The Passive Voice: Who, exactly, “needs” to reward the wealthy for their “risks”?

February 18, 2013

“Consider all of your words. Many of them name deeds or states that are possible only to human beings. When you use them, attach them to persons. Give names and addresses wherever possible.” ~ Richard Mitchell, “The Underground Grammarian”

On facebook today, a warm and empathetic statement from a socialist/anarchist (I think) friend of mine, whom I respect greatly for his willingness to talk through the tough issues and consider opposing points of view:

Who, exactly, "needs" to reward the wealthy for their "risks"?

Who, exactly, “needs” to reward the wealthy for their “risks”?

We libertarians catch a lot of flak, much of it well deserved, for being insufficiently empathetic with the poor and their plight. I therefore try to approach comments like this with due care. Even so, economic reality is what it is. I can’t change it, and I have to tell it like it is.

In this particular instance, my friend, or the person whom he heard talk, has obscured economic reality through the passive voice. I encounter this unfortunate obscurant frequently. It radiates like a beacon in my mind’s eye, revealing the presence of muddled and incomplete thought.  Read the rest of this entry »

One Reason Not to Support the Post Office: It Is a Forced Monopoly

February 12, 2013

We can’t know how good mail service can be until others are allowed to try.

In the wake of the United States Postal Service’s announcement that it would suspend Saturday service later this year, I caught a flurry of facebook support for that time-honored institution. Here are two examples. The first comes courtesy of Labor 411 and Save the Post Office:

Awww. I'm getting weepy over here!

Awww. I’m getting weepy over here!

If you know anything about facebook, then you know that the arrow points to a little avatar image of the person who posted the message. How cute. Here is the other example, courtesy of GOP – The Party of Mean. Read the rest of this entry »

Strawman: Wealth is “the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise”

February 10, 2013

Government intervention can prevent the ascension to wealth, despite hard work and enterprise.

More facebook economic wisdom to impart, this time from the Being Liberal page, via the Shit Statists Say page:

Deep Thoughts, c/o Being Liberal.

Deep Thoughts, by George Monbiot.

I don’t like to stuff words in people’s mouths, but I can’t help but read this graphic in a way that in unflattering to supporters of free markets.  Read the rest of this entry »

When evaluating claims of criminal activity, always look for a victim.

February 7, 2013

This image appeared on Progressive Libertarianism‘s facebook feed:

Flowchart for proper lawmaking.

Flowchart for proper lawmaking.

Drug possession and prostitution are well known forms of victimless crime. These are crimes only because they violate the black letter of the written law, not because they produce victims.

A substantial amount of white-collar, corporate crime is also victimless. Progressives who would turn us against corporations and capitalism will often submit for our consideration the large amounts of criminal convictions, fines, and settlements that corporations accumulate. This is to tarnish the corporations’ reputations by portraying them as serial criminals. The same progressives might also suggest that the fines are too low to deter further “corporate crime”. Whenever I hear such allegations, my first demand to learn the identity of at least one victim of the corporations’ actions. Often—not always, but often—no victim is to be found. Read the rest of this entry »

Bizarre Headline: “Super Bowl F-bomb could put FCC in a bind”

February 4, 2013
Fear the 'F-Bomb'.

Fear the Bomb.

This bizarre headline comes to us from Yahoo! News:

Super Bowl F-Bomb could put FCC in a bind

Let’s take a moment to clarify exactly what’s binding who. Just a little reminder to anyone out there who may have lost all touch with reality: The ‘F-Bomb’ can not bind anything. The ‘F-Bomb’ is a sound that comes out of a person’s mouth. Sounds can not bind things. You hear them, and then they kind of go away. Sounds don’t bind things. People bind things.

So if the ‘F-Bomb’ isn’t binding the FCC, then what is? Why, the officers and agents of the executive branch of government, including those of the FCC itself, are binding the FCC. They are following Supreme Court precedent, and they are doing it at the behest of the members and officers of the Parent’s Television Council, who believe they are entitled to expletive-free television, and who insist that the FCC enforce this alleged entitlement. They are putting the FCC in a bind. The ‘F-Bomb’ is gone. The man who uttered it, not to mention everyone else in the entire world, had already moved on with their lives not three seconds after the bomb had dissipated into the air around it. My revised headline would read more like this:

Parents Television Council complaints could put FCC in a bind,

or, because the FCC has a bit of discretion over which complaints it investigates, simply,

The FCC could put the FCC in a bind.

Make sense?

Besides the FCC and it’s largely self-imposed bind, who else could potentially be in a bind before this is said and done? Why, the Columbia Broadcasting System, aka CBS, over whose equipment the ‘F-Bomb’ was broadcast, could be in a bind. Who would bind the Columbia Broadcasting System? The FCC. How will the FCC bind the Columbia Broadcasting System? With threats of fines backed up by threats of license revocations backed up by threats of force. If that comes to pass, then I would expect to see the following headline:

FCC puts CBS in a bind.

Got it?

Barry Schwartz: Analysis paralysis and the ‘paradox of choice’ justify wealth redistribution

February 4, 2013

I’ve heard it said before that too much choice can be harmful for people. I’m thinking primarily of Sheena Iyengar’s TEDTalk of July, 2010, The Art of Choosing, in which she said at about 10:38:

But for Eastern Europeans [who were acclimating to freer markets after the fall of communism], the sudden availability of all these consumer products on the marketplace was a deluge. They were flooded with choice before they could protest that they didn’t know how to swim. When asked, “What words and images do you associate with choice?” Gregors from Warsaw said, “Ah. For me it is fear. There are some dilemmas, you see. I am used to no choice.” Bodin, from Kiev, said in response to how he felt about the new consumer marketplace, “It is too much. We do not need everything that is there.” …

When someone can’t see how one choice is unlike another, or when there are too many choices to compare and contrast, the process of choosing can be confusing and frustrating. Instead of making better choices, we become overwhelmed by choice, sometimes even afraid of it. Choice no longer offers opportunities, but imposes constraints. It’s not a marker of liberation, but of suffocation by meaningless minutia. In other words, choice can develop into the very opposite of everything it represents in America, when it is thrust up on those who are insufficiently prepared for it.

Her point is well taken that a sudden overabundance of choice can be confusing and frustrating to those whose decision-making faculties have been stunted by years of repression, but her attitude is convoluted. Choice is not the villain here. Choice was not “thrust upon those who were insufficiently prepared for it”. Rather, a cadre of communist despots thrust the absence of choice on those people by force, thereby causing their impreparation for what, in freer countries, is simply the state of nature.  Read the rest of this entry »

Sam Seder, the anti-libertarian crusader, on government and the internet

February 4, 2013

As I have looked for libertarian-type videos on YouTube, it has become difficult to avoid the videos of Sam Seder, actor and comedian turned progressive radio commentator and host of The Majority Report. He’s apparently made a profession of repackaging the most hackneyed of statist canards in a hip and freshly pugnacious style. To me, it comes off as so much trolling, almost unworthy of response, but a so much of him appears in that, as a trove of source material, I can no longer resist.

So today I caught this video, in which Sam claims to pwn the Libertarians … again.” Let’s have a look at this alleged pwnage:

That’s it. He starts with a quote, ostensibly from a listener:

Libertarians are the paradigmatic born-on-third-base types. They have no appreciation that society for hundreds of years has built up the material comfort and wealth they benefit from. They’re just rationalizing their own entitlement.

Sam Seder agrees immediately and wholeheartedly, and then proceeds to rationalize his own entitlement to high-speed internet wherever he goes. Read the rest of this entry »