Libertarianism, Morality, and Bigotry

It’s a thankless job, defending libertarianism from leftists.

The question: ought libertarians actively seek and weed out supposed “bigots” from the ranks of libertarianism?

At the surface, this seems reasonable.  Who wants racists and sexists crashing the party? Certainly, if allowed to get out of hand, this could pose problems for the image of the philosophy and more practically, the party.

But hold on a minute: it’s not so clear cut.  We are inclined to ask the following questions:

  1. Who defines what is bigoted?  As noted above, racism and sexism is pretty obvious.  What about other things, though?  If I oppose modern Feminism (I do, actually – it’s an absurd movement that has outlived it’s usefulness) does that throw me in the boat of bigots?  How about philosophical disagreements with religions?  Nobody really cares about disagreements regarding Christianity, but what about the sacred cow of the left-libertarians, Islam?
  2. Who decides?  Who decides what is done?  You can’t be kicked out of the party (I think?) you can’t be voted off the island – so what?

A lot of question marks, and of course it’s purely rhetorical, intended to point out the weaknesses in the above concept.  Of course, I think it’s really all a frivolous matter.

You see, the left libertarians have an obsession with chasing and attacking what is essentially a ghost – bigotry.  While it technically does exist, it does not exist meaningfully, just like a ghost.  Even worse, this concept of “getting rid of the bigots” will really just be used to get rid of people whose opinions we don’t like.  Anything can be “bigoted” if you say it’s bigoted.

Of course, the point is moot anyway.  If all the white supremacists banded together and decided to call themselves libertarians, what could we really do about it?  No fear of that happening though; remember that many white supremacists (Richard Spencer, most notably) are socialists in the tradition of Hitler himself.

 

President Trump can tweet whatever he wants

Fifteen years ago, the title of this article would have made no sense at all…

Trump cannot say or do anything without a rain of criticism from the media.  So it’s less that he did something actually wrong with his latest round of tweets, but really the media will latch onto anything to attack him on.  Bearing this reality in mind, let’s proceed with my commentary on this nonsense.

Trump can tweet whatever he wants from his personal twitter account.  It would perhaps be different if it was from the POTUS twitter account (which is really the property of the office, and not the man who occupies it.)  But it’s from his personal twitter account; given the unprecedented situation this is, we would be right in asking a couple of questions:

Is the president of the United States denied freedom of speech rights?

If yes, are all politicians and government officials denied freedom of speech rights?

Really, I can’t get on board with all this false outrage over these tweets.  Do words hurt you?

Scarborough says that he constantly “degrades” women.  But then, why are women looking for validation from a man they despise?

He has also degraded men on his twitter account.  (“Pervert alert.  Anthony Weiner is back on Twitter.  All girls under the age of 18, block him immediately.”)  This isn’t a problem, is it?  We don’t see the same sort of outrage from the left when he criticizes a man on his twitter (or in person.)  The real sexism here is that the left, by being selectively outraged, is saying that women are too sensitive to handle criticism.   If the genders are equal (they are, of course) they ought to be able to handle negative words like anyone else.

 

We ought to oppose any censorship whatsoever.

 

Why do people become so outraged over words on social media?  I remember after the May 20th tornado, a facebook post of a man made the outrage rounds.  He asked why it was that people were still living in Moore, given that the tornadoes were a common occurrence (paraphrasing here, this was three years ago.)

Instead of people just ignoring it, chuckling at it, treating it for what it was worth (nothing) these keyboard warriors mounted a campaign to have him fired by his employer.  Why?  What did that accomplish?  The post was on his personal facebook.

They were just words.

And if “Low IQ Crazy Mika” cries herself to sleep over what Donald Trump said about her, that is her problem, not his.  And it certainly isn’t our problem.

Trump’s personal twitter offers us a connection to the president never before seen.  We can read his tweets like we would any of our friends, and it offers a direct unfiltered connection between the United States president and the people of the world.

And besides, it’s entertaining.  “Pervert alert!”

 

Automation and the Minimum Wage

Admittedly, libertarianism depends largely on idealism.  But the idealism we have lies in our honest solutions to actual reality; whereas the left tweaks, twists, alters, or outright invents realities to accommodate their own solutions.  Simply, all extreme ideologies are necessarily idealistic; but one fits their solutions to reality, and the other fits reality to their solution.

