Monday, May 24, 2010

Teaching Property Rights

Were we to teach our children that the United States was a free nation dedicated to protecting human rights (including property rights) we would do a better job preparing them for a life in a free country. This current game, where public schols teach children that America is a regressive nation organized for the greed of a ruling class of capitalists, seems to be leading us to ruin.

There are three things students need to learn about property:

The first is that every one has property. The two most important pieces of property anyone owns is their time and their mind.

Secondly, in a free society, people have say so over their property. One's success and happiness is determined largely by how well one manages their property. (For example: Good time management skills helps one optimize their allotment of time)

Finally, students must learn to respect the property of others.

As property rights are inclusive (everyone has property), teaching students about property rights helps prepare them for life in a free society.

Conversely, teaching students that the United States is a class society organized around the ownership of capital is exclusive and alienating. Only a few people will ever play a meaningful role in the ownership of a Fortune 500 firm.

Students taught that the United States has a socio-economic system centered on private ownership of the means of production are apt to ask about alternatives. To which the public teacher will reply: "Why yes, there is an alternative. In socialism the means of production are owned by the people. This school is an example of socialism. Rather than working for the greed of a distant capitalist, I, your humble teacher, am a superior being who works for the benefit of society."

The result of teaching capitalism instead of property rights is that we produce a population with poor financial and time management skills that feels alienated and disrespects the property of others with the foolish notion that collective ownership and the elimination of property rights is progress.

If we taught that property rights were a fundamental human right, we would end up cultivating a society of people who will thrive in a free world. If we teach the ideas of a culture war, we will end up with culture war and will most likely lose our freedoms.

The Secret of an Empowered People

Imagine, for a moment, that one wanted to create a nation of truly empowered people. How would one go about doing it?

The knee jerk reaction to solve any problem is to turn to the government.

As such, there is a long tradition of politicians associating the term "empowerment" with forms of government such as "Republic" or "Democracy"; however, these forms of government are about the decision making process of the collective. They do not directly empower the individual.

If one really wanted a society of empowered people, one should discuss the nature people before discussing the form of government.

The nature of people is that people come equipped with the ability to make decisions.

Empowering the people involves structuring things so that people get to make meaningful decisions in their lives.

To empower people, one wants things set up in a way where each person has a realm where their decisions mattered.

We need a term for this realm.

The classical liberal tradition used the term "property."

In this classical sense, the term "property" does not refer simply to a physical state, but about who has say so over an object.

For example, I own this blog post and I have property rights (say so) over this post.

All of the bad grammar and misspellings belong to me!

The preservation of property rights was as, if not more, important to the founders of this nation than the form of government.

The hope of the day was that a constitutionally limited government elected by the people would do a better job protecting property rights than a monarchy that assumed say-so over all things.

The American revolution was not about empowering a new set of rulers through Democracy, but an effort to empower all the people of the land by giving them greater say so in the form of property rights.

This concept of people having a realm in which they can act is very much a fundamental human right.

The idea of property rights fit in well with Adam Smith's observation that a free people set on optimizing and re-investing their personal property end up optimizing the wealth of the nation.

The Modern Era

In the Modern Era, Hegel (1770-1831) and Marx (1818-1883) developed the idea that history evolved through a system of thesis/anti-thesis conflicts. These conflicts resolved in a catharsis that sets up the next conflict.

The American and French revolutions saw the middle class rise against the tyranny of the monarchy.

Marx noted that, in 19th century Europe, the power of the ruling class was waning and the power of the middle class was rising. He also noticed that peasants who were dependent on the ruling class were in bad condition.

So, Marx predicted that the next conflict would involve the ruling class and peasant class rising up against the middle.

In Marxist Theory proper, the thesis/anti-thesis conflict involved the intelligentsia and avant-garde uniting with the proletariat in revolution against the bourgeoisie.

Translated into English, Marx believe the intellectuals and the workers would unite to overthrow the capitalists.

Marx wrote a really long book called "Das Kapital" which accentuated all of the things in a free market that concentrate wealth. He then wrote a pamphlet called "The Manifesto" that used to the ideas of Das Kapital to help raise people in revolution.

A really funny thing about Marx is that, although he spent a great deal of time mincing the faults of capitalism, he never defined communism beyond vague terms.

Enter Capitalism

The term "capitalism" appeared with its modern definition in the mid eighteenth century. The term was popularized by social critics who were specifically looking for a way to create a new world order.

Needless to say, the people who appreciated the idea of property rights as fundamental human rights were happy to argue the anti-thesis.

So, the great irony of history is that term "capitalism" was coined and popularized by the enemies of the free market.

