Thursday, April 29, 2010

Talk about a pig in a python

A recent post of mine over on the Blog at Mises.org:









Talk about a pig in a python
Jim Fedako

The Teachers College of Columbia University publishes TCRecord, an online version of the Teachers College Record. For those who do not know, the Teachers College is one of the nerve centers of Progressive education. All the evil -isms of the day have a home there.

TCRecord sent out a recent email that included an
article lamenting the supposed youth obesity crisis.

Of course, no crisis can exist without associated hyperbole. This, for example:

Today fully one-third of children and adolescents are obese (having a weight to height ratio at or above the 95th percentile for age and gender) or overweight (85th percentile).

When one-third of a group is at or above the group's 85th percentile, you have a real pig in a python. And catchy hyperbole as well.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The 30-Second Political Test

Insight from Joseph Sobran (HT FFF):

If you want government to intervene domestically, you're a liberal. If you want government to intervene overseas, you're a conservative. If you want government to intervene everywhere, you're a moderate. If you don't want government to intervene anywhere, you're an extremist.

— JOSEPH SOBRAN

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tiberian fascialism

The Dispatch published a letter of mine today. Here is the original -- the director's cut. Jim


Dear Editor:

There is not a dime’s worth of difference between the two major political parties. Both have the same agenda – a bigger, more intrusive government. The only debate is around the edges.

In other words, the debate is between ObamaCare and RomneyCare – it’s a debate over who takes credit, and nothing else.

The Republicans are not looking to dismantle ObamaCare. Congressman Pat Tiberi, speaking for the Republicans, was quoted in Sunday’s Dispatch as stating that the real issue was Obama’s unwillingness to include Republicans in the debate – “a missed opportunity,” sighed Tiberi.

But the missed opportunity was not for Tiberi and the rest of the Republicans (save Rep. Paul of Texas) to say “no way.” The missed opportunity was for the Republicans to stamp their nonsense on Obama’s watershed legislation.

This country is fast moving toward fascialism (a combination of fascism and socialism). And the great political debate of today is over which party leads the way.

Jim Fedako

Monday, April 26, 2010

Republicans as the paternal elect

Here is the Republican Party in Ohio.

Jon Husted is a state senator, the former speaker of the house, and current candidate for Secretary of State

Bill Harris is current president of the senate

The issue is a Republican sponsored bill to give BMI (body mass index) scores for all public school students and to notify parents about proper foods, etc.

There ain't a dime's worth of difference between major parties.

Jim

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
From: JFedako@aol.com
To: SD06@senate.state.oh.us
CC: newsroom@delgazette.com, letters@dispatch.com, SD19@mailr.sen.state.oh.us
Sent: 4/26/2010 6:34:05 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: Re: Question from a constituent


Jon,

Then the school employees should be required to lose weight so as to set good examples. As should you and your fellow senators. But that is not what you mean by setting "good examples." We both know that.

I don't care what you say you will do -- that can easily become another empty promise. I care how you voted. And you voted on a bill that is another instance of an increasingly paternal state.

In the end, you believe that government must be involved in parental decisions. I find that both sad and appalling.

You are working to leave your children (and mine) an interventionist state -- a state based on one of the -isms of the day (take your pick, all are the antithesis of liberty). And you only have yourself to blame.

Jim

Note: Just be truthful and state that you are a Progressive -- one believing in the power and sanctity of the state. Just tell your constituents, and the voters of Ohio, that liberty is a relic of a simpler time. And that only the wise few (the elected) can guide the unwashed masses. Deep down, despite your protests otherwise, that is what you believe.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In a message dated 4/26/2010 5:13:15 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, SD06@senate.state.oh.us writes:

Mr. Fedako:

The use of the word “allow” versus “require” in my response was a mistake, not an attempt to misrepresent what the bill does. I am working to change this provision.

I agree with you this is an issue that should be primarily left to parents. However, as parent myself, I also understand parents rely on schools to set good examples for children during the school day.

Please know I will work to change the legislation to allow schools to set up this program as apposed to mandating they do it. I will also work to ensure there are appropriate opt-in/opt-out provisions for parents.

Again, I appreciate your perspective.

