Tag Archives: capitalism

Rich Guy Says “Tax the Rich”

I’m only for a higher tax for the rich if:

1. The Government also lowers taxes for the middle class and the poor equally to the revenue received.
2. The Government makes it policy that all additional tax dollars collected from the rich will directly benefit the people. No money will be given to war, military spending, intelligence agencies, nor political districts.
3. An outline of directly where ALL tax dollars will be spent and made available to the public before approval.

My fear is that additional taxes will be just that. More revenue given to our Government.

The Problem with the Buffet Rule

I follow Barrack Obama on twitter. Recently every tweet has been about the “#BuffetRule”. Reason after reason why the rich should pay as much or more as a percent of their income in taxes as the middle class and poor. On the surface I get it – but are we asking the wrong questions?

I mean I saw this push a mile away. When Buffet first published “his” article (or at least an article he endorsed that his secretary probably wrote for him) I knew a push for higher taxes was coming. All in the name of “the rich paying their fair share”. But why are we asking ANYONE to pay more taxes. The rich paying more taxes doesn’t mean the rest of us win, just that we all lose.

Instead of asking the rich to pay more taxes to catch up with the rest of us, why not lower taxes for everyone else? I know an increased tax on the rich will not benefit me. They’ll probably use it to buy more body scanners that I’ll have to opt out of in the airport. Or maybe they’ll find another country to invade in Africa.

If Obama wants this so bad why doesn’t he promise 100% of it to education or food for the poor? No one knows for sure where the extra cash is going. I mean, why are we trusting the Government with MORE or OUR money? Oh, all for Universal Healthcare and to “level the playing field.” Right? I doubt it.

Currently the US pays as much or more in taxes as any country on the planet. Notice how many of those countries have Universal Healthcare. In fact I just returned from Japan who pays about the same tax rate as us, but has Universal Healthcare. How can they do it, but we can’t? Maybe it’s because WE are the Japanese military!

So why are we agreeing to MORE taxes again?

Any good business man (even bad ones) will tell you that the easiest way to add to your bottom line is to cut expenses NOT add revenue (via taxation for the government). So why aren’t we focused on balancing the budget and maybe, just maybe, cutting back on the military. Why are we concerned about getting involved in Africa and staying involved in the Middle-east. I thought this was the “peaceful” democratic party!

If it doesn’t bother you that our Government can find excuse after excuse to increase taxes instead of lowering them for the rest of us – then we have lost. We will continue war-mongering. We will continue deficit spending. We will continue giving more and more power to those who already have it.

If you really think that raising taxes on the “rich” will in any way benefit you, you’re crazy. If you think this isn’t benefiting the most powerful “1%” – then you’re wrong.

Do Laws Prohibiting Firearms Work?

After scowering the internet and a few of my favorite statistic gathering websites for data on the link between firearms and violent crimes/murder/and accidental deaths I quickly realized that this wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought.  The data is all over the place. 

When you look at JUST the data inside the United States its confusing enough, but when you begin looking at the entire planet the task become daunting.  There is WAY too much misinformation and bad data on both sides of the argument (pro gun/anti gun) to take almost any article at face value.  So after reading what seems like 100 articles and 100 data sets I finally came to a few conclusions that I think are worth sharing. Since this will probably be a fairly lengthy and boring article I’ll give you the conclusion first:

Conclusions

A.) Evidence shows that legislation (strict gun laws) is not the determining factor between firearm ownership and firearm crime.
B.) Evidence shows that there is a coorilation between gun availability and the number of firearm related incidents (sometimes, but not always realated to A above)
C.) Evidence shows that there is a coorilation between Government Oppression of the population and lack of legal gun ownership.
D.) Evidence shows that in any population most violent crimes involving firearms were almost always perpetrated by an illegally obtained firearm regardless of the strictness of firearm laws. (Laws do not prevent criminals from obtaining guns).
E.) Evidence shows overwhelmingly that Demographics (race, gender, education, income, ethnicity) play the KEY role in the link between firearms and firearm related incidents.
F.) The answer to ending gun violence in America and optimizing Liberty is by addressing education, income gaps, social norms, and behavior of the people – especially males between the age of 17 – 26.

