Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Horrors of Thigh Gap

Column for week of January 19, 2015

     I didn't mean to do it.  Perhaps I was distracted. 
Nevertheless, I did it again.  I neglected the British.  So, it
must be my fault that they had to throw another tantrum to get
my attention.  I don't know why my attention is so important to
them.

     It isn't like I totally ignore the Brits.  I covered their
requiring small chested police women to wear fluorescent vests. 
Their requiring a business owner to hire an industrial waste
hauler to dispose of the sandwich wrap from his lunch was
dully honored in this space.  I devoted an entire column to the
law requiring British farmers to provide toys for their pigs.  I
also noted their making it a crime to sell anything by the pound
or ounce.  Imagine that.  The English system of measures
banned in the land of its birth.

     Still, I can't justify ignoring the thigh gap tantrum.  The
Brits have an agency devoted to reviewing advertising.   All
improper adds must be banned.  I'm not sure how they decide
what is improper.  I'm not about to ask.

     Whatever the standard, thigh gaps violate it.   For the
unenlightened on this side of the pond,  perhaps I should
explain "thigh gap" the best I can.

     The ever diligent nannies who devote their lives to
scanning adds for crimes against humanity discovered the
horrible photo of an underwear model with too much space
between her thighs.  No one has explained to me how much is
too much, or who decides.  Maybe it is another one of those "I
know it when I see it" things.

     Actually, I don't believe the thigh gap was the real
problem.  It was only a proxy for the real problem.  The
model's thighs weren't big enough.  Those who haven't borne
the affliction of living with undersized thighs probably won't
appreciate the seriousness of the problem.  Fortunately the
censors were on the job to nip the problem in the bud before it
spread across the land.

     The photo could have destroyed the health of an entire
generation.  Young women seeing the thigh gap photo would
have instantly concluded that a large thigh gap was an essential
part of an ideal figure.  They would have destroyed their health
in pursuit of that glamorous and elusive thigh gap.  I'm sure
every woman who ever sought to shrink her thighs can testify
to how difficult it is to stop before those thighs vanish.

     No one mentioned that the model was also afflicted
with knee gap.  The photo didn't show her lower legs.   This
leaves open the possibility that her real affliction was bow legs.

     Fortunately the USA took action to protect underwear
models suffering from thigh gap.  In fact we are so far ahead
of the Brits that we banned discrimination against those
afflicted with thigh gap long before the first case was
diagnosed.  All we need now is a few more rules to cover the
details.  I'm sure Barack can handle that between holes on the
golf course.

     The British have already shown that thigh gap is a
disability.  Thus, our laws that ban discrimination against the
disabled will kick in.  No one will dare discriminate against
models suffering with the dreaded thigh gap.

     Statisticians will quickly calculate the percent of models
who suffer from thigh gap.  Let us assume that number turns to
be 10 percent.  Any employer who can't prove that at least 10
percent of its models are afflicted with thigh gap will be
presumed guilty of discrimination.

     All thigh gap sufferers will bring a class action lawsuit
and be awarded millions of dollars in compensation that will
make their lawyers very rich.  The suffering models will each
get a coupon for a 10 percent discount on a set of thigh pads. 
All is well that ends well.  Thank you Brits.

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What Big Government Has to Offer

Column for week of January 12, 2015

     This column is the final installment of a 13-part series. 
Last time we considered that in freedom we must serve others
to gain satisfaction for ourselves.  The better an individual
serves others, the more those others will give in return for the
service.

     Today we will consider the alternative to freedom --
coercion.  When individuals aren't free to act peaceably in
whatever manner they choose, they are subject to the force,
violence and threats of others.  Those who resort to force,
violence and threats can gain satisfaction from others without
giving satisfaction to others.  Thus, the only options we have
are freedom and exploitation.

     Whether we live in an environment of freedom or one
of exploitation, all individuals have the same goal -- increase
their satisfaction.  The two environments provide entirely
different motivations about how to seek satisfaction.

     A person with the power to take and exploit can seek
satisfaction by threatening and intimidating others.  The others
are compelled to give up their satisfaction and serve the
exploiter.  Outright slavery is an example of exploitation.  Such
slavery is far from being the only way to exploit.  If the
exploitation of slavery is destructive and evil, How can diluted
forms of exploitation be good and beneficial?

     The only institution we have that is legally authorized to
use force, violence and threats to gain advantage over others is
government.  Government has one big advantage.  It writes and
enforces the rules.  Government often uses its force, violence
and threats on behalf of private special interests.  In return
politicians receive votes and expand their power to use force,
violence and threats.