Sincerely,

Jon Husted




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Jim Fedako
Sent: Thursday, April 01, 2010 7:07 PM
To: Senator Husted
Cc: newsroom@delgazette.com; letters@dispatch.com; Senator Harris
Subject: Re: Question from a constituent


Jon,

The version of the bill which you cosponsored "[r]equires school districts, community schools, and STEM schools to establish a body mass index and weight status category screening program." I do not know where you read "allows."

Your support of this legislation is a reflection of your core beliefs.

And your email reads the same as that coming from any Democrat. You are advocating for a bigger, more intrusive state, and you are advocating for the paternal state.

Please remind me how the Republicans are different from the Democrats.

By the way, I find it truly offensive when elected officials deliberately obfuscate (dare I say lie) when speaking about their actions. You cosponsored "requires" but you claim "allows" when responding to me. Shame on you.

Jim

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

In a message dated 4/1/2010 11:10:55 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, SD06@senate.state.oh.us writes:

Dear Mr. Fedako:

I received your recent e-mail about your concern over a provision in Senate Bill 210 that would allow schools to conduct Body Mass Index (BMI) calculations on students. I appreciate you taking the time to write to me on this issue.

The primary objective of Senate Bill 210 aims to address childhood obesity by setting nutritional standards, physical education and activity standards in our schools. In addition, the bill includes implementing an assessment and education program for children which is a proven way to help children who are at risk of obesity.

While I understand your concern, I believe provisions in the bill are under revision and will be re-drafted in a manner that preserves parents’ ability to make decisions that are best for their child in regard to their physical fitness. For example, the bill does not mandate all students have the BMI calculation. It leaves the choice to participate in the program with parents. The bill also allows parents to use their own healthcare provider to conduct the calculation and ensures that student privacy is maintained. Results of individual tests are not to be shared with anyone except the parents of the student.

I believe teaching children to eat healthy and lead an active lifestyle is important to creating a healthier Ohio, lowering health care costs and improving the quality of life for all. I encourage you to contact me if you have continued concerns with the legislation, and I will be happy to work with my colleagues to address those concerns.

Again, thank you for your e-mail. I hope that some of the information I have shared with you provides for a better understanding of the legislation.

Sincerely,

Jon Husted
Senator


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Jim Fedako
Sent: Thursday, March 11, 2010 10:33 PM
To: Senator Harris
Cc: Senator Husted; newsroom@delgazette.com; letters@dispatch.com
Subject: Question from a constituent


Bill,

Since you believe the state has the right to perform Body Mass Index calculations on students and then badger their parents (S. B. No. 210), I figure you would gladly share your BMI with your constituents.

Please reply with your BMI so that I may see if you are fit enough to continue as the senate's chief nanny do-gooder (you do appear a little pudgy in your photo).

Keep in mind that the only belt you should be poking is your own.


Thanks.


Note: Jon, send your BMI also. It appears that your need for power is expanding with your beltline. By the way, how do you differ from the Progressives on the Left? Remind me.


Jim Fedako

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Teri Meider gets a job

And we all pay.

Seems the current board was feeling magnanimous at its last meeting, so it decided to give former board member Teri Meider an opportunity to continue living on the public dole.

Does Kerr need an "executive secretary?" Do the taxpayers? What about the kids?

Remember, it's all for the kids.

Any idea on the next board member (former or present) to have a hand in your wallet?

Note: These folks are supposed to be working for the taxpayer, not setting up jobs for their spouses and themselves. Talk about conflicts of interest.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Julie Feasel insults former superintendent Davis

Julie Feasel is quoted in this week's edition of the OVN as stating that the district's new superintendent Lucas is "a breath of fresh air for the school district."

In her quest to be the consummate rhetorician, did she realize that her compliment to Lucas was also a backhand slap to Davis?

What was the stale air under Davis?

Feasel? Do you want to expound?


Note: Of course, Feasel is not really insulting Davis. She is simply showing how simple she is.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stop the Food Police Part 1 - My Food My Choice

Where will it end? Socialism, fascism, or fascialism? Regardless, our children will be impoverished and enslaved by the ruling class. -- Jim

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cutting in e-lines

A recent post of mine over on the Blog at Mises.org:









Cutting in e-lines
Jim Fedako

A group of "Wiseguys" beat the CAPTCHA challenge in order to move closer to the front of virtual ticket lines. And they are now facing the standard federal prison sentence pile-on.

