Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Real Tragedy of the Commons

"The Tragedy of the Commons" is an economic principle which states that scarce resources to which anyone has access will be depleted by individuals, acting independently, rationally and according to their own self-interest, even though they understand that the depletion of this long term resource is not in the long-term best interest of the group.

Ecologist Garrett Hardin first coined this phrase more than a century ago when he wrote an essay about herders grazing their flocks in a common area. Each individual herder got benefit from grazing more animals, but the costs of over-grazing ruining the production of the common area was shared by all. The result of this mis-allocation of costs and benefits was that individuals made choices that were rational for them, but in the long term were not good for them or the group. Other examples of this include over-fishing and highway congestion. The concept has been used to justify government intervention and regulation and it has been used to support privatization. Though the original essay and the application of the theory have gotten a lot of criticism over the years, there is little doubt that it describes a real phenomenon.

Hardin wrote his essay before our present human experiment with massively inflated government was underway. The "commons", that is resources that are available to all without individual cost, are now most often found in the form of government properties and programs. And as government has changed from a limited means of enforcing justice to a vast and growing cloud over all private landscapes, a new tragedy of the commons has emerged. All of the little "common areas" of life now have a big advocate- government itself. No longer are they in danger of being "over-grazed and under maintained." No, the danger is now is quite the reverse. The traditional "commons" are over-maintained, and the new "commons" facing tragedy are the taxpayers.

If you will think about it, government buildings from Congress to the State House to the School House, tend to be much nicer these days than the homes of the individual taxpayers who bore the costs of their construction. Go to a nearby university and notice the dollars put into their architecture, their furnishings, their construction materials. You will find that the buildings by and large have higher dollar "production values" than do the private residences whose taxes paid for them. And the same is true of federal buildings, with a few exceptions like post offices. Even high schools these days are often being constructed to look like buildings you would find on college campuses - even if they serve students who go home to run-down apartments.

This is not limited to education. Except for local government, which varies but is generally more modest and more accountable, we find that government structures are built to lavish standards at a time when citizens find that they can no longer afford homes anywhere nearly as nice. Go to the state borders and enter a "visitor center" along an interstate highway. The "common areas" are no longer over-grazed and under-maintained. They are over-maintained and under-used relative to the average private property because the old commons has a powerful new advocate in bloated, post-modern government.

I believe that a societies architecture speaks to its values. In the middle ages, we might find that the most elaborate structure in any community would be the church. It would often be in the center of the town too. The most important government structure, the castle, was big but utilitarian. In time, in places, the state got bigger, but so too did the private estates of the wealthy. If ever you are in Newport, Rhode Island take time out to visit the Summer Homes of America's very wealthy from 100 or so years ago. For that matter, go to neighborhoods near to the town square of any number of old Eastern towns in the United States. The private residences from this period in America are usually run-down now, but it is still clear that in their day, the upper-crust of even modest communities lived in homes whose size, grace, and architecture compare very favorably with the "McMansions" which Americans have recently discovered they cannot afford.

Today, the witness of our society's architecture is that two institutions are the most important- government and the largest corporations. It is no accident that those two are often working together. Giant institutions have prospered, and individual families have lost ground. This is the lesson that an observant and well-traveled person in American can conclude from the witness of our architecture.

Today the government has expanded, to protect the old "commons" and do many other things. The result is that the last "commons" left is the common wealth of the nations' taxpayers. They are being over-grazed and under-protected because, just like with the herders, the benefits of using the system benefits each individual but the costs of destroying the commons is put off and will be shared by all.

Obamacare is just the latest and one of the most blatant examples of this tragedy. Each state knows that the plan is unworkable and that the nation does not have the money to sustain it, but many are still trying to find a way to rush their flock in so that they might fatten themselves on the last few square feet of grass left to exploit before the commons has been trampled. They know that the growth of government will result in the ultimate destruction of the nation, but that cost will be shared- the benefits they extract from the national treasury until the nation's destruction will be theirs alone.

What is the Real Tragedy of the Commons? We are.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Changing the Palatability, but Not the Morality, of Obamacare

The sociopaths who run D.C. want even more power than they have now, despite the prima facie evidence that they cannot run well all the things they are currently attempting to manage.    Few of us would be so foolish as to turn control of our family's healthcare over to these schemers if they did not have what amounts to a "magic money machine" at their disposal.     This is the most powerful weapon they have to convince you to turn more and more power over your life to a group of people that most of us recognize are deeply flawed.

This "magic money machine" is the Federal Reserve System.  In effect, it enables them to expand government for what appears to be "for free".   Of course it is not free.  There is no free- there are only things whose costs are deferred, transferred, or mis-stated.    Millions of Americans thought they got houses for a "bargain" price when they deferred payments into the future or took "teaser" interest rates.   They were lured into debt they could not afford because the initial terms seemed like such a bargain.   These people now constitute the growing former middle class in America.

The ruling class in D.C. does not care that this expansion of health care is unsustainable.  They do not care that the wealth does not and will not exist to fund these promises.  This conclusion is not a "close call".   It is obvious that the wealth does not exist to fund these promises.   Washington cannot keep its current health care promises to the elderly and the very poor, much less these newer ones.

So why are our rulers going through this charade?  It is simple really, and completely consistent with all the other actions of the ruling class in Washington D.C. for the last one hundred years.   They don't care about keeping the promises they are making in exchange for getting control, they just want control.   Once they control enough of your life, they know it won't matter if they don't keep their promises.   It won't matter that they will not do the things for you that they said they would do if only you let them control one area of your life after another.  At a certain event horizon, you dare not call them to account for the lies they used to gain control over your life, because these are the people who now control your life.   You will content yourself with the crumbs they throw you, because you dare not do anything else.

Once they have the control, all those good things they promised to do with that control doesn't matter.   You will rely on them for too much to ever really cross them.    They will regulate and do major business with the company where you work, no matter where you work.  They control your children's education.  They control the media that you watch, and monitor all of your formerly personal electronic communications.   They decide if you are paying enough taxes or not (and no one but them can say what the right amount is, so this is a sword hanging over ever income taxpayer's head).     If you are retired, they already provide much of your income, and your healthcare.  Now they want to control the rest of it.

Think of it.  The government will provide health care to you and your children.  How do you ever defy the people that control whether or not your children get health care?  Once they start rationing it, and it will be rationed, do your really want to risk losing that by being classed a "potential domestic terrorist" or whatever other term they use for non-violent people who are aware of and object to what they are really doing to this country?

So far, their magic money machine at the Fed has allowed them to tax the next generation for benefits paid to this one.   This is grossly immoral, but again, available evidence strongly suggests that many members of our ruling class are sociopaths and simply do not care if they are turning the next generation into debt slaves. They accept no moral restrictions whatsoever on their relentless obsession to centrally control more and more of mankind.  If anything, they prefer the population to be heavily in debt, as another means of control.  People with net wealth are too hard to rule.  They have the resources to resist infringements on their liberties.  Debt slaves don't.   They have to beg for crumbs and that's what I think these people want for almost all of us.

This proposed expansion of health care is immoral.  And like almost all moral decisions, it will have long-term consequences, even if in the short term it appears to be a "gain."    Using debt, and taxes on "the rich" means that you expect other people to pay for your health care.  It is not like Social Security, where you paid in when you were young in order to take out later.  The use of debt and taxes on income groups you don't expect to be a part of makes this theft.  It is just as immoral as finding someone's wallet and using the money in the wallet to pay for your doctor's visit rather than returning it to the rightful owner.  Perhaps more immoral, because you did not just find the wallet, you voted for people to go take it.

This constant expansion of government has turned almost all of us into liars, beggars, and thieves as we each genuflect before our government arbiters and make our case for a bigger share of the loot.  We think it is the next generation that is mostly getting looted, but that generation is now here.   Our masters will not take "the hit" on the debt we have built up over the decades.  Rather, they will squeeze it out of us.  Our promised "benefits" (share of the loot) will not be paid, but the control system will remain in place.  And the little thieves will have lost all moral high ground, all community with our neighbors, and all means of resistance, to the Master Thieves and Master Controllers in Washington. 

Obamacare in Arkansas has been made much more palatable by the decision to enact it by means of subsidies to "private" health care plans in a "state" exchange rather than direct expansion of Medicaid.   The poison is much more palatable in this form, but no less deadly.   It is still unsustainable, still funded by debt, and still cedes control to the centralizers in Washington.  There are some shell-games by which the centralization of power is hidden, but it is no less present.   The "state" exchanges will be funded and regulated by Washington, just as they have done with "state" education.   This plan merely deputizes the states to act as agents of the federal government in regards to their health care, it does not let the states "control" health care, if even that were a good idea.   Some are calling it the "private" option, but that is just another deception.   The public money simply passes through one more set of private hands, it does not change the fact that this is still a government takeover of health care.

Suppose two years after this began, the feds demanded that all health care exchanges fund abortion for any reason.   Do you really think that Arkansas politicians would withdraw from the exchange and turn down the money once vast swaths of the population benefited from the generational theft and began to look on it as their "right"?  Two years after that, the health plans might be required to "advise" abortion for certain pregnancies.   Two years after that, they could pay for abortion in such pregnancies but deny coverage for delivery.   What about funding sex-change operations, or bizarre fertilization efforts for homosexual couples who wanted to procreate?    Once you are hooked on the heroine of easy money, your dealer decides the terms.
The insurance companies and interests will love the Health Care Subsidies, because it compels people to purchase their products, so I am sure the "compromise" has a lobby in Little Rock.   The hospital lobby will love it too, and that is an interesting case.   Hospitals get ripped off a lot, and in turn they rip others off a lot.  By law, they cannot deny emergency room patients care regardless of their ability to pay, medical debt is harder to collect, and medical debt is discharged in bankruptcy.

In other words, government intervention caused the problem of hospitals losing money by mandating free care.      This problem, caused by government intervention, has become the excuse for even more government intervention.    People who use the care ought to have to commit to paying something.   At least the hospital would have some debt to sell to a collection agency.   But this is not in the controller's Master Plan.  They prefer to use the problems caused by one government intervention as reason for the next.

If Arkansas "Just Says No" to the dealer's offer of "free money" in exchange for control, there could even be a near-term upside.   Yes, we would miss out on the next few years of "high times" the other junkies were enjoying, but there is some indication that states which refuse to set up an exchange are exempted from certain provisions of the law.   They may be free of the employer mandates to provide coverage under the law.   Their citizens may be free of the "tax penalty" for failure to have Washington-Approved health care coverage.   Some legal scholars note that this appears to be what the text of the act itself says.   If so, saying "no" to the plan will cause an influx of companies and jobs and real honestly-earned money as companies flee the socialist states and expand operations here.

 James Madison once noted that the very definition of tyranny is when all power is gathered together in one set of hands.   Freedom then, would be the dispersal of power as much as can be practically accomplished while maintaining a state of civilization.  This plan is centralizing control into one set of hands.  It is tyranny, and it lays the groundwork, once the population is suitably addicted, for future injustice.    Oklahoma, Alabama, and many other states are just saying "no."  We should too.

***************************************** Mark is an advocate of Localism, the philosophy of the Founders...

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Too Far for Mark Darr?

Once again the local commie-rag littered my driveway with a "complimentary" copy of the Rogers Morning News.   Here is my humorous rant from their last effort.  I can't top that one for fun, so I will be more serious this time.   I noticed that the editorial page took Lt. Gov. Mark Darr to task for taking advantage of Gov. Mike Beebe's absence from the state to sign a bill into law himself.

The law in question was a bill exempting Concealed Carry Weapons Permit holder lists from the Freedom of Information Act.  Mischievous persons have been asking for such lists and publishing them, including the names and addresses of citizens licensed to carry concealed weapons.  The FOIA was never meant to intrude on the privacy rights of individuals, just shed light on government operations, so the bill excluding the permit holder's names and addresses was a good bill.

Still, Governor Mike Beebe opposed the bill and was petulant enough to not sign it before heading out of state.   This would have left three more days, granted two were the weekend, for mischievous persons to ask for access to, and publish the list.  Gwen Moritz, a writer for Talk-Business, actually did publish a list which she snagged shortly before Darr signed the law, but took it down from the net after a public outcry.

Look, regular readers know that I am not a party partisan.   I am a limited-government guy, and I think our election system is broken by design.  That is, it is designed to weed out the good people as one moves up the hierarchy.  That is why we have some pretty good people in the state legislature, but rarely have anyone worth voting for in state-wide offices, and our Presidential candidates are usually atrocious.  How does a nation that had Jefferson, Madison, and Washington out of a nation of 13 million people wind up with candidates like Romney and Obama from our vast population base now?   The simplest explanation is the best: The system is designed to weed out the good ones in favor of corporate sock-puppets and interest-group controlled plastic men, that's how.

I say all that to say this, I don't write this because I support Mark Darr, I write this because I support what Mark Darr did.  I am not writing as a Mark Darr partisan, or as a Republican partisan.  I am writing as a man.   The establishment is lashing out at Mark Darr because they can't stand the thought of anyone not in their club, and Darr is not in their club, getting anywhere near the real power they want totally reserved for their cronies and front men.    

His move had little practical effect.   The bill would have become law anyway without Beebe's signature three days latter.  All Mark Darr did was close a door that needed to be closed three days early.   If there was some grand-standing involved, so what?  Do you mean to tell me that Mike Beebe has never done it?    Maybe his motives were mixed, but who are we to judge those?  It is enough to judge the actions, and his action made the laws of our state marginally more just three days earlier than they otherwise would be at no cost to us.   And Mark Darr acted 100% within his legal and constitutional authority when he did it.  Good on him.

The Founders of our state's constitution wisely divided executive power up because they understood how it tends to get over-centralized over time.   It is not a "flaw" in our system that a Lt. Governor can sometimes do things that the Governor does not approve of, our system is designed to split up executive power. Mike Beebe is not "the boss" of Mark Darr, or of Mark Martin or any of the other Executive Branch officers who are elected separately by the people.   I agree with the people who wrote our state constitution, split up executive power because no one guy should be "the decider" on everything.

Friday, March 01, 2013

The Brazen Hypocrisy that is Gov. Mike Beebe

Governor Mike Beebe has vetoed a bill which would have banned the abortion of unborn babies more than twenty weeks (five months!) old.  The bill had exceptions for rape and incest, to save the life of the mother, and also if the baby had any fatal deformities. His veto was over-ridden by the legislature, but here is what Mike Beebe said on signing the veto.

" because it would impose a ban on a woman’s right to choose an elective, non-therapeutic abortion before viability, House Bill 1037, if it became law, would squarely contradict Supreme Court precedent. When I was sworn in as Governor I took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend both the Arkansas Constitution and the Constitution of the United States. I take that oath seriously."

Well Governor, no you don't.   That statement you made about taking "your oath seriously" is an untruthful statement.  And  it really bothers me when politicians engage in transparently phony posturing about how much they love the constitution when their other actions clearly show that they clearly don't.  You bother me Governor.

Th only constitutional "right" that Mike Beebe seems interested in defending is not found in that document.   The "constitutional right" to an abortion is not found in the constitution.   It is a legal fiction "discovered" in the 1970s by an activist court which ruled it was an extension of the right to "privacy." Of course the word "privacy" is also not found in the constitution.

One might think that the amendment against "unreasonable search and seizure" gets close to "privacy", but it is not the same thing as they mean here. What the real amendment limits how the government can investigate crimes, it does not presume to tell the states what acts they can classify as crimes.

The courts, in what one dissenting member described as "a raw exercise of judicial power" declared that some acts (abortions) cannot be classified as crimes because they are "private."  It seems that any crime the courts approve of can now, by the dark magic of judicial invention, be turned into a "right" simply by claiming the crime is a 'private' matter and denying the humanity of the victims.  A private matter?  Tell it to the fifty million dead babies.

Just to show how contrived, how hypocritical, how devoid of all logic, reason, and justice our out-of-control courts have become, the courts have surrendered away any real right to "privacy" which you might have.  They have turned the other way as our government increasingly ran roughshod over the real restraints which actually are written into the constitution.  Our federal government now does search, monitor, survail, and spy upon its  citizens without a required warrant and without probable cause.

So wretchedly twisted and sick has the mind of our courts become that the only right to "privacy" you still have is the right to abort your child!  All other rights to "privacy" have been stripped away!   Proof positive that the "Justices" in Roe were deceitful and never intended to protect "privacy", it was abortion alone they sought to protect, but they lacked the moral integrity to say so.

But Governor Mike Beebe has shown himself to be of the same ilk as they.  For while this man poses and struts and congratulates himself on how seriously he "takes his oath", when it comes to the 2nd amendment of the constitution his true intentions are revealed.  He opposed a "permitted open carry" bill which was itself weak tea.   It still required people to get a permit from the government to bear arms.  The only difference was that they would no longer be required to conceal the gun they had permission to carry under their clothes!     Even this tiny increase in the acknowledgement of the plainly worded right in our state constitution (as well as the federal) was too much for him to bear!  He instructed his democratic minions on the state house judiciary committee to kill it!

How is it that this defender of the constitution, so pious sounding and self-righteous when it comes to preserving the power to rip defenseless innocent babies to shreds, opposed even the tiniest advancement, barely more than symbolism, of the state acknowledging what is our right whether they admit it or not- the right to keep and bear arms?   No friends, he is as sick in his mind as the judges.   He hides behind the constitution when what he is defending is not to be found there at all, then defies what is actually written in the constitution when it suits him.

How can someone who does that be sincere when they say they take their oath to defend the constitution seriously?   These are rather the actions of a person who holds the constitution in utter contempt.  He will use the word "constitution" as an excuse to advance his own will, but when its words contradict his own will he will oppose them, and toss that document in a ditch like some used chocolate wrapper.

He is a duplicitous man.  He has always been so. This is what we said about him on abortion seven years ago.   But he is just a symptom.  The real disease is a population which wants to be lied to.   It is a population that will accept such double talk and triple talk because they want to hold onto two completely contradictory ideas at the same time- the idea that they can be good people yet still support a man like this for Governor.

The problem is the segment of the population who thinks that as long as it is "good for business" then it is OK to back such a man for Governor.   But of course, dishonest people have a way of making themselves look good even when what they are doing is not good.    Until more people decide that they don't want to be lied to anymore, this is the sort of intellectually and morally incoherent balderdash we will get from our politicians.  Choose integrity first.