Sadly, this historical development has been problematic for the defenders of liberty. By arguing the anti-thesis, the defenders of liberty appear to have abandoned the classical logic of classical liberalism in favor of the material dialectics of the modern era.

Modern scholars have a toned down definition of capitalism. Many define "capitalism" as a socio-economic system in which the means of production are privately owned.

This definition stands in contrast to the socio-economic system of socialism in which the means of production are owned by the collective … and err, uh, corporate ownership is not a form of collective ownership.

This toned down definition is a little more favorable to the free market; however, the definition is designed so that capitalism is seen in contrast to socialism.

The working definition of capitalism is aimed at preserving the Marxian thesis/anti-thesis conflict.

This would just be an interesting historical fact, except for the fact that current usage of the term seems to have preserved many of the negative images and ideas projected onto capitalism.

Even worse, that, in preserving the term "capitalism" as the primary description of our society, we appear to have preserved the messed up thinking of Hegel and Marx.

Our very language seems to have preserved the idea that capitalism is but an evolutionary step on the path toward a more enlightened state called socialism. The intelligentsia continues to label acts that lead to socialism as progressive and efforts to preserve liberty as regressive.

To preserve our freedoms, we have to break this paradigm.


As the term "capitalism" was defined by the enemies of the free market, I believe that the defenders of freedom would do well to reject this strawman definition and to return to defending property rights as was the practice in the days of our nation's founding.

All of the positive aspects of capitalism flow directly from classical liberal concept of property rights. The idea that the means of production should be privately owned flows directly from property rights.

Negative ideas associated with capitalism (such as monopolies, naked short selling, insider trading, big business colluding with big government, etc.) can be exposed as a violation of property rights.

For that matter, in most cases where one finds abject poverty, one finds that there are artificial structures hindering the ability of the people to own property.

The secret to empowering people is to create a limited government focussed primarily on defending human rights, including the right of a free people to own and have say so over property.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bennett Proves Term Limits a Good Idea

Bob Bennett gave a sore loser press conference in which he complained about outsiders influencing the Utah election.

I found the speech odd as Mr. Bennett's campaign was launched by Newt Gingrich ... who just happens to be a powerbroker from outside Utah.

I like Mr. Bennett as a person, but his campaigns always had little twists that negated his message. For example, I recall that, 18 years ago, Mr. Bennett ran on term limits.

Mr. Bennett also had a tendency to run as an outsider when he happens to be the son of a Senator in an aristocratic family. In other speeches he cited the funds his family paid in the clean up of the Bennett Paint.

To Mr. Bennett's favor, I disliked that his opponents kept used the label RINO, when Bennett is the quintessential statesman that the traditional Republican Party tends to favor.

I pointed out in an early post. The big problem of the Republican Party is that the traditional statesman committed to process of bi-partisan compromise have become a tool of the progressive left that treats compromise as steps on the progress to socialism.

The power of the Federal government grew at a rapid pace and personal liberty greatly diminished during the years that Bennett served as Senator and the people of Utah are angry.

It appears that Bennett's defeat was largely the result of Utahans who are upset that the Republicans failed to stem the growth of the Federal Government.

I went to both tea party rallies and the Republican Caucus. The people upset with Bennett appeared to be your standard, dyed-in-the-wool Utahans.

The only remorse I have about the Utah Senate race is that Senator Bennett has become so out of touch with his constituents during the last two decades in Washington that he failed to see the extent to which Republicans in the state want new leadership.

Because Bennett did not step down when his time was due, the candidate base for the Senate position was less than it would have been if he had stepped down.

I dislike the roles that incumbancy and seniority play in our elections and governance. My typical response to incumbancy is: When in doubt, vote them out. Yet I can't imagine anything worse than being considered the frontrunner in a race and to come in last.

Ayn Rand is a Fun Read

Ayn Rand is a fun read. Many libertarians attribute their first intellectual exposure to a philosophy of freedom to her epic novels "Atlas Shrugged" and "Fountainhead."

Although the works are motivational, I believe the works fail as a foundation for a free society.

Ayn Rand was raised in Russia. As a youth she was indoctrinated into the material dialectics of Marx which claimed modern history was a peoples
struggle between wonderful collectivists and evil individualists.

She accepted the material dialectics, but began arguing the counter thesis that history was a death struggle between the individual and collectivists and that the individualists were the ones doing the most good for society.

Dialectical struggles are compelling. The problem with her approach is that it preserves the logical foundations (dialectical materialism) of Marx.

From an intellectual point of view, Ayn Rand's work is very important. Ayn Rand basically shows that if you accept the foundation of modern logic, a free society still works better than a socialized one.