What the Numbers Say

Statistics show that there is no real coorilation between strict gun laws and gun related homicides as countries with varying percentages of households with firearms are found all over the list.  I found this chart very interesting – the countries with the most strict gun laws (no households with guns) were found on both the top and bottom of the list for ranking by Firearm Homicide.  This tells me that there MUST be something else going on.  A quick bit of research in to these countries tells me that drugs, war, and demographics are the key to crime and more specifically gun related crime.

Death rates are per 100,000

 An issue of Demographics?

The link between demographics and firearm incidents was disturbing to me.  These statistics in and of themself are enough to tell me that we are addressing the wrong problem when we talk about gun control.  This shouldn’t be an issue of “should we have guns or not”, but rather one of “how do we fix the cultural problem” in this country.  Why the disparity? 

The fight against gun control is fighting the symptom, not the problem.

United States Only

  • In 2007, African-Americans represented 13 percent of the population yet accounted for 49 percent of all homicide victims.
  • In 2007, 80 percent of gun deaths among Whites were from suicide.
  • There is a strong link between race/class and education/test scores.  Furthermore there is a strong link between lack of education and violent crime indicating those in poverty and of specific ethnic groups are at higher risk of committing a firearm related crime.

Weapon Availability vs. Gun Legislation

There is certainly a link between gun availablility and firearm related incidents. However, “availability” is not always measured or coorilated to the legality of obtaining those weapons.  So we cannot conclude from that alone that the strict legislation prohibiting the pocession of weapons is the case.  Furthermore, in the United States we see other effects of gun ownership – such as the states with the highest levels of gun ownership actually have the lowest overall crime rates.  Is ther a link?  I don’t know, but it is important to remember that causation is not always coorilation.

To give an analogy – The United States has the highest percentage of population with availability to automobiles, thus we also have the highest number of automobile related deaths and crimes.  Does this mean we should create more legislation dictating how we use our privilage to drive? No.  As with gun ownership there are intrinsique benefits and risks associated with gun ownership as well as automobile ownership. 

Also, creating legislation around Gun Control implies that people intend to follow the law.  Studies show that most violent crimes related to firearms were made by people with guns obtained illegally in the first place.  Laws only effect people who intend on following them. 

Freedom and Gun Control

Something the Founding Fathers knew all too well was that for citizens to remain free from the tyranny of their Governments (or any other oppressor) it was necessary to have the ability to fight back.  In the most oppressed countries around the world it is no surprise that legal gun ownership is almost zero everytime.  To rule a population, first you must disarm them.

I certainly am NOT saying that the trick to ending oppression in these nations is giving every household a gun, but what I am saying is that there is a certain amount of liberty in RESPONSIBLY owning a firearm.  Furthermore, there is no evidence that further legislation in the United States would do an ounce of good toward disarming criminals.  Even at a global scale we see inconsistant data as to whether strict gun laws help or not. 

What should we do about firearms and violence?

The data points in one direction.  The ONLY way to decrease gun related crimes while maintaining our liberty is to via education, closing income gaps, and altering cultural norms.  Just like we knew all along – to change the world, first you have to change the heart and minds of the people living there. 

Resources

The Proper Role of Government in the Market Place (Part 1/2)

Almost everyone agrees that the Govermment has far too much control in the Marketplace.  Whether it’s the federal reserve adjusting interest rates to give people incentive to buy homes at astronomically high prices (housing bubble), whether it’s a politician making a back room deal and accepting lobbyist dollars in promise to vote for a corrupt bill in return (oil industry, auto industry, communication industry), whether its using tax payer dollars to bail out big business (banking industry, mortage industry, auto industry), or even your local mayor approving a corporate construction zone near your neighborhood to make a few extra bucks – Government corruption and market intervention are rampant – we can all agree there are some problems.

What is the right amount of Government?

Government has two basic roles when it comes to business.  Enforcing Contract Law and protecting personal property rights.  Enforcing contract law basically involves upholding any contract made between two concenting adults.  This is necessary because if there is a disagreement the two parties may have a judgement made based on the predetermined agreement.  So if I agree to sell you my house for $200k, but never move out after you’ve paid me – then legally the Government should help you enforce the agreement.   Contracts are important to business as they are the foundation of confidence between two parties.  If two parties feel they cannot in good confidence make agreements they will not do business or the more powerful of the two parties will almost always abuse the weaker when it is advantageous to do so. 

