Sunday, June 22, 2014

Furloughs for Freedom: Downsizing the Government

On Milton Friedman's theory of the negative income tax - direct payments with no questions asked would be cheaper than the welfare system - it would be better to furlough all (almost all) of the government employees and keep paying them not to work because what they do is destructive.  If they stop doing it, we all would be better off.

Of course we would have a huge debate about what is the absolute minimum necessary government. Conservatives and  libertarians know Ayn Rand's specification that a government holds a monopoly on the use of (retaliatory) force. Thus, the government must have police forces.  Rand actually was echoing Max Weber who said the same thing in his address, Politik als Beruf (Politics as a Profession), to the Free Students Union of Munich in 1920.  In that address, he acknowledged that he was quoting Trotsky at the Brest-Litovsk Conference.  So, it seems that everyone left, center, and right agrees that the government should keep the police.  What about the post office or the patent office?  Both of those are in the Constitution of 1789.

Reducing government looks a lot like this.
It might be that we should pare down the government in reverse chronological order.  But perhaps in the days of FedEx, UPS, and big pharma and GMOs we do not need the US Postal Service but do need need the Food and Drug Administration.  The FBI was founded in 1908, the Federal Marshals in 1789.  Which do we need more?  Let the debates go on.   The principle remains.

 The principle is that political power is economically inefficient, and causes market misallocations, and therefore poverty.

The government decides what to do based on power - votes won or control extended - not on market, i.e., profit.  Therefore, all government decisions are misallocations of resources.  Therefore, all government decisions result in poverty.  The less government you have, the more prosperity you have.  That is a general principle.

The specific losses caused by taxes, regulations, prosecutions, and enforcement of laws are easy to see and hard to compute because of their volume and magnitude.  

In the case of truly essential services, we might be willing to accept a dislocation of resources for clear social gain.  It is better to have economically inefficient police than to have chaos, or so we say. Of course, government is much more than mere policing.

Federal Executive Departments
Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Department of Commerce (DOC)
Department of Defense (DOD)
Department of Education (ED)
Department of Energy (DOE)
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Department of Justice (DOJ)
Department of Labor (DOL)
Department of State (DOS)
Department of the Interior (DOI)
Department of the Treasury
Department of Transportation (DOT)
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Federal Independent Agencies and Corporations
Administrative Conference of the United States
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
African Development Foundation
AMTRAK (National Railroad Passenger Corporation)
Broadcasting Board of Governors
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Commission on Civil Rights
Commodity Futures Trading Commission
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
Corporation for National and Community Service
Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board
Director of National Intelligence
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Export-Import Bank of the United States
Farm Credit Administration
Farm Credit System Insurance Corporation
Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
Federal Election Commission (FEC)
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Federal Housing Finance Agency
Federal Labor Relations Authority
Federal Maritime Commission
Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service
Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission
Federal Reserve System
Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
General Services Administration (GSA)
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Inter-American Foundation
Merit Systems Protection Board
Millennium Challenge Corporation
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
National Capital Planning Commission
National Council on Disability
National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)
National Endowment for the Arts
National Endowment for the Humanities
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
National Mediation Board
National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK)
National Science Foundation (NSF)
National Transportation Safety Board
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission
Office of Compliance
Office of Government Ethics
Office of Personnel Management
Office of Special Counsel
Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive
Overseas Private Investment Corporation
Panama Canal Commission
Peace Corps
Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
Postal Regulatory Commission
Railroad Retirement Board
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
Selective Service System
Small Business Administration (SBA)
Social Security Administration (SSA)
Tennessee Valley Authority
U.S. Trade and Development Agency
United States Agency for International Development
United States International Trade Commission
United States Postal Service (USPS)

67 Federal Boards, Commissions, and Advisory Committees
(Mostly volunteers from the communities: Citizens Stamp Committee, for instance. They do entail some operational costs, even if the work of management is freely given.)
Additional Advisory Committees cost about $350 Million per year

