Free Markets, Free People
One is domestic and the other is international. On the domestic front we’re again confronted with “good intentions” being horribly and oppressively executed via a bad law.
Wending its way through Congress right now is legislation called the “Stop Online Piracy Act” or SOPA. The intention is obviously laudable. As “piracy” is usually defined, i.e. the theft of copyrighted material, it is certainly a function of government to attempt stop and or prosecute theft.
The problem isn’t found in the intent of the law, as I said. It’s in how it would be executed – the regulations it must spawn to meet the law’s requirements.
Stephen DeMaura and David Segal write about the effect it would have on political campaigns (their particular focus), but it certainly doesn’t take much to translate that effect onto blogs and many other types of websites. Read through the scenario they outline that demonstrates a possible effect on a political campaign and then think blogs:
Here’s a plausible campaign scenario under SOPA. Imagine you are running for Congress in a competitive House district. You give a strong interview to a local morning news show and your campaign posts the clip on your website. When your opponent’s campaign sees the video, it decides to play hardball and sends a notice to your Internet service provider alerting them to what it deems “infringing content.” It doesn’t matter if the content is actually pirated. The ISP has five days to pull down your website and the offending clip or be sued. If you don’t take the video down, even if you believe that the content is protected under fair use, your website goes dark.
The ability of any entity to file an infringement notice is one of SOPA’s biggest problems. It creates an unprecedented “private right of action” that would allow a private party, without any involvement by a court, to effectively shut down a website. For a campaign, this would mean shouldering legal responsibility for all user-generated posts. As more issue-based and political campaigns utilize social media to spread their message and engage supporters, a site could be targeted not only for the campaign’s own posts but also for well-meaning comments from supporters.
It doesn’t take a particularly bright person to see how this sort of a law could be used in a broader sense to kill freedom of speech via frivolous attacks on a site’s content. If QandO embarks on a campaign against a particular politician, for instance, and uses content that it deems to be “fair use” (and may indeed be fair use in a legal sense as well), all it takes is one person anywhere, whether they have a real interest or standing in the case, to file a complaint about “infringing content” and we’re gone unless we remove it. Whether justified or not, the ISP is left in a position of having to enforce removal or face the cost of a lawsuit (whether a lawsuit is ever intended over the claim or not). They will obviously move to protect their interests and that means dropping the so-called offender like a hot rock.
It would effectively chill free speech.
As DeMaura and Segal note, there’s an alternative bill sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa:
The Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade Act would create a process for rights holders to protect their property that wouldn’t shut down entire sites over a small amount of copyrighted material. This legislation helps to solve copyright infringement while protecting the vitality of the U.S.-based Internet sector — an industry that has contributed 23 percent of the growth in world gross domestic product and has revolutionized the way we live.
Attack real on-line piracy? Yes. Do it with terrible law? No. SOPA should not see the legislative light of day.
Problem two? The UN and other countries around the world want to have the ability to more directly control more of the internet. Robert McDowell of the FCC lays it out:
The 193-member International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a U.N.agency, will meet in Dubai next December to renegotiate the 24-year-old treaty that deals with international oversight of the Internet. A growing number of countries are pushing greater governmental control and management of the Web’s availability, financial model and infrastructure.
They believe the current model is “dominated” by the U.S., and want to “take that control and power away,” Mr. McDowell said. China and Russia support the effort, but so do non-Western U.S. allies such as Brazil, South Africa and India.
“Thus far, those who are pushing for new intergovernmental powers over the Internet are far more energized and organized than those who favor the Internet freedom and prosperity,” he said.
The reason, of course, is fairly straight forward – cash and control:
While growth of the Internet has exploded under a minimal regulatory model over the past two decades, “significant government and civil society support is developing for a different policy outlook,” according to an analysis by lawyers David Gross and M. Ethan Lucarelli on the legal intelligence website www.lexology.com.
“Driven largely by the global financial troubles of recent years, together with persistent concerns about the implications of the growth of the Internet for national economies, social structures and cultures, some governments and others are now actively reconsidering the continuing viability of liberalization and competition-based policies,” they wrote.
So the plan, apparently, is to wrest control from the US via this treaty:
A bad treaty – which would need the support of only a bare majority of U.N.members to pass and which the United States could not veto – could bring “a whole parade of problems,” Mr. McDowell said.
The U.S. and other Western democracies would likely “opt out” of the treaty, he predicted, leading to a “Balkanization” of the global information network. Governments under the treaty would have greater authority to regulate rates and local access, and such critical emerging issues as cybersecurity and data privacy standards would be subject to international control.
Mr. McDowell said the treaty could open the door to allowing revenue-hungry national governments to charge Internet giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon for their data traffic on a “per click” basis. The more website visitors those companies get, the more they pay.
