Gault's Gulch

June 2, 2010

Gold is the canary in the coal-mine…

Filed under: Politics — John Gault @ 3:34 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

I have found that people who collect things–baseball cards, stamps, star wars figurines, etc.–usually have an easier time understanding the complex intricacies of monetary policy and its effects on our every day life.  This is because most people have a flawed view of what, exactly, money really is and from where it derives its value.  As a lead in to my point, let’s look at the most valuable baseball card in the world–the T206 Honus Wagner card.

The T206 was manufactured between 1909 and 1911.  Due to issues not worth delving into here, it was manufactured in extremely limited numbers–and the passage of time has reduced those numbers even lower.  As a result, if you wanted to purchase one of the 50 or so of these  famed cards still in existence, you should be ready to pony up anywhere between $500k and a cool $2 million depending on the cards history and condition.  Now, imagine if you will, a kindly old man in a Pennsylvania farmhouse who is cleaning out his cellar.  In the back corner, he discovers a long-forgotten box that belonged to his father.  It says American Tobacco Company on it’s side and it is FULL of T206 Wagner cards–thousands of them in mint condition.  What would happen to the value of the T206 if these new cards suddenly flooded the market place?  Not only would the price go down, it would go down far enough that you could start using them to make that really cool thwap-thwap-thwap sound in your bicycle spokes again…

This scenario outlines perfectly what we, as a nation, have done to our money supply.  Every time that the U.S. Treasury fires up the printing presses and creates new currency to pay for our deficit spending, they decrease the value of every dollar you currently have in your wallet.  The proof of this is right in front of us in one of the most well-known and historically sought after commodities–gold.

In 1975, gold cost about $200 per ounce.  As I write this, gold is currently trading at over $1200 per ounce.  Wow!  Gold is sure more valuable than it was 35 years ago–or is it?  Basic economics teaches us that price is a product of supply vs. demand.  If gold is 600% more valuable now than it was in 1975, then surely gold demand must have gone up dramatically–or supplies must have dropped sharply.  In actuality, however, neither of these things have happened.  Gold is incredibly stable because its uses are very well-defined, its supply is well-known, and it’s demand has remained virtually unchanged for decades.  So why the price spike?  Well, look at those prices from another perspective.  In 1975, a single American dollar was worth 1/200th of an ounce of gold.  Now, a single greenback is only worth 1/1200th of an ounce.  It is not the gold that is changing value, it is the money we are comparing it to.  This is inflation–and it happens because our government has decided that it can spend as much as it wants as long as there is ink in the printing press and paper on the rolls.  Unfortunately, this policy of deficit spending and debt-creation has devalued our currency and threatens to bankrupt the nation. 

What’s even worse than this, however, is that the government knows this and chooses to lie about it.  They tout the Consumer Price Index as the measure of inflation and shout loudly that inflation isn’t a problem.  The CPI, unfortunately, is a terrible indicator of inflation because it fails to take into account the myriad of other influences on the prices of consumer goods.  If the price of Amazon’s Kindle drops, the CPI says that this is because our money is getting stronger–instead, it’s because the I-pad is kicking Amazon’s ass.  Gold–or some other stable, predictable commodity–is the only way to gauge the strength of our currency.  It is the canary in the coal mine and I think it’s about time we all put on our oxygen masks because things are getting dark in a hurry.

When Greece started going up in flames last month, conservative pundits were busy asking the question “Could that happen here?”.  Well, the answer is no.  Greece is a part of the European Union.  It doesn’t have the ability or authority to print more currency and buy its way out of debt.  We do.  As a result, we’ll never “run out of money” like Greece did.  If you want to see where the U.S. is headed, you need to look to Zimbabwe.

When the Zimbabwean dollar was introduced as its official currency in 1980, it was one of the strongest currencies in the world.  Between 1980 and 2009, however, the Zimbabwean government engaged in monetary policy much like our own.  They spent in deficits, they incurred massive national debt, and they printed more and more and more dollars in order to pay for it all.  Inflation speeds up over time–feeding on itself in an ever-escalating spiral–until the changes in value start to become exponential.  By 2009, the Zimbabwean dollar was dropping in value so quickly that money was being burned as fuel because there was so much worthless paper in circulation that to buy firewood would have required a wheelbarrow–not to carry the wood, but to carry all the dollar bills that it would cost to buy the wood.  Finally, the Zimbabwean dollar collapsed to nothing and was abandoned.  Citizens of Zimbabwe now conduct their business with foreign currencies. 

So, why should we care?  If all our money becomes less valuable, then, sure, a loaf of bread may cost $300 but my employer will be paying me $6 million a year so it all evens out–right?  Not exactly.  Think of your 401K.  Maybe you have $500K in it right now.  That’s enough that when you retire, you could use that money to buy a nice house and still have money left over to pay expenses.  The problem is that while your money sits in that 401K account, it is losing it’s value.  As the “Zimbabwe Effect” speeds up, that $500K suddenly doesn’t have the purchasing power to buy a house anymore.  Then it doesn’t have the power to buy a car.  Then it doesn’t have the power to buy one of those horrific Double-Down sandwiches at KFC.  Ultimately, everything you’ve spent your life saving will have become worthless.

