Category Archives: Totty

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Rule Five Understanding the Left Friday

This essay came out a couple of weeks ago, penned by The Grumpy Economist’s John Cochrane, but I just stumbled over it; it seems a good topic for this Friday before the election.  Excerpts, with my comments:

A new wave of government expansion is cresting. It poses a threat not just to our economic well being, but to our freedom — social, political and economic.

1. A will to power

Consider the economic agenda proposed by the Democratic presidential candidates:

  • A government takeover of health care. 
  • Taxpayer bailout of student loans. Necessarily, after that, government funded and administered college.
  • An immense industrial-planning and regulation effort in the name of climate. 
  • Government jobs for all. “Basic income” transfers on top of social programs.
  • Confiscatory wealth, income, estate and corporate taxation. 
  • Government and “stakeholder” control of corporate boards. 
  • Rent controls and subsidies. Expanded, politically-allocated “affordable” housing. 
  • Expanded regulation of wages, hiring and firing.
  • Extensive speech and content regulation on the internet. 

And this is the center of the movement, not its fringe that talks of banning air travel. Though the fringe becomes the center quickly here.

The phenomenon here described is the Overton Window, defined thusly:

The Overton window is the range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time.  It is also known as the window of discourse.

The movement of discourse moves; shifting the Overton Window can make what is unthinkable today acceptable next month.  Just look at Barack Obama’s “evolution” on same-sex marriage from 2008 to 2016 as an example.

Now note that the bulleted items above, all proposed by at least one or more of this cycle’s Democrat candidates.  Few if any of those would have been on the table only a couple of election cycles ago; the Left has succeeded in shifting the Overton Window, so that now we are forced to address these ideas.

Cochrane continues:

Free-market economists, the few of us who remain, respond in the usual way. “I share your empathy, but consider all the disincentives and unintended consequences will doom these projects now, just as they have a hundred times before, and end up hurting the people we want to help. Here is a set of free-market reforms that will actually achieve our common goals…”

But why say this for the 1001th time? Nobody’s listening. We’re making a big mistake: We are presuming a common goal to produce a free and prosperous society, and somehow this crowd missed the lessons of history and logic of how to achieve it. Let’s not be so patronizing.

If their answers are so different, it must be that they have a different question in mind. What is the question to which all this is a sensible, inevitable answer?

Ask that, and only one question makes sense. Power. All these measures gives great power those who control the government.

And this, True Believers, is the crux of the matter.  Consider this also:

Consider the associated political agenda

  • Stacking the Supreme Court. 
  • Eliminating the electoral college. 
  • Eliminating the filibuster. 
  • Detailed federal control of elections.
  • Even more government control of campaign finance.

Only grab and keep power, and shove it down their throats fast makes sense of that. 

The Left means to get power and keep it.  They’ve already done so in California.  If they manage to seize control at the Imperial level (in which case I may have to stop using the term ‘Imperial’ sarcastically and start using it literally) they will make sure they never, ever, have to relinquish that power again.  And what they do with that power won’t be pretty and it won’t be fun.

That sort of thing never is.

Get out and vote Tuesday, folks.  It may be the last time for a while when your vote actually represents any real choice.

Go vote!

Rule Five Barn Burner Friday

And now, the barn-burning, rabble-rouser I promised you.  So without further ado – here it is.  Enjoy.

Take a look at the signs waved by some of the protestors, rioters and arsonists plaguing our major cities today.  Take a look at some of their positions – anti-capitalist, anti-business, anti-freedom.

Now take a look at the protestors themselves.  Ask yourself how many of them actually do any productive work.

These people toil not, neither do they spin.  They are, by and large, parasites on the productive members of society that they demonize at every turn.  But there’s something they are missing, a key point that we, the productive, understand, that they do not.  And I say this to those parasites:

You need us.  We don’t need you.

We – you and I – not they, are the people who make this economy run.  We grow the food these parasites eat.  We make the clothing they wear.  We make the cell phones and tablets they use to plan their riots.  We write the code for the social networking sites on which they plan their riots.  And I say this to those parasites:

You need us.  We don’t need you.