The problem is obvious – people aren’t getting paid enough to survive.

There are two possible solutions, but only one of which will have the desired effect of improving the welfare of American workers, particularly minimum wage workers.  Raise the wage, keep it the same, or eliminate the concept altogether.

Raising the wage depends on a reality in which employers would be willing to pay more for labor, without also cutting available jobs and/or raising prices.  Furthermore, there is an added problem: replacing man with machine.

McDonald’s stocks had a very good day when it was announced that electronic ordering kiosks would soon be a feature in some stores.  If the cost of labor is already so much that companies are considering making these sorts of investments, what will happen when we raise these costs further?

It’s a little hard to imagine, but visit a new walmart grocery shop – most of the points of sale are automated.  Ten years ago that was indeed hard to imagine: back then, they were impractical and annoying.  Now they’re easier, and presumably cheaper.  We might have a hard time holding on to these jobs altogether, regardless of the rate.

A sad reality for people of my age group, especially: our choices of employment are very limited.  Raising the minimum wage will restrict our options further.  

Raising the minimum wage has no positive outcomes in the long or short term.  In the short term, it raises prices on goods and results in less hours available to workers.  In the long term, it means restricting employment options via less available jobs and replacement of human labor by technology.

 

Oklahoma Republicans are Blowing It

Republicans are well entrenched in power in Oklahoma.  And for the moment, despite all their blunders, their corruption, and outright incompetence – there is no indication that Republican’s political dominance will end.  It will someday, however, as demographics shift in Oklahoma.

Republicans are certainly taking their present immunity from meaningful political opposition in Oklahoma for granted.  The budget fiasco and the shady “solutions” to it further negatively impact the reputation of a party which, both on the state and national level, is suffering already from a PR problem.

So just what are the Oklahoma republicans thinking?  It could be that they aren’t thinking.  However, I think it’s a sort of prevailing hubris and delusions of political indestructibility.

They keep up this nonsense, and their days are numbered.

I am referring, of course, to how they handled the budget fiasco in 2017.  It’s not that I wanted them to raise taxes; I think cuts could still be made.  However, the republicans have refused to do this.

If you are going to raise taxes, it must be done in a fair and sensible manner.  In this case, it would be a slight increase in the income tax rate.  Now, I don’t mean to say that this would be a good thing – but it is preferable to willy-nilly taxes like cigarette “fees.”  Nickels and dimes which are not only a temporary fix, but also will never go away.

The beauty of raising the income tax now, is that it will be lowered again later down the road when it becomes politically expedient.  However, no one’s going to rise to the campaign stump and declare “I’m for lowering the sales tax on cars…” because soon, the increase in that tax will be forgotten.  But people remember the income tax…

 

Republicans don’t need to worry now.  There’s still enough voters that, though this circus angers them, they would never consider voting for democrats.  Give it ten years, and this is going to change, dramatically.

Nine Days Remain to Fix the Budget

It is a dead certainty that in order to fill the budget hole, the legislature will take the easy way out – by raising or inventing new taxes.   It might be easy to say that we made a mistake when we lowered taxes all those years ago; but we can say so only with the benefit of hindsight.  How were we to know that oil revenues were going to decrease so dramatically?

It’s not as if we committed the same error that Brownback and the Kansas legislature did.  When they lowered taxes, they forgot to also decrease their spending.  At the time we lowered them, things were flush.  There was no reason to suppose that anything would come along to change that.

But now that we aren’t taking in enough money to fulfill our obligations, I suppose it would be reasonable to raise taxes.  However, I think that a good faith effort should be made for the state to decrease expenses further, if they are going to burden us with new taxes.  Meeting the issue halfway is only reasonable; if we have to tighten our belts and send the state more money, they should tighten their belts too.

What the budget needs for future stability and sustainability is a radical and substantial change in our spending habits as well; not just taxation.

I ask the legislature only this: that if a tax increase is necessary, that it be met with an equivalent effort at cutting spending.  For those who say that we’ve already cut as much as we can, and the tax increase is the only way, I say: nonsense.

Sensible cuts can still be made to the state’s education program.

