Thursday, November 20, 2014

Trading for Satisfaction

Column for week of November 10, 2014

     We have considered how everyone's goal is to
maximize their satisfaction.  Also we have observed that
individuals won't change the choices they make unless we
block their chosen road to satisfaction, or they find what they
believe is a better road.  Our consideration also included some
of the ways individuals can try to influence others in their
pursuit of satisfaction.  We will now consider trading

     Last time Fred was trying to influence Erwin to refrain
from eating a candy bar.  We saw that merely arguing or
debating with Erwin could easily fail to influence him to
refrain from eating the candy.  Does Fred have another string
on his bow?

     Fred might try to make an offer Erwin couldn't resist. 
Suppose Fred offered Erwin a new car in exchange for the
candy bar.  What are the chances that Erwin would pass up the
satisfaction from a new car for the satisfaction of eating the

     You might ask, Why would Fred offer a car for a candy
bar?   Whether he would or not isn't important.  As in the old
joke, we have established that Erwin has a price.  At most we
now quibble over how low that price will go.

     Some reward of alternate satisfaction will be enough to
get Erwin to give up the candy bar.  As the saying goes,
everyone has a  price.  That price may not be measured in
dollars.  Yet, there are few satisfactions that individuals will
not give up for the right exchange.  The robber's victim gives
up his money for his life.

     Most of our exchanges aren't that extreme.  Yet, we
endlessly give up one satisfaction for another.  We trade free
time and effort for wages.  Those money wages aren't what we
want.  We want the satisfaction we hope to gain from the
things we trade the wages for.  The money wages are only
coupons we hope to exchange for satisfying things.

     By offering trades we constantly influence others to
give up a lesser satisfaction for a greater one.  The merchant
gives up the satisfaction offered by a loaf of bread because he
expects to gain more satisfaction from the two dollars he
receives.  At the same time, the buyer expects more satisfaction
from the bread.  In fact, he expects more satisfaction from the
bread than from any other thing he could buy with the two
dollars.   If something else promised more satisfaction, he
would buy it instead of the bread.

     We also trade satisfactions over time.  He who saves
the candy bar to eat tomorrow instead of now believes he will
gain more satisfaction by doing it.  The person who saves to
spend later is trying to trade present satisfaction for future
satisfaction.  The ways we trade lesser satisfactions for greater
ones are almost endless.

     Rewards have so much potential for increasing
satisfaction that they should be our first resort when trying to
influence the choices of others.  Unfortunately many turn first
to the force of government.  Exchange and rewards create
winners.  Government's use of force and threats creates victims
and losers.  The victims are coerced into reduced satisfaction. 
Someone has to pay for the coercion.  The effort spent on
coercion produces no value except for the person who gains
satisfaction from dominating others.

     The person coerced to give up a satisfaction to satisfy
someone else sacrifices his satisfaction to satisfy the other
person.  The one coerced is partially enslaved by the one he is
coerced to serve.  If total slavery is wrong and bad, How can
partial slavery be right and good?

     Next time:  What happens when free people trade
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Copyright 2014
Albert D. McCallum

Monday, November 10, 2014

Persuading Others

Column for week of November 3, 2014                            

     In prior columns we have considered that everyone
always makes the choices they believe will be the most
satisfying.  We also considered forcible obstruction and
punishment as ways to prevent or discourage others from
making the choices they believe will bring the most
satisfaction.  Now we will consider using persuasion to
influence others to alter their choices.

     Back to the candy bar example.  Suppose Erwin is
about to eat his candy bar.  Fred wants to persuade Erwin to
refrain from eating the candy.  There is only one way Fred can
succeed.  He must convince Erwin that he will gain more
satisfaction from refraining from eating the candy bar than
from eating it now.

     Fred might convince Erwin that he will gain the most
satisfaction from giving away or destroying the candy bar. 
Perhaps Fred only convinces Erwin that he can increase his
satisfaction by postponing eating the candy.  If Fred's goal is to
stop Erwin from eating the candy bar, the latter result buys
Fred more time to pursue his goal.  If Erwin still believes the
most satisfying thing he can do is eat the candy now, he will
start chewing.

     We might give a thought or two to why Fred wants to
keep Erwin from eating the candy.  The bottom line is that
Fred expects to gain satisfaction from persuading Erwin to
refrain from eating the candy bar.

