Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What Is Wrong with Social Security?

Column for week of June 15, 2015

     Most people seem to have at least an inkling that all is
not well with Social Security.  Many if not most believe that
we should do something to fix Social Security.  A tweak here,
a tuck there, a bit more tax, a slight increase in the retirement
age, and all will be well.

     It won't be that simple.  The Social Security system is
so flawed that it is unfixable.  The US economy is in a death
spiral.  The one single event that started the plunge and put the
USA on the downward course was the creation of Social
Security.  How does it work?

     Our great productivity is built on investment.  Instead of
putting all of our efforts into making things for immediate
consumption, we put part of our efforts into research,
development, factories, office buildings, mines, etc. that will
produce consumer goods in the future.

     Our investment in these production facilities increases
the productivity of workers.  This investment doesn't merely
defer consumption.  It increases total production allowing us to
consume more in the future.  This is how we raise our standard
of living.

     Thus, people who save and invest for retirement
increase our productivity.  This makes it easier for those still
working to produce for the retired.  The retired sell off their
investments and buy what they consume.

     The retired aren't a burden on the producing generation. 
The producing generation saving for its retirement buys up the
investment.  They may add to that investment providing for a
better retirement and further increasing productivity.

     When the  producing generation buys the investment of
the retired, the producers are merely repaying the retired for the
aid the retired gave the producers by investing and increasing
the workers' ability to produce.  Everyone benefits.

     With Social Security there are no savings and no
investments.  All Social Security taxes are spent immediately
by the government, either to pay benefits, or for general fund
spending.  The so-called Social Security Trust Fund is a myth. 
It is merely a collection of government IOUs for consumed
wealth.  The only way to pay those IOUs is to take wealth
from someone.

     Social Security doesn't provide one dime of investment
or even one widget of increased productivity.  It also
discourages workers from saving for retirement and investing
the savings.

     All Social Security payments are taken from the
producing generation and transferred to the retired generation. 
This is totally a burden born by the producers.  The producers
have less to spend on food, clothing, education, medical care,
and everything else in order to provide more for the retired.

     As the ratio of retirees to workers increases the burden
on the producers grows.  In the beginning many workers
supported one retiree on Social Security.  We are fast
approaching the point where there will be one retiree for each
worker.  Each worker will be supporting one retired person.

     The effect of Medicare is the same as that of Social
Security.  Presently Social Security and Medicare payments per
retiree are more than $25,000 per year.  Even with no increase
in payments, each worker will have to pay at least $25,000 per
year to support a retiree.  How are these burdened workers
going to save anything to invest in increasing, or even
sustaining, productivity?

     We have two choices.  We can get rid of Social
Security and Medicare replacing them with savings based
retirement.  The alternative is to continue riding the dying
Social Security horse until it collapses.  Either way Social
Security and Medicare will end sooner or later.

     If we stay on the present course our economy will die
with those worn out horses.  We can act now to keep the
Social Security bus from running off the cliff.  Or, we can
relax and enjoy the ride.  Those of us who see what is coming
are not likely to greatly enjoy the ride.  Perhaps ignorance is
bliss, for a while.
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum

Who Should Define Marriage?

Column for week of June 8, 2015

     One of the hottest of the hot button issues of recent
years has been same sex marriage.  There is plenty that should
be considered about government involvement in marriage.  The
same sex marriage issue does more to obscure the basic issues
than to move toward any solution.

     The traditional definition of marriage is a relationship
between members of opposite sexes.  The number of each may
vary.  Even in a polygamist marriage the wives aren't
considered married to each other.  To call same sex relations
marriage corrupts the English language and reduces the
usefulness of the word marriage for purposes of
communication.  "Marriage" must now be accompanied by a
modifier if it is to express what "marriage" used to mean.

     Marriage is a partnership between individuals.  The big
question isn't about the names we use to describe those
partnerships.  The big issue is, Who will define those
partnerships?  Presently marriage is defined by government. 
Anyone desiring to participate in a government marriage must
jump through the government hoops and accept a relationship
governed by government rules.

     Individuals may, and do, form partnerships not
sanctioned by government.  Some of those partnerships are
expressly forbidden by government.  Others, government courts
merely refuse to recognize and enforce.

     Why are some individuals so determined to have their
partnerships recognized as government marriages?  
Government grants many privileges and benefits to 
participants in a government marriage.  If a partnership isn't 
recognized as a government marriage, those privileges and 
benefits don't apply.

