Posts Tagged ‘Rand Paul

28
Nov
10

Libertarianism vs. Man-Made Disaster

Libertarians, in a panoply of forms, emphasize individual liberty over group control. Even I, your favorite blogger (right?), am somewhat Libertarian, leaning in the direction of Egalitarianism and Pragmatism. During recent political events, the most-publicized form has been Conservative Libertarianism.

A frequently-asserted mantra of Conservative Libertarianism has been that less (preferably zero) government involvement leads to more rational and inherently altruistic choices. This is especially consistent with the laissez-faire business ethic, which insists that businesses will not act in ways which are self-injurious or inconsiderate of broader needs of society. Laissez-faire is extended to individuals as an argument against government-sponsored social support. For instance, it has been claimed that people would rather languish (or here) on unemployment compensation benefits than work. It is also claimed that these benefits make some workers too expensive, according to a simplistic view of supply and demand that an undergraduate college economics class disproves. This overly-broad hypothesis asserts that providing no unemployment benefits is the best way to get people back to work. Recent extended unemployment for many Americans (with brief benefits) contradicts much of this: the jobs have not existed in this recessionary cycle.

Politicians such as Rand Paul are ardent Libertarians, except for when they aren’t. Many advocate interventionist government policies that directly impinge upon individual liberty. This blog will not attempt to add comments about this Libertarian treason. They are noted for the purpose of distinguishing real Libertarians from those who blatantly follow political expedience.

I offer a few examples of how real-world decisions have had consequences that were not merely non-optimal, but actually disastrous.

The American Dust Bowl of the 1930′s was our largest environmental disaster. The effects of a prolonged drought would have been terrible, but not unprecedented. Poor tillage and crop practices made a natural event into a man-made disaster. The fledgling Roosevelt administration started immediate government intervention. It was in the form of farm programs which changed these poor practices (including paying enducements) and several coordinated environmental measures, such as the Civilian Conservation Corps planting of millions of windbreaks. The loss of soil was effectively mitigated, providing a basis for improved farm yields in the 1940′s.

There is now a comparable Central Asia Dust Bowl, despite good farm practices being well-known. Farmers have been unimpressed with the implications of these practices for their future, choosing instead the immediate benefits of practices which maximize income. Human nature belies the claims of Libertarianism, that unregulated markets can be optimal.

Saddam Hussein was an example of a comparable myopia. He chose to not acknowledge his lack of Weapons of Mass Destruction - WMDs. The needs of domestic & regional politics conflicted with global politics. He was much more concerned with bluffing Iran (which continues to pose a substantial threat to Iraq) than with heeding the blustering of his dear (former) friends, the Americans.

Before Saddam was a Bad Guy, the Shuttle Challenger disaster provided a lesson in delusional or superstitious thinking. If Libertarian philosophy is good for government policy, it should be just as good for individual government agencies. In this case, the agency was NASA.

The disintegration of Challenger was completely the responsibility of management decisions. Engineering had established safe-certain launch temperatures. When launches nudged the lower limit, management pressured Engineering to modify the guidelines. The political ratcheting which progressed for 2 years ended with the launch of a vehicle which have icicles hanging from it. The temperature at launch was below the operating specification for the O-ring engine seal which failed.

There was a degree of superstition at work also. Thoughts such as, ‘We launched before at 36 degrees, what difference can 2 degrees make?’ were self-reinforcing with successful launches at succeedingly lower temperatures.

The NASA (and Morton-Thiokol, the engine contractor) managers made judgements which were not effective in risk management. Their performance was evaluated by such tangible metrics as launching on-schedule. Intangibles, such as risk probabilities and avoidance of catastrophe, have only poor means for being used in evaluation of managers. This resulted in tunnel vision.

Free-market environmentalism offers the same level of hubris in risk management. It is significant for extending this hubris to considerations which have the potential for regional and global disaster.

The BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill looks, from interim testimony in the investigation, to be comparable to the Shuttle Challenger disaster in basic cause. Managers placed expedience and profit ahead of risk management. We shall (I hope) soon learn the extent and specifics of the government-regulation-free decisions that produced this mammoth disaster.

Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is an actively-fought concept by advocates of free-market environmentalism. They are making the same mistake, a mistake allowed by Libertarian philosophy, as was made in the Dust Bowls, Iraq War I, the Challenger Disaster, and the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

If (and this is a rapidly shrinking if) climate scientists are incorrect, what will we lose, and how will we recover those losses? We will lose some capital, spent to ameliorate, in addition to CO2 emissions, energy dependence and other urgent concerns. If advocates of free-market environmentalism are incorrect, what will we have left to recover? We do not have the luxury of rolling the die a statistically-confident number of times with Anthropogenic Global Warming. AGW now has 5 sides of that die. It will have to come up ’6′ for us to survive without major disruption in the world. We don’t really have that slim luxury. The die will be rolled just once. We must manage the risk.

22
May
10

Poe’s Law was incomplete – Stone’s Law is absolute

I tried. I really, really tried.

‘Dr. Rand Paul, Civil Rights Patriot‘ was a test of subtle interpretation. Many folks, here and on other blogs, took me to be a True Libertarian. My comments that Rand Paul is not a consistent Libertarian were received especially enthusiastically by Libertarians, who take him to be a Traitor.

It was natural that someone (who is more closely aligned to my political & social views) would be sufficiently offended by the parody to describe me as “sickening filth“. No problem there – I understand the confusion.

I offered explanations here and on other blogs ‘Rachel Maddow vs Rand Paul‘, ‘NOW ASK HIM ABOUT BROWN VS. BOARD OF EDUCATION‘, ‘Rand Paul: Views on ADA and the Civil Rights Act‘, & ‘I’m Sure!‘. Some responded in good humor. Others knew better than I !