     Not only that, Fred also believes that in his present
circumstances the most satisfying thing Fred can do is try to
persuade Erwin to not eat the candy.  If Fred believed he had
an option that would bring him more satisfaction, he would
forget about Erwin and the candy to pursue the more satisfying

     How might Fred gain satisfaction from keeping Erwin
from eating the candy?  Perhaps Fred believes candy will be
bad for Erwin.  Fred might gain satisfaction from doing a good
deed.  Possibly Fred hopes to get the candy from Erwin.  Fred
might gain satisfaction merely from convincing Erwin not to
eat the candy.  The possibilities are nearly endless.  Only Fred
could know the real reason.  He might not be honest enough
with himself to even recognize his real motivation.

     Fred could make a serious and honest argument to
Erwin.  Also, Fred could make an emotional appeal.  Outright
lying and fraud are other possibilities.  The bottom line is that
Fred must somehow influence Erwin to expect more
satisfaction from passing up the candy than from eating it.

     What really happens to Erwin's satisfaction in the long
run is irrelevant to the choice Erwin will make.  He has only
his expectations to guide him when he chooses.  The
consequence of the choice may influence future choices and
Erwin's confidence in Fred.

     Trying to influence the choices of anyone for any
reason is subject to all of the same limitations and pit falls.  It
generally isn't easy to convince most people to change their
expectations about satisfaction.

     Often people don't even try using persuasion to
influence others' choices about what is satisfying.  Instead, they
cry out "there ought to be a law."  Saying there ought to be a
law is usually an appeal to force, violence and threats thereof. 
A law is merely an order from government that is meaningless
if not backed by the threat of forcibly decreasing the
satisfaction of the violator.

     The law could offer a reward for certain changes, such
as a bounty for killing foxes.  An individual could offer the
reward without any law.  When someone appeals to
government to offer a reward they are asking government to
use force to collect the money to pay the reward.

     So far in our search for ways to influence others in the
choices they make while pursuing satisfaction, we haven't
found anything that promises great success.

     Next time: Trading for satisfaction.
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Copyright 2014
Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Influencing the Choices of Others With Force

Column for week of October 27, 2014              

     Last time we saw that the ultimate goal of every person
is to maximize satisfaction.  Things and activities aren't the
ultimate goals of anyone.  We only seek the satisfaction we
hope to gain through things and activities.  If we want to
influence the choices of others we must physically limit their
choices, or get the individual to alter his views at to what is

     Today we will consider only the use of force to alter
choices.  When I was a child my mother tried various ways to
physically limit my choices.  When she went shopping in
Muskegon she first confined me in a buggy.

     When I grew she turned to a harness and a tether that
she held.  Both were reasonably effective in limiting my
choices.  At home if she frowned on what I was doing she
sometimes tied me in a chair.  This limit was imperfect.  I
could still choose to tip the chair over.

     Imprisoning individuals is a way of limiting their
choices.  Killing is the ultimate limit on choices.  It eliminates
the individual's option of making choices we don't like.  It also
eliminates all other choices.

     Imprisonment isn't totally effective in limiting the
choices we consider undesirable.  Inmates still do things that
their captors don't like.  The problem is that mere
imprisonment usually doesn't change the prisoner's views of
what he believes will be satisfying.

     Another way of changing the individual's view of what
will be satisfying is to eliminate the anticipated satisfaction. 
Altering an individual so that drinking alcohol will make him
sick immediately is likely to discourage him from seeking
satisfaction from drinking.

     Beating or imprisoning a thief may take the satisfaction
out of theft.  Of course, if the thief rightly, or wrongly,
believes he can avoid the beating or imprisonment next time,
the past punishment will not influence him to quit stealing. 
Punishment doesn't do much to alter the future choices of the
dumb or short sighted who choose to steal without considering
the possible consequence.  Neither does it limit the choices of
those who believe they are clever enough to get away with it
next time.

     Force can also be used to alter the choices of
individuals who have done nothing wrong.  The threats of an
armed robber may alter the victim's views of the net
satisfaction he is likely to get from trying to keep his money. 
The victim many conclude that he will gain more satisfaction
from staying alive and healthy than from fighting to keep his

     None of the uses of force are likely to alter the
individual's basic beliefs about what he will find satisfying. 
Remove the threat of force and the individual will most likely
revert to making the same choices as before.

     Consider immigration.  If we could totally seal the
borders so no one could cross, immigration would end.   We
can't do that or even come close, no matter how many fences
we build.  The next line of defense is to inflict dissatisfaction
on illegal immigrants.  How much dissatisfaction must we
inflict to discourage a would be immigrant who faces mainly
misery and starvation at home?  What are the chances he won't
still see illegal entry as a way to increase his satisfaction?