What can we do?  Well, we could convert all of our money to gold, silver, diamonds–anything durable and stable.  Maybe it’s just my pampered American predisposition, but that seems a little bit too Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome for me.  No, the answer lies in the mistakes the government has made.  We could return to the gold standard that existed before 1933.  This would fix the value of our currency to a specific unit of gold.  Second, we could allow the privatization of currency creation and let the free-market sort out the mess–the Libertarian in me loves this idea.  Lastly, we could stop laughing at guys like Ron Paul and, instead, elect them to positions that would allow them to dramatically reduce government spending, disband the Federal Reserve, and, most importantly, turn off the printing presses at the Treasury.  That is, unless we want to start using baseball cards as currency–it won’t be long before they are more valuable.

April 28, 2010

Today…Let’s Fix Immigration.

 

In the wake of the new Arizona immigration law, it seems that everyone has an opinion about the state of immigration in the United States–of both the legal and illegal variety.  Unfortunately, most of the opinions are wrong.  I say this because in order for a solution to be valid, it not only needs to be ideologically consistent with an existing or sought after code of ethics, it also has to yield the desired result–that is, it has to work.  Most of what I have heard from both the right and the left has been weak on the former and absolutely pathetic in regards to the latter.  So, being the “team player” that I am, I have decided to outline a few key points that, if implemented, would solve the  immigration problems in the U.S. for good.  After all, I have a few minutes to spare before lunch–this afternoon I’m planning to end the drug war, bring peace to the Middle East, and answer all your lingering questions about that damn island on Lost.

***Dramatically ease the restrictions on legal immigration.***

Simple human nature dictates that if you tell people:  “You can’t come here”, then a certain segment of the population will dedicate all of their ingenuity and determination into getting here.  There is simply no practical way to “seal off” the borders of the United States–and no logical reason to do so.  History has shown us that our greatest resource, as a nation, is not our natural resources or anything specific to our white, anglo-saxon population.  Our strength comes from the desire of each individual to flourish in the opportunity-rich atmosphere of a free, capitalistic society.  By our very nature as a young nation, most of this strength and progress has come by way of immigrants and their descendants.  Why, then, would we voluntarily cut ourselves off from the very source of our historical strength by unnecessarily restricting legal immigration?  The simple fact is that people are going to come here as long as this is a good place to live.  The cost of keeping them out is prohibitive and the logistics are untennable.  Opening our borders to anyone without a criminal record and streamlining the naturalization process would allow us to save money, tap talent, increase the tax base, grow the economy, and document our population in ways that no currently debated reform can possibly do.

***End birthright citizenship***

Regardless of how “open” a nation’s border policy may be, there will always be some people we will want to keep out.  Criminals, for example, should not be allowed to ply their illegal trades here in the U.S. and, so, should be turned back at the border.  In turn, criminals will try to enter illegally–they are CRIMINALS after all.  The key to stemming this much smaller tide of illegals is to remove the incentives that encourage them break our immigration laws.  Obviously, one way of doing that is the increase penalties for those who are caught.  Mandatory United States prison sentences should be served by anyone caught entering or residing in the U.S. illegally followed by immediate deportation.  The second prong of this approach is increasing the likelihood that an illegal immigrant will be caught.  This doesn’t mean building some “super-fence” or plastering every inch of the border with cameras.  It means redefining “citizenship” in this country and then making that newly defined status  the criteria for access to all government services.  One of the major reasons why illegal immigrants are willing to risk injury or death crossing our border, abuse at the hands of coyotes, and deportation if caught is because they know that their children will automatically be U.S. citizens if they are born here.  All children should have their citizenship application submitted by their parents after birth for approval by a chartered U.S. agency.  The infrastructure already exists.  The Social Security administration already reviews and approves applications for every birth in the U.S. to get those kids Social Security numbers and entry into the S.S. tax roll.  Citizenship approval could simply be an added function–or ideally, social security should be abolished entirely and the Social Security Administration could easily become the Citizenship Administration.  Finally, any time anyone wants access to a government service or process of any kind, their citizenship card would need to be presented.  Since children of  illegal immigrants would be ineligible for citizenship approval, one of the major incentives for illegal immigration would be removed.

***Amnesty***

I’m a big believer in the idea that even if you don’t like the laws as they are written or even if you believe those laws to be morally wrong, you have an obligation to pay the consequences if you decide to break them.  That is why the idea of giving amnesty or forgiveness to the roughly 12 million illegal aliens that currently reside within the U.S. is unpalatable to me.  I may not agree with the laws that kept them from coming here legally, but they made the decision to break our laws and come here illegally.  They are, by definition, criminals–and should, then, be treated as such.  Unfortunately, there is a matter of practicality and pragmatism that has to be addressed here.  We do not have the means or the funding to deport 12 million people.  Even if we did, our economy would be severely damaged by removing those 12 million people from the jobs that they currently perform.  When any system is broken and a new solution is introduced, the question of what to do with those who were part of the old system will arise.  If we privatized Social Security today, what would happen to those who have paid in their entire lives thusfar?  If we legalized marijuana today, what would happen to the criminal records of those currently incarcerated for possession?  If we open our borders to legal immigration and crack down hard on the very few that are turned away and then attempt, despite every disincentive put in their way, to enter illegally, what should happen to those who already made it in?  I think that the only practical solution is defined amnesty.  Illegals currently living in the U.S. should have their status decriminalized for a very specific period of time–say 18 months.  During this time, they should apply for citizenship under the new, easier rules.  Anyone completing this process by the deadline would have their former status as “illegal” forgiven.  Anyone who does not complete this process in the alotted time should then be incarcerated and then deported as mentioned above.  I think that the number who would try and legalize their status would be so large that the remaining “truly illegals” would be small enough in number to allow this kind of enforcement.

