Philosophical Musings

Philosophical Musings

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Dream of America

The proletariat are always oppressed by the bourgeois elitist exploiters. Sometimes the oppressors are in a monarchy, sometimes they are in a collectivist system, sometimes rampant capitalism does it. Every govt system has flaws, & most of the time throughout history, the workers.. the ones who actually produce in the nation.. are exploited. Some governments have it as a goal, to exploit & oppress the workers. Others do it slyly, enslaving the worker while giving lip service to opposite ideals. Which is worse? An oppressor that openly exploits the workers, or a deceiver who tells you how free & liberated you are while fastening your chains? There is no difference. One just lies to you.

According to lincoln, the goal of good govt is to insure & provide an environment where the worker receives as much of the fruit of his labor as possible. Neither the govt, the greedy money people, or any other dependents should be allowed to forcibly take a large share of the produce of his labor.

"And, inasmuch [as] most good things are produced by labour, it follows that [all] such things of right belong to those whose labour has produced them. But it has so happened in all ages of the world, that some have laboured, and others have, without labour, enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To [secure] to each labourer the whole product of his labour, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government." ~Abraham Lincoln

Govt is a necessary evil. It's primary purpose is to protect the property & labors of the citizens. If it does not do that's most basic function.. but is complicit in exploiting the worker from his labors, it is no different than the capitalist oppressor, allowing the primary producer a fraction of the increase while devouring a large portion for themselves.

The statists miss that. They think govt should be central.. IT should be the primary function of the people, to support & fund the govt, so it can tell them what to do. That system is no different than govt working to fleece the people with capitalistic corporate oppressors.

We need a system of checks & balances. A system where individual freedom is the primary concern, & govt's role is to protect them from greedy exploiters wherever they come from. We need a simple system that does not extort the people for imperialistic pursuits, or corrupting personal gain. Such a system would allow the people to keep a large share of their work for themselves, and not have to enrich either governmental or capitalist overlords. A system like that would allow a majority of hard working people to succeed & become prosperous. They would have adequate protection from thieves who would steal their property, & a sympathetic govt that would not waste the fruits of their labors on corrupt or utopian fantasies. This govt would use its power to build an infrastructure for the entire nation, & keep it's demands on the working people to a minimum, so they could enjoy the fruits of their labors, not see them wasted in govt centered, mismanaged, unnecessary programs.

There is a system like this in existence. It is outlined in the declaration of independence & the us constitution. But it has been engulfed & trivialized by a growing mega maniacal monstrosity of supreme statism. This govt does not serve the people, but only pretends. It wastes & corrupts the labors of the workers, and is shrinking the large middle class that freedom & a strong work ethic built. It pretends to care for the people, but only works in concert with the greedy moneyed elite to take more of the workers' labors.

America needs a revolution. We need to demand that govt returns to serving the people, not their elitist cronies. We need to return to a simpler, limited govt that can use it's power to protect our labors, & provide a fair business & working environment. We need to stop the descent into statist madness.. it never works, always exploits the people, & wastes our labors. We need to encourage & build a strong work ethic, where hard work pays those who do it, rather than punishes them.

That is the dream of america. That is what built the largest middle class in the history of the world. That is what brought unheard of prosperity to a nation of rejects & outcasts. Is the dream over? Are we moving to another state centered system where the worker is exploited by a governing elite? History is full of those & the accompanying revolutions they breed. Can we keep the american dream alive, or are we doomed to repeat history?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Labor, Capital, & Dependents.

This is a topic i've been trying to get a simple view of for many years.  It is a basic concept, but seems to get lost in complex layers of confusing counter points.  Honest Abe got me thinking about it quite a while back in it's most basic terms.

"And, inasmuch [as] most good things are produced by labour, it follows that [all] such things of right belong to those whose labour has produced them. But it has so happened in all ages of the world, that some have laboured, and others have, without labour, enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To [secure] to each labourer the whole product of his labour, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government." ~Abraham Lincoln

Now on the surface, this sounds like it could have been written by an early 1900's labor leader.  He extols the virtues of labor, & decries those who profit from that who have not labored.  The goal of good govt is to try to see that each laborer should receive as much of the production of his labor as possible.  Laborers have been exploited throughout history, & Abe is saying this is wrong, & workers should get a full return on their labors.

He is not arguing for wage fixing or collective bargaining, but neither is he arguing against them.  His statement is much deeper.. a philosophical one that sees labor & capital in its  most basic forms.  He says that the laborer should receive 'as nearly as possible', 'the whole product of his labor'.

For labor to be truly productive, a real value must be derived from it.  Abe talks about this, too.