And, as we’ve watched so many times, a vital and growing market would suffer government intrusion and probable decline:
In 1988, when the treaty was signed, fewer than 100,000 people used the Internet, Mr. McDowell said. Shortly after it was privatized in 1995, that number jumped to 16 million users. As of this year, it is up to 2 billion users, with another 500,000 joining every day.
“This phenomenal growth was the direct result of governments keeping their hands off the Internet sphere and relying instead on a private-sector, multi-stakeholder Internet governance model to keep it thriving,” he said.
Mr. McDowell attributed the massive growth of the Internet to freedom.
“So the whole point is, the more it migrated away from government control, the more it blossomed,” he said.
Freedom? Blossoming? Growth? Can’t have that. It must have government control and, by the way, contribute much more in revenue than it is now. Massive growth without significant contributions to government is just unacceptable in this day and time. And freedom? Anathema to the cult of government.
The servant has become the master and masters instinctively try to gather more and more power to themselves.
This is just another in a long line of examples. The result, of course, will be to cripple something that has been one of the few growth sectors in the global economy. Government greed and the belief of elites that they must control everything via government will eventually kill this proverbial golden goose. Instead of trying to enable more growth, they’re embarked on a campaign to limit and control any growth such that it provides increased revenue for government. Whether it is best for the citizens or economy of the countries so inclined is apparently irrelevant to the quest for more control and cash.
Freedom should be on the march, but instead, we continually see examples of it on the decline. The UN is one of the main culprits in that decline. It is a global organization in search of more power. Under the guise of global democracy, it is involved in killing freedom as it attempts to gather more and more power to itself. It is as obvious as the nose on your face that global governance is its ultimate goal. It can’t do that without exercising more control through willing members and generating more income from which it can demand a share.
To the control freaks and authoritarians out there, the internet is a horrifically dangerous thing. It provides much too much freedom for those they would control. Consequently they seek to wrest that control away. The UN is the perfect vehicle to provide the cover of legitimacy for such a power grab.
Again, here’s a treaty that has no business seeing the light of day. However, if I had to guess, it will pass. And freedom will take another giant step backward.
Reading a POLITICO article today, I found it pointed like a blazing neon sign to one of the persistent problems crony capitalism brings us each and every day. And the result is less choice (i.e. freedom) and competition as industry and government team up to limit both.
This concerns the incandescent light bulb ban that was voted into existence by Congress and signed into law by President Bush. It was all supposedly done for our own good (you know, that well worn path to hell paved with good intentions) – incandescent bulbs are considered “inefficient” and used more energy than the new, green bulb of choice that the government thinks you should use.
Of course the government also knows that if left it up to you to choose, you most likely wouldn’t choose the bulb government prefers.
So instead of letting you and the market decide, Congress decided to use its power of coercion to do that for you. One less thing to worry your silly little head over prole.
And so the ban went into effect and the industry began to plan and change over. Now, read this from the POLITICO story:
Big companies like General Electric, Philips and Osram Sylvania spent big bucks preparing for the standards, and the industry is fuming over the GOP bid to undercut them.
After spending four years and millions of dollars prepping for the new rules, businesses say pulling the plug now could cost them. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association has waged a lobbying campaign for more than a year to persuade the GOP to abandon the effort.
Manufacturers are worried that the rider will undermine companies’ investments and “allow potential bad actors to sell inefficient light bulbs in the United States without any fear of federal enforcement,” said Kyle Pitsor, the trade group’s vice president of government relations.
So, if industry wants these rules, why is the GOP grinding them to a halt? Republicans say they’re pro-choice when it comes to light bulbs.
Government intrudes and makes a decision that circumvents the market and removes your ability to choose. Another example of picking winners and losers, something for which it has a dismal record. And for 4 years the industry is forced to spend money it might not have spent to retool and prepare to abide by the bad law. It certainly makes sense that they’d be quite put out at a change in that law now because while they’re not prepared to meet the demand for incandescent bulbs. So they claim to “fear” that “bad actors” might sell “inefficient light bulbs” in the US if it is repealed.
Really? Like the market wouldn’t weed out “bad actors” fairly quickly? No, what manufacturers now want is government, who made the law, to protect their 4 year investment based on that law. Funny how that works isn’t it?
