“Occupy Wall Street” rage misdirected

These people are very upset with a particular strip of roadway in Manhattan.

The protesters are ignorant, smelly hippies.  That about sums up my take.  If you want the longer version, here it is:

The protesters are literate, and some are even educated in some specialty, but they don’t seem to understand economics at all.  Some of them blame poverty and unemployment on “Wall Street”; others blame it on rich people.  Either way, they engage in pure fantasy.

First, Wall Street.  I assume they have no beef with the street itself.  Maybe they just call rich people or corporations “Wall Street,” or at least that’s what my understanding of markets leads me to infer.  They can’t be talking about the stock market–that is, they can’t be talking intelligently about the stock market.  If you know what the stock market actually is (not a true entity, but a loose network for the free and open exchange of securitized goods) and who participates in the stock market (hundreds of millions–if not billions–of individual disparate entities, among whom nearly everyone is included, and none of whom can exercise anything close to what could objectively called coercion over the market), and the effects of a stock market on an economy (a great increase in productivity, availability of capital, and gainful employment), then you have a hard time understanding what the hell it is these people are talking about when they express rage toward Wall Street. They don’t even seem to have a workable definition of what “Wall Street” is.

Because rage toward “Wall Street” is utter nonsense, I must assume they have a serious–albeit irrational–problem with corporations and/or high net worth or high income people.  They believe rich people and/or corporations are responsible for any extant hardship experienced by “the 99%.” But the rich, the corporations, the Apples, Disneys and Microsofts have exercised no force against us; on the contrary, we have engaged in voluntary exchange with them.  We have voted with our dollars to make their owners wealthier than we are.  The fact that they become so well-to-do that they escape the hardships of the rest of us is unfair, but it is not unjust.  They have not forced us to give them our money.  Any man who gives money to Apple does so because, marginally, he values Apple’s production more than his own–not because Apple has forced him to do so.  If the people must slay a dragon, there is a convenient and sensible target; it is an entity that forces us to give it money and it has a monopoly on force, but it is not headquartered on Wall Street.

That dragon is of course the federal government, and I can sympathize with these protesters only insofar as interest groups (including corporations) control the government to meet their own ends at our expense.  However, I see no real advantage in egregious (and probably unconstitutional) measures, such as depleting the wealth of interest groups, outlawing their association, or nationalizing corporations, which seem to be the sort of unjust solutions favored by today’s demonstrators.  I do not suggest a new all-powerful leader of the flock, but instead suggest each sheep be allowed his sovereignty.  I know such an individualistic position has never been and probably never will be popular–people like to be led, lest they wander.  My policy to keep interest groups from controlling government is by binding government down under the chains of the constitution (see Jefferson’s “Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank”), which would make government a thing so small and insignificant–so limited in its powers of appropriation and bestowal–that no corporation would have any interest in controlling it, because it would be unprofitable to do so.

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Letter to the editor 03.29.10

members walk through protest

I sent the following letter concerning accusations of racism to the Daily Beacon, the University of Tennessee’s student newspaper, on March 29, but it was never printed:

Columnist Sam Smith is either a victim or, worse, a collaborator of propaganda. On March 20, the day before passage of the historic blunder misnamed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, several male members of the Congressional Black Caucus sauntered through a large crowd of mostly white demonstrators outside the Capitol–that is to say, they pulled a publicity stunt.

I have watched several videos of the incident, and I have a few questions that Smith may not have asked himself. Why did this group of black men choose to walk through the excited crowd? Almost every other representative traveled to the Capitol that day through the underground tunnel connected to their offices, and almost every other day these men do so as well. Why did all of these black men walk to the Capitol together? Why were two of the members recording the event with mobile devices? Why, after watching all of these videos, did I never once hear the N-word? It was mostly shouts of “kill the bill.” No one in the media, or even on a layperson’s hand-held recorder, has been able to produce any evidence that a racial invective was ever uttered, much less shouted, by the demonstrators that day. Fortunately, it appears the Black Caucus’ attempt to instigate a racial incident failed. The “Tea-Party” contingent was not so racist as had been hoped.

The publicity stunt, however, worked wonders. Just hours later, every evening news program reported that the demonstrators shouted the N-word at the men repeatedly. The intended message is clear: citizens opposed to Obamacare are ignorant, unreasonable racists that should be ignored. Despite the fact that this message is based on lies and propaganda, Smith affirms it.