     Making partnerships work and endure isn't easy.  Half
or so of government marriages end up on the rocks.  Having
the terms of the partnership dictated by government doesn't
increase the odds that the partners can make it work.

     There is no good reason why government should be in
the marriage business.  There are a number of reasons why it
shouldn't be.  Individuals should be free to negotiate such
peaceful uncoerced partnerships as they choose.  The number
and gender of the individuals should be for them to choose.

     Government should also refrain from granting special
privileges to any partnership.  Individuals would be free to
refuse to be part of any partnership of which they don't
approve.  They could also try to persuade others not to join
some or all such partnerships.

     Government should allow all partners equal access to
government courts to resolve disputes in voluntary, peaceful
partnerships.  Encouraging and discouraging partnerships
should be left to individuals and voluntary associations of
individuals.  The most that government can add to partnerships
called marriage or by any other name is "Do it my way or I
will hurt you" rules.

     "Reason" magazine published an article by an attorney
who represents individuals forming non traditional partnerships. 
These partnerships may involve two, three or four individuals. 
Obviously when three or more are involved, some must be of
the same gender.

     I don't buy the garbage about everyone being free to
invent their own gender.  Like it or not individuals are stuck
with the gender they are assigned biologically.  An individual
can mutilate its body to obscure its gender.  So far that doesn't
change the chromosomes.

     Some people are going to pursue such partnerships
whether or not government, or anyone else approves.  What is
to be gained by forcing such individuals to form their
partnerships in a legal twilight zone where disputes can be
resolved and agreements enforced only with underworld style

     Peaceful partnerships should be forged to fit the needs
and desires of the partners, not to please government
busybodies.  Only partnerships for non peaceful purposes
should be discouraged with force.
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Free Trade or Forced Trade?

Column for week of May 25, 2015

     We all trade.  Mostly we produce things we don't want
and trade them for what we want.  Typically we exchange what
we produce for money.  We then exchange the money for what
we want.  When we spend the money we are really spending
what we traded away to get the money.

     In theory an individual might survive by consuming
only what he produces himself or finds in nature.  The only
tools and equipment the self sufficient individual would have
would be those he produced himself.  If everyone were self
sufficient, no one would have much.  Even the most primitive
of people to some extent trade with each other.

     We trade because we gain by specializing and trading.
Without trade humans couldn't rise beyond being
hunter-gatherers practicing very primitive agriculture.  The
question isn't, Will we trade?  The question is, How will we

     Individuals could steal from others rather than trade. 
Stealing is really the ultimate forced trade.  The victim
exchanges something for nothing.

     When individuals voluntarily trade, each expects to
benefit from the exchange.  If any party to the trade didn't
expect to benefit, he wouldn't participate.  The trade wouldn't

     When an individual will not trade unless forced, he
believes the trade is not beneficial to him.  Something is stolen
from him.  Forcing that individual to trade is involuntary
servitude, sometimes called slavery.

     Individuals seek different things in different ways. 
Everyone's ultimate goal is to maximize his  satisfaction.  No
individual is capable of getting inside the head of another and
discovering what will satisfy that individual.  Anyone forced to
trade is a victim forced into involuntary servitude.

     Still many people have bought the idea that businesses
should be forced to serve anyone who walks in the door.  Keep
in mind that businesses are just people producing and offering
to trade their products to others.  A business may be one
person or thousands.  Any service provided by the business is
provided by one or more individuals.

     Some may argue that the individuals can avoid the
involuntary servitude by not going into business.  The only
way to avoid the involuntary servitude is to refrain from
offering to trade with others.   In other words, the only escape
from involuntary servitude is into the world of self sufficiency
and the poverty that is inevitable in that world.

     Individuals who work in businesses earn their livelihood
by serving and pleasing customers.  Businesses that turn away
many paying customers don't thrive.  They may not even
survive.  If businesses are so eager to turn away customers,
Why did government and organizations such as the Ku Klux
Klan deem it necessary to threaten business people with
imprisonment and even death to stop the businesses from
serving black customers?

