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Privatize it: TSA

November 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Here is a Republican congressman calling for the TSA to be “privatized.”

We should privatize the TSA, but what he is talking about is not privatization.  He’s basically saying we should create an oppressive and invasive (and by the way, unconstitutional) set of restrictions, impose them on the entire market, and then hire a “private” firm to do the imposing.  It’s possible that doing this might be slightly more efficient but in this case even that is pretty questionable since it’s hard to see how you would make the revenue of such a firm dependent on their performance which is what leads to these increases in efficiency. 

So what would privatization really mean?  It would mean the government does nothing regarding airline security.  “Privatizing the TSA” means eliminating the TSA.  That’s it.  We don’t need a nationwide security apparatus.  “So you think we should just do nothing and let terrorists blow up planes at will!?” I can hear the left (and let’s face it, the right too) gasping.  First of all I sort of do think that.  If somebody wants to blow people up there is no shortage of ways to do it, it seems ridiculous to me to be so paranoid about airplanes.  But that being said, this would not be the case.

The premise behind that statement is that if government doesn’t do something it won’t get done.  But does the government produce milk and ship it to your local supermarket?  No.  And yet there is milk there.  Go ahead take a look.  I have no idea where you live or at what time you are reading this and I can guarantee you that if you go to the nearest supermarket there will be milk there even though there is no law saying there must be or government agency in charge of providing milk.  Probably there will in fact be a wide variety of milk to choose from: whole milk, fat-free, 1%, 2%, soy milk, vanilla soy, etc. and several brands of each.  How does this happen?

Obviously, there is milk there because people are willing to pay for it.  And things that people are willing to pay for get provided.  So what would a world with “privatized” airport security look like?  Well, if people want to get groped in exchange for a slightly smaller chance of being blown up by a terrorist, then some airline would no doubt offer them that service.  If someone else, like me, preferred not to get groped, then another airline would most likely give them that option.  If you think profiling (or any other technique) is more effective, you could choose the airline that does that.  We could all get what we want. 

Personally, I would start an airline called “Bring it on Airlines.”  I would have no security, you could just show up a few minutes before takeoff and get on.  I would paint a big target on the sides of the planes.  Also I would charge for bags.  In order to get on all you would have to do is sign the following statement.

The goal of terrorists is to cause terror.  I refuse to live in terror.  If anyone tries to hijack this flight, I will fight them to the death.  If they kill me, I will die free.

It would be a real tough-guy airline.  And all of you people who are concerned about terrorists would be even more safe since the occasional terrorist that did come along wanting to blow up a plane would certainly go after mine instead of  the ones with all the drastic security measures and the passengers–you know, the ones who are willing to sacrifice their privacy and dignity and live in fear of the miniscule chance of being blown up by a terrorist.  Yeah, I’m sure they will leave those people alone and go after my airline.  So what’s the problem people?  Privatize it!

Update: After I wrote this today, I went to the supermarket to get milk and they didn’t have it!  I broke down laughing right there in the isle.  People probably thought I was crazy.  But actually they still had like 20 varieties of milk they were just out of the one I wanted.  And they actually had exactly what I wanted but in a different (more expensive) brand.  And then someone came by and asked if I was finding everything and I told her what I wanted and she went in the back and got me one.  So the free market works after all!

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Reexamine Your Premises (Public Schools Follow Up and More)

October 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Glenn Beck did a show on schools yesterday.  It’s amazing how bad the situation is getting and how oblivious people can be about the cause of it.  As you have probably noticed by the quotes recently I have been reading Saul Alinsky to try to delve into the mind of the other side.  I find this passage particularly illuminating.

Everywhere you look all change shows this complementarity.  In Chicago the people of Upton Sinclair’s Jungle, then the worst slum in America, crushed by starvation wages when they worked, demoralized, diseased, living in rotting shacks, were organized.  Their banners proclaimed equality for all races, job security and a decent life for all.  With their power they fought and won.  Today, as part of the middle class, they are also part of our racist, discriminatory culture.

The Tennessee Valley Authority [see Ronald Reagan on the subject] was one of the prize jewels in the democratic crown.  Visitors came from every part of the world to see, admire, and study this physical and social achievement of a free society.  Today it is the scourge of the Cumberland Mountains, strip mining for coal and wreaking havoc on the countryside.

The C.I.O. was the militant champion of America’s workers.  In its ranks, directly and indirectly, were all of America’s radicals; they fought the corporate structure of the nation and won.  Today, merged with the A.F. of L., it is an entrenched member of the establishment and its leader supports the war in Vietnam.

Another example is today’s high-rise public housing projects.  Originally conceived and carried through as major advances in ridding cities of slums, they involved the tearing down of rotting, rat-infested tenements, and the erection of modern apartment buildings.  They were acclaimed as America’s refusal to permit its people to live in the dirty shambles of the slums.  It is common knowledge that they have turned into jungles of horror and now confront us with the problem of how we can either convert or get rid of them.  They have become compounds of double segregation–on the bases of both economy and race–and a danger for anyone compelled to live in these projects.  A beautiful positive dream has grown into a negative nightmare.