"Upon this subject, the habits of our whole species fall into three great classes---useful labour, useless labour and idleness. Of these the first only is meritorious; and to it all the products of labour rightfully belong; but the two latter, while they exist, are heavy pensioners upon the first, robbing it of a large portion of it's just rights. The only remedy for this is to, as far as possible, drive useless labour and idleness out of existence." ~Abraham Lincoln

The earlier concept of a laborer receiving 'the whole product of his labor' depends on the value of the labor.  A man can labor uselessly, working for something that has no profitable result.  Labor does not automatically have value.  It is not meritorious in & of itself.  To have value, it must produce something of value.

This 'value' we define as 'capital'.  It is a means of exchange for the results of true, productive labor.  It can be goods, services, food, or anything of value.  But the labor is foremost.  Here's abe again:

"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration." ~Abraham Lincoln

Abe is not singing the virtues of capitalism, here!  He says that labor, not capital should be given preference, as labor produces capital.  He is not condemning capitalism, or the concept of investing for a return.  But he is putting labor in it's rightful place as superior to capital.  A capitalist investor cannot get a  return if there is not labor to increase the value of the investment.  But to abe, the laborer should get a larger return from his labors than the investor who has not labored, but profits from the labors of others. He considers that the goal of good govt.

"The prudent, penniless beginner in the world, labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land, for himself; then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This, say its advocates, is free labor---the just and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way for all---gives hope to all, and energy, and progress, and improvement of condition to all." ~Abraham Lincoln

This kind of productive labor is essential for economic growth.  It  is the reason for the growth & success of America.  We are the land of opportunity & free markets, where you could labor, & receive the fruits from it.  Oppressors were restricted, & capitalists had competition.  Anyone could save their money, build a farm or business, produce something of value & increase the production & standard of living for all.  It was LABOR that did this, not capital.  The hard work of the citizens brought a return & raised the nation into the most prosperous country in history, with an industrious middle class.

Abe also talked about those who do  not engage in 'useful labor'.  These are 'useless labor & idleness'.  They are dependents on the former.  They do not produce anything useful or productive, but are 'pensioners' of the producers, robbing them of their increase.

Some companies hire efficiency experts to help them identify areas & workers who are not productive, but decrease production, waste the resources of the company & increase costs.  The goal is increased production, which increases value for the business investors & those who labor.  But when a business or farm increases those who are not productive, or are idle or performing useless labor, the fruits of labor are decreased, as they are shared with a larger base of consumers.

This is the reason for the failures of collectivist experiments over the years.  Those who labor become outnumbered by those who only consume.  Soon the producers cannot make enough to support all of the dependents.  Any collective entity, business, farm, govt, or society as a whole, must have a large productive base of those who labor usefully.  If it does not, it will collapse.  That is the lesson from history, & it will repeat itself often, until we learn it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pyramid of Labor & Dependents

This is a classic 1911 worker's rights poster that i have edited for current issues.

1. The producers are on the lowest tier. They are the ones that support the entire system. Their labors create all the wealth & capital that feeds the rest.

2. You have exploiters on the second tier. They are the ones being enriched by the labors of the masses. They do not produce anything by their own labors, but leech off the production of others. I would put welfare recipients, govt employees, profiteers, passive investors, and all who do not themselves produce anything.  All these are supported by the labors of the producers.

3. Then you have the military, which in the american tradition is to protect the people so their labors are not stolen by enemies, foreign or domestic. They are an expense, but if they do their job of protecting society so they can labor fruitfully, then it is a valid expense. It is up to the people & the conditions of the world to determine how much they need to spend on this protection.

4. Next are the entertainers.. celebrities, sports heroes, religious movements, & all multimedia.  They are a leech on the producers, but it is an optional one for free citizens. It is not mandated by the govt, or enforced by the military.

5. The govt is at the uppermost tier, which is usually the case. Govt has always ruled from the top, & used their power to enforce their mandates on the working producers. The larger this tier gets, the more of a burden it is on the productive parts of society. Lincoln said the goal of good govt is to let the laborer keep as much of the increase of his labor as possible. Govt should be small & efficient, with power used to prevent the exploiters from robbing the labors of the people.  In America, govt's main duty is to secure our rights, not take a large share of our productivity.

Capital is a result of labor.. the harvest of the producers at the lowest levels of the tier. The capital is what everyone lives on. Those that sponge off the producers are on the top tiers. All the increase is at the bottom. This is basic labor, that produces all the capital & property of the society.  All salable goods & services fall into this category.  All others are dependents on the producers.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Constitutional Liberty

The current direction the govt is taking us is away from personal liberty.  Totalitarianism seems to be the default governmental system that we humans naturally gravitate towards.  Freedom is the opposite.  America has been, historically, a land of freedom.  Now, the guardians of that freedom have to be continually on watch for those who would pervert the constitution & take our freedoms, but that does not mean the system does not work.  It does.  It just needs to be constantly watched.  My generation has dropped the ball.  We have not protected & valued our liberties & the american system of govt, but have allowed statism & euro envy to shape our public policy.  We can turn this back if we can get honest representatives who will enforce existing laws, & follow the constitution, as written.