These four guys purchased quality tickets to events (such as Springsteen concerts, New York Yankees games, etc.) and resold them, earning $28.9 million along the way.

As I see it, what they did was no different, in an ethical sense, from the host of scams used to cut in line at a real ticket window ("I had to step out of line to give my brother my cell phone."). And the involvement of wire does nothing to change that.

More sophisticated for certain. And really rude. But is it worthy of decades in federal prison?

Monday, April 19, 2010

A government influenza

A recent post of mine over on the Blog at Mises.org:









A government influenza
Jim Fedako

I recently received the 2009 Annual Report of my county's general health district. Splashed on the front page is the headline, "H1N1 Flu Campaign Breaks Local Records." Wow. I didn't realize the flu had such an impact in central Ohio. Or did it?

Turns out the records were not cases of the flu -- there were only 29 of those throughout the year. No, the records set were these (from the front page of the annual report):

  • The biggest immunization campaign (18,000+ doses of flu vaccine administered, and still counting)

  • The biggest single immunization clinic (2,404 persons served at Olentangy Liberty High School)

  • The biggest data entry project (every dose of the vaccine is being tracked in case of adverse reactions)

  • The biggest mobilization of volunteers (at least 71)


  • All for 29 cases. In a county of over 160,000 residents.

    H1N1 certainly had an impact -- it allowed the specter of big government to further haunt the soul of a once proud, independent region.

    Saturday, April 17, 2010

    Obamacare = TiberiCare = RepubliCare

    By the way, Tiberi's "conservative" voting record is 40%. That makes him a good Democrat -- Jim


    I know some of you want to believe in the current Republican Party, but take a look at this excert from Dale Steinreich's excellent article on Mises.org (below). This is your Republican Party -- if the Dems don't get you, your own party will.


    "Obamacare," or More Accurately, ConservativeRepublicanCare

    When you actually look at the bill itself, it incorporates all sorts of Republican ideas … a lot of the ideas in terms of the exchange, just being able to pool and improve the purchasing power of individuals in the insurance market, originated from the Heritage Foundation. (Barack Obama,
    NBC's Today Show, March 30, 2010)

    The latest chapter in US healthcare is one of the most surreal. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 was signed into law by Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. Among many provisions, the act includes expanded Medicaid eligibility, prohibiting denials of coverage for preexisting conditions, and a requirement to purchase federally approved health insurance or pay a fine.

    While the content of the Act is summarized in myriad places, much more interesting is its conservative Republican origins. The Heritage Foundation's Stuart Butler, the intellectual behind urban enterprise zones, in Senate testimony in 2003 proposed a plan for universal healthcare coverage.
    [29] Here's one surprising portion of the testimony that sounds like it was uttered by a European socialist:

    In a civilized and rich country like the United States, it is reasonable for society to accept an obligation to ensure that all residents have affordable access to at least basic health care — much as we accept the same obligation to assure a reasonable level of housing, education and nutrition.

    Keep in mind that Butler is the conservative Heritage's
    current vice president of domestic and economic policy. No wonder Butler seems to have found a new admirer in New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Butler again:

    The obligations on individuals does not have to be a "hard" mandate, in the sense that failure to obtain coverage would be illegal. It could be a "soft" mandate, meaning that failure to obtain coverage could result in the loss of tax benefits and other government entitlements. In addition, if federal tax benefits or other assistance accompanied the requirement, states and localities could receive the value of the assistance forgone by the person failing to obtain coverage, in order to compensate providers who deliver services to the uninsured family.

    Now "Obamacare" is certainly more than just a mandate, but the mandate is certainly what has conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, both of whom have
    connections to, if not sponsorship by, the Heritage Foundation, screaming bloody murder the most. There's no doubt that these ideas influenced Mitt Romney's healthcare plan in Massachusetts.

