What do you mean no Helicopters and McNukes?

In usual fashion I have come across some inspiring material to write my own article on. I’ve been thinking recently about what the ends of a libertarian party or movement would or should be. In this blog I consider the means of getting there. I’m always pushing steps toward a libertarian society. These steps seem to never make any progress. I have always viewed the libertarian society as an idealist notion. I think to some degree its true. On the other hand, I feel like its entirely possible that a libertarian society is achievable. The problems are numerous and the solutions are few. One main problem and probably the biggest one is the lack of education of outsiders on the libertarian values and beliefs. People tend to misinterpret or misunderstand what libertarians stand for and what we want to achieve.

I’ve recently said on social media that I believe I’m in the minority of libertarians that believe that achieving the ultimate goal of a libertarian society will come instantly once it happens. I feel that many libertarians, anarchists, anarcho-capitalists think that once we overthrow the current government then we can just easily transition to that libertarian society that we all agree is the goal. I don’t believe its so easy or fast. I think there is a number of factors to consider about means and ends of libertarianism.

The first and foremost is that the way to change the government is to vote for politicians who hold the same beliefs, values and morals as libertarians.  We can all agree politicians of this caliber don’t exist right now with the exception of Rand Paul, maybe. After voting for Gary Johnson in two consecutive elections I have realized that we are going too big. (Nothing wrong with him, just a walking meme.) We need to find libertarian congresspeople. I know of 3 libertarian leaning congresspeople, Rand Paul, Thomas Massie, and Justin Amash. Once we can turn the Congress into a majority of libertarians then we can work on the white house.

The second factor is education like I mentioned before. A lot of people have misconceptions of libertarians. Even I used to subscribe to these common myths. For example: Libertarians are both Republican and Democrat because they support a little of each. It might be true that we hold similar positions but we are actually against both parties. The two main parties are a snake with two heads. They don’t care about you. They care about their interests and their money! We need to educate the masses on libertarianism. The essential thing is liberty and freedom. The government shouldn’t play much if any role in our everyday lives. The government doesn’t need to over regulate and get involved in everything we do. The government doesn’t need to tax our hard earned income. For over 100 years, the US government collected no income tax. Who will build the roads? Private corporations that need to ship things by truck. Businesses that need to drive around. My point is that if we can educate people then eventually will lead to more people accepting and more importantly voting for libertarians.

The third factor of the means is simply cohesive-ness among libertarians. We have to unify our ideas. I know we all agree on certain things. But we have to compromise on other things. Example: Abortion. One of the hottest button issues because there is no stasis for argument. Pro Life or Pro Choice? For me, I’m torn between both because choice is guaranteed by the 14th amendment. Yet I’m also catholic so I can’t possibly support the killing of something that is alive. My position is Pro-Adoption. It gives a choice and saves the life of the baby. Also there are many parents out there who can’t have kids. My point here is that a compromise takes a little bit from each side and makes palatable to everyone. Compromise is something that our country was founded on. I strongly believe we should get back to that.

The forth factor is concerning the ends. I find it hilarious but helicopters and McNukes are a standard must have in any libertarian society. But lets all be honest its a little far fetched. I do believe that no taxes, open carry (guns), NAP and very small government are possible to have. I think we all have to be realistic about the ends. The ultimate goal is for everybody to live their life without the interference from government. But I think we miss the point that libertarian is also one of the most charitable types of societies. Its not fake charity like socialism and communism. In a libertarian society, you would give to the poor, give to the sick and give to government if you felt like it was worth it. Thats the wonderful thing about it, its your choice to give your money or not. Government is ineffective at helping people. But there is a million examples of where everyday people throw their support at something and get it done without government.

My conclusion is that we need to educate, vote, come together and be realistic about our ultimate goal of a libertarian society.  We can do it all once too. My inspiration was an article that basically said no more Libertarian party but we need a movement. In order to achieve a movement, we have to educate people on the benefits of joining this movement. We have to vote in politicians who reflect our positions. Its not going to be easy. The steps towards a libertarian society will be methodical. All I hope is that I see this libertarian society come to fruition before my time is up. I’m still young so I got hope.

Just remember kids, Taxation is Theft.

Thanks For Reading!

 

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Beating A Dead Horse: Fallacy of Minimum Wage and Rise of Welfare

The topic of minimum wage seems to really boil my blood. I write about it constantly. I don’t know if I can link all the posts its in without making a paragraph of it. In this post, I want to reiterate some of my usual arguments about minimum wage. However, I want to connect two things that are eerily related. Many people who think that McDonald’s and other workers of low skill level jobs need a living wage are the same people who say welfare is necessary because of the low wages. The liberal mission of a living wage is a misguided pipe-dream. The conservative theory that cutting all welfare at once is a solution that also will not work. Ever since the mid 1960s, the United States has been nothing short of obsessed with welfare and minimum wage. We depend it, like a cigarette addict who depends on cigarettes for nicotine. You can try to quit cold turkey or you can say fuck it and smoke more cigarettes because why quit when you’ve already damaged your lungs. I want to present something similar to what the e-cigarette has done for smokers. A new innovative way for the United States to free itself from this trap of living wages and welfare.

