A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Politics’ tag

Milking All of the Tax Cattle

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While I still stand by my ruling that Atlas Shrugged was a poorly written book with dull two-dimensional characters, I will admit that it was also prescient. The United States appears to be entering the part in of the book where the infrastructure is in a constant state of deterioration. Even the parking ramps are falling apart. And you know what that means! Soak the tax payers a little more:

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter ordered the shutdown of a major downtown parking ramp Thursday, the day after a chunk of concrete fell on a parked car and two days after he and other local leaders launched a public campaign for $58 million in state money to replace the aging structure.

Strange, I didn’t realize that a parking ramp in St. Paul served the entirety of Minnesota. But it must otherwise Carter wouldn’t be asking the entire state to pay for his city’s shitty infrastructure, right?

Unfortunately, when infrastructure fails, it serves as an excuse by the political class to steal more wealth from those they rule. To compound this problem, even though the political class is stealing more wealth, the infrastructure never improves. So a vicious cycle of failing infrastructure leading to more stolen wealth followed by more failing infrastructure persists.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 18th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Shame Only Works on Those Who Feel Shame

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It seems like every time I turn around it’s election season again. Primary seasons has just come and gone for some states, which means a bunch of statists just finished up trying to make people feel guilty for not suffering the same bullshit they just suffered:

Some Pennsylvania voters have received letters publicising whether they had voted in previous elections before they head to the polls on Tuesday.

The letters appeared to be intended to “embarrass” people into voting by revealing their voting record compared to that of friends and neighbours.

[…]

The information used in the letters comes from a public registry that costs $20 (£15) to access. This data is typically used by political parties for voter outreach.

“What if your friends, your neighbours, and your community knew whether you vote?” the letter asks.

What if my friends, neighbors, and community members knew whether I voted? They already do because I’m quite loud about the fact that I don’t vote.

Blackmail, which is what these letters are threatening, only works if the person being threatened wants a secret kept secret. As soon as the person being threatened ceases to care about whatever secret somebody is threatening to reveal, blackmail no longer works. If, for example, somebody is threatening to reveal that you didn’t vote in the last election, the best thing you can do to take their power away is publicly advertise the fact that you didn’t vote in the last election.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 16th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Government Goons Declare Anarchy Symbol a Hate Symbol

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The City of Hamilton’s bureaucrats have declared that the anarchy symbol is a hate symbol in the same league as the Nazi swastika:

The City of Hamilton has forced a local anarchist group to remove the circle A anarchy symbol from its headquarters, saying it is “hate material” similar to the swastika.

City officials say they’re taking direction from Hamilton police on the issue, but police say that’s not the case.

Since anarchists want to abolish government, I understand why a bunch of government parasites would find the anarchy symbol hateful.

When people bring up the topic of hate speech, I like to point out that hate is a subjective idea. This rankles a lot of people because the topic of hate is often emotionally charged and most individuals seem to believe that hate is an objectively provable thing. They also seem to believe that hate is objectively whatever they believe hate to be.

I don’t consider the anarchy symbol to be a symbol of hate. In fact, I consider symbols of government to be symbols of hate. Am I right? That depends on whom you ask.

What I really want to know now is whether or not I as an anarchist qualify as an oppressed person in Hamilton.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 16th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Everybody Gets a Vote

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Should people who are ignorant about a topic be given the ability to vote on it? If not, the United States should cease holding all elections because nobody has any idea what is going on:

Washington may be more secretive nowadays than at any time in recent decades. Federal policymakers have become accustomed to rationing what they release while citizens are assured that official secrecy makes them more secure. But American democracy cannot survive perpetual bipartisan coverups from the political ruling class.

Since 9/11, U.S. foreign policy has practically been governed by a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Did you know that U.S. troops are currently engaged in combat in 14 foreign nations fighting purported terrorists? That jolting fact is practically a state secret, though it did slip out in a recent New York Times editorial. After four U.S. soldiers were killed in Niger last October, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) admitted they did not know that a thousand U.S. troops were deployed to that African nation. Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, admitted, “We don’t know exactly where we’re at in the world militarily and what we’re doing.” Congress has utterly defaulted on its role as a check-and-balance on the Pentagon, thereby enabling a surge in deadly covert interventions abroad.

An informed electorate doesn’t exist in the United States because the government that is supposedly guided by the voice of the people has developed a fetish for secrecy.

I’m going to return to the question with which I opened this post. Most people would instinctively say that everybody should get a vote even if they’re ignorant about the topic up for vote. This response is the result of living life in a country where democracy is touted as the greatest governmental system of all time. However, few people tolerate such a philosophy in their private dealings. Would you let somebody who is entirely ignorant about automobiles vote on what is wrong with your vehicle? Would you let somebody who is compute illiterate vote on how to fix your computer? Would you let somebody who knows nothing about medicine vote on what drugs you should take? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re a damned fool. If any of these resulted in your problem being fixed, it would be by sheer luck. The most likely outcome would be that a lot of money would be spent for nothing. The result of the last situation could even be your death.