     A key business strategy is to seek to serve customers
that are unserved or under served.  Someone will be seeking to
serve rejected customers.   There is no compelling reason why
everyone has to be able to demand service from every business. 
Customers aren't forced to patronize most businesses.  Why
should individuals in businesses be forced to involuntarily serve

     The latest epidemic of involuntary servitude involves
providing services for "gay weddings."  Part of the tragedy here
is that the wannabe customers aren't even wannabe customers. 
They aren't really seeking to be served.   They seek to find
businesses who will refuse service.  Then they have the
business persecuted for the welcome refusal.  I have yet to hear
of even one instance where any same sex couple had to go
without a wedding cake because no one would bake it.

     "Solutions" forced by government commonly do more
harm than good.  The cure is worse than the disease.  In this
case there isn't any disease to cure.  The more we turn from
free trade to forced trade, the sicker our nation becomes.
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, May 21, 2015

It Bugs Me

Column for week of May 18, 2015

     The best our esteemed legislators could do for fixing the
roads was to offer a plan so gruesome that four out of five
voters rejected it.  This was a historic smack down.  No other
proposed amendment to the present Michigan constitution was
so thoroughly drubbed.  Until now I suspected that it might be
impossible for the legislators to come up with something that
voters would so soundly reject.

     Now that the sales tax increase and all of its baggage
are road kill in the rear view mirror the legislators can get on
with important matters.  One of those pending matters is a bill
to designate an official state insect.  The current nominee is the

     There are supposedly over 5,000 types of ladybugs.  I
don't know if there are as many types of gentlemen bugs.  Do I
see a hint of gender discrimination?  The proposed law doesn't
specify which of the ladybugs is to be honored.  Perhaps each
will get a turn.  We could have a different state insect each day
for more than 13 years.  I'm so excited I can barely type. That
is no big deal.  I can barely type when I'm not excited.

     Perhaps we should limit the honor to ladybugs that live
in Michigan.  Naturally this will require appointment of a
subcommittee to study and identify the ladybugs living in
Michigan.  This could take years.  Don't even ask what it will

     The bigger question is, How much longer can we
survive without an official state insect?  The legislators have
been fumbling the ball on this one for longer than they have
been tripping over pot holes.

     Speaking of potholes, Why not have the legislators take
time off from choosing bugs and go fill some pot holes?  For
what we are paying them, we ought to get a bit of useful work
out of them.

     In recent years four bills have been offered to designate
the monarch butterfly as the official state insect.  What chance
do ladybugs have in a contest where the mighty and colorful
monarch failed four times?  Is it possible that there are
unenlightened heathens who don't recognize our dire need for
an official state insect?

     The nomination of the green darner dragonfly also
failed to gain ratification as the official state bug.  It appears to
be more difficult to get an official state bug confirmed in
Michigan than to get a Supreme Court justice confirmed in D.

     Is it possible that the legislature will choose the brown
Japanese ladybugs?  They are the ones that congregate on the
south side of my house every October and then attempt to
sneak inside for the winter?  Even I might be ever so slightly
offended if they chose those pests.  Besides, wouldn't it be
unpatriotic to designate a recently arrived foreigner as the
official state bug?  At least it wouldn't be quite as bad as
choosing the Japanese betels that eat my raspberries.

     The last time I checked Michigan had an official state
bird.  I believe that at the time someone was campaigning to
replace it.  I don't know who won.  What would happen if the
official state bird ate the official state insect?  Perhaps the
result could be designated the official state indigestion.

     Other matters the legislators have pondered include
designation of an official state poem and official state cookie. 
How about considering a return to a part time legislature?  A
legislature that has time to worry about an official state insect
and state cookie has far too much time on its hands.
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Tax Dollars at Work

Column for week of May 11, 2015

     The headline was an eye catcher -- "Ohio killer caught
after more than 50 years on the run."  Just seeing the headline
will likely make some people feel safer.  What is more
dangerous and threatening than a killer on the loose?

     Headlines are written to attract attention to the articles,
not to accurately describe them.  This headline was up to its
job.  On the other hand, the article was worth reading.  The
real message of the story wasn't that anyone was safer because
a killer had been removed from circulation.

     The killer was convicted of manslaughter for running
into and killing a pedestrian in 1957.  His sentence was one to
20 years in prison.  This sentence was suspended by the judge
who placed the killer on probation.  Apparently even then the
judge didn't believe the defendant was public enemy number

     The defendant was eventually sent to prison for
violating probation by getting a drivers license.  "Man
apprehended for getting a drivers license 56 years ago" might
not be an exciting headline.  It would be far more accurate
though.  The man escaped from a prison camp in 1959.

