Monday, January 28, 2013

Separation of Economy and State.. . .

It's become popular in certain self-satisfied circles to justify disregard of constitutional considerations by pointing out that the writers of the constitution just couldn't know how the world would change and couldn't craft a political document that created a government capable of dealing with the modern world.

Well, the constitution does, after all, provide for amending the document.  So to say that the writers of the constitution couldn't provide for the future is disingenuous, verging on deceptive.  They planned for what they couldn't know of the future, by providing a way for the future to amend the document as it would later appear necessary.

In fact, the document was amended almost immediately, for fear that government busybodies would ignore the rights of a free people.  And there was historical justification for doing so, for example, freedom of and from religion leading to a clear separation of church and state.  These early Americans had seen first hand religious persecution and government interference with religious affairs, and they were close in time to crusades pitting Christianity against Islam.  They knew of executions based on religious beliefs and forced conversions, and the dreaded Inquisition.  So, the clear separation of church and state was imposed in response to a known danger of government, as they knew it to be.

Now, we live in modern times, and we see more of the damages a powerful government can do.  We know better, now, in ways our constitutional fathers could not know.  When our smug and self-loving social critics complain that the constitution is outdated, they are probably right.  We know now of a government threat not apparent to the framers of the constitution given the body of information they had, at the time.  We need another amendment to the constitution.

I think we need a clear separation of church and the economy.  No "stimulus" of the economy.  No price supports.  No commodity boards.  No "investment" in businesses.  No security regulations.  No tax-exempt activities or tax breaks to encourage business activity.  No interference to settle labor disputes, other than to respond to criminal activity or breach of the peace.  No federal banking regulations -- federal "reserve" bank.  No picking of "winners and losers."  None of it.  Government is not good at business and the economy, and much too frequently government activity pretextually in aid of the economy amounts to powerful politicians rewarding friends for favors, or spending public moneys on pet projects featuring fat doses of self -aggrandizement.  So.  None of it.  If you can't do it right, the truth of which has been demonstrated adequately, then leave it the hell alone.  Mint hard money and let banks take care of banknotes, privately.

The trouble with government activity in the economy is that it re-assigns risks in unrealistic ways.  Naturally, government activity will affect the economy, as when the navy ships are in port, money flows.  It's when the government tries to do stuff in order to deal with the economy, directly, that is the problem.  So.  Quit it. 

Maybe we can curb some of the bureaucratic temptation to help us, by helping themselves to the public purse.

And I'm getting pretty damned suspicious about government fooling around with education, too.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A billion here, and a billion there . . .

When you save, you park some unneeded money somewhere -- bank, bond, stock, mattress -- in hopes that when you want to turn that money into something needed, like food or rent, it will be there. If you put the money into a bank you are thought to be prudent. If you put the money into the stock market you are thought to be a genius when the market rises, and an unfortunate victim when the market falls, as it inevitably but unpredictably does.
 When you put your money into any financial institution, bank or corporation, wonder of wonders, they don't actually keep it for you. The institution either spends it frivolously or loans it to some moron who can dress well enough to impress a lending officer. The institution frequently makes some money in spite of itself and sometimes distributes some of the money to you -- always first assuring that its officers get bonuses at year end. You, of course, would frequently not approve of how your money gets spent. And you are betting that both the money and the institution you put it into will be there when you need it to be, despite observing one institution after another bite the big one over your lifetime. It requires a great deal of blind, unreasoning faith to make this bet, and this faith used to be called patriotism.
 Nowadays, we have a new economic system. It seems a mere handful of exploited foreigners can manufacture all the products that are actually needed, and a great deal more besides. So we've turned ourselves into developers and marketers of unneeded goods and services -- just kinda to keep our hand in. Many of us basically get paid for peddling something unnecessary, but if it doesn't sell, we don't eat, so we keep at it anyway. Many more of us, not wishing to peddle garbage, have become what is called -- with a straight face, mind you -- knowledge workers. We collect data and reassemble bits and pieces of it into new and exciting configurations so as to support the making of predominately inconsequential decisions, which in turn mostly have to do with how to sell more shoddy goods and unneeded services. Finally, if we are good at peddling garbage or mining data, we get to supervise others in the same sad trades, whether or not we are good at supervising.
But each and every worthless trinket that gets bought and pitched into a landfill ( a whole 'nother issue ) contributes even if only slightly to keeping some poor desperate drone alive and secure in the knowledge that somehow he matters.
That drone may be you or it may be me, so spend while you can and don't be stingy. It all counts. 
 Of course, when times get tough, lots of us lose our worthless jobs, so we can't spend.  Generally, the cause of such tough times is usually, but not always, caused by government policies.  This is known as bad luck, or karma.  In such times, government steps in and gives money to those who've are no longer getting paid for doing the stupid stuff they used to get paid for.  The theory is that those people will thereby be able to continue to spend and will, in due course, continue to support this financial merry go round.  But since we don't actually have a government that is quite right bright, those exalted government managers are unable to understand that every dollar they give to somebody to stimulate spending, comes from taxing somebody who now no longer has that dollar to spend because government took it.  So, in fact, the effect of "stimulating" the economy which depends on spending, is really merely shifting the same spending from one sector to another, with no real actual gain. 
 So hang on as long as you can, because our government leaders think that energetically whirling around in circles somehow is evidence of their being a big wheel.  And the fact that the system is spinning around in one spot makes it dig itself in deeper and deeper.  In other words, we are so screwed.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hating Hillary . . .

