Being Robbed Less Is Not "Aid"

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

From time to time I have expressed my annoyance with Republican politicians who use "tax holidays" and "tax incentives" to buy votes and disguise themselves as advocates of capitalism. That said, such phrases don't hold a candle to one I just ran across from the European Union, which is displeased with the rogue state of Ireland for failing to tax Apple enough:

The European Commission has concluded that Ireland granted undue tax benefits of up to €13bn to Apple.


In a statement, the EC said the benefit is "illegal under EU state aid rules, because it allowed Apple to pay substantially less tax than other businesses. Ireland must now recover the illegal aid." [my bold]
This reminds me of an apt analogy I made recently regarding the U.S. tax code:
Regarding the legal support for (partial) tax avoidance, that is actually one of the most insulting and despicable aspects of our tax code (withholding and "refunds" is another). Such arguments permit almost everyone to pretend to themselves they are getting some kind of deal when, in fact, they are still being robbed. Perhaps Libin might approve of this example: You get held up in an alley and are made to dump [your] wallet into a sack. Then, before you are released, your robber hands you back a twenty and a credit card or two, saying, "I really could use some more money, but feel free to keep this."
The only changes I'd make to this with regard to the egalitarian kleptocrats of the EU would be that, at the end, the thief says something self-congratulatory about how much he helped you out. But then, his boss might show up and take back the rest of the money to be "fair" to everyone else they'd robbed.

Rather than considering, say, even the economic benefits of a lower corporate tax rate (e.g., higher water lifting all boats -- a sentiment that, while not quite capitalist is at least somewhat benevolent), the EU is nattering about inequality. What a great new example we have of egalitarianism not being about helping anyone, but insuring that all are equally miserable.

-- CAV

Will There Be Three-Way Debates?

Monday, August 29, 2016

It would appear that conversations like one I recently had with a relative are hardly unusual in this election cycle. The Christian Science Monitor reports that significant numbers of unhappy voters want a choice besides Crooked Hillary and a husk of dead skin and hyperbole:

[The latest Quinnipiac University] poll gave Libertarian Gary Johnson, the top third-party presidential candidate, just 10 percent of the vote, but noted 62 percent of those surveyed said they wanted to see a third-party candidate in the presidential debates, and 37 percent said they were looking to vote independent of the two major parties this November. [bold added]
Based on the Libertarian Party's pandering to the left, including Johnson's support of a carbon tax (!), I am not sure how productive this will be, but this number surprises me. It means, particularly with the awful major party candidates, there is a chance worth considering of Johnson winning or having major influence in this election.

-- CAV

8-27-16 Hodgepodge

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Sadly, Not a Test Case

Santa Monica, California, having enacted fascistic laws against individuals using their own property as they see fit, has prosecuted someone who rented properties through the popular Airbnb service.

Rental operator Scott Shatford, who listed five properties on Airbnb, was charged with eight misdemeanor counts of operating a business without a license and failing to comply with citations after he refused to stop renting out his properties, Deputy City Atty. Yibin Shen said Wednesday.

Shatford pleaded no contest on July 5 in a plea deal with the city, agreeing to pay $3,500 in fines and to stop renting properties within the city. He was also placed on two years' probation.
Unfortunately, rather than defying this law with an eye towards challenging it in court, Shatford basically dared the city to go after him by bragging that it couldn't enforce its immoral, rights-violating rules, which two different media lapdogs called "tough".

Shatford harmed no one by contracting with someone else to trade the use of his property in exchange for money. Perhaps he would have had a case, but he chose to taunt the little dictators in Santa Monica, rather than opposing them in some constructive way. The proper goal when opposing irrational, right-violating laws is a return of government to its proper function, not anarchy.

Weekend Reading

"As a group, African-Americans need unhampered capitalism more desperately than anyone, because as a group, they have never yet been able to benefit from it." -- Michael Hurd, in " How Trump Could Win the Black Vote" at Newsmax

"What many people refer to as rebellion is actually nothing more than individuation." -- Michael Hurd, in "Why Do Teens Rebel in the First Place?" at The Delaware Wave

"The problem with environmentalists is not that they have an ideology, but that it is an ideology with an inverted standard of value." -- Peter Schwartz, in "The Zika Virus and Politicized Science" at The Huffington Post

"What you can do is to gently encourage [your shy loved ones] to see what they're missing. " -- Michael Hurd, in "Social Anxiety Disorder: It Used to Be Called Shyness" at The Delaware Coast Press

What's Wrong With the GOP in a Nutshell

Someone who has negotiated with Donald Trump has written a Forbes piece defending him as being presidential material:
What we need in the White House -- and need desperately -- is someone who can cut through the Washington gridlock and get things done. Based on my own head-to-head experience with him, I know that Donald Trump has what it takes to do that -- and more. He's a tough man who can fill the toughest job in the world.
No word on what this lifelong Democrat might want to "get done." Apparently that's an irrelevant detail.