The second role of Government in the marketplace is the protection of personal property rights.  That is the guarantee that one businesses actions do not interfere with the personal liberty of other individuals.  For example, a business can’t start a nuclear testing facility next to your neighborhood.  Though they certainly have the right to have their business the consequences faced by the individuals (radiation) is a violation of property rights.  (You can do anything you want as long as you don’t violate the liberty of others.)

Those two roles of Government applied fairly throughout the market place virtually guarantee a productive and fair place to do business.  So a drastic, not absolute, reduction of Government is necessary. 

Local vs. National Government

The constitution does an excellent job of providing what role the national and local governments would play.  Local governments have the ability to cater to local needs and perferences.  Local governments give people choice move to an area that better suits their needs.  Hypothetically 99% of issues would be decided by local and state governments.

National government is reserved for issues that involve the international community or cross state lines (per the constitution).  For example, a conflict by two companies in different states would involve the national government.  A nuclear facility’s radiation spreading across multiple states would be a federal issue – and so on. 

Today, due to juducial activism (the interpretation of interstate commerce, mostly) and enforcement by the executive branch the federal government has grossly overstepped its bounds.  This has made corruption among politicians and corporate bodies far easier – especially since the best interest of the people in the local communities mean almost nothing. 

To solve this we should revert back to a stronger local government.

Why Abolishing Government is a Bad Idea

I am a strong advocate of allowing the market to sort things out.  99.9% of the time that is the best thing to do.  However, the market can only work effectively if their is a fair playing field.  It’s important to remember that Government is not the only body of power that has the ability to artificially influence the free market.  So ideally, a just Government would stay out of the business of Market manipulation – and make sure others stay out of it too.  The Government must be non-biased, elected, and have no coflicts of interest to do this effectively (of course that’s not happening today).

Right now its very difficult to imagine a Government that would work.  The Government is so closely linked to business that we have a virtual oligarchy.  Big business sees fit that the right politicans are elected and corporate media ensures that the people agree to it.  Meanwhile, politicians are getting fat off our tax dollars AND corporate kickbacks.  It’s broken.

A system in place with the ability to enforce property rights is necessary though.  Without it we will have the same problems we have now.  Resources people need to survive and have a civilized standard of living (i.e., Medication, Metals, Food, Oil) all have the potential to be utilized for the greed of a few at the expense of many.  Without the enforcement of property rights the strong and wealthy will always be able to take advantage of the weak and poor.  It is the flawed nature of men – an empathy gap between those who are well fed and those who are not. 

We can see prime examples in the diamond fields of Africa where the corrupt rich rule the dying poor or the oil Shieks in the middle east.  An agency of justice is necessary – to lovel the playing field, ensure a truly free market exists, and allow everyone to compete.  Government should be a referee, not a participant.

The Folly of Impossibility

Free Markets or full government control – no matter your poison of choice – there is one major problem.  Men are flawed.  Some men will always exploit and desire to rule over others.  It doesn’t matter if they are in the form of a President or an Oil Tycoon unfair play is inevitable. 

Free markets with a dash of Government refereeing, I believe, give the people the best chance of success.  A free market gives people the opportunity to vote with their wallets and pocket books – to stop businesses who do bad and reward those who do good.  I think we’ve all had enough of these back door deals and lies by our “leaders”.

(Check out Part 2 where I will examine a few examples and discuss the data.)

PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY: not just a conservative buzz word

Personal responsibility has become quite the buzz word.  I think it almost annoys some people.  A lot of conservative republicans have kind of hijacked the phrase and “responsibility” has almost become synonymous with neo-conservatism.  It’s a shame too.  Because really personal responsibility is what America is all about.

What is personal responsibility and what it’s not?

Personal responsibility is helping your neighbor when they need to paint their house.  It’s giving generously to a charity that feeds the hungry.  It’s giving your friend a few groceries to get by when times are tight. It’s busting your ass doing something you love week in and week out so you can get meet your own goals. 

Personal responsibility isn’t looking down on the poor or believing that everyone can be rich.  Those are lies the conservatives on TV seem to believe and liberals spread. 

It’s almost like everyone wants something for nothing.  They expect the invisible pocketbook of the system to pay for it all.  I think that’s where a lot of my distaste for government programs stems from.  Sure – it’s great that there is safety net in place to help out those who can’t help themselves, but it seems so much more moral if the people would do it themselves.  That is – instead of the government helping – we would help our own neighbor. It’s almost like people have become lazy.  Big Brother government will take care of us.