    Romney subjected himself to a recent interview by Fox News' Bill O'Reilly that can only be described as a disaster.[30] O'Reilly dwelled on the fact that outside tax dollars funded half of the plan, and Romney agreed, adding that the funding was approved by two conservative Republican HHS secretaries, Tommy Thompson and Mike Leavitt. In response to a question, Romney admitted that he didn't know that emergency-room costs in Massachusetts had increased 17% over the last two years. He repeatedly asserted that the plan solved a problem, but he couldn't specify what it was since Massachusetts had the highest per capita costs both before the plan and after.

    As far as other conservative Republicans go, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has repeatedly stated that he sees "some good things" in Obamacare, especially the expanded use of Medicaid.

    Voters naïve enough to think they will get a complete repeal from the Republican Party appear to be in for a major disappointment. "Obamacare," with its continuance of socialized costs for private gains in American medicine, was the treatment that the conservative Republican doctor had in mind for some time. The problem is that the Democrats were the first to implement it.

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    Olentangy is working the next levy

    I hope no one attends this nonsense thinking facts will be on display.
    SCHOOL FINANCE 101 FREE OPPORTUNITY AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
    The Olentangy Local School District is proud to announce its first community education opportunity. This four-night class is free and open to the public.

    School funding has been a complex and emotional topic of debate in Ohio for more than a decade. You can begin to unlock the mysteries of school funding by attending School Finance 101 on April 22, May 6, May 20 and June 8 from 6 until 8 p.m. at Olentangy Liberty Middle School, 7940 Liberty Road in Powell.

    Presenters include Olentangy Superintendent Wade Lucas, Ed.D., and Treasurer Rebecca Jenkins, Hillsdale Local Schools Superintendent Joel Roscoe and TRECA Director of Financial Services Dee Cramer.. They, along with other external experts in the field, will cover topics including:
    * the history of Ohio school funding;
    * the current reality of school funding;
    * the Five-Year Financial Forecast document;
    * tax collection and disbursement;
    * levies and bond issues;
    * Olentangy Local Schools' finances; and
    * Olentangy expenditure reductions.

    Please join Olentangy Local Schools for this unique opportunity to learn more about school finance - an issue that affects every taxpayer, parent and child. For registration information, please visit www.olentangy.k12.oh.us or call (740) 657-4055. A flyer is also attached to this message.
    All you will get is a load of spin -- a big load of spin.

    Seriously, does anyone think the real reason for a new levy will even be mentioned? You all know what I am talking about: average salary increases that continue to exceed 6% per year, and benefits that are simply unreal.

    I'll cut to the chase and save you four evenings of premeditated agitprop. Ol' Wade-O and his sundry sycophants will blame the state ... even as they continue to convert your hard-earned property taxes into sweet raises and out-of-this-world benefits.

    If only the state would increase it's funding at a rate that offsets district salary and benefits increases. Then Wade-O would not have to bring out the dog and pony show. But that would mean we are finally over the rainbow.


    Save yourself from Wade-O and his drooling band of government tax consumers. Spend the evening watching CNN -- compared to Olentangy, CNN is fair and balanced.


    Note: Wade-O would rather you do not attend. See, the district benefits from staging this nonsense. It's good propaganda, er PR -- note the splash in this week's OVN. The district get no extra benefit if you attend. And you will get no benefit for attending.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    Has John Boehner ever met the Constitution?

    Not according to this video. And he's the hope of the diehard Republicans. -- Jim

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Dave Yost gets it right ... well, almost

    It's not just the feds who want to poke waistlines, it's also his Republican party (including senate president Harris and former house speaker Husted). Regardless, Yost is correct with this post.
    A "shovel-ready" program: Hamilton County Gets $6.7 million for War on Obesity

    The federal government thinks you're too fat, so they're giving your money away to bureaucrats to make it easier for you to eat right and exercise. In the name of stimulating the economy, Congress is stretching Constitution's Commerce Clause farther than America's collective waistline.

    The
    press release announcing the grants said that the money "will provide communities with the resources to create healthy choices for residents."

    The notion that either the federal government or local communities can "create healthy choices" is an amazing idea. Choices exist as a function of liberty, which is not created by government.
    In this case, we already had healthy choices, not created by the federal government. Reach for an apple instead of the Doritos. Get up off the couch.

    The press release went on to say that the federal money will create choices by "increasing availability of healthy foods and beverages" and "improving access to safe places for physical activity." How, precisely, this will work, and why it is the business of the federal government, is left unsaid.