Recently, I came across these articles claiming that Minnesota had fix their state economy while Kansas had wrecked it. Minnesota elected a new democratic governor who raised taxes and increased minimum wage and saw a positive effect on the economy. Meanwhile in Kansas, they elected a tea party candidate. The governor of Kansas proceeded to cut four government departments and Medicaid. He cut the department of education and others. He lowered taxes for the rich. Kansas nearly went bankrupt.  It’s interesting that the total population of Kansas and Minnesota is about 7 or 8 million people. Kings County or otherwise known as Brooklyn has 2.6 million people, about same number of people as Kansas. New York City has a total of 8.6 million people as much both of those states combined. Just for some scale. I think when you look at tax plans and government philosophies, you can’t just look at results like “Oh the democratic way is definitely better because of Minnesota and the conservative technique sucks because look at Kansas!”

I believe that you have to take into account how many people are in the state and the unique-ness of that state. Kansas and Minnesota have completely different populations. They have different income per capita. They are in different geographic locations. Now I think that there are flaws with both GOP and Liberal ways of taxation and spending. As a libertarian, I can appreciate what the Kansas governor was trying to do. But he was too hasty, and didn’t have clear alternative that actually worked. I think the flaws with liberal system really tell you all about why minimum wage doesn’t work. The first flaw is that minimum wage can’t possibly help the worker as they claim it will. You have to realize that a minimum or base wage means it’s the least any worker can make. When you raise the base wage that means you raise the production costs of every company in the country, state or county. It affects all businesses. Businesses don’t just pay out wages. They have to pay taxes, regulatory fees, stock, transportation, supplies, retirement. Its bad enough that workers wages already take up to 50 or 60 percent of the profits in most businesses.

The worst effect of rasing minimum wage is felt by small business or franchised businesses. I have worked in franchised businesses for about 6 years now. A franchised is a separately owned business that pays to have the corporations name on it. The corporation sets the rules and standards and the franchisee is responsible for turning a profit. When you raise minimum wage you really hurt any small business or franchisee. I can personally tell you that at some McDonald’s they don’t even make a million dollars in a year. The one I worked at, only made about 500,000 in profit. Minimum wage is a small business killer, it’s not fair. Big corporations don’t care if you raise the minimum wage because they can take it. They are multinational corporations that make millions worldwide. You may say ok but low wages means we need more welfare right?  What we need is to keep the government out of the price setting business. Minimum wage increases the costs of everything. A lower wage would go further because production cost are lower. That is why other countries take our businesses, you can pay their workers less.

I’ll admit that we need some type of welfare. We cannot just cut medicare and Medicaid. We can’t just collapse social security. We need to help anyone who can’t work because of a mental or physical condition. We need to help people save for retirement. We need to support to the unemployed. The question is how to do all that without raising our debt even more. Currently, the welfare system in the United States cost about 700 billion dollars each year. This 700 billion on the taxpayer’s dime, aka you and me. It’s a complex and complicated system with multiple government agencies. The bureaucracy is ridiculous. I have written about basic income before and I strongly recommending read it. In that post about Basic Income, I propose a simple solution to the problem of welfare. Although it may not be as simple as I explain it. My central argument is that if 700 billion is spent on welfare each year then we install a basic income of about 2000 dollars to each resident over 18. The cost is about 500 billion for a basic income. We then replace our current welfare system with this basic income. Obviously there are kinks and certain regulations that would necessary especially when it comes to the unemployed and taxation. In my estimation, I believe that we could save 200 billion a year.

Here is my original post:

Basic Income: $2000

Population over 18: 244 million

Monthly cost of Basic Income: $488,000,000,000 billion

Monthly cost of welfare: 700 Billion

Savings by Government:$212,000,000,000 Billion dollars.

My point is that minimum wage doesn’t pull anybody out of poverty and neither does welfare. However, it is necessary to have both because we are a first world country. I believe that our government just doesn’t run anything that efficiently. I think that a ton of money is wasted on government programs that could be done by the private sector. I also believe that basic income is the solution between tea party economics and a full-fledged socialist economy. In beginning I used the analogy of a smoker trying to quit. I believe if keep minimum wage reasonably low, and we install basic income to replace our current welfare system, the United States could start to fix the other problems that plague our nation. I think that both parties and libertarians can get behind this idea. For liberals, it maintains the idea that people should be helped by the government and it would be taxpayer money paying for basic income.  For conservatives and libertarians, it keeps the government reach out of people’s lives. It eliminates a large of chunk of government-run services. It also could help bring our national debt down or pay for other projects.