As the article notes, even the people elected to the government often have no idea what is going on. Graham and Schumer may not have been aware that there were thousands of troops deployed in Africa but they certainly got to vote on military matters. This really should strike everybody as a problem. Why are people who are ignorant about matters voting on them? Why should a senator who doesn’t even know how to use e-mail have a say on topics such as national computer security laws? Why should a senator who doesn’t know what a barrel shroud is have a say in what firearm features should be prohibited?

When nobody has any clue about what is happening, it’s not realistic to expect people to make good decisions.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 11th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Solve the Housing Shortage by Making Houses More Expensive

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California is suffering from a decades long housing shortage. This shouldn’t surprise anybody. The regulatory burden in California has been increasing along with the population, which has made new construction more expensive than it otherwise would be. But instead of working to relieve the shortage by allowing homes to be built for less, the California bureaucrats have decided to make building new homes even more expensive:

On Wednesday, the California Energy Commission approved a set of standards that will require most new homes built in the state after 2020 to include solar panels on their roofs.

The standards (PDF) apply only to single-family homes and certain low-rise condos, townhomes, and apartments. Exceptions are made for homes with roofs that would receive excessive shade during the daytime or homes with roofs too small to benefit from a few solar panels.

The last two exemptions are interesting because they have the potential to change how houses are predominantly built in California. I foresee a trend in small roofs and heavy shading.

This legislation is also, rather obviously, aimed at coercing a preference for high-density residential. While that may make sense in an extremely dense urban area like Los Angeles, it doesn’t make sense to implement such a requirement statewide since much of California is actually rural and therefore space isn’t at a premium. However, bureaucrats are seldom aware that the existence they experience in their capital city isn’t the experience of everybody in their state, which is why centralized planning always turns into such a fiasco.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 10th, 2018 at 10:30 am

I Am Altering the Deal

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When Obama was in office, he entered the United States into a nuclear nonproliferation deal with Iran. Yesterday Trump pulled the United States out of that deal:

With a stroke of his pen US President Donald Trump has jeopardised the one agreement – good or bad – that seeks to constrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

He launched a scathing assault on the deal and its deficiencies.

But he offered no alternative policy to put in its place. He has put US diplomacy on a collision course with some of Washington’s closest allies.

Trump’s detractors are claiming that this will ensure that Iran acquires nuclear weapons while his supporters are claiming that the deal was a terrible deal. I’m not going to argue the pros or cons of the previous deal. However, I do want to take a moment to discuss a facet of this issue that isn’t getting much attention.

It is notoriously difficult for foreign governments to deal with the United States. Every time the party in power switches hands between the Democrats and Republicans the rules seem to change. When the Democrats were in power, Iran was able to make a nonproliferation deal with the United States. Now that the Republicans are in power, it cannot. In the span of less than a decade the rules between Iran and the United States changed… again.

Imagine if business deals were as volatile as deals between foreign governments and the United States. Would anybody continue doing business with, say, Microsoft if every time a company made a deal to license the company’s operating system for five years it decided to cancel the deal after two years? No, because nobody can realistically do business in an entirely unpredictable environment. Contracts exist to ensure that there are consequences for violating a deal. Unfortunately, most foreign governments can’t punish the United States for breaking a deal because they lack the military might to do so.

It’s easy to blame Obama for making a bad deal or Trump for pulling the United States out of an existing deal. What seems to be more difficult for people to grasp is that the United States has developed a reputation for being unreliable and that reputation is going to hinder its ability to make any kind of deal with a foreign government.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 9th, 2018 at 11:00 am

It Doesn’t Matter What the Majority Says

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Every political argument seems to eventually boils down to polls. It makes sense since polls indicate what the majority wants and the majority should be listened to, right? If, for example, the majority of Minnesotans support stricter gun laws, then the politicians should respect their desires, right?

A majority of Minnesotans support stricter gun laws in the United States, including wide backing for a ban on military-style rifles and for raising the age for gun purchases from 18 to 21, a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has found.

This is usually the point where I would point out the way polls are manipulated to get desired results. For example, if you poll urban individuals about gun control, you’re likely to get a different result than if you poll rural individuals. Likewise, if I’m a publication with a predominantly Democratic readership, the results of my poll about gun control laws are going to differ from the poll results achieved by a publication with a predominantly Republican readership.

Instead of focusing on why polls are irrelevant due to ease of manipulation, I’m going to focus on an even lower level assumption made by people who cite polls: that a majority is right. Take it away, Mises!

Stating that the majority supports a law is irrelevant because there is no inherent wisdom in the majority. For example, if a majority favored a law that required the first born son of every family to be sacrificed to Beelzebub, would you agree that a law requiring that be passed? I’m guessing most people wouldn’t because it’s an awful idea. I’m also guessing that some proponent of democracy will dismiss my example and by extent my argument as being ridiculous, which it is because I chosen it specifically to illustrate my point in the most hyperbolic manner possible. To appease those individuals though, I will present a more realistic example.

