Saturday, February 13, 2010

Thank God They Weren't Students!

But that isn't all I have to say about the shooting at the University of Alabama, which apparently was a dispute over tenure. I know nothing of the merits of the case -- I am not a biologist and have never taught at that university -- but I do know:

1) it doesn't vitiate the analysis I posted yesterday re: the 2A and gun free zones;
2) tenure fights can be quite emotional -- lifetime employment is at stake after all.

Such fights usually take place behind the scenes or in a small percentage of cases in courtrooms -- we're talking about professors after all, not the Sopranos, though they have the tenure-like institution of becoming a "made guy." If it seems a bit odd that U.S. colleges and universities share a major institution with the mob, you need to check out two of my forthcoming books, Fubarnomics and Higher Education and the Common Weal. There's a lot in higher ed that simply doesn't make sense. That doesn't absolve the shooter of responsibility but rather suggests that we need to re-think our public policies. Seriously.

The Supreme Court's Lousy Decision

I have an op ed coming out on the Supreme Court's lousy decision to allow corporations free reign in political elections under the First Amendment (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission). (Why can't it read the Second Amendment so liberally? See my previous post). The court's claim that the founding generation did not fear the political power of corporations (particularly banks) is of course ludicrous, as the following excerpt, with original emphases, shows:

Littleton Teackle, An Address to the Members of the Legislature of Maryland, Concerning the Establishment of a Loan Office for the Benefit of the Landowners of the State (Annapolis, 1817), 15-16.

"But the most dangerous and worst thing to be apprehended from the system of commercial banks is, that it has a tendency to destroy the government of the United States, and to establish a government of secret influence, in the place of the free and open government of the people by their representatives the congress and the president, and very much resembling the plan contrived by the French for getting the government of this country into their hands during the presidency of General Washington, and mentioned in Fauchet's intercepted letters. By that plan, a club was to be established in Philadelphia, which was to hold correspondence with a great number of subordinate clubs in every part of the country, the members of which, were to be under the direction of the club in Philadelphia, and were to use their influence to get such members elected into the Senates and Houses of Representatives of the United States, and the several states, as would act according to the directions of the club; and the French were to get their partizens [sic] admitted into these clubs, especially into the mother club in Philadelphia. This scheme of the French minister failed, as he himself says, because he had not the money necessary to carry it into execution. By the present system of commercial banks, the president and directors of the bank of the United States at Philadelphia, having a number of branch banks in every part of the United States, and having the appointment of all the directors in these branch banks, has the entire control and complete influence over all the directors of these branch banks and all the persons who borrow money of them, and these branch banks will have great power and influence over the commercial banks which will be indepted [sic] to them, and the directors of these commercial banks will have great influence over all the persons who borrow money of them; so that the merchants in towns, will be under their influence. The merchants or storekeepers in the country, being indebted to the merchants in town, will be under their influence, and the greater part of the freeholders and people in the country, being kept poor and indebted to the country merchants and store keepers, will be under their influence. By this means no persons will be chosen into the state legislatures or into congress, but such, as will be directed by, and comply with the desires of the directors of the mother bank at Philadelphia, and their associates the directors of the other banks; and the government of the United States, preserving all the forms of a free elective representative government, will by the operation of this secret influence, fall into the power of bank directors, Stockholders, stockjobbers, jew brokers*, and money changers ..."

*Yep, that's what it says.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Let Us Carry!

Looks like there has been another college shooting, this time at the University of Alabama.

When will we learn that gun free zones are shooting galleries for bad guys (and apparently in this case gals)? How many students, soldiers, patients, etc. must die before we grow up, follow our own Constitution, and allow* people to carry everywhere and anywhere?

*I'm actually starting to wonder if the Constitution MANDATES that people of militia age carry firearms. Several months ago I sent the following to a (liberal) second amendment scholar who shall remain nameless. He hasn't responded yet so I don't think he ever plans on doing so:

If a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, why do we no longer have militias? I don't mean that in a quaint way. I'm thinking that we've returned to a state of affairs analogous to that faced by the founding generation, to wit one of "terrorists" (whether they are called Islamo-fascists, Indians, domestic extremists, or whatever) that can strike virtually anywhere, anytime. In this view, the return of a similar Zeitgeist allows for the clarification of the muddled discussions of the last 180-ish years.

So shouldn't someone sue to enforce the Constitution and the original intent of the Founders? Shouldn't the federal government force state governments to pass legislation mandating that all able-bodied adults (perhaps exempting conscientious observers, violent felons, etc.) fulfill their civic duty and carry a firearm with them (perhaps at all times) in order to protect the community from attack? Isn't it clear that nobody, not even military personnel on their own bases, can be protected by police forces for the simple reason that the police can't be everywhere at once and attackers have very clear incentives to attack where police protection is lowest? Do you see where I am going with this? The line between self- and community- defense is not clear cut but rather bleeds (forgive the pun) seamlessly from protection from a mugging through full scale invasion, with the biggest threat at present small scale attacks by one or a few people on groups ranging from a dozen or so to a hundred or so. Whatever the rationale (individual, community, civic duty) for the 2A, "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed" yet it has been, in particularly egregious fashion from the standpoint of the communal and civic duty interpretations! What have I missed here? Please enlighten me when you have the time.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

You have my permission to mock ...

... anyone silly enough to claim that the recent snowstorms are "good for the economy" because they create jobs (or at least OT). Lost hours in factories, etc. will indeed be made up and most consumption nearly postponed (people will buy that new flat screen next week instead) but spending valuable resources (time, equipment, fuel) to move annoying white stuff entails a dead weight loss. The easiest way to see this is to look at government snow removal expenditures. The money spent on snow removal is no longer available for other services. I'm not saying that governments should refrain from plowing their own roads, of course, merely that it ain't helping the economy, just those who are in the snow removal biz. The situation is directly analogous to Bastiat's window, a tale of hidden opportunity costs.

Finding a way to remove snow more efficiently (more tons per $), on the other hand, WOULD be an economic boon.

If you do find yourself mocking the proponents of the "sbailout" (snow bailout) just don't call them "retarded." ;-)

Friday, February 05, 2010

Haiti's Future

I'm not going to comment on the increase in the national debt ceiling to $14+ TRILLION bucks. It's inevitable. What is not inevitable, however, is abject national poverty. In my forthcoming book, Fubarnomics: A Lighthearted, Serious Look at America's Economic Ills, I argue that nationwide poverty, like that experienced in Haiti as well as large swathes of Latin America, Africa, and Asia, is always and everywhere the fault of predatory government, of governments, sometimes imperial but often indigenous, that prey upon their citizens rather than protecting their lives, liberty, and property. Natural experiments in North America, Germany, Korea, and elsewhere bolster confidence in this hypothesis, which exposes the fallacies of the flawed "democracy is necessary for growth" theory. Protection of life, liberty, and property are necessary for growth, be the protector a democratic government or an enlightened despot.

With the possible exception of the U.S. military occupation of Japan after World War II, no outside power has yet created a prosperous nation by replacing a predatory government with a less predatory one. The international community should give the idea a try in Haiti, the people of which have very little to lose at this point. The process won't be democratic, especially at first, but get over it. The Haitians will once they see what they are capable of when properly rewarded for working hard and smart.