    Hamilton County received a $6.7 million grant -- part of $230 million in stimulus funds shoveled out to 30 communities around the country for the obesity war. (Who knew that the obesity war was "shovel ready"?) Hamilton County got the only Ohio grant - begging the question of whether the rest of the State is sufficiently trim for the taste of the Department of Health and Human Services.

    The obesity war is part of a program called Communities Putting Prevention to Work. The CPPW also includes $30 million for the media - to "foster effective and hard-hitting prevention and wellness messages and advertisements."

    Now, it's a good idea to be fit. It's just not the federal government's job to make us so. Perhaps more importantly, we're out of money.

    This is going to be paid for with borrowed money, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. We've got enough pseuo-wars going on, but let's start one more: What American needs now is a War on Debt.

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    Earth Hour in the rearview mirror

    Another Earth Hour has come and gone. So what can we learn from the fourth iteration of this event?

    Earth Hour is a drain on resources. This is true since, if it were otherwise, companies that participated in the event would continue the practice of lights off after the event. So, clearly, the tangible costs of switching off lights are greater than the tangible benefits.

    And it follows that greater costs mean more resources were consumed (all types of resources). From this we know that the environment (as defined by the organizers) did not benefit.

    So why do companies participate?

    For some companies, participation is a goodwill gesture. And as far as it is a goodwill gesture, the companies and their owners benefit. When goodwill is involved, the decision to participate implies an efficient (or near efficient -- as far as any entrepreneurial decision can be known to be efficient ex ante) use of resources. Participation adds value.

    But I believe that some participation is due to fears of possible governmental interventions. Those involved in the organization, as well as supporting groups, have the potential to push for laws and regulations that would cost more than the once-per-year event. So companies participate in order to placate the organizers and their enforcer -- the societal apparatus of coercion and compulsion, even if for only one more year.

    Or maybe I'm just cynical.

    Thursday, April 08, 2010

    Life of an article -- version 2

    The editor said that quotes at the beginning are universally skipped. So back to Word for revision two. -- Jim
    note: Editors are (almost) universally correct. So I do not mind revising to be read.

    Peculiar Groups and Odd-Ball Theories


    Igor Shafarevich, the Soviet mathematician and critic of Marxism, made a very important observation in his classic book, The Socialist Phenomenon (1975). He said that peculiar little socialist groups debate for years about the details of their odd-ball social theories, and then, almost overnight, their ideas become widely believed, and societies are restructured in terms of them.“ Gary North, Marx’s Religion of Revolution

    “Are you really for free market health care knowing that children will die?” What a tough question, especially since the average questioner will only give you 30 seconds before switching subjects or walking away. But it is a question that serves as a bellwether of our current state of affairs.

    When I am feeling down because of the political landscape, I think of the quote above from North. Change one word and you have this bit of encouragement, “He said that peculiar little anarcho-libertarian groups debate for years about the details of their odd-ball social theories, and then, almost overnight, their ideas become widely believed, and societies are restructured in terms of them.”

    This is powerful. At the recent
    The Birth and Death of the Fed conference, I sat with three other Austrians in the hotel sitting room discussing the details of our supposedly odd-ball social theories -- the theories of free markets and liberty. Around us sat other peculiar little groups proposing various means for these very same theories to become widely believed once again, serving as the guiding lights for a near-overnight restructuring of society. While the theories we debated are still not mainstream, a tipping point of sorts may be near.

    It is likely that at some point in the not-too-distant future, we will once again see the ideas of free markets and liberty begin to take hold. And we will watch as societies start to restructure themselves without the burden of the oppressive state. However, a question arises: Will this restructuring occur due to political action?

    Politics is about today; tomorrow be damned. The politician wants to get elected and stay elected, and retire well off. He only cares about getting votes from constituents he abhors. He cares nothing of their lives, their struggles, or their successes.

    In the politician’s mind, he is of the vaunted political class, and his constituents are nothing more than groundlings to be manipulated and entertained by his double entendres and rhetorical sleights of hand. So it is no wonder that heartless politicians cannot stand the sight of the little folks, those whose votes decide the next coronation – the bestowing of the power and the prestige each politician so desperately desires.

    It is obvious that politics is not the answer. And neither is violent force – politics by other means. This is a nation conceived in the ideas of liberty. Given time, ideas would have won the day. But our Forefathers resorted to force. And by doing so, they birthed, so to speak, the desire for a new state – a powerful central authority to guide the several free states.

    Then, shortly thereafter, unable to control their fetish for a state, they went behind closed doors in an act of subterfuge and formed the so-called perfect union that secured the blessings of liberty to themselves alone, leaving their posterity to suffer under an ever-growing Leviathan – a Leviathan now larger by magnitudes than the one they had so-recently deposed.

    So what is the answer? Ideas, of course. Ideas have consequences, which, in the long-run, trump the politics of the day. Nevertheless, we are currently engaged in the battle over ideas. And as Mises so clearly stated, it is a battle we must all fight.
    “Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result. Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us.” Ludwig von Mises, Socialism

    Back to the question at the top: “Are you really for free market health care knowing that children will die.” The question is a bellwether – its presence shows that we are still engaged in the great historical struggle which none of us asked for. But a struggle that is ours nonetheless

    So what is the correct response to the question? The answer is simple: Say anything that promotes liberty, just be accurate and consistent. Realize you will not win the day with a 30-second response. But you may inspire the occasional questioner to doubt the status quo and seek out the truth, and maybe even join those peculiar groups debating odd-ball theories.

    And always remember that each addition brings us that much closer to the tipping point and pending restructuring – and free markets and liberty.

    Wednesday, April 07, 2010

    The life of an article

    Over the next few days I will be posting versions of an article that I submitted for publication. Sometimes I hit a home run and get it right the first time, while other times I have to work my way around the bases.

    Here is the first version which the editor thought had a slow start. And he is right. -- Jim


    A Peculiar Tent of Social Theories

    Igor Shafarevich, the Soviet mathematician and critic of Marxism, made a very important observation in his classic book, The Socialist Phenomenon (1975). He said that peculiar little socialist groups debate for years about the details of their odd-ball social theories, and then, almost overnight, their ideas become widely believed, and societies are restructured in terms of them.“ Gary North, Marx’s Religion of Revolution

    Q: What do you get when three Christians and an atheist converse by the fireplace of a hotel sitting room?

    A: If they are all Austrians at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel during the
    The Birth and Death of the Fed conference, you get a thought-provoking and lively discussion. And you get a view of the big tent that is the movement for liberty.

    The question posed by the atheist was simple, but the answer was not. The atheist asked, “In a political debate with a socialist, how can the Christian libertarian politician respond to ‘Are you really for free market health care knowing that children will die?’”

    We, the Christians, were stumped. However, the atheist did not have us since he was stumped as well. It was a discussion, not a debate. We all searched for an answer, but could not find one.

    Keep in mind the situation we created for our hypothetical political debate: Your opponent ended his rebuttal of your response to a health care question posed by the moderator with, “Are you really for free market health care knowing that children will die?” You opponent is looking at you. The moderator is looking at you. Everyone is looking at you.

    You have 30 seconds to respond, not enough time to breeze through
    Human Action or touch on Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson. Not even time for a quick lesson in Bastiat’s unseen. No, you have to come up with a 30-second response to win the day. And your time is already counting down.

    When I am feeling down because of the current political landscape, I think of the quote from North above. Change one word and you have this bit of encouragement, “He said that peculiar little anarcho-libertarian groups debate for years about the details of their odd-ball social theories, and then, almost overnight, their ideas become widely believed, and societies are restructured in terms of them.”

    This is powerful. The four of us – a peculiar little group, indeed – sat by the fire discussing the details of our supposedly odd-ball social theories; the theories of free markets and liberty. And we proposed various means to realize the dream of our theories becoming widely believed once again, the guiding lights for an overnight grand restructuring of society.

    It is possible that at some point in the near future, we will see liberty take hold. And we will watch societies restructure themselves without the burden of the oppressive state. However, a question arises: Will this restructuring occur due to political action?

    Politics is about today; tomorrow be damned.

    The politician wants to get elected and stay elected, and retire well off. He only cares about getting votes from constituents he abhors. He cares nothing of their lives, their struggles, or their successes.

