Category Archives: politics

“The Wealth of Nations”

.rachel’s grasp on the more complex things of life II.

I am not so bright nor so very dumb. That being said, I cannot decide the best opinion to adopt concerning the present economic situation in our country.

From all accounts, it sounds bad. For the first time in my life, I can see first-hand a few of the effects of a really bad economy. I know that there are a lot of other adverse consequences that I am not experiencing.

I have concerns about the past decisions which led us to this point, and I have great concerns about the decisions that are being made to get us out of this position (to put my general opinion succinctly, FDR’s economic policies are some of my least favorite made by a president). It it’s true that most of the current problem is because the government forced banks to lend to people, that’s just more fodder to my argument that the government should stay out of the free market. Yes, I like John Stossel.

But then again, economies always go up and down.

So how bad is it? Practically, what, if anything, is this crushing amount of debt going to do to our country in a few years? If we’ve carried all right with this much debt so far, won’t we be able to manage however we have up ’til now? Some of the most bleary predictors talk about an economic collapse. Even if that happens, I don’t know what will actually happen to normal people. A few months ago, I heard that Iceland’s economy was completely wrecked, but I haven’t heard any terrible news of people fleeing the country to be able to buy bread.

That much debt can’t be good, though. Can someone explain to me how the country can function even now with such a huge amount of debt? And if it can function, how can more debt hamper progress?

None of my friends are sitting around talking about this. I’m probably the most vocal of my peers. When I was enumerating to a friend the travesty of all the pork-barrel spending hidden in President Obama’s stimulus bill, to placate me, he replied blasély. “What an outrage.”

So maybe, even if it gets bad, it won’t be very bad experientially. In any case, I know it’s not my my prerogative to worry, and the world certainly is not going to end until Jesus makes his second appearance.

I’ve decided this much:

–   Be daily grateful for my two jobs

–   Keep immediately siphoning off ten percent of my paychecks to save

–   Learn more about investing and start to do it

–   Keep honing my budget, disciplining myself to stay within it, and finding ways to save more

–   Read something like Freakonomics, Investing for Dummies, or  An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, and reread Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?

Finally, my favorite plan: If things get really bad, move to a developing country and start a small business.

My money will go further and people there are used to a lower standard of living, so adjustments will be easier, rather than American who lives it up and will have farther to fall.

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President Obama’s stimulus bill

Whatever else it may be, there’s enough pork in this new “stimulus” bill to host a pig feast in Papua New Guinea.

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two cows

Apparently these are old jokes, but my roommate just introduced me to them.

There were a lot of hits when I googled it and many different versions of the same jokes. I synthesized some of them for you to read.

Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one cow, buy a bull, and get a herd.

Communism: You have two cows. The government takes them and provides you with milk.

Fascism: You have two cows. The government seizes both and sells you the milk.

Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes one and give it to your neighbor.

They are awesome because they are funny, concise, and still able to explain key aspects to each politcal philsophy very simply.

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“from evolution to libertarianism” responses

As I mentioned before, I had my political scientist older brother read over my article before I posted it.

He gave me some helpful comments, and I thought he had some good thoughts.  He said he thought that my idea had some merit to it. He then expounded more particularly on libertarianism, ’cause that’s what he’s interested in. I particularly thought his end notes to me were useful, and I got his permission to post them too.

“I do accept the proposition that allowing people to pursue their own interests and to pursue profit will lead to greater economic gains. In the end, however, I think libertarians forget that governments are competing against each other in an anarchic world in which state survival is similar matter of natural selection. Governments must intervene in their economies in order that they may compete with other self-interested states. Furthermore, I think that libertarianism’s approach to domestic social issues also threatens the ability of a state to create a cohesive nation that may compete with others.”

As I said before, in my post, I simply noticed the connection between natural selection and the mindset of libertarianism. And that is what I wanted to write about. As he looked over it, I guess he got more interested in thinking specifically about libertarianism, and  he  delves into the strengths and weaknesses of that political philosophy.