This is about nothing more than industry petitioning government to protect the investment forced on industry by government. And why does it feel it must be protected? Because if it isn’t, the market will most likely reject the government’s preferred product, a product on which these manufacturers have the inside track for providing. Jacob Sullum at Hit and Run lays it out:
"A host of more efficient products already line store shelves." The [NY] Times concedes that "many of the alternatives to incandescent bulbs are more expensive." In fact, all of them are, including compact fluorescent lamps (which cost about six times as much as standard incandescents), halogen bulbs (10 times), the new extra-efficient incandescents (ditto), and LEDs (80 times). Why pay so much more, especially when—as with CFLs, the cheapest alternative—performance may be inferior? Supposedly because you save enough on energy and replacement costs to justify the investment. If so, why not let bulb manufacturers make that case to consumers, who can then decide for themselves?
Why? Because you proles can’t be trusted to choose the right way, that’s why. That was the entire point about passing the law in the first place. Lawmakers felt that the decision must be forced on the populace, because if left to the populace they’d most likely choose the “wrong” product because it fits their needs and wallet better than the government preferred one.
All of this based in the specious science that we’re causing global warming by burning fossil fuels. And those fuels power these inefficient bulbs. It is up to government to rectify the situation by forcefully limiting our choices by banning certain products via law with the ultimate aim of eventually banning fossil fuel altogether – something that is cheap and which we have in abundance. Of course, the means of banning fossil fuels will be much more subtle than just an outright ban. Government will do its best to make it cost prohibitive to use such fuel. It’s permatorium, the probable nixing of the Keystone XL pipeline and implementation of policies via EPA over-reach that will raise energy prices and cause energy poverty among a large portion of the population.
But remember, government knows best.
But this case is incredible in the fact that because of bad law, you have industry in the position of asking the bad law be enforced. If the ban on the incandescent bulb is lifted, the guarantee the law promised them for a high-margin return on their investment is in jeopardy. Sullum picks up the absurd argument that follows that absurd situation:
Aren’t Republicans supposed to be pro-business? Sometimes they are actually pro-market instead, and this is one of those cases. A spokesman for Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, claims "the only people we are aware of who have opposed the bulb standards are some politicians and some conservative commentators." If legislators, regulators, environmentalists, and even the industry all agree this mandate is a good idea, why would consumers object? Maybe because the whole premise of the policy is that their choices do not matter because they are too stupid to know their own interests.
Whatever happened to the premise of freedom of choice? Whatever happened to the idea that government was the servant, not the master? Who was it that decided the government should be deciding what we use to light our homes, fuel our cars or any of a myriad of other things it has decided over the decades it should choose instead of you?
This is where it inevitably leads. This is a case study in government over-reach and how it incrementally bleeds your freedoms away. In my opinion all laws such as the ban on incandescent light bulbs is the modern version of the Intolerable Acts.
Apparently the latest, agreed upon government “shutdown-averting” budget bill has a rider included in it that would save the incandescent light bulb.
DOE’s light bulb rules — authorized under a 2007 energy law authored signed by President George W. Bush — would start going into effect Jan. 1.
Got it? Moving on, the rider would essentially prevent DOE from enforcing the standard by defunding that process. And the GOP has given Democrats some cover by leaving a provision that requires any DOE grant recipients of greater than $1 million to certify they will upgrade the efficiency of their facilities by replacing any lighting to meet or exceed the 2007 energy law’s standards.
The usual suspects are bemoaning this. Read this and weep because it is people like this who are driving us toward the edge of the liberty and freedom cliff and into the abyss of even more authoritarian and intrusive government:
"In the real world, outside talk radio’s echo chamber, lighting manufacturers such as GE, Philips and Sylvania have tooled up to produce new incandescent light bulbs that look and operate exactly the same as old incandescent bulbs, and give off just as much warm light," said Jim DiPeso, the group’s policy director. "The only difference is they produce less excess heat and are therefore 30 percent more efficient. Same light, lower energy bills. What’s not to like?"
What’s not to like?! The fact that you’re using the force of government to make decisions that are frankly none of your damn business, sir. That’s what. The essence of freedom is choice. Free choice. What’s not to like is your abrogation of that freedom Mr. DiPeso.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering what left wing group Mr. DiPeso speaks for it’s the Republicans for Environmental Protection.
One other thing … thank goodness for the talk radio echo chamber. If it takes that to keep up with authoritarians like DiPeso, more power to the genre.
Bottom line, of course, the incandescent light bulb is simply one of many such intrusions that government, sponsored by both parties, continues to make in our daily lives.
Government is involved in ways and in areas never even imagined by our founders. It exercises control of our lives that is unprecedented in this country. Light bulbs for heaven sake. Freakin’ light bulbs. If the OWS goons need a real reason to protest, here’s a beauty.
The old metaphor of the frog in the pot of slowly heating water remains apt. The banning of light bulbs, something I’m sure any number of big government types will think is trite, is another lesson in what government is not only about, but what it will do if left to its own devices.
And that includes both parties.
