Monday, March 16, 2009

The Currency of the Crash



Some people will be. In one of the most asinine comments every made on the internet (yeah, it was bad), a poster, may I add who thoughtlessly posted under his own name as part of his business advertising program and forever lost the respect of many, stated that gold would have no place in a complete economic collapse. Gold would just become a shiny, heavy doorstop.

Zimbabweans beg to differ (no, that's not a pun).

Check out this video.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

End the Copyright?

Jeffrey Tucker of the Mises Institute has been waging a one-man campaign against the concept of Intellectual Property Rights. It's one of those ideas you initially throw out in garbage. Absurd. But then you start to think about it, and you begin to wonder how much merit is in it.

That's the stage I'm in right now. Regrettably, it's also a rather dull topic, so the "I'll consider it" stage can last a very long time.

Especially when there are more entertaining and gripping issues like Mark-to-Market Accounting occupying spare waking thoughts.

(Gaarr, I for one never thought a concept like Mark-to-Market would even break through my subconscious barriers, let alone demand to be learned. It's for the children though, and wanting to know just what kind of a barren future they will face).

But once an idea is accepted for critical review, you begin to notice references in other places. And they start to make sense.

Michael Williams writes: In the end, it's impossible to own numbers. Since numbers are used to represent everything stored digitally, it seems impossible to me that copyright as we now know it can continue to exist.

Hmmm. But what happens if our conceptions of Intellectual Property are abolished?

Jeff Tucker explains:

Consider also what the above critic presumes about how markets work in a world without intellectual monopolies. Consumers all sit around wanting something and wanting to pay for it. It could be a new song or a cool painting or something as simple as a q-tip. Entrepreneurs all over the country know that consumers want these things but they refuse to bring them to market for fear of being copied by the next guy. As a result, everyone just sits around doing nothing.

Is this really a realistic scenario? All experience suggests that in a vibrant economy, entrepreneurs go looking for unmet demands. This is what they live for. IP is not necessary to bring about this result, else there would not have been any economic growth in the entire world until recent years when IP began to its march to ubiquity.

Something to think about while the market is on a slight and temporary uptick...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Whupping? or a Padded Cell?

This day has been prime news fodder. One more tonight...

The story is a woman was fired for reporting a corporal punishment incident to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Service.

White woman claims she was fired for reporting spanking wins $200K

The story tries to focus on a racial divide, and indeed, the main story does appear to be a discrimination case.

I want to focus on the story within the story.

When it comes to abuse, Schandelmeier-Bartels is probably more sensitive than most. She has worked with the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, and in 1996, she coordinated a video for the organization that got global attention. "I don't believe in ever spanking or hitting a child no matter what," she told me.

Right. No spanking or hitting of a child, no matter what. Instead, punishment is left to the police. Tasers, after all, aren't "hitting".

But tasers are a last resort! Probably. In the prelude years to high school run-ins with the law, trouble makers are kept safe in padded rooms.

I pulled this photo from a local paper. It is the punishment room for a local government school.

"Time out" in a Skinner box.

You've been a kid once. Which would you prefer? A spanking that stings a bit, and then it's done? Or a couple hours banished from society in a padded room? Which is better for a developing self-esteem?

Should I be scared?

I feel scared.

Obama ... signed an executive order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls.

Well, at least Bill Clinton didn't come up with that idea < snicker>

"The purpose of this Council is to ensure that American women and girls are treated fairly in all matters of public policy," Obama said.

The council will meet regularly, he said, and will include Clinton, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder among other members, Obama said.

Tax Cheat Geithner and Anti-Self Defense Hoplophobe Holder and, um, (former) First "Lady" Clinton make up the special counsel, that this Hope and Change administration needs to make sure women and girls are treated fairly???

It begs the question. Just what kind of an administration is Obama running?

Poor Portland

It seems that green and blue are just not manly colors.

Portland ranks 47 out of 50 Manliest Cities.

The rankings were determined using 50 of the largest metropolitan areas as defined by the United States Census Bureau, which includes a central city and the surrounding county (or counties).
Each metro area received a manliness rating between 0 and 100 based on how well it performed in each of the study's manly categories. Factors used to determine the manliest city rankings included the number of U.S.-made cars driven in the city, number of sports bars and BBQ restaurants, number of home improvement and hardware stores as well as manly salty snacks consumption. All data was adjusted by the current population of the cities to arrive at "per capita" figures, providing an accurate comparison between cities of varying sizes.

The Joy of Carbon

A lazy day in bed.

Endangered Species Act saved . . .

Absolutely Nothing.

Jonathon Adler over at the Volokh Conspiracy writes:

...the ESA has an abysmal record at recovering species.
In sum, it is not clear that there is a single species — not one of the 1,000-plus — that has been recovered due to the primary regulatory provisions of the Act. If this is President Obama's idea of "success," I don't want to know what constitutes a failure.
"Conservation," in turn, is explicitly defined in Section 3 to mean "to use and the use of all methods and procedures which are necessary to bring any endangered species or threatened species to the point at which the measures provided pursuant to this Act are no longer necessary." So, conservation is recovery according to the express terms of the Act, and this is what the Act completely fails to do.

But perhaps where Johnathon went wrong is in the definition of "endangered species". Take salmon for example. Courts have ruled that a salmon born in the wild is a different species than a salmon born in a hatchery, even though the only physiological distinction is a clipped fin on the hatchery fish.

Capitalists often make the argument that the best way to preserve a species is to commercialize it. Heh. Can't you hear the bureaucrats laughing?

The Truth About Earmarks

From the Great Statesman, Ron Paul.