I hope that this was an informative and though provoking piece. Feel free to research anything I have said. I won’t say that I was right about everything and I left out exact details. However, I think my argument is a viable one that should be considered by everyone.

Thank you for reading!

Illegal Search and Seizure: Finds Fourth Amendment cases.

In my last post which you can read here, I wrote about flag burning and how it is protected by the first amendment. I also mentioned that I love constitutional law and it’s because of my affinity I am back with another Supreme Court related post. The nitty-gritty of the constitution really excites me. Don’t ask me if that is good or bad because I honestly don’t know. But what I do know is that I think constitutional law is rarely considered in every day conversation unless you are a lawyer, judge, paralegal or politician. So I am hoping to make it a topic of interest. Today I want to present to you the fourth amendment. I find the fourth amendment to be an interesting one. It becomes especially interesting in the light of protests against police violence. Before I introduce the two cases which I believe every citizen needs to know about; I want to (hopefully) re-introduce the fourth amendment.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The fourth amendment sounds pretty straightforward. It’s wording is less vague than some of the other amendments. The amendment covers two main areas in criminal law, search and seizure. The problem with the amendment is that since 1789, the technology boom has dramatically changed the meaning of search and seizure as it pertains to the constitution. The video camera’s evolution from a huge solid brick on someones shoulder to something microscopic enough to fit in a phone that goes in your pocket. The constant stream of live video has forever altered the fourth amendment. I believe that like the first amendment, the fourth amendment protects some necessary rights even if those rights lead to objectionable or even offensive things.

With that being said, this post sets out to define two baseline Supreme Court cases that have been heard by the Supreme Court. I think the best way to understand Supreme Court cases and constitutional law is to actually look at and try to analyze the court cases. I believe it gives you a much deeper understanding of the law. I’m a firm believer that hearing two sides or more of an argument can be helpful in educating a person on any given subject. This post and others like it, are for me a test of my own knowledge. Like I said before I had only one class of constitutional law. I never took criminal justice or law classes. However, I do have a pretty good understanding because I have self-educated on this subject. Rare I know. So I’d like to present the two cases of Mapp vs. Ohio and Weeks vs. United States.

I want to start with Weeks vs. the United States which handed their decision in 1914. The Weeks case holds origin of the Exclusionary Rule which I will explain after this. In this case, the Court had to decide this basic question about the fourth amendment: What use can be made of evidence gained in an illegal search? This was one of many questions but it is the most important. The Court was seeking to use the fourth amendment as protection. This case was about a man who was arrested and brought to trial on evidence obtained illegally. You can read all the background here. The Court decided that Weeks who had his office and home searched without a warrant was unfairly tried. The Court overturned Weeks’ case because of the evidence was gained by illegal which means obtain without a warrant.

The most important opinion from the Weeks v. United States is one delivered by Justice Day who writes that “illegally gained evidence “fruit of the poison tree” and ordered that illegally gained evidence be excluded in the future from any federal court.” The court decided unanimously to overturned the case and establish an important constitutional law called the Exclusionary Rule. The Exclusionary rule as set by the Week’s case says that in federal court, any evidence obtained without a warrant is inadimissible in court. The Exclusionary Rule protects people from illegal searches. This is exactly what the court set out to do. The Supreme Court wasn’t done with the Exclusionary as some years later another case came along called Mapp vs. Ohio. The Mapp case would expand the rule even further.

The Mapp vs. Ohio came to the Supreme Court in 1961. It was a decision that cited Weeks vs. United States as a precedent. It also expanded the Exclusionary Rule to the state courts as well as the federal courts. You can read the background of the case right here. The court decided in a 5-4 vote that the evidence against Mapp was obtained illegally or without a warrant. It was a different set of cirumstances than Weeks however, it applied to the same constitutional fourth amendment rights. Justice Clark gave this conclusion near the end of his opinion. It will sum up the case in better terms than I could put it myself.

Having once recognized that the right to privacy embodied in the Fourth Amendment is enforceable against the States, and that the right to be secure against rude invasions of privacy by state officers is, therefore, constitutional in origin, we can no longer permit that right to remain an empty promise. Because it is enforceable in the same manner and to like effect as other basic rights secured by the Due Process Clause, we can no longer permit it to be revocable at the whim of any police officer who, in the name of law enforcement itself, chooses to suspend its enjoyment. Our decision, founded on reason and truth, gives to the individual no more than that which the Constitution guarantees him, to the police officer no less than that to which honest law enforcement is entitled, and, to the courts, that judicial integrity so necessary in the true administration of justice.

I believe that the fourth amendment is even important today. I know that these cases are now very old. The Weeks vs. United States case was decided over 100 years ago. The Mapp vs. Ohio case was decided nearly 55 years ago. But I think that Court need to make a general rule especially considering the ever expanding technology boom. The Exclusionary Rule will protect people from being tried on illegally obtain evidence. I think that alone ensures a fair trial. Not to mention all the other rights that guarentee a fair trial.