Let’s say a few individuals own businesses in a poor neighborhood. The majority of people living in the town decide that they want to revitalize that neighborhood. To accomplish this they demand that the city government pass a new property tax to raise funds for revitalization efforts. Interestingly enough, the demanded property tax is high enough that it would force the poor businesses in that neighborhood to close shop. Should the will of the majority be followed even though it’s obvious that their idea of revitalizing the neighborhood is to use the city’s tax code to run poor individuals out of town?

The premise of democracy, that the will of a majority should become the policy of the State, is flawed at its very foundation because it necessarily assumes that what a majority wants is correct. This is why I dismiss arguments based on the will of a majority outright. Saying that a majority supports something is no different than saying that you personally support something. Saying that you or a majority support something isn’t an argument in support of that thing, it’s merely an expression of personal preference. And, unfortunately for you, I don’t give a shit about your personal preference.

All Are Equal under the Law, But Some Are More Equal than Others

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One of the supposed foundations of the United States governmental system is that all are equal under the law. Anybody who has read about the country’s history knows that this claim is utter bullshit. Even today the various governmental bodies use their power to create laws that directly target subsets of individuals. The government of Seat Pleasant, Maryland is being sued because it decide that not everybody is equal under its tax laws:

The owners of a discount market, a Chinese takeout restaurant and a liquor store say officials violated the city’s charter and state and federal laws when they created an ordinance that sent the property taxes of certain businesses soaring.

Steven Franco, who owns the discount market, said the “special revitalization” tax is a part of an attempt by Seat Pleasant’s leaders to lower the value of the properties so the city can buy the buildings for its own use.

“You can’t attract business like this,” said Franco, whose city property taxes last year jumped from $5,991 to $55,019, dwarfing the $18,269 property tax he pays to Prince George’s County. “It’s backward economic thinking.”

This situation isn’t unique. Municipal governments like to wield their property tax powers to run out business that they find undesirable. Of course they never claim to be doing as much when they’re writing such taxes since that could cause them to appear unfair. But everybody knows that there is an almost infinite number of ways to discriminate without appearing to be overtly discriminating. If, for example, you want to run liquor stores out of town, you simply hit the businesses in their neighborhoods with “revitalization” taxes that you claim to be aimed at “restoring” some parts of the city. This works well because many liquor stores are in poorer parts of town that city officials claim to want revitalized.

It’ll be interesting to see how this lawsuit turns out. I wouldn’t be surprised if the court sides with it’s fellow government employees.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 4th, 2018 at 10:30 am

The Stupidest Thing I’ll Read All Day

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Throughout human history heads of state have done some really nutty thing. For example, Caligula was said to have declared a war on Neptune, deployed his legions to the coast near Britannia to attack the sea (literally, stab at the sea and hurl artillery into it), and collect seashells as spoils of war. But compared to this, Caligula seems positively sane:

Eliminating the national debt, which Trump said he could accomplish “over a period of eight years,” was one of several ambitious claims Trump made in an interview with The Washington Post published on Saturday. The Republican front-runner explained that he will govern in the similarly atypical, convention-defying manner he has campaigned.

He’s going to eliminate over $19 trillion of debt even though the country he’s heading is spending so much money that it’s still increasing that debt? If he managed to do that, at least outside of declaring the United States bankrupt, it would be a literal miracle. But nobody expects politicians to keep their promises and Trump realizes this. He’s simply the first president to decide that if he’s going to lie anyways, he might as well tell really big ones.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 4th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Promises, Promises

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There was a lot of anger when Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were arrested for, apparently, being black in Starbucks. Some people have claimed that there were other grounds for the arrest but form what I’ve found, and I admit that I hasn’t spent much time digging deeply into this so I could be incorrect, the arrest was for being black in Starbucks. But the reason for the arrest is irrelevant. What matters is the public’s perception of the arrest. That perception has caused a not insignificant amount of heartache for both Starbucks and the City of Philadelphia, which employs the law enforcers who performed the arrest. The City of Philadelphia, not surprisingly, decided to settle the matter with a payoff. However, it got off cheap:

Two black men arrested for sitting at a Philadelphia Starbucks without ordering anything have settled with the city for a symbolic $1 each and a promise from officials to set up a $200,000 program for young entrepreneurs.

Emphasis mine.

Promises from politicians aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Nelson and Robinson would have been better off taking the $200,000 and setting up the program themselves because I guarantee that the city is going to sweep its promise under the rug as soon as the public forgets about the entire matter. If Nelson and Robinson somehow do manage the make the city go through with its promise, the officials tasked with doling out the money will certainly find a way to disqualify everybody who isn’t politically connected. That’s how government programs work.

Overall, this was good news for Philadelphia and bad news for black people who frequent Starbucks because now neither the city nor its law enforcers have any motivation not to arrest people for being black in Starbucks.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 3rd, 2018 at 10:00 am