     Only those in government and those empowered by
government can lawfully pursue their satisfaction at the
expense of others, rather than by better serving others.  Those
in government are as motivated as anyone else to seek their
own satisfaction.  They seek to gain, not to serve.  Unlike free
people they can gain without serving their victims.

     Even those in government must serve those who keep
them in power.  Thus, government will always serve the
powerful special interests at the expense of everyone else.   To
call those in the one and only branch of society that can legally
exploit for their own satisfaction "public servants" is a travesty.

     Government can, and to some extent does, provide a
valuable service in attempting to limit the private use of
aggressive force, violence and threats.  Once government steps
beyond this limited role, it becomes the exploiter.  It becomes
the problem, not the solution.

     A government with the power to protect will have the
power to exploit.  People being what they are, it is inevitable
that some in government will turn to the use of force, violence
and threats to increase their own satisfaction.

     If the exploiters prosper, many more will seek to join
them.  Government will grow to be one vast exploitive
enterprise.  Government exploitation by so called "public
servants" has been prospering and growing since long before
any of us were born.  It is our way of life.  Unfortunately most
people have failed to recognize and oppose the destructive
exploitation by government.

     Now we face national bankruptcy and destruction of our
productive economy, all as a result of allowing legions of
"public servants" to take rather than serve.  As freedom totters
on its dying legs, we face the loss of everything.  I don't know
if it is too late to save freedom.  If we don't at least try, all we
have to look forward to it strife, destruction, misery and death.

     If we fail to contain and roll back government we can
only look forward to returning to the Hobbesian world where
the life of man is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Copyright 2014
Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Why Serve Others?

Column for week of January 5, 2015

     We have considered how everyone endlessly seeks to
increase their satisfaction.  There is no such thing as altruism,
selflessness or self sacrifice.  People do have radically different
views about what will satisfy them.  Some gain satisfaction
saving lives, others from killing.  Some gain more satisfaction
from giving than from taking.

     None will ever choose the less satisfying of two
choices.  Some may choose less satisfaction now to gain more
satisfaction later.

     The environment in which an individual lives will
greatly affect what he finds to be satisfying.  In cold climates
building houses and storing food is important for satisfaction.  
In warm climates such endeavors are less satisfying.

     We need material things to satisfy us.  The conduct of
others also affects our satisfaction.  Some don't like to hear
loud music and see pink houses with purple polka dots.  To
increase our satisfaction, we seek to gain things from others
and to change their conduct.

     People seek to increase satisfaction by giving up lesser
satisfactions to gain greater ones.  Thus, we all seek to give up
as little satisfaction as possible to gain the greatest satisfaction
possible.  The environment in which we live and act greatly
affects the methods we use to gain satisfaction.

     In freedom we find only one way to gain satisfaction
from others.  We must peaceably influence them to act in ways
that will satisfy us.  People who have the option of using force,
violence and threats can pursue satisfaction by coercing and
intimidating others.  In freedom we are limited to persuasion
and rewards to motivate others to provide us satisfaction.

     In the short term at least coercion can be the easier road
to satisfaction for those whose consciences don't punish them
for exploiting others.  Thus, there are many people who will
eagerly resort to use of force and threats, if they expect they
can get away with it.

     In an environment of true freedom those who resort to
use of force and intimidation, other than for defense, face
punishment.  This can greatly discourage the initiation of force. 
We all must pursue satisfaction by working, producing, and
persuading others.

     With freedom, and the free markets that are the product
of freedom, we pursue satisfaction by producing and trading
with others.  The better our productive efforts serve others, the
better others will serve us.  The more value we produce for
them, the more value they will give us in exchange.

     In freedom the customer is king.  Everyone seeks to
gain more for themselves by providing more for others.  We all
have customers.  Employers are the customers for workers time
and efforts.  Those employees are the customers for the
employer's products.  This gives us an endless circle of people
all seeking to better serve both their customers and their
suppliers.

     The employer must serve his employees by providing
them more satisfaction that other employers do.  Merchants and
customers must serve each other.  All of our voluntary
relationships, from dating to banking, are based on each party
to the relationship providing value to the other.  Much of that
value may be intangible.

     When a relationship ceases to be beneficial for one of
the participants, he ends the relationship in favor of another. 
Everyone is endlessly motivated to serve all of those with
whom they have relationships.  This pushes us endlessly
toward more production and more satisfaction for everyone. 
Each individual has the final say in what he believes will
satisfy him.