Of course, unless you have committed a crime there’s not much applicable to this amendment. However, I do find interesting with the NSA and the spying on everyday citizens. One has to think that some day there will be case filled against the federal government for spying and violating the fourth amendment. That isn’t say that it won’t happen  but I believe there probably are few cases making their way. It would be ground breaking if the court ruled on a decision that made the government’s spying on people without a warrant or reason illegal. I don’t know of any cases of people actually being tried for potential crimes based on the NSA spying. But I imagine one of the defenses would be the fourth amendment.

To wrap up this blog post, I just want to say that its important to know your constitutional rights because you never know when you might need them. This is also part of the reason why I write about them. I realize its not the most exhilrating subject. I hope you enjoyed this, there will definitely be more coming soon!

Thank You!

Flag Burning: A Burning First Amendment Controversy.

If you haven’t heard already, President-Elect Donald Trump wants to make flag burning a crime. A federal crime. In case you were born yesterday, this is not a new or radical position to hold. Although flag burning is highly disrespectful and controversial, it is protected by the first amendment. The freedom of speech has been interpreted in many ways since the original amendment was written. I wanted to weigh in on the controversy or as I’d like to characterize it a non-story. Before I get into why I think flag burning shouldn’t be penalized, I want to explain in some depth analysis about how the Supreme Court came down on flag burning. If you don’t know already, I’m a huge nerd and love looking at policies and politics. One of my absolute favorite branches of government is the Judiciary branch.

If someone told me I could be whatever I wanted for the rest of my life, I think a Supreme Court Justice or Constitutional lawyer would be in the top 3, right along side NFL Quarterback and Historian. The fact is I love the constitution and its intricacies and I’ve studied many of the men who wrote it. I think the document is a testament to the human experiment. The constitution is ageless, timeless and perfectly logical. The language is quite simply genius. The beauty of our constitution is that it can interpreted many different ways and that allows the US to have flexibility like no other nation before us. I honestly believe that most people don’t truly understand the constitution. The truth is that what they teach you in elementary school up to highschool is all true. The constitution sets up the rules and rolls of the government. The Bill of Rights is much deeper than just guaranteed rights by nature but it’s how the actual laws of this country are defined.

All of this introduction to say that the first amendment was written to protect many different types of speech. I took a constitution law class in college. One of my hardest and most favorite classes of all time. I really got my affinity for the constitution during the class. However, the class required me to memorize approximately 20 to 30 supreme courts cases on a few different topics. I had to know the facts, the reasoning, the ruling , the dissent and sometimes the precedents. So before we can discuss the case of flag burning, we should probably read over the first amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. 

For this particular case, Texas vs. Johnson, we want to focus on “abridging the freedom of speech”.  The freedom of speech is pretty vague phrase which is why flag burning is protected. If you want to read about the whole case, I would recommend doing that here. I won’t be going over the ‘facts’ because it’s not that important other than to say that quite a few states tried to pass laws to make flag burning a crime. Those states, specifically Texas tried to prosecute someone named Gregory Lee Johnson for burning a flag. Now the court decided that the issue with the flag burning was whether or not its protected by symbolic speech. In order to understand the phrase ‘symbolic speech’ in a constitutional meaning, you have to know two other supreme court cases. In other words, the court cited two precedent.

In Stromberg vs. California, this was case where the court decided that California could not ban red flags. It was unconstitutional because it was protected by symbolic speech and due process (a 14th amendment right). It was a landmark case because it gave symbolic speech the protection of due process. Which if you missed that in history class, due process protects the denial of life, liberty or property by the government, outside the sanction of the law. In other words, the government has to have a legitimate reason to pass a law that is vague or unfair.  The second precedent which I believe is slightly more relevant and well-known is Tinker vs. the Des Moines Independence Community School. In this case, the court voted 7-2 in favor of kids wearing black armbands to school as symbolic speech. It is the most cited and often best supported argument for symbolic speech. The students were voicing their opposition to the Vietnam war with the black armbands and the court justified this as their right because “students and teachers don’t shed their rights to freedom and expression at the schoolhouse gates.” This is how symbolic speech has been defined in the past. If you read the actual briefs, the judges cite many cases but these two clearly show how symbolic speech is protected especially as pertains to flag burning.

In Texas vs. Johnson, the Supreme Court handed down a ruling of 5-4. The Majority opinion was written by Justice William Brennan. The dissenting opinion written by Justice Stevens. The court ruled that flag burning was in fact protected by symbolic speech. Why? The court decided that the Texas law used viewpoint to try to justify the ban of flag burning. Court said that viewpoint wasn’t justifiable objection alone. However, it did exempt flag burning to get rid of an old flag. They also said that the offensiveness of flag burning is notwithstanding in a law to ban it. Now to me, this might bring up the another constitutional issue of obscenity, however, I’ll leave that for a different post.