Quasi-Official Agencies
Legal Services Corporation
Smithsonian Institution
State Justice Institute
United States Institute of Peace


The Cure for a Failing Empire
Active Defense and Passive Aggression, Part 2
Stand Up and Be Counted
Etruscans and Americans
The American Political Tradition and Profiles in Courage

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Wolf DeVoon

"Inside each book is a man," said Montag.  That line from Fahrenheit 451 sums all literature, fiction and non-fiction, poetry no less than articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals.  Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy must be reflections of Jane Austen, even if she had only recorded them as passengers on a stagecoach she shared: they were in and of her. These books are self-consciously Wolf DeVoon.

He is not special; but he is representative because we live in a renaissance. Never before have so many people given so much of themselves to the collective wisdom.  Independent movie producers eclipse Hollywood.  Downloads leave Random House (Bertelsmann) in the dust for sheer volume.  MySpace was intended as a Facebook but was taken over by music creators, artists, and producers.  In that context, Wolf DeVoon stands out as a creator of legal theory.

The Good Walk Alone is a novella, set in a post-apocalyptic Costa Rica.  The cops are women.  Wolf DeVoon's personal experiences working in prisons and working for prisoners showed him reasons to assert that women should not be subject to criminal law and that law enforcement should be entrusted to them exclusively.  It is a radical theory.  But I found it empirically supported.  As I was earning a baccalaureate (Summa cum Laude) in criminology administration in 2008, I was shown statistics proving that women write more citations than men, and with fewer complaints from the public.  Tangentially, college-educated police (2-year or 4-year degrees) also conduct more stops and write more citations with fewer complaints from citizens than do police officers with only a high school education.  If you want the best police force, get college educated women.  The story has all the usual elements: love, jealousy, some suspense, and gunfire, with a conclusion that is not quite resolved.

The Constitution of Government in Galt's Gulch is not really any kind of a specific proposal until the very end. First, you spend a lot of time with Wolf DeVoon, drinking coffee and drinking Dewars, listening to him explain how he came to these ideas. That is important and necessary and consequential because inside each book is a man. Jefferson is within the Declaration of Independence.  Washington is within his Farewell Address.  Lincoln is within the Gettysburg Address.  Wilson is within his Fourteen Points; Roosevelt his Four Freedoms.  Denounce or endorse them each as you choose.   DeVoon is deep or shallow to the extent that you find him.  In the famous words of the Higley Tokens: "I am Good Copper: Value Me as You Choose." 
DeVoon on LuLu here
DeVoon on Tripod here
DeVoon on Book Country here

Laissez Faire Criminology
Inspecting the Objectivist Theory of Government
A Culture of Reality, Reason and Freedom
Stand Up and Be Counted

Monday, June 16, 2014

Jaime's Salsa of Austin

About a thousand years ago, when we were living in Las Cruces, I learned that it is easy to make salsa that no one can eat.  The co-worker who gave me the instructions told me that her husband and his friends just burn out their mouths and wash it away with cold beer.  "You can do better than that," she said.  

I got pretty good at it, but opening a screw top jar is easier.    

While New Mexico's jalapeƱos are always the best first ingredient, I hesitate to start a range war over the claim. When you make it one-up each time, it comes out different; and that can be all right.  But if you want consistent, predictable salsa, you need a reliable commercial provider.  

Jaime's is local to Austin.  Their Spanish Village Restaurant was a favorite for 80 years. Their current products are at Whole Foods in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.  Locally, they are on the shelf at our member-owned Wheatsville Co-op.

Also on Necessary Facts
Awesome Austin Foods
High Brew Cold Brew Coffee
Around Austin 
Longhorn Fire and Safety

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Charm of Circulated Silver

It never costs too much over spot.  I like to think about the things they bought in their day.

The Canadian 50 cent (not half dollar)
is medallic (not coin) orientation..

E Pluribus Unum: "One out of very very many"
About 14.8 million were struck.
No telling how many remain.