You look down your noses at the people who feed you. 

People like my father, who raised Black Angus cattle, corn, and soybeans for much of his life.  The people who sell the seed and take the steers off to the packing plant.  The people who make fertilizer, who build the farm machinery in factories like the huge John Deere plant in Waterloo, Iowa.  You look down on the truckers who haul supplies to the farms and ranches and food to the distributors and stores.

And to that I say to you:  You need us.  We don’t need you.

You look down your noses at the people who transport you.

People like the thousands who work in the plants of Ford, GM, Chrysler, and the other various manufacturers all around the country.  The people who refine the gasoline and Diesel fuel that move the vehicles, the people who fix your car when it breaks down, the driver of the wrecker who comes out to help you because you lack the skills to do something as elementary as changing a tire – a skill I learned at about ten years of age.

And to that I say to you:  You need us.  We don’t need you.

You look down your noses at the people who clothe you.

Thousands more grow cotton, raise sheep, to make the cloth.  Workers all over the world make your “stylish” tattered blue jeans, maybe even some of those really expensive ones with fake ground-in dirt on them to make it look as though you’ve actually done a day’s work at some point in your lives.  Thousands more package the clothing, deliver it to stores, where retail clerks deal endlessly with difficult customers at little pay to provide you with the clothes you wear while lecturing the rest of us.

And to that I say to you:  You need us.  We don’t need you.

You look down your noses at the people who keep you warm.

I’m talking about the thousands that work on the Alaskan oil fields, in the shale formations in the Dakotas, and on drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.  The people who build the pipelines, who move heavy equipment from site to site, who work in the refineries and who move heating oil and natural gas from those refineries to its final point of use – not to mention the scientists and engineers who design and build the equipment and discover new sources of valuable fuels.  You not only look down on these people but demonize them for their contributions to some nebulously defined ‘climate change,’ even as the United States is leading the world in reducing carbon emissions not because of climate worries but because of cleaner fuels and vastly increased efficiencies, brought to you by those workers, scientists and engineers.

And to that I say to you:  You need us.  We don’t need you.

You look down your noses at the people who make it possible for you to communicate.

From Silicon Valley to your local cell phone store, an entire industry is devoted to our modern, highly connected lifestyle.  People all around the world build the cellular phones you use and write the software that runs them.  Thousands more maintain the phone towers, the internet hubs, the connections, the wires, fiberoptic cables and wireless networks that transmit the data.  Their efforts make it possible to make your plans to riot and loot, to attack the very businesses, stores, and restaurants these productive people count on in their own productive lives. 

And the irony of you decrying capitalism while using this technology, unprecedented in human history, that could only be the product of a free market, capitalist system, is beyond description.

And to that I say to you:  You need us.  We don’t need you.

Worst of all, you look down at the people who keep you safe; the people you decry as racists, as bullies, as fascists; the police officers and other first responders, who you deride at every turn but are quick to call when an emergency affects you yourselves.

And to that I say to you:  You need us.  We don’t need you.

I’m going to presume for a moment that you of the parasite-protestor class, those with the Gender Studies degrees and trust funds, are actually capable of active thought.  To you, I say this:  I want all of you parasites to think, long and hard, about the implications of that statement:

You need us.

We don’t need you.

Rule Five Campaign Speech Friday

As we draw closer to this increasingly-loony election, I’ve decided once again to present my own campaign speech, were some party to be reckless enough to nominate me to run for President.  Not that the nation is quite ready for an atheist, minarchist, libertarian President – but wouldn’t the campaign be fun?  Enjoy!

Ladies and Gentlemen – friends – Americans – citizens.

I stand before you on this two hundred and thirty-second year of our Republic. I stand before you to announce my intention to seek the Presidency of our Republic. Most important of all, I stand before you to tell you why I intend to seek this thankless, stressful job, and what I intend to do with it.

I’d like to take this time to tell you the undying principles upon which I will base my policies, and upon which I will base legislation that I will propose to Congress:

First: Liberty.

