Insuring the Future

Insurance has become one of the go to tools for statists. When they want to control a market they begin making regulations regarding insurance. In Minnesota you are required to hold insurance in order to operate a motor vehicle, the federal government has mandated that every American acquire health insurance or face a fine, and gun control advocates are pushing to require all gun owners acquire insurance:

A group of congressional Democrats has signed on to new legislation that would mandate liability insurance for all gun owners in the United States — and fine those who refuse to purchase it as much as $10,000.

The Daily Caller reports that New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s Firearm Risk Protection Act says that all gun buyers — before they buy — purchase and show proof of “a qualified liability insurance policy,” and that those caught owning a weapon without the insurance are subject to harsh fines.

I’m sure the “qualified liability insurance” policies would cost an arm and a leg by design. It amazes me how many different avenues gun control advocates will try just to control what other can legally possess. Since they were unable to get outright bans on certain firearms and firearm accessories they have moved to erecting barriers between prospective gun owners and legal gun ownership. This move also reveals just how much gun control is about control. Mandating gun owners buy insurance does nothing to reduce gun violence. One can’t even fabricate a link between mandating insurance and reducing violence.

Nothing is Free

With the demise of Google Reader those of us who depend on Really Simple Syndication (RSS) for collecting and reading news articles have been scrambling to find a replacement. A couple of prospective replacements that have take on Google Reader refugees are Feedly and Feever. My primary concern in finding a replacement has been compatibility with Reeder, which I use as my RSS client on my iPhone, iPad, and Macs (Yeah, I’m a bit of an Apple whore, want to make something of it?). Via Reeder’s Twitter account I found out that the developer was planning to include support for Feedbin. When I looked into Feedbin the thing that immediately caught my attention was the subscription fee, in order to use Feedbin you need to either pay $2.00 a month or $20.00 a year. The part of me that has become accustomed to free online services was quickly taken aback. Would I be forced to pay a monthly or yearly fee just to use my preferred RSS client? Why should I pay money to use something that’s free?

Most of us use online services and most of us pay nothing for them. My reaction to seeing that Feedbin charges a monthly fee is mirrored by other Reeder users and that really woke me up to something I seldom think about: we denizens of the Internet have become so accustomed to free services that we become upset when somebody has the audacity to charge money for an online service. We often fail to remember that there are no free lunches. Providing an online service isn’t a costless endeavor. Servers, electricity, Internet connectivity, development and maintenance time, and providing enough infrastructure for users are all costs associated with providing an online service. This blog, if anything, is a loss for me. I don’t count the costs of the server and electricity when calculating the costs of running this blog because that server is providing other services I use (Virtual Private Network (VPN), e-mail, CalDAV, etc.). But it does costs me time in writing blog posts and maintaining the website. Since I enjoy writing and server maintenance (to a point) neither of these are a higher cost than the blog is worth. However, if I was offering a service with a decent number of subscribers, I would need to charge money in order to make providing the service at least break even.

When an service provider offer its “product” free of charge it is almost always recouping costs elsewhere. Google, Facebook, Twitter, and most of the other major online service providers recoup their costs by selling data. Specifically your data. When dealing with these service providers you must think of yourself as the product and the entities buying your data as the customers. If the collected data isn’t purchased by the customers it isn’t useful to the service provider and will likely be discarded. I’m sure Google dropped Reader because its customers weren’t interested in the data collected by the service. I understand that and don’t hold it against Google, they’re in business to make money and there’s no point for Google to maintain a service that isn’t making a profit.

For some time I’ve become less accepting of being a product for Google. Part of this stems from my innate desire to control my data. If my data is hosted on Google’s servers I have no control over it. There is no way for me to know if that data will be preserved or who will be given access to my data (we know the United States government periodically demands user data from Google). I do know that Google is selling my data to its customers. The only way a service provider has any motivation to keep its user data private is if its users are also its customers.

The other method for a service provider to monetize its services is to charge money for its services or provide another product that ties into its services. Apple chooses the latter. iCloud isn’t provided free of charge out of the goodness of Apple’s heart, it’s provided free of charge (at least for the first 5GB of storage) because it’s a feature that allows Apple to sell iPhones, iPads, and Macs. Feedbin has chosen the former. Instead of offering a free service and monetizing user data the people behind Feedbin are asking users to pay a monthly or yearly free. There are two advantages for users under this model: as a user you are also a customer and Feedbin has motivation to keep your information private and Feedbin is more apt to keep the RSS service running since its business model relies on it.