A free society that accepts dialectical materialism is better than communism, but it is still a deeply fractured society.

On her side, Ayn Rand did begin an exploration of the classical Aristotelian approach to logic, but seemed to be accepting the images projected on the classical tradition rather than on meat of rationality itself.

The unfortunate result is that, despite writing a motivational work, Ms. Rand developed a philosophy that never really worked out for herself, nor her followers. It clearly does not work as a foundation for a society.

Her greatest follower, Alan Greenspan, has become the patron saint for strict financial regulations.

Ayn Rand's problems are not unique to Ayn Rand. The free society of the United States greatly advanced the conditions of mankind, but our intellectual class has never done a good job exploring why this is so, and has not developed an effective strategy for defending freedom.

As the shrill Glenn Beck keeps pointing out. We are very close to losing it.

One of the great problems with preserving freedom is that intellectuals tend to overemphasize aspects of freedom they personally enjoy.

The problem is that overemphasizing attributes of freedom can lead to an imbalance that will topple freedom.

I hate overemphasizing paradox, but the philosophy of freedom suffers one great paradox: A free society cannot give individuals the freedom to deny freedom to others. A free society depends on the Golden Rule.

Note, the US was born with one great flaw. The founders inherited slavery imposed by European colonialists. Slavery gives one person the ability to deny freedom to another.

Altough we admire the Founders of the United States, there was a great deal of convoluted thinking going on in the early days of our country in efforts to defend slavery and other institutions.

For example Andrew Jackson, the founder of the modern Democratic Party, first rose to fame in the suppression of the Seminoles. This suppression was driven largely from the fact that slaves were running off and joining the Native Americans and the South feared they would rise in open rebellion ... and win.

Andrew Jackson proved a strong defender of certain aspects of freedom.

The Republicans formed in reaction to the Democrats defending other aspects of freedom and we had a civil war.

The process of action and reaction between our parties has our poor nation set on a course of diminished liberty. The shrill process has reached such a level that we might even be on the dreaded Road to Serfdom.

This system of action and reaction in our society is often fueled by loud, yet imbalanced freedom rhetoric.

Preserving our freedom will take more than well spoken freedom centric rhetoric. It requires deeper thinking about foundational issues.

The great challenge of liberty is that the defenders of liberty have a nasty habit of overemphasizing their favorite aspects of freedom in ways that the enemies of freedom have become adept at exploiting.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Repealing Obamacare

Now that we know what's in Obamacare, a majority have come to their senses and realize that it is a bad bill.

The premise of Obamacare is that insurance underserves the people; Therefore, they make it mandatory.

In the ultimate absurdity, Obamacare hires a legion of 15,000 IRS agents to enforce the new oppressive laws as if tax collectors somehow provide care.

Hopefully there will be a big push in the upcoming years to repeal Obamacare.

In order to repeal the bill, reformers need to come up with a free market alternative that is better than Obamacare.

Returning to state regulated employer based insurance is not that much of an improvement.

After all, Obama is correct in the premise that employer based insurance underserves the people.

Employer based insurance, however, is not the free market.

Employer based insurance was the creation of progressives past.

A true free market reform would make the individual the center of health care. Reformers seeking to restore the free market need to move beyond a smple call for repeal. They need a proactive paradigm that clearly shows the public how the free market can fund care and why the free market would do a better job in optimizing our health care dollars.

For this reason, I believe that the model of the Medical Savings and Loan could become a rallying point for a repeal effort.

The MS&L is simply a mathematical model that uses a combination of savings, loan reserves and lending accounts to mold health care financing around the lifecyle of the individual.

The idea is that one should save resources when they are young and healthy to use in times of need ... just as nature stores and releases resources in natural life cycles.

Obamacare was premised on the false dichotomy that health care dollars must either be controlled by evil insurance agencies or socialized government agencies.

The Medical Savings and Loans calls out this false dichotomy and shows that it is possible to form health care around the individual, and that the real question is whether health care should be about individual people or about the group.

The mathematics of the MS&L and Insurance is similar. It is a question of focus: Insurance makes risk pools the primary focus of care. The Medical Savings and Loan makes individual people the focus of care.

Insurance underserves the people, because insurance is about caring for the pool and not caring for the people.

Simply changing the focus from the pool back to the individual solves most of the problems of the health care system.

For example it solves the problem of portability. With the MS&L I have a physical savings account with real money that I own. I might also have outstanding loans with real money that the MS&L hopes will be repaid. These accounts will follow individual through their career.

It solves the problem of health care records. With pooled insurance, health care records are owned by the pool. Moving between pools creates a discontinuity in the records.