Liberty means you are free to do as you please, so long as you cause no harm, physical or financial, to anyone else. As Thomas Jefferson said, “If it neither picks my pocket nor break my arm, it’s not my concern.” This is a coin with two sides: Nobody gets to tell you what to do, but neither do you get to tell anyone else what to do. Marry who you like. Work where and how you like. Start businesses and create new products and services as you like. It’s nobody else’s business – and it sure as hell isn’t the government’s business – until you hurt someone else. We currently live in a nation where you are required to obtain permission from a government bureaucrat to cut hair, to paint fingernails, to sell lemonade. I call bullshit. This must stop.

Second: Property.

That means the following: The fruits of your labors are yours. They do not belong to some government bureaucrat, nor to some shouting agitator, nor to some ivory tower academic. They are yours. Government, to be effective at the few things they are required – absolutely required – to do, must tax you for some small amount of the fruits of your labors, but that taxation must be strictly limited, strictly fair, simply defined, and some must be collected from every single citizen. Everybody contributes. Nobody skates. There are too many in the nation who have no skin in the game, and our elections have become auctions, with candidates falling over each other promising voters more of other peoples’ property. I call bullshit. This must stop.

Third: Accountability.

Government, at all levels, serves you. You do not serve the government. I stand here today not as someone seeking to be your master, but as someone applying for a job – and you will be my employers. I am applying for the job of CEO of the world’s largest Republic, and you, the citizens of the Republic, are the world’s largest Board of Directors. I answer to you, not the other way around. Every single government employee, from the President to the third assistant dogcatcher in Leaf Springs, Arkansas, answers to you. And so as one of my first acts in office I will personally visit every office, every facility, and every installation that falls under the control of the Executive Branch. I will personally speak with the Federal employees at those offices, facilities and installations. Any employee that cannot satisfactorily answer two questions: “What is your purpose? What are you doing right now?” will be fired on the spot. Any Executive Branch employee at any level who breaks the law, any law, will be fired and prosecuted. Government employees have, for too long, been held to different standards than the electorate. I call bullshit. This must stop.

Fourth: Efficiency.

The Federal government has become a bloated Colossus. Washington is littered with extra-constitutional agencies, the purpose of which is to regulate, to dictate, to interfere with the free citizenry. There is no constitutional justification for many of them, and many of them actually work at cross purposes. The result is that every single business enterprise in the nation has to have an army of accountants and attorneys to help them navigate the twisted pathways of regulation and taxation; that every citizen has to puzzle through pages upon pages of Federal guidance in so prosaic an action as filing their annual tax return. The Federal government has only a few, a very few, legitimate roles: To protect private property, to ensure liberty, to protect the citizens from foreign interference. That’s all. But not today; no, not today. The Federal government has indeed become a bloated Colossus, but I intend to cut it down to size. As one of my first acts in office I will call upon Congress to eliminate the Federal Departments of Commerce, of Energy, of Education, and any others that I deem to be extra-constitutional and that add no value to the proper roles of government. And believe you me, this is only the beginning. Our government is too big. I call bullshit. This must stop.

Let me be very clear on my intent. I intend to reduce the Federal government to a minimum. I’m not talking about trimming around the edges. I’m sure as hell not talking about “reductions in the rate of increase.” I’m talking about swinging a meat axe, and I am serious as hell about it. All the extra-constitutional agencies set up by previous administrations will be gone. Not reduced, not repurposed – gone. Education? Gone. Energy? Gone. Commerce? Gone. Health and Human Services? Gone. Labor? Gone. Housing and Urban Development? Gone. Environmental Protection? Gone. Homeland Security? Gone.

There are three cabinet-level agencies that the Federal government is justified in retaining: Defense, Treasury, and State. The rest can go. Veteran’s Affairs can be rolled into Defense. As for Federal law enforcement, we already have an agency for that: The U.S. Marshals. The borders? Roll the Border Patrol into the Marshals. One headquarters, several missions, but that’s doable.