Todd Stern, the Obama administration’s “Special Envoy for Climate Change”, held a quick press conference in Durban, South Africa where a UN conference on climate change is being held. He first made it a point to deny that the US was taking a “time out” until 2020. He then said a couple of things which should make clear the administration’s agenda.
First, without a viable alternative for fossil fuel to this point, the intent of the administration is to increase prices on those fuels that will ensure they’re “priced the way they ought to be”. Stern:
You need to use less energy through efficiency and to develop renewable energy sources more and more to the point that they get to what’s called grid parity, so that standing on their own they actually become sources of energy that can compete with sources like coal and so forth, fossil fuels.
And it is a very good thing to have those fossil fuel sources priced the way they ought to be, to have a price on carbon. That’s what we were trying to do with our legislation, it didn’t pass, but that kind of legislation obviously is in place in Europe, and hopefully it will come into place more and more.’
Now remember, this is from the administration that has claimed the mantle of champion of the middle class. Yet its plan is to price much of the middle class into energy poverty if it can ever get its legislation passed. And for those that will try to argue that it’s a plan for the future when there are, arguendo, viable alternatives, that’s nonsense. “It didn’t pass” tells you all you need to know about that claim.
Secondly, this administration has bought into the 100 billion (a year) dollar fund that the “rich countries” are supposed to fund to help the “poor countries” (like China and India). Stern:
We will also be working hard to ramp up the funding that is supposed to reach a 100 billion dollars a year by 2020. There’s a ton of work to be done in the years. We have been doing a lot of work on this, this year, and we will be continuing to do that as are many other countries. And all at the same time, if we get the kind of roadmap that countries have called for — the EU has called for, that the U.S. supports — for preparing for and negotiating a future regime, whether it ends up being legally binding or not, we don’t know yet, but we are strongly committed to a promptly starting process to move forward on that.
Tell your grandkids to start saving up, because the Obama administration is getting ready to shackle them and their future earnings to a global redistribution scheme based in fraudulent science (regardless of what Sen. Barbara “Ma’am” Boxer claims).
As with health care reform, there is no popular support in the US for this sort of nonsense, yet your enlightened rulers certainly believe they know better – just ask them. And they intend to push their ideological agenda instead of doing the will of the people. As for you little people, just suck it up and learn to appreciate (and pay for) their enlightened rule, OK?
Or are they just another example of unjustified government overreach and a loss of freedom?
The question – who should decide what you eat? You or the government?
In Denmark, it appears the government will decide:
Denmark has introduced what’s believed to be the world’s first fat food tax, applying a surcharge to foods with more than 2.3 percent saturated fats, in an effort to combat obesity and heart disease.
Danes accordingly hoarded the foods which will see increased taxes, buying out stores which carried them.
Who should decide your diet?
The new tax of 16 kroner ($2.90) per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of saturated fat in a product will be levied on foods like butter, milk, cheese, pizza, oils and meat.
Obviously the Danish government isn’t saying you can’t eat these things, but it is saying it will make it markedly more expensive to do so. And, of course, those it hits hardest with this sort of tax are those who can least afford it.
“We get the taxes, but never a reduction on anything to complement the increases, such as on healthy foods,” said Clausen.
End result – those with less income will be able to afford less meat, oil, milk etc.
But that’s not the main point, of course. It is government deciding something as basic as what you’ll be able to put in your mouth. And it all derives from one thing – the fact that in the case of health care, the Danish government, via intrusion in that area long ago, now justifies its further intrusion in the name of “public health”. Once a people allow that, all sorts of intrusion is then “justified” under the guise of “public health” or driving the cost of health care down.
“Denmark finds every sort of way to increase our taxes,” said Alisa Clausen, a South Jutland resident. “Why should the government decide how much fat we eat? They also want to increase the tobacco price very significantly. In theory this is good — it makes unhealthy items expensive so that we do not consume as much or any and that way the health system doesn’t use a lot of money on patients who become sick from overuse of fat and tobacco. However, these taxes take on a big brother feeling. We should not be punished by taxes on items the government decides we should not use.”
But that right – the right to decide what they eat – was given up by Dane’s decades ago when they voluntarily gave up the right to decide their means of health care for the convenience of a government single payer system.
Liberty traded for convenience and security. The problem, as always, is the trade is never complete with the first installment. Give up the right to your health care options and you’ll eventually give up your right to decide on what you eat. Etc.
What Ms. Clausen points out is a dawning awareness that Danes have done exactly that. Taxes, instead of being a means of raising revenue to fund government, have become a tool of social engineering. And while she acknowledges the supposed good intentions involved she seems to have recognized what she’s traded for them. And I think she’s beginning to realize how much worse it can (and most likely will) get.