Some view anarchy as a preferable direction.  The problem is that, with anarchy, you would not have a bunch of thugs terrorizing the countryside, but well armed private armies.  Those would be the ones to grab power, not random thugs.  They would be indistinguishable from govt swat team, & they would take whatever they wanted, & oppress us like any govt.  That is the 'default' world system.  ..always has been, always will.  It takes a determined citizenry to band together & support a system where power does not rule, but serve.  ..where power is used for protection of the weak, not oppression.  This is the dream of america, where power is used for the people, to secure their rights & freedoms.

'That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men', is from the declaration of independence.  It DOES work.  It has for over 200 yrs.  It can work again.  The default human condition is 'might makes right'.  Power is used for selfish reasons, & to promote the agenda of the powerful.  But that is NOT the american way.  The ideals the founders promoted is that govt should be a force to protect the liberties & property of the citizens, not exploit them or let other exploit them.

I want to return to these american ideals, not abandon them.  If we abandon the constitution, then a govt of the people, by the people, & for the people will have perished from the earth.  We would return to the default ruling system of 'power rules' & 'might makes right.'

I am not happy to see the direction the country is headed.. more & more statist policies, redistribution, fiscal madness, currency policy at the brink of collapse.. but we cannot surrender the dream of america to the statists.  They will dismantle america & make us into another euro nanny state.  We need all those who see the dream of freedom to keep it alive, not give up.  We need to vote for & promote honest, sincere representatives who will represent the people, protect the constitution, & preserve our liberties.  It can still be done.  We just need determination, clarity of thought, & the will to see it through.

One of the most difficult things is for rugged individualists to band together.  The statists are very good at solidarity.  Individualists are not.  They fight with each other like they would a socialist.  But the stakes are too high, now.  We are in danger of losing the country.  Unless those who value the dream of america come together & tell the govt what we want, it will continue to ignore us.  But if we can agree on some basic issues.. those that preserve our freedoms.. shrinking govt, cutting spending, basic responsible govt ideals, then we can do it.  No candidate is perfect.  But we can begin by picking the lesser of the evils.  Then get more constitutionalists to run.. promote & support them.  They won't be perfect, either.  But with the checks & balances inherent in our system, it can work

“If once the people become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions.”  ~Thomas Jefferson

"If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin." ~Samuel Adams

I like the attitude of Lincoln, here:
"Many free countries have lost their liberty, and ours may lose hers; but if she shall, be it my proudest plume, not that I was the last to desert, but that I never deserted her" ~Abraham Lincoln

The nation was in a time of great uncertainty. No one knew if the republic would survive. But Lincoln fought for it, indifferent to the outcome. That attitude is my role model. I intend to never desert the dream of america, whether she lives on to the next generation, or ends at mine.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Government: Ruler or Servant?

1. Is govt an entity separate from the people, with a life & will of it's own, or is it an extension of the people, reflecting their wishes?

2. Are the rights of the people provided by the govt, or are they inherent to the people?

In most state centered systems, govt is seen as the source of all decisions. Individual rights & liberties are viewed through the filter of what is best for the state. If there are things that are negative to the state's power, those things are limited. The state can decide what is best for the people. They pick the religion, regulate speech & the press, regulate how & if common people can possess weapons, & reflect a state centered ideology.

In the US constitution, govt's role is deliberately limited. The founders saw that govt was naturally intrusive, taking more & more until it was the central figure in peoples' lives. They intended to limit govt, & make the individual's rights more important & central to govt's basic function.

Govt should be a servant.. it should be there to protect the individual. For a country to prosper, people need to have the freedom to work.. to provide for their families & increase their property. According to Locke, preservation of property is the basic function of govt. If a farmer grows crops, but they are stolen by marauding bands of thieves, their property is not secure. Govt's basic functions should include:

1. Protect the citizens from enemies. They should provide protection from those who would steal the property of the citizens. This is the central, basic function of govt. A prosperous nation can afford to delegate part of their property to this duty. If the nation is too cheap, enemies can defeat them. If they spend to much of their property for protection, it is wasteful & overkill. This protection is a cost that the citizens choose, & a good balance is important for continued prosperity of the people.

2. Protect the individual's rights, & provide a level playing field for their labors. Lincoln argued that labor was superior to capital. Labor precedes capital, & should be a govt's focus. It should protect the labors of the citizens from unscrupulous, greedy exploiters. It should have fair laws & regulations that keep the wealthy & powerful from taking advantage of the poor. By their labors, the poor should be able to increase their property, & have it protected.

