Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More "Unintended" Consequences

Whenever you are designing a system, be it something in engineering, government, or otherwise, you always need to consider the unintended consequences of your design/policies. Sometimes these can be rather obvious, such as when you spend more money, you will need to collect more money so that you have it to spend (this may be delayed at additional cost in the case of borrowing, or you can also print it if you control the currency itself). Another classic recent example would be bailing out the large banks who took on huge amounts of risk in their pursuit of leveraged profits: by doing so, the government not only condoned the business strategy, but encouraged the banks to both take on more risk in the future, and essentially ignore the issue of divesting themselves of risky assets, both of which are proving more detrimental to the longer-term health of the US economy than their failures would have. Some are harder to anticipate, but rarely are the major ones difficult to see with even a moderate amount of consideration.

This story, then, illustrates another good example of a reasonably easily predictable outcome from a law, which I can only assume the legislators anticipated. To summarize, the laws in various states which criminalize texting while driving are causing more accidents. Ironically, this is similar to another set of traffic laws with unadvertised consequences: the red-light cameras causing more accidents (because it makes people more nervous and apt to drive more erratically around/through those intersections, obviously). In the texting case, drivers are moving their cell phones out of visible sight from outside the car, which causes then to divert their eyes further from the road while texting, causing more accidents. It's very reminiscent of the hand-held cell phone ban/law, which is causing drivers to hold their phones out of visible range and glance down while talking (although in that case it's a less severe problem, because you don't normally need to look at your phone while talking on speakerphone).

There are many other examples of these "unintended" consequences, of course. Obamacare will raise health care costs, drive providers out of business, lower the quality of service, and cost the country trillions: all of these are easily predictable. Socialism and wealth redistribution remove the incentive to work hard, reducing a country's economic output and innovation. An uncertain tax environment, punishing domestic tax rates, and onerous restrictions on business in the name of environmentalism (or other causes) all serve to drive business out of the country, reducing employment for Americans and industrial competitiveness for the country. The list goes on and on.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to these relatively obvious consequences: they are unintended, or they are merely unadvertised. In the first view, the politicians and their aids are dumb, they don't really understand what they are passing into law (or they don't read the legislation), and they don't ever consider the obvious effects of the policies they enact. In the other view, the people crafting the laws are not dumb, they have considered the implications, and they just don't publicize the fact that they know full-well what is going to result from the policies; they just don't want to advertise the effects, because they are not publicly palatable. It's hard for me to believe that everyone in government is monumentally stupid, even if I don't agree with their positions, so you can guess which side of the "unintended consequences" theories I come down on.

Who knows how much better the country would be if we had an independent news media, who could accurately point out all the obvious consequences of all the complex and intentionally opaque legislation that self-serving politicians advance to further their own agendas. Until then, though, I guess we'll have to live with the continuous absurd repetitions of "who could have known" and "that didn't work out as well as expected".

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More Easily Foreseeable Consequences: Obamacare

I feel bad for the providers in the health care insurance industry. They are directly in the path of the statist takeover of America, with a virtual death sentence hanging over their heads, and the full force of the government's propaganda machine (lead by the liberal media) working to paint them as the bad guys. The groundwork for nationalization has already been laid, and the financially crippling new regulations of Obamacare are starting to take effect.

To date, the health insurance companies are taking it admirably well: responding civilly to the criticisms, putting a positive face forward, and adjusting their business models and practices in entirely predictable and foreseeable ways to try to compensate for the rule changes being forced upon them. First there were the rate hikes to compensate for the expected increases in costs, and the lack of any provisions in Obamacare to counteract rising costs in the industry, primarily related to liability costs. Now the companies are cutting coverage for children; again, a predictable and foreseeable consequence of the new restrictions in Obamacare. I'm sure it would offend the people who are up-in-arms about the evils of insurance companies, but their ire is ill-directed: they should be upset, but all the blame and vitriol should be properly directed toward Washington DC, where the law which directly caused these obvious and foreseeable effects was drafted, rammed through Congress with no bi-partisan input, and signed into law.

It's fine to be angry about it: coverage is being decreased, health care costs are going up, and health care in America is degrading. These are all serious problems, and it's reprehensible that Obamacare makes them all worse. Just make sure your anger is appropriately directed against the criminals in Washington DC, and not the innocent corporations caught in the crossfire.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fannie Mae: Public Enemy #1?

Stories like this infuriate me. Fannie Mae, the government-run, taxpayer owned organization most recently known for passing on roughly $100 Billion in losses to the US taxpayers (with undoubtedly more to come), is launching a new program called HomePath to allow people to gamble on houses in foreclosure. In addition to directly creating untold billions in additional losses for US taxpayers (ha ha, suckers), this program will help keep the housing market artificially inflated, making it more difficult for savers to purchase affordable housing, rewarding speculators, and further delaying economic recovery for the country.

Seriously, what kind of a sadistic incomprehensibly monumental moron dreamed up this atrocity? Furthermore, what band of corrupt thugs in the government oversight group which is running Fannie Mae actually approved this brazen theft of public money? If ever there was a clear-cut case for why government should never, ever be running a company even remotely connected to a free market in the US, this could be the gigantic poster child.

If I were running the country, everyone connected with this brazen, incomprehensibly corrupt scheme to directly steal from the US taxpayers would be tried for treason, and if found guilty, executed. The sheer scope of the crime, potential damage, and depth of corruption and malfeasance would demand a complete purge, if not a dismantling entirely.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Better Political Distinctions: Libertarian and Statist

America has grown a lot since the time it was founded. Institutions have risen and fallen, nations have come, gone, and mutated, wars have redrawn maps, political experiments have been tested, and philosophies have been refined and reshaped. It seems to be that, particularly at this point in America's political evolution, the terms Republican and Democrat, or Conservative and Liberal, are perhaps no longer the best distinctions between the two major political schools of thought in the country. Rather, I would conjecture that the best distinction might be Libertarian and Statist, and I will explain.