Then, after forcing Republicans to accept this propaganda as reality, Smith challenges GOP leadership to denounce the fabricated bad behavior of its base, apparently unaware that House Minority Leader John Boehner has already issued a public condemnation. Smith also asks, “How long will we continue to watch the GOP behave this way and accept it as part of our political dialogue?” The answer: until we stop believing the perpetual myths of propagandists like the Congressional Black Caucus.

Letter to the editor, 09.17.09

Obama schoolchildren

This letter appeared, with some cosmetic edits, in the University of Tennessee’s student newspaper, The Daily Beacon, on September 17.

Sam Smith’s friday column, “Criticism of Obama’s speech outrageous,” was nothing if not educational. While reading it, I learned that I am “either a hateful individual or a nincompoop.” I learned that I am “involved in the madness and mistruths,” that my behavior should be called into question, that I should refrain from expressing myself, so that the country can move forward. I learned that I am perhaps an adherent to “the worst sentiments among us like covert prejudice and ignorance.” I learned that I do not accept the fact of Obama’s presidency. I learned that all opponents of the White House’s unconstitutional plans for healthcare and energy are small-minded and petty. I learned that I am a global citizen, although I do not recall accepting the rule of a global government. These revelations say nothing about me, but they speak volumes of the columnist’s attitude toward those who disagree with him.

At the risk of being outrageous, I will criticize Obama’s speech to the nation’s schoolchildren. I take no issue with the speech’s content. It spoke of hard work and self-reliance. It could have been written by a staunch conservative. The speech, however, was not given in good faith; it was disingenuous. It was pure demagoguery. If Thomas Paine was correct in writing that “infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what [one] does not believe,” then Obama’s speech epitomized infidelity. He preached hard work and personal responsibility, but his policies encourage laziness and collective responsibility. If Obama had spoken in good faith, his message to America’s youth would have been: “I hope you work hard for your country, but if you do not, don’t worry. It is not your fault and it should not be your responsibility. I will force your hardworking, responsible neighbors to give you food, cash, cars, homes and healthcare.”

Respectfully,

Alex Winston

Junior in Political Science

Cash for clunkers: economic retardation

c4c

Only government would be so backward as to take functioning used automobiles–objects of great value to many people who cannot afford to buy new ones–and require that they be destroyed.  This decreases the supply of used cars, causing the price of used cars to rise generally, and therefore making it harder for lower income Americans to buy them.  Of course, we should not be surprised to see the government hurting lower income Americans under the pretense of helping them; this is how the government expends much of its (our) resources.

Moreover, our entire economic crisis was caused by a credit bubble.  Before the crisis can end, bad credit must be liquidated.  Cash for clunkers only exacerbates the credit crisis; it encourages many people (who may or may not lose their jobs within the next year) to take out new car loans, and the government is effectually paying their down-payment in the form of a $4,500 rebate. This is exactly the sort of government “solution” that caused over-investment and distorted demand in the housing market.  Cash for clunkers will certainly be a contributor, albeit a minor one, to financial firm failures around the country over the next few years.

Government submits to God, who wants to leave us alone

God at his computer.

This story is, of course, fictional.  If you see this headline in the newspaper tomorrow morning, you will need to pinch yourself–and if that does not wake you–realize that you have in fact died and gone to heaven.  As I imagine it, there are no tax collectors in heaven.  Upon entry into heaven, I could pick up the Times and read the following:

Today God announced major cutbacks in everything government. 

God called for an immediate end to all hostilities in Iraq, and condemned George W. Bush for lying to His people and killing His children without just cause.  “You’ll burn in hell for this,” God ordained matter-of-factly, in an unusually calm damning ceremony.  Taking questions after the announcement, God explained the departure from the usual thunderbolt display.  “Our traditional ceremony was a little over the top, and we’re trying to cut expenditures in these ceremonies anyway.  After the Falwell incident, I don’t really trust the lightning machine anymore–he wasn’t supposed to burn until he actually got to Hell.  I am not one to deprive Lucifer of his fun, but I am told he has still had plenty of it with Falwell.”  He then belted maniacal laughter for over three minutes.