This is a lot to swallow. We've been preached to for so long about how horrible earmarks are. How they are wasteful pork and they ought to be abolished.

One of the big criticisms of Ron Paul during the 2008 Presidential election campaign was his use of earmarks, attaching them to bills even though he didn't vote for the bill in the end.

Hypocrisy, the critics said.

Now Ron Paul has taken his lesson on Earmarks 101 to Congress. But do they ever listen?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Green is the color of sad.

From MSN, America's top 10 Unhappiest Cities. Guess who is Number 1?

Portland, Oregon.

But Portland has soooo much going for it.

Half its power comes from renewable sources, a quarter of the workforce commutes by bike, carpool or public transportation, and it has 35 buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Yup, Portland is also America's Greenest City.

All that green energy. Fueled by all that liberal guilt? Compiling in a bad case of climate change anxiety?

Green. It's the new Blue.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Abuse of Reason

A short time ago, Mr. Burns posted (as part of an ongoing reactionary barrage against this blogger) a denouement of small government in the form of a photo of a starving boy crawling along the street.

Heartbreaking photo, and not even close to the most heart-rending starving child images one can find online. What this photo does offer though, is the image of a rich person stealing food from a starving child.

(photo by Tom Stoddart)

Mr. Burns wrote "This Is Goverment Without Law or Regulation [sic]". "There is a reason that people all over the world are willing to risk life and limb to come to the United States, but they flee countries without taxes, without government, and without social security systems."

Presumeably, in such a world without law or regulation or government, rich people will regularly steal food from starving children.

Presumeably, in a world with law and regulation (and maybe government), children will not starve, rich people will not steal and everyone will be taken care of.

The photo is credited (though not by Mr. Burns) to Tom Stoddard, and is part of a group of photos from the country of Sudan. It is labeled Winter 1998. A wretched, wretched period in Sudanese history. 1998 was the peak of a famine and civil war in Sudan. 1998 was the year the Americans (land of government and regulation) destroyed a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan. A hundred thousand people died in the Sudan in 1998.

The group Human Rights Watch states "But the famine itself was a product of human action."

If only the Sudan had had a government committed to providing for the people; if only the government had imposed some law or regulation on the populace guaranteeing wealth, health and good citizenship.

If only.

Uh oh.

A brief history - Sudan achieved independence from the Brits and Egypt in 1956. It immediately plunged into civil war. The US and the Soviets (powerhouses of regulation) began a Sudanese arms race that led up to the second civil war in 1983. The second civil war was sparked by Islamic takeover of government. Up until 1988, the Sudan was basically under Sharia law, as noted in the 1985 Interim Constitution.

Part I stipulates that Islamic Sharia Law shall be the main source of legislation.

The BBC recently gave these comments on the thoroughness of Sharia regulation:

But Sharia differs in one very important and significant way to the legal traditions of the Western world: it governs, or at least informs, every aspect of the life of a Muslim.

Western law confines itself largely to matters relating to crime, contract, civil relationships and individual rights.

Sharia is however concerned with more. Sharia rulings have been developed to help Muslims understand how they should lead every aspect of their lives according to God's wishes.

So Sharia covers a lot of very mundane and banal daily issues where observant Muslims want to ensure they act within the legal framework of their faith.

Like any legal system, Sharia is complex and its practice is entirely reliant on the quality and training of experts.

There are different schools of thought, which consequently lead to different rulings.

Scholars spend decades studying the law and, as with Western law, an expert on one aspect of Sharia is by no means the authority on another.

So we can reasonably conclude that the Sudan, constitutionally under Sharia law, was not without law or regulation.

And in July 1998, the year of the famine, Sudan got a new constitution.

Under this new constitution (the one in effect during the famine), the government concerned itself very closely with controlling all aspects of life. It was a very facist regime. Here are some exerts from that 1998 Constitution.

National economy
8. The State shall promote the development of national economy and guide it by planning on the basis of work, production and free market, in a manner fending off monopoly, usury and fraud, and strive for national self-sufficiency for the achievement of affluence and bounty and endeavour towards justice among states and regions.

11. The State shall give due regard to social justice and mutual aid in order to build the basic components of the society, to provide the highest standard of good living for every citizen, and to distribute national income in a just manner to prevent serious disparity in incomes, civil strife, exploitation of the enfeebled and to care for the aged and disabled.

Children and youth
14. The State shall care for children and youth and protect them against exploitation and physical and spiritual neglect, and shall direct policies of education, moral care, national guidance and spiritual cleansing to grow a good generation.

Family and women
15. The State shall care for the institution of the family, facilitate marriage and adopt policies to purvey progeny, child upbringing, pregnant women and mothers. The State shall emancipate women from injustice in all aspects and pursuits of life and encourage the role thereof in family and public life.

Redistribution of wealth, education, care and national guidance of children and youth. "The State shall ..." "The State shall ..." "The State shall..."

Now just because some of us Americans would not be comfortable living under Sharia law, does not mean Sharia law is not a legal or regulatory system. So, lack of laws and regulations were clearly not the cause of the Sudanese famine or the poor starving child being robbed of his food by a rich person.

What was?

What is?

Sudan today, several constitutions later, is still embroiled in genocide and civil war. Today, the popular cause of Darfur has thrust Sudan again into the limelight. So has its popular natural resource - oil.

Sudan, like too much of Africa, suffers as a pawn of heavily militarized, regulated and law enforcing states like the US and Russia and China. It suffers as a pawn of religious groups. It suffers from a sever lack of freedom, from one group of people always trying to control the actions of another. It suffers from a lack of liberty.