The dissenting opinion by Justice Stevens was that flag burning should be ban because of the flags unique symbolization of the unity of America. Justice Steven was suggesting that national unity outweight symbolic speech and free speech. Whether you agree or disagree with either opinion, I think there is a fundamental problem with Justice Stevens argument. I believe from what I’ve heard that Donald Trump pretty much has the same line of reasoning. The fundamental problem is that suspending freedom of speech or symbolic speech in just one instance, could lead to future expansions of that suspension. What I mean is that if flag burning becomes illegal because it’s a symbol of unity, then eventually that might turn to censorship of the press, the quelling of protests, and the silencing of the people. This flies directly in the face of the first amendment, which says prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom speech.

So I believe the court got this right the first time. Now you ask the question, what does that say about your loyalty to the American Flag and the country itself if you support flag burning? Well, the answer is easy. I am a loyal American who votes and participates in our wonderful republican democracy. I do not support flag burning. I think it’s really disrespectful because our troops have fought for that flag. They have given up everything for that flag to wave in the air. They died for that flag and our country. My grandfather was enlisted in the military during World War 2. He served his country and help make the flag a symbol for peace, liberty and unity. What I do support is anybody’s right to burn the flag in protest or anger or hate or honor. It doesn’t matter the viewpoint of why your burning it. The fact is not everyone will agree with your decision. There is no way to possibly legislate a viewpoint. Its an opinion, not a fact. Therefore I believe that Justice Brennan and the Majority opinion was the correct one. Justice Stevens dissent is fundamentally flawed.

I hope that you found this to be somewhat educational and interesting. I didn’t want to bore out every single detail. I’m also hoping to do more this type of post. Constitutional law is fun to me and its interesting, challenging and tedious. I think its a very cognitive thought producing process that can really expand your argumentative skills and make you consider the simplest facets of life and how they are related to the government. What people say that politics doesn’t interest them, I wish I had the time and attention to explain them that it matters deeply to every individual. The constitution protects our freedoms which allows many people to ignore the fact that politics is in everybody interests especially in democracy. Trust me, the founding fathers experience a government that was unresponsive and didn’t allow them representation. They fought a war to govern themselves. The beauty of the revolution was the ability to participate in your own governing.

Thank you for reading!

On the Basis of Democracy: Aristotle Part 1

I am so happy to be writing again. I took nearly a month off because the election just made me really want to stay out of politics. It was so demoralizing and embarrassing. Just glad that it’s over. Now with the election over and the reaction starting to cool down, I want to swing my blog into more a history based content. My true passion is history. This specific blog post is going to analyze some of the classic political writings and philosophers. Don’t worry I won’t bore you to death with just some biographies. I want to present a logical argument for a representative democracy. My last post touched on this with Alexander Hamilton writing the 68th Federalist paper. Just to recap, Hamilton presents an argument for the Electoral college that says that a small group of people who have the ability to make a decision is better than having it rest just on the everyday person. Hamilton argues that its crops out the corruption and makes sense when trying to determine who should be elected. Hamilton’s brilliant argument became my own in my defense of the Electoral college. I want to build on the representative nature of the Electoral college that makes our democracy so unique.

I want to introduce two figures of political history. One is an ancient greek and the other an Englishmen from the 17th century. Hamilton was so well versed in all political philosophers. It shows in his Federalist paper 68. I think that its important to know about where the founding fathers got their inspiration and at times their whole concept. Many people who I know and meet, are understandably ignorant on political philosophy. Unless you are a political fanatic or you love philosophy then you probably don’t know much about these two figures. For the sake of this blog post, I want present some of the most relevant theories of Aristotle and John Locke that regard democracy.

Democracy is synonymous with America. Democracy in latin means commoner. Democracy is associated with freedom. Democracy is in the words of Thomas Jefferson: ‘We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union’. (If you didn’t know, the preamble of the constitution starts like that) The question or argument that I will be presenting is simply what is the basis for a democracy? Why is Democracy such a successful system of government? These are just some of the questions that may or may not be answered because I don’t believe there is just one answer. History is not an exact science when it comes to the ‘Why’. (Also known as the five W’s: What, When, Where, Who and Why. A simple way to remember how to think about a historical topic)

Aristotle was greek philosopher and lived from 384 to 322 BCE. He wrote on hundreds of different topics ranging from family life to science to politics. One of his political writings is on democracy. First, you have to realize that Aristotle was a student of Plato who had a more utopian view of society. Aristotle was the first realist. He thought that the political community was the top of society. The political community is responsible for the education, health and governance of the rest. In his writings on the best democracy he lays out a few main points. One of these points about political community being a guide: “that human life has a telos and that the political community should provide education and laws that will lead to people pursuing and achieving this telos. Given that this is the case, a regime that allows people to do whatever they want is in fact flawed, for it is not guiding them in the direction of the good life.”  This is just a summary but in simpler terms, Aristotle believes that everyone has a spirit of good in them. This spirit of good needs to guided by the political community aka the democratic government to reach what he calls the good life or happy life.