 

I would propose a four part program to reduce expenditures across the board to a) balance the budget and b) possibly provide raises to teachers:

  1. Four day school weeks, statewide.
  2. Consolidation of school districts
  3. Increase of class sizes
  4. Elimination of taxpayer funded athletics.

This program is an all or nothing proposition.  It can only have it’s desired effect if the reforms are made at once, with each other.  I cannot say exactly, due to the unavailability on numbers and statistics, how much this would save the state.  To me, it doesn’t matter, as it would represent the aforementioned effort to meet the taxpayer halfway.  I would be content with a cut of say, a quarter for every dollar we raise in new taxes.

First, we have to ask ourselves: what is really a necessity?  What is the intent of the public education?  And then we have to ask ourselves, with each of the four components of this program: How might this really impact education?  Two are easy: four day school weeks and elimination of athletics would not at all impact the quality of our education.

  1. Four day school weeks.

I have already made the argument for this reform in a past article.  I’ll go into a little more detail here.

The gasoline savings from not bussing in students every friday could be about $100,000 per district that runs twenty five busses – it could be even more for districts that run more busses than that.  Further, it would be less expenses in utilities, food, and would give teachers one day per week entirely dedicated to grading or preparing the next week’s material.

Naturally, in order to satisfy the requirement for 180 days of the school year, the school day would have to be extended Monday through Thursday.  However, this would not result in any added expense, as the students are already transported to and from the school campuses those days anyway.

2. Consolidation of school districts

This has been thrown around before, but nothing has come of it – most probably because it would mean bureaucrats would loose their jobs.  But, it would mean a savings of over $9 million, if the excess administrators and bureaucrats were cut from the budget.

3. Increase of class sizes.

In April, in his editorial of SoonerPolitics.org, David van Risseghem, put forth an ingenious plan to increase teacher salaries by also increasing class sizes.  Instead of re-hashing it here, here’s the original editorial:

http://www.soonerpolitics.org/editorial/oklahoma-education-spends-more-than-california-per-child

4. Elimination of taxpayer funded athletics

This might be a harder pill to swallow for Oklahomans, but so is a non-balanced budget.  Truthfully, how can we really justify taxpayer funded athletics?

Supporters will tell you that it gins up revenue by advertising and ticket sales to events.  While that might cover uniforms and other equipment, there is no way that it could come close to funding building costs for athletic buildings, coach salaries, etc.

And it is true that coaches do teach normal classes, they cannot teach with the same effectiveness as teachers that are dedicated to that subject.  The salaries that are received are considerable – what is being received in return, in terms of education?

The only substantive reasons I have heard in opposition to, say, the four day school week proposal, is that it would result in “bad PR.”

Quality of education isn’t a concern (as everyone knows the quality of education does not depend on amount of days per week students attend school) but heaven forbid, bad PR!  However, no matter what the state does, it will inevitably result in bad PR.

The constituency wants better education funding, increased teacher salaries, more teachers, more investment in national parks, etc., but they also want fewer and lower taxes.  When, inevitably, the state government can’t deliver on this, the constituency will moan and groan: bad PR.

So, I say to the legislators: make meaningful reforms regardless of “bad PR” because that’s what you’re going to have, no matter what you do.

 

Liberty and War

Libertarians and liberty conservatives pride themselves on non-interventionism and the avoidance of unnecessary war.   Because of this, I objected to Trump’s bombing of the Syrian air-base, given the lack of evidence of atrocities and our freedom and safety not being directly threatened by any party in the Syrian conflict.  However, seeing that the bombing seems to be the end of the matter (I hope) I can make peace with it.  It did have the benefit of restoring the image of the United States: after eight years of hot gas, we have another four/eight years of (admittedly) more hot gas, but accompanied also by meaningful action.

Like most others I oppose meaningless war.  We ought to oppose involvement in Syria because it’s just not necessary to get involved in someone else’s tribal conflict.  Our interests are not at stake.

There is another matter which really is our business, which is indeed a direct, determined threat to us: North Korea.

Laugh if you will, but they have certainly made their intent clear – and they continue to develop weapons.  Yes, the weapons tests fail hilariously – but someday, they’re going to start working.  At that point, we will have to seriously weigh our options, and considering that sanctions haven’t worked, there will be a greater and greater necessity to do something a little more effective.