    In the politician’s mind, he is of the vaunted political class, and his constituents are nothing more than groundlings to be manipulated and entertained by his double entendres and rhetorical sleights of hand. So it is no wonder that heartless politicians cannot stand the sight of the little folks, those whose vote decides who gets the power and the prestige the politicians so desperately desire.

    Politics is not the answer. And neither is violent force – politics by other means. This nation was conceived in the ideas of liberty. Ideas would have won the day, given time. But our Forefathers resorted to force. By doing so, they created the beginning of the state. And shortly thereafter formed the perfect union which secured the blessings of liberty for themselves alone, leaving their posterity with an ever-growing Leviathan.

    So what is the answer? The answer is ideas. Ideas have consequences, which, in the long-run, trump the politics of the day.

    The battle is over ideas. And as Mises so clearly stated, it is a battle we must all fight.

    “Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result. Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us.” Ludwig von Mises, Socialism

    Back to sitting room on Jekyll Island. What was the correct response to the question posed by the socialist? The answer is simple: Say anything that promotes liberty, just be accurate and consistent. And realize that you will not win the day in the political arena. But you may inspire some members of the audience to question the status quo and seek out the truth (think Ron Paul during his presidential campaign).

    The sufficient response to the socialist’s question will take more than 30 seconds. It will take time to educate members of the audience in the science of economics and the ideas of liberty. It is the great historical struggle which none of us asked for. But it is ours nonetheless. So drag anyone you can under the tent of liberty, a tent growing bigger by the day.

    We will easily win political debates with the socialists (and fascist, and all the other –ists) when our odd-ball social theories of liberty are once again widely believed. In the meantime, educate, educate, educate.

    Thursday, April 01, 2010

    Ethics and Morality: The islands of Inopia and Plenty


    Ethics and Morality: the islands of Inopia and Plenty
    Jim Fedako


    It was late when our conversation abruptly turned from the mundane to the challenging, from breezy, passing fancies to intriguing, absorbing discussions of ethics and morality. My friend nervously glanced around and leaned forward, and began. I listened, full of amazement. His tale was fantastic and unreal. I tried to make sense of it all, as best I could.

    I took him at his word, for he had always been honest before. And, oh, how his words struck me that night. As I was without pen, my recollection must rely on a memory of the evening that is jumbled at best, with sequence and specifics confounded in the mix of visions that his words etched on my mind.

    So I'll repeat his story in my own words, full of the unanswered questions and unaddressed contradictions I never pushed him to explain. And I’ll let you be the judge of whether his tale was worth retelling.

    The sailor awoke to the froth of the sea, his face gently licked by the warmth of the incoming tide. Slowly he moved. The pain he felt eased as his gained, first a knee, and then a foot. He rose and rubbed his face. The scene was wondrous, but not what he expected to see.

    The flotsam and jetsam that were once his rig explained it all. The storm from the night before had ended his solo journey and deposited him on shore. But where?

    The sailor picked through the wreckage and salvaged what little he could. He wrapped it all in a tattered shirt and began walking along the shore. Before long he noticed smoke from a not too distant fire. Turning inland he headed in its general direction.

    My friend told of the sailor’s introduction to the inhabitants of the island. He told of their bitterness and sorry, of darkness in a tropical paradise. But what caught the eye of the sailor, a friend of a friend of my friend, were the signs that contrasted with demeanor of the islanders.

    “Work for the state brings happiness,” read one such sign. Yet there was no happiness to be seen. Only the sight of the haggard sailor added any emotion to dower faces. Or so it seemed at first.

    In the midst of despair was the occasional sparkling eye. Our sailor soon noticed that there were two classes of islanders; there were those who were forced to labor in order to find the guaranteed happiness, and there were those who exhorted the laborers with slogans and chants, wearing clothes with the same color scheme as the ubiquitous signs. And it was the latter that seemed happy in this land – the island of Inopia.

    The sailor received help from the islanders. In spite of their poverty, the laborers did what they could. And once the sailor obtained some strength, he was forced to work as well.

    But it wasn’t the sailor’s experiences that really drew me into the story. It was what the sailor discovered as the reason for the condition of the islanders that make this tale worth retelling.

    The sailor was able to find someone who would talk, someone who could explain it all. This gentleman, advanced in age, knew the cause from its beginning.