God’s announcement expectedly drew some disfavor from President Bush, who backwardly believed he was doing God’s work.  “But God–” he started to say, but The All-Knowing knew what was coming and responded before Bush could finish.  “I do my own work, thank you,” God thundered.  “Love thy neighbor.  It’s simple, really.  Why couldn’t you just do it?  Jesus!”

The military will be mostly dissolved by mid-year, much to the dismay of the military industry.  Sources tell us that one CEO was particularly opposed to God’s will.  God quieted his argument, saying, “I never intended for you people to go around killing one another because of your petty arguments about me.  I’m going to let you keep fire and subsequent technological advancements.  Don’t push your luck with this fighting fetish you’ve developed.”

God called for the immediate dissolution of the CIA, FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and all government secrecy.  He said His “reasoning here is simple: if people really want to be free, information must be free to them.  Besides, there is no reason for a good government to have secrets.  Good governments do not need protection, because people find no fault in them worth attacking.  If anything is going to be mysterious in this world, it’s going to be Me.”

No more personal taxes or tax identification numbers.  God seemed particularly frustrated by these human measures.  “I don’t know what nation is before me now, when I look at these income taxes,” God offered.  “Soviet Russia? Nazi Germany? Oceania?  Certainly not one nation, under Me, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.  There’s no liberty in assigning everyone a number and staking claim to their labor–it’s as if you’ve modeled your society after Hell.”

God ended drug laws as well, and allowed all non-violent drug offenders to leave prison.  He called for a cutback of over 85% of the nation’s local police forces.  “You’ve got a lot of nerve,” He reprimanded Congress.  “Do you think I put cannabis on this planet so that you could spend your days trying to destroy it?  It’s not going away.  I put it here for your enjoyment.  Don’t tell people what they are allowed to do with what I put here.  I ought to damn you all to Hell for this!  As I look around, you’re all headed there anyway–oh, except for you, Dr. Paul of Texas: the Lot of Washington D.C.  What’s that, Ron?  Alright, you can bring Duncan along too.  No, Kucinich burns with the rest of them!  Alright, you may rescue Barney Frank from damnation as well, as we cannot fault the mentally handicapped.”

In perhaps related news, the Federal Reserve Board has disappeared.  No one can find any of them anywhere.  God did not explain where they went, but did say they will not be back.  “Gold and silver will always back the currency, to protect My people’s savings from confiscation.  The market, which I created, will determine rates of interest.”

To cap off His day of governing, God smote Mike Huckabee.  “Huckabee is a false idol,” decreed God, “almost as bad as the pope.”  The Almighty went on to relate Huckabee to the ancient Golden Calf, and his followers to ancient pagans because of their lack of respect for what God called “civic virtue.”

Fear is Tyranny was able to catch up with God during an evening prayer session.  We asked Him if He was done with governing for awhile.  “Absolutely not,” He said, “this is just the first day.  I’ve got five more to go before I rest.  My motivation here is very basic and has never changed: I gave people the capacity to think so that they might use it to guide themselves, and I am simply taking steps to encourage individual thought.”  Pray for similar results tomorrow.

A frightening parallel: European Jews and the FLDS sect

“In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.” – Martin Niemoller, on the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power.

It seems appropriate that this post should come on Passover, the day that Jews all over the world celebrate the exodus from enslavement in Egypt, because for Jews like myself, today is a day to be thankful (and vigilant) for religious freedom. Today is also a day to remember the way a group of humans in Europe mistreated (and eventually began exterminating) other groups of humans, simply because they did not live in a manner deemed proper by mainstream culture. Today we remember the Nazis, and their ideas of a perfect society and a final solution. Today we watch the news, and we hear about a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) accused of–at the very least–child abuse and gender discrimination. We rush to judgment, which we base on what is considered mainstream, proper, or even perfect, about our own society.  If we are to learn anything from history, we must constantly compare our society to the facts of the past, and we must continue to utter, to declare, to yell and scream and burn into the hearts and souls of anyone who will listen, “NEVER AGAIN!”

