Sunday, April 29, 2012

Collective Bargaining Like a Monopoly?

I just came across this older article comparing collective bargaining to monopolies. The key paragraph is the following:
Labor unions like to portray collective bargaining as a basic civil liberty, akin to the freedoms of speech, press, assembly and religion. For a teachers union, collective bargaining means that suppliers of teacher services to all public school systems in a state—or even across states—can collude with regard to acceptable wages, benefits and working conditions. An analogy for business would be for all providers of airline transportation to assemble to fix ticket prices, capacity and so on. From this perspective, collective bargaining on a broad scale is more similar to an antitrust violation than to a civil liberty.
Its an ok article, but I have to disagree on both sides of this analogy. First of all, the customers of businesses aren't usually forced to deal with them. New airlines can compete with the cartel, undermining it in a free market. That is, unless the government has given the cartel a legal monopoly. Strangely, legally enforced monopolies, like the post office or federal reserve, aren't subject to antitrust laws. Secondly, it is not the collusion of union members that is wrong. They have a right to associate and organize. It is the fact that their employers are compelled to deal with them (euphemistically called 'bargaining') that is immoral.

Friday, April 27, 2012

CISPA Exempts Companies from Privacy Suits

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act apparently just cleared the house. Despite Speaker Boehner's (R) promise that he's "from the government and here to help", it has at least one horrible provision. From Ron Paul's site:
CISPA represents an alarming form of corporatism, as it further intertwines government with companies like Google and Facebook.  It permits them to hand over your private communications to government officials without a warrant, circumventing well-established federal laws like the Wiretap Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.  It also grants them broad immunity from lawsuits for doing so, leaving you without recourse for invasions of privacy.  Simply put, CISPA encourages some of our most successful internet companies to act as government spies, sowing distrust of social media and chilling communication in one segment of the world economy where America still leads.
I'm guessing this also means the companies will also be granted immunity from lawsuits based on the privacy provisions of the contracts they sign with their customers. In other words, CISPA is a backdoor out of provisions in all their contracts with users. This is how our corrupt politicians grow the state, by pitting pressure groups against each other. Got too much opposition from Facebook and Google? Throw them a bone and sacrifice the users and the sanctity of contracts.

The other disturbing aspect of the bill is that it promises "voluntary" cooperation between the government and internet companies. In what sense can such data sharing be considered voluntary when the same companies are regulated by dozens of government agencies ready to crucify them if they get uppity?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

On EPA Powerlust

Offered without comment. The EPA administrator responsible for the region including Texas, speaks on EPA methods:
It was kind of like how the Romans used to, you know, conquer villages in the Mediterranean. They’d go in to a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them.
Then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.
Backpedaling here.

The Fourth Businessman

In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand describes three types of businessman.

The first is the brilliant industrialist who builds his business with intelligence, honesty, and an abundance of productivity, never seeking a handout, but who nevertheless accepts the morality of altruism and is thereby powerless to fight the expanding welfare state. He pays lip service to altruism while living and growing his business by another morality, the morality of profit and self-interest. It is his productivity that the looters need to support their destructive entitlement, regulatory state. He feels what he is doing is right, but he's powerless to stop the destruction the socialist wreak. He is the victim of the altruistic policies, disagrees with practical aspects, but doesn't reject altruism itself. He is the victim who gives moral sanction to his own destruction. Rand call's it the 'sanction of the victim'. Hank Rearden is the prime example in Atlas. His real life counterparts are numerous. See the giving pledge for examples of billionaires who have pledged to give half their fortunes to charity (Watkin and Brook's criticism can be found here). You can bet that those charities are advocates for more government handouts, higher taxes and more regulations, all of which are directed at destroying the very businesses built by their donors.

The second is the mediocre businessman who instead of making a better product, runs to Washington for subsidies. He employs more lobbyists and PR people than engineers. He is a parasite in the business realm, never having been productive and living off taxpayers and the carcasses of his destroyed competitors. Orren Boyle is the book's prime example. Examples of this type are also numerous in real life. Practically the entire 'green' industry is a creation by government handouts to mediocrities, e.g. Solyndra, who couldn't even manage to stay in business with the handouts and competitor-killing regulations.