Similar to Plato, who also believed that there was level of happiness that could be achieved that was above anything in the human experience. However unlike Plato, Aristotle believed that the best democracy was made up of farmers. His reasoning is that farmers or herders are less likely to assemble and own less land.  They offer a democracy the least path of resistance. You might conclude that some of the success of American democracy can be credited with large farming industry starting before and going well after the revolution. Aristotle thinks that a democracy made up of farmers and ruled by “This is a reason why the authoritative offices can be in the hands of the wealthy, as long as the people retain control of auditing and adjudication: “Those who govern themselves in this way must necessarily be finely governed. The offices will always be in the hands of the best persons, the people being willing and not envious of the respectable, while the arrangement is satisfactory for the respectable and notable. These will not be ruled by others who are their inferiors, and they will rule justly by the fact that others have authority over the audits” .  For the purpose of this argument, I think that Aristotle makes an interesting point with  words that I underlined. Let me explain.

What Aristotle means by authority over the audits is that the people must retain control of the budgets of public spending and they should be liable to be persecuted if there is wrongdoing. Aristotle considers adjudication as a right to fair trial by being judged by your peers. I find it so interesting that in ancient greek times, Aristotle is basically laying some constitutional principles that our founding fathers definitely included in our democracy. I also feel that politicians being liable to persecution is not met across the board with all public officials. I think that sometimes politicians are protected for personal gain and to avoid political suicide. Politics is literally a house of cards, because politicians depend on each other more than they let on.

I think Aristotle remains one of the most amazing and interesting philosophers. These writings occurred well over 2000 years ago. It makes you think about just how smart the Greeks were. Let me be honest though, the Greeks did not make the perfect government by any means. Their democracy in Athens was a true democracy with a senate. The voting took place with only land owning men. The politics were corrupt and dirty. There were demagogues that rose up and messed up their elections. However, the greeks set the stage for the Roman Empire which lasted 8 centuries and used a form of democracy for some of that time.

One of things I love about Aristotle is that he is a realist. His perspective mirrors my own in that the most capable people should be in a position to run the government. However, their power should not go unchecked. In a very indirect way, Aristotle is advocating for checks and balances,  the part where he says: “authoritative offices can be in the hands of the wealthy, as long as the people retain control of auditing and adjudication:” . The people need to be in control of the government. I believe this is a problem in our American democracy. We don’t hold the government accountable for anything. When it comes to spending our money or making foreign policy decisions.

To wrap this post up, I want to say in Aristotle’s view of democracy he had envision a simple concept where by the political community and the wealthy educate and govern the farmers and herders. However, the farmers and other common folk hold the purse strings and judge their peers. Aristotle contemplates a fair system of democracy that I believe gave us the foundation to America. America started out as farming settlement in North America. The wealthy men of the settlement decide to wage a revolution and break free from Britain over a variety of reasons including taxes. The ruling class has always been primarily wealthy. However, the biggest change is the modernization of farming which has led to its decline. This is the challenge to our future democracy.

Stay Tuned within a week for Part 2 on John Locke. Thank you for reading! Have a great day!

Citation text: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Economic Series Part 3: What is Gross Domestic Product?

Welcome to the third part of my economic series. This final part will explain what GDP is and why it is so often used as politicians go to economic figure of success or failure. Gross Domestic Product or GDP as I will call it by the acronym, is an economic indicator. It measures a very specific part of the economy in any given country. If you have not read parts ONE and TWO of this economic series I strongly suggest that you do. My first two parts of the series describe the arguments for and against minimum wage in part one. In part two, I  go over the basics of government budget and taxation. It’s important to recognize that economics is a very complex subject and many topics involved having an understanding of other topics. In this case, I think that GDP is definitely the most advanced of all the topics that I have covered thus far. In order to properly discuss GDP and the politics that usually surround it, I feel its necessary to explain how it come to be and what it involves.

The book that has inspired me to write on this topic and my primary source of information is called GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History by Diane Coyle. Coyle’s book gives a full rundown of everything GDP. I would strongly recommend it because this post won’t even cover 1/4 of what she does in this book. Coyle gives a simple word breakdown of GDP. Gross meaning not deducted as opposed to net (Her example was like net weight of a cereal box, it’s only the weight of the cereal without the packaging) Product meaning stuff made, and Domestic is simply at home.(Page 7) GDP is much more complex than the three simple words that make up its name. The history and founding of GDP begins at the start of World War II. However, the idea goes back throughout the ages.