Two shaves and two haircuts.
Barber dimes, quarters, and halves
saw a lot of commerce,
so they weigh less per count
than later types.


Friday, June 6, 2014

A Culture of Reality, Reason, and Freedom

Since Karl Marx, government was always taken as a consequence of an oppressive economy.  The arguments of the Age of Reason – Locke derived from Aristotle – that government evolved in a “state of nature” to protect rights was ignored.  However, a recent JSTOR search on “anarcho-capitalism” returned 31 useful citations.  Anarcho-capitalism challenged social conservatives to find individualist, market-based justifications for government – not just in the past but for the present future as the global economy has corporations many times larger than most of the world’s 180+ nation-states.

The “state of nature” hangs over us as a constant threat. Even before nuclear weapons, H. G. Wells’ Things to Come showed a world reduced by war to a primitive struggle for survival.  To what extent is government a protection against barbarism or the entry gate to it? 

Minarchists claim that a constitutionally-limited government is the best protection for our rights, and therefore our best option for a peaceful world.  Free market anarchists disagree with that.  Minarchists reply that eventually, the largest private defense agency inevitably will become the new government.  Without a historical record, the theoretical arguments could not be resolved.

In fact, empirical evidence abounds.  The essential problem – as Ayn Rand cogently asserted – is that academic philosophers are mired in Kantian epistemology: they distrust their senses and insist on “consistent” arguments which are not even that because they are detached from reality.  Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia is a perfect example. 

Nozick tried to show that in a “state of nature” the largest private defense agency will become first an ultra-minimal government and then a minimal (rights-protecting) government.  Ultimately, he failed because he did not explain the evidence.  In his time, Pinkerton, Burns, and a hundred other private guard companies in America did not fire on each other. However, in most of the world warring groups did and still do vie to be the monopoly provider of force in a given geography – and the outcome was and is not a general protection unalienable natural rights.  And in America, then as now, gang warfare existed with no sign of extinction by the legal monopoly of physical force in retaliation.

The deeper problem avoided by both Nozick and his foil, Murray N. Rothbard, is that utopians attempt to prescribe for everyone else how we should, could, or would live in a perfect world, which these freedom-loving social planners devise for the rest of us.

Individualism is not just an abstract political notion.  People vary; and many of them are comfortable within a collective.  Of course, many of us are happier hearing that different drummer. 

If you decided that it would be more efficient for your employer to have the shipping dock on the other side of the building, what would you do?  You could convince the top management with a cost-benefit presentation and they could just order it done. You could bribe everyone to do it your way, offering tangible selfish rewards.  You could take their children hostage.  More likely, the managers would form a committee of stakeholders because people tend to go along with decisions that they helped to make.  The others would adapt, grouse and complain, or leave.

The structure of a society does matter.  An open society is more prosperous than a controlled society.  But an open society includes people who are controlled and controlling.  (Sometimes, they claim to be individualists.)  The fundamental determinants of a culture are complex and deeply rooted.  An old story from a previous generation of university fellows tells of the graduate school dining room where three sociologists sat down with a couple of biologists.  After introductions and amiable chatter, the biologists excused themselves. “We have to start some cultures,” one said.  The sociologists were surprised, and laughed at the pun.  Then they considered: How do you start a culture?


Monday, June 2, 2014

Longhorn Fire and Safety

We needed a new fire extinguisher, so I searched for "Austin fire extinguishers."  Reading the web pages showed that Longhorn Fire and Safety was probably the best bet.  They promised not to be undersold or out-serviced.  

On the way there, I stopped at Home Depot and took pictures of their array.  Longhorn met the Home Depot price on a Kidde and recharged our old First Alert.

Matt was fun to deal with. He is a honest horse trader.  The First Alert was the landlord's equipment. Like the others with which we have been provided by different owners and agents in different states over the years, it was charged when they gave it to us, but not tagged and sealed.  Now it is. 

Volunteering in an Emergency: What to Expect
Around Austin
Shifting the Paradigm of Private Security
Employee Theft