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Echoes and Mirrors » economics

Archive for the ‘economics’ Category

Yelling at the Grass For Being The Wrong Shade of Green

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Americans Should Be Able to Sell Stuff Without a Permit

The normal mindset among U.S. officials is that prior permission should be required to sell legal goods to a willing buyer. Kids selling lemonade on the street are shut down. A Missouri man has been fined $90,000 for selling rabbits (he made about $200). In Illinois, an artisan ice cream maker is being shut down for lack of a dairy permit. Manuel Winn was arrested, handcuffed, and booked for selling magazines door-to-door without a permit. A Maryland mother of three was arrested for selling $2 phone cards without a license. Lots of municipalities are going after food trucks. A group of Louisiana monks had to go to court to win the right to sell simple wooden caskets to consumers.

Hey now, if papa government doesn’t get his cut then these so-called entrepreneurs are doing a disservice to America, obviously. And bigger companies/corporations are easier to get bigger cuts from. When it comes to forcing businesses to follow regulations all these little businesses become a burden on the bureaucracy. Government loves big-business, because big business funds campaigns and is willing to pay the government all sorts of regulatory fees to stay off their backs.

I just finished reading Milosz’s The Captive Mind, and I’m reminded of a frightening section of that book recounting the way the totalitarianism of Stalin’s communism couldn’t abide by even one person being in business for themselves. Only here we have the government insisting that every single business transaction be closely monitored and shut down if it doesn’t meet their exacting standards, not crushed/killed. This is what libertarians really mean when they say we need deregulation in business:

These needless, onerous regulations would be objectionable at any time. But they’re particularly problematic when many Americans find themselves unemployed, needful of income, and thrust into the position of doing what they can to get by. That may mean a series of garage sales, or selling fruit from a backyard tree, or making a craft to offer for sale on the street, or going door-to-door offering handyman skills, or any number of other informal businesses. We’re making things harder on the least advantaged among us, and some are forced to take more social welfare because laws prevent them from making a living on their own.

This isn’t a jeremiad against all government regulation. Should commercial airline pilots be required to have a license? Sure. Are zoning restrictions sometimes legitimate? Of course. But is society really going to suffer if lemonade vendors, casket makers and purveyors of $2 phone cards sell their wares without permission? The default should be that free citizens can engage in commerce with one another, sans any prior restraint by federal, state, or local governments. It’s time to deregulate.

It’s not a matter of everything being a total free-for-all, but nobody should have to ask permission to go into business for themselves if said business has no repercussions on others. This is one of the biggest ways people have confused libertarianism. That Salon publishes articles like “Why libertarians apologize for autocracy” doesn’t help. Of course, Roderick Long made a very concise and clear rebuttal of the bizarre misinterpretation of libertarianism by Lind:

One reason for Lind’s conflation is that he automatically translates being anti-democracy into being pro-autocracy — because he assumes that the only alternative to democracy is autocracy. But in fact there is a third option; rather than the many dictating to the few or the few dictating to the many, what libertarians seek is a world where nobody is in a position to dictate to anybody — or at least to get as close to that situation as possible. (It might be argued that such a system actually has a better claim to the term “democracy” than those regimes that typically receive that label.) For anarchist libertarians, this means replacing the state entirely with networks of voluntary association; for minarchist libertarians, it means structuring the machinery of government in such a way as to make it as difficult as possible to abuse.

In other words, libertarians don’t oppose democracy (in the conventional sense) because they hanker after autocracy; they oppose democracy because it is too much like autocracy.

And even this point assumes, generously, that existing democracies really are majoritarian. As many libertarians have argued, the logic of monopoly government and special-interest capture explains why real-life “democracies” tend to be plutocratic oligarchies in democratic trappings.

There you go: criticism of democracy, in a quick youtube video. Obviously, that means I favor autocracy because I don’t think that democracy works justly. I think many naysayers of libertarianism (as Roderick points out in the linked article) are simply making an either-or fallacy. There aren’t only two options, but the one advocated by the left libertarians is so mindblowingly unheard of that most people dismiss it before they even hear an explanation.


Run For the Borders

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

I like Borders. I have the rewards plus card and everything. I like to go there and drink coffee and read sometimes. The B&N used to be okay until it moved into the mall. Not that the move changed it necessarily, but now going there brings with it the whole package of “going to the mall” crap that keeps me away from the mall in general. We have a small bookstore here. One. It’s okay – they do more of the collectible / rare stuff. We also recently got a 2nd & Charles, which is a huge used bookstore. It’s like candyland for people like me.

So when Borders announced it was filing for bankruptcy, I was sort of saddened. And I look to the e-reader bullshit as the reason. E-readers are great for Amazon… they don’t have stores to maintain. But Borders needs people in their stores, not buying an e-reader and then never coming back. Every time I’m in any bookstore, there are plenty of people shopping for books. So I’m not inclined to believe that people don’t read anymore. There may be fewer, and it may be the younger people, but they’ll catch on one day.

But thankfully they’re not closing the Borders near me… yet. It’s a fairly busy store. I imagine it’s actually profitable to operate. Then again, I know nothing about business. They seem to be closing 5 in the greater Atlanta area, though. I don’t think the big one near Lennox is one of them.

I can see the novelty of the e-reader, but I don’t get it. I like paper and I like putting a bookmark in it.



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Canaries in the coalmine

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

To borrow the analogy from John Robb over at Global Guerillas, who sees the recent Joe Stack incident as such a marker.

In addition to that, I’d point out the guy who bulldozed his own house in retaliation of forclosure:

As well as the ridiculousness of the Tea Party. These people don’t know what they want, but they are determined to get it. And I’m not sure the GOP can use Sarah Palin to destroy the Tea Party the same way they did Pat Buchanan to destroy the Reform Party. These people aren’t just pissed off – they’re desperately clinging to The American Way.

If we start seeing uncontrollable road gangs killing people and stealing gasoline ala Mad Max, we’ll really know we’re in trouble.


The skirmishes have begun

Monday, February 15th, 2010

From Class War by Steven Greenhut over at Reason:

There was a time when government work offered lower salaries than comparable jobs in the private sector but more security and somewhat better benefits. These days, government workers fare better than private-sector workers in almost every area—pay, benefits, time off, and job security. And not just in California.

According to a 2007 analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics by the Asbury Park Press, “the average federal worker made $59,864 in 2005, compared with the average salary of $40,505 in the private sector.” Across comparable jobs, the federal government paid higher salaries than the private sector three times out of four, the paper found. As Heritage Foundation legal analyst James Sherk explained to the Press, “The government doesn’t have to worry about going bankrupt, and there isn’t much competition.”

And the sentiments are felt all over:

“Seems like the city … is overpaying its workers,” Shirlee Kelley says. “I think the salaries have to come down to be more even with what the private sector is paying.”

Small argues that wages are comparable to other municipalities. But that doesn’t satisfy critics, who don’t like the cuts the city is choosing to make.

The solution was to, of course, cut the power to the streetlights and auction off police helicopters instead of issuing pay decreases.

In a similar case of the people vs. the government, when the people fought for a property tax reduction in court, the government proposed an increased property tax to cover the legal costs… to keep the property taxes up. Money quote:

“If our voters want us to continue defending our land use policies and fair taxation, they’re going to have to let us know by voting for this millage,” Trustee Chris Roerig said.

I suspect situations like this are going to be on the rise, and some of it could get ugly. I don’t have the link handy, but only something like 8% of Americans want to keep their current representatives. I suspect that Americans are just as pissed at, if not even more so, with public officials that don’t run for election and can’t be voted out.

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Hip-hop… is there anything it can’t do?

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Good breakdown of major economists Keynes and Hayek as a rap anthem.


In which I ponder the meaning of conservativism, reject rationalism and wander into the desert in search of something more fun.

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Dear Conservative Movement:  Stop Ruining My Life, by Michael Brendan Dougherty

You go so far as to encourage people to fabricate their entire identity from the Republican platform. Look at S.E. Cupp. She used to be a person! Now, under your influence, she is one of the lamer Rush Limbaugh monologues from the Clinton era. She’s a copy of a copy of Xerox of a rejected P.J. O’Rourke riff. How can you live with yourself, conservative movement?

You may not know this. But all the smartest people on the Right are basically ashamed to be associated with you. Your “success” in building a set of near-permanent institutions, think-tanks, and magazines to promote your ideals in an uncontaminated environment leaves us with two choices[…]

It’s not only entertaining, it is very on point.

The truth? The size of the government is still an issue, regardless if the left would prefer to ask about the effectiveness instead. The dems are in trouble because they aren’t recognizing what the people want – they’re being paternalistic douches. But as noted above, the GOP is only doing marginally better. Libertarianism, however you define it, is becoming more and more important. But it needs its own platform – not space on the coattails of another party. Which is my big problem with Eric Dondero; I find many of his opinions worthwhile and refreshing – but I would prefer that he didn’t try to claim that so many GOP candidates are libertarian when they aren’t. Of course, that being said, a libertarian is just a Republican who takes drugs, right?


My demographic, let me show it to you.

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

This became a pretty heated debate in the political philosophy course I took last semester: young, single folks don’t matter.

If you are able-bodied and not doing your part in bringing forth a new generation of Americans to do… something, then you aren’t doing anything useful, and should pay more taxes to make up for that. The Rawlsian Difference Principle is like a hamster wheel for the masses.

And, if you want to see ridiculousness in action abroad:

A Jobcentre Plus worker claimed that the word ‘reliable’ meant they could be sued for discriminating against unreliable workers.

The mother-of-two from Hertfordshire today slammed the situation as ‘ridiculous’.

She said: ‘I placed the advert on the website and when I phoned up to check I was told it hadn’t been displayed in the job centre itself.’

Here in the states, those people just stay on unemployment. But we’re not free from ridiculousness either: apparently, giving your employees incentives to be healthier is really discrimination against those who choose not to be healthier. Of course, it has to be Whole Foods, right? And they’re picking on fatties.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite poems (The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats):

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert.

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Has humanity always aimed toward such egalitarianism? As a collective expectation, it should seem intuitive to expect the strong to help to provide for the weak. But to force it, that just seems like a petty maneuver by those who would benefit the most from the least work on their parts. A vote is five minutes of work that could pay off big-time.

The future is bright for the lazy, fat, baby-making masses.

Also, I am being discriminated against for working hard, not polluting the world with children, being single (and not wanting to get hitched), and being skinny.  Maybe they should give me a stimulus to make me fall in line.


81 percent? that’s a lot.

Monday, January 25th, 2010

According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll:

Eight in 10 Americans support legalizing marijuana for medical use and nearly half favor decriminalizing the drug more generally, both far higher than a decade ago.

If that many people really want medical marijuana, and half as many really want decriminalization (or legalizing) why do so few politicians use it as part of their platform? Obviously, it is an important issue to the voting public.

I dunno. I’d prefer to see de-legislation, that is no laws concerning it at all. Of course, I’d scrap most of the laws in existence because I just don’t like paternalistic authoritarian bullshit.


Recession-proof industry, my ass.

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

There are only two recession-proof industries: booze and sex. One of them only costs you time, which you will have plenty of being unemployed. The other one simply dulls the pain. Black-markets don’t count because they’ll prosper regardless and could possibly fail if they were made legal. Really, Cuban cigars wouldn’t be worth a whole lot if they weren’t smuggled into the US.