‘NOW ASK HIM ABOUT BROWN VS. BOARD OF EDUCATION’ changed the original link, “UPDATE. A Paul defender agrees …” to “UPDATE 3. The “Paul defender” mentioned above says in comments that his post was a parody. I want to believe him, but …“. They are willing to consider my comments, thank you muchly.

‘Rachel Maddow vs Rand Paul’ changed the link to Hey! Get This… from “Jim at heygetthis has more” to “Jim at heygetthis has more (although he doesn’t realize it)” after my explanatory comment. My comments truly get short shrift (what the hell is a shrift, anyway? is a long one better?) here.

I quoted Poe’s Law ad nauseum:

Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t mistake for the real thing.

That doesn’t really provide a thorough commentary on my experience in this episode. I propose a new, enhanced version of Poe’s Law. Newtonian Gravity needed Einstein’s General Relativity, so why not make a Good Law even better?

Stone’s Law:

Even with a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won’t insist, despite overt profferings of revelatory explanation and analysis, to be the real thing.

{ Permission granted under Copyright to re-use this statement
if quoted exactly and completely, including the title “Stone’s Law”. }

People believe that blimps, eerily lit by the nighttime glow of a city, are alien spacecraft or ultra-secret government spy drones.

People believe that, regardless of the realities of Physics, only a bullet fired from the Grassy Knoll could have produced the kinetics (observed and reproduced) of the JFK assassination.

People believe that antibiotics won’t really work unless they offer earnest appeals to a Deity. They also take the antibiotics if they have an infection.

People believe most of what they believe for emotional reasons. Facts, or at least alternative explanations, have such miniscule influence on their thinking that they will not deign to check the facts or examine the alternative explanations.

Herein resides a great strength of Science: it is a system which explicitly guards against superstitious human tendencies. It has mechanisms to correct - even if slowly and frustratingly - errors, misinterpretations, and oversights. Much of the rest of life is, by comparison, a free-for-all, devoid of rules.

19
May
10

Dr. Rand Paul, Civil Rights Patriot

Yesterday, Tuesday, May 18, 2010, Dr. Rand Paul won the Republican primary election in Kentucky for U.S. Senate. Today, those of us outside of Kentucky have begun our introduction to a man who is, according to Catholic Online, “…the real article; a man guided by principle, not party; a man loyal to ethics, not party bosses.

Dr. Paul is a Libertarian. It is a political viewpoint that I share in a diminished form, so I can relate to his views – views that emphasize individual liberties over governmental influences. {Friends who know me: Do not be confused. ‘Libertarian’ and ‘Libertine’ are utterly different and mutually exclusive. Do not assume that my strengths in one quality are matched in the other.}

Today, our introduction to Dr. Paul included his views on important historical events, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I listened to his interview on the Rachel Maddow Show. (It was on this show that he first announced his candidacy.) The interview was prompted by an interview he gave to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Dr. Paul was unequivocal in describing himself as a staunch advocate of civil rights. He absolutely believes that the federal government should not discriminate, as per the terms of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

As a Libertarian, Dr. Paul advocates that such legislation is only appropriate in restricting government. Individual citizens and businesses should not be incorporated into the Civil Rights Act of 1964 using the Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution). Several states and their Republican officials have recently expressed the same view regarding federal reform of health care – that such reform should not be forced upon states using the Commerce Clause and its practical extension, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and that states have the right to decide individually if they will be subject to the federal government’s regulation.

Dr. Paul says that private conduct is properly controlled by the free enterprise system. It is clear to me that this is true. If a public business chooses to accomodate only customers of specific races or religions, another business can accomodate both those and other races or religions. The second business will surely prosper in comparison to the first. It will have a economic advantage which intelligent business people will recognize and choose to incorporate.

I was born in 1950, so I had a little direct experience (in addition to lessons from history) with how this worked before 1964. Springfield had some businesses which were, for example, ‘Whites Only‘. Those businesses, and similar ones which existed in virtually every city and town in former Slave States and many Northern ones, must have suffered significantly for their policies. Springfield might be a poor example of this, because there were not many non-white residents after the famous 1906 lynchings (concluded on the Public Square) prompted much of Springfield’s non-white citizenry to move away – immediately. I’m sure that, wherever they choose to live after 1906, their economic influence guaranteed that they would be served equitably by businesses. They would also not have had to fear a repeat of such injustice as the 1906 lynchings or similar lynchings which occurred as often as daily in the South of the late 1800′s.

At the least, groups which are discriminated against by businesses may actually form competing businesses. They have every economic, free-market, incentive to do so – and they often did before 1964. It is obvious from this the Dr. Paul is completely correct, and that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 accomplished (for private business) nothing but an artificial interference on an efficient mechanism for insuring just and equitable treatment of all citizens.

Just as I am not a 100% Libertarian (we must balance our views to some degree), neither is Dr. Paul. He does advocate implementing a consitutional amendment (with supporting state and federal legislation) to totally outlaw abortion. There does not seem to be a free-market mechanism to achieve the outcome he seeks, so he recognizes the practicality of government involvement.

Dr. Paul has the heart of of a true civil rights advocate and moral leader. He says, for instance, that if he had been old enough, he would have marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the struggle for equal rights.

Thank you, Dr. Randal Howard “Rand” Paul. That’s real white of you.

Postscript
Will Allen, Horace Duncan, and Fred Coker,
lynched in 1906 by a mob of 2,000,
were falsely accused and were innocent.




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Basic Understanding

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- Edward R. Murrow

Intellectual Property Notice

All original material Copyright James R. Stone 2010, except where specifically noted. Some images licensed under Creative Commons, or GNU Free Documentation License, or unlicensed and public domain.

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