     We don't need legions of professional enforcers to
assure that we produce for the satisfaction of others.  King
consumer provides the enforcement.  Everyone is a consumer. 
The consumer enforcers are on the job 24/7/365.  None of us
can escape those consumer enforcers.  We all must act for the
satisfaction of others if we are to gain satisfaction for
ourselves.

     Next time: The alternative to freedom.

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Copyright 2015
Albert D. McCallum

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What Should Be the Role of Government?

Column for week of December 29, 2014

     In this series of columns I haven't attempted to define
the legitimate role of government.  I mentioned a few of the
dangers from government.  Government is force.  All
government can add to any circumstance is "Do it my way, or I
will hurt you."

     Anything that can be done through voluntary
cooperation doesn't need government.  There are few, if any,
things people can't do through voluntary cooperation, if they
want to.  Therein lies the reason so many turn to government
to pursue their pet agendas.  Others aren't enthusiastic about
pursuing those agendas.

     People whose ideas aren't popular turn to government to
force others to cooperate.  People turn to government because
they are too lazy, or in too much of a hurry to work to sell
their ideas.  Often the ideas are so bad they can't gain much
support.  Government is the last resort for bad ideas and the
graveyard for good ideas.

     For starters we should apply a test to every idea before
turning to "Do it my way, or I will hurt you."  Ask  four
questions:  1) Is solving the problem of vital importance?  2) 
Is it impossible, or at least very unlikely, that free people
acting in voluntary cooperation can solve the problem?  3) Is
the use of force vital to solving the problem?  4) Are there
reasonable grounds for believing the proposed government
solution will work?  If the answer to any one question is "No,"
don't turn to "Do it my way, or I will hurt you" government for
the solution.

     Freedom is impossible without the suppression of
aggression.  It is legitimate to use the force of government to
suppress murders, robbers, slave masters, arsonists, etc.  We
can, and do use private voluntary efforts to achieve the same
ends.  In the US we spend more on private security than on
government police.

     Still, it is legitimate to use the force of government to
protect persons and property from domestic and foreign
plunderers.  We should first consider private, voluntary actions
even for defense against aggression.

     There are two big problems with empowering
government as a protector.  First, history documents how the
same power government needs to protect is also used to
exploit.  I don't know of one government in the history of the
world that hasn't used its power as a predator.

     I can't point to even one government that hasn't become
more a predator than a protector.  Hiring government for
protection usually turns out like employing wolves to protect
the sheep from coyotes.  Government in the US, at all levels,
isn't an exception.

     No one has found a way to keep the government that is
powerful enough to protect from using its powers to exploit. 
People in government, like everyone else, first seek to gain
satisfaction.  Most people with the power to exploit don't resist
the temptation to exploit.  Many don't even try to resist.  One
of the big attractions to government is the power to exploit. 
Exploiters are drawn to government.

     Many people in businesses like to exploit too.  Unless
government empowers the private exploiters, or at least looks
the other way, businesses can't exploit.  Exploitation always
involves aggression.  If government does the job of preventing
aggression, there will be no exploitation.

     We can't eliminate government, no mater how much
some would like too.  Even if we did eliminate government, it
would quickly come back.  The most we can do is try to keep
government weak enough that it doesn't destroy us through
exploitation.  Asking for bigger government is at best like
playing Russian Roulette.  Sooner or later you are going to
lose.

     Freedom isn't just one way, or merely the best way, to
peace and prosperity.  Freedom and its byproduct, free markets,
are the only road to peace and prosperity.  If we are to survive
in peace and prosperity, we must get back on freedom's road. 
"Do it my way, or I will hurt you" is that famous road
sometimes paved with good intentions.

     Next time: Service to others.

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Copyright 2014
Albert D. McCallum

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Case for Freedom

Column for week of December 22, 2014

     In the nine columns so far in this series we have
considered how people endlessly seek to maximize their
satisfaction.  We noted that everyone's satisfaction largely
depends on the actions of many others.  None of us produce
much of what we use.  We also gain much satisfaction from
interactions with others.  Interaction with others is vital to the
satisfaction of everyone.

     We also saw there are two ways to govern our
interactions with each other.  We can all be free to interact or
not interact as we see fit.  Everyone can have a veto on
interactions with others.  In such an environment all
interactions are voluntary.

     Under freedom individuals seeking something from
others must ask and offer rewards to gain what they seek from
others.  Exploitation is impossible.  Everyone has the right to
say "No."  Everyone can refuse to let you have his car, or to
have lunch with you.