It is never wise to fight a war that is impossible to win.  The “war” against immigration is such a fight.  People will come here.  We simply need to decide whether they will add to or subtract from that which makes us a great nation once they have gotten here.  Making immigration difficult and lengthy only encourages larger and larger numbers of people to circumvent the system.  These people then live isolated from the rest of our society–a drain on law enforcement and social program budgets.  Opening the borders allows us to capitalize on the strength of these new Americans and divert badly needed resources from the fighting of an unwinnable conflict to those problems which can be solved–if we only have the courage and foresight to address them.

 

April 14, 2010

God Seems a Little Petty.

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gault @ 9:28 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

 

Alright…I know that this is two religion posts in a row.  I promise, next time around, it’s back to politics.  In the meantime, however, I want to address a particular aspect of Christianity which has been bugging me.  It seems to me, that the criteria by which admission into that eternal Club-Med, Heaven, is judged, is a little off-kilter.

Let’s take atheism off the table for the time being.  Let’s just assume that Christianity, above all the many other religions of the world–past and present–is correct and the Bible is, in fact, the instruction book for life, death, and the hereafter.  Most people don’t talk about the fact that, even then, one still has a decision to make.  Given the teachings of Christianity, is the God of the Bible a god worthy of our love and worship? 

In addressing this issue, one could easily take pot-shots at the more horrific stories of the Bible.  The Old Testament, especially, is rife with examples of cruelty, misogyny, sanctioned slavery, racism, infidelity, murder, torture, etc.  But let’s face it–Heaven is the prize.  Just like those who follow Allah are counting the days until they get their 72 virgins, Christians plod through life and the rituals of their religion with the understanding that they will, eventually, be rewarded for their good behavior with the blessings of Heaven.  So, let’s even ignore the questionable teachings of the Bible and concentrate solely on the price of admission into the cosmos’ most bitchin’ nightclub–Heaven.  Consider these two potential residents of Studio 54 in the Sky…

First, we have Dave.  He’s generally a good guy.  He doesn’t steal.  He doesn’t lie (aside from the occasional “No, honey. Those jeans most definitely do not make you look fat.).  He cares about those around him and does his best to help those in genuine need.  He respects his parents and rather than get jealous of those around him who have more wealth or convenience than he does, he’s happy for their good fortune and grateful for those things that he DOES have.  All in all, Dave’s a good guy.  He pays his taxes, he works hard, he loves his family and he tries to avoid hurting the other guy.  Oh yeah, Dave’s an atheist.  He’s not agnostic.  He’s not buddhist.  He doesn’t belong to the wrong sect of Christianity.  He adamantly and willfully denies the existence of any God whatsoever based on his intellectual need for proof which, he feels, has never been met.  Dave holds this point of view until he dies at age 90 in his sleep.

Now, let’s meet Jeffrey.  Jeffrey lives most of his life as a real a-hole.  He believes in God, but like a lot of people, he doesn’t let that belief stand in the way of doing and taking what he wants.  In his twenties and thirties, Jeffrey steals cars, assaults little old ladies, forges checks–he even robbed a gas station at gun point while wearing a crucifix around his neck.  In his forties, Jeffrey spends some time in prison where he sells drugs, gets in fights, and even kills another prisoner in the shower.  In short, Jeffrey is a lousy Christian.  Jeffrey is jealous of others and spends his life pouting that “they’re no better than I am”.  He wastes 90% of his life in a squalor of crime, drugs, and hurting those around him.  Then Jeffrey gets lung cancer at age 50.  It progresses pretty fast and by 52,  Jeffrey knows he doesn’t have much time left.  He decides to reacquaint himself with God.  He reads the Bible and decides that he shouldn’t have done all those terrible things he did when he was younger.  It doesn’t even occur to Jeffrey that the last time he was out of bed, he smacked his wife across the face and that now, while he’s unable to move around freely, he’s really incapable of committing very much evil even if he wanted to.  No, Jeffrey has come to Jesus.  He’s sorry for the life he’s led.  He asks Jesus for forgiveness.  He says penitence, or he confesses, or whatever ritual your particular brand of Christianity demands in these circumstances.  By his last days, Jeffrey has made his peace with God.

Who goes to Heaven?  Every Christian that I’ve ever discussed this situation with has reluctantly agreed that Dave can’t go to heaven because he denies the existence of God.  They say that one can pick the wrong flavor of Christianity, or even pick another religion all together–but one must believe in God–in some form–and fear him (or love him) in order to get the golden ticket.  These same Christians also tell me that Jeffrey gets a pass.  Jesus, apparently, paid upfront for all the crap that we, as a people, can get into during our lives by dying on the cross.  All we have to do to repay him is worship him.  Jeffrey lived a life of pain, cruelty, and debauchery, but he made the appropriate pleas for forgiveness before the eleventh-hour and he truly meant them…So Jeffrey’s cool.  Jeffrey goes to Heaven.

