June 11, 2003
This was originally a page of its own. I have no idea why I did that. Since it ain't exactly new, I dropped it in on a Wednesday to avoid pushing back anything new.
I saw a page on zompist.com about what's wrong with Libertarianism. He makes some valid points, if you accept that the fringe is all there is to libertarians. Unfortunately, that's as accurate as saying everyone who ventures at all to the left of center is a communist. I think you can see where that would be inaccurate.
Libertarianism taken to its extreme is just as untenable as communism. Both fail because people are imprefect and greedy. (Other things too, but greedy is the biggest part of it.) In a communist society, everyone receives the basics of life in exchange for their work. No faith in the market, total faith in the government. Except that if someone gets paid regardless of work done, that person will do as little work as possible. Libertarianism is the polar opposite. No faith in the government (in the extreme case, no government at all) and total faith in the market. Again it fails -- the perfect end result is sometimes a monopoly (or an oligopoly with very few corporations controlling supply, identical to a monopoly in all but name) and that causes a great deal of harm.
Well then, why would I say I'm a Libertarian? Because I feel that for the most part it is the correct way of going about things. We just need to make corrections -- as few as necessary -- to prevent abuses. This means that on economic issues I tend to sound like a Republican. On social issues I sound very much like a Democrat. Unfortunately no other party I know of matches that mix very well, so Libertarian it is.
The economic portion of Libertarianism states that the market is the best provider of goods and services, and that the government will do the same thing poorly. In cases where there is profit available this is usually true. All we really need are rules to prevent monopolies (and price-fixing in the case of oligopolies) and force individuals at corporations to be accountable to both the shareholders (i.e. owners) and their employees (hello, Ken Lay!).
How do we go about this? I don't know. I'm not an economist or a business major. The post-Enron legistlation sounds like a step in the right direction, but my gut tells me it also doesn't go far enough. We also have monopolies that the government allows, proving how poor monopolies are -- Amtrak is a shining example. Not only is it a monopoly, it's a government-run monopoly. Double-whammy.
Oligopolies also rule the roost. Ever notice how all the gas stations in town raise their prices on the weekends, even though crude oil's price hasn't changed a cent? Welcome to price fixing, ladies and gentlemen.
There's probably a lot of fine-tuning that would need to be done, trying to find the balance between the free market and government oversight. And there are other, smaller rules that I don't go into here. No monopolistic behavior and No screwing your employees are the two basic rules.
Unions are a tough case: I agree with them in principle -- namely the principles they were founded on the better part of a century ago. A fair amount of work for a fair pay. Who can argue with that? I sure can't.
But the way unions currently operate leaves a lot to be desired. They seem less interested now in securing their workers' rights than they are in political prick-waving. Forcing employers to pay more than the market can bear and committing violent acts against non-union workers and those who hire them don't exactly endear today's unions to me.
Again, I have lofty ideals but no easy answers. Obviously nobody should be forced to join a union, and no employer should be forced to hire people for more than they're worth to the company. And I don't think that near-riot behavior can be mistaken for acceptable. But where does taking the unions' power away infringe on their original purpose? I have no idea.
Some things can only operate at a loss, and businesses are right to avoid them. Things like unemployment compensation and welfare, schooling, national defense and law enforcement don't make money; they only spend it. But we need all of them.
And that's why we have a government. That's a good thing -- we need an educated populace, we need to assist people who are out of work, and we need to protect ourselves from our enemies and (sometimes) each other. The government is the only entity that can do these things, because the government doesn't have to sell people anything to get their money from them. I think just about anyone can agree that taxes are worthwhile in this case.
But the government also needs to spend the money wisely. To keep their yearly costs down, many government agencies (think about your state's Department of Transportation) contract out their work to the lowest bidder. Unfortunately, this year-to-year view costs more in the long run because it doesn't factor in money and time needed for early repairs due to lower-quality work and materials.
Thing is, there's so much bureaucracy in place that it would take years to sort out what's what.
Now for the biggie: Social Security. The inter-generational Ponzi scheme. Forget "lockboxes" and half-hearted attempts at reform; this program needs serious work.
Even with all the stock market problems, I believe that people should be allowed to take a mandatory deduction from their paycheck and invest it as they wish. Savings bonds, T-bills, 401(k) accounts, I don't care how. But what passes for the government's repayment plan is a joke and should be abolished. Pay out to the people who paid in, of course, and make partial replayments directly to a taxpayer's investment account of choice depending on age for the rest. But end this nonsense before it gets any more broken.
Another case where the market alone doesn't work out like we'd want it to. Simply being "green" doesn't guarantee profits because the company in question usually has to charge more for its products and services. Yep, we need an EPA. Maybe not in its current form, but it is useful.
Industry causes pollution. It can't be helped. But we can try to minimize its impact and I think that's a good idea, when the economy's in good shape. When the economy's hurting, though, I don't think it's a good idea to pile on more environmental laws.
The way most environmental legislation works is that it's slowly brought in to play -- reduce CO2 emissions by 5% this year, another 5% the next year, and so on. This works pretty well; it lets companies spread out the necessary R&D and implementation costs. My only change would be to temporarily suspend the increases during a recession. Not roll them back, mind you -- the money's already been spent so there's no good in letting things get worse -- just delay the next increase.
There should also be a scientific review of proposed legislation before it goes into effect. Too often we jump in based on a gut feeling instead of thinking things through. And it cuts both ways: Drilling in ANWR is dumb, if for no other reason than there's not a lot of oil there and it'll take years to gain access to it.
Here's where I swing from the far right to the far left. Don't watch; you may get dizzy.
The major focus of my take on social issues is affirmation of individual rights and curtailing of government "rights." You wanna snort your paycheck? Be my guest. You want to beat people up? Prepare for a trip to jail.
Your rights stop where someone else's rights start. That pretty much takes care of just about anything someone might do; all we need is to establish the proper penalties for violations.
What rights do these include? For starters you can marry anybody you want. Male, female, both, neither; have a blast. There is no need for "life-partner benefits" -- if you want someone on your insurance, go marry him/her/it.
On the topic of marriage, do it as often as you want. If your first wife doesn't mind you starting a harem, then feel free to do so. Just remember that you now have to support both wives and any children they have with you. Oh, and don't expect the wives to limit themselves to one husban, either. And, as marriage is a contract, you do need your S.O.'s permission to bring home your co-S.O.
Can't get any? Want to pay for sex? Be my guest. Like any small business-person, hookers will have to follow standard rules for transactions.
You may want to see the results of an STD test before you charge that hummer...
Congratulations for making it this far. I know, my writing style leaves a lot to be desired and I have lots of ideas but no plans. But it's at least a start.