Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Loaves and Fishes

(Yet-another rant in a familiar direction... Sorry: I needed to get it out of my system.)

Ideology doesn't matter if you tell the TRUTH. But if you try to live by blindly following your ideology – e.g., you're a politician – that LAST thing you want to do is tell the truth. Why? Because it's unpleasant. (And that will cost you votes.) Truth isn't “hidden”, it just requires a certain level of intelligence and honesty to find it. Once discovered, however, one should be aware that uttering these “obvious” truths will be placing cross-hairs on a number of scared cows. For example:

= A purely diplomatic solution that doesn't involve military action - or at least the threat of such action - to Middle-East issues is not possible.

= A purely military-imposed solution to Middle-East issues is not possible, either.

= Providing 'unlimited' health care specifically for seniors means that young people will pay more. BTW, it's so expensive to treat older people at the end of their life, sooner or later someone will propose (implement) a policy based on the concept that it's cheaper for everyone to “just let them die”.

= Allowing more people into the health care system will make everyone pay more and is highly likely to lead to reduced care for the same dollar.

= A society that can impose the total financial burden for the society (via taxes) on less than ½ of the members of that society – i.e., where more people are receiving from the system than paying into it – will eventually collapse. This is unavoidable whenever “who votes” is deemed more important than “who pays”. In other words, if you ignore the Golden Rule (“he who has the gold, makes the rules”), those with the gold will take their money and leave for greener pastures.

= Addressing the issue of Global Warming – whether it is man-made or not – at this time is simply not possible without creating a hugely expensive, tax-driven bureaucracy that is highly unlikely to produce any verifiable results in the foreseeable future.

= If we rely on government to control health care costs, there will be “less innovation” in medical technology and you should not expect to live much longer than your parents.

= We're going to have to find a way to pay teachers more for quality public education (which will cost everyone more), and we have to be willing to fire the incompetent ones as part of that process (regardless of what the unions desire).

= Anyone who still relies on an unskilled, repetitive job is going to lose it in the near future (to outsourcing and/or automation). No one can or should do anything about trying to postpone the inevitable either. Encouraging (forcing?) people to be 're-trained' when they have already avoided taking advantage of doing that on their own, is ultimately a futile exercise.

= Increases in the minimum wage doesn't create jobs, to eliminates them, especially at the job tasks most closely associated with those wages. Period.

= Regulatory demands to increase the minimum wage has much less to do with making a guarantee of 'a living wage' than it does with using the power of government regulation to create a salary increase for employment contracts (e.g., union contracts) which base their rate of pay on the prevailing minimum wage.

= Allowing the government to mandate a “minimum wage” will one day lead to a government mandate a “maximum wage”.

= Unless it is completely discarded in favor of a different and re-vamped system, the existing Medicare program is (a) going to bankrupt the country, (b) impoverish the earning power of our younger workers , and (c) eventually reach a point where no one will receive benefits equal to what they paid into the system.

= The best way to increase the 'Human Condition' is to provide new and ever-increasing access to cheap energy. It doesn't matter if it's “green” energy or not - it just has to be cheap and plentiful and effectively provided from whatever source is available. And do it. That means using nuclear power-generating plants instead of geo-thermal, solar, wind, water and other “planet-friendly” options which are hideously expensive with minimal advantages over what we know how to do with nuclear. And until the U.S gets nuclear plant development going and online, we need to use petroleum and coal to our best advantage. Ignore any impact on the so-called 'carbon footprint': we're talking about people's lives.

= The best way to address world hunger (and thereby world poverty), is to eliminate all farm subsides and import/export tariffs on a global scale.

See what I mean? … There's a ideological word that sums up that laundry list of points: “heresy”. A politician that publicly utters these truths would be both unelectable and politically dead forever.

What does this mean? Simple: “You really can’t have something for nothing.” Or as our friend Bernardo says, TANSTAAFL: There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. And politicians, always focused on gathering votes, never want to speak of the obvious; they will always try to have it both ways. Even when politicians choose one ideological path over another, they will always take clear steps to at least suggest they are simultaneously proceeding down two divergent, non-intersecting paths.

The reason politicians continue to survive is that human creativity (usually) rides to their rescue. New knowledge, new resources and new worlds have turned many bumbling hacks into legitimate statesmen. But they are the beneficiaries, not the creators of productivity. It is irrational to expect genuine creativity in a world dominated by politicians.

This is because politicians believe only in “zero-sum” situations. By that, I mean that the size of the pie is not static. Politicians see the world as saying: “If I want more, then you must have less.” They only see things as “win-lose”, and (naturally) they want to be on the winning side (by making sure their supporters are on the winning side). The possibility of a “win-win” - or “lose-lose”, for that matter – never enters into their thought processes.

This is why the effects of taxation is so often misunderstood. If you charge more taxes, people will take actions to the reduce their tax burden. If you charge less in taxes, they take advantage of those conditions to expand their horizons while conditions are favorable. This is because non-politicians understand that Things Change (and one must get while the getting is good).

Returning to dealing with Observable Truths and what to do with them...

It can be very simple. Difficult questions come down to choices. lower costs vs. death counselors; torture vs. intelligence; equity vs. growth; creativity vs certainty, bureaucracy vs innovation; risk vs reward, life vs. death. One can disagree with the choices made, but avoiding making the choices is not possible.

We can live only if we are willing to take the risk. And that Truth is the most uncomfortable and difficult to accept and is the most “unmentionable” Truth of all.

This country was founded on the princple that one's personal success or failure should be due to the efforts one was willing to apply. No safety-net, no bailouts, no 'too-big-to-fail - just actions and consequences. In other words, exactly what Risk are YOU willing to take for the Reward that YOU value most? Today, we are busy trading our Liberties and Freedoms for 'security' and 'safety'. Rubbish.

It's time to get back to the basics.

- Steve

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