Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Part of why gun laws are such a problem

We're not all talking about the same thing, we should not be talking about the same thing, but we think we are. Huh?

I am highly in favor of gun control. Near where I live. It's a big city with a pretty high amount of gun crime. Innocent kids die far too often. It's terrible.

Now before you get up in arms about liberals taking your guns, let me ask you, where do you live and what sort of guns?

Do you live in Texas or one of the other 48 states which are not the one in which I live? If yes, then I don't care much about your laws.
Do you want a hunting rifle? Go for it.
Do you live in the southern part of my state which is more rural and therefore can make the case that the police are too far away? If so, you're effectively in a different state, so I have no interest in your guns.

Almost no one wants to take away your guns, they just don't want to die. But that's hard to get across in a nation filled with pundits and the god damn NRA. They don't like subtleties such as different laws in different places (since they have different needs and cultures). Those hurt their brains. Instead they like to scream about a handgun ban in Chicago restricting your rights in... let's say Kentucky. When someone talks like that, recognize them as either idiots or power-hungry and uncaring. They don't give a shit about you or your safety, only about tricking you into voting or them or sending them money.

Moving on...

There was a failed bill which would allow people to carry concealed weapons across state lines, making their permits valid in other states with permits. Correction: it was a bit tacked onto a military funding bill. Yes, someone is trying to sneak their own flawed ideas into the legislation that funds the soldiers that keep us safe. Shameless. Unfortunately those who added the piece and voted for it were not immediately removed from office (or at least reprimanded and less likely to be re-elected) for clearly putting pandering to special interests (remember the NRA?) ahead of their duty to keep our nation functioning and advancing. Here's the problem with the idea: it was stupid. Fine, I'll elaborate.

By making a permit from one state valid in all states, it would effectively make a national standard and that would be the lowest standard. Would you like it if the next state over gave permits to child molesters? I'd expect not. It's also not likely to happen, so let's set aside that bit of hyperbole, but retain the meaning: do you want permits given out by the lowest standard? It gets worse though.

This is a clear violation of states' rights. If your representatives, or possibly even a direct vote, sets certain standards, that is the choice of your state. Under this law your choice would be erased, replaced with the choice of some other state. The only exception being the state with the lowest standards; they'd get to replace the will of voters in every other state.

I understand the sentiment that a person's personal protection should not vanish for crossing state lines. I even support it. However this was not the way to do it. A better way would be to encourage states to create standards, maybe different ones within and between states so that suitable individuals can move freely and safely between states as needed. Streamline the process for getting a permit in another state if you already have one.

Cooperation between states will yield a much better process than a bloated national legislature selling their votes on a piece of legislation which tramples states' rights.

Guns will not go away in America and I don't want them to go away. Sadly, this is how the debate is framed, between gun nuts and sissy liberals who want us all defenseless. There is not only a middle ground, there is also room for each extreme in local and state laws. Don't be fooled into thinking that anyone is forcing you to do anything, or that they have the right.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Why you should swear less. Warning: contains swearing

Fucking awesome! How much more awesome is that than say "totally awesome" or even just "awesome"? Did you add much meaning?

No. In fact you are destroying meaning. Profanity is useful. It conveys disrespect and offensiveness and sometimes anger. If I start dropped f-bombs, you can be sure something is wrong. Or can you? "Fucking awesome" would be a good thing. Or if I swear a lot around you, isn't that disrespectful? Probably not, I'm likely not trying to convey any disrespect and increasingly people are not perceiving any disrespect.

When you make profanity a common thing, it ceases to be profane. It loses meaning. But isn't it good to stop expressing disrespect and anger and offensiveness? It would be good if we were less offensive as a collective. However losing the capacity is not good. Loss of expression only weakens language. What if you need to shock someone or get their attention?

Keep swearing, but swear more carefully. Scold children for swearing. Get offended and indignant when someone swears a lot around you. Keep swearing dirty and offensive. It is your civic duty.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Is fairness unfair?

Let's imagine a world with 6 resources and two factions fighting over it. The exact description of none of these matter.

In the first scenario the two factions fight. One is more skilled and ends up with 4 resources while the other gets only 1, and 1 resource is destroyed in the process. This is a merit-based system of distribution, though a rather violent and wasteful one.

Let's try something nicer.

In the second scenario they cooperate. They achieve full benefit of resources, ending up harvesting all 6. They are also fair and each faction gets 3 resources. This is rather unfair, isn't it? How?

The more capable faction went from 4 to 3, a loss of 25%. However the less capable faction went from 1 to 3, a 300% gain. Or is it 200%? I hate expressing numbers like this. There was greater overall prosperity, 20% more resources overall, and yet one faction lost resources. The other got all the benefits of the prosperity, plus more.

In this situation it makes no sense for the stronger faction to cooperate. Why should they give up what they earned? Fairness is nice, except for those on the losing end.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Digging ditches and Wall Street

Keynes advocated paying people to dig holes and fill them up again as a method of economic stimulus. Obviously this is nothing but busy work, a disguised form of welfare. It's clear that this would receive a lot of criticism. But something similar exists which is often praised and those who do it are called geniuses.

I am referring to speculating, playing the market, whatever you want to call it. These are certainly hard and can take a lot of time and effort. You need to find the trends and predict what will happen, get the capital, and generally spend a lot of time watching. And yet it produces nothing. It is digging holes and filling them up again while being paid for it.

The only difference is that digging holes relies on government while speculation relies of gaps in the market. Government takes your taxes. Does the market? Yes. Speculators close those gaps, passing on the difference to themselves. This difference would have otherwise taken the form of higher profits or consumers getting bargains. Speculators are taking and wasting your money just like government. Okay one other difference: paid digging of holes keeps people from starving and possibly getting violent, think of it as cheaper indirect security (I'll say more about this later if I remember). Speculators only fatten their own wallets.

To make it worse, speculators drive well, speculation. They inflate and burst bubbles.

It is important to not confuse speculation and investment. Investment is a wonderful thing. What's the difference? Investment drives production. Loan money to a business, they use it to buy computers or machinery or to hire more workers, that increases their profits and then some of those profits go to the lender. Investment does not directly produce anything, but it stimulates production. In contrast speculation puts in money and takes back more without any stimulation. While it could be argued that speculation could become investing given time, this is rarely the case, as seen by rapid buying and selling of stocks and bonds, especially on the secondary markets.

And then there's short selling. This practice is on par with kidnapping children and selling their blood to mad scientists for the moral depravity of it, though in defense of the kidnappers, they just might end up playing a role in advancing human knowledge.

Next time you see money taken from your pay for welfare, remember that it is keeping someone alive and housed. Look carefully and you might see the extra chunk taken out for cigars and cars for speculators.

To defend the ditch-digging, think of a side benefit which makes it more helpful and beneficial than welfare. By creating work it keeps people busy and in the habit of work. This has two big effects. The first is to reduce the potential for crimes caused by idleness such as vandalism or other activities which exist mostly out of boredom and lack of socially productive ties. The second, keeping people in the habit of work, will ensure that when the economy recovers they can make a smoother transition to a real job. It makes them more employable and that is good for workers and employers and will help to speed up recovery when it comes.