The MS&L makes the individual the owner of the health care records. These records would then follow the individual along with the accounts.

The MS&L solves the problem of preventative medicine. The MS&L makes people directly responsible their life time medical expenses. As such it provides a vehicle that encourages people to spend money now to avoid long term expenses.

The MS&L also solves the problems of gaps in employment.

Insurance was premised on the false assumption that people would have a continuous stream of income throughout their lives. When people lose their job, their income vanishes along with their ability to pay the premium.

The medical savings and loan is premised on the realization that income is not constant and that people must save in times of plenty for times of need. The premium for the MS&L is set as a percent of income, not as a fixed dollar amount. When income drops to zero, the premium drops to zero. The policy holder could draw from expenses or take out a loan.

NOTE, the percent of income a policy holder pays into an account might need to increase with re-employment. The policy holder is never left without health care resources.

Finally the Medical Savings and Loan reduces problems with medical bankruptcy. Most loans are structured on the idea of adding the premium for the loan on top of the loan. As medical loans often co-incide with reduced earnings, this method does not work. The Medical Savings and Loan has people pay the premium to access loans upfront. Frontloading the premium allows for interest free loans with a higher default rate.

Individuals benefit from the Medical Savings and Loan. The structure also helps policymakers.

The goal of the MS&L is to create a structure where the majority of people self-finance their care. This lets the state and charitable organizations concentrate their efforts on those who simply are not able to fund their care.

From the perspective of public assistance, the medical savings and loan models does the following: The first thing the system does is separate those who can self finance care from those who cannot, reducing the gaming of the system.

For example, let's say a person shows up in the system with health needs and no insurance. The assistance community would lend money for the care and place the patient on a savings program. This creates a structure where the patient can receive care while contributing back as much as is feasible.

A compaint of the current system is that people are seeking primary care in expensive emergency rooms.

The Medical Savings and Loan allows us to keep the paradigm where none are turned away, but gives patients the option of taking out a loan to pay for really expensive emergency room care or taking out a smaller loan for primary care that does suit their needs.

The goal is to create a system where as many people as possible self-finance their care. For people who cannot, the MS&L creates a public assistence paradigm where that gives people the resources that they need while repaying what they can.

The Medical Savings and Loan effectively optimizes each of the pieces of the medical puzzle. By making people aware and responsible for their lifetime medical expenses, the MSL helps individuals optimize their health care dollars, and it helps the medical community optimize assistance dollars.

By optimizing each of the pieces of the health care puzzle, the medical savings and loan will provide better care to more people for less money than employer based health care or even the so called government run "universal care."

Those seeking to repeal Obamacare would be wise to promote the Medical Savings and Loan as the model for an free market, individually based model of health care that helps Americans self finance their care while providing a system of structured public assistance to those who lack the resouces to self finance care.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Deep Sea Oil Drilling

Wow, Obama did a great job laying the blame for the BP oil spill on the Bush Administration. Yes, this problem is clearly the result of a discontinuity in Democratic domination of politics.

When it comes to the game of laying blame. I want Obama to be in my corner. There is nobody better at projection blame on partisan foes than Obama.

Surely, if we just had more of a socialist model to government ... like the British model ... then this BP oil spill would never have happened.

While I look at this crisis, one thought keeps striking my mind: Why are we drilling for oil in places where we cannot readily get to the well heads? The spill is 5000 feet down, and we don't have good technology for getting resources to the well to cap it.

A rational society would be drilling the oil in shallow places first, then going deeper then moving out into the deep sea as technology evolved.

Drilling near shore simplifies the process of regulation and increases the ability to get to the well heads.

We are drilling in the deep sea first because we have a broken political process that demands cheap oil, but that blocks access to the oil in places that one can get at easily.

Placing absurd political demands on an industry leads to bad results.

On the bright side, George Bush was a progressive republican. This makes it easy to lay blame on him. So, we should applaud Obama's masterful speech in which he laid blame for the problem on the decade inwhich Bush was president.

No one is better at the blame game than Obama.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Religion and Immigration

I was disappointed to see Nancy Pelosi calling on the Catholic Church to take an active stand for immigration amnesty.

Historically, the demographic make up of countries has been a driving force for religious tensions. This is especially true in Republics where there is a fear of religious hegemony.

Having the Catholic Church taking a stand on an issue that will swing power in its direction is not a positive thing.

In my reading of history, I discovered that many of the great "religious wars" in history coincided with demographic shifts. For that matter, many "religious wars" appear to have been more about politicians using changes in demographics to rise to power than about the theological disputes discussed by scholars.