Hillary Clinton's defiant congressional testimony before Congress concerning the management of the Benghazi travesty has brought some old critics out of the closet.  Take a look, here.  Wow.

That is, wow, if it is true.  But also, wow, if it's false.  Somebody, either Hillary or her accuser, here, is a sure-enough, bigtime weasel.

Apropos of nothing much, I always wondered how it was that the mysteriously missing billing records from her time as an influential attorney working for the Rose Law Firm, while married to the state governor, were found much later, when no longer useful, in the plate room of the White House.  (But I never lost any sleep over it.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Common sense gun restrictions . . .

The Wall Street Journal, among others, reports that al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has kidnapped about forty people, including Americans.  The Islamists are doing this in Algeria, in order to retaliate against the French, who are intervening in Mali.  The location of the kidnappers and the kidnappees is far away from any immediately effective response.  An Algerian security force attempted to storm the place to rescue the hostages, but was driven off.

See?  This just goes to show that all the wrong kind of people have access to guns.  It should therefore be a national priority to eliminate easy access to guns that can be used to shoot people.  The Supreme Court said that we have a constitutional right to own guns, but there can be reasonable restrictions on gun ownership.  So, the common sense solution to the problem is to let people only have the kind of guns that are incapable of shooting people.

We would all be much safer then, because terrorists would be unable to use deadly force, since they would naturally only own the kind of guns that are incapable of shooting people.  Terrorists would have to content themselves with yelling.  Which, you have to admit, would be better for us infidels.

Of course, psychopaths, like the ones who shot up the schools, or the one who shot up a theater, or the one who shot up an army post, or the one who shot up the University of Virginia, all would still be able figure out ways to obtain the old fashioned kind of guns that can shoot people.  But we are just going to have to live with that because, as I'm sure you all know, being a dangerous psychopath is a civil right, such that attempting to restrict a psychopath from being dangerous would seriously trample on their free expression of their psychopathology.

You win some, you lose some.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I Know It's Crazy But What Would Happen if . . .

I've been reading about the incredible debt the U.S. has been undertaking here of late.  Things like, the debt in the last three years has increased by 60%.  Things like, the amount of debt growth in the last four years is greater than all the debt the government ever undertook -- and paid off -- since the country was formed. 

Young people are so screwed by this debt.  Their entire productive future is at risk of having politicians pay federal debt out of their future.  They have to pay off unconscionable student loans, and pay off the government's traitorous level of overspending, and have a life, too?

I've also been reading about the gun regulation controversy, and some have gone so far as to suggest that armed rebellion or even a break-up of the states, forming several smaller countries, could result from an attempt to take guns away.  Probably not, but what if . . .

So, what happens if a few states decide to up and quit?  Would there be a civil war, again?  Nowadays, would Pennsylvania, for example, supply it's young men to fight in a war to prevent Texas, for example, from withdrawing?  Would they go?  At this point in our country's story, do we have enough currently serving military officers willing to go to war on the president's orders to prevent disintegration?  Or would they resign their commissions?  More importantly, are there enough riflemen willing to obey orders to shoot at Americans at home, and get shot at by them, in turn?

Maybe not.  The American military is best equipped to fight "big" wars with massive force.  Would the military leaders really order missles to be fired and bombs to be dropped on fellow Americans, in this day and age? 