I’m not saying we should disband all government welfare programs.  Hell, keep them all!  I’m just saying lets change the culture and attitude of everyone.  Lets make “help thy neighbor” popular again.  Tax me less so I can give more to my Mother.  Spend less on fighting with Iranians and spend more on hungry Americans (hungry anybody!).  Maybe I’m being overly optimistic about the nature of our fellow humans, maybe no one would give shit unless they were forced to, but surely a system that provides people with the opportunities to take on responsibility for themselves is better than one that is our babysitter.

An example

A perfect example is in my own neighborhood.  We have an optional home owners association fee of $25 a year.  That’s it!  $25 to keep our neighborhood beautiful and home prices high.  We have a volunteer crew that does “handyman” work around the public spaces.  It’s the perfect example of a free market system – helping yourself helps everyone and visa versa.  However, of 185 households only about 35 households have paid the voluntary dues this year.  I suspect eventually around 50 will pay.  Why such a low participation rate for a service that so obviously benefits you directly?

The desire to pass the buck is an obvious tendency.  What if it were a mandatory $25 fee?  The neighborhood would be much nicer and happier – but a little less free.  Which is better?  I have to admit that I think that enforcing the rule may benefit me more (this time), but what about later when I disagree a rule?  What about when that fee is increased to $100, $500, etc.?  

Any Government or system of power has the incentive to keep taxing you more and more because it benefits the decison maker – where as a voluntary fee has the incentive to stay low – so people will actually pay it.  Which system is better?  Both have their benefits, but I choose freedom.  Especially when those enforcing the rules aren’t living in your neighborhood.

The Third Option

A third option exists.  One where everyone freely does the right thing –  everyone would do their part and take responsibility.  All 185 household would pay the $25, the neighborhood would be beautiful.  We could be both rich and free – not just one or the other.

Unfortunately there are always those who will buck the system.  Not do their part.  Some that can’t do their part.  That’s the problem.  How do we solve it?  I don’t know, but I do know that it starts with each and every one of us taking responsibility for ourselves and doing as much as we can for the rest of mankind – Maximizing Liberty and Happiness.

The Truth about Healthcare, Culture, and Taxation in the US

I discuss the myth that higher taxes will result in a better healthcare system and compare the United States to Japan and Switzerland (both countries with Universal Healthcare Options) .

I also touch on the myth that higher healthcare costs and lower life expectancy in the United States versus other developed nations is a result of not having a Universal Healthcare Option. *You can see the charts and statistics better if you expand the video to full screen.

You can check out the all the stats used in this video here.  Also thanks to Phil Ebersole’s Blog for the inspiration on this topic.

Success is about being a great BULLSHITTER

If there is one thing I’ve learned (and mastered) during my last few years of professional experience it’s that being a master bullshitter can take you a long way in the workplace.  Don’t get me wrong, being a great bullshitter doesn’t mean you have to be a liar or lack integrity, it just means sometimes you have to know what to say, how to say it, and when to say it.  Even if that means making a round piece fit in a square space.

For example, today a senior on my project was questioned by a partner regarding the status. He was in the process of gathering data and didn’t have a good answer, but of course the boss wanted answers when she asked for it.  My poor co-worker was left in a position where he could flourish or flounder, he chose the latter.  He admitted he hadn’t gathered the data on time and took a scolding.  In reality he knew from experience and managing the project that it was 80% complete, he didn’t know that exactly 82.23/100 project steps had been completed, but he had a good understanding of the situation; however, his pathetic answer made it sound like he was off track and incapable of managing the project.  Had he bullshitted, just slightly, and provided her with what he DID KNOW it would have saved him a lot of grief.

I’ve had other situations come up in the consulting environment that were the same way.  A client would ask me a very specific hypothetical question and instead of looking at him/her like an idiot I told the client what I DID KNOW.  Maybe I’m not sure how the latest programming language can solve X problem, but I do know a few of the best practices for IT security and programming – maybe even a few resources they could check out for the information.  So instead of looking like a dumbass, I came through with a value add.  Sometimes that’s how you earn your paycheck.

That’s just life though.  Knowing when to “fake it until you make it” and when to back off and admit you don’t know.  If you don’t know the difference and when to use each – then you’ll likely fail or spend your life in a dark grey cubical working for a bunch of bullshitters.  That’s a free piece of advice from yours truly.