Alinsky is noticing that every collectivist progressive project ends in disaster but he is somehow missing the conclusion that collectivism leads to disaster.  Instead he invents some nonsense about duality and uses this to deny causality all together in an attempt to free the reader from “the myth that one approach is positive and another negative,” since he claims that “there is no such thing in life.”  This logical process is astounding unless one notices this bit preceding it.

The prerequisite for an ideology is possession of a basic truth.  For example, a Marxist begins with his prime truth that all evils are caused by the exploitation of the proletariat by the capitalists.  From this he logically proceeds to the revolution to end capitalism, then into the third stage of reorganization into a new social order or the dictatorship of the proletariat, and finally the last stage–the political paradise of communism. (emphasis added)

My mind is recalled to one of my first encounters with a Lyndon Larouche supporter on campus.  He said to me “no great thinker has ever advocated free trade.”  Naturally I disagreed with this so he challenged me to name one and naturally I said “Adam Smith.”  To this, he replied that Adam smith was not a great thinker.  It was at this point that I realized there was no point in talking to these people, not because we disagreed about free trade but because their logical though process was turned completely upside down.  This guy had decided that free trade was bad.  He began from this fundamental truth.  From there it was a simple matter to reason that anyone who advocated free trade must be an imbecile and thus the proof of “no great thinker has ever advocated free trade” is complete.  But this thought process is incapable of considering the question “is free trade good or bad?”  It has accepted the answer to this question as the axiom on which all logic is built.

Similarly, the Marxist is incapable of considering the question “is capitalism good or bad?”  Their fundamental truth is that capitalism is bad.  They in fact define capitalism as whatever is wrong with the current system.  Thus they reason that the government controlling markets, setting prices, restricting entry, giving subsidies to big business, etc. is “capitalism” and therefore capitalism is the root of all of our problems.  But this conclusion doesn’t come about by carefully defining terms and reasoning out their logical implications.  It comes from assuming the answer that you want to get as axiomatic and then defining things in whatever way is necessary to arrive at that conclusion.

Now Saul Alinsky does not claim to be a Marxist, in fact he says that it is his goal to disassociate the concepts of revolution and communism.  In my view though, all leftists are essentially the same, they just cloak their lunacy in different rhetoric.  But this is not really the important issue here.  These people’s minds are too scrambled to be changed.  The problem is that they are gradually scrambling the minds of the majority of the public who are otherwise reasonable. 

The way they do this is by taking a debate and framing it in a way where both sides implicitly accept their misguided premise.  For instance, we argue over whether gays should be allowed to get “married.”   If you say no, you accept the premise that government should decide who can and can’t get married.  If you say yes, you accept the same premise.  We argue over what children should learn in school.  If you say creation, you accept the premise that the government should decide what kids learn in school.  If you say evolution, you accept the same premise.  We argue over whether the Fed should raise or lower the interest rate.  Whichever one you say, you accept the premise that a cabal of private bankers should be able to set the interest rate.  Obviously further examples abound.

Getting back to schools, I also saw on the news today a mother whose son committed suicide after being bullied and wrote a letter to the President asking for help (she also had a daughter that she was worried about).  I’m not going to say that if we had a private school system nobody would ever commit suicide again but if you had a problem and you were that worried about it, you could put you child in a different school.  Instead if you have a problem now you have to ask the president of the United States to fix it! 

Everyone seems to agree that our schools are a disaster, but everyone wants the government to fix it.  We all accept the premise that schools need to be run by government, we just disagree about how they should run them.  Sooner or later we need to realize that the reason they are in such a sorry state is that they are run by government.  It is not a coincidence that the TVA, housing projects, Fannie and Freddie, public schools, the healthcare system, the Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea, Greece, Spain, etc. are all failures is not the great duality of the universe.  It is causality!  Reexamine your premises.

Privatize it: Schools

October 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Recently Tucker Carlson, who used to have a show on MSNBC before they purged their staff of non believers, did a documentary on public schools for Fox News.  (Here are some notes on that link: 1. The site it’s on has an interesting name, I don’t know anything about them, they were simply the first site to show up when I searched for the video.  2. The whole thing is worth watching but if you’re strapped for time watch from 15:00 to 21:00 to get the gist of what I’m about to discuss.  Also, there is a short blurb written by Tucker below the video that gives the general idea.  3.  The sound and video are a little off….oh well)

Let me say up front that I’m not trying to argue with the decision made by the school board here.  You see the libertarian ethic has nothing to do with whether or not children read books about gay penguins.  It has everything to do with who decides whether they read these books.  This is what the left means when they talk about “democracy.”  5 people on a board make a decision and impose it on the entire public.  If you have an opinion about what your children should learn in school the only thing you can do about it is go down to their meeting and try to convince three out of the five to agree with you and impose your view on everyone instead of someone else’s. 

