et tu, FEE?

First Reason Magazine in July, and now FEE has published an article against privatizing marriage.  It actually ticked me off that libertarian publications were putting forth this view.

Privatizing Marriage Makes No Sense

“But even though “privatizing marriage” is gaining popularity, it is an incoherent concept that, if anything, will actually increase — not decrease — government interference in marriage.”

“At the most basic level, even if we can get the government out of the business of issuing marriage licenses, it still has to record and register these partnerships (and/or authorize the entities that perform them) before they can have any legal validity, just as it registers property and issues titles and deeds. Therefore, government will need to set rules and regulations as to what counts as a legitimate marriage “deed.” It won’t simply accept any marriage performed in any church — or any domestic partnership contract signed by anyone.”

Marriage is not a problem for the state.  There is no problem until the event of divorce.  Divorce only becomes a problem if the people want the state to get involved.  There is no need for the state to be involved divorce proceedings either.  People could go to a private arbitrator.

I maintain that there is plenty of common law for the courts to draw upon in the event that a divorcing couple wants the state to settle their affairs.  More and more people are opting for common law marriage in an age where marriage rates on the decline.  It is no big deal.

much ado about nothing

Hassle With the State Apparatus

It is just a little thing that happened, but I think it is an excellent example of regulation, crony capitalism, wasted time, and wasted resources.

Every year, as bookkeeper of my church, I take care of getting a license for our lift.  I’ve been doing this for 3 years now, and we pay our money and we get a certificate in the mail to display that our lift is legal.  Our lift goes up and down a short flight of stairs to the basement of our church where our hall is located.  Without it, people who cannot negotiate stairs, because of a wheel chair or other issues, couldn’t attend our special events.

The process to get a permit is as follows.  First we hire a private company to inspect our lift, and pay them a ridiculous amount (about $325 I think) for an inspection.  Once inspected, we send a copy of the inspection, along with a check for $120 to the Department of Homeland Security.  Why the Department of Homeland Security is involved with lift inspections, I haven’t the foggiest idea.  When I joked about it, someone suggested it was because they needed funding, and this was just a method to get them money.  So we pay.  We pay the private company for an inspection.  We pay the state to get a license.

We pay and we are then left alone.  Until this year, when a state inspector shows up out of the blue to look at our lift.  Three years.  Three years I’ve been taking care of this now, and I have never had a state inspector come out.  They had already issued our license.  Yet still, an inspector shows up at our door a couple of weeks ago.  The secretary calls me at home because he wants to see our inspection report from the private company.  I come across irritated to her, which I quickly assure her that it is not her calling me, but the idea this guy shows up out of nowhere when they have already granted us a license.  I tell her where to find the inspection paperwork, so she can show him.

He is not happy with the way our lift is operating.  He doesn’t like how the stop buttons work.  He calls the private company that inspected our lift, and apparently reams them for passing it in their inspection.  The private company comes out to take care of the issues.  This is their gravy train after all.  They make ridiculous money for less than an hours worth of work inspecting these lifts.  The private company informs the secretary that the lift was not designed in the manner that the state inspector thinks it ought to work.  They jerry-rig it to comply with the state inspectors demands.  The inspector is apparently happy with the jerry-rigging and he is now off our backs.

This is just one little example of how the state is a busybody that interferes in areas where it has no business.  The result is a waste of our money, both the churches and the taxpayers.  The result is lost productivity, as a company is fixing imaginary issues.  The result is a company is profiting on inspections from which it would not otherwise be making money.  They made twice as much money on the inspection as when they actually came out and fixed our lift several months previously.  The result is an inspector that has to find issues to justify his employment, so he spends his time hassling an itty bitty little church over a lift where there is like a million to one chance that someone will every actually be injured on it.  Multiply this by all the other regulations of the state and imagine the consequences of all the lost productivity, wasted time, and wasted money.