While my initial response to Feedbin was one of distaste I’m beginning to realize it may be a better model for me. I want three things: an RSS service that works with Reeder, motivation for my RSS service provider to keep my information to itself, and an RSS service that won’t suddenly disappear overnight. Being a customer instead of a product will takes care of desires two and three.

Since the costs of providing an online service are generally hidden from users it’s often difficult for a service provider to charge money. This is why most service providers monetize user data. Trying to charge users money for a service is usually met with outrage. Unfortunately there are no free lunches. If you don’t pay money directly you’re going to pay by being a product. Since I’m concerned with control over my data I would prefer to be a customer. Due to this services that directly charge me money instead of monetizing my data are appealing. For most people, those who think little about their data, services that monetize their data are likely more appealing. Either way it would do well if denizens of the Internet stopped responding in outrage when a service provider asks for money from its users. Scarcity is the ultimate law of economics and ensures nothing is every entirely free.

One Positive Outcome of the Recent Ammunition Shortage

The ammunition shortage brought on by the recent push for gun control has left many gun owners empty handed. Uncle linked to a story that shows the positive side of the ammunition shortage, the state’s costume-clad thugs aren’t able to acquire ammunition either:

Dayne Pryor is the chief of police in Rollingwood, Texas, a small suburb of Austin. “I’ve been in law enforcement for 31 years and I’ve been a chief for eight years,” he sighs. “And it’s just one of those things that I never thought I’d have a problem with, especially being in Texas.”

Pryor’s problem, he explains to Salon, is that he’s having trouble finding ammunition and firearms for his officers, thanks to a national shortage. The cause? A run on supply from gun lovers afraid that Congress or state legislatures will impose new gun control laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.

“Everyone is thinking, they’re going to stop manufacturing, or they’re going to be taxing and all this, so it’s just this mentality of, let’s all buy up everything now just in case. And it hurts us,” Pryor said. “This is ridiculous. This shouldn’t be happening to law enforcement.”

Economics is a mean old cantankerous bitch. It doesn’t matter who you are you’re subject to economic realities. The first rule of economics is that scarcity is a fact of life. There are only a limited number of resources available and they can’t fulfill every demand. Thanks to the gun control advocates ammunition demands have spiked and manufacturing isn’t able to meet demand. This change in the supply and demand curve means anybody wanting to acquire ammunition must either scrounge high and low or pay a higher price.

The second option is important to bring up here. When the demand for a product increases without the an accompanying increase in supply prices tend to go up. Pryor can easily acquire ammunition, he just needs to offer more money for it. Since Pryor isn’t willing to pay more (I’m assuming he’s not willing to pay more because he’s opting to bitch about the shortage instead of bitch about the high prices he has to pay) he has to go without. Fortunately that means his officers will be less able to cheaply murder nonviolent individuals. While the police may be unhappy with the current situation those of us outside of the state’s employ should be jumping for joy.

It’s nice to know that this ammunition shortage isn’t all bad.

Taxing Self-Defense

Do you want to protect yourself? If you live in Cook County you must now pay the state yet another fee in order to enjoy the privilege of self-defense:

Buying a gun in Cook County officially became more expensive this week.

A new $25 tax on every gun purchased in the county took effect Monday as part of County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s plan to pay for the violence she says crowds jails and drives up health care costs.

“Gun violence is a real problem for us,” Preckwinkle said when she proposed the tax in October. “It’s a problem for us in our criminal justice system and it’s a problem for us in our health care system, and I make no apologies for the proposal.”

When this tax was first proposed I pointed out that it had nothing to do with stopping violence. What this tax is aimed at is erecting another barrier between non-state individuals and the ability to defend themselves. Your life, in the eyes of the state, is less than worthless. The only way your life becomes worth anything to the state is to surrender a portion of your wealth to it. When you do that the state may be benevolent enough to allow you to preserve it but only so it can continue to extract wealth from you.

I do have some good news for those of you living in Cook County, there is an easy way to get around this tax. Instead of buying a firearm from a dealer in Cook County buy one on the “black” market. Buying on the “black” market allows you to avoid all of the hoops state-licensed dealers are forced to make you jump through and you can avoid buying a permission slip from the state to protect your life.

Paying Twice for Information

California is such an interesting state to watch. Not only is it the state that shows us what happens when you rely on the state for everything, it is currently giving us a glimpse of the aftermath of state reliance. One of the more laughable proposals being put forth by California’s state is double charging denizens for access to public information:

A proposal under consideration in California would significantly limit access to public information by levying a $10 fee any time anyone—including members of the public and the media—wants to look at a court case record in person. While EFF is certainly sympathetic to the budgetary woes facing all levels of government in California, this measure would trade transparency, citizen engagement and the power of a free press for a short-sighted fiscal stop-gap. On the whole, such a fee would do little to fix institutional spending problems while inflicting massive damage to the public trust.