On the one hand, Conservative encapsulates a set of political philosophies fairly well, which amount to essentially the Republican ideals without the RINO influence. That is, a combination of limited government, traditional values, and free market capitalism. However, beyond that it's more fuzzy: does conservative also mean personal freedoms (eg: gun rights), or would that be more associated with liberalism (eg: civil rights)? Also, conservative might want government out of private industry, but they want government in private personal interactions (eg: preventing gay marriage), and religion in government.

On the other hand, Liberalism represents an interesting amalgam of beliefs, largely catering to the voting base. There's progressive taxation, affirmative action, social services, welfare support, civil rights and invented privileges, heavy government control, massive fiscal irresponsibility, environmental protection, fighting global warming, protecting the unions, and whatever other hot-button short-term issues their constituents think they are concerned about at the time. One could say liberalism is trending toward socialism, but really that's only a subset of the political ideology which has been embraced. About the only things liberalism is not about are small government, limited government control and influence, equality under the law, and government fiscal responsibility. Which, ironically, are about the only things libertarians are strongly supportive of.

I suggest that within the group roughly identified as conservatives, there are two general ideologies, where each member holds one or both. One ideology is that of limited government, personal freedom, equality under the law, and government only where/when necessary to preserve such: ie, the libertarian ideals. The other ideology is "traditional", usually religious-based values, and government enforcement of such. Similarly for liberals, you can divide their ideologies into two broad categories. First, there are the ideals which are concerned with personal freedom (most of which have been perverted at this point), such as equal rights, equal treatment under the law, and freedom from government oppression and control. Second, you have the statist ideals: generally everything concerned with or reliant on big government, government control, wealth redistribution (either explicitly, such as through "progressive" unfair taxation, or implicitly, through inflation and government money-printing handouts), invented and government-enforced privileges for select people, selective treatment under the law, interference in and control of private enterprise, welfare and social services, and everything else which either expands government control or makes people more reliant on government.

To my mind, the first ideologies in each make more sense together, as do the seconds. All the ideologies in the first sets are what are traditionally Libertarian values: personal freedoms, limited government, equality under the law, etc. Similarly, all the ideologies in the second sets are Statist: big government, government control, lots of government involvement in people's lives, encouraging reliance on the government, etc. As an aside, notice that in my construction, Statist certainly does not equate to Socialist, since I've included bundling of religion with government as a Statist ideal, whereas Socialism is traditional devoid of religion; however, they would obviously share a large overlap.

Thoughts? Where would my readers fall on my hypothetical line? If it were a choice between a Libertarian [tea] party, and Obama's Statists, which would you more closely identify with? Would it be easier to rally the people who are fed up with Statism around the ideals of Libertarianism (as I have described), rather than colloquial conservatism? Does either one better encapsulate an ideal for America for you (I know one does for me)?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Obama and Border Security: National Disgrace

The United State Department of Homeland Security is an organization under the executive branch of our government responsible for protecting the country domestically. They don't have a mission statement per-se, but if they had one, it might be along the lines of "keep America's homeland safe and secure." This includes, among other things, border security, and keeping people who don't belong in the country out of the country.

Empirically, and somewhat strangely, the Obama administration seems to have an opposite prerogative. When Arizona passed a law to try to identify and detail illegal invaders in their state ("immigrants" is a less accurate term, since that implies people desirous of immigration), the Obama administration opposed it. When Arizona requested national guard help to secure their border, the Obama administration did nothing more than a token gesture. Moreover, instead of trying to help, they put up signs to keep American people out of the area instead, as if they are actively trying to cede the area to the drug cartels. In all demonstrable aspects in this area, the Obama administration appear to be acting on behalf of the illegal invaders and drug cartels, for reasons we can only speculate about.

The question arises: is this mere monumental incompetence and dereliction of duty, or something more? After all, you can certainly make the argument that perhaps Obama didn't realize how significant the problem is, but he's spoken out about the severity, and the signs indicate a knowledge of the scope and implications of the problem. You can argue that the Arizona law amounts to profiling and discrimination against people who are in the country illegally, violating our laws, but that's kinda the point: DHS exists to make it more difficult for those people to be in the US. Oh, and if that's not enough, the law/examination only applies to people who are already breaking other laws, so it's not like the argument that it's random or targets otherwise normal people holds any water. The best argument I can fathom is that we, the legal residents, shouldn't have to give up our freedoms in massive government expansions and reactions to perceived crises, but common: that argument is laughable in the face of the rest of the Obamanation's actions. I just can't come up with a plausible rationale for this being anything other than a well-considered plan of action to undermine the security of the country.

Which, in turn, begs some followup questions. Could you impeach a president for a willful failure to preserve and protect the country? Is the Obama administration's handling of border security in Arizona gross negligence, horrible incompetence, malicious disregard for the country, or something else? What would be the appropriate course of action for dealing with our Traitor in Chief?

Addendum: In related news, Obama administration continues harassment of sheriff on the front-lines of fighting the tide of illegal invaders in Arizona. On behalf of my government and its apparently traitorous leadership, I'd like to apologize to all the hard-working, honorable men and women risking their lives and livelihood to keep the country safe, in defiance to all enemies, both foreign and domestic, and extend my thanks for their efforts in the face of opposition.