 

Ben Carson: Two Tier Minimum Wage

In the latest GOP debate, Ben Carson suggested that we should adopt a two-tier minimum wage, as well as possibly being in favor of raising minimum wage.  Apparently he has weighed the criticism of minimum wage rates, and has come up with his version of how to address it.

Carson stated, “I was asked should it be raised? I said probably, or possibly. But what I added, which I think is the most important thing, is I said we need to get both sides of this issue to sit down, and talk about it, and negotiate a reasonable minimum wage, and index that, so that we never have to have this conversation again in the history of America. I think we also have to have two minimum wages, a starter and a sustaining. Because how are young people ever going to get a job, if you have such a high minimum wage that it makes it impractical to hire them?”

He thinks there can be some middle ground between two sides to this issue.  The sides are diametrically opposed.  There is no middle ground!  The road to hell is in the middle ground.  Sure, they have good intentions to help the poor ignorant masses be able to escape poverty by a wage floor.  All of us in the US, even the poor, live in abundance compared to our predecessors.  Poverty in the US is doing without certain material goods that other people have, it is not going without food and clean water, like the abject poverty seen in developing countries and faced by man throughout history.    It betrays a certain disdain for the people that are not materially well off, to think they are incapable of making decisions as to how much money they are willing to work.  Life comes with tough decisions.  Facing those circumstances and finding ways to make it work is what leads to creativity and better future decisions.

He wants to get it settled, so that we don’t have to have this conversation again.   Dr. Carson, Ben, it cannot just be settled. Economic realities will always rear their head in response to Central Planning!   So you want to just index it to inflation?  What is going to happen if we have a high bout of Fed induced inflation and employers suddenly are required to pay their employees a good deal more than previously?

The sad thing is, he has some insight into why minimum wage is harmful, as evidenced by his two-tiered approach to address the unskilled youth problem.  Unfortunately, that is not the only problem with minimum wage.

On Deified Markets

I wrote a poem in praise of markets yesterday.  Corny or good, I do not know.

After reading about the Pope’s latest market criticisms, it got me thinking about how I might represent the kind of person he thinks is deifying markets.  I am a practicing Catholic, albeit not a very good one.  Whenever people make statements how religious people are blind followers, I roll my eyes, as I’m not sure that I know anyone who doesn’t question what they believe, or that I know anyone who agrees with all of their church’s doctrine.

However, since I am Catholic, I feel compelled to defend myself against such charges as idolatry of the market and profits.  A couple of years ago, the Pope in his Evangelii Gaudiim made the following statements:

In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.

&

In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.

First of all, it is obvious he doesn’t understand economics and mistakes the crony capitalist system in place for actual free markets.  Therefore, his criticisms of what I love are baseless.

Yet, I do love free markets.  Could I thus be deifying markets?  I don’t think so.  The reason I love free enterprise is because how I see it helping my fellow man.  The material progress that more freedom of industry has brought to man makes it possible for him to do that which was very hard before.  He can be more generous, because he doesn’t have the worry that he will starve if he gives of his yield.  It gives him more time to focus on family, friends, knowledge, and religion.  I understand that modern sheer abundance can lead to people getting trapped in a pursuit of things versus pursuit of true happiness and peace, but it does not seem like a valid criticism since temptation lurks all around us in various forms.

By loving markets, am I worshiping creation instead of the Creator?  Not in my mind.  I am blown away that freedom brought such abundance to our lives.  As I have already stated, I see much good for humans arising from that abundance.  Since I believe that God is the Creator, I believe that he set the world in motion in such a manner that freedom from coercion and peaceful cooperation have raised the standard of living in such a way that man has much more time for higher pursuits.  I can’t help but look at that in awe, and in fact worship and love God for his goodness in giving us a peaceful means to live in communion during our lives here on earth.  My love of markets is nothing more than awe and love of God.