And we should not take the military option, and eventually regime change, off the table.

Remember, the Korean war is still technically going on – nothing was ever truly resolved.  Now, these sorts of cycles have been going on for years: an apparent escalation, and then an anti-climatic cooling off of tensions.  The rhetoric remains the same.  However, there iare two new factors in this equation: Donald Trump, and how close they are to developing a nuclear weapon.

Due to the unpredictability of the Trump policy, it is not absurd to suppose that the story may be different.  We might very well see a military confrontation with North Korea.  Honestly, that’s okay.  Here’s why:

  1. It would not escalate into any sort of world war.  North Korea’s “allies,” namely China, would realize soon that there is no benefit to remaining friends to the unproductive, isolated, backward country.
  2. It would result, hopefully, in the defeat of one of the remaining holdouts of totalitarian communism.  In the interests of human rights everywhere, communism ought to be completely eliminated, and the criminals who perpetuate the communism brought to justice.
  3. Although North Korea invests most of it’s domestic produce into military infrastructure, it is still minuscule compared to our resources and can easily be crushed if we act decisively and swiftly.

We’re so eager to intervene and fight in middle eastern countries – why do we hesitate when it comes to North Korea?

Furthermore, this is not my repudiation of libertarian non-interventionist philosophy.  The North Korea matter warrants our involvement, because it directly threatens us.   This is why armies have a place in libertarian philosophy: because sometimes, there are genuine threats that need to be addressed militarily.

North Korea is intent on developing nuclear weapons that threaten our cities – and are we going to wait around until they finish it?  It’s not like the leadership has the restraint that the other nuclear powers have.  If they develop the bomb, they’re going to use it.

In my opinion, war ought to be a last resort measure.  Diplomacy and other solutions ought to come first.  However, if those fail, we can’t just continue “strategic patience” and hope something gives, especially when your enemy is entrenching and weaponize themselves.

When you do wage war, you must wage it decisively.  This Vietnam or Iraq style dilly-dallying is no way to conduct a war.  If we go to war in North Korea, we have to fight the war like we actually intend on winning.

Trump’s Big Mistake

I was among many who was hopeful that the foreign policy practices under Donald Trump would break from precedent.  But with last night’s act, we have been let down.  Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate decisive action when circumstances render it necessary.  It is reassuring that, on the one hand, Trump isn’t afraid to act, instead of just give strong statements.  On the other, it is becoming increasingly clear that he was scammed into this act by the desperate Syrian rebels, at the end of their rope.

It is hard for us to visualize what exactly the Syrian conflict is.  Let’s be clear: the rebels are not majestically fighting for freedom and democracy in Syria.  No, they are fighting a secular, moderate state in the interests of expanding Islam’s power in the country.   Assad maintaining power in Syria means that the region will be stable and moderate.

I say that Trump has been scammed because it makes no sense that Assad, who has practically won the war as it is, would draw the ire of the entire international community by using chemical weapons – just as the war is drawing to a close in his favor.  Nikki Haley says Assad did it because he “thought he could get away with it.”

Assad is not your usual bumbling African dictator.  He would have to know that it would warrant a response from Trump.  But also, the rebels would have to know that any notion of chemical weapons being used would bring automatic sympathy to their cause.  Western assistance to them would have been impossible otherwise.

So then, is it not reasonable to presume that this was staged for this purpose?  And now, the United States has become involved based on a fiction.

Even if Assad was using chemical weapons, that alone wouldn’t be enough to justify our involvement in the conflict.  Emotional responses are not the proper way to handle crisis.

I hope that this is the end of the matter.  But political forces, I fear, will inevitably push us towards a greater commitment of resources.  Assad will be overthrown, replaced with a more “democratic” government which will soon be overtaken by Islam, creating more instability in the region – and more war.  We can see already how this will play out, because the same thing has happened before.

 

In Defense of the 4-day School Week

…and some other budgetary musings.

Nearly one fifth of school districts in the state of Oklahoma go for only four days a week; and it’s actually cutting costs for the school districts that have undertaken this. To Fallin and the other legislators, this is somehow “unacceptable.”

I think however, and partly based on my own public school experience, four days a week is quite sufficient to educate the students.  In fact, it may still be too much.