3. Provide infrastructure. Govt can provide larger projects that all citizens can benefit from. They can pool the resources of the many to improve the returns on the labor of the individual, & the lifestyles of the citizens. Roads improve commerce. Farmers can distribute their crops to a larger market. Manufacturers can grow their business by expanding to new areas. But like protection, this infrastructure has to be paid for by the citizens. If they are too cheap, their infrastructure will be limited & their lives more difficult. If they spend too much of their property on infrastructure, they can bankrupt themselves & have little property left for production and basic needs.  It is another balance that the citizens must decide. Each infrastructure project should be viewed as a family purchase. Can we afford it? Will it improve our lives? Is it a good investment for our future?

California is a good example. It has evolved to a mini nanny state.. dictating to the people what they can & can't do in almost every area of their lives. They seem to have the statist view of govt.. that govt is supreme, & all things flow through it. Every minutia is managed & regulated by the govt. Business is over regulated, individual rights are set aside, & the state & bureaucrats are the ruling elite.

The results of this system are becoming painfully evident. Instead of serving the people, & protecting rights & freedoms, their govt centered ideals have led California to a cliff of fiscal disaster.

I am not putting govt into extremes of definitions as lords or servants, but the overall attitude, or culture that our govt reflects. I do not expect judges, police, etc to act like a lord with me, for example. They can still be public servants. Their salary is paid for by the people. Yes, they are there to protect us from those who would steal our property or do us harm, but that does not empower them to lord it over us, or trample our rights. I am not categorizing various arms of govt into either lord or servant. ALL are servant, or should be. ALL are a reflection of the public will, or should be. It is when govt thinks it is an independent entity, & can demand the people's resources.. raises or jobs or special privileges, or make dictatorial pronoucements, that they move to the 'lord' extreme. They no longer see themselves as servants of the public, but rulers who can dictate what the people can do.

This is a big topic, but it is a central issue to all of us. We the people can choose which direction we want to go. We can pressure our representatives to do their job, and be servants of the people, rather than lords over us.

"And, inasmuch [as] most good things are produced by labour, it follows that [all] such things of right belong to those whose labour has produced them. But it has so happened in all ages of the world, that some have laboured, and others have, without labour, enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To [secure] to each labourer the whole product of his labour, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government." ~Abraham Lincoln

"Whenever the legislators endeavor to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any further obedience." ~John Locke

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them. ~Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Food for Thought part 1

I was getting tired of working, so thought i'd try a different plan. I got a piece of cardboard, & wrote, 'Will think for food' on it & stood on the street. I got a lot of funny looks, but no food. Evidently thought is not valued much in the world.

Then i tried a think tank. I found one of those stock tanks.. pretty common here in Az.. and sat in it & thought. A few cows came by, & i had some good thoughts, but no one offered any food or money for them. I don't know how those other think tank people do it. Maybe it was because my tank was empty.

But the real point of this story is not about thinking. It is about food. I was thinking about food, which i do a lot, & it occurred to me that food is the most important commodity that we exchange for. I think it would be safe to say that food predated money in human history. Food was used more in human exchanges than money, & what we use as money now, is primarily used to buy food. Oh, we buy lots of other stuff, but most of that is unnecessary. The 'Will think for food' sign is silly, but food occupies a great deal of our waking thoughts, & if you're hungry, you dream about food.

The basic needs in life are few. We need air, water, food, & protection. Air is free, for now, so we don't worry about how we will take our next breath. We just take it. Water is plentiful, and fairly easy to find.. though i'm sure in the deserts someone looking for water would have a different perspective. But the point is that for most of humanity & throughout history, water was not a major problem, but food was. And of course, water has extreme significance now in food production. It is essential in food production. For most of human existence, food gathering.. whether it was from the wild or cultivated, took a large portion of our time & energy.

Protection has some different facets. There is shelter protection.. to protect us from the elements. We are fairly dainty creatures, & do not have thick fur coats, or the ability to endure climactic variations without outside help. So we have made houses & clothes to protect our fragile selves with.

The other protection is from danger.. some from wild animals, but mostly from each other. Some people found it easier to take other people's food, clothing, & shelter, rather than work to provide their own. So we built defense systems. We formed alliances with each other to fight off invading hordes trying to take our stuff. We had to protect our food stores & other valuables. We made weapons, built strongholds, & learned tactical maneuvers to protect ourselves. Of course, some of us were on the other side. We made the same weapons & tried to improve them so we could better defeat those with the food stores, so we could take their stuff. Most of our technological advancement is due to either defense for the growers or aggression for the takers.

