Archive - August, 2012

Thursday Question: Collectivism v. Capitalism, How important is efficacy?

Yesterday I asked the following question on Facebook: When discussing principles. Is whether a policy is “effective” or whether it is right more important?

This question came upon some reflection. Collectivism v. Capitalism is the ideological fight of our lifetimes.

Often, in our current political climate where intellectualism is frowned upon, the fight becomes who did the “better” job. But is that the most important question. IF communism worked would it be any less egregious? If stealing from the producers and giving to the moochers actually led to prosperity…would it be worth having?

My answer is an unequivocal NO!

But I fear that I am in the minority. This is a part of larger trend of postmodern thinking. And it is seeping into parenting as well.

The traditional parent taught their children to not lie, cheat, and steal because it was the wrong thing to do. Period. No equivocation.

The modern parent teaches their children to not lie, cheat, and steal because it doesn’t work. There are negative consequences.

The obvious problem with this is that sometimes there aren’t negative consequences. The modern parent’s discipline adverse parenting aside. Often, cheating leads to higher grades, lying gets us out of bad situations and stealing enriches us.

We look around with our mouths agape when bankers steal, politicians lie, and professional athletes cheat. We have traded virtue for efficacy.

It isn’t just a parenting issue, it is a cultural one. We all ask…what were they thinking? They were thinking that as long as it was effective…it was right.

Let’s take that to our political fight of collectivism v. capitalism.

Is collectivism a road to serfdom? Yes. But it works for some. Ask the ruling elite in Russia, it worked fairly well for them. The point is that collectivism is wrong and it has nothing to do about efficacy. An intellectual conservatism understands that and should argue this. Collectivism is wrong, because its basic assumption is that we have to steal from producers and give to those who may or may not produce. It is governmental theft.

Should we try to enact policies that work? Yes. But efficacy isn’t as important as what is right. I teach my children that. I hope you do too.

The Non-Experts Guide to Unemployment

We have all heard the prattle about unemployment. 40+ months at above 8%. But what does that number really mean? There are many misconceptions about what this number really means. I mean, if it was 7.8% when President Bush left office, being at 8% really isn’t THAT bad…but it really is that bad. As always, I am not an expert…I am more of a non-expert just trying to help you better understand how it all works.

First, what is the unemployment rate. Most people assume that the unemployment rate is the rate of total non-working adults. Meaning all adults who are unemployed. So, if there are 100 Million adults, 8% of them are unemployed. Meaning that 8 million people are unemployed. That is bad, but man 92 million people are working. This is the first misconception. Unemployment has nothing to do related to total employable population. The unemployment number we here talked about so much is strictly related to the workforce. Why? Well, we know that there are retired people and lazy people. People who just don’t want to work. Politicians don’t want to be dinged for these folks, so, unemployment is defined as the percentage of the workforce who aren’t working. There are two operative terms here, workforce and working. THIS SITE explains the whole process.

First, workforce. The workforce is defined as every able bodied adult over the age of 16 who are not in prison or the military who “either have a job OR are jobless, looking for work, and available for work.” This assumes a few things. 1. If someone is not looking for work every week, they obviously aren’t a member of the workforce. 2. Someone qualified for a full time job, but who takes two part time positions isn’t a negative impact on the entry level job market.

Second, working. Underemployment is as bad an economic indicator as unemployment. A doctor who works at Taco Bell is a bad thing. First, his standard of living cannot be met at Taco Bell. Second, he is sucking up an entry level position that would be filled with another unemployed individual. Underemployment is near pandemic in America. Don’t believe me? Walk into McDonalds and ask how many people have a college degree. As an aside, a student who works counts as a member of the workforce. A student who doesn’t work doesn’t count as unemployed.

Basically, the unemployment number is a way for a politician to have its cake and eat it to. So, unemployment is high, but the real picture is much worse. If you take the workforce number that President Bush had 7.8% under and used it for your workforce today, unemployment would be at 14%. The bottom line is, eventually unemployment will always go down. Eventually, people will give up, not report to the government, or go back to school, or commit suicide. Each brings the unemployment rate down.

Another thing to consider is that the methodology that the labor department uses is a survey. Granted, the survey is a very large sample. But even by their own admission there is a possible margin of error of 250k people.

That is why I laugh when politicians of both parties claim they added X jobs to the economy or X jobs were created. 1. Government cannot create jobs. It is impossible. It takes about 10 private sector jobs to support 1 public sector job. 2. A large portion of these jobs are temporary OR on paper only.

This is also why the labor force can drop by 150,000!!!! in July but unemployment decreased 45,000. Of course, the media only reports the 45k “jobs added” not the fact that the total labor force contracted by 150K! I ask you, if Obama really created 4.5 million jobs…how is it that 2 million more Americans are unemployed. Or how the total labor force is only at 63.7% of the total population versus 66%.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-08-26

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-08-19

Paul Ryan: My Thoughts

I would be amiss if I didn’t at least talk a little about Paul Ryan.

On Saturday, Mitt Romney announced that his selection for VP will be Paul Ryan.