Of course, this is old news, but it is becoming relevant as the crunch for the budget begins to be felt again.  Really, the same problems repeat themselves, and the same solutions are endlessly offered – all of which attempt not only to just slap on a band-aid, but to attempt to maintain the same expensive and inefficient educational status quo.

Tulsa Public Schools has recently sent out a survey to patrons, asking which things are most important and least important, in the interests of cutting further.  As a consequence, outrage abounds.  Oh no, we’ll have to cut things that really matter!  TPS superintendent Gist is visibly upset during the interviews (at least for newson6) and a whole other lot of dramatics.

But let’s have a look in at things that are on the proposed cutting board:

  • Deeper cuts to central office services
  • Deeper cuts to athletics, cutting sports with low participation
  • consolidate athletic teams across schools
  • Eliminate athletics altogether
  • Deeper cuts to campus security/police
  • Further class size increases
  • Close/consolidate schools
  • Cut days from the school year
  • Deeper cuts for student counseling services
  • Deeper cuts for transportation
  • Reduce custodial services
  • 4 day school weeks with longer days

Of course, to everyone, this is just unacceptable.  I really can’t understand why – some of these things seem extremely sensible, so much so I wonder why they haven’t been done already.

Athletics are supposedly sustained largely on ticket sales for events, but given that most sporting events are sparsely attended, I don’t see how this can sustain full programs.  I dug through budgets for both Tulsa and Moore Public schools looking for some sort of solid numbers on how much is really spent on athletics; nary a word about it.  I think it’s really just lopped into the general fund.

It’s hard to say exactly how much of a burden athletic programs place on a given school district, but I can say this: if any tax money is spent on athletics, it ought to be revoked completely.  This won’t be a popular opinion in the land where high school football reigns supreme, but because athletics have nothing to do with college or real-world preparation, it ought to be considered a frivolous expense.

(If any reader can give me solid numbers on how much athletics cost the taxpayer, please get in touch with me in the comment forum of this blog…)

When putting together a budget, you have to ask: what is necessary?

When you put together a budget for yourself, you must begin with allotting for your needs, and then the frivolities with the excess money.  If there is no excess, you don’t go and cram everything together to make it fit.  You cut the frivolities.

It seems that the school districts ought to be taking a cue from personal budgeting principles and asking themselves the following questions:

Are athletics really necessary?

Are 180 days in a school year necessary?

Is a five day school week necessary?

Fallin and the legislators seem to be widely in agreement that a five day week is necessary. But the reasons are shakey: it all really has to do with the avoidance of “bad PR” and less about quality or substance of instruction.  What does the state care about bad PR anyway?  It’s not like the public school is ever going to be put out of business…

Anyway,  four days is plenty enough.  Districts that have gone to a four day week have seen solid, tangible savings because of it.  Cited in the channel four article of a month ago, the Newcastle district has saved in transportation costs and substitute teacher pay, because they go one less day a week.  This, certainly, gives them room to ensure teachers can be paid and programs, no matter how frivolous, can continue to operate.  Still, that’s “unacceptable.” Bad PR, you know.

From my own personal experience, the five day a week, 180 day school year is just excessive.  Why?  Busywork.  Wheeling in the TV cart to watch movies.  Days with substitute teachers where we did nothing.  And so on.  I have a feeling that this experience is pretty universal, among my peers.

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy the movie days or the blow off subbed classes, but honestly, I would have rather been at home, given the option – saving the district the money of transporting me there and the utilities of keeping us there.

Remember, the goal seems to be college preparation: seldom does a given college class meet for more than a couple days in a week.  It also takes only a semester to teach a subject, too.

Your comments are appreciated.

 

 

 

Is it our responsibility to fund the arts?

We ask three things of government: the protection of our rights to life, liberty and property.  And while, granted, it is an ancient tradition that the state (i.e., the monarch, church, etc.) served as patron to the arts that would otherwise go un-patronized, is it really necessary these days?

I don’t think so.  You can say that it’s a drop in the bucket, in the context of the entire federal budget – but aren’t the contents of a bucket just a lot of tiny drops?  If you eliminate one, you can eliminate others.  Especially when the results of these “investments” is not really tangible to the everyday American, we know it’s time to cut this waste.