I intend to take the Federal government back to the level it was in 1850. In that year, the Federal government’s expenditures were about 3% of GDP. Now we are 23 trillion in debt, and Federal spending is 20% of GDP. I call bullshit. This must stop.

That will be the genesis of my campaign slogan: THREE PERCENT!

So, if you value liberty and property, and want accountability and efficiency in your public servants, vote for me. If you want Free Shit, vote for someone else. That’s all.

Not that I’m anxious for public office; I’d sooner shovel shit.  The smell is better and besides, at least shoveling shit is honest work.

This is a pretty good speech, I think, for laying out policy; I’ve begun to call it “The Bullshit Speech.”  But wait!  There’s more!  I’m working on a second one, this one a real rabble-rousing barn-burner.  Tune in next week.

Rule Five Right to Commerce Friday

I first stumbled across this last week, and have now read it a couple of times and like it more every time:  An Inalienable Human Right to Commerce.  Excerpts, with my comments:

Rights, of course, are not given by states; they are not legal, but natural. As human beings, they exist axiomatically and cannot be taken away. Being subject to legal or regulatory strictures (and whether one adheres voluntarily or not) indicates the presence of an artificial imposition separating human beings from the fulfillment of their choices and their selected personal interactions.

Surely, for example, the lockdown (‘stay-at-home’) orders – originally put in place to “flatten the curve” but in some places having remained largely in effect since March or so – are unconstitutional, and it’s only a combination of fear, political maneuvering, and full dockets which have prevented their review. That’s certainly the assumption I’ve held since March or so: forcing people to stay home, impoverishing them and wrecking small businesses as well as introducing scores of other problems, clearly can’t be legal. It’s the sort of thing one would see in a notoriously (or newly) despotic regime, or briefly imposed during a sudden emergency

This entire lockdown fiasco will likely be litigated for years to come, and even given President Trump’s wholesale re-engineering of the Imperial judiciary, it’s anything but certain that the results will be on the side of liberty.  The current thinking among pols and judges alike seems to be that there is some “except in the event of an emergency” clause in the Bill of Rights, perhaps among those “emanations and penumbras” we keep hearing about.

To the extent that the United Nations is representative of supranational government perspectives, a look at its positions on commerce – individual or multinational – is instructive. Of the few mentions across the entire UN website, the most extensive discussion involves ten principles which firms are expected to “incorporate … into [their] strategies, policies, and procedures.” The “Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact” include:

  • Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and
  • Principle 2: make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.
  • Principle 3: Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
  • Principle 4: the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour;
  • Principle 5: the effective abolition of child labour; and
  • Principle 6: the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
  • Principle 7: Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges;
  • Principle 8: undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and
  • Principle 9: encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.
  • Principle 10: Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.

While some of these are quite prudent and justifiable as guidelines (setting aside the colossal arrogance of asserting a “basic responsibili[ty]” among hundreds of millions of individuals starting, managing, and working for private firms worldwide “to people and [the] planet”) there isn’t even a vague suggestion of reciprocal rights.  

Of course not; the United Nations doesn’t give an ounce of rat’s pee about reciprocal rights, or any other kind of rights.  But we don’t have to concern ourselves over much with the UN, whose proclamations and bloviation carry no weight of law in the United States (in fact, I’d rather see us depart the UN once and for all.)  We can, however, look to our own nation’s issues with what I agree is a fundamental human right; the right of commerce.

In the closing paragraphs of Atlas Shrugged, author Ayn Rand described a famed judge clarifying and editing what is implied to be the U.S. Constitution, and adding the following text:  “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of production and trade . . .”  (Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged: (Centennial Edition) (p. 1168). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.)

Well, why not?  A constitutional amendment enshrining the right to commerce would be great, although I suspect it’s impossible in our current political climate.  But commerce, trade, should be enshrined and recognized as a fundamental human right, for two reasons:

  1. Commerce – free trade – is a fundamental aspect of liberty; a truly free people should be able to make their own decisions on how to best utilize their own skills, abilities, talents and resources in free, open trade.  No government official, functionary or elected employee has the right to interfere in free trade.
  2. Free trade has lifted more people out of poverty, more nations into the developed world, than any other economic system in the history of mankind.