Given a choice between two people whose goals, harmful to me, are more or less indistinguishable, I'll take the less effective (i.e., the lower threat) every time. In this case, the uncharismatic Hillary Clinton, who would at least inspire opposition would be preferable. (And we haven't even begun to discuss the long-term damage a Trump presidency might cause the GOP or to our level of political discourse...)

Oh, and I see Gary Johnson has come out in support of a carbon tax, not that I had made up my mind in favor of voting for him, even in protest It's looking more and more like "Vote for the 'Crooked': It's Important" may well be my advice for this election.

-- CAV

Friday Four

Friday, August 26, 2016

1. I'll start this list by revisiting a double recommendation I passed along in the comments a few days ago:

Acting on an old recommendation by Ellen Kenner on HBL, I recently read Alex Epstein's The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels and followed up by taking a communications course he offers on his web site ("How to Talk to Anyone About Energy"). This I did specifically because Kenner noted that, while it draws on the book, the course is broadly applicable to becoming a better advocate [for more] than just energy/climate issues. I have found this to be true, and am quite excited because he explicitly discusses why some movements find success and how to replicate such success. I have always known through historical example that this was the case, but was not clear on many aspects of how.
In addition, I wish to thank Alex Epstein, for his remarkably clear book and what I think can be a history-altering course, as well as Ellen Kenner for recommending it.

2. Last week, I mentioned searching the downloaded backup of my blog after Google coughed up a hairball. I've played around with this since and have found it so blindingly fast (at least on my desktop) that I now prefer that method for anything I need from over about a week ago.

3. Found en route to other things is a the following paragraph in an old Undercurrent article, regarding a journalist who blamed information technology for the sad state of the public discourse:
On this, we could not agree more [regarding America's intellectual regress]. At The Undercurrent we've long been critics of the increasing popularity of Evangelical Christianity, the looming threat of political Islam, and the bland indifference to both by allegedly secular critics. Science and reason are under assault, whether by right-wing religionists who would arrest the advance of stem cell research, or by left-wing multiculturalists, feminists, and environmentalists who see science as a form of Western patriarchal imperialism. [links removed]
In naming the problem so comprehensively, this challenges all comers to think.

4. A couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed watching The Good Dinosaur with the kids. Afterwards, I was curious as to whether Scott Holleran had reviewed it. He had, and he said the following, among other things:
With flourishes and simple visuals, including the jagged, curving and severe landscape and meteorology of Arlo's home near Clawfoot Mountain and its lesser twin peaks, Sohn's imaginative movie is a boy's story of earning self-esteem through self-reliance in nature and learning to inhabit and command the world around him, whatever dangers may come. It's not a bad theme, really, and The Good Dinosaur is not a bad movie for kids, and not the same old frenzy of noise, jokes and sermons about sharing or ecology. Though the script sometimes belabors a point, and dinosaurs are depicted as anthropomorphized as you've never seen them, it's as odd a movie as its leading character, which makes The Good Dinosaur sort of endearing and, I suspect, rather enduring, too.
I think that's an accurate summary. I was pleased with the theme and relieved at the lack of sermonizing.

-- CAV

That Was Fast

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Right on the heels of the heroics of Louisiana's "Cajun Navy," a Republican has come forward and inadvertently helped us understand why his party hasn't nominated an acceptable alternative to the Democrats in eons:

Jonathan Perry, a Republican state senator, is working on legislation that could require training, certificates and a permit fee for citizen-rescuers to bypass law enforcement into devastated areas, according to a report from WWL-TV.

Perry represents Senate District 26, comprised of Vermilion Parish and portions of Acadia, Lafayette and St. Landry parishes. He took to Facebook Tuesday evening to explain the logistics of his proposed legislation, which he said is not to limit volunteer rescuers, but rather to empower them. [bold added, links in original]
"The intent of what I want to do is to completely unregulate it," Perry claims, believe it or not.