If you think Denmark is an isolated example of this pernicious threat to liberty, think again:
Speaking on the government’s role in diet and health last week, Bloomberg told the UN General Assembly, “There are powers only governments can exercise, policies only governments can mandate and enforce and results only governments can achieve. To halt the worldwide epidemic of non-communicable diseases, governments at all levels must make healthy solutions the default social option. That is ultimately government’s highest duty.”
Earlier in his address Bloomberg lauded the past dietary efforts of NYC, “In 2009 we enacted the first restriction on cholesterol-free artificial trans fat in the city’s food service establishments. Our licensing of street green card producer/vendors has greatly increased the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods with high rates of diet related diseases. And we’ve led a national salt reduction initiative and engaged 28 food manufacturers, supermarkets and restaurant chains to voluntarily commit to reducing excessive amounts of sodium in their products. ”
In the end, the only guardian of your liberty is you. And it is the nature of government to pursue power. The two must clash. Sometimes a loss of liberty may seem to be a good thing initially, such as when Danes traded their liberty to make their own health care decisions for the security of the government doing so. But, as mentioned, it never stops there, does it? Once you begin trading liberty for security, government decides when that trading stops, not you.
Denmark is just the first. Michael Bloomberg describes the future as we’re allowing it to be set – trading liberty for security, and in the end, getting neither.
What a weekend. Hurricane Irene, the most hyped hurricane since Katrina, lived up to its billing … as a category 3 hurricane. In other words, it did what you’d expect a cat 3 to do. But if you listened too the press and government officials, this was a mega-storm, a storm that was the “harbinger of a change in climate” as the NY Times breathlessly claimed.
Instead it turned out to be a pretty ordinary hurricane that did indeed do some damage, but no more than a normal cat 3 (although it did make landfall twice) and it unfortunately killed some people, but mostly in freak accidents. Finally, it blew out, downgraded to a tropical storm, before it ever reached New York City.
However the spectacle created on-shore by the approach of the hurricane was something to behold. It had to be at least category 6. We have a president with plummeting poll numbers taking “command” at the National Hurricane Center. And we have the press out and about, trying to make the storm much more than it was:
For the television reporter, clad in his red cagoule emblazoned with the CNN logo, it was a dramatic on-air moment, broadcasting live from Long Island, New York during a hurricane that also threatened Manhattan.
“We are in, right, now…the right eye wall, no doubt about that…there you see the surf,” he said breathlessly. “That tells a story right there.”
Stumbling and apparently buffeted by ferocious gusts, he took shelter next to a building. “This is our protection from the wind,” he explained. “It’s been truly remarkable to watch the power of the ocean here.”
The surf may have told a story but so too did the sight behind the reporter of people chatting and ambling along the sea front and just goofing around. There was a man in a t-shirt, a woman waving her arms and then walking backwards. Then someone on a bicycle glided past.
So much for Irene the storm. What was all the hype about?
A couple things seem apparent. Politically the storm was seen as a, forgive the word choice, windfall. It was something which would allow the government to prove its worth, to demonstrate the lessons it had learned since Katrina (funny that this is the first hurricane since Katrina on which this could be “demonstrated”). It also gave the president national face time (speech), a way to demonstrate leadership (without risk) and hopefully a surge in the polls. The compliant press was glad to go along:
The White House sent out 25 Irene emails to the press on Saturday alone.
There were photographs of President Barack Obama touring disaster centres and footage of him asking sombre, pertinent questions. With his poll ratings plummeting, Obama needed to project an aura of seriousness and command. He was all too aware that the political fortunes of his predecessor George W Bush never recovered after the Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005.
The press mostly reported the message the White House had carefully crafted: “Obama takes charge” read the headline of one wire service story.
Instead, it all turned out, it seems, to have been a giant over-reaction. We’ve handled numerous cat 3 (and higher) hurricanes throughout our history without all the governmental drama and dire warnings. One can only factor sinking poll numbers into this particular event to have it make any sense.
Then there was the global warning crowd who seems bent on using any weather event as a “harbinger” of things to come because of wicked, evil humans and their carbon drenched lifestyles. And they end up trying to use a fairly ordinary cat 3 hurricane as their example. But, of course, the hurricane seasons of the past few years have been a bit of a disappointment to those types, hasn’t it? Fewer storms and of a lesser intensity. You know your theory is bankrupt when you’re reduced to hyping a cat 3 as Justin Gillis did in the New York Times:
The scale of Hurricane Irene, which could cause more extensive damage along the Eastern Seaboard than any storm in decades, is reviving an old question: are hurricanes getting worse because of human-induced climate change?
The simple answer to the question seems to be – “no”.
But that doesn’t stop the alarmists from using this occasion to tar the skeptical side with ad hominem attacks instead of facts.