My question to the Christians out there is–Even if we believe with certainty in the existence of God as described in the Bible, how do you justify the love, respect, and obedience you pay to him if he would choose opportunistic worship to HIM, over a lifetime of compassion and good works as a benchmark for everlasting bliss?  Doesn’t a god that would value the petty, small-minded devotion of a thief and wife-beater over that of an objectively moral and good-hearted member of the human race strike you as a God that has more in common with Kim Jong-Il than the image of Jesus Christ we have all grown up with?  Why should blind devotion to “The Leader” outweigh the behavior of someone who, by all accounts, lives the life of a “good Christian”–just without all the knee-bound devotionals and prostrate declarations of belief?

I would argue that Christians really don’t need to agree with atheists in order to toss their Bibles out with the Wednesday recycling.  They only need to READ those bibles and decide with a critical mind if Yahweh is really a god worth devoting their lives to.  Of course, if you don’t, he’ll send you to Hell–just like Stalin sent his dissenters to the gulags.

March 4, 2010

Hamilton James–Run! The Christians Are After You!

Every atheist who has ever debated the subject of religion with a person of faith has, at one time or another, come against the following question:

“Even if you’re right, and there really is no God, what’s the harm in people believing in him?  God teaches people to live a good life and surely there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?”

Atheists will often come back with a list of many religiously fuelled conflicts which have bloodied the world throughout the ages–the Crusades, The Salem Witch Trials, Northern Ireland, etc.  Sometimes they will cite the tendency of religion to hold back process in areas of science and to stagnate human knowledge about the universe.  The ambitious atheist may even try to convince the person of faith that the only difference between a cult and a religion is the size of its member’s list–and we all know how destructive cults can be (Now’s the time when we throw in the obligatory Jonestown reference).  Recently, however, a more subtle–but I believe telling–example of the harm that religion can do has come to light.  The American Family Organization, a fundamentalist Christian organization, is calling for the stoning (yes, stoning) of Tillikum, the orca whale that recently killed a trainer at Sea World. 

The AFO cites Old Testament law as the basis for their outrage.  Apparently, hiding among the talking snake, the man who lived inside a whale, and the human beings that lived hundreds of years with nary a hitch in their giddy-up, is a law that spells out–quite clearly–what the consequences should be if a person’s animal should kill another person.  Exodus 21:28 states:  “When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable.”  So, even though we, as human beings, chose to pin a dangerous (they are called KILLER whales, after all)  animal into a confined space and coerce it into performing tricks for gawking tourists, no human being should bear liability for the dead trainer.  Instead, the AFO is calling for Tillikum to be STONED TO DEATH!  That one still gets me…Stoned to death.  Not euthanized.  Not even shot.  Stoned to death.  You gotta love Christianity.  Anyway…The issue doesn’t end there, however.  The problem is that the pesky bible doesn’t just anticipate the one-time offender.  No, this far-seeing work of legal excellence also outlines what we should do if the owner of the offending animal should neglect his duty to stone the murdering whale and it should kill again (remember, this was the third person that Tillikum has killed over the years).  Exodus 21:29 (the very next verse) states that if a man’s ox should kill a second time, ““the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death.”  Uh-oh. 

Well, Sea World owns Tillikuk.  You can’t put an amusement park to death…Sea World is, in turn, owned by Sea World Parks and Entertainment.  Well, you can’t really put a corporate entity to death either (the stoning would be very unsatisfying).  Sea World P&E is owned by The Blackstone Group, a publicly traded equity firm.  So, no ONE PERSON owns Blackstone either.  But, surely, when the bible talks about an ox’s “owner” we can assume that it means a person responsible for said ox, can’t we?  After all, technically Tillikum is owned by every person who owns a share of Blackstone stock and that’s a lot of people to put to death, even for a Christian.  So, who’s responsible for The Blackstone Group?  Firm President Hamilton James, that’s who.  Since Tillikum is the whale world’s answer to Son of Sam, the AFO’s logic will allow nothing short of Hamilton James’s death to vindicate the actions of that murdering mammal.  Run, Hamilton James, run for your life!

O.K…That was fun.  But the inevitable response will be, “John, you’re just using a fringe religious movement to represent all the reasonable people of faith in the world.  You’re not being fair.”  Sure I am.  I’m also being kind.  The AFO is only calling for the stoning of a whale–and maybe Hamilton James.  Still, that’s nothing in comparison to the heinous crimes that have been perpetrated against the world in the name of one fictitious God or another.  Even when you take the deaths out of the picture, you still have to face the utter lunacy of the whole thing.  To most “reasonable” Christians, the AFO is a group of extremists.  But what about those who claim the Earth is 6000 years old and that Adam and Eve pranced about with T-Rex in the Garden of Eden?  What about the Creationists?  Aren’t they extremists?  What about a President who goes to war under the credo that “God is on OUR side”.  Isn’t he an extremist?  You swap one flavor of God for another and you get a plane load of terrorists crashing into a skyscraper.  The fact is that the same blind faith, the same aversion to logic and reason, the same willingness to accept the unacceptable, is at the base of all these things–Tillikum the whale is just the most recent–and LEAST crazy example.

January 15, 2010

Not Yours to Give…

Filed under: Politics — John Gault @ 12:50 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

It is high time that people realize that acts of evil most often come clothed in the robe of good intentions.   The devastation that has been wreaked upon the people of Haiti over the last few days is terrible beyond all words.  Those people need help–and lots of it.  Any decent human being should feel sympathy toward their plight and, I would argue, an urge to assist them in the same way that we would want assistance if it had happened to us.  With that being said, we also have to realize that instances of misfortune and even tragedy are not a free pass for our government to abandon the principles upon which it was founded.