     The killer was caught once before in West Virginia in
1975.  The governor of West Virginia refused to grant
extradition to Ohio.  After that the man was released and
moved on.  Apparently he still hadn't been promoted to public
enemy number one.

     Even based on what we have seen so far, Why was
Ohio spending time and tax dollars to find this man who was
now almost 80 years old?  Ohio must be a really safe place if
it faces no greater threats to public safety.

     Law enforcement and imprisonment should be about
making the world a safer place, not about some detective
scoring a headline grabbing catch.  How much better off is
anyone in Ohio for having the privilege of paying to catch and
imprison this 79 years old convicted of manslaughter?  Of
course, the Ohio taxpayers might get a break.  Perhaps the
governor of Florida will follow the example set by the
governor of West Virginia and refuse to grant extradition.

     This is a reoccurring story.  Individuals who have
escaped the grip of government get caught after decades of
living a clean life.  What are the benefits of spending a small
fortune to then send them to prison?

     Such imprisonments are merely blind allegiance to
arbitrary rules.  Anytime people blindly enforce rules without
any understanding of, or regard for, the purpose of the rule,
foolishness happens.  Such foolishness is merely an example of
zero tolerance run amok.

     Rules serve one legitimate purpose.  That is to be
guides to harmonious, peaceful living.  Any rule enforced
without regard for its purpose is a trap waiting to spring on
someone.  Rules that become ends in themselves are disasters
waiting to happen.

     Bureaucrats usually lose sight of the purpose for the
rules.  Even if they recognize the purpose of the rule, they are
commonly discouraged from considering the purpose when
enforcing the rule.  This is one of the big reasons why
government is so ham handed and counter productive.

     There is an interesting sidelight to the story of the day. 
The killer was convicted for being a bad and dangerous driver. 
For years after that the man worked as a truck driver.  During
this time apparently he never did anything worthy of legal

     Perhaps some still believe the man has not been
adequately punished for getting a drivers license in the 1950s. 
Might having to live on the run for 56 years be almost enough

     These "justice delayed" stories sometimes end with a
different twist.  I recently read of a man who turned himself in
after years on the run.  It wasn't a matter of conscience of
tiring of life on the run.  It was his way of seeking medical
treatment he couldn't afford.
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, May 7, 2015

It Is All About Individuals

Column for week of May 4, 2015

     Some people, especially politicians, wax elegant about
the need for individuals to sacrifice for the good of society, or
the common good.  They are either liars or ignoramuses, or at
least twisting words.

     Only individuals enjoy satisfaction and suffer
dissatisfaction.  Whenever any individual sacrifices his
satisfaction, the sacrifice either benefits other individuals, or no
one.  Those who claim individuals should sacrifice for the
common good in reality advocate that some should, at their
own expense, serve others.

     In addition, only individuals can act.  Everything we
have is either the product of nature or of the efforts of one or
more individuals.  Most of what we have is the fruits of nature
greatly enhanced by the efforts of individuals.  The sum of the
fruits of individual actions equal everything we have.  Some of
those individual actions are negative.  Such actions make us
poorer rather than richer.

     Those negative acts include theft, destruction, and
interfering with the productivity of others.  It might be argued
that individuals sacrificing for society only means that
individuals should sacrifice their negative actions.  That is,
individuals should quit stealing, destroying and interfering.

     It doesn't take much thought to see that this in not the
sacrifice that politicians demand.  Most of the negative actions
are perpetrated, or at least sanctioned, by government.  Anyone
in favor of reducing negative actions would be for shrinking
government by eliminating its actions that have negative
impacts on the productivity and satisfaction of individuals.

     That which is negative to one may be positive to
another.  Certainly the thief may gain satisfaction from his loot. 
When government takes from some to give to others it follows
the game plan of the common thief.  When government keeps
part of the loot, usually most of it, government employees and
other accomplices benefit from the sacrifice they impose on the

     Some claim that government must take from some to
help the poor and needy.  Considering how little of the loot
trickles through to the poor, I defy anyone to make an honest
and convincing argument that the poor are better off relying on
government rather than private, voluntary charity.

     The case grows far weaker for corporate welfare to
Hollywood, sports stadiums, banks, manufacturers, etc.  The
claim that such welfare is essential to create jobs is bogus. 
Most of the jobs promised to result from corporate welfare
never materialize.