We grouped together in larger & larger family groups, mostly for protection, then it became more geographical, racial or cultural, and recently we have grouped together in ideological groups. America is more like that. We are pretty diverse racially & culturally, but share a similar ideology about govt, as well as geographical common ground.

Early on, money evolved. We needed an easy substitute for food.. something we could exchange for our necessary commodities. We used pretty rocks, sea shells, bits of metal, or other items that came to represent a value.. a worth that you could use to trade for other things. Food was still the major item we exchanged for. Those who grew a lot of food had the wealth. They were the ones primarily able to buy protection from thieves. They grew more than they needed, & used the excess to exchange for leisure or luxuries. They could hire workers to build grand living quarters, & pay them with food to work in their fields or tend their livestock.

On the taker's side, powerful warriors gained prominence. They were able to invade other nations & take their stuff. Their strength gained them power & influence, & they provided for their group by that method.

As our technology advanced, and as our protections were more effective in providing a safe place to farm, food become more plentiful. It was soon easy to grow, & many people were able to get large crops & a distribution network was created by ships, rails, & roads. Refrigeration made keeping it fresh easier, & freezing, canning, and other means of storage made getting & keeping food easier. Soon, food acquisition became less of a full time job, & people could pursue other luxuries & leisure time activities. Money became more of the standard for exchange. You could work for an individual farmer, or collectives, or corporate ventures, as people pooled their resources to accomplish greater things. Govts increased their power, & used their military might to take the resources of weaker nations.

We all rely on the distribution process, & the ability of farmers to provide cheap food for our survival. When there are problems, famine results. In every area of the world where there is prolonged famine, it is usually a breakdown in the distribution network or the protection umbrella. Sometimes a blight or drought causes it.. but the long term famines in the world are due more to those 2 things breaking down. Civil war is a major cause of famine. The warring factions tend to view their tactical advantages as more important than seeing food grown or distributed. An early tactic we discovered is that if we disrupt our enemy's supply line, it weakens them in battle. And the warriors themselves see their own sustenance as more important than the civilians living in the middle of the war. So the result is famine. People do not have the food, the local money inflates to a useless value, black market supplies of food or other necessities make eating very expensive.

But other things can also create tough economic times. During the american depression, years of drought created the dust bowl, and along with the stock market crash, & other financial shenanigans, the nation was plunged into a deep depression. Food was available, but the means to exchange for it was more difficult to obtain. People worked long days for barely enough food to live on. The time spent working for food increased, & not much was left for luxuries or leisure.

If food is cheap & plentiful, we can pursue leisure & luxuries. If it is not, we work a lot harder just for food. We take it for granted, now, but food has been the central, single most important item people have worked & fought for in the history of man. We have evolved into a complex society, with other things seemingly more important, but if you strip it all down, food is still our most central & daily need for survival.

In America now, we have a fairly inexpensive food supply. We give it away in food stamps & international aid. Our farmers are fairly efficient, as is the distribution network. We get processed food, already packaged for storage. The main value of our work is not just the amount of food we can buy, but in other things.. mostly luxuries.. that are not central to our existence. If anything were to interrupt the cheap food supply, our luxuries would also diminish, as more of our time would be spent hunting & gathering, rather than enjoying leisure diversions. If war, economic issues, severe weather, or political unrest were to upset the farming & distribution network, we could be in a famine scenario very quickly. Money would become less valuable, & luxury items would lose some of their luster. You cannot eat a cadillac. In a scenario where desperation begins to set in, & food scarcity becomes common, especially in the large cities, we would probably see a growth of those spending their time taking from others, rather than producing anything themselves. It might become more difficult to provide a protective umbrella for the food creators, or the distributors. The currency's main value would be in what you can purchase or protect your food.

Food is our central commodity. All other things of value.. homes, manufactured goods, clothing, vehicles, weapons.. are only valuable in that they help you produce your food or provide the protective umbrella. But without food, they are useless playthings.

Probably the central reason for the growth & prosperity of america in the last 100 yrs has been our food production. We have been called, 'the breadbasket of the world'. We produce & export more food than anything else. National protective umbrella devices (weapons) are probably second. All other ventures either support that production, like farming equipment, irrigation, processing, distribution.. or they leech off of it. Our luxuries & leisure time are direct results of efficient & productive farming methods, & the protective umbrella to let it prosper.

Weapons are only useful for protecting food production & distribution, or taking it from others. Weapons are an expense for the food producers.. they have no value in themselves, but only in protecting from the takers. Weapons & national power are only useful as a means of protecting food production, or taking it from others.

There has never been but one question in all civilization-how to keep a few men from saying to many men: You work and earn bread and we will eat it. ~Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, July 12, 2012

a dirt biker walks into a bar..

a dirt biker walks into a bar..