     If you want his car, companionship, or anything else,
you must offer something satisfying to the other person.  He
may accept money in exchange for his car.  Your
companionship may be enough to reward him for joining you
for lunch.

     The important point here is that commercial exchanges
and social exchanges are motivated in the same way.  All the
participants expect to gain satisfaction.  The things that
contribute to this satisfaction may be tangible, such as a car, or
intangible, such as companionship.  Social interactions involve
mutually beneficial exchanges as much as do commercial ones. 
Freedom in one realm is as important as in the other.  The
opposite of freedom is exploitation.

     If our interactions aren't conducted in an environment of
freedom, they must be conducted in an environment of
coercion.  Some will be forced into interactions they don't
want, or they will be forced to forgo interactions they want, or
both.

     In the world of forced and controlled interactions those
who do the forcing can gain at the expense of their victims. 
Considering that everyone seeks to maximize his satisfaction,
the individual who forces or prevents interactions will always
act in the way he believes will bring him the most satisfaction. 
The most others can hope for is that what is most satisfying to
the forcer will be most satisfying to them.  Of course, if it is
most satisfying to them, they won't have to be forced.

     Interactions based on force usually are exploitative.  If
individuals have the option to take what they want rather than
produce and trade, many, probably most, will take rather than
produce.  History is filled with slave masters, kings and other
thieves who preferred taking to producing and trading.

     People haven't changed.  At most their environment has
changed.  Given the chance to force and take, millions will. 
Even if they don't take themselves, they will eagerly take a cut
of the loot in exchange for supporting the looters.  They will
attempt to soothe their consciences by claiming they are
entitled to the loot.  Those who get the loot lose their incentive
to produce for their own use, or for trading with others.

     Only freedom and the free exchange that springs from
freedom motivate everyone to better serve others.  The more
and better chairs we produce for others, the more and better
food they will produce and exchange for the chairs.  In
freedom we don't need legions of government enforcers to
police suppliers and hold them accountable.

     Free customers police the suppliers and punish those
who fall short by buying elsewhere.  Government enforcers are
few (even if it doesn't seem that way) and aren't usually on the
job.  The consumer enforcers are on the job 24/7/365.  The
consumers are always on the scene instantly punishing
suppliers by refusing to buy.

     Under freedom, pressure from consumers pushes us all
toward better serving others.  Only those in government, and
those empowered by them, can lawfully exploit others.  And,
exploit they do.

     Next time: What should be the role of government?

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Copyright 2014
Albert D. McCallum

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Destructiveness of Parasites

Column for week of December 15, 2014

     So far we have seen how free people seek to better
serve others.  By better serving others, we get them to better
serve us.  In free markets the wealthiest people will be those
who best serve others.  We don't need a library full of laws
and legions of bureaucrats to motivate individuals to serve each
other.

     The baker who best serves his customers will have the
most customers.  If the baker is efficient he will earn more
income than will other bakers.  Quality service plus efficiency
equal wealth.  The individuals who are well served shouldn't
complain that the baker earns profits, even lots of profits. 
Profits are his reward for serving his customers.  The quest for
those rewards motivates us all to better serve others.  The
rewards might not be profits.  They can be wages, intangibles,
or something else.

     Also, we have seen the other way to gain wealth.  That
is to use force and threats to take from others.  Those who
resort to "Do it my way, or I will hurt you" don't gain their
wealth through increasing service to others.  They are parasites
who feed on others, rather than serve others.  They consume
without producing.  Unlike the baker, their gain is someone
else's loss.

     These parasites try to hide behind slogans and high
sounding names.  "I'm a parasite.  Give me something, or I will
hurt you" doesn't win much support.   "I'm a public servant. 
Sacrifice for the common good" plays better.  It shouldn't.

     The task at hand is to dissect some of these terms that
so impress some people.  You may want to hold your nose
while we cut into these sacred cows.

     What is the "common good?"  If it is good for
everyone, Why would anyone oppose it?  Everything happens
at the individual level.  Only individuals choose, act, enjoy or
suffer.  There are no common goods or bads.  The closest we
can come to common good is something that more than one
person considers to be good.  Even if everyone finds something
to be good, the good still exists only at the individual level.

     Hang on to your wallet and cover your back anytime
someone starts preaching about sacrificing for the common
good.  It may be good for some.  You can be certain it will be
bad for others.  Also, you can be sure that the one doing the
preaching expects it will be good for him, no matter how much
it hurts others.  Minimum wages may be good for those who
collect the higher pay.  The minimum wage isn't so good for
those who are unemployed because of it and get no pay at all.