    Years ago, the island was doing fine. Sure there were hardships, but life improved by the generation. Folks worked and owned what they produced. And they owned their tools, or rented tools, as the situation warranted. It was capitalism, a burgeoning capitalistic society.

    And they used their excess to help those in need. Not by force, but by their own choice. Those who were helped appreciated the assistance since they knew the sacrifice it entailed. Not everyone lived well. Some made decisions that showed they did not care to be relatively comfortable. But no one starved nor suffered from true needs.

    Of course, not everyone was happy with this situation. There were those who didn’t like to labor, and there were those who envied the wealth of others. But the fabric of the society was strong enough to hold fast against threats to property and prosperity.

    Oh, the malcontents schemed and envisioned a better structure of things. They saw themselves as the overseers, living off of the efforts of others. They knew that they could not simply create this dream world over the objections of those others. So they worked to slowly undermine the current way of life.

    One evening some of these folks met to discuss their plans and progress. As they connived and plotted, a particularly odd one of the group rose to speak, “Let’s say that I write a tale of an island similar to ours, an island full of plenty. And let’s say that I claim this island never suffers from want. And furthermore, let’s say that I claim our island would also be a land of plenty if we only adopted the ethics and morals of such a land?”

    A murmur took to the air. And it grew. Everyone liked the idea and they sent this man home to begin writing his tale.

    The oddball writer succeeded and his book became widely read. His book told the tale of the land of Plenty and how those islanders answered calls for help. In this land, no one ever denied anyone who asked for anything. If a stranger asked for a loaf of bread, you gave it to him since the next time you open the pantry, the loaf would have been replaced by a new one – such is life in the land of Plenty.

    In his tale, the oddball noted that one day an opposing view began to take hold. Some of the residents began to question providing for all, so they began to say no. They simply would not give to everyone who asked, in spite of things never being scarce. They just plain said, “No.” And soon they gave to no one.

    This idea quickly took hold. Neighbor began to fight neighbor, and folks began to hoard and take advantage of others. Soon, things became scarce and before long shortages and suffering entered a land where plenty had ruled. Leisure gave way to labor which created a new cycle of hoarding and suffering, which in turn gave way to more labor, and on and on.

    The conclusion coming from the book was that the islanders of Inopia were alienated from the land of plenty because they recognized scarcity. If the islanders would give more there would be more.

    The book ignited discussions. It seems that everything was backwards. Holding onto property was the way to poverty. And despite a seemingly improving economy, the islanders of Inopia were suffering by their own system of ethics and morality.

    While many accepted these new ideas, many also rebelled. And in the midst of this struggle, hidden from sight, were the agitators and their oddball writer.

    As more began to accept the new ideas, they looked for leaders to show the way. They wanted to force all of their neighbors to accept as well. So they needed the power of coercion and compulsion on their side – they needed a state.

    Who had the personality to lead? Who wouldn’t mind wielding the club against those who questioned the new path? Why our agitators of course.

    So the island’s society was reorganized. And the theft became justice, with the agents of the state always taking their cut.

    But the more that justice was applied, the less there was available for all – accept the agents state, of course. The island was getting poorer. Each year brought more despair. And each year the state asked for more. The island slowly fell into poverty, as witnessed by our sailor.

    And so ends my retelling of the tale told to me that evening. It is a tale of woe and caution, and a tale for the times.

    You see the folks who were taken in by the book didn’t understand that in a world of scarcity the ethics and morality of a land of plenty cannot apply. When the state takes something, it steals from the margin. Taking bread from those who saved, and giving it to those who have not, simply undoes the plans that were set in motion by the act of saving.

    Yes, someone gained from that loaf of bread thieved from the pantry, but a new one does not exist when the pantry is opened again. So the saver goes wanting.

    Our sailor experienced the result of a system of ethics and morality based on plenty but applied to scarcity. He survived and returned home. How, I do not recall. But he returned to share his tale with those who will listen.

    I am glad that the discussion that evening turned from fancies and ended up in a better understanding of things. If only others would recognize that dreams need to inhabit the night. They are not meant to guide the day. Dream on. But do not destroy your world based on a vision of plenty that can never exist in our world of scarcity.