     Force, either for blocking choices or punishing them,
isn't very effective at stopping individuals from making choices
we don't like.  One of the reasons people so quickly resort to
the force option is that many among us gain satisfaction from
using force to control others.

     These people are control freaks.  They control others
not so much for altering the choices of others as for the
satisfaction gained from controlling others.  Not surprisingly
these individuals are likely to migrate to government. 
Government, and those specially privileged by it, are the only
ones who may legally use aggressive force.   More about this

     Next time: Persuasion as a way to alter the choices of
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Copyright 2014
Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Who Is Greedy?

Column for week of October 20, 2014

     Many people claim rampant greed causes all our
problems.  Greedy people ruthlessly exploit everyone in sight. 
Before dissecting this theory we should consider, Who is

     Consider a multiple choice question.  Several
individuals each have a candy bar.  Abner gives the candy bar
to a poor person.   Beth puts her candy bar away to eat it
another day.  Chuck destroys his candy bar.  Debbie trades her
candy bar for an apple.  Erwin eats his candy bar while beating
off hungry people.  Now, rank the five based on who was the

     Why did each choose to act in a different way?  Abner
believed he would gain more satisfaction from giving the candy
bar away than from putting it to any other use.  Beth believed
that she could gain the most satisfaction by putting the candy
bar to some use later.  Chuck hated candy bars and believed
they were bad for people.  He gained the most satisfaction
from destroying the candy.  Debbie believed the apple would
bring more satisfaction than the candy bar.  Erwin believed that
protecting and eating the candy would bring him the most

     Each individual acted in the way expected to maximize
his personal satisfaction.  Each had a different opinion about
what was satisfying.  Some, or all, may not have gained the
satisfaction they expected.  That was irrelevant when choosing. 
We always act based on what we expect rather than what we
eventually get.  That is the only way we can choose.  We have
no way of knowing how the future will play out.

     Some choices were most likely more beneficial to third
parties than were others.  Still, the chooser made his choice
based on what was best for the satisfaction of the chooser. 
Part of the motivation for the choices we make is the
satisfaction we gain from the satisfaction of others.

     All of the choosers were equally greedy.  Each sought
to maximize his own self interest.  Those who gain satisfaction
from the satisfaction of others are more likely to make choices
that increase the satisfaction of others.  Their real motivation is
maximizing self satisfaction.  When it comes to our most basic
pursuit, satisfaction, we are all 100 percent greedy.  No one
ever considers his choices and then deliberately picks one that
he believes won't be the most satisfying.

     Blaming problems on greed is a dead end street.  If
greed is the basic problem there aren't any solutions.  We can't
eliminate or reduce human greed.  We are hard wired to pursue
our own self interest.  The Declaration of Independence
recognized this when it identified "life, liberty and the pursuit
of happiness" as our core rights.  Without life there is no
satisfaction.  Each individual knows best what makes him
happy or satisfied.  For individuals to pursue happiness, each
must have the liberty to choose.

     Tangible things and activities aren't anyone's ultimate
goals.  We don't seek automobiles and ski weekends for the
sake of the thing or the action.  Individuals seek them for the
satisfaction they expect to gain.

     There are only two ways to influence the choices of
others.  One is to physically interfere with some of the choices
so as to make them difficult or impossible.  The government
tried to do this when it banned the manufacture of incandescent
light bulbs.  The goal was to make it impossible for individuals
to choose incandescent bulbs.  Government's ban on marijuana
is another attempt to prevent individuals from choosing what
they believe will be the most satisfying.

 Bans and mandates are achievable only by totally
destroying the option, or by commanding "Do it my way, or I
will hurt you."  (Please note that  attempted bans usually fail
miserably while yielding all sorts of unintended

     Short of resorts to force and violence there is only one
way to influence the choices of others.  We must influence the
individual's views about what is satisfying.

     The next 12 columns will consider the journey to
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Copyright 2014
Albert D. McCallum

When a Religion Dies

Column for week of October 13, 2014

     I have read in history about the death of religions. 
Perhaps the best known passing of a system of belief is that of
the gods of the Romans.  Even after those gods were fully
discredited, some still clung to and defended them.  Beliefs die
hard, especially beliefs based on emotions rather than facts.