Where i live there are a lot of harley riders.. they cruise around on the weekends, go up to jerome, ride around in the mountains.. and just get out & enjoy the road. I always wave to them, but many are hanging on so tight they can't wave back. But i figure we are kindred spirits.. wild motorcycle riders with the wind in our hair & bugs in our teeth.

One time, i decided to drop into a harley bar. I had never been to one, & thought it would show solidarity with my 2 wheeled comrades.. we could cuss the cagers & debate the merits of oil. So i got on my hog.. well.. a yamaha 250 dirt bike, but it's MY hog.. and as usual, with me it is ATGATT*.. i had on my dual sport helmet, compression jacket, moto boots (white), knee braces & moto pants. I usually wear a leather jacket over my compression suit when going on adventure rides. I had on street gloves, with the carbon fiber knuckles. So i go in all suited up, to show that i'm a real biker, too. I even backed my bike into the parking lot like they do. I see the harley guys giving me mean stares.. must be a local custom to look tough, so i adapt & look mean, too. I belly up to the bar & order a beer. Before i get it, a couple of guys come over & start pushing me. At first, i'm surprised, but then i realize they must be helping me test out my gear! So to get into the spirit of it, i run into them, & they pick me up & throw me across a table. Furniture is breaking up like a western saloon brawl, and i get up, unhurt. I raise my hands to show i'm ok, & a couple of other guys grab me & throw me across some other tables & chairs. I get up again, the gear is doing it's job.

This goes on for a few minutes, but i'm starting to get tired of it. I know they mean well, & are certainly enthusiastic about helping me test the gear, but i'm getting a few bruises & the landings are taking it's toll. It's hard to speak with all the commotion, so i just run outside & jump on my bike.

They are into it, & follow me. They want to go on a ride, now! Well, i was glad for that, as the gear testing was starting to wear me out. Nothing like a good ride to clear the mind. I take off, with about a dozen guys following. I come upon a steep hill with some stairs down, & even though you're not supposed to ride on stairs, i figure the harley guys are rebellious & would enjoy some law breaking. So i turn & start thumping down the stairs. They follow, but some of them have trouble on the stairs.. about 5 or 6 of them fall over & their bikes slide on the hill. But many of them make it, & keep following.

Now i've got to think of another challenging section for our ride. I forgot my camera, so won't be able to post this in my ride reports, but it's still a fun ride. I remember some single track down the road, up the mountain & past the switchbacks. I have to slow down a lot to keep them in sight in the switchbacks, but i realize riders are at different stages in their riding ability so i wait for them. Finally i get to the single track. I turn down the trail, and only 2 follow. The rest turn back.. already tired? We're just getting started! This section has some rocks.. big rocks.. you have to pick a line & keep up your momentum. It is a short section, & comes out on an easy dirt road that i can go back home on. When i look back, there is no one following. I was paying pretty close attention to my own riding, & didn't watch what they were doing. They probably turned back, too.

So i went on home, but remember fondly the time when a big group of harley riders helped me test my gear.

* All the gear, all the time

The City Occupation

The City Occupation
to the tune of big rock candy mountain..

One evening as the sun went down, and the city fires were burning,
To the park came a homeless walker, and he said boys I'm not turning,
I'm headed for a place that's down the street, beside financial station,
So come with me & we'll go and see, the city occupation.

In the city occupation, there's a land that's fair and bright,
Where the handouts grow on bushes, and you sleep out every night.
Where every street is Easy, and the sun shines every day,
On the birds and bees and the cigarette trees,
near the latte springs where the minstrel sings,
no ticks or fleas & you do as you please,
in the city occupation.

in the city occupation, all the cops have wooden legs,
the police dogs all have rubber teeth, and the hens lay soft boiled eggs.
there's picnic tables full of food, and coolers full of beer,
Well I'm bound to go where there's pot & blow,
where the rain don't flow and there ain't no snow,
where the girls are easy & the narcs don't know,
in the city occupation.

in the city occupation, you never change your socks,
and the little streams of alcohol, come a tricklin' down the rocks.
The rapists all are mellow, and the rent-a-cops are blind,
There's a lake of stew and a whisky too,
you can paddle all around 'em in a big canoe,
where you crap on cars with a man from mars,
in the city occupation.

In the city occupation, the jails are made of tin,
And you can walk right out again, as soon as you are in.
There ain't no employment office, no fryer grease or grills.
I'm a-going to stay where ya sleep all day,
Where the parents pray & the liberals pay,
Where they hung the jerk who invented work,
In the city occupation.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Balance of Ideology

In america we tend to overestimate the importance of the prez. They are not all powerful, & their influence is balanced by other checks in the system. Of course, recent presidents have overstepped their authority with executive orders, but that is another argument. Congressional & senate reps tend to have more direct accountability with the electorate. The founders wanted reps to have a 2 yr term, so they would have to face their constituents & justify their job. Lincoln had a good quote about the presidency:

While the people retain their virtue, and vigilance, no administration, by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the government, in the short space of four years. ~Abraham Lincoln

The decisions for the overall direction of the country will be made by the house & senate, too. It can be a slow, painful, & heated process. Decision making, especially on major directions for the nation is not easy. It requires a lot of public debate & hopefully that debate will not be short circuited, and major decisions rammed down the public's throat without full scrutiny. That is the primary complaint regarding obamacare. It was not debated clearly, or time given to examine all the details & consequences of the plan. It was not a tax, now it is a tax. It would not raise your taxes 'one dime', & now it looks like it will be more like hundreds of dimes. It is still vague & costs & consequences are unknown.

The point is that majorities of political ideology are not always good. They will sometimes have simplistic views about their darling projects, without the scrutiny or skepticism of the opposition. Sometimes it is better for the country if there is a balance of ideological differences.. more time must be taken in public discourse to examine the issues. The public can become better informed, & a wiser direction can be chosen.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Entitlements. Payback, or free stuff?

The largest part of the us budget are the entitlements. Those contribute more to the deficit than any other discretionary spending or the defense budget. Many of these entitlements were supposed to be self supporting. You paid into them, & when the time came, you collected. So why are they in trouble? If they are set up like an insurance program, you have actuarial numbers, statistics, & can determine what the premium needs to be to collect a certain amount. Insurance actuaries have done this for centuries, and made a profit. Why cannot the govt make simple mathematical calculations even with no profit?

The problem is that the govt has changed the program from a simple actuarial calculation to a pyramid scheme. They began to pay out more than was warranted by the amount paid in. These entitlement programs morphed into redistribution programs.. taking from the working class, & distributing to the takers, with plenty of corruption, fraud, & mismanagment built in.

This primarily concerns social security & medicare, since they are allegedly self funded. But with the astronomical growth of disability & medicaid, the programs are over stressed. They are no longer financially solvent. They are going bankrupt. To fix them, the amount that people pay in would need to be raised above what most people would find acceptable. Politicians do not want to raise taxes on people, but still want to promise the free stuff. They won't address the corruption & fraud, nor adjust the payout, so now we are in the current dilemma.

Those on disability have grown over 10 times over the last 10 yrs. Why? The workplace is no more dangerous. No, it has become the new welfare. A new market of lawyers who can get you on disability for a fee has arisen. People with a hangnail or hurt feelings apply for & get disability.

This illustrates why govt is not good at anything where money management is required. They only waste the taxpayers money, & let con men & fraudsters run rampant in the system.

What are the solutions? Here are a few options.

1. Let it ride. Let entitlements run rampant, throw more money at them, & let them bankrupt & collapse the system. Some who advocate the Cloward–Piven strategy actually support this option.

2. Audit it & tighten up the qualifications. Raise the age for retirement & medicare, & reduce the payouts so the numbers work.

3. Scrap the system. Get the govt out of the insurance business. They are fond of mandating things to us, so they can mandate that we invest in ira's or some other retirement plan. It seems they are already mandating insurance, so that should render medicare & medicaid obsolete.

Even if obamacare is rescinded, i'm certain we could come up with a better managed system than anything the govt manages. They are a magnet for corruption, inefficiency, & fraud. Let the private sector supply these commodities. The govt can provide fair regulations & competition, but they should not be running things. Healthcare & old age security are not divine rights in the constitution. They are market driven commodities.. things you can buy at your discretion. When you give away free stuff.. food, housing, or other commodities, there will always be people lined up to take it. It is not the function of govt to provide a life for everyone. If they secure our freedoms it is enough. We can build our own lives.

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the Public Treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the Public Treasury with a result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy always followed by dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years." ~Sir Alexander Fraser Tyler

"No country can sustain in idleness more than a small percentage of its numbers. The great majority must labor at something productive." ~Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, July 5, 2012

American Exceptionalism?

The only thing exceptional about America for me is that i take exception that we are exceptional!  America is unique in history, to be sure, and the hodgepodge of characters & mifits that made up this nation are contrary to the more world wide vision of nobility & manifest destiny.  But exceptional?  That starts to sound like the divine right of kings.. attributing a unique blessing from Deity on our leaders, just because they are so special.

America is more like the Rodney Dangerfield of nations.. we never get respect.  In past centuries, & even now we are considered more of a mutt of nations.. a mongrel society with no real heritage or roots.  The european elite were glad for us to take their tired, their poor, their huddled masses.. they could then become a more pure vision of their culture, unfettered by the pesky malcontents & dregs of society.  Hitler despised the US for our lack of racial & cultural purity, as did the Japanese.  They did not think a nation like that could do battle with their superior warriors.  Most Europeans & middle easterners also view us as impure mongrels.. nothing exceptional about us at all.

