06/10/15

Has the DOJ Become the Thought Police?  -   By

Screen shot 2015-06-10 at 5.40.23 PM

In Orwell’s 1984 we were introduced to the Thought Police, a secret police tasked by the fictional superstate of Oceania to surveil the population to root out and arrest those members who might display inclinations for disrupting the status quo. This was understood by readers of the novel to be a frightening, albeit fantastical vision of a totalitarian regime with nearly unlimited means to monitor and control its subjects.

With Edward Snowden’s revelation of the unsettling lengths to which agents of the federal government will go to deter potential criminals, we now see that our present level of technology, which has shifted the paradigm of human communication, has brought us to the point where Orwell’s dystopian vision seems less and less far fetched.

The Department of Justice is now using the internet to ferret out individuals who may be guilty of committing “thought crime”. Their latest target? Inflammatory, anonymous internet commenters. Continue reading

02/14/15

A Brief Guide to the Morality
of Government Action
  -   By

Bake me a cake as fast as you can... or give me $150,000.

Aaron Klein, owner of Sweet Cakes by Melissa

It’s really quite simple: just ask yourself, “Is this action something that I would willingly do to another person had I the capability to do it myself?” That’s it. Government action, like any other collective action, is beholden to the same moral standards that you would ascribe to yourself or any individual. The government earns no special dispensation or privilege.

This is because that which we call “the government” is not a real thing. That is to say, is has no agency, it cannot make decisions or perform actions, and lacks moral culpability. It is merely a constructed idea, a figment, a generalization born of efficiency. This does not necessarily delegitimize the use of the term; I’m not above referring to the government and the things that “it does”; it’s convenient. But it is essential to always bear in mind that government policies, procedures, and actions are carried out by its agents, who are individuals. When you ask for or expect action from the government what you are truly doing is seeking a proxy to perform tasks that you are either unwilling or unable to do yourself. Is the action something that you would find personally immoral and couldn’t imagine doing yourself in any circumstance? Then why would it be moral to ask someone to do it for you or even to acquiesce to their doing it on your behalf without offering protest? Continue reading

07/22/14

California’s Manufactured Water Crisis
and Ineffectual Solutions
  -   By

 

California Drought

California, where I live, is in the midst of a severe drought, with 2013 being the driest calendar year in the state’s history. Naturally, people are distraught over all the implications, from agricultural irrigation to effects on wildlife habitats to personal home use. The prevailing reaction has been a call to conservation and up until recently that has largely been a voluntary statewide initiative. Guilt and public shame, it has been hoped, would be enough to dissuade a wicked and greedy overconsumption of water. 

This, apparently has not been enough, as status quo usage is wildly unsustainable, and on July 15 the State Water Resources Control Board and Governor Jerry Brown approved measures that will allow law enforcement to issue fines of up to $500 per day for households that are visibly wasting water. Unacceptable behavior include hosing off sidewalks and driveways, irrigating laws to the point of visible runoff, washing cars without a shutoff valve on the hose, and using potable water in non-circulating fountains. Additionally, municipal water agencies are tasked with implementing further restrictions or else risk incurring a $10,000 fine. Continue reading

07/5/14

Confession of a Climate Change Skeptic  -   By

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It is to my great shame that I confess to being a climate change skeptic. I say this with the knowledge that it is quite fashionable, these days, to style a self-proclaimed skeptic as a pariah and to castigate him for his alleged ignorance and contempt for nature. Open and honest dialogue is frustrated in this environment and generally devolves into inflammatory rhetoric and one-upmanship.

It’s not uncommon for climate change apologists to mislabel skeptics as climate change deniers. I’ll say here at the outset that I am not denying the possibility that human action might cause disruptions in the global climate. I do however strongly question the present and future severity of the issue and, more specifically, the ability of humans to make contemporary changes that will have any appreciable effect on future climate outcomes. It would seem, however, that there are some critics who are pathologically incapable of distinguishing my position with one of an impassioned denier. Continue reading

05/29/14

The Isla Vista Murders
and the Politicization of Tragedy
  -   By

Police officers in Isla Vista respond to one of the crime scenes.

In an article I wrote last year I explored the debate on gun control, in general, following the political groundswell that seemed to support harsher restrictions and outright second amendment violations following the Newtown school shooting. Here, I will explore the implications of the immediate politicization of similar tragedies, touching on the reactions to the Isla Vista murders, which occurred last week. Continue reading

06/26/13

Why Bubbles Burst:
Austrian Business Cycle Theory
  -   By

hayekmises

Austrian economists F. A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises.

In the early 2000’s a bubble formed in the U.S. housing market in which housing prices rose dramatically, new housing projects were being constructed at increased rates, and speculative buying of homes and mortgages became the latest get-rich-quick scheme.  By 2008 the bubble burst and real estate prices dropped dramatically, affecting subsequent industries and triggering a worldwide economic depression.  Why did this happen, and furthermore, why is economic history replete with these boom and bust cycles?  Ludwig von Mises explained the cause of this trend with an analogy, which I will paraphrase:

Continue reading

03/10/13

Minimum Wage:
Economically and Morally Bankrupt
  -   By

President Obama, in his most recent “state of the union” speech, addressed a topic that, though it has been disproven countless times, is so politically popular that future politicians will doubtlessly echo it beyond the lifetime of the present Union:

“Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families.”

We must first understand what a wage truly is.  A wage is a price.  It truly is little else than this; a wage is the price of an individual’s productive efforts. Continue reading

02/11/13

On “Common Sense” Gun Laws  -   By

Following the school shooting at Newtown, President Obama has been asking Americans in general, and Congress specifically, to unite in supporting and adopting what he refers to, most recently in a speech given in Minneapolis, as “common-sense” changes to federal gun laws.

What troubles me about this particular and oft-repeated phrase is that “common sense” usually describes a simple and cursory consideration of facts and generally calls upon preconceptions, bias, and emotion.  This may be problematic, as often ideas that appear true to one’s own understanding of common sense end up being, in fact, false. Continue reading