The best-case scenario here is that Perry really means it, and that he sees this measure as a way to protect would-be rescuers from our wildly irrational tort system. Unfortunately, this measure is -- at best -- a band-aid on a wound a layman would say requires stitches, but a physician would know also needs surgery. To begin with, if it is so easy to sue a benefactor, or even someone who made a genuine (but unsuccessful) effort to render aid, what difference is a piece of paper with an official stamp on it really going to make? (Ask any licensed surgeon.) We needn't go further into the huge can of worms that this regulation could quickly become, but it's a further issue.

The real solution to the problem Perry claims to be attempting to solve is tort reform, and that's something he should have, perhaps quietly for now, started learning about and getting behind: It's too big for him to solve alone, even with the right tools.

That said, it bodes ill for the Republicans (and for Americans who value liberty) if Perry's demonstrated level of understanding or concern -- to solve the problem of government intrusion with more of the same -- is typical of his party. (I am afraid it is.) This is exactly what many conservatives have meant when they have repeated the maxim that "Controls breed controls." Republicans should be very concerned that their fellows are helping this problem along.

-- CAV


Today: Corrected several typos. 

Three Cheers for the "Cajun Navy"

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Kevin Boyd of the Foundation for Economic Education tells a tale that needs a much wider audience: That of the role of the "Cajun Navy" and many other private parties in providing fast, effective relief to victims of the recent inundation of Louisiana:

Instead of waiting for the government to come rescue them, the people of Louisiana used their own privately-owned boats to save their neighbors. This "Cajun Navy" drew its ranks and fleet from Louisiana's large numbers of sportsmen. People who needed rescue contacted a Facebook group and the boats used smartphone apps such as the GPS app Glympse and the walkie talkie app Zello to coordinate. The "Cajun Navy" was responsible for saving the lives of thousands of Louisianians and their pets and livestock.

The people of Louisiana also distributed immediate relief to their displaced neighbors much more efficiently than the government was able to. One of the best examples of this was the conversion of a movie studio into a shelter housing over 2,000 people. The Celtic Media Centre is one of Louisiana's premier film production studios located in Baton Rouge, which was one of the cities hardest hit by the flooding. The studio's executive director, Patrick Mulhearn, saw how devastated his neighbors were by the high water and decided to open up Celtic as an emergency shelter. [links in original]
One group who would do well to contemplate this story would be anyone (particularly any conservative) who has called for President Obama to cut a vacation short to visit the area, and not just because one man's misfortune does not mean another must cease enjoying his life. Rather than try to score cheap, meaningless political points, we should take this opportunity to question the whole idea that the government should be providing comprehensive disaster relief in the first place. Furthermore, it is heartening that we needn't look back a century to see Americans responding to a disaster like adults, rather than wards of the state, as many did during and after Hurricane Katrina.

-- CAV



Added clause to end of last sentence. 

Creative Quasi-Privatization

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Priceonomics discusses (HT: GeekPress) how academic economists have helped the FCC auction off licenses to the radio spectrum, in the process reminding me of Ayn Rand's 1964 article on "The Property Status of Airwaves," in which she stated:

The history of the collectivization of radio and television demonstrates, in condensed form, in a kind of microcosm, the process and the causes of capitalism's destruction. It is an eloquent illustration of the fact that capitalism is perishing by the philosophical default of its alleged defenders.

Collectivists frequently cite the early years of radio as an example of the failure of free enterprise. In those years, when broadcasters had no property rights in radio, no legal protection or recourse, the airways were a chaotic no man's land where anyone could use any frequency he pleased and jam anyone else. Some professional broadcasters tried to divide their frequencies by private agreements, which they could not enforce on others; nor could they fight the interference of stray, maliciously mischievous amateurs. This state of affairs was used, then and now, to urge and justify government control of radio.

This is an instance of capitalism taking the blame for the evils of its enemies.

The chaos of the airways was an example, not of free enterprise, but of anarchy. It was caused, not by private property rights, but by their absence. It demonstrated why capitalism is incompatible with anarchism, why men do need a government and what is a government's proper function. What was needed was legality, not controls. (Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 125)
I think (but do not know) that the FCC is not actually selling, so much as retaining "ownership" and licensing out portions. Nevertheless, if this isn't ownership, it is at least a step closer to that ideal. It was interesting to read of the creative way the government found to assume (or at least move closer to) its proper role in this industry.

-- CAV