President Obama has pledged $100 million to help the people of Haiti.  Who could possibly be against such a good-hearted gesture?  Me.  And you–if you believe in the tennets of the Constitution and the freedom which  our nation is supposed to stand for.  Foreign aid–whether it be to Haiti for earthquake relief or to Israel for defense or to Ethiopia for famine relief–is forced charity.  The money the government “pledges” comes from the tax dollars of every single American.  It is donated without our consent or our input.  It is allocated without the slightest consideration for the values or preferences of those whose pocket it has come from.  Simply put, we should be telling our legislators and our President that the money is Not Yours to Give.

I capitalized those words because they comprise the title of an excellent story about Davy Crockett during his days in Congress.  The story is a bit too lengthy for reproduction here, so I will simply include this link.

http://www.juntosociety.com/patriotism/inytg.html

In short, the story simply teaches the lesson that charity is a personal choice.  It should come from the hearts and minds of those individuals who truly care enough about a cause to open their wallets and purses to do something about it.  I urge every American to give–and give deeply–to those causes which stir in them a passion to help.  Surely, Haiti qualifies.  Then again, maybe it doesn’t.  You should, however, have the freedom to make that decision for yourself.

January 6, 2010

Pro-choice, but opposed to Roe v. Wade…

Filed under: Politics — John Gault @ 2:36 pm
Tags: , , , ,

People have told me in the past that I have an extremely complicated view on abortion.  First, it’s not really that complicated.  Second, however, I would ask why our viewpoints shouldn’t be complicated sometimes–especially when the issue at question is as complicated and important to our political landscape as the abortion debate has become. 

Let me start by explaining my own, personal, viewpoints on abortion.  Keep in mind that these viewpoints have absolutely nothing to do with the legal standing of abortion or the constitutionality of those laws which protect or prohibit it.  I am only talking about the way I feel about abortion in my heart.

I am pro-choice.  I believe that a person (specifically women, but with consideration for the fathers involved as well) should have complete autonomy over their own body and should be free to do with it as they choose.  Pregnancy is a long, physically taxing process which should never be required by law.  If a woman chooses to end that process through abortion, she should have the right to do so.  With that being said, I believe that the “Pro-Choice” movement has committed an intellectual dishonesty by trying to convince the world that the fetus being aborted isn’t a life.  Of course it is.  The harsh fact is that when a woman undergoes an abortion, she is ending a human life.  This is important because it should factor in to the decision to either have or not have that abortion.  It is a serious decision and to gloss over the fact that a life is being sacrificed is to trivialize the gravity of that decision. 

So, if we agree that an abortion ends a human life, then how can we rationalize that abortion as anything other than murder?  Simple.  We, as a human race, have long-held that killing other human beings is justifiable in certain situations.  Killing doesn’t necessarily equal murder.  We kill other human beings in the heat of war.  We kill in self-defense.  We kill as punishment.  Some even argue for killing as a form of mercy (euthanasia).  The hard and cold reality of the situation is that sometimes dead is better.  I know that sounds cruel, but it is true.  So, if a woman is seriously wrestling with the idea of aborting her pregnancy, and she reaches the decision to do so with the full knowledge that she is ending a human life, then I would propose that she would probably be a pretty lousy mother and her child’s birth would do nobody any favors–the child or society.

Now, on to the law.  I may be, as far as I know, the only pro-choice advocate that believes in overturning Roe v. Wade.  Roe is, simply put, bad law.  That Supreme Court decision is indicative of the culture in which we live–where the Constitution is defiled, circumvented, and ignored with impunity.  I care far more about the integrity of the Constitution than I do about the abortion issue itself–but the two are inextricably linked.

Surprisingly, many people don’t really know what Roe v. Wade says or what its implications are or even why that particular decision was made.  So, here’s an extremely brief recap.  Roe v. Wade says that no state shall make a law banning abortion because it goes against a woman’s “right to privacy”–privacy, in this case, being her right to make private medical decisions without the interference of the government.  The basis for this decision was an earlier Supreme Court decision–Griswold v. Connecticut.  That case established the right to privacy as a derivative of the due process clause of our Constitution.  The problem is that WE HAVE NO CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO PRIVACY–not in the due process clause or anywhere else in the Constitution.   Should we?  Definitely.  Could we.  Certainly.  Do we?  Not even close.  The Supreme Court basically ruled that the founding fathers “meant” for us to have such a right, but basically forgot to write it down.  So, they created a concept known as “penumbras and emanations” which means that the Supreme Court can interpret anything they want into the Constitution–regardless of what it actually says.  This has served as the basis for countless transgressions of the Constitution over the years. 

Here’s what makes me the most angry.  We SHOULD have a Constitutional right to privacy and the founding fathers probably would agree with that.  Fortunately, those wise men gave us a mechanism to change the Constitution when the need arose–the amendment process.  We could simply pass a constitutional amendment guaranteeing every American the right to privacy–personal, professional, and medical.  This would encompass the need to protect women against abortion bans and would do it on constitutionally firm ground.  Instead, this very important concept has been based on a legally shaky, politically lazy circumvention of the Constitution that WILL eventually be overturned.  That is inexcusable and dangerous because it creates the precedent under which any legislative evil can be perpetrated without fear of Constitutional reprisal. 