There has been a lot said on this subject: The Other McCain, Matt Lewis, Da Tech Guy, and Dan Riehl

Here is the main point. He hunts, he fishes, he is a gosh darn fiscal genius, and he can do something that Palin hasn’t been able to do. Bring intellectual conservatism to the forefront. What isn’t to like?

Don’t get me wrong. Palin’s style has its place. But our movement is the creature of deep thoughts with a strong philosophical basis. Unfortunately, too many people on our side of things these past three years have relied too much on emotion and they read the Constitution and A 5000 Year Leap and feel they are qualified to teach a political science course at the local college (even more sad is that they could probably do a better job than the professor but that is another post for a different day). It is the same phenomenon that saw someone watching the West Wing in college and feeling they could run a political campaign.

Education matters. Governing philosophies matter.

Paul Ryan makes learning and power points fun. And did I mention that he is a gosh darn fiscal genius.

Of course, none of that matters. By the middle of September, half of America will feel that Paul Ryan wants to destroy Medicare and Social Security. Why? Because the talking heads are already spouting it as a “liability.” What does the Ryan plan really do…nothing for anyone over 55. They see no change. But it revises the system and ensures its longterm viability.

And the chances that the media will report that under Obamacare, medicare as we know it goes away in 2016…I wouldn’t hold my breath. Or that Obama cut $700 BILLION out of Medicare already to “pay” for Obamacare? Tough chance.

It was once said that you shouldn’t pick a fight with someone that buys ink by the barrel. Unfortunately, nowadays, that simply means running against a Democrat in a general election.

The bottomline that America should care about. Paul Ryan has a definitive longterm plan to change our fiscal trajectory. Democrats haven’t even passed ANY budget in 3 years (which they are Constitutionally required to do). Unfortunately, it is just too easy to pick on the plan that actually EXISTS instead of the plan that is simply talk…

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-08-12

Community Standards: My Thoughts

On Facebook, there seemed to be some confusion over my use of the term “community standards.” I received a few direct messages, and questions were asked by commenters as well. For background, it all started when I expressed my outrage over the mayor of Boston and his wanting to keep Chick-Fil-A out of his city. A commenter brought up community standards and whether they were applicable to this situation. I am a believer in community standards (we will get to this in a bit) and felt the question was fair.

One of my pet peeves in politics today is the blatant relativistic nature of our discourse. In other words, if it is “my guy” in office, I will tolerate behaviors that I would NEVER tolerate from the “other guy.” I believe in set principles. Principles are my foundation. IF I only apply the natural law of these principles to other people’s situations and not my own…well…it would be intellectually dishonest.

Because of this, I started to think deeper about my belief in community standards. My fellow conservatives were bandying about “free speech,” but I wasn’t quite sure I bought that. Nobody was arguing that Dan Cathy, the COO of Chick-Fil-A, should be thrown in jail for his remarks. The mayor of Boston was just saying that Chick-Fil-A operated its business based on Biblical standards and those standards were incompatible with Boston’s standard. Now, there obviously are a couple of things here. 1. I am not sure a mayor has the full authority to enact community standards. 2. I am not sure that is actually Boston’s community standard.

That said, it is an interesting question. Does a community have the right to set a standard for itself under US law?  Let’s start with what a community standard is:

Community standards are local norms bounding acceptable conduct. Source

In the terms of US law, the phrase “community standard” first arose in a Supreme Court case “Miller v. California” (1973). As a matter of course, two things are consequential from this: 1. As a legal concept Community standards only apply to obscenity. 2. A community can be a state, county, or community.

This is basic. If Shelby, OH decides that we don’t want a strip club or porn shop in our downtown, we should be allowed to say no.

Honestly, I wasn’t aware of this very tight definition. So, now we both know. But what if it were more broad?

But, how about other issues. Could an atheistic community decide that they don’t want a church in their downtown? What about New York City and a mosque at Ground Zero? We know that Homeowners Associations set standards from preventing the display of campaign signs to not allowing a flag pole or an American flag or other flags. Could a community with strong ties to coal ban a green energy business?

Going back to earlier, under the legal concept, these wouldn’t be covered. And for that, I am grateful for one reason. The legal definition of a community is too broad. One could argue that a state enacting any of the above examples could be disastrous for the minority. But what if the community was defined as your actual local community?

To put it in perspective, I am going to talk about something that hits close to home: homeschooling.

Would I be happy, as a homeschooler, if my local community banned homeschooling? No. But the question isn’t about my happiness. It is a question of ability. Would my local community have the right to do so if they chose?

Our founders believed in local control. They thought that the most intimate decisions were best decided at the local level. Education was one of these issues. I think the biggest detriment of our educational system is too much control in Washington, DC and our state capitals. So, at first blush, my initial thought is yes. My fellow citizens could rule against homeschooling. Of course, this is a purely intellectual exercise because our local communities have given away their rights to make these major sorts of decisions. And as the Bill of Rights has been applied to the individual governmental levels instead of the Federal government…these questions are just an intellectual exercise.

So, what about you. Take an issue that is important to you and ask. If my community wanted to get rid of this, could they?

I am not saying there is a right or wrong issue here. And I think specific circumstances play a roll as well. IE prayer at a high school football game means something different in Texas than in Michigan. But what say you, if community standards weren’t so tightly defined…what should they be?

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