I agree with the author; commerce, free trade, is a human right.   If a trade involves deception then it is fraud, if it involves force, then it is theft; those are the only instances in which government should be involved.

Rule Five GMO Friday

I stumbled across this earlier in the week, and found it an interesting read; turns out folks who oppose GMO crops are the least well-informed as to what GMO technology actually is.  Color me surprised.  Excerpts, with my comments, follow:

A 2019 study, in fact, found that as opposition to GM technology  increased, scientific knowledge about genetics and GMOs decreased, but self-assessment increased. GMO opponents think they know the most, but in fact they know the least.  Other studies show that consumers have generally low scientific knowledge about GMOs. There is also evidence that fixing the knowledge deficit, for some people, can reduce their opposition to GMOs (at least temporarily). We clearly need more research, and also different people oppose GMOs for different reasons, but at least there is a huge knowledge deficit here and reducing it may help.

It‘s no secret that we have done a shitty job of general science education in this country for several generations.  Just listen to any politician whining that we should “listen to science,” or that “science says this,” or “science will win!”  Science isn’t an ideology and it isn’t some magical entity that makes pronouncements; science is a tool, a method for examining data and arriving at theories to explain that data.

It’s also important to note that the term “theory” as used in the scientific method is not the same as in general parlance. Isaac Asimov astutely pointed out that most people use the term as though “…it were something you dreamed up after being drunk all weekend.”  But the proper definition is this:  A coherent group of propositions formulated to explain a group of facts or phenomena in the natural world and repeatedly confirmed through experiment or observation.

Repeatedly confirmed.  Remember that.

Further, adoption of GMOs does, in fact, increase ultimate crop yield. The myth that they don’t is mostly due to the persistent anti-GMO smear campaign, largely funded by the organic industry, but is helped by several layers of confusion on this issue. First, we always have to be cautious when discussing “GMOs” because they are not one thing. Genetic modification is a technology, not an application. Yet anti-GMO propaganda has successfully tied the technology to just one application – use of herbicides. Many opponents still conflate the two in their mind. It is true that the first widely adopted GMO traits were for pest resistance (such as Bt) and herbicide tolerance (specifically glyphosate), and so some opinions are based on this 20 year-old impression of GMOs. But the number and type of GM traits is expanding significantly in recent years, so that impression is out-of-date.

Catch that main point there?  GMO is a technology, and not a new one; we have effectively been genetically modifying agricultural plants and animals for many thousands of years.  We have done it by grafting, by selective breeding, by hybridization and now, by directly modifying, adding or deleting genes.  The tools differ but the process is not new.

For example, C4 rice and wheat could make a huge contribution. Some plants use C3 photosynthetic pathways, while other use C4, which is more efficient. Rice and wheat use C3, but if we can engineer them to use C4 we could get a 50% increase in yield with fewer inputs.

Speaking as a biologist, C4 wheat or rice would be a huge deal.  A 50% increase in yield, it is important to note, means you could produce the same yield on 50% less land.

Recent applications already in the field, that reduce browning and improve drought tolerance, already increase yield. Other GM applications, such as golden rice, improve the nutritional quality of staple crops, reducing malnutrition.

To reinforce this main point – GM is a technology, and we have to judge each application and each GM crop on its own merits. We also have to think about the whole system, not just the crop. When you do it is clear that GM technology is incredibly powerful and useful, and is our best hope for meeting the nutritional needs of the world population while minimizing our carbon and land footprint.

The good news is, that while popular opposition continues (based on demonstrable misinformation), the science is progressing in the background and farmers are adopting GM crops because of their obvious benefits. Farmers are not stupid, nor are they being manipulated. They buy GM seeds because it is to their advantage to do so.

In other words, let the “no-GMO” crowd croak and even boycott, if it makes them feel better.  In the meantime agricultural products will continue to evolve and improve, agriculture the world over will continue to become more efficient, millions who were hungry will be fed, and eventually the deniers will go the way of Ned Lud’s followers.