Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Return of the Steel Penny?
Our government's inflationary fiscal policies appear to have finally made stamping out fiat dollars one cent at a time cost more than it's worth:
A House subcommittee chaired by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., convened a hearing Tuesday on a proposal to change the composition of both coins. Republicans and Democrats like the concept, particularly its promise to save taxpayers $100 million a year by using cheaper metals at the U.S. Mint. If the legislation clears the House and Senate and President Bush signs it, you could be plucking steel pennies off the street before year's end. [bold added]Wow! A nationwide savings of one hundred million dollars a year! (Excuse me while I whistle through my teeth here.)
This is like Pork Busters for monetary policy in that it focuses on petty theft and turns a blind eye to grand larceny. I'd far rather spend an extra thirty cents helping Uncle Sam mint copper-clad zinc pennies next year if our lawmakers would focus less on navigating a bureaucracy they helped create and more on preserving the strength of the dollar in the short term. And I'd really love it if they'd consider exploring a way to return to the gold standard in the long term.
Instead, until more American voters demand protection of their individual rights rather than government handouts, Congress will continue to use the ability to print currency as a means of robbing my bank account behind my back even as they "demonstrate" with steel pennies that they want to save me money. Spit in my face and tell me it's raining....
I regard Ron Paul's refusal to insist on or acknowledge a proper intellectual defense of individual rights as treasonous to the cause of freedom. Nevertheless, if Polly does indeed want a cracker, even a parrot will sound like it knows what it's talking about from time to time. In a similar vein, Paul pretty well summed things up when he said, "[W]e cannot even maintain a zinc standard."
(Real) Money is good. (And inflation is deadly.)
The Resident Egoist actually found a decent comment about money over at Slashdot, which reminded him a little of Fransisco d'Anconia's famous "Money Speech" in Atlas Shrugged. And while we're on the subject of money and inflation, here's a good quote from Rand's essay, "Egalitarianism and Inflation" from the online version of The Ayn Rand Lexicon:
Money is the tool of men who have reached a high level of productivity and a long-range control over their lives. Money is not merely a tool of exchange: much more importantly, it is a tool of saving, which permits delayed consumption and buys time for future production. To fulfill this requirement, money has to be some material commodity which is imperishable, rare, homogeneous, easily stored, not subject to wide fluctuations of value, and always in demand among those you trade with. This leads you to the decision to use gold as money. Gold money is a tangible value in itself and a token of wealth actually produced. When you accept a gold coin in payment for your goods, you actually deliver the goods to the buyer; the transaction is as safe as simple barter. When you store your savings in the form of gold coins, they represent the goods which you have actually produced and which have gone to buy time for other producers, who will keep the productive process going, so that you'll be able to trade your coins for goods any time you wish. [bold added]Consider what government printing of unbacked currency means in this light: Inflation not only robs you of part of your current effort by effectively reducing your income, it retroactively taxes the fruits of any past effort you have set aside. To the extent that this occurs, it is as if you hadn't lived a portion of your productive life at all.
Socialism or Slavery?
Alexander Marriott recalls an interesting discussion he once had concerning a very common and very unfortunate mistake: That capitalists haven't the moral standing to oppose slavery. He concludes:
It is no accident that societies built upon socialism resemble societies built on slavery in that the great mass of people are being sacrificed either to some smaller group of people or, theoretically, to each other. In either case, their lives do not belong to them but to others. The only real difference is whether one prefers being ground up in the sugar mills of an 18th century French plantation in St. Domingue (Haiti) or being pounded into the dust of some five year plan in Soviet Russia. Either way, you are just as sacrificed; either way, you are just as dead. [bold added]The distinction between slavery and socialism is one that unfortunately masks their essential similarity.
Mere Poetic Justice for Spitzer
I share Amit Ghate's frustration that the only justice for Eliot Spitzer will be of the poetic variety. Excuse the obscene moral equivocations below, but it is impossible to find a news report devoid of them....
Eliot Spitzer knew how to catch bad guys by following the money. As attorney general, he once broke up a call-girl ring and locked up 18 people on corruption, money-laundering and prostitution charges. He ruthlessly investigated the pay packages of Wall Street executives and was so familiar with shady financial maneuvers that he rose to become the top racketeering prosecutor in Manhattan.This man made a career out of using the apparatus of the state to go after people who, in many cases, were not doing anything that should have been illegal. He could have chosen to work to repeal such bad laws, but decided instead to enforce them ruthlessly. His semi-just desserts, while cathartic on some levels, will in fact be a legal travesty. I do not morally condone a married man using prostitutes, but the fact remains that prostitution should be legal.
But in the end, it appears that Spitzer may have been done in by the same behavior he built a career out of prosecuting.
In fact, it seems he was tripped up by some of the very financial accounting methods he used so successfully against multibillion-dollar Wall Street firms. [bold added]
Have Silver Lining, but Want the Cloud Back!
C. August and I are on the same page regarding paternalistic smoking bans: "So as much as I hate smelling like I rolled around in an ashtray upon leaving a bar, I say repeal the smoking ban!"
Particularly interesting is how proponents justified the ban in the first place. One would do well to consider how opponents in crusades like this can strengthen their arguments so that one can be prepared to respond. I am glad he talked about this.
How to Fix All of the Above
As I often mention here, significant political change for the better will not and can not occur without profound cultural change. Paul Hsieh and Rational Jenn both have recently said some very good things about how to bring this about. And Monica brings up something that sounds familiar to me:
I realized that oftentimes - not always, but oftentimes -- I am more interested in winning an argument than I am about the ideas. OR I am interested in the ideas and it sickens me to see people with the wrong ideas prevail, so I just end up avoiding the discussions altogether.This is doubtless as common as it is counterproductive, and the fact that the false theory/practice dichotomy gets pounded into our skulls from every direction in our culture makes it almost impossible not to be afflicted with this urge to some degree, especially soon after encountering Ayn Rand. (And as I know from experience, it can take lots of time to get past this.)
I don't know how, specifically, to deal with this problem, but I suspect that it gradually goes away on its own as one integrates theory and action more fully on a subconscious level. Rational Jenn, for example, notes that before she became intellectually active on a more constructive level, that she "used to be frustrated to no end, 'debating' minutiae with people who were less interested in ideas and more interested in winning an argument." I went through a "silent period" of my own, and for similar reasons.
Ultimately, I think anyone who really values one's life and really understands having the right ideas as important to one's life hits this kind of wall and learns to stop beating one's head against it. Eventually, one's forays into the battlefield of ideas have the betterment of one's life as the motivation, and hence become much more effective and satisfying. Just noticing the problem is a good sign, in my opinion.
And now, after being so "helpful", I am going to turn right around and ask for some help. Despite my lower blogging output, I am in fact writing more than I used to, and it is beginning to take a physical toll on me. I want to nip that in the bud.
Does anyone out there happen to know of a good resource for work place ergonomics? Specifically, I am thinking of investing some money in a new computer desk and chair, and I don't want to waste it on something uncomfortable or likely to end up causing me physical harm from repeated stress injuries.
The chair is extremely important. (It's important enough for me to cast away mild embarrassment and admit that I'm on the bony side.) I've already whiffed twice on that.
I know that I could Google "egronomics" or other such terms, but getting a recommendation from someone with some experience with following such recommendations would probably save me lots of time and money. Especially someone else with an inefficient metabolism! If you don't wish to use the comments, email me.
3-13-08: Corrected spelling of "Eliot".