Not only do you pay for the creation of this information through taxes, state issued fines, and other regulatory fees but now you can get pay to read it! On top of soaking California denizens for more money this proposal, from a more cynical point of view, may also discourage individuals from investigating the goings-on of the state they suffer under. If you want to know what dirty little deeds the political bureau of California is up to you’ll have to pay for the privilege.

The Police Suck at Acting Like Regular People

The police spent a great deal of time and money trying to track down and punish nonviolent individuals. Oftentimes the police have to assume the identities of regular individuals in order to catch some of those nonviolent individuals. Fortunately, for those of us who are nonviolent but likely under the watchful eye of the police, the police suck at acting like regular people:

As anyone who’s watched a single crime story on TV or film knows, undercover detective work is dangerous business. There inevitably comes a moment when the crime boss gets suspicious. Scary, sure, but at least police officers have a working knowledge of the rules of the crime game. They’ve trained their whole lives to pull off this deception.

Passing yourself off as a credible music scenester, on the other hand, is an order of magnitude more difficult. Never mind drug lords—no one can identify a poseur more quickly than a hipster; sniffing out fakes is essentially the entire job description. That’s what Boston police are finding out as their bungling efforts to infiltrate the underground rock scene online are being exposed.

A recently passed nuisance control ordinance has spurred a citywide crackdown on house shows—concerts played in private homes, rather than in clubs. The police, it appears, are taking a particularly modern approach to address the issue: They’re posing as music fans online to ferret out intel on where these DIY shows are going to take place. While police departments have been using social media to investigate for years, its use in such seemingly trivial crimes would be rather chilling, if these efforts didn’t seem so laughably inept. It’s a law enforcement technique seemingly cribbed from MTV’s Catfish—but instead of creating a fake persona to ensnare the marks in a romantic internet scam, it’s music fandom that’s being feigned.

The story is hilarious and I’m not sure how the police can perform such acts and not feel embarrassed. Adding insult to injury the embarrassment is unnecessary because finding nuisance house parties should be easy, wait for an annoyed neighbor to call the police. When the police arrive to investigate they will probably be able to hear the music from outside and have grounds to write one of those noise violation citations they’re so fond of. If the show can’t be heard by the neighbors then it is not a nuisance and the police don’t need to waste everybody’s time by shutting it down.

While it’s disappointing to see the police sinking so much time and money into shutting down house parties it’s great to see they’re entirely incompetent at it.

Never Talk to the Police

Although it has probably been covered ad nauseam I don’t think one can emphasis not talking to the police enough. The police are not your friends, they are not there to protect you, and they are not there to uphold the law. Their primary job is to expropriate wealth from the general populace for the state. Most of their time is spent handing out traffic and parking citations and arresting nonviolent individuals who are in possession of a verboten plant or chemical. When you talk to the police you must keep one fact in mind: their job is to put you in a cage. In addition to those facts there is another reason you shouldn’t talk to the police, it may land you in court:

Steve Bohnen wishes he had never called police.

What he says he believed was a good-faith effort to report a possible theft of a campaign sign and possible public safety hazard in the fall of 2010 has turned his world upside down.

He was sued twice by the man whom he reported and, after countersuing, now faces legal bills in excess of $500,000. The demands of the court process have pulled him away from work, and the stress has strained his family life.


He later filed three lawsuits naming Bohnen, Bohnen’s supporter Keith Mueller, the county, the city of Grant and others. In his lawsuits, he said that he had been unfairly targeted and that his rights were violated. He accused Bohnen and Mueller of conspiring with law enforcement to get him charged.

Mr. Bohnen called the police because he witnessed a possible theft. In return he was sued by the man her reported to the police and neither the police or the courts have offered any form of assistance with the lawsuits. Instead Mr. Bohnen has been left high and dry for doing what we’re all told to do: if you see something, say something. Another risk of talking to the police is the potential of being used for improperly reporting a suspect. If this happens you will receive no help from the police even though there are laws that supposedly protect those who report crimes to the police:

The Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association says that by allowing Bohnen to be sued for reporting an alleged crime, the courts are endangering the important relationship between citizens and law enforcement. The association points to state law that protects people who report potential crimes in good faith and has asked to participate in Bohnen’s appeal as a friend of the court.

When you deal with the state you’re dealing with an entity that wants to take your shit. It may bust into your home and physically take your shit or it may do it through court fees or other such nonsense. Either way you’re going to lose something when you interact with the state.