Paul Krugman publishes pure fiction:
In fact, if you follow climate science at all you know that the main development over the past few years has been growing concern that projections of future climate are underestimating the likely amount of warming. Warnings that we may face civilization-threatening temperature change by the end of the century, once considered outlandish, are now coming out of mainstream research groups.
And, of course Al Gore is reduced to calling skeptics the equivalent of racists.
Back to Krugman though. As I’ve followed it, climate science seems to be saying exactly the opposite of is assertion seems to be true. A) it seems most scientists are becoming more aware of how much we don’t know about the climate (certainly not enough to be drawing the conclusions being drawn), B) the CERN study seems to put “broken” on the alarmist modeling which has driven the AGW crowd’s argument (I won’t dignify it with the word “theory”) and C) if anything, science now sees the possibility of a cooling trend, not a warming trend.
But you have to actually “follow climate science” to know that.
Meanwhile in Australia, a study is coming out that links mental illness to climate change:
RATES of mental illnesses including depression and post-traumatic stress will increase as a result of climate change, a report to be released today says.
The paper, prepared for the Climate Institute, says loss of social cohesion in the wake of severe weather events related to climate change could be linked to increased rates of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and substance abuse.
As many as one in five people reported ”emotional injury, stress and despair” in the wake of these events.
Yeah, is the “emotional injury” a result of “climate change” or having your house, which shouldn’t have been built in a flood plane to begin with, washed away in a flood? Obviously people are going to be emotionally injured when they lose their house. But the same could be said about them if it burned down because of a grease fire.
These examples provide a look at two groups desperately casting around for favorable examples and coverage for themselves and their agendas. Politicians who’ve now decided the new normal for weather events is to have a media event, and the AGW crowd who will use anything, absolutely anything, no matter how absurd, to try to revive their dying assertions.
Welcome to the hurricane of hype.
I’m amazed at times by what I read in major daily newspapers. OK, not as much now as I would have been say 10 or 15 years ago. Maybe it’s just awareness on my part now, but as I get older I am confronted by what I see as half-baked opinion on the pages of such rags than I ever remember before.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m the one that’s gotten sharper over the years and am able to spot nonsense more easily than before. Take for instance, Nina Power of the Guardian. Power is a senior lecturer in philosophy at Roehampton University, so she can be forgiven for being somewhat removed from reality. In her opinion, which the Guardian gladly publishes, the problem of the riots in London and elsewhere can be laid at the feet of government and austerity policies. Why? Well let her explain:
Since the coalition came to power just over a year ago, the country has seen multiple student protests, occupations of dozens of universities, several strikes, a half-a-million-strong trade union march and now unrest on the streets of the capital (preceded by clashes with Bristol police in Stokes Croft earlier in the year). Each of these events was sparked by a different cause, yet all take place against a backdrop of brutal cuts and enforced austerity measures. The government knows very well that it is taking a gamble, and that its policies run the risk of sparking mass unrest on a scale we haven’t seen since the early 1980s. With people taking to the streets of Tottenham, Edmonton, Brixton and elsewhere over the past few nights, we could be about to see the government enter a sustained and serious losing streak.
It’s the “brutal cuts” and the “enforced austerity measures”. Note she admits that “each of these events was sparked by a different cause”, however she then rejects that admission and claims that in reality they all come back to government cut backs.
Really? It couldn’t be good old technology aided criminality could it? Or something else completely? Or a combination of other things altogether?
For instance, in the next paragraph, she says:
The policies of the past year may have clarified the division between the entitled and the dispossessed in extreme terms, but the context for social unrest cuts much deeper. The fatal shooting of Mark Duggan last Thursday, where it appears, contrary to initial accounts, that only police bullets were fired, is another tragic event in a longer history of the Metropolitan police’s treatment of ordinary Londoners, especially those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and the singling out of specific areas and individuals for monitoring, stop and search and daily harassment.
One journalist wrote that he was surprised how many people in Tottenham knew of and were critical of the IPCC, but there should be nothing surprising about this. When you look at the figures for deaths in police custody (at least 333 since 1998 and not a single conviction of any police officer for any of them), then the IPCC and the courts are seen by many, quite reasonably, to be protecting the police rather than the people.
Oh, so it could be all about police harassment then and nothing to do with “brutal cuts” or austerity? It could be that the spark that lit this fire had to do with police treatment of minorities? It certainly seems that is what she’s saying. And of course the riots elsewhere could simply be copy-cat. Criminal gangs who learned the methods used in Tottenham and deploying them elsewhere to loot and avoid the police?
Well, yes, it could be. In fact, it could really have nothing at all to do with the “entitled and dispossessed”.