The third is the businessman who knows that creating products that are good and selling them to willing customers is moral, perhaps man's most moral act. In other words, he knows that self-interest is moral, that the pursuit of happiness described in our Declaration of Independence is good. He pays no lip-service to altruism and fights for his freedom and property with a rational, conscious, righteous stance. Since this requires a completely rational, philosophic defense of self-interest, such a businessman doesn't appear until late in Atlas, after John Galt has articulated that philosophy. In the course of the book Galt convinces the best of the first type of businessmen that his is the morality they've always lived by and should embrace consciously for their own preservation. In real life, for the same reason, there are few of this type of businessman. Mostly they are businessmen who have read Rand's statement of a morality for living, e.g. John Allison, who minimized his bank's involvement in subprime and since the economic crisis of 2008 has been very publicly fighting the welfare state and altruism.

Parenthetically, Steve Jobs appears to have been very close to this third type, without as clear an understanding of the philosophic issues. E.g he famously did not sign the giving pledge. In 1985 he criticized philanthropy because its success can't be measured!  This is similar to a criticism Rand levels against altruism, which I've discussed myself (here and here), i.e. that altruism isn't a moral code, it's an admonition to sacrifice without any means of deciding which sacrifices are better than others or of figuring out if your sacrifices have worked. (If you want to see the snarling face of altruism, do an internet search of "steve jobs altruism" and read a few articles. The snearing attacks on one of America's greatest producers are revolting.)

In addition to these three types off businessman, there is a fourth, common in real life but not described in Atlas. This is the successful businessman who, after acquiring his wealth, turns it against his fellow producers or against capitalism itself.  This type of businessman isn't content to take advantage of existing expropriatory laws, but promotes the passage of new ones through his many business and political contacts. He partners with statist politicians and bureaucrats to loot or destroy his competitors, carve out special legal treatment for himself, increase taxes, etc. He brings (non-objective) anti-trust suits against his competitors. He is an advocate not of the status quo, but of an ever larger and confiscatory state.  Examples in real life abound. Google, an internet content provider, has advocated for shackling the service providers with horrible 'net neutrality' laws. The Federal Reserve, bailout agent without equal, was designed by successful bankers. The Bolshevik revolution was financed by bankers. Obamacare (and the FDA) are supported by pharmaceutical companies. Many of the current attacks on America and capitalism are being financed by George Soros, a successful investor with messianic socialist ideas. (Relatedly, many of the charitable foundations established by early American industrialists were staffed by avowed leftists with the intent of destroying capitalism.)

These are not examples brilliant businessmen quietly acquiescing to power, these are businessmen actively promoting the growth of state power. They use their wealth and well-earned reputation to promote the destruction of the very system that made their success possible. These are the Hank Rearden's or John Galt's who sold out. Their closest analog in Atlas is Dr. Robert Stadler, the genius physicist who prostitutes his mind and reputation to state run science, ultimately becoming a power-lusting destroyer. Stadler doesn't himself campaign for increased scientific funding, regulations on private sector scientists, or political powers being granted scientists, but by joining the institute his name is used in those campaigns. Stadler is rightly portrayed as one of the most evil characters in Atlas.

The phrase 'sanction of the victim' no longer applies to this fourth type of businessman. He is no longer a victim. By advocating and taking concrete steps to enslave his fellow businessmen, he has become an aggressor.

While Atlas focused on the first two types of businessmen, I believe this fourth is as common. His existence baffled me when I first entered private industry. I was not prepared to find so many intelligent businessmen who were active enemies of capitalism and advocates for more regulations, more entitlements and more taxes. These are the anti-capitalist 'capitalists' who are helping to destroy our freedom. They have been a driving force for statist politics for the last century, equaled only by the progressive intellectuals of the universities, and all the more guilty since they should have known better. They are the 'cronies' who should have known better than to appeal to the use of the state, the use of force, to succeed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Alex Epstein Speaking Tonight

Just a quick note to say that Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress is speaking tonight (4/25/12) at SDSU:

Energy in 2012 Election by Alex Epstein
5:00pm until 6:00pm
Aztec Mesa Room 107, SDSU

Hosted by the SDSU College Republicans

http://www.facebook.com/events/226963344075673/

This election year, we will be faced with a choice: What energy policies will maximize prosperity and minimize pollution? President Obama and others argue that the key is for the government to promote “green energy” sources, such as solar and wind.