 

Man is the Measure of All Things

I became interested in the Sophists, after listening to a couple of lectures on the History of Political Thought from Liberty Classroom.  I had, of course, heard of Socrates, Plato, & Aristotle, but I had no idea the sophists existed.  Since I was unaware of their existence, I was also unaware of the influence their arguments had on the famous philosophers.  I ordered a book titled The Greek Sophists to find out more about what they expounded, and started reading it over the weekend.  The first sophist that is discussed is Protagoras.  To my dismay, I feel I know about as much about Protagoras as I did before I started reading. Everything about his beliefs appear to be speculation, and the one person that may have been most in a position to know, Plato, appears to have taken a dim view of him, and it is not known whether or not Plato treated him fairly.

The following statement is said to come at the beginning of Protagoras’s book Truth or The Overthrowers:

“Man is the measure of all things, of things that are that they are, and of things that are not, that they are not.”

Plato takes this statement to mean that Protagoras is a moral relativist, that he thinks there is no absolute truth.  My book quotes from Plato’s Protagoras, with Socrates & Protagoras discussing the “Man is the Measure” statement.  Plato’s Protagoras character makes some statements about how the same things will appear good or bad to people depending upon the state they are in.  In Plato’s Thaetetus, the Protagoras character’s “Man is the Measure” statement is treated in similar fashion, with a discussion of how one person can feel cold while another does not.  When I read this, I immediately think of the Subjective Theory of Value.  Without reading very much about this, I question why value being subjective to man is so objectionable and why that has to be extrapolated to mean everything is relative, but I get that I’m fairly ignorant about all this.  I heard that the Greeks were very into there being objective beauty and such, so for Protagoras to come out with things being relative, I suppose could have been blasphemous.  That is the thing about reading.  It just opens up more questions.  For me to opine about that which I’m just learning seems presumptuous.  Yet, I love to discuss what I encounter.

What the book quoted from Plato, was the first I have read firsthand, as I had previously just heard what other people have said about him.  I absolutely love his writing style.  I didn’t expect that.  I had always heard about his totalitarian ideas, and assumed I would hate him.  I might not like his ideas, but he is fascinating to me to read.  I almost feeling like ditching my Sophists book in favor of reading Plato.

 

 

 

Yellow Journalism & the Spanish American War

I was unpleasantly surprised by the way my kids’ history book discussed the treatment of the “Cuban Crisis” by the newspapers leading up to the Spanish-American War.  The book basically said that William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer wanted war so they could sell newspapers to make lots of money.  Unfortunately for me, I’m not well versed in the Spanish-American War and I was short on time, so there was no googling at that point.  I told the kids there had to be more to the story because it is pure nuts that someone would want to bring on all the horrors of war just so they could make money.  I told them that it had to be more complicated than the book was portraying.  On the inside, I’m mad that the book that I have liked very well, up until today, is putting forward that “evil capitalist willing to see people dead just so they can make money” point of view.

I start wondering if there is merit to what the history book is saying and perhaps my bias toward love of markets and capitalism leads me to cut businessmen slack.   After all, we see the media today whip people into a frenzy for various causes, why would these guys be any different?  I turn to Google to help me sort it out.

I came upon this as I was poking around on Wikipedia.  One of Hearst’s big critics is Upton Sinclair!

 Hearst’s use of yellow journalism techniques in his New York Journal to whip up popular support for U.S. military adventurism in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines in 1898 was also criticized in Upton Sinclair‘s 1919 book, The Brass Check: A Study of American Journalism. According to Sinclair, Hearst’s newspaper employees were “willing by deliberate and shameful lies, made out of whole cloth, to stir nations to enmity and drive them to murderous war.”

I laughed out loud at the irony.   The author who willingly lied to and mislead the public about conditions of the meat packing industry in his book The Jungle is criticizing Hearst for deliberate and shameful lies!  Here is a quick article exposing Sinclair’s deceit.

Distraction.  The lyrics of Uptown Funk start running through my mind, and I try to come up with a parody that disparages Upton Sinclair, with no success.

I need another source than Wikipedia, I think to myself.  A couple of google terms later, and I find this article at New World Encyclopedia.

Basically, it sounds like Hearst was actually concerned for the treatment of the Cuban’s at the hands of the Spanish.  He was a war hawk, to be sure.  Like so many other, hawks he is under the sadly misguided notion that war can fix things, when it actually leads to destruction and deaths.

I think there is plenty to criticize Hearst for in his warmongering, but I submit that painting him as a greedy capitalist who is warmongering to make money is unfair.

 

Parental Discourse on Teaching Religion

A. You claim to want to raise critical thinkers, yet you take your kids to church thus telling them what to believe.  How are your kids going to think for themselves when they are told what to believe?

R.  It is true I take me kids to church, but I don’t force them to pray or participate in any of the rituals.  All I ask is they be quiet in respect for those around them.

A.  While you may not force them to participate, I know you take them to Sunday school too! Clearly you are teaching them what to believe.

R.  OK, ok, you got me.  I am teaching them there is a God and they are learning church doctrine at Sunday School.  I don’t know how it could be any other way, even if I didn’t send them to Sunday School.  Kids learn by the examples they see and parents hold significant sway just by their day to day actions.  When I go to church, when I worship, when I use examples of Jesus’s teaching to explain particular concepts, that would have a big impact upon them even if we left Sunday School out.

A.  Alright, I get that kids are going to follow the example of their parents.  That is perfectly natural.   However, I think Sunday School is an entirely different thing.  Kids are taught step by step to practice your religion, thus indoctrinating them to it.  They learn your way, and that gives them a bias which doesn’t permit them to consider other views on the matter.

R. So your complaint is that by teaching my kids that there is a God, and that practicing Christianity is how we worship our God, I am going to bias them against considering other religions or non religion.  That is fair.  I don’t think it means that they won’t be able to think critically.

A.  Well, if they aren’t able to look objectively at the different types of belief systems, how are they to critically decide what they do believe?

R.  People have to have an idea of what they believe before critical thought can occur.

A. Huh?

R.  You have to have a theory about right and wrong, in order that you should test it against reality.

A.  Having a theory about right and wrong is completely different than teaching your kids to blindly worship God.

R. Not really,  if you believe in God and that God is who set the world in motion, and thus determines what is right and wrong.

A.  Still, you could tell them what you think is right and wrong without bringing God into it.  Wouldn’t it be better to offer up many different views on religion and nonreligion and let them decide for themselves if practicing a religion makes sense for them?

R.  If I think something is truth, it doesn’t really make sense for me to hold up competing views as equally true in the manner you suggest.  That is nonsensical.

A. Why?  Are you so afraid that your kids won’t follow your religion if you don’t teach them to practice it?

R.  It is nonsensical because that is not the way human parents relate with their offspring.  Let us take a concept we can hopefully agree upon.  Can we agree that injuring an innocent party for the fun of it is wrong?

A.  Yes, but I don’t see what that has to do with religion.

R.  Like I said before, I believe God is the author of right and wrong, so for me it would be remiss to leave that out of moral teachings.  So we can agree that hurting an innocent for kicks is wrong.  Wouldn’t it then violate reason to hold up the idea of hurting someone that has done nothing just for the sport of it is equally valid?

A.  Well, it is wrong to just hurt people for your own amusement, so no it doesn’t make sense to tell them it is OK after you taught them it was wrong.  However, it is just so ridiculous that you believe in God in the first place.  That is why you can’t see how teaching your child your religion amounts to indoctrination.

R.  Wouldn’t you be indoctrinating your child into a view if you taught them that injuring a guiltless person for your own entertainment was wrong?

A.  I arrived at that conclusion by reason, though, not because of belief in a myth.

R.  Yet you wouldn’t want your children to give equal consideration to the alternative to the wrongness of hurting innocents for personal pleasure.  However you arrived at that conclusion, it doesn’t change that you will act the same as I when it comes to teaching your children about right and wrong.  The only difference is that we believe different things.  Therefore, if you don’t think my kids can be critical thinkers, then it would be appropriate for you to examine if your kids will be either.