Besides, 971 million – the proposed amount to be cut – is no small sum.

The assumption is that these things (arts, humanities, museums and libraries, and public broadcasting) could not exist without government funding.  I doubt that, but for argument’s sake, let’s say this is so: when the funding dies, so do these things.  What we should be asking, in such a case, is why can these things not subsist on their own?  If they are really so good, so noble, so useful – couldn’t the market support these things on their own?

To a large extent, the market couldn’t, and justifiably shouldn’t.   These things are old fashioned, inefficient.

In an NPR story on this subject, CPB President and CEO Patricia Harrison is quoted as saying that public media is “one of America’s best investments” and costs each citizen only $1.35 per year.  If this were really the case, if public broadcasting was really as great as she says, then it would be supported by the market already, without need for government funding.  Of course, what she says is hogwash – public broadcasting is becoming increasingly irrelevant (if it ever was relevant in the first place, at least compared to the normal broadcasting format) as it’s being replaced with internet (free) news.  It is really like the state paying for the printing of a newspaper that no one reads anymore – because it’s a “good investment.”

The sob stories continue.  From the Washington Post:

The loss of NEA funding would cripple Vermont’s Poetry Out Loud competition, a statewide poetry recitation program that involves 5,500 students, about 25 percent of Vermont high-schoolers. The finals are broadcast on public television, said Alex Aldrich, executive director of the Vermont Arts Council, and the winner goes on to the national competition.

Heaven spare us from having to watch – or pay for – endless hours of bad, amateurish, free-rhyme, high school poetry!

Also from the Washington Post:

“Congress must look out for the millions of American families that can’t always travel to big cities to visit a museum when they want to learn about art and history.”

The internet has a lot of information about art and history, you know.

From a Quartz story, comparing this to when Australia slashed cultural funding:

In reality, these kinds of cuts have more to do with ideology than saving money. Abbott’s attacks were an example of how conservatives often target government-run arts programs on the suspicion that the creative sector is really a giant, publicly funded, left-wing racket.

Well… yeah?

From that same story:

Research by the Australia Council found that more Australians go to art galleries each year than to Australian Football League matches, the most popular sporting code in the country.

In that case, it shouldn’t be an issue – art galleries would be able to support themselves if they are really so popular, no?

I am almost in complete support of the intentions of Trump’s new budget.  It is the first attempt at a conservative budget I have seen in my lifetime – though, the military expenditure is still most definitely excessive.

Opposing Trump without loosing legitimacy

Or, how to oppose Trump with “grace.”

Of course, my readers (and anyone that happened to be around me long enough for a conversation) knew that I opposed Trump’s policies as soon as he announced his candidacy.  I may have hopped on a few opinion bandwagons; but I did so because I also opposed the alternative, which was merely another shade (granted, less amusing) of the same problem: using government power to enforce particular political agendas and purposes.

Now that he’s president, it would be very easy for me to hop on these smug, self-righteous, pop culture bandwagons in opposition to his policies.  Everyone else is doing it.  These articles would practically write themselves.

But I don’t do that.  Even though I do oppose some of Trump’s measures, I haven’t been vocal in my opposition.  Why?  I hesitate because I don’t want to be lopped in with the aforementioned bandwagons.

These bandwagons have no substance, no sustaining force other than the talking points devised by a bitter media, and led by the useless: politicians, celebrities, other media figures, etc.  Led by people whose only qualification is being famous.   A very dismal thing, to take your political points from someone like this.

This bandwagon is becoming so large, and so constant, it now seems to be nothing more than background static.  Always there, a little annoying, but easily ignored.  Which raises a concern: when there is some actual serious violation of the mandate, some serious dishonesty, who will listen to the outrage?  No one in mainstream, everyday America, because the “outrage” of these bandwagons is already wearing out it’s welcome.

I have said that if Donald Trump liberates North Korea, the media here will find a way to spin it to criticize Trump and glorify the (hopefully disposed) Kim Jong Un.  That is the moment that they will loose their last shred of credibility.

Because it’s not that they oppose the things (they never said anything when the last president “banned” people) but it’s simply because they oppose the man, and thus will say anything that will frame him in a bad light, no matter how good the action is on Trump’s part.  He could hand a new puppy to every child in the World and it wouldn’t matter.