One of the many controversies over GDP that still exist today was first explored by one of the greatest economic scholars to ever write. Adam Smith wrote the Wealth of Nations. In his book, he went over some relevent facts of GDP. His point to paraphrase is this: The manufacturer that produces something with their labor creates value and adds it to the economy. The person who employs many menial servants grows poor while the person who employs many manufacturers grows rich. The point here being that Smith sees the production of goods as adding value to an economy. He sees the services of a servant or a service in general adds nothing. GDP has often not included services because it’s too hard to measure the true output of a teacher. Also the word “Product” in GDP lends itself to the production of goods not services. (Page 10)

GDP’s history comes out of collection of statistical data and economists. Colin Clark calculated the expenditures and national income of the United Kingdom. Clark based his work on a publication by Alfred Marshall who wrote Principals of Economics before the Great Depression. Franklin Roosevelt encourage more research and work on the national income and expenditures during the Great Depression. This led to Simon Kuznets to work with the National Bureau of Economic Research, which earned him a nobel prize. One of things that Kuznets brought up is an important facet of GDP. Kuznets thought that he was working to measure welfare rather than just output. GDP is often used to measure the welfare of any given country. However, because like I said previously, GDP is typically measured by the output of an economic. The problem of welfare and GDP is one of modern criticisms of GDP. Coyle dedicates two chapters to the subject of GDP and welfare. (Page 12-14)

I want to focus more on the particulars of GDP and how it’s calculated. Coyle covers this topic quite well. I want to save welfare and GDP for another post because it’s too much for this post. Coyle goes over the three different ways to measure and calculate GDP. She gives a two charts. One chart shows how these calculations are done. Since I don’t have the chart, I will just describe each way. The first way is a Value Added production. Value Added production adds up the Gross Output. The gross output is the all the sales made in an economy. The gross output excludes the inventory because it’s counted by the next category of intermediate inputs. Which stuff like staffing, inventory, and other things that businesses pay money for to make their business work. Finally you get to a number that tells you how much value added each industry in an economy.

The second way to calculate GDP is through Income (by type) approach. This approach uses a set of different incomes and expenditures to make final figure of Total Domestic Incomes earned. There are rental income, profits and proprietors’ income, Taxes on production and imports, Less: Subsidies, Interest and miscellaneous payments, and depreciation. These are the categories of the Income (by type) approach. The third way to calculate GDP is through Final Demand (or Expenditures) approach. This approach uses the sum of these categories to make up the final sales of domestic product to purchasers. The categories are the consumption of final goods and services by households; Investment in plant, equipment, and software; Government expenditures on good and services; and net exports of goods and services (export-import). No matter how you calculate GDP, the measurement always is trying measure how much an economy produces and what kind of income the country who benefits from it makes. (Page 25-26)

The most popular and most used method in modern times is the Expenditures approach. Coyle also goes over the equation along with an awesome chart. The equation simply is GDP= C+I+G+(X-M). The letters stand for Consumer Spending plus Investment plus government spending plus exports less imports. (Trade deficit/surplus). Coyle also tries to show some problems with the GDP equation which is mostly that GDP is not so simple. The categories have multiple sub-categories. There is a lot of gray area. The numbers can be shaky. However, in the end GDP is the most reliable measurement of economy. Coyle mentions other indicators which can help round out the welfare aspect and government impact. The awesome chart I was referring is a two circles. On the left side there is the word “Individuals” and on the right side there is “Business”. The top of the circles, have two words. On the bottom circle it says Expenditures, and on the top circle it says Goods and Services. In the lower two circles, the top one says Income and the bottom says Labor. (page 26-27)

The story is that Individuals and Businesses interact in two different ways. The circles represent the different ways. The bigger circle with Labor and Goods and Services basically shows that Individuals supply the labor for business. The Business supplies the good and services. This is basic economics, it shows a supply/demand for labor and good and services.  The smaller circle with Expenditures and Income show that Businesses supply the Individual with income and the Individual supplies the business with Expenditures. The vice-versa is also true. Businesses make income on the Individual’s expenditures. This is a simple economics lesson that can help you understand GDP. (Page 27)

GDP is an important facet of economic measurement of any given country. As Coyle notes in later chapters which this post won’t cover, that GDP is not accurate in second and third world countries because of faulty accounting and statistics. She also covers a great deal of debate over whether welfare should be measured by GDP or not. These are more complex questions than I really want to go. I think the point of this post is to say that GDP is important to understand. GDP is not a true measure of welfare. It’s the statistical measure of economic input and output. As an example, GDP measures the number of phones that Apple sells after the release of the Iphone 7. It doesn’t take into account the welfare of the people who buy those phones. GDP is also a political tool especially when it comes to arguing over the economy.

Moving away from Coyle’s book in some ways, I want to briefly discuss why politicians like to use GDP. I think that much of the political controversy surrounding the use of GDP comes from the myths of GDP. Many people don’t realize the history of GDP. The misunderstanding of what GDP represents. Many politicans including present candidates for President seem to think that GDP shows how well the economy doing or more often how bad it’s doing. However, the reality is that GDP can fluctuate just based on how you calculate it. One increase or decrease in any given category there could be a 1-2 percent fluctuation. Another important myth to dispel is that government spending actually helps GDP. The debate that surrounds government spending and its effect on the economy is prevalent.