     "Sacrifice for the common good" translates as "Sacrifice
for me and my friends."  The 
term definitely loses something in the translation.  It becomes a
trick phrase minus the trick.

     Government's main functions today are 1) to take from
some and give to others, and 2) to favor some at the expense
of others.  Government doesn't gain its wealth through
voluntary exchanges that benefit others more than they cost. 
Government wealth is gained from "Pay me, or I will hurt
you."  People pay because they believe paying will be less
painful than not paying.

     As we saw at the beginning of this series, individuals
don't sacrifice their satisfaction for others.  The politicians and
bureaucrats who claim to be public servants are not exceptions. 
First and foremost they serve themselves and their supporters. 
To everyone else they are parasites.  Only free people
voluntarily serve others.  They serve because they benefit. 
People who have freedom in the marketplace produce to
exchange with others.  Then the "public servants" make them
their servants by taking what they produce.

     "Public servants" are more accurately called public
parasites.  Unless we stop parasitic "public servants" they will
suck out our wealth and productivity until we perish.  The only
good news is that any surviving parasites will then be on their
own.

     Next time: The case for freedom.

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Copyright 2014
Albert D. McCallum

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Why Do Prices Lie?

Column for week of December 8, 2014

     We have considered ways to achieve satisfaction.  We
saw how free people trading with each other endlessly seek to
better serve others to get more satisfaction from those others. 
Last time we considered the importance of rules to human
interaction.  Today we will consider more about how free
people coordinate their actions for mutual benefit.

     To achieve prosperity we must specialize and trade with
each other.  The productivity of self sufficient individuals is so
low that they are inevitably poor.  How can billions of people
coordinate their production and consumption so as to provide
everyone with an abundance of what they want?

     No one person comes close to knowing what everyone
wants.  Likewise, no one knows how to produce all of those
things, or how much to produce.  Thus, putting a great
commander in charge of production can't possibly yield good
results.  We will end up with inefficient, wasteful production of
much of the wrong stuff.  Remember the Soviet Union?

     How can people in China know how to best serve
people in the USA?  We have already seen that people in
China will want to better serve people in the USA to motivate
people in the USA to better serve people in China.

     When we think of prices, How many people think
beyond what something will cost, or how much they can sell it
for?  Prices are far more important than that.  Prices are
communications.

     The price we offer for something tells the world how
much we want that thing.  The prices we ask for something tell
the world how willing we are to supply the thing.  When we
offer higher prices we are saying "Produce more."   Lower
offers say "Produce less."

     When we offer more for flowers and less for nails, we
say "Produce more flowers and fewer nails."  To get the best
price for their efforts producers must shift from nails to
flowers.

     Free market prices tell everyone what to do to maximize
the price he will receive for his efforts.  Prices guide producers,
from workers to land owners, to use their resources to produce
the things others value the most.

     Prices guide workers to better use the skills they have
and to develop new skills.  Also, prices direct owners to devote
natural resources to their most valuable uses.

     Anything that interferes with free market pricing
disrupts production by sending false signals about supply,
demand and best uses.  Prices other than free market prices lie. 
Lying prices deceive producers into producing the wrong
things.  Shortages and surpluses result.

     One of the most destructive price lies of our time was
natural gas prices from the 1950s into the 1970s.  Government
capped natural gas prices at a very low level.  The message
sent was "Don't produce more natural gas."  The result was the
natural gas shortages of the 1960s and 1970s.  Only after the
end of price controls and lying prices did free market producers
provide an abundant supply of natural gas.  They found ways
to do this even though many "experts" said it was impossible.

     Government creates subsidy payments, special tax
breaks, quotas, minimum wage laws, and a morass of other
laws and regulations.  By doing this government has turned
most prices into liars.  These lying prices have deceived
businesses and consumers into making disastrous choices.

     Lying prices were the force that inflated the housing
bubble.  Lying interest rates set by the Federal Reserve
deceived almost everyone about the supply of wealth leading to
many ill-advised investments, including investment in housing. 
The crash of the bad investments gave us the recession.

     The human race figured out ages ago that lying is
destructive and dangerous.  How long will it take to figure out
that prices are the most destructive of liars?

     Prices are not willing liars.  They lie because
government tortures them.  We will never have real economic
recovery until government allows prices to freely speak the
truth.

     Next time: The destructiveness of parasites.

aldmccallum@gmail.com
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Albert D. McCallum