Fortunately, during my life time, there has been less tension between Catholic and Protestants than in past generations.

The lowering of tensions has been due largely to a commitment to secularism on the parts of Christian churches.

Issues like immigration are something for secular state to decide and not for religions to decide.

Tensions between Protestants and Catholics have diminished to such an extent that many have forgotten that much of the historic conflict between the United States and Mexico was driven by religion.

Think about it. The race of Mexico is a combination of Western European and Native American. The racial make up is not that dramatically different from the mix of races in the United States … which, if anything, is a bit more diverse than Mexico.

The historic divide between the US and Mexican culture was a continuation of the Catholic/Protestant schism.

Reading historical texts, one finds a great deal of anti-papist sentiment in this nation.

The commitment to a secular government helped reduce religious tension and we created a wonderful country where people with different beliefs can live side by side.

Unfortunately, ancient tensions can resurface when there is a perception that any religious group is dinking with religious balance.

As such, the immigration debate is precisely the type of political issue that religions need to avoid.

Pelosi's cynical ploy to pull the Catholic Church head first into the debate is very negative development.

What's sad is that the nihilistic left works actively to diminish the role of religion in moral decisions at the personal level while actively encouraging religious involvement in areas such as immigration that have historically led to conflict.

Monday, May 10, 2010

SEO v Localization

I've been working on the localization for a new site.

The design I want to use allows the user to select a language. The program would then display the pages for the rest of the session in the user's chosen language.

I like the way the way user specific localization works.

The problem is that the googlebot balks at websites that show different content for different users. When the googlebot balks at a site, the site doesn't get included in the search engines.

Despite the fact that I think customized websites provide a superior user experience, I decided to shelve the design I prefer and create a segregated web site with different directories for each language. There will be an "/en" directory with English, an "/fr" directory for French, an "/fa" directory for Persian, and so on.

I dislike how I have to shelve dynamic design to keep favor with the search engines.

Anyway, for the last couple days, I've spent time trolling the net to see how other web sites handle the localization challenge. To my disappointment, I've discovered most companies seem to be going with monolingual designs.

Even companies that pride themselves on hiring bilingual customer service reps seem to go with monolingual websites.

I thought the opposite would happen. I thought that content hungry web designers would be jamming out poorly translated multilingual pages as search engines are likely to count poorly translated multilingual pages as original content.

As for my specific effort, I am discovering that several of the programs I use have a poor implementation of UTF8 that's causing encoding errors. Perhaps web designers have found the goal of localization too big a hassle and have simply taken to the easier route of designing a different site for each language.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The American Dream?

I listened to a stirring speech from a Democratic Candidate who told the audience about how the American Dream was to have a good paying job and have a home and that we need a large intrusive government to assure us this dream of a job and home.

A half witted Republican then bumbled an inane string of words about government v. private enterprise, but clearly had no pro-active way to help achieve this dream of a job and a home.

I wanted to jump into the TV screen and bang the Democrat's head against the podium and scream: "What type of half-assed crazy dream is that?"

This elitist notion that the little people will be content with a job and a secure place to live is the feudal dream. Feudalism is the ideology that ruled the West during the dark ages. It is a stagnant society where the elite rule while the masses are trapped toiling away in stagnant hole with vain hopes that the ruling elite will provide security.

The dreams of our Founders were better than that. Their dreams started with a free people who would spend their time pursuing the ends of their choice.

The key to this classical liberal vision, of course, is property rights. The classical liberal vision has people owning and improving things.

The vision is not simply the notion of people working jobs, but of people having a substantial stake in their creations.

Of course this idea of letting the little people have substantial participation in their lives irked the ruling class and the elite immediately began the process of finding ways to undermine the vision of liberty with a "modern liberalism" that masks feudal ideas in modern liberal rhetoric.

Modern liberalism uses simple paradoxes and fallacies to argue: "freedom is slavery and slavery freedom."

It produces a large number of completely senseless arguments such as the Democratic candidate's assertion that the highest aspiration of a free people is to have a job working for others and to have a mortgaged house secured by the government.

I wanted to bang the Democrat Candidate's head against the podium for making such a brain dead assertion. However, my real anger lays with Republicans who systematically fail to think issues through in the fundamental way that would catch these errors and put our nation back on the track to freedom and prosperity.

The American dream is one of freedom. It is a dream where people (even the little people that worldly professors disdain) have a property right to their labor and are actively engaged in the pursuit of dreams that they define.

Yes, in this dream, people often find satisfaction in their careers and in building their homes, but the American dream is one of freedom not simply one of a few materials goods associated with freedom.