Combine understandable suspicion of and resentment towards the police based on experience and memory with high poverty and large unemployment and the reasons why people are taking to the streets become clear.
They do? What’s clear is she’s bound and determined to link them, that’s for sure. But clarity … yeah, not so much.
But that is necessary, even if not true, to conclude the following:
Those condemning the events of the past couple of nights in north London and elsewhere would do well to take a step back and consider the bigger picture: a country in which the richest 10% are now 100 times better off than the poorest, where consumerism predicated on personal debt has been pushed for years as the solution to a faltering economy, and where, according to the OECD, social mobility is worse than any other developed country.
As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out in The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, phenomena usually described as "social problems" (crime, ill-health, imprisonment rates, mental illness) are far more common in unequal societies than ones with better economic distribution and less gap between the richest and the poorest. Decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness – combined with a systematic crushing of unions and the ever-increasing criminalisation of dissent – have made Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world.
All of that from a riot against police that one could conclude was a long time fermenting. Recall the LA riots – was that because of “brutal cuts” and “enforced austerity measures”? Was the looting that took place then a result of “decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness” or mobs taking advantage of the lawlessness the riots brought to loot what they wanted?
And even if she’s half right – what’s the solution she’d desire? Well “equality” of course. She’d rather trample the rights of those who’ve won “life’s lottery” (even though they worked their rear ends off to do so) and redistribute it to the poor and disenfranchised than ask the poor and disenfranchised to do what is necessary to give themselves a chance in life and quit demanding others do it for them.
Collectivism, although she never comes out and says it, is her answer. And we’ve seen how well those equal societies did, didn’t we? Well at least those of us who had been born before the collapse of the USSR and objectively observed the outcome.
Yes, friends, a whole new generation of collectivists begin to rear their heads, some having never seen what the collectivism of the last century brought in terms of “equality” - Equality of misery, equality of oppression and equality of hopelessness.
The problem in the UK isn’t austerity, it’s the results of collectivism and the fact that the inevitable outcome has begun. It isn’t individualism that’s the fault. It’s a massive state which robs people of incentive through it’s supposed benign acts of state sponsored charity. Why strive if you will be taken care of whether you do or not? Why seek food if you’re not hungry or don’t care what you eat? Why take care of yourself if the state will do it for you? And if you start running out of money, tax the rich bastards who want better.
Uncle Jimbo, at Blackfive, puts the exclamation mark on the real reason London is burning:
Liberal social policies have brought western civilization to the breaking point. They had the best of intentions, just ask them. But they, and sadly we, are getting a heaping dose of the law of unintended consequences. If you train an entire cohort of society to believe that the government doesn’t just offer a safety net but a way of life, well you get this- gangs of scum who will take what they want if the free lunch stops showing up. The chattering class is doing their level best to paint this as a legitimate reaction to dire economic times, and for once I agree with them. This is what happens when you run out of other people’s money.
By the way, this isn’t just a one-off bit of nonsense from Ms. Power. She’s been quite active in the Guardian pages denouncing all sorts of things with titles such as “Don’t Assume the Police Are On Our Side”, which makes me wonder what “our side” might be, and “Happiness has been Consumed by Capitalism” which clarifies the sides.
Well isn’t this freaking beautiful. If government isn’t taking your money for these stupid things, it extorting money (for which you eventually pay in the price of your service – see private health insurance and Medicare) for programs like this in the name of "rights" and "fairness":
Recently, a federal government program called the Universal Service Fund came to the Keystone State and some residents are thrilled because it means they can enjoy 250 minutes a month and a handset for free, just because they don’t have the money to pay for it. Through Assurance Wireless and SafeLink from Tracfone Wireless these folks get to reach out and touch someone while the cost of their service is paid for by everyone else. You see, the telecommunications companies are funding the Universal Service Fund to the tune of $4 billion a year because the feds said they have to and in order to recoup their money, the companies turn around and hike their fees to paying customers. But those of use paying for the free service for the poor, should be happy about this infuriating situation, says Gary Carter, manager of national partnerships for Assurance, because "the program is about peace of mind." Free cell service means "one less bill that someone has to pay, so they can pay their rent or for day care…it is a right to have peace of mind," Cater explained.
Dear boss, this demand for a raise that I haven’t earned or don’t deserve is about my right to have peace of mind. You see, I have other obligations I have undertaken and can’t afford, and so this raise will give me "peace of mind" when it comes to meeting those obligations – and it is your job to provide for my peace of mind … got it?
Yeah that approach would work on your boss, wouldn’t it. Yet here again we the owners have those doing “service” dictating the terms of the agreement. And we meekly go along.
