Last Blog: The Blog To End All Blogs! Post-Election Blog! BLOG!

Everyone needs to calm down over this election. All I have seen in the pages of every newspaper, including our own, and every news station is massive outcries over how this election will undo our society or how this will be the reinvigoration that we need as a nation to get back on track. If we listen to the Left we learn that we will be out of debt, with no unemployment, and our image will be fixed across the world while the Right has us believe that Obama’s socialist plot will cripple our economy and have us all out for nightly inspections of our homes. Neither is the case and there are (at least) three reasons why.

1)      Partisan politics will not be fixed because Obama got a second term. I am sorry democrats and vociferous Obama lovers, your man will not fix everything overnight so you are setting yourselves up for hurt. Obama is still demanding increasing the taxes on the wealthiest Americans while not looking at genuine spending cuts, and while tax increases are needed all around if we are to escape fiscal ruin, the Republicans will only “broaden the tax base” by eliminating loop-holes and deductions and are still demand massive spending cuts. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are the biggest factors in our debt, and they will not be touched in any substantial way by either party. This “fiscal cliff” that everyone languishes over is pointless. The government will not allow massive defense cuts to happen overnight, their constituents would never have it and they would face a tough reelection.

2)      We are still going to be embroiled in foreign wars and international affairs. With the Obama administration deciding that Bush’s foreign policy looked appetizing, they have come full circle to drone warfare and the erosion of civil liberties. The United States launches 33 drone strikes a month, over 300 in Pakistan since Obama took office, we have killed thousands of civilians and only emboldened, and in many circumstances created, our enemies, and we have decided through NDAA that the President has unlimited authority to detain and execute Americans citizens, and with the extension of the Patriot Act by President Obama, it seems that all we have is more of the same.

3)      Lastly, all we do have is more of the same. Who really expected the 2008 or 2012 elections to be filled with qualitative and genuine change? For years we have been seeing the solidification of Executive Power through the use of Executive Orders or the just outright ignoring of the constitutional process. For years we have watched government and big business collude to ensure the stability of the economy instead of letting the market handle itself. For years we have waited for marijuana to be legalized, marriage equality to be legal, government transparency, the War on Drugs to end, accountability on the part of our representatives, campaign finance reform, we have waited for education to get better but it has stagnated and fallen since the 1970s. We have waited and waited for all of these things, yet none have come.

If anyone thinks that this election is meaningful, they are kidding themselves. It will only be meaningful to the Republicans who, since they got defeated so handedly, must now recuperate and decide what direction to take their party. Hopefully it will be a less racially and sexually exclusive one. Every election is treated as the defining election of our generation, and this is no different. We have been spending too much for far too long and we have been slashing taxes for far too long, and we must solve our problems, but I can assure everyone, that it will not be in this administration, nor in any in the near future. This is not to say that there will be nothing happening, we will continue to watch power become ever centralized, as we have since the turn of the 20th century, within the hands of the few. So everyone can relax, nothing is going to change, our leaders enjoy their positions of power far too much to disrupt the status quo.

 

18
Nov 2012
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Abstract Post No. 2: Why We All Just Can’t Get Along: Libertarians vs. Objectivists

I know I said in my last post that my next post would be on Consequentialist vs. Philosophical Libertarianism, but after seeing so many things said about Ayn Rand in the news I just had to take a moment and dispel the rumors that Libertarians and Objectivists are closely related or even get along.

Next to Communism, Objectivism may be the single most static ideology in existence today. A utopia is a utopia is a utopia. Despite the haughty claims to individualism and personal choice, Objectivism is an absolutist philosophy rooted in, rather obviously, objective morals and theoretical ideas. For years there has been a division between the Libertarians and the Objectivists, with Ayn Rand openly regarding Libertarians as immoral and useless to the world she sought to create. This tradition has been carried on by her heir, Leonard Piekoff, and his fellows at the Ayn Rand Institute as their push for ethical egoism drives forward. Despite, however, Objectivism’s closed mind, there are dissenters, namely Dan Kelly, founder of the Atlas Society, who believe that there is room for acceptance and cooperation between the ideologically fraternal twins. Objectivism and Libertarianism are compatible insofar as they endorse similar policies, but their ethics and reasoning drive them apart.

Accepting this division as a priori would be poor, so a brief recount of why Objectivists and Libertarians do not get along is warranted. Ayn Rand’s opposition to Libertarians is merely ethical in nature. As an Objectivist one must accept certain premises, explicitly that there is no god, that ethical egoism is the only moral way to live one’s life, and that any use of or aid from another person is morally reprehensible. There is no growth in Objectivism because objective morals cannot change, otherwise they would not be objective; Objectivists exist as they are and when a person admits to being an Objectivist one already known enough about them to accurately surmise their ideas.

Anyone, however, can be a Libertarian and still hold the political views espoused by Objectivists. One could be a church-going, charity loving, non-smoking, internationalist and still be a Libertarian, but not an Objectivist. Objectivists, for all their rhetoric, dislike Libertarians for their choice, their freedom, and their non-persuasive attitudes about how to deal with people. Objectivists will adopt individualistic expressions and linguistic style when talking about an individual’s right to choose what they want and to be free from coercion, but in actuality this is a pedantic, rationalistic argument, and not a representation of what they stand for.

There is no freedom within Objectivism; there is merely adherence to dogma and the gospel of Any Rand. There is no reason. Libertarianism is built on reason. Libertarianism is constructed on the idea that we all desire a functional economy that reason dictates that the best way to do that is via the free market. Reason dictates that while we have our own morals, that there is nothing objective about them, and to make such a proclamation would be foolhardy. Libertarianism is based off the idea of reason. Libertarianism operates off the idea that no individual is any more or less ethical than any other and that operating off such premises is dangerous.

A Libertarian can have no real issue with any policy that an Objectivist seeks to enact as Objectivists support free markets and individual liberty. The reasoning of Objectivists, however, is where these divisions become irreconcilable. Libertarianism is the ultimate people’s movement, not Socialism or Populism. Objectivism is an elitist ideology; Objectivism views people as ethically void automatons that apishly shuffle through life living immoral existences and never being truly happy because they have never known the joys of being an Objectivist. This rings hilariously of religion, the most disgusting notion to an Objectivist. Libertarianism is a ground-up ideology that people are capable enough to make decisions for themselves and that ethical dilemmas are best left to personal resolutions and morality cannot be enforced nor should it be. To her credit, Ayn Rand did explicitly state that Objectivists should have no power is the political arena as it would not produce a viable state.

This notion, however, is hypocritical. Philosophy is a tyranny, as Nietzsche would say, and Rand had a great admiration for him, rejecting only his desire to have power. A philosophy is designed with a grand application in mind; a philosophy is a how-to guide to life and interacting with those in it and if one creates a philosophy and champions it as fact, then one must, it naturally follows, desire a world where all decisions are based off that morality. If Ayn Rand did not want her philosophy employed on a grand scale then it seems that her own ideas were flawed in their origins.

Ultimately, Libertarians and Objectivists come to the same conclusion via different routes. Libertarians take the view that people ought to live as they see fit, that people have the cognitive capacity to act of their own accord and that any effort to tell them otherwise is repugnant. Objectivists argue that people are thick, dense creatures that are missing the big picture and that do not have the ability to make ethical choices for themselves and thus need rigidity. The only thing that stops Objectivists from enforcing this idea is their flimsy notion that to exert power is a “second-handed” way to live.

Objectivists, with few exceptions, have closed the door to Libertarianism by proclaiming their inherent moral superiority. As Libertarians we may accept the political ideas of Objectivists, and we will tolerate their self-righteous morality, but we not ignore the fundamental differences that exist between us.

 

12
Oct 2012
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Abstract Post No.1: Indoctrination! How Libertarianism Works And How I Came To It

The next few blogs will be somewhat abstract, dealing more with philosophical concepts and ethics than with concrete data and political critiques. This may be stretching the viability of my blog, but to understand libertarianism, at least the personalized version that I own, and the direction that I plan to take my proposal, we must first understand some complex ideas. This post will be dedicated to a very brief overview of what exactly Libertarianism is and how it appeals to me, and maybe to others.

Libertarianism is difficult to define. Historically, it was developed alongside Anarchism in the 17th and 18th centuries in England as a collectivist ideology, but this collectivism was a voluntary principle, and that is the key (Goodway 2007). Libertarianism’s modern incarnation is like the 17th/18th century Libertarianism in only one way, and that way is voluntarism: the idea that people coming together to pursue their passions was the best way to achieve a functional government and a happy people. But now we must leave 18th century England because Libertarianism is an interesting philosophy as it takes its name from a voluntary-collectivist ideology from 18th century England and its ideas from 19th century France. (If one wishes to read further on these ideas, however, then I might suggest Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow by David Goodway.)

While in modernity there are many varieties of Libertarianism, (Paleo-Conservsatism, Fusionism, Left-Libertarianism, Georgism, Anracho-Capistlism, etc.) we will be viewing Libertarianism as a mass, from above, as one cohesive ideology. Libertarianism holds that individuals left to their own devices will produce a better state that one where a central authority has too much power. This notion was first expounded upon by Frédéric Bastiat, an economist and political philosopher, in his work The Law, where he described how private property and capitalism will produce a better society. These ideas have been echoed through time by Libertarian heroes such as Murray Rothbard, F.A. Hyak and Milton Friedman, and so we can see that Libertarianism, in the political world, is really an outcome based philosophy holding that what produces the best society should be implemented.

Some individuals hold that Libertarianism is ethically sound, God-given if you will, but as an ethical nihilist and an atheist this contrasts with my beliefs, as I see Libertarianism through the lens of emptiness and practicality. Thus Libertarianism is accessible from many different paths. As an ethical nihilist Libertarianism appeals to me because of its belief that no morality should be enforced upon a person for any reason, that no religion should be compulsory, and moreover that consenting individuals should be allowed to do whatever they want. And this is the beauty of an open ideology like Libertarianism: its lack of rigidity allows people to come to it through different means and allows for dissonant ideas and people to coexist together, letting them all to live their lives as they see fit while simultaneously safeguarding their rights to live those lives. Libertarianism hsa always held that Kantian idea that so long as you do not want to have something done to you that you should not do it to others and this gives us a balance of freedom and security.

At its core, the idea of Libertarianism is about humility. It holds that all of us are thrust into this confusing world at once and that we will all have differing views on how it should be, and so long as the pursuance of my happiness does not directly harm you, then why should I not be able to follow my happiness wherever it leads me? This notion will lead us into Consequentialist versus Philosophical Libertarianism for next week’s blog, as that is far too large a topic to consider with a few remaining sentences.

 

07
Oct 2012
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Prostitutes: Why Not?

For centuries there has been a viable career that has been practiced throughout every culture regardless of religion, ethnicity, or geography: prostitution. If free sex is legal, why should it be illegal for a person to charge a fee? Large swaths of Europe and isolated pockets in the U.S. have legalized prostitution, but the question that comes from this is why should prostitution not be legal? Between the money saved from enforcement, the money made in licensing fees and taxes, and health issues, there is no genuine reason for prostitution to be illegal. While data on this matter is difficult to acquire, largely due to the fact that counties have more control over prostitution laws than states, there is still enough evidence present to form a rough picture.

Until 2009 Rhode Island had legal indoor prostitution, this means that so long as one was not outside soliciting clients, that prostitution was legal. Under the auspices of creating a moral community the state voted to make this practice illegal. All actions like this do is drive the practice underground where it is more dangerous and violent. Now the state of Rhode Island has less money being spent in its state and must spend even more on enforcing its laws, and according to research, this means that each arrest for prostitution will cost the state about $2,000.

To get a bigger picture of what exactly the enforcement of these laws costs we may look elsewhere. In a study performed by the San Francisco Task Force on Prostitution, they found that San Francisco spend about $7.6 million each year attempting to enforce prostitution laws, but this money is almost entirely wasted as data shows that recidivism rates among prostitutes is 80%, and this number only increases when drug abuse is involved. Further, the same study performed by the San Francisco Task Force on Prostitution found that there is a disproportionate abuse of the civil liberties of prostitutes and a higher degree of illegitimate arrests made. So it seems that the laws that are on the books are far more sexist and heinous towards the criminals than the practice itself would be if legalized.

Some opponents further argue that the spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) would increase, but this is not the case. In nations with legalized and regulated prostitution, STD rates are significantly lower than nations with illegal prostitution because for a business to operate with regulated prostitution there must be regular testing for STD to ensure the safety of the consumers. In fact, Glenn Betteridge, Senior Policy Analyst for the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network issued a statement that the continued illegal status of prostitution only push the prostitutes into more violent situations with greater exposure to HIV/AIDS and this sentiment was echoed by four other professionals in that field.

Some rivals to the idea of legalizing prostitution hold that prostitution oppresses women and makes them dependent upon overbearing men who will abuse them, or that it subjugates women to lesser roles in society and degrades all involved in the practice; but there are two problems with this argument. The first is that ideas of degradation and shame are subjective to the person acting in the situation and is not a proper criterion for policy. Degradation is a loss of self-respect, and if a person is still rpoid of themselves then what reason should a person have to stop them?. Secondly, recent evidence indicates that approximately 1/3 of all sex workers are men, and that number has only been rising as of late. What this means is that arguments concerned with the degradation of women have, in effect, become moot as the profession has evolved and opened up to men.

Now let us contrast this with Nevada, where every year the prostitution business contributes almost $10 million dollars to the state economy with little ramifications to the prostitutes themselves and with recent data showing approximately one million prostitutes in the United States, economists estimate that legalizing prostitution could generate $20 billion in revenue more than $20,000 in federal income taxes per licensed prostitute each year. Furthermore, Nevada has never had a legal prostitute test ositive for AIDS because of its legality and regulation and when compared to Newark, New Jersey, where roughly 60% of all sex workers tested positive for AIDS, this is quite a feat.

Based upon the evidence, it seems that legalizing and regulating prostitution is the best course of action to take on the matter. All arguments against it fail under the scrutiny of reality.

30
Sep 2012
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Net Neutrality: This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

In recent news the White House has come out in support of Net Neutrality. Despite its inception in the mid-20th century, this idea has recently gained some popularity within the political world. The government has enacted, and in turn scrapped, several similar attempts to regulate telecommunications prior to Net Neutrality, but is here again attempting to keep a “free and open internet” to ensure that all users are treated equal and to prevent competing Internet Service Providers (ISP) from blocking rival services.

The inherent difficulty with this policy is twofold: 1) Similar policies have been tried and resulted in the degradation of quality, and 2) there is no history of abuse by internet providers to warrant such legislation.

1) When telephones first became a nationwide phenomenon the government tried its hardest to ensure that the industry was properly regulated so as to guarantee that no one provider had monopoly power, to safeguard that consumers were not overcharged for this bourgeoning service, and to prevent censorship on the part of the provider. In response to these potential problems the federal government classified telephones as a “public services” and required them to all operate off the same infrastructure and charge regulated rates in what was known as a “common carrier;” Net Neutrality is a direct descendant of that idea. As a result of this action the quality of service plummeted until the market for telephones was deregulated at which time prices fell and quality increased.

2) In a recent paper by Gerald R. Faulhaber of the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Faulhaber found that there have only ever been four cases of abusive behavior by ISP, two of which were resolved privately. The FCC is fully aware of the lack of evidence and to quote Mr. Faulhaber, “Their purpose, therefore, is to prevent things from happening that haven’t actually happened thus far,” adding further, “If the rules [that are being made] are indeed aligned with current practices and norms, then why, it might be asked, do we need them?”

So just what would a violation of this new legislation entail? Well if you pay more money to your ISP to use better services, that is a violation. An example of this is AT&T, who will be using a new “face time” feature for some of its phones in the coming months. To use this feature you must purchase a specific data plan, unlike the similar services now provided by Apple over a cellular network. While the FCC refused to comment on the matter, AT&T is in effect violating Net Neutrality by charging customers more for an additional service. Under Net Neutrality, paying more for better quality internet and more services would be held illegal.

The internet has operated as the last bastion of deregulation up until this moment. Between 2001 and 2008 the internet expanded from an $8 billion a year market to a $42 billion a year market, the internet became more readily accessible to more people in all areas, and the availability of broadband internet went from 3% of the population in 2000 to 66% 2010; all of this was done by pure market economics with no government regulation of industry. With no evidence of abuse and a history of failed policies, it seems somewhat odd to endorse such legislation.

19
Sep 2012
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Our Education Is Bad And We Should Feel Bad

While on the American Federation of Teachers website, and having read their stances on issues, I felt a powerful need to write on education. This was also part of an article I did for the Rotunda a few weeks ago.

The United States has continued to raise the amount of money that it has invested in the public school system each year, almost tripling its percent of the GDP, yet the grades of students in public schools from 1970 to today have stalled in reading and math and have declined in science. In contrast to other nations, our spending to result ratio is terrible. While there are certainly other issues that need addressing, such as educations theories or the frequency of testing, there are some observable problems such as the unaccountability of educators, teachers unions that prevent productive changes and government regulation that inhibits efficiency and productivity.

To begin, teachers are not held liable for their performance in the school system. Unlike most private institutions, where the quality of one’s own work will determine whether or not one remains employed, there is no real accountability for public educators. Firing a teacher is no easy task, especially if they have obtained tenure. In New Jersey a teacher physically assaulted a student but it took four years and $283,000 in legal fees, investigations, and compensation before the teacher could be released from the school. There is also the case of abuse against a ten year old autistic boy by a teacher that took quite a length of time to resolve because of the strength of teachers unions in the U.S.

Being released for being a poor educator is not common. Further, the protection offered to teachers is such an incentive to work that the employment rate in public schools has risen eleven times faster than the enrollment rate, roughly doubling the number of teachers from 3.3 million to 6.4 million in only thirty years.

This problem of unaccountability may be ascribed to teachers unions that are far more interested in the maintenance of their own profession as opposed to the quality of the education that the student will receive. Teachers unions vehemently oppose any program, such as voucher programs, which would take students out of the public school system and place them in another, statistically better, program. To quote D.C. teacher’s union leader George Parker: “As kids continue leaving the system we will lose teachers. Our very survival depends on having kids in the D.C. schools so we’ll have teachers to represent.”

Proponents of tenure, however, frequently site the case of Michelle Rhee who came into the Washington D.C. public school system in 2007 and fired large amounts of teachers and administrators alike because she felt that they were not meeting the needs of the students.

The requirement to be certified to teach by the government is a hindrance and only removes genuine competition from education. In the U.S. only private and charter schools are allowed to operate with teachers that are not accredited and these schools continually produce students with better test scores. According to a study performed by the National Center for Education and Statistics, private schools performed better in the areas of mathematics and reading, beating public schools by 14.7 and 7.8 points respectively, all without government accreditation.

Further, there is no competition between public schools. Students in public schools are assigned a school based off of geographic location. If the government were to allow parents and students to “shop around” and find a school that best suited their needs as parents and students, then perhaps a better quality student would be produced.

Lastly, and most controversially, truancy laws, or mandatory attendance laws, require more money to be spent on students that have no desire to learn and should not be in place. This is not to say that a small child should be able to demand that he or she not attend school with no rebuttal, better educated citizens promote greater economic prosperity and the U.S. needs just that. If a 15 or 16 year old, however, does not want to continue their public education then they should be able to remove themselves and should they have a desire to return public schools have GED program just for that.

Overall there are some evident problems within the U.S. educational institution: its educators are not liable for their performance, teachers unions are too demanding, and government regulation prevents innovation and genuine education. The U.S. needs to produce better quality students to be able to compete in the global economy, in fact studies show that if the U.S. could catch up to Canada in math scores that those students could contribute $70 trillion to the U.S. economy over the next 80 years. That would be astounding; the question is merely how do we get there?

12
Sep 2012
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Let’s All Do Drugs

I read a recent article on Freakanomics about how the Netherlands has made the purchase of Marijuana illegal for tourists so I thought I would write on drugs.

Every day in the U.S. someone commits a crime that only impacts the offender. They perform an illegal action that could have pulled the state of California out of their debt: they engage in drug use. From recreational marijuana consumption to harder drugs like heroin, people all across the U.S. use drugs for personal pleasure. With a recent boost of 4%, now half of the nation supports the legalization of marijuana, but there is little support for the legalization of all drugs. The question that bears asking then, is what would be the results if all drugs were legalized?

As each year passes the federal government spends more on the War on Drugs; the latest budget put the total at $26.2 billion for the year. Since its inception under the Nixon administration in the 1970s millions have been arrested, through the course of the war, hundreds of thousands of people dead, and over $1 trillion have been spent attempting to enforce drug laws at the federal and state levels. The War on Drugs has not had the desired effect on the drug trade, and if anything has bolstered the usability of drug cartels and statistics show that recreational drug use has been at the same level since 1970 despite the war. Suffice to say, the War on Drugs has failed.

According to a Rand Corporation study, legalizing drugs and funding detox programs is 14 times more effective than just arresting and incarcerating offenders. This is just what Portugal did 10 years ago when it decriminalized all drugs and as a result addiction to those drugs dropped drastically. Part of this is attributable to the freed funds. Enforcing laws and punishing criminals is expensive, but when the money that would be spent on enforcing the drugs laws is put into more beneficial programs, better results are seen.

U.S. prisons, however, are packed with drug offenders. Already this year over seven thousand people have been incarcerated for drug use and in 2012 over 50% of all prisoners were in prison for drug related crimes. This is largely due to the policy of mandatory minimum sentences which is believed to be a deterrent to potential drug users. The issue is that mandatory minimum sentences do not work out in reality. According to a Rand Corporation study, the fear of negative consequences has no real bearing on whether an addict will purchase drugs or not. Additionally, mandatory minimum sentencing laws have directed to a boom in the incarceration rate of non-violent drug offenders from 79% to 93%.

Further, the continued illegal status of drugs only breeds crime. A market will form in any environment if the demand is high enough (pardon the pun), and that is just what happened with drugs. Much like alcohol during the height of prohibition, drugs can only be acquired by illegal means; and much like alcohol at the height of prohibition, violent crime steps up as a result. No one really pushes illegal liquor anymore; it is a relic of the 1930s. In that time, however, the War on Alcohol was our War on Drugs and the illegality of alcohol lead to greater violence, crime and corruption of government forces. This can all be seen playing out here, in modernity, but the culprit has changed.

If you think that the two are incomparable, just look at the Netherlands. For years the Netherlands has had legal marijuana and had no problems with crime as a result of it. Within the last year, however, the Netherlands has made marijuana illegal for any foreigner to purchase and as a result the drug trade has turned to the Black Market and now marijuana is being sold illegally and people are being arrested because there is a demand.

Lastly, and most callously, look at the revenue that could be made. If California had legalized marijuana, it was reported that the tax revenue from it could have pulled them out of debt. Between the consumers and the taxes there is a market for quite a profit. While most data only exists for marijuana, that substance alone could bring in $40 to $100 billion of tax revenue each year and save $13.7 billion in police work. Saving some of the $15 billion a year spent in the War on Drugs, the millions saved by local police, the decreased prison population, and the jobs created, are all quite adequate incentives to legalize at least marijuana.

05
Sep 2012
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Test post because the paper tells me to.

The paper that the woman teaching me how to blog gave me told me to do this. Granted my sheep-like nature, I will comply fully with the paper’s request. Side note, I like corgis.

31
Aug 2012
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