     I never witnessed a religion going through its death
throws, until now.  Believers in man-made global warming
exhibit the characteristics of religious fanatics.  They claim to be
100 percent right while claiming that anyone who even slightly
disagrees with them is not only totally wrong, but also evil.  The
stronger the challenge to their cherished beliefs, the more
hysterical their defense becomes.

     The global warmists and their beliefs are in a bit of a
bind.  They face the inconvenient truth that satellite data show
the atmosphere hasn't warmed for over 18 years.  For them that
is a bitter pill to swallow.

     First they dropped "global warming" from their
vocabulary.  Now they call the great threat to human survival
"climate change."  Predicting climate change is safe.  It is as
safe as predicting that the sun shall rise.  Climate has been
changing for so long as we have any evidence of climate.  It is a
safe bet climate will continue to change for as long as there is

     The fanatics are so certain people are warming the world
that they refuse to even consider the possibility they aren't. 
Among other things they claim the deep oceans are sucking the
heat out of the atmosphere and hiding it.  In 20 or 30 years this
heat is supposed to pour up from the depths and boil us all.

     A recent report from the NASA poured cold water on
that one.  The NASA conducted the only serious study of heat in
the ocean depths.  It reluctantly reported that it didn't find the
missing heat.

     The man-made global warming cult will likely either
claim the NASA didn't look hard enough, or that the missing
heat is hiding somewhere else.  Perhaps they will offer a reward
to whoever finds the heat.

     Recent rants by Robert Kennedy, Jr. are a good example
of how fanatics respond when their insupportable beliefs are
challenged.  His first utterance was that questioning man-made
global warming should be a crime.  Those who express such
ideas should be punished.  So much for free speech.

     Feeling a bit of heat generated by those remarks, he tried
to do some damage control.  He conceded that even ignorant,
stupid people should be allowed to speak.  He followed that up
by demanding the death penalty for any foundation, or
corporation that denied the existence of man-made global
warming.  He wanted Attorney Generals to have the offenders'
charters revoked.

     Corporations don't speak.   The only voices corporations
have are the voices of real live people who speak on the
corporation's behalf.  Kennedy is still demanding that
government silence the voices he doesn't want to hear.  This
brings to mind how the British used heresy laws to silence Joan
of Arc.  Perhaps we should have at least a touch of sympathy for
those whose ideas are so weak they can defend them only by
silencing their critics.

     The global warmists may not have a god, unless she is
mother earth.  They do have their devil, carbon dioxide, that is
supposed frighten all into submission.

     It is pointless to try to reason with members of the global
warming (excuse me, climate change) cult.  It is impossible to
reason with anyone whose beliefs are founded on emotion rather
than reason.

     There is little to do other than watch, and enjoy if you
like, the cult go through its death throws.  It may be difficult to
enjoy their ordeal.  Some of the emotional fanatics will likely
turn violent as more and more people reject their beliefs.  There
are bound to be some unpleasantries over the next few decades
before real science reclaims the realm of climate change.
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Copyright 2014
Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, October 16, 2014

If the Whole World Were a School

Column for week of October 6, 2014

     I endlessly hear the complaint that profit making
businesses shouldn't be allowed to run our schools.  This
complaint seems to spring from several reasons.  Schools are too
important to be left to greedy, profit seeking businesses. 
Education money shouldn't be wasted on profits.  Only
government can be held accountable for what it does. 
Businesses would provide low quality education for high prices.

     If all this is true, Why should we tolerate greedy, profit
seeking businesses providing our food, clothing and shelter?  A
person could live for at least a year without a school.  How long
could anyone live without food?  In Michigan, How many would
survive a year without any clothing or shelter?

     How will we continue to survive if we remain dependent
on greedy, untrustworthy businesses to provide the vital
necessities of life?  Why shouldn't we turn to government for all
of our necessities?  For that matter, if government is such a
great, efficient and trustworthy provider of necessities, Why
shouldn't we turn to it for the provision of everything?

     Following the fine example of the great government
schools we can start by establishing food districts.  Everyone
will live in a food district that will provide commissaries and
mess halls to feed everyone for free.  Of course, the districts will
provide only healthy nutritious food, as defined by the

     Food will be provided only in the quantity and at the
times deemed best by the providers.  People have learned to
adjust their schedules and educational tastes to one size fits all
schools.  They should easily adjust to one size fits all food
service.  If you don't like the menu, bring it up at the next
election of the food board.  This may not be the  perfect
solution.  The food board will only be able to beg its superiors
in the state capital and  D.C. for permission to change.  After
all, people in Michigan can't be allowed to have different food
than those who live in California.