Aside: Yesterday, I was at the park smoking a cigar and some guy who had been sitting about fifty feet away (and up wind I might add) came over and told me to move because he could smell it and he didn’t like it and “he was there first.”  You see he goes there for the “fresh air” (we were about a hundred yards from a freeway).  But I go there because people like him made it illegal to smoke in a bar or a restaurant or anywhere outside on the campus where I work.  Anyway I digress.  I moved (which I now regret, I should have told him to screw off).  But later another guy went to where I was and started smoking a cigarette.  Not surprisingly most of the people you see in the park are smoking, progressives don’t get that this is a forseeable consequence of making it illegal everywhere else because they don’t understand economics.  Anyway, the same guy came and told that guy to go away so me and him got talking and it turned out he was from Poland and he said it was also illegal everywhere in Poland.  It actually seemed worse there than here.  And I said “that’s weird I thought everyone over there smoked.”  And he said “they do!”  So I said “so did they vote on that or what?” To which he replied “no, the city council did it.”……democracy.  By the way, remember this non-smoking campaign?  Oh they didn’t teach you that in school?  What a surprise….

OK, so back to schools.  I happen to think that progressives have been using the public schools to indoctrinate children for decades and I think that’s incredibly destructive to society.  Recently we’ve seen some pushback against this in Texas.  But if you’re to the left of me, you probably see things differently.  You probably think that the founders really were atheists, Christopher Columbus was a horrible person, believing in God is a ridiculous delusion, Woodrow Wilson and FDR were great presidents, etc. (I could go on for days but you get the point) and that crazy right-wing conservatives are taking over the school curriculum and corrupting your kids.

We can argue about this forever.  The thing we need to realize is that this is the natural result of collectivism.  Everyone is never going to agree about what children should learn in school.  When you make the school system public, you make this decision a collective one.  In other words, everyone gets the same thing.  This requires some system for making a collective decision when people don’t agree.  These systems are basically all called “democratic” by those on the left. 

The yardstick used by the left to evaluate a decision is the degree to which it conforms to the desires of the majority.  This is what they mean by “democratic.”  Imposing a system on someone is perfectly morally acceptable as long as it’s imposed by the majority.  Therefore, every moral debate is over what the majority wants.  In other words it is not about whether or not the government should have the ability to impose a given policy on anyone.

Public schools are the perfect example of this.  They have gotten us to accept the premise that the government has to run schools and this creates an environment where we have to argue about what they should teach.  But isn’t there another way? 

Obviously there is.  You could not have the government involved in schools at all.  If this were the case, everyone would be able to choose a school they were comfortable with.  Schools would have to compete with each other and this would mean the best schools would survive and the worst would not.  If you wanted a school that taught evolution and not creation you could choose one.  If you wanted creation and not evolution you could choose one.  If you wanted both to be presented in whatever you consider an “unbiased” way, you could choose one.  There would be no need for us to argue about it!  There would be no need for “democracy.”

The biggest problem people seem to have with this scenario is that people will make poor decisions about what their children should learn and we might all become “flat-Earthers.”  But which system is more likely to evolve in the direction of truth, one where a central authority makes decisions about curriculum based on some combination of majority sentiment and personal political motivation, or one where every individual chooses their own path?

In order to believe that the former is desirable, you have to believe two things which I think are highly doubtful.  First, you must believe that the politicians on some board who are motivated by politics will make better decisions than parents who are motivated by the interests of their own children.  Second you have to believe that people will continue making poor decisions even though they lead to bad outcomes.  It is precisely because they know that the opposite is true that they need a socialized education system (and healthcare system, etc.).

Imagine two salesmen come to town.  One is selling a blue pill that they claim will make you prosperous and happy your whole life and the other is selling a red pill that they claim will make you happy and prosperous your whole life.  They both claim that the other man’s pill will actually make you ignorant and unproductive and lead you into a life of slavery and depravity.  Now imagine that one of these men proposes that the whole town take a vote and decide which pill to take and then force every member to take that pill forever.   The other proposes that everyone be free to try whichever pill they want and switch whenever they please.  Which one is selling truth?

By the way, if we didn’t have public schools we wouldn’t have all these problems with teacher’s pensions and tenure and so forth.

Update: Here’s an interesting quote from Rules for Radicals which should be kept in mind when listening to leftists speak of democracy. 

Lenin was a pragmatist; when he returned to what was then Petrograd from exile, he said that the Bolsheviks stood for getting power through the ballot but would reconsider after they got the guns!

Privatize It: Roads

August 26, 2010 5 comments

This post is sort of directed to my best customer who has asked about this but it’s a question that libertarians get a lot: What about roads? People seem to take it for granted that only government can provide roads but this is not the case.  John Stossel has compiled some evidence to that effect. 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3