What’s next? The usual – more free stuff, this time “for the children”, extorted from the rest of us:
Between 14 million and 24 million Americans lack access to broadband, "and immediate prospects for deployment to them are bleak," the FCC said in a report last year. "Many of these Americans are poor or live in rural areas that will remain unserved without reform of the universal service program and other changes," the report said.
But who says that cheap or free broadband is anything more than a luxury?
Well, another Obama flunkie, Rahm Emanuel, that’s who. As we reported in June , the new mayor of Chicago was all excited to proclaim the wonderful news of free internet service to poor kids in Chicago’s worst neighborhoods. And how could Mayor Emanuel pay for this new ‘civil right’? Well, because the federal government extorted the money from Comcast when it wanted to buy NBC-Universal. Once again FCC chairman Genachowski was all about "helping the kids" by forcing the internet provider to give poor kids free netbooks, laptops, and internet service, indefinitely. And who is going to pay for this gift? Well, of course the rest of us poor saps who actually pay our bills.
You know, there are any number of ways to try to make broadband available to those who haven’t got it – but this isn’t it.
We’re such complacent dopes. We put up with nonsense like this, allow the government to redefine rights and make us pay for their redefinition via taxes, increased prices or pure old extortion.
Freedom is truly an unwanted chore for some people. Unfortunately they not only want to limit their own freedom, but yours too:
Some public health advocates are pushing cities and states to tax fattening, non-nutritious foods, like sugary soda, french fries, and donuts.
Opponents say Americans should have the right to eat what they want without being unfairly taxed for their choices, and that poor people would end up paying too much.
For the nation that created cheap, fast food, we’re paying quite a hefty toll, CBS News Correspondent Michelle Miller reported on "The Early Show."
When it comes to what we eat, many Americans are making bad choices.
Back to my basic freedom definition: “Freedom is choice.” Corollary: Freedom also includes the right to make bad choices. That’s right – as long as my choices don’t harm others or violate their basic rights, I should be free to make them. And that, of course, means making choices others conclude are bad choices about what I eat.
But the nannies don’t see it that way. And they somehow think they’ve been empowered by … whatever … to lobby government to make laws or enact punitive taxes in an attempt to limit your choices. In a free country taxes are tolerated at best and are collected only to fund the legitimate functions of government. That would not include limiting choices of what you can or can’t eat. And it certainly wouldn’t use a tax as a social engineering tool, vs. a revenue tool for funding government.
Of course we’ve already done that once, haven’t we? And that has opened the floodgates for the do-gooders. It is also very enticing for governments starved for revenue, isn’t it?
Mark Bittman, author and food columnist, said, "We ought to start discouraging the consumption of junk food, soda, and hyper-processed foods the [same] way we discourage smoking."
Some industry experts, including Bittman, think soda and junk food should be taxed – just as cigarettes are.
Bittman said, "The way we discouraged smoking and continue to discourage smoking is we tax cigarettes – a lot in some states – and we force the tobacco companies to contribute money to anti-smoking programs.
"Now, if we taxed soda and junk food similarly, and began a huge public health campaign that said, ‘This is the way we ought to eat,’ we might see similar results."
Translation: “We’ve been telling people this for years and they’ve essentially ignored us. Time to take their choices away.” I.e. let’s limit their choices by taxing them so heavily they’d do what we want because they can’t afford to do what they’re doing anymore.
Oh, but don’t worry, the nannies are doing it for the poor:
Miller reported the aim is to institute a "junk food" tax and "whole food" subsidy – to raise the price of foods high in fat, calories and preservatives, and drop the cost of fresh vegetables, fruits and other organic perishables.
Yessiree – taxes and subsidies, how refreshingly new and innovative, no? And as usual, that would involve government up to its armpits in the process, wouldn’t it? And, of course, we’ve never witnessed bureaucratic creep before, have we? When they get those taxes and subsides in place and you still ignore their desires for you, what’s the next step? Restrictions on food companies? Withholding health care? None of that’s beyond the pale by any stretch.
This is pretty basic Freedom 101 stuff. We’re not talking about anything particularly philosophically complex. Freedom means the ability and right to make decisions on your own without interference from others (again, with the standard caveat that your choice does no harm to others or violate their rights).
As more and more choices are limited or denied us, we become less and less free. We’re right in the middle of that now, as all should at least vaguely understand. With each new tax designed to socially engineer our behavior into some elitist view of proper conformity, another piece of our freedom goes with it.
This may seem to be a trivial thing, but it is not. It is another among many of those pernicious attempts by elitists who have a problem with free people making decisions they disagree with and having no problem enlisting the power of government to accomplish their goal.
It should be resisted utterly and completely with no compromise or quarter.
This country was not founded to be a nanny. It was founded to be the home of a free people.
[HT: Dan K.]