     Someone has to pay for all that free food.  Even
government can't repeal the laws of economics.  It can make
some big messes while trying.  Of course, the taxpayers will
gladly pay for their free food.  Supposedly on average we spend
15 to 20 percent of our income on food.  We can start by
levying an additional 15 percent income tax on everyone to pay
for food.  Considering the importance of food, that tax will have
to be increased if it is inadequate to cover the cost.  For
necessities no tax is too high.

     A few malcontents will complain about eating
government gruel.  They will be free to buy food from greedy
businesses, if they have any money left after paying their food
tax.  Of course, even ungrateful malcontents deserve the
protection of government.  The private businesses will be
regulated to where food they can sell won't be much different
from government gruel. 

     Once everyone learns to love government food we can
move on to creating housing districts to efficiently provide high
quality safe housing for everyone.  This will be easy.  We
already have government housing project and Indian reservations
to use as models.

     Once the program is fully implemented, government will
provide everything for everyone.  We can forget about taxes and
pay checks.  Everyone will work for the government that will
dole out whatever is left after the politicians, bureaucrats and
their cronies get their cut off the top.

     In this utopia everyone can sleep peacefully every night
knowing that no one is earning a profit by providing necessities
to others.  Who knows, someday someone may even find a way
to eliminate the graft and corruption that replaced profits.
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Copyright 2014
Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, October 9, 2014

What Are Public Servants?

Column for week of September 29, 2014

     Politicians and bureaucrats commonly call themselves
public servants.  Are they?  To answer that question we must
answer two other questions.  What is service?  Who is the

     Is a grocer serving his customer by threatening her with a
knife to get her to pay $4.00 for a loaf of bread?  He is
providing her with bread.  The customer is the only one who can
decide if she is being served.

     The customer is served only if she wants the service and
is willing to pay the price.  The customer hasn't been served if
the "service" costs more than she believes it is worth.  An
exchange is exploitation if the one "served" is forced to give up
more than she received.  Only the one being "served" can make
that value judgment.  No one can decide what something is
worth to another.

     If the customer valued the bread more than $4.00, the
grocer wouldn't need to threaten her with a knife to get her to
buy the bread.  Voluntary exchanges between customers and
grocers are possible only when both believe the exchanges serve
their interests.

     Everyone is part of the public.  If "public servants" are to
serve the public they must serve everyone.  Everyone must
believe they receive more value than they give up.  Name one
thing "public servants" do that is considered to be a service by
everyone in the country, state or city.

     If "public servants" were actually serving everyone, they
wouldn't need to threaten anyone to accomplish their tasks.  The
fact that "public servants" endlessly threaten almost everyone
with fines, imprisonment and even death puts the lie to their
being "public servants."  They are exploiting millions of the
public they claim to serve.

     No other result is possible.  Hiring "better people" as
"public servants" won't help.  It is impossible to force service
onto anyone.  If force is necessary, the "recipient" is being
victimized, not served.

     If the service costs the recipient nothing, it doesn't have
to be worth much to benefit the recipient.  Those who pay for
the service and get nothing may not feel quite so well served. 
The one who received the service might have turned it down if
he had to pay its full cost.

     Some will claim the total value provided by "public
servants" exceeds the cost imposed.  The value provided by
"pubic servants" can't be measured.  It is impossible to make
that calculation.  The only way to measure the value of anything
is to see how much someone will pay for it.  Even if the efforts
of "public servants" produce some value, we have no way of
knowing how much when the service isn't being paid for
voluntarily by the person receiving it.

     Even if the "public servants" are providing a net increase
in value, How can we justify exploiting others to provide
services to some?  The most "public servants" can do is exploit
some for the benefit of others.  Considering the inefficiency and
waste in all government operations, only in fantasy land will
"public servants" consume less value than they produce.

     Contrast this with the private sector.  Businesses buy
resources and produce products.  A business earns a profit only
if the customers pay more for the product than they would have
for the resources consumed making the product.  The profit
earned is part of the value added by the business.  Profits don't
rob consumers.  Profits benefit consumers.  If "public servants"
had to live on the value they create, most of them would starve
to death.

     It is perverted to demean profit making free market
businesses that can gain only by serving the desires of their
customers, while praising "public servants" who sell their
products only by saying "Pay me or I will hurt you."  Businesses
subsidized and protected from competition by "public servants"
can and do rip off customers.  They are a part of the public that
"public servants" do serve.  "Public servants" are well paid for
that service.
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Copyright 2014
Albert D. McCallum