And here's my question.  If some states were to withdraw and form a new government for themselves, leaving the union, would  their citizens cease to be U.S. citizens?  And if so, what's their responsibility for the national debt?

If the national debt gets worse, would or could a price be reached by a money hungry federal government to let citizens of a state "buy its way out" of the union, with a negotiated payment price and terms? 


Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A new year's fiscal cliffery . . .

It's now 2013, a new year, and righteous time for resolutions.  The Republicans have resolved to continue being Republicans, and the Democrats have resolved to continue being Democrats, the proof of which proposition exists in the cliff avoidance plan adopted in the Senate, at the absolute last minute, when they've had literally years to figure out how to get this done.  Gah!

What was the fiscal cliff?  It was a silly scheme whereby if our political masters couldn't finally figure out how to reform our tax system and/or how to bring overspending under control, then the previous tax cuts would "automatically" expire having the effect of increasing the tax burden, and massive spending cuts would "automatically" happen, "across the board."  The morons who passed this legislative kludge thought of it as so repulsive that surely they would have to figure out a good way of growing up to accomplish good government, so as to avoid going over the cliff that they had created for themselves.

Okay, we have two massive problems.  The first problem is that we're broke.  The government doesn't have enough money to do all the things it has committed itself to do.  What should be done? 

One thing would be to reduce spending, first, by eliminating all waste, and second, by eliminating all unauthorized spending, and third, by reneging on selected committments for impossibility.  (Wait one.  Unauthorized spending?  There hasn't been a budget passed for three years; it's all unauthorized!  And renege on what kind of committments?  For example, do we have to give money to the Palestinians and the Egyptians, when we already give money to the United Nations, thereby funding international corruption?) 

Another thing to do about being broke, which has been the strategy of choice, more or less, for the last ninety years or so, is just print up additional new money.  That's called inflation and our government masters have decided a long time ago that a "little bit" of inflation is a good thing, somehow.  This is absolutely going to continue happening.  Oh, and "more than a little bit" is defined as when people start to pay attention.

I teach bankruptcy.  One of the interesting features about bankruptcy is that debtors are nearly always able to keep increasing their debt during "pre-bankruptcy," which means that there's always somebody who expects to profit from somebody else's financial vulnerability by lending, despite the signs of financial insecurity. 

That leads to the third response to being broke.  Borrow money to keep living beyond one's means.  It's kind of like, how can I be broke?  People keep lending me money.  How can I be broke?  There's still blank checks in my checkbook.

And this is why Congress invented the fiscal cliff for itself.  Basically, Congress said that if we hadn't done anything effective to control our spending and revenue, then, magically on January 1, 2013, we would be officially broke in our own estimation, even if there were people who were willing for one reason or another, to keep lending and funding our financial descent into harmless world-class international inconsequentiality.  (Why, there might be world leaders who would welcome and encourage the collapse of the United States.  Imagine that!)

So, what did the Senate do at the last effing gasp of December 31, 2012?  It passed a law to twiddle with taxes and do nothing about spending, so as to claim that it saved us from the cliff.  Basically, spending will be looked at in the future when we examined the so-called debt limit that we (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) impose on ourselves. 

See, we aren't broke at all.  We can keep the party going by a quick trip to the ATM.  We can always borrow more; it's just money and other people's money at that.

And that leads us to our second massive problem.  That is, that all of our political masters, legislative, judicial, and executive, are more or less but always too much, either stupid or evil.  No other explanation will account.

I think our political class thinks that it can continue along the same path it set out on since President Wilson, because the American public at large is extremely reluctant and unlikely to pick up its guns and engage in an armed revolution against the present parasitical and tyrannical government.  (But maybe all the guns better be seized, I mean controlled, for just in case.)

And I agree.  It won't come to that, and that's why I don't own a gun.

But massive civil disobedience?  That sounds more likely. 

When you think about it, perhaps government has lost, or is about to lose the benefit of the public conviction that government can essentially be trusted to act for the greater good.  If government ceases to be an advocate for justice, and becomes a mere change agent to redistribute wealth, then it loses it's moral justification for the use of overwhelming force even as it may continue to use overwhelming force.  At that point, government becomes our adversary, which like any adversary might be outwitted, deceived, and finally beaten in that fashion.

And for this reason, I can say without a trace of cynicism, I wish us all a Happy New Year, and I resolve to continue to have faith in the foundational ideals that formed our unique American culture.