Now in spite of all this disrespect, we have grown to become the most powerful nation in history, & unlike other superpowers, did not annihilate our enemies to prove our cultural superiority.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons for the continued disdain we get from many nations.  Annihilated enemies do not show disdain.

I see a progression of American culture.. an evolution of the american psyche & how we arrived at our unique views.

Early on with the pilgrams & other colonists, self sufficiency became the norm.  England did not protect & supply the early pioneers, nor did the Dutch or French.  After a few generations of this self sufficiency, with a dose of John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, & other revolutionary views, the colonies started to feel they were not part of the old world.  Old England did not view us as equals, but distant suppliers of cheap goods & raw materials.  THEY were the exceptional ones.. the colonial nations with a divine destiny to rule (or at least manage) the world.

We had weird cults from all over europe coming here to practice their beliefs without persecution.  Many experiments in collectivism were tried, with little success.  But individuals working together had more success in building the new society.  Individual freedom & individual responsibility proved to be a powerful force in nation building.  The bizarre mix of people from many ethnic & ideological backgrounds was our heritage, rather than a noble purity of esteemed ancestry.  We had criminals, cult members, indentured servants, slaves, adventure seekers, & many other misfits & malcontents come to settle the new uncertain shores of america.

These people battled for their turf like any urban gang.  They made & broke treaties with the natives, & could be as treacherous as any european.  They were pawns in the European struggles for world dominance.. Spain, France, England, and even Germany saw us as bit players in their European stage.. pawns to be manipulated for political purposes.  By and large, we were naive & unsophisticated in world politics.. we were trying to grow the nation & provide freedom for our people.  And more kept coming.. immigrants from europe, mostly, coming for a new life of freedom & opportunity.

What made the American culture different was self sufficiency.  The govt was not powerful & totalitarian, like those in Europe.  It did not dictate to the people a lot of rules of behavior or religious beliefs.  They could not tax us oppressively, & engage in a lot of wars, because they didn't have much money or power, & the people were too spread out & lived mostly on subsistence farms.  The people had little to do with govt, & took care of themselves.  In contrast, the Kings of Europe ruled their people with divine right.  They drafted their young men into the army & made regular, imperial war on other nations to expand their turf & power.  They levied heavy taxes to pay for their excesses & wars.  The common people did not live under a free, self sufficient system, but at the pleasure of the monarchy.  Every right or privelege was granted by the King.  Your very life was at his discretion.  Common Europeans lived under this system until the last century.  But even now, most European nations do not have a personal responsibility, individual liberty culture.  They still look to the 'king' or the state to manage a lot of their lives.  They expect the govt to tell them what to do in most aspects of their lives.

Russia went from the Czars to Lenin without any real change for the common people.. they were still enslaved & oppressed by a monolithic central power.  Germany went from Kings to Kaisers to Furhers with little difficulty.. it was just different faces & different agendas.. but the totalitarian, statist govt was familiar & comfortable for the people.  France went from Kings to revolutionaries to dictators in the same way.  China, too, went from emperor to Mao.  Most of the world does not have the history or culture of individual freedom like those in america.  Free speech & press are fairly recent in Europe, and not really there in some places.  No citizens of other nations are trusted by their govts to be armed.  In America we think free speech, press, arms, etc, are normal human rights.  We have had them for so long we take them for granted.

But i see this as more of a psychological difference.. a matter of upbringing & the evolution of culture.. it is nothing inherent in americans, and certainly not exceptional.  Many generations of breathing the air of freedom have given us this attitude, & we tend to assume that individual freedom is a human norm.  But of course, it is not, & freedoms can disappear & be just a footnote in history, if we let statism & totalitarianism continue unchecked in it's constant lust for power.

American freedom is exceptional.  But that is not the people.. that is the concept.. the idea of America.  There is nothing exeptional about being born here, or coming here to start a new life.  But continuing to breathe the air of freedom requires exceptional committment.  Freedom is not free, & we must defend it & treasure it as our most precious possession.  In the history of the world, the freedom of America is very unusual & quite exceptional.  But we are not born with it.. we must take it as our own.. embrace it as our personal heritage & individual identity.  That individual freedom is the idea of America.  You don't have to live here to have it, nor does living here mean you automatically understand it.  To fully 'get' America, you have to see the idea.  For us to survive as a nation, we have to keep the dream alive.  America must live as a concept, not merely a collection of misfits & mongrels.  America as an idea is exceptional.

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.  ~Thomas Jefferson

"Whenever the legislators endeavor to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any further obedience." ~John Locke

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government..  ~American Declaration of Independence