He apparently thought about it a bit more, and he wrote his own little note about it on facebook, which, sans his introduction, is below.

“In some ways, as my sister pointed out to me, libertarianism embraces the idea of natural selection and survivla of the fittest. I do agree with the porposition that humans are naturally self-interested, and that self-interested pursuit of profit in the market economy generally leads to greater economic gains for society (thanks Adam Smith!). However, I think that libertarians may sometimes lose sight of the fact that as individuals and companies are competing with each other in markets, each country in this world is competing in a somewhat similar manner (that is, if you embrace the idea of an anarchic world, which most libertarians would be inclinded to do because of their worldview).

“If then, you embrace this idea of competition and survival of the fittest, then you probably would want your government to pursue policies that would make it one of the “fittest” countries in the world. The more “fit” your country is, the safer it is form economic and military threats. I believe that states must sometimes intervene in their economies to make themselves competitive at the global level. And if such government intervention produces some inefficiencies at the national level, might it not be worth the  trade off to become a more “fit” country as a whole?

“Sticking with the analogy of natural selection, suppose that each economic sector is an appendage of your country. If you are a state that is only competitive in one economic sector, take oil for instance, then you are like a fish with a single tail. You can move well in teh right environments, but if you lose that tail (because you’ve run out of oil or new energy sources have replaced oil, your economy loses motion. So it is better for your country to have a couple additional appendages that provide motion for your economy. If you lose one, you can have another to fall back on. And if they are strong, then your economy can move faster than others.

“Now some of you may be thinking, but government intervention tends to create uncompetitive economic sectors (or “weak” appendages). I agree to a point, but where no appendage exists, the state may intervene to encourage teh cration of new ecnomic sectors. Once these sectors are created, they may be cut loose to compete in the market economy. Many of the Asian countries would have the economies that they do today if they had not intervened in their economy. My point is this, in today’s intense international economic competition, who will be the most like to thrive – those countries whose governments refuse to use their knowledge to enhance their economic condition or those countries whose governments vigilantly watch for opportunity to encourage their citizens and companies to sezie opportunity? I just recently joked with a friend that, if we were both given a country, he could run his in a libertarian manner but I would practice additional intervention and one day beat him in a war…
[Disclaimer- in no way should the be taken as extolling self-interest, exploitation, and war]. :)”

So you can see that he and I can have some scintillating discussions, though he’s far more knowledgeable than me.

Feel free to weigh in. Don’t by shy.

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from evolution to libertarianism

.rachel’s grasp on the more complex things in life.

The organism that is most suited to survive in a particular environment will have more reproductive success, enabling it to survive and/or flourish in that environment. The organism less “fit” for the environment will be less successful at procreation and thus diminish. Fitness is measured by reproductive success. This is the process of survival of the fittest, an integral part of natural selection.

Certain traits are “selected” because they allow the creature to survive in their environment. What is fit for their environment will survive and what is not fit will not survive or, at the very least, not thrive.

Natural selection is a key component to the explanation of the theory of evolution and is widely accepted as factual. (It is worth noting that natural selection, though often coupled with evolution, is not actually evolution and most creationists subscribe to the idea).

As a political philosophy, Libertarianism is free-market and non-regulation to the extreme. It attempts to preserve a “natural” state of competition. It sees government as a necessity which should be kept small and which derives its power from the people it governs. Libertarianism is all about preserving the freedom of the individual.

A libertarian perspective might sound like: I am subject to my government, but I elect my officials. The government is there to provide basic stability and rule to our country, such as have standard currency and protect the country from foreign and domestic enemies and create a rule of law. Other than that, the government has no business being in my business.

Pure libertarians would say that people should be allowed to do whatever they wish, as long as it does not impede anyone else’s life, liberties, or rights. One of the most popular examples would be that drugs would be legal in most cases. The rationale is that an individual has the right to do as he pleases, eve if ti’s to his personal detriment. Of course, libertarians would likely support laws making it illegal to drive while under the influence of drugs (because you’d be likely to interfere with somoen else’s life), illegal for minors to take drugs or for an adult to provide them, illegal for a pregnant women to take drugs, etc.