In “The Green Blackout,” energy expert Alex Epstein, Founder of the Center for Industrial Progress, argues that forcing Americans to use solar and wind power would be disastrous not only for our economy, but also for our environment.


Alex Epstein is the Founder and Director of the Center for Industrial Progress, whose website is www.industrialprogress.net. His writings on energy and energy policy have been published in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Investor’s Business Daily, and dozens of other prominent publications. Mr. Epstein’s writings on philosophy, business, and energy have been featured in 10 books, including, most recently, Why Businessmen Need Philosophy.

If you miss the talk, check out Alex's excellent site and podcast.

Update: I'm attempting to confirm with the organizers that this is open to the public.
Update: It is open to the public and there will be pizza and soft drinks!
Update: Added blurb from Facebook page.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

It's Only Fair

When asked why raise the capital gains tax if that'll only decrease revenues, Obama replied in 2008 that he would do so for "purposes of fairness."

Lets chew that a bit.

What he's saying is that he would support increased taxes on the rich, even if that meant he gets less out of them, i.e. even if that means less money to distribute to the entitled poor.

This is the nihilism inherent in egalitarianism. Egalitarianism isn't about raising the poor up to the level of the rich. Egalitarianism is about crushing the rich (or smart, able, or beautiful) until they are reduced to the level of the poor etc. And worse, egalitarianism desires the destruction of the rich even at the cost of the welfare of the poor. Egalitarianism is the worst, most evil of motives: destruction of the rich for the sake of destruction itself, with no benefit and actually harm coming to everyone else.

Think of that the next time you hear "It's only fair".

When raising taxes on the rich leads to less to distribute to the poor...it's only fair. When destroying the oil industry doesn't doesn't help 'green' energy and only causes high oil prices, it's only fair. When shutting up large campaign donors via campaign finance laws actually leads to more entrenched establishment politicians, it's only fair. When regulating banks actually leads to a more unstable financial system, its only fair.

Welcome to the politics of egalitarianism nihilism.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

That Was Before We Were In Power

I read Oleg Atbashian's Shakedown Socialism almost two years ago now. I remember it being an enjoyable short read on the evils of communism. I don't remember many details. But one quotation comes back to mind over and over, everytime I hear about the Left's supposed support for due process, or freedom of the press, or closing Guantanimo, or transparency in government (from the bottom of page 8): 
In the words of prominent Party theoretician Nikolai Bukharin, "We asked for freedom of the press, thought, and civil liberties in the past because we were in the opposition and needed these liberties to conquer. Now that we have conquered, there is no longer any need for such civil liberties."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Look! Rich People!

Love these Ramirez cartoons that capture Obama's anti-wealth scapegoating tactics, which will probably be his main campaign strategy until November:

From IBD (here and here):



Sunday, April 15, 2012

Statists' Epistemological Method

I've been away. That doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about blogging. I've got at least a half dozen posts I'd like to write. But there's been so much good content in the rest of the blogosphere, I've felt that I don't have too much to add. Still I had to pop in with this quotation from Ayn Rand (HT @michaelcaution):
The statists’ epistemological method consists of endless debates about single, concrete, out-of-context, range-of-the-moment issues, never allowing them to be integrated into a sum, never referring to basic principles or ultimate consequences—and thus inducing a state of intellectual disintegration in their followers. The purpose of that verbal fog is to conceal the evasion of two fundamentals: (a) that production and prosperity are the product of men’s intelligence, and (b) that government power is the power of coercion by physical force.

Once these two facts are acknowledged, the conclusion to be drawn is inevitable: that intelligence does not work under coercion, that man’s mind will not function at the point of a gun.
Remember this when contemplating the endless, mostly manufactured, controversies of the left: The Buffett Rule, Trayvon Martin, polar bears, pre-existing conditions, etc.