Pro-Choice warriors need to stop defending this particular windmill and realize that if they are to bring an end to this political war, they will need to retreat before they advance.  Roe. v. Wade should be overturned (as well as Griswold v. Connecticut) and an immediate effort should be launched to ratify a constitutional amendment guaranteeing every American their well-deserved right to privacy.

December 30, 2009

The Middle East is the World’s Longest Running Bar-Fight…

Filed under: Politics — John Gault @ 12:58 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Amid all the talk of the Christmas Day Bomber, I thought it might be nice to examine our relationship with Middle Eastern terrorism and it’s roots.

Some reports (disputed reports, but reports nonetheless) have stated that the man who tried to blow up an American plane on Christmas did so in retaliation for our bombing of Yemen several days previous.  Following the trail backwards, you get something like this:

We bombed Yemen to kill Al Qaeda.  We want to kill Al Qaeda because they attacked us on 9/11.  They attacked us on 9/11 because of our policy of supporting Israel in their conflict with their Arab neighbors.  Therein lies the rub…

Now, before I lose the one internet challenged reader who accidentally stumbled on this blog because he thought it was porn amid charges of antisemitism, let me head you off at the pass.  I am not ANTI-jewish.  I’m also not ANTI-muslim.  I am ANTI-religion, and I am PRO-America.  To be honest, I couldn’t possibly care less who ends up controlling some far-flung patch of sand on the other side of the globe.  My concern is the effect that this ongoing conflict has had on the rest of the world.

The most recent news regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict is that Israel is starting to build new settlements in disputed territory.  Ask an Israeli why they would do this knowing that it will most likely cause Arab retaliation, and they will probably tell you two things.  Number one, it is their biblical right.  Pish-posh.  I dismiss this out-of-hand because property rights do not spring from fictional books.  The second argument, however, is more powerful.  Apparently, there was a delicate truce between the Israelis and the Palestinians which the Israelis claim was broken by  Palestinian abduction of Israeli soldiers.  O.K.  If you already possess the land and you were considering halting development of it in consideration for the feelings of an ancient enemy, and then said enemy spits in your face, then you build settlements.  Got it.  But then you ask the Palestinians why they would kidnap soldiers during a truce and they tell you that Israel broke the truce first by raiding the city of Nablus and killing a Palestinian general.  Why raid Nablus?  Because the Palestinians were launching rocket attacks from there.  Why launch rocket attacks?  You get the picture.  You can start from today and trace this conflict backwards, punch and counterpunch, through Munich, the six-day war, World War II–all the way back to the kitchen table of Abraham and a sibling rivalry between Isaac and Ishmael.  Enough already. 

Both sides in this conflict are fuelled by religious fervor and an unwavering belief in the fact that the other guy started the fight.  They are like two drunks at a roadhouse tavern that are too intoxicated to remember who threw out the first insult but damn sure they’re gonna wipe the floor with the other guy’s face.  The trouble is that when drunks start fighting in a bar, tables get broken, the band stops playing, and I spill my beer in my lap when one idiot throws the other into the back of my chair.  This conflict has disrupted and divided the world for at least the last hundred years and arguably back to biblical times.  Isn’t it time we tossed both the drunks out into the parking lot and let them fight it out on their own?

We need to stop supporting Israel in this fight.  We need to cut off their aid.  I know that the mere mention of this subject will brand me to some as a Jew-hater.  I am not.  I wish them well.  Considering the fact that no Jews have ever flown an airplane into a skyscraper on America soil, I’ll even root for them from the sidelines.  But this is their war, not ours, and our continued support has only served to piss off the rest of the world, give terrorists an even more prestigious enemy to attack, and cost us billions upon billions of dollars in aid for a war that WILL NEVER END.  Israel is that friend that is constantly getting in to fights, getting thrown into jail, and calling at two in the morning for bail money.  Sure, he’s a nice guy and the people he gets into fights with are arguably worse than he is, but sometimes a friend is just too much trouble and your wife tells you that you can’t hang out with him anymore.

December 26, 2009

Health Care Reform and Ideological Purity

Filed under: Politics — John Gault @ 2:26 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Is health care like an army or an ascot?  I say, whichever we want it to be.

Whether you believe yourself to be a staunch capitalist or a dedicated socialist, there is hardly one among us that can look at today’s system of health care and deny that it is woefully ineffective.  The right would have you believe that reforms of the currently debated flavor will lead to “death councils” and advisory boards of moustache-twisting bureaucrats deciding whether or not your grandmother should be “put down”.  The left would similarly have you believe that if the current reforms aren’t passed (and in a hurry, mind you) that you will personally be responsible for cute little babies being launched from hospitals and into the streets for their inability to pay.  Obviously, neither of these scenarios are true.  Furthermore, I propose that the current reforms are, at best, useless, and, at worst, dangerous.  The problem is that the currently debated reforms make the same fatal mistake as the system we currently employ.  They fail to make the American public choose which they want healthcare to resemble–an army or an ascot.  That is, should health care be a public good or a private one.  We can have either one, but to try and have both will create a broken system which can not and will not meet the goals of anyone.  In short, its time for a little ideological purity.

Briefly, for those who actually enjoyed the time they spent in college instead of spending it reading economics textbooks, let’s recap public versus private goods.  Private goods are bought and sold by private individuals or companies.  Cars, computers, crayons, and cabbage are private goods.  You decide how much you need.  You seek out those who are willing to sell to you (or they seek you out), terms are negotiated, and payment is exchanged.  Easy-peasy.  Public goods are a little more complicated.  Public goods are those goods which everyone gets to use, so everyone has to pay for.  Everyone reaps the benefits of our military.  They fight for our rights at home and abroad and even in times of peace, their mere presence serves as a deterrent to those who might attack us in their absence.  Since everyone reaps the benefits of their existence, then everyone has to pay for them.  That’s why our taxes go to fund national defense.  There is no opting out. 

Generally speaking, there are some fundamental differences between public and private goods.  Private goods tend to be higher in quality but shorter in supply.  Public goods are the opposite, they tend to be high in supply but lower in quality.  Use our educational systems as an example.  Our university system (even the public universities) are a private good because you choose if you want to attend and then choose to pay tuition.  Our university system is renowned the world over for its quality.  The problem is that not everyone can afford to go or can qualify for requirements of admission.  Our public school system, on the other hand, is open to all.  It is also paid for by all.  Every tax-paying American pays for the public schools regardless of whether or not they choose to use them.  Unfortunately, this lack of competition and guarantee of funding creates an environment that fosters sub-par quality–to the point that American public schools are ranked at the bottom of the industrial world’s educational systems.  The question is which one of these models we want our health care system to look like–mediocre health care for everyone, or cutting-edge healthcare for those who can afford it and none for those who can’t.  Any attempt to “ride the fence” between these two ideological poles will result in a system that doesn’t work–like the one we have now.

Let’s start with public health care.  The current reforms do not provide public health care.  If private insurance companies are involved, then no mandates or public options will disguise the fact that it is not truly public health care.  Many countries have decided that public health care is a right and have implemented “single-pay” systems that provide all citizens with equal access to health care.  In all honesty, I don’t have a huge problem with this idea.  I do think that quality will suffer.  I do think that research and development will suffer.  I do think that America will  no longer hold the vanguard position in the ongoing race to cure disease and treat illness.  These are inherent problems with any public good.  I do think, however, that the majority of medical care is mundane, not exotic, and if millions of people with severed fingers or the flue can get care that they might not have gotten otherwise, then it’s probably worth it that we won’t find a cure for Parkinson’s or AIDS or even cancer.  The good of the many does, indeed, sometimes outweigh the good of the few.  The problem is that the leftists who argue for this system of health care rarely admit this inevitable fact.  They want you to believe that we can all have the absolute best care in the world.  Nonsense–intellectually dishonest nonsense.

Now the private option…I can already hear the peanut gallery:

“But John, we already have private health care and it obviously doesn’t work!  A pox upon you and your Adam Smith-loving obsession with capitalism!” 

I know that the current system sucks.  The problem, however, is not with the functioning of the free market.  Capitalism is like gravity–it is a force of nature that cares not about you or your understanding of it.  It simply functions according to natural law and you have the responsiblity to understand how it works.  The current system of buying and selling health insurance works exactly how one would expect it to if one fully understands the parameters of the system we have chosen to use.  The problem is that we have introduced an unnecessary party to the negotiation of private insurance–the employer.  The vast majority of Americans who have health insurance have it through their employer.  This means that insurance companies sell a service and employers buy it.  The provider/customer relationship that fuels free market economics has excluded the ultimate user of the product–you.  Here’s how it works…Blue cross sells insurance.  They want to attract more customers.  If their primary business model was to sell to individuals, then they would attract customers by offering the absolute best combination of low prices and high-quality service that they could.  The problem is that individuals are not their customers–employers are.  Employers, however, do not care about the quality of health care they provide their employees–only the cost.  Therefore, Blue Cross (or any other major insurer) is incentivized to offer low-price/low-quality insurance in order to entice as many employers as possible into signing up for their group plans.  They are further free to deny services and abuse the users of their product (you) since the employers are not likely to leave and go to another provider when they do so.  If the employer was eliminated from the equation, then the insurance companies would be forced–by the mandates of the free market–to change how they do business.  Competition would increase, prices would fall, quality would rise.  Sure, there would always be those who couldn’t afford the services provided, but quality would remain high and the lowering of prices would mean that many americans who don’t currently have health care would suddenly be able to afford it.  If the government really wanted to “save” health care through legislation, they could do so by simply passing a law that prohibits employers from providing health insurance benefits to their employees.  By restoring the provider/customer relationship that exists in everything from retail electronics to private education, the ills of the current system could be easily cured.

Armies are a public good.  Ascots are a private good.  Both have their pros and their cons.  Health care can be one but never the other at the same time.  We, as a people, have a responsibility to understand the differences between these two models and demand that our representatives “man-up” and commit to an ideological path on the subject.  This constant hand-wringing and milk-water dedication to a “middle-ground” is costing America billions in failed policies and medical tragedies.  We then have the final responsibility of living with the consequences of our choice.  Like most things in life, we can have our cake or we can eat it–and anyone who tells you that you can have both is a damned liar.

 

December 23, 2009

Utopia

Filed under: Politics — John Gault @ 2:17 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

People often debate the great questions of life.  They argue about politics.  They argue about religion.  They argue about the Beatles vs. Elvis.  The problem is that people seldom consider what would happen if they won the argument.  What would the world look like if your personal philosophies of life, love, and death were suddenly the philosophies of the world at large?  What would your personal Utopia consist of?  Gault’s Gulch is a forum for me to share my personal philosophies with those who are interested enough (or bored enough) to read them.  It is also a forum for those who disagree with me to challenge those philosophies.  I feel, however, that those goals can be more effectively met if I provide a broad-stroke overview of “The World According to Gault”. 

The Government:

The government should have an extremely limited role in the life of the average human being.  It’s power should be limited to enforcing the explicit rights of individuals against the infringement or encroachment of others and providing those very few goods and services which are communal in their consumption and must, therefore, be communal in their production.  This means that beyond a police force and a court system, the government should, essentially, be limited to the role of providing for the common defense and building things–like roads–which would be impossible through the private sector.  The government should have absolutely no role whatsoever in “protecting us from ourselves” “giving people a hand up” “providing a safety net” or any other such nonsense.  This means no social security, no welfare, no income tax, no drug laws, no public education, and no I.R.S.  Fortunately for those of us who live in the United States, this was the government envisioned by our forefathers and provided for in the Constitution.  We need only to stop corrupting its content and ignoring its wisdom and we will have taken back that which we once had.

Economics:

I believe in pure, unadulterated, laissez-faire capitalism.  This is not the economic model of the Democratic or Republican party.  The former is quasi-socialist authoritarianism while the latter is quasi-authoritarian corporatism.  No, I believe that the free market should be allowed to function without the hand of government upon it and that individuals should be free to buy, sell, trade, save, gift, invest, or destroy the products of their own efforts without interference from anyone and in any manner they see fit.  The Federal Reserve should be abolished, the gold standard returned, and the Interstate Commerce Clause refined back to its original, constitutional power.  In Gault’s Utopia, money is a good thing as it is the universal representation of that which we have produced–and therefore contributed to society as a whole. 

Charity:

Charity is a personal choice.  In the perfect world, individuals would have the choice to donate the product of their efforts–money, time, goods, services, etc.–to whomever or whatever causes they saw fit.  One might believe that this is the case in today’s world, but one would be very, very wrong.  The government has, through its taxation policies and budget allocations, forced every American to give substantial percentages of their income to charities that were not chosen by them, but by the legislators who approved government funding for their cause.  Charity should be valued and encouraged as a gesture of caring and love for a cause that one deems valuable–but it should never be forced upon anyone for any reason.

Religion:

This is a tricky one at first because it is a topic where my feelings and my principles come into direct conflict with one another.  I am an atheist.  I do not believe in God, Heaven, Hell, angels, demons, spirits, ghosts, or miracles.  I further believe that while these superstitions have provided a great deal of comfort for a great number of people throughout the ages, they have also served as the basis for more suffering than any other causes throughout human history.  How many people have died unnecessarily in the name of God?  I further believe that God is an evolutionary security blanket that keeps humanity from “growing up” and facing the universe in all its beautiful, but frightening, glory.  Religion inhibits reason, logic, and critical thinking.  It retards scientific progress and it delays the advancement of the human race on every front from biology to politics.  On those grounds, I would love nothing more than to ban religions, superstition, and mysticism from my Utopia.  Unfortunately, this conflicts with my absolute dedication to personal liberty.  No one–not even me–has the right to tell another individual that they can not believe in anything they want or worship anything they see fit.  In my Utopia, there would be absolute religious freedom.  Religion, however, would receive absolutely no special status or protection in the world of Gault.  That means no tax exempt status on the operations or property of the church beyond that which is extended to any other legal entity.  The Catholic Church would be no different, legally, from Microsoft.  I would hope, however, that in my Utopia, the value placed upon logic and rationality would render religion obsolete pretty quickly–one can hope.

Individual Liberty:

As mentioned in the Religion section, Gault’s world would be zealously devoted to the guarding of individual rights and liberty.  No government in Gault’s Utopia would have the right to tell an individual citizen how to live their life in any way unless their actions were a direct infringement upon the rights of another citizen.  That seems self-explanatory, but modern government–including our American one–has so trampled the idea of civil liberty that people have been conditioned to not recognize what they actually are.  So here are some examples.  Theft, murder, assault, rape–these are easy.  They directly infringe upon the rights of others and so they are illegal.  Drugs of any kind–legal unless you force others to take them against their will.  Gay marriage–definitely legal.  Abortion–legal.  Drinking–legal.  Drunk driving-illegal.  Seat belts–wear ‘em or not, your choice.  Simple, common-sense stuff. 

Much of what has been advocated for in this utopian vision may seem cruel to those who have been indoctrinated to believe that we each have an obligation to help those who have less than we do.  I would argue, however, that this long-held belief is the cruelest of all.  In my world, the individual is prized as the most powerful, resilient, innovative, intelligent force on Earth.  As such, he or she should be respected to make the best decisions for their own lives.  Those who succeed will do so with the knowledge that it was on their own merits that they did so.  Those who fail will do so with the same knowledge.  What more could one possibly want from life than the freedom to succeed or fail based on one’s own effort and ability?  What better world could we, as a people, ask for than one which rewards excellence rather than deficiency?

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.