Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Great Compromise, in Plain English

"We agree to allow ourselves to borrow more money now. In exchange we pinky-promise ourselves to cut spending later."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Get Around

But I see I haven't been getting around here as often as I should, so I'll point you to some of the other places I'm being lately:

Counterpunch, again. Huzzah!

C4SS, more than usual lately and hopefully even more starting next week -- we're about to have a big David D'Amato-sized hole in our commentary lineup, so I'm trying to get back into regular polemicist mode there to help fill it.

I'm starting to make a bigger personal move into Internet Marketing, (re)-starting with a self-hosted Wordpress blog (since Blogger deleted my "Traffic Exchange Mastery" blog like two months ago and has been promising to review the decision "within 24-48 hours" every 24-48 hours since). Heck, I've even got a short, free PDF ebook out in that area.

Yeah, yeah ... .I'll try to get back to do some real blogging here Real Soon Now.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Wow, I'm in Counterpunch!

They ran my latest C4SS column today. Teaser:

The dirty little secret of America’s "justice" system is that more than 90% of charges are "settled" [via plea bargain]. The defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge and/or receives a lighter punishment (and avoids the risks of going to trial), the prosecutor notches up another law'n'order resume bullet point (and avoids the risks of going to trial), and the judge works in an extra round of golf instead of putting on that hot black robe and pretending to pay attention.

If you believe that more than 90% of those accused of crimes are guilty of said crimes, this probably sounds like a pretty good way of doing things to you. And you're probably holding a crack pipe in your hands at this very moment.

Read it @ Counterpunch ...

Or at C4SS ...

Or both.

Subtlety in security theater?

Per Newser, via Wendy McElroy:

The US government has warned domestic and international airlines that terrorists are considering surgically implanting explosives into humans, the AP has learned. There is no intelligence pointing to a specific plot, but the US shared its concerns last week with the carriers' executives. People traveling to the US from overseas may experience additional screening at airports because of the threat, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

McElroy comments: "[L]ook for entirely new levels of insanity at airport 'security.'"

I think the opposite is closer to the truth: TSA is looking for a way to ratchet the insanity down ... without admitting guilt or error.

Something like this:

At present, air travelers selected for "additional screening" have the option of going through a full body "porno" scanner, submitting to a "patdown" that clearly fits any reasonable definition of sexual assault, or declining both and putting up with harassment, possible arrest, and being barred from the flight they've purchased tickets for.

I don't think it's going too far to say that the public -- not just those activists who care enough to engage in civil disobedience and protest, but a fairly high percentage of the populace -- is "up in arms" on the subject. TSA depredations (fondling children, making 95-year-old cancer victims remove their adult diapers, etc.) make the news regularly. The Texas legislature came close to cracking down on the federal molesters. It's a reasonably big issue.

But the US government in general, and the TSA in particular, never admit error. They always have to be right, and their critics always have to be either whiners or terrorist sympathizers. Anything less calls their authority, competence, etc. into quesion. So they can't just throw up their hands and say "you know, you're right -- this was stupid and we're going to stop doing it."

So, they've invented a new threat that they can use to do away with the "patdowns" on their own terms.

"Hey, a patdown won't find a bomb that's been surgically implanted in someone's gallbladder. The 'threat' we just made up means that we have to do away with the patdowns -- not because they're tantamount to rape and upset the public -- hey, who gives a damn about the public's opinion, right? -- but because they're no longer effective in light of the new 'intelligence' we've manufactured."

So the "patdown" option will be withdrawn. "Problem" solved, with no egg on TSA's face.

My guess is that random selection for the porno scanner routine will go away too, over time, and that it will eventually be required for every traveler (or maybe even everyone who enters an airport). Perversely, that will probably actually reduce the outrage level, too, because it doesn't single anyone out.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The left-libertarian argument against corporations, in brief

This is intended as a brief response to Tibor R. Machan's latest piece:

It has always been my view that corporations are groups of people united for various purposes, often to benefit from a business venture guided by competent management. Initially I worried little about the legal details, nor even about the legal history. A bunch of people incorporate or form a company to achieve certain perfectly acceptable, even admirable goals. Sometimes this can be done via a partnership, sometimes by incorporating, sometimes for profit, sometimes not.

Then I started to get involved in political philosophy and found that there is a whole lot of hostility toward these outfits, mainly from Leftists but also from some so called left-libertarians. I am not sure why from the latter.

First, let's narrow this down to corporations specifically (as opposed to other types of partnerships).

The corporation as such is not just a large partnership -- a joint stock company, or something of the sort.

Rather, the corporation is a creature of the state from beginning (its claim to legitimacy is based on state charter) to end (it receives "artificial personhood" and "limited liability" by state edict).

These state-bestowed privileges result in state-imposed injury on others. For example, a person injured by someone acting on behalf of a corporation is limited as to the damages he can seek to recover.

These state-bestowed privileges also distort the market by making the corporation artificially competitive/profitable. The single proprietor or partners in a non-corporate business must either carry liability insurance that corporate owners get automatically from the state (in the form of that "limited liability"), or else run a perpetual risk of personal financial ruin that corporate "shareholders" don't run. This raises their costs, and therefore their prices, but not the corporation's.

The corporation's artificially inflated profits produce additional distorting ripples in the market. Corporations grow faster than they could in a free market because they have more capital to invest in that growth. And the bigger they get, the more effectively they lobby government for additional privileges, subsidies and "protections."

It's a snowball effect that starts with that one little thing -- "here's a corporate charter -- you aren't bound by the same rules as other market actors, the state will protect you from risk."

Corporations are not pure market actors. They are part-market, part-state actors. The "market" part is privatized profits. The "state" part is socialized risk. Aside from the obvious prima facie unfairness of that kind of setup, it has consequences. Negative consequences. Sort of like Gresham's Law -- bad business drives out good.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

A rare exception to the rule

I usually have trouble thinking of anything that government can do very well, but one exception seems to have been military equipment procurement during World War II.

I don't know what would constitute "mint condition" for a wool military blanket (like this), but I recently picked one up for, IIRC, $2.99 at a thrift store and it was in very nice shape. No moth holes, etc., not particularly faded or worn. A very nice blanket, if you like olive drab, 100% wool blankets with the letters "US" printed on them.

What I found remarkable was not the blanket's condition per se, or even the price for it in that condition (although that was surprising), but the fact that the blanket was in that shape, and not extremely valuable for being in such good shape, at its age. It was made by the now-defunct Bigelow-Sanford Carpet Company for the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot. The date on the manufacturer label is November 3rd, 1944. If it was a human being, it would be collecting Social Security by now.

In which I violate the alleged Supreme Law of the Land

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. -- 14th Amendment

Not only do I question its validity, I deny its validity, at least insofar as it implies any claim that the word "public" obligates me in any way.

At no point have I authorized the Congress of the United States to borrow money in my name or on my behalf. Nor have I at any time co-signed said loans, guaranteed said loans, or agreed to repay any portion of said loans.

If the (occasionally rotating/shifting) group of 537 persons composing the US House of Representatives, the US Senate, the Vice President of the United States and the President of the United States want to repay the debts they've incurred (or intend to incur if they can get their act together), hey, that's just peachy (as long as they do so from their personal wealth, rather than through some kind of program of organized theft).

If they want to default on it instead, that's between them and their creditors.

Maybe they can negotiate some kind of settlement.

That, however, is up to them. If Harry Reid, John Boehner et. al borrowed more than they can repay, poor them. If their creditors were naive or too optimistically avaricious in their speculations, tough shit. Not my problem.

This is my nth notice to both groups that I'm neither party to, nor do I consent to become party to, the matter (note to those who believe that I have no choice in the matter: Check your premises).