     The few jobs created are insignificant compared to the
millions of new jobs created every year by the private sector. 
It takes millions of new jobs every year just to replace the jobs
lost in the changing economy.

     Government is run by an elite, and usually exploitive,
ruling class.  The members pursue their satisfaction, not yours. 
Government is so vast and so opaque that voters have almost
no impact on it beyond a few hot button issues.  How can any
voter possibly keep track of the tens of thousands of
government actions?

     If the voters simply demand that the politicians shrink
government, the ruling class's response is predictable.  They
will, with straight faces and voices dripping with sincerity, say
that the only thing they can cut is whatever the voters want the

     For so long as voters can be conned into sacrificing for
the wealthy ruling class, be sure that the ruling class will
demand and accept the sacrifice.  False gods always demand

     Our only way out is to recognize and defend the rights
of individuals to live their lives free from the "Sacrifice to us,
or we will hurt you" demands of the ruling class.  The only
greater enemies we face are those among us who are blind to
the reality that government is controlled by a deeply and firmly
entrenched ruling class.  The quarrels between Republicans and
Democrats are nothing more than family squabbles.  Neither
has any intention of saving us from the other.
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Are You Ready for Extortion?

 Column for week of April 27, 2015

     On May 5 Michigan voters will be asked to approve a
$2 billion tax increase.  Of course, the $2 billion is only a
starter.  With time and inflation the tax increase will grow. 
The $2 billion tax increase is the price our "public servants"
demand before they will do anything to fix the roads.

     The legislature says only 65 percent of the tax increase
will be spent on transportation.  Transportation is loosely
defined to include mass transit and recreational grants.  The
remaining 35 percent is the price our "public servants" demand
in exchange for their tossing a few of our dollars at pot holes.  
They say "Give us an extra $700 million dollars to squander as
we see fit or we won't allow the roads to be fixed." This is

     Will voters grovel and lick the politicians' boots while
expressing gratitude for the crumbs?   Or, will the voters stand,
scream "No way," and boot out the extorting politicians at the
next election?

     Those politicians who can't find money to fix the roads
are spending hundreds of millions on corporate welfare,
including millions for "impoverished" Hollywood movie
makers.  The claim is that those gifts create jobs.

     The number of jobs promised is insignificant.  The
number delivered is even smaller.  Also, they fail to deduct the
jobs that would have been created by taxpayers spending their
own money.

     In addition substantial amounts of highway tax revenue
are now diverted to non road uses such as city buses.  The only
justification for the high tax on motor fuel is that it serves as a
toll where by road users pay for the roads they use.  Diversion
to any other purpose, worthy or not, is the kind of breach of
trust we have grown too accustomed to.

     Some legislators claim there is no other plan to fix the
roads.  They want us to believe it is either submit to extortion,
or potholes forever.  An alternate plan was introduced in the
legislature in December 2014.  It included a way to provide
money for roads without raising taxes.  I don't recall the details
of the plan.  The important point is that its existence proves
that those saying there is no alternative are either liars or suffer
from severe amnesia.  Either way they don't belong in the

     If the legislature's great plan didn't include a sales tax
increase it wouldn't require voter approval.  There is no reason
why sales tax should be involved in road work.  Use road tax
money and only road tax money for the roads.  And, spend
road tax money only on roads.

     The politicians included more money for schools in
their package.  Every scam must include "Do it for the
children."  No matter how much money we pour down the rat
hole of failed schools, many voters still fall for the claim more
money will fix the schools.  Never mind that the worst schools
are already getting the most money.  Failed schools, like any
other failed enterprises, need to be junked and replaced.  There
is ample evidence that fixes don't work.

     There is another neat feature to the tax package. 
Vehicle registration charges used to be based on vehicle
weight.  This made sense.  Weight bears some relation to how
much vehicles damage the roads.

     Then the politicians changed the formula and charged
based on price of the vehicle.  Price has nothing to do with
road damage.  At least they let the registration charges decrease
as the vehicle aged.  The May 5 tax package eliminates that
decrease.  If you drive a worn down old car you will pay an
annual fee based on what it cost new.  When you are on a roll,
Why not rip off the low income people too?

     I'm voting NO on the May 5 sales tax increase and all
its baggage.  A NO vote will also be a stick in the eye for the
conniving politicians trying to ram the garbage down the
taxpayers' throats.
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum