans today are likely to say: "What's wrong with working together. There's nothing un-American about being your brother's keeper!" No, nothing wrong with that sentiment at all so long as "working together" is voluntary and "being your brother's keeper" isn't public economic policy enforced by the IRS!

Americans today conflate individual and personal virtue with Marxist government and good public policy: “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need.” This juvenile idea is foreign to the traditional American way and contradicts the principles of private property and individual liberty.

Do you know how sad this trend toward coercive collective government makes me? I've become a man without a country. Not only is the neighborhood I grew up in lost forever, but apparently its values and my values are passe, which is the very problem at the root of our troubles!

Maybe now you'll understand my Sodom and Gomorrah analogy. We are what's wrong with America, and one election -- one newly elected, superhero President -- isn't going to fix us! We've got to fix ourselves! We've got to learn to believe in property, freedom and peace again! Then, we can start believing in each other!

So how will I vote this fall? Beats me. The tiny Constitution Party and its candidate seem to share my values and ideals. But that party isn’t even on the ballot in all 50 states. Which just serves to prove my point.

I tell you what, I'll think about this election later and get back to you.

Right now I'm not in the best of moods. Right now, if I had to make up my mind, I wouldn't vote at all. I'd turn my back on the presidential election, walk away and let the whole bleeping country go up in flames.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A New Beginning...

This blog has been in stall mode for quite a while now. I've neglected it due to personal, family problems and a general disgust with all things political which, let's face it, comprise the subject matter of a large percentage of posts here and elsewhere on the internet.

There are two problems with politics in this country: first, they've become personal; and second, they've become factional. The two are related.

One cannot have a discussion about politics nowadays without being smeared as a worthless or evil sycophant of one faction or another. I've been guilty of this myself from time to time. No more. When I post again on this blog it will not be to politic for one party or another, or one candidate or another. Those interested in politics are capable of forming their own opinions and voting accordingly.

From now on I will write about ideas and only ideas. Yes, at times I will be inspired to write about an idea because it was uttered by a political personality in the news. But I will criticize and castigate the idea, not the individual who holds it. Readers can draw their own conclusions about the character of individuals who hold and believe in corrupt ideas.

As always, my bias will be on the side of property, freedom and peace. Why? Because I believe in a cooperative society, which means a society in which individuals voluntarily act in concert to attain mutual goals. In order for such a society to exist the members of such a society must follow and believe in two absolute moral laws: Thou shalt not kill, and Thou shalt not steal. These laws imply the rights of life and property. Living by these laws implies peace, a condition of mankind that I believe 99% of human beings desire and strive for.

Of course, and this goes almost without saying, my other biases are on the side of reality and logic. Reality, as they say, is a harsh mistress. The natural state of man is animalistic and savage. However, logic instructs us that individual human beings act with purpose and, by acting, human beings can do what lesser animals cannot: they can cooperate, and enjoy all the fruits that cooperation implies.  


Thursday, July 7, 2016

"Good Grief!"

This morning I wasted a few minutes watching FBI Director James Comey testify under oath about why he felt Hillary Clinton should go scot-free after months of investigation by his agency. I felt slimed just by watching.

One of the Congressmen asked Comey why he gave Hillary a pass for failing to recognize top secret emails that she handled with extreme carelessness. Comey said it was because Clinton -- the most qualified person ever to run for President -- was basically computer illiterate.

The Associated Press quoted Comey as saying that his investigation "did not establish that Clinton was 'particularly sophisticated' with the use of electronic information."

Responding to Comey's ridiculous reply, Florida Congressman Ron DeSantis threw up his hands and sighed "Good grief!"

Then another Congressman asked Comey why he felt Clinton kept a private server in her basement to conduct government business. Comey answered that he believed Clinton did so "as a matter of convenience," an answer that matched Clinton's campaign rhetoric almost word-for-word.

Never mind that a May, 2016 report on Clinton's email practices published by the Office of the Inspector General clearly showed that Clinton refused to use a government Blackberry after being told that doing so would guarantee that all her emails would be preserved subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

When asked if he had determined that Clinton's testimony made under oath to Congress at the Benghazi hearings was perjured -- testimony which contradicts his own FBI investigation results, Comey said he had received no directive from Congress to make such a determination. 

"Good grief!" indeed.