When I read the headlines, and watch the cable news clips of these people, I am reminded of my Jewish grandmother, whose Passover Seder I attended this evening. She is 86 years old, an immigrant from pre-World War II Poland. Her family lived in a small town that was separated from “mainstream” European culture. Everyone there was Jewish, and everyone spoke Yiddish–think “Fiddler on the Roof”, where arranged marriages, traditional clothing, and gender roles were simply a way of life. Families were generally happy there, as they are in any society, but their way of life was very different. Dotting the landscape of southeast Europe before World War II were hundreds of towns just like hers, where free and good people–Jewish people–lived in relative peace, away from the bustle of liberal European philosophy and culture, which was probably most advanced in Germany.  Despite its destruction, the world of my grandmother’s childhood was a unique but legitimate society, with mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, morals, customs, and respect for laws and tradition, where young boys played games and young girls exchanged meaningless secrets, and the individual lived, loved, smiled, laughed, cried, and felt the growing pains of youth, and the debilitating pains of age–a culture that lended to its subscribers a different but normal life. It was a self-sufficient bubble, soon to be burst by German tanks and train cars, eventually thrust behind the now infamous fences of concentration camps.

The Jews were just a little bit too indoctrinated, too oddly clad, too nostalgic, too stubborn in their matrimonial traditions to see the enlightenment of proper German culture, and so they had to be dealt with coercively. 

Could it happen here?  It is happening here.  It’s happening to a fundamentalist mormon sect in El Dorado, Texas.   That our own government imitates the beginnings of Nazi oppression is as shocking as it is true.  Although they seem trifling when reflecting on the state-sponsored kidnapping of several hundred children, the media’s headlines reveal the coldness of the collective American soul today, and do great harm to the reputation of our nation’s many good individuals.  Among the top stories in major metropolitan newspapers:

“Sect children will undergo genetic tests” (This headline is Holocaust Museum material.)

“Cult kids will remain in state custody” (It’s strange how the press only refers to their ranch as a “compound,” while the state is the entity actually keeping them locked up.

“Polygamist sect indoctrinated girls” (There is irony when commercial media accuses anyone of indoctrinating girls.)

“400 children saved from Mormon sect amid allegations of child abuse”

“Texas authorities must protect children” (From their parents? Are their parents Meth addicts?)

Taken at gunpoint without explanation, herded to a government facility, and detained endlessly without any presentation of evidence.  As it turns out, the phone call that led authorities to them now appears to be a hoax, and the abused teen girl, “Sarah,” may not even exist. 

Never again to the Jews, the FLDS, or any group.  Never again destroy a peaceful and free people.  Never again assume that people who live differently are living incorrectly.  Never again allow a government to forcefully shape the individual soul.  This is not America.  This is totalitarian hell.  Let these people go.  If you stand with the government on this one, you stand with Hitler.  Sit down.

KNS swings, whiffs

The Knoxville News-Sentinel’s butchered version of a solid argument (the original is in the blog below this one):

“Your presidential primary preview was incomplete. It is clear that your newspaper–if it can be called that–is nothing more than a collusive extension of status quo government largesse which no longer represents the people of the United States. Only one candidate proposes to reduce spending. The same candidate is the only one that has strongly advocated the removal of troops from Iraq. That candidate is Ron Paul, and your newspaper has pretended he does not exist. On behalf of the people of the state of Tennessee, thank you for nothing.

If I may comment. I allowed Knoxville News-Sentinel editor Jack McElroy to trim my letter as he saw fit. Given the rudimentary capabilities shown by his publication in the past, I report with little surprise that Mr. McElroy’s version of “fitness” is what any logical person would call emptiness. He elected to include my points, but not the facts that made them so painfully evident to him. As an “editor,” Mr. McElroy is a professional by position, and not by practice. Whenever Mr. McElroy encountered a stubborn fact, he chose not to publish it; whenever he encountered a bold conclusion, he left it standing alone, without support. I am not sure what his intent was, but the result was to marginalize a good argument by making it seem inappropriate. Applying his journalistic style to observing and reporting the behaviors of a sports fan, when he observes a fan yelling “goal” upon a team’s score, Mr. McElroy reports that a person cried “goal” for no particular reason, perhaps during opening warm-ups or half-time, or in a coffee shop downtown; only Mr. McElroy knows the setting of the declaration, and he keeps it carefully out of public knowledge. If he considers it his job to inform, he has, in this instance, failed entirely, and the result of his reporting is bewilderment, the opposite of his purpose. By leaving out the reason behind a beneficial argument, Mr. McElroy has proven that his skill with written words can be used to negative ends. It is unknown whether he has used this skill to contribute to society in positive ways, but his status has certainly afforded him the opportunity.