This is where I want to end this post and this series for now. My last words is that government spending doesn’t necessary make for the best economic move. The problem with government spending is that the government is NOT a business. Government makes their money from taxpayers. Its mandatory, you can’t just not pay taxes. It also makes a problem with counting the statistics for GDP. The government doesn’t have a real income with the exception taxes. This means that when the government tries to invest in anything it only represents an expenditure. If you recall the chart, the point of an economy is a cycle of labor into good and services that make income provided by expenditures. One example, that I know the best is that of the spending on the military. Military spending has often been one of the biggest items on US government budget. The national debt is nearly 20 trillion dollars. Some scholars have estimated that 16 trillion of that was spent during the cold war on military research and wars. The way that the DOD (Department of Defense) and the government have gone about spending this money is the problem. The military contracts assigned to military contractors during these years were given without little scrutiny. Many of the biggest contractors were able to contracts with no competition. The contracts included very little accountability or responsiblity especially in regards to money spent.

The point being is that GDP has actually suffered since the Cold War. This mainly due to stagnant economy. I mentioned that GDP doesn’t measure services which now is the most prominent feature of our economy. The reckless spending and bad fiscal policy by the government has given us some unfortunate consequences. GDP will always be controversial because of its complexity. I believe that its important to understand how GDP works. If you understand economics and GDP then you can understand that fallacy that politicians try to push on us. For me, this topic is fairly new but I wanted to try to introduce a little bit of the controversy and facts of economics and GDP.

Thanks you for reading! Have a great day!

 

Citation:

Coyle, Diane. GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History. Prinction University Press, 2014. 

 

Economic Series Part 2: Government Budget: Taxation and Spending

The most dreaded time of year is when everyone must file their taxes. Taxes are certain like death. Taxes are a necessary evil. To many people it seems that our taxes do very little for our own interests. Taxes are supposed to help the people who pay them but rather they seem to help special interests or people who don’t pay them. The responsible party of handing our taxes is the government. The IRS is the collector, Congress is the spender. I believe that this Economic Series Part 2 is probably one of the more important topics. This part will be a sort of contextual background for the last part of this series on GDP. (Gross Domestic Product) I think its very important to understand how the government balances or fails to balance the budget. The topic I choose is quite broad. However, I want to focus on why taxes are collected and how they are spent. I also want to point out how the national debt is growing and what we might do to stop it.

My own view on government taxation and spending is very much libertarian. I believe the government should spend as little as possible. This way our taxes are not the burden they have become. Government spending tends to go to ineffective programs and usually becomes wasteful. I think the best way to understand the federal government budget is by understanding some of the history behind. The creation of our federal budget and tax system was mostly implemented by one man. Alexander Hamilton is the responsible person for most our budget system.  If you remember from history class there was a lot of rebellion and distrust among the citizens of our new country. Many of Hamilton’s critics thought he wanted to become a pawn of the British or king of America through a tight relationship with England. Luckily for us, Hamilton’s set up turned out to be brilliant, and was kept in place until now.

One of the first ways that Hamilton helped set up the federal budget was by creating an import and customs service. It was necessary because when Hamilton became the secretary of treasury, the US had a war debt due to the revolution. In order to pay this war debt off, Hamilton created what is now the Coast Guard. He also set up customs and import agents along the ports. These agents were to collect the duties on the imports to America. The duties or tariffs were basically a tax on imported goods. This was the main source of income for the federal government after the Revolution. Another piece of the system that Hamilton created was the banking system. Hamilton realized that the US need a national bank. In part because of the debt and in part because of the wide range of currencies that existed among the former colonies. The Bank of America (similar to the one we have now) was created. Congress wrote a charter for it and it opened up by selling shares. These shares is how the bank made its money. The controversy came when it lead a lot money speculating among men who wanted to risk an investment in the bank.

The Bank of America also set up a line of credit for the federal government. This is was necessary because in order to pay back the war debt the US would need to take out a loan. Hence this created what we call credit. Hamilton’s system was much criticized by Republicans like Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. One of Hamilton’s primary supporters was actually George Washington. With increasing responsibility due to the growing population and turmoil in France, the US needed to increase its revenue. Hamilton proposed and got a whiskey tax passed. This whiskey tax would put a small tax on whiskey and liquor. This lead to the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. Hamilton himself lead a rather big militia to help quell this protest.

Hamilton’s role in the banking, budget and tax collection in the US is monumental. It is often forgotten that he nearly created the whole system by himself. An impressive feat. It wasn’t until the 16th amendment that make income tax a thing in the US. This was passed in 1913 long after Hamilton’s death. Woodrow Wilson brought us into the modern era of taxes with the 16th amendment and the Federal Reserