Sunday, August 23, 2009

"The Shock Doctrine": A Deliberate Destruction of the Free Market

One of the purposes of existence is to serve one another so that we might become equal. This is the essence of the free market, as well as of the "Invisible Hand" of which the great economist Adam Smith wrote. Yet despite what free market principles may have been espoused lately, America has not had a truly free market for decades.

Achieving a truly free market is not done by taking advantage of catastrophe, or by tearing down in order to build up. Yet through exactly such tearing down, referred to by author Naomi Klein as "The Shock Doctrine", the United States has promulgated a counterfeit version of the free market that has given freedom in general a bad name.

The Soviet Union was a powerful machine, but it was much less powerful than American foreign policy gave it credit for. Based on a fraudulent representation of the Soviet Threat in the western hemisphere, the free market has come to have an undeserved bad name. As a result, nearly all of the American foreign policy that was conducted in the name of free markets was actually conducted to the advantage of the elite, both in and out of government.

We got ourselves into our current mess by countering the Brezhnev Doctrine with what we might call the "Nixon Doctrine", wherein the US allegedly protected the free market in Latin America against the supposed Soviet bogeyman, but what it really did was protect the "rights" of elite American corporations at the expense of the general populaces of those countries. It is hard for us to complain about the use of force when we have grown accustomed to using force ourselves. America would be in a much more healthy situation today domestically if historically our foreign policy had been about persuasion rather than force.

As a result of America's misanthropic foreign policy, today's national political climate can be divided into two large factions (with a substantial and growing minority that subscribes to neither false doctrine):

1. Those who gain political advantage by claiming to believe that the power of government should be used to force the equality of all people through government control.

2. Those who gain political advantage by claiming that the power of government should be used to force the equality of all people through the use of supposed free markets.

Although many people reflexively believe that faction #2 described above authentically supports a free market, in reality, neither faction does. (I am beginning to think that the recent Tea Parties across America are a reaction of more and more people to the realization that neither major political party advocates a truly free market.)

Equality cannot be achieved through force. Neither can freedom. The greater "sin", however, lies on the heads of those who aggrandize themselves on the backs of those whom they have tried to convince that freedom can be compelled. Like their counterparts in compulsion, they have failed.

In a masterful way, Naomi Klein, in her most recent book, The Shock Doctrine castigates these faux free marketeers:
The role of the government in this unending war is not that of an administrator managing a network of contractors, but of a deep-pocketed venture capitalist.
Klein refers to the phenomenon as "The Shock Doctrine" because the malevolent destroyers of market have learned to quickly seize upon catastrophe in order to remake society in their image. Examples of such shocks--whether manufactured or exploited--range from the military takeover by Augusto Pinochet of Chile in 1973, the Chinese massacre at Tiananmen Square in 1989, the attacks on America on 9/11, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and the "Shock and Awe" used by the George W. Bush administration in attempt to beat the entire Iraqi population into abject submission to their American overlords.
When the long-awaited disaster strikes, they know instantly that their moment has come at last. Best understood as a "disaster capitalism" complex, it has much farther reaching tentacles than the military-industrial complex that Dwight Eisenhower warned against... This is a global war fought on every level by private companies whose involvement is paid for with public money...

A more accurate term for this system that erases the boundaries between Big Government and Big Business is not liberal, conservative, or capitalist, but corporatist. Its main characteristics are huge transfers of public wealth to private hands, often accompanied by exploding debt, an ever-widening chasm between the dazzling rich and the disposable poor, and an aggressive nationalism that justifies bottomless spending on security.
A correct understanding of the seeming but non-existent dichotomy of American foreign policy history over the last few decades gives us great insight into current controversies, such as the economic collapse of 2008 and the health care debate of 2009. It has been decades since the main debate has been between government force and freedom of choice. Instead, nearly every American alive today has been force fed their entire lives with a constant dialectical diet of two competing methods of government coercion.

It would be as refreshing as a pool of spring water if actual free market principles could become once again a part of the political debate in America. That won't happen, however, until America rids itself of a substantial majority of both sides of the fake debate we thought we'd been having all these years.

It is time to quit voting for a candidate from the Party of the Lesser of Two Evils. It's time to give freedom a chance.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Global Warming: A Perspective from an Actual Scientist

History demonstrates that climate change is related to a variety of things, of which all the CO2 in the world is a very minuscule contributor. So says a real scientist, Ian Plimer. Real science is unrelated to politics. Unlike perhaps any other clearly observable phenomenon, the science of global warming has been diluted beyond recognition by the shrill cries of Hollywood and related non-scientific opinion.

"Climate science lacks scientific discipline." So writes Ian Plimer, Australia's most respected geologist, and author of the book Heaven and Earth: Global Warming, the Missing Science. Science, Plimer says, is based on evidence, and not on computer models, which have

Insurance modelers did not factor in two Boeing 767 jets destroying the World Trade Center... Natural systems are far more complex

already been proven to be grossly inaccurate in predicting the temperatures for even the first few years of the 21st century. Science, he says, is based on evidence, not on concensus.
The claim by some scientists that the threat of human-induced global warming is 90% certain (or even 99%) is a figure of speech reflecting the speaker's commitment to belief. It is comparable to 100% certainty professed by religious devotees that theirs is the one and only true faith.
The theory of significant human-induced global warming is now on wobbly legs, as Plimer reminds us that more and more evidence mounts against it. As the evidence mounts, fear tactics increase to compensate; in the face of truth, grimmer and grimmer scenarios of future climate cataclysm are tossed upon the media airwaves, while the actual science is increasingly ignored.

One of the two largest contributors to misunderstanding about global warming (besides the conflation of human opinion with scientific fact) is computer modeling. Plimer says
It is very easy for the modeler to produce the predestined outcome before the model can be run. Models are not evidence. All a model shows is something about the model itself and the modelers. Data collection in science is derived from observation, measurement, and experiment, not from modelling. We can't make nature conform to virtual computer models. ...nearly two dozen climate models exaggerate the effects of CO2. Insurance modelers did not factor in two Boeing 767 jets destroying the World Trade Center... Natural systems are far more complex, and it is naive to think that a model can predict future events on earth.
While models to not "observe" anything, there are a plethora of ways to observe current global warming, as well as its historical effects. Observation of such things as lake and ocean sediments, ice cores, pollen, tree rings, stalagmites, and historical records are much more helpful than the most sophisticated computer model.

In 1896, chemist Svante Arrhenius postulated that if CO2 in the atmosphere were to double, the temperature would rise by 5 degrees Celsius. He has since been proven wrong, but his theory of over 100 years ago still informs many of the computer models which incorrectly predict that man's activities are causing us to bake in our own juices.

In order to understand how the earth warms and cools, a variety of sciences must be understood. We need to understand much more than just CO2, which makes a nearly infinitesimally small contribution to global warming. To give you some idea of how complex global warming really is, Ian Plimer writes
The history of temperature change over time is related to the shape of continents, the shape of the sea floor, the pulling apart of the crust, the stitching back together of the crust, the opening and closing of the seaways, changes to the Earth's orbit, changes in solar energy, supernova eruptions, comet dust...
...and I'm barely half done with the list that Plimer provides. Plimer concludes
If we humans, in a fit of ego, think we can change these normal planetary processes, then we need stronger medication.
Pollution is what we should really be worried about, but we're controlling pollution with greater and greater success. Catalytic converters helped reduce pollution markedly through their conversion of 95% of things like nitric oxide and sulphur dioxide to H2O (water). Smog is still a problem in the world, however, but only in the less-developed part of the world (i.e. that part of the world that has been less influenced by the free market). China suffers the "Asian Brown Cloud", which sometimes affects North America. Humans have made great technological strides in controlling pollution, which strides would not have been made if government had been in control of the research into the potential of these technologies.

Before you had read this article, were your nerves frazzled because you were convinced that the earth would fry before the year 2050? Hopefully you're inhaling and exhaling normally now, because real scientists know that there is nothing that man is doing--or can do--to cause you any worry about global warming.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Without World War I, Would We Have had 9/11?

Might the leaders of Western countries have known just how damaging World War I would be to Christianity, to Islam, to the West, and to the Middle East? Sadly, the Great War was fought for nothing but irrepressible pride. In retrospect, it is probable to imagine that, had WWI never been fought, a cataclysmic attack on American soil, such as the one that happened on September 11, 2001, would have never occurred. But even without retrospect, it would have been, nearly one hundred years ago, elementary to predict such an eventual backlash.

From the perspective of malice toward Islam, it is easy in retrospect to see how Western encroachment into Muslim lands would have triggered a vicious backlash against Christians in Asia Minor and the Levant. A more

Who would have imagined a century ago, that the pride of dictators, oligarchs, and gun runners would effect a needless world war, which would in turn lead to the fall of the Twin Towers? The exact target would have been hard to foretell, but the backlash was easy to predict.

exhaustive research would lead one to conclude that such enmity would ultimately precipitate a backlash against the West. It did exactly those things, and Middle Eastern Christians are suffering for it to this day. But don’t blame the Muslims. They were only protecting themselves.

In the 18th century, the Ottoman Empire began to decline in power. Such decline seemed to Western powers as an opportunity for their own territorial advancement. Expansion of Western powers, seen by those in the Islamic world as champions of Christianity, presented a dire threat to the keepers of Islam. Philip Jenkins, in his masterpiece, The Lost History of Christianity, reminds us that
As so often in history, the persecutors saw their actions as fundamentally defensive in nature, and the sense that [they were] facing grave threats to [their] very existence drove them to acts of [vile] persecution and intolerance… (p. 156)
From the 1760’s through World War I, the Russian Czars sought to gain territory and influence in the Middle East, fashioning themselves as the protectors of Christians inside the Ottoman Empire. This caused Christian minorities in the Empire to become more 'confident' in their religion; the more they struggled against the Ottomans the more the Ottomans repressed them, associating the menace of these “domestic dissidents with the external danger from rival empires.” Philip Jenkins notes the resulting violent death spiral:
The more brutally the Turks treated their minorities, the greater the Western clamor for intervention to protect the victims. The closer the harmony of interests between domestic and foreign enemies, the greater [became] the Turkish hostility to Christian minorities.
Since the 1760’s, mostly due to their own designs toward empire, Britain and France had combined to restrain Russian advances into Ottoman territory. Suddenly, with the breakdown in diplomatic relations that led to the completely unnecessary First World War, Britain and France--as well as the United States--became the allies of Russia. This sudden alliance greatly enhanced the fears of the Ottoman Muslims.

Fearing the worst of uprisings among Christians as a result of the Great War, in 1915, the Ottomans began a systematic massacre of Christians, beginning with Armenia. Many Christians who did not flee the Middle East were killed. Two decades later, as French, British, German, and other European powers yet vied for territory in the Middle East, it became “the universal belief of the Arabs that the war was between the Crescent [Islam] and the Cross [Christianity].“

At its beginning in the 600’s Islam was much less warlike than their Christian competitors and other conquerors of the day. As in so many other instances, Muslims became more warlike largely only as they perceived threats to their existence—particularly from the Byzantine Empire and from the Mongols, both of which were tightly allied with the Christians (not to mention the Catholic Crusaders themselves). Muslim reaction to WWI was in keeping with logical Muslim reaction to prior threats.

World War I was a thoughtless war convened exclusively due to pride. It is a war that never need have been fought. Yet in the process, it corroborated the Muslim fear that Christianity was intent on the destruction of Islam. Overreaction on one side begat overreaction on the other, and the death spiral continued. Over the ensuing decades, as Western powers felt the political motivation to occupy Muslim lands, Muslims felt continually vindicated in their fear of the perceived Christian threat, which resulted, among other things, in the backlash that we now know as “9/11”.

Who would have imagined a century ago, that the pride of dictators, oligarchs, and gun runners would effect a needless world war, which would in turn lead to the fall of the Twin Towers? The exact target would have been hard to foretell, but the backlash was easy to predict.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Health Care: If Government is the Problem, Why Are We Giving Them More Control of It?

I agree with President Obama--health care in the United States is in desperate need of fixing. I even agree with some of his proposed solutions. But a national health care/insurance scheme would be a debacle. The federal government currently has the grubby paws of minutiae tightly wrapped around even private health care in the several states. Could it be that government is a bigger cause of the skyrocketing cost of health care than government would have you believe?

Recently on the Liberty Rountable radio program, host Sam Bushman spoke of his experience trying to pay a doctor bill. The receptionist eventually told him that it didn't matter whether he didn't have insurance and wanted to pay in cash--the federal government required

Under a national health care regime, private care will become almost extinct for the same reason that private schools are few and far between. Almost no one can afford to pay for both. Thus quality health care will become another product that only the elite can afford.

them to fill out the same forms anyway. The receptionist confided in Mr. Bushman that federal government requirements significantly increase the costs of providing health care even to those without health insurance wanting to pay for their care with cash.

Don't get me wrong. Health care needs to be reformed in the United States. Something is really out of whack when, every year at the annual benefits meetings at my employment, we are told that our premiums are going up by another 8-10 percent or so.

President Obama has at least two good ideas regarding the improvement of health care in the United States. I heard him say recently that in his opinion insurance companies should not be allowed to turn away applicants due to pre-existing conditions. He also supports making health insurance policies portable between jobs; in other words, if you lose your job you shouldn't also lose your health insurance coverage. These are both fabulous ideas. What I'm concerned about is that, rather than a 1-page bill containing these two rule changes, the current bill coursing its way through congress is 1,018 pages!

A small car can "turn on a dime". Battleships can't. Similarly, it's much easier to fix the effects of small changes that are found to be bad law than it is to fix the effects of 1,018 pages of new law that hardly anyone has read or can understand.

Government needs to be involved in health care/insurance, but only

A small car can "turn on a dime". A battleship can't. Similarly, it's much easier to fix the effects of small changes that are found to be bad law than it is to fix the effects of 1,018 pages of new law that hardly anyone has read or can understand.

from the point of establishing fair rules for the provision of care and insurance. Once it becomes a competitor in the provider arena, it will become the 800-pound gorilla. Under a national health care regime, private care will become almost extinct for the same reason that private schools are few and far between. Almost no one can afford to pay for both. Thus quality health care will become another product that only the elite can afford.

Here are some other ideas that, if implemented, would help cut costs:
  • Make it easier for insurers to provide Health Savings Accounts, which allow and encourage the insured to benefit financially from living healthier lives
  • Allow anyone to purchase any health insurance plan from any provider in any state. Health insurance premiums in some states are far higher than in others due to the requirements in those state of what insurers must cover.
  • Allow new pharmaceutical drugs to be provided without the onerous approval process currently imposed by the Food and Drug Administration. This would have the added benefit of no longer allowing Canada (and Europe?) to pretend they have cheaper health care costs in part because they wait to use American drugs until after Americans have had to pay the high costs of new drug approval.
  • Congress should not be able to pass laws prohibiting the construction of new health care facilities for the benefit of existing facilities (see "Who Killed Health Care?")
We don't need to pass thousand-page bills in Congress (that nobody has time to read anyway) to significantly improve our health care system. With a few simple rule changes, the federal government can facilitate a much more cost-effective health care system in the United States.

Besides making some simple rules, the most cost-effective thing the federal government could do for health care in the United States is to get the heck out of the way.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Cash for Clunkers is Theft

If you want to help someone buy a new car that gets much better gas mileage than the clunker they currently own, write them a check. But don't steal my money under the false impression that government can do a better job of solving problems than individual initiative can.

Members of the Obama administration admitted a day or two ago to being very surprised at how "successful" the Cash for Clunkers program has been. Because of such high demand, the original funding of the program has run out. It takes a pretty dense government official to NOT understand that if you give something away there will be a lot of people that want it.

The other thing they haven't thought about is that the Cash for Clunkers program is theft.

For nearly every problem that government claims to have solved, it turns out to have created at least one more problem. The Cash for Clunkers program is one such program that is fraught with residual problems. It encourages dishonesty. It forces Americans to pay for other peoples' automobiles. It convinces more Americans that more government control over our lives is just fine.

Today I requested that a friend of mine, who is completely in favor of the "Cash for Clunkers" program, simply bypass the Cash for Clunkers bureaucracy and write me a check for $9,000, so that I could much more quickly turn my two clunker cars in for new ones ($4,500 is the maximum that one can receive from the government for qualifying clunkers). Even though she is a U.S. taxpayer, she refused. She'd rather have the government force you to pay that much for my car--and for everyone else's cars who take the latest government bait.

With each succeeding generation the grotesque experiment in government control of just about everything--which kicked into high gear with the coronation of Franklin D. Roosevelt as president--has convinced more and more Americans that the responsibility rests with government to take care of...just about everything, including buying cars for people. They bailed out the car companies, which makes it seem to some people logical that the next step would be to bail out the car buyers.

Fewer and fewer people see the irony of government control:

--that even though the federal government controls even private health insurance and health care, shrill voices call for greater government control over health care.

--that despite the fact that the United States economy is controlled by government not much less than the Soviet Union was in its heyday, government-appointed and -brainwashed economists trumpet the Establishment party line that the current economic downturn is a failure of the free market.

--that welfare cases have begotten mass expectation of entitlement, and a sense of entitlement has led in some cases to crime, all because federal government originally concocted the inane supposition that it can provide for our welfare more effectively than states, cities and towns, or families.

--that child and spouse abuse rise indirectly from the family disconnect that has resulted from the expectation of the "entitled" that government--not parents--is responsible for providing for their children.

In this context, it's not surprising that thousands of people think that government is responsible to buy a new car for them. The Cash for Clunkers program is a natural step on the evolutionary path of "government is responsible for everything". Where in the Constitution of the United States is the Federal Government authorized to steal your money to buy me a car? Yet so far, 250,000 Americans have thought nothing of buying a new car and sending you the bill.

Congress is on the verge of approving twice as much funding for the Clunkers program as has already been spent. I'm sure it won't be hard to find 500,000 more Americans who are as content to steal your money as their 250,000 clunking forbears.

Did I happen to mention that your taxes are going up? Did you know that Obama's promise NOT to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 is out the window? With that knowledge, are you still in favor of the Cash for Clunkers program?