The government would minimally regulate the economy, wouldn’t stimulate the ecnomy, or interfere with its swings up and down. It’s true laissez-faire economic philosophy. The idea is that things will right themselves better, sooner, and for less money than if the government were trying to do it. Of course, this would not mean that there would not be severe penalties for people who commit criminal acts in the free market.

Libertarianism would have very minimal welfare, believing that the best way to promote and encourage people to achieve is to unburden the achievers by undue taxation as well as that the best way to motivate people at the bottom is to encourage them to move up by making it uncomfortable to stay at the bottom.

In this world, the best, brightest, and most cunning people will rise to the top. The people who have what it takes will survive. The less achieving, less clever will inevitably stay lower on the ladder. In other words, those most fit will survive and thrive. I don’t know if today we’d measure fitness by reproduction, though.

My point is, the most logical political philosophy from a natural selection mentality is libertarianism.

An explanation:
I came up with this thought a few weeks ago, and it’s been a while ’til I could think well enough to articulate it enough to write down. It is still a rather rough sketch, I feel, but I felt good enough to post it after I had my political scientist graduate student big brother read it and he didn’t completely trash it. I hope to publish some of his comments as soon as I get his permission.

Personal Disclaimer:

“I’m just sayin’ what I’m sayin’ and no more.”

If you’ll notice, I tried to simply make a connection between the mindset one would have from an evolutionary/natural selection perspective and what the logical outworkings of that would be politically.

I did not and do not attempt to endorse either philosophy in this little essay. I can write a blog on my political views sometime, if you want, but the reader need not assume that this is one that I hold. And I’ll simply say further, to anyone who reads this and does not know me, I do not accept evolution as the explaination for the origin of man.

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tanstaafl

That’s the acronym for, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”, an economic principle. It’s one of the only ones that I remember from my high school class. It means that everything has a costs something somewhere. Nothing is free. For example, “free healthcare” is impossible truly. A government that gives healthcare to all its citizens pays for the healthcare by giving the bill to its citizens in the form of taxation.

That principle came into my head today when I realized that I was away from my home and would need some food. Usually, I do house cleaning only on Fridays, but Jenny had some extra work for Thursday, so I jumped at the opportunity to work more. I already had a football studyhall to go to until 9:30, so I went afterward.

Because I wasn’t in the cleaning mindset, I forgot to bring some food for the noon hour. If you didn’t know, cleaning houses is hard physical work, and that sort of thing usually leaves me hungry. My best opportunity to get food was after the first house, when we were near some shops.

Being that I am down to two very part-time jobs, money concerns have been in the forefront of my daily mental burdens. Publix. What can I get at Publix that is decent and cheap?

My lunch was not free, but I only spent $1.76. That is including a 70 cent water bottle because I had never forgotten to bring one of those. 1 dollar for a Clif energy bar and 15 or so cents for a banana. Bananas are my heroes for ever. If that math doesn’t add up, don’t blame me. That is what things said they were about. I can’t remember. Maybe the banana was even cheaper than I thought.

Oh, in the math vein, as everyone knows, I can’t add. Today, it really was pitiable. I added up 7.44 and 2.66 up to 9 even. I caught myself in time, thankfully. Gosh. Don’t tell my supervisors at tutoring. Well, it’s okay if you do, I don’t tutor math in any forms. Last semester, when I had a class with one of my basketball guys, I had him do multiplication for me on at least occasion. I hope I didn’t lose credibility.

Yes, I was homeschooled but don’t blame my mom. She did the best she could. It’s my fault.

So back to the beginning subject, TANSTAAFL. Next time you go to reach for something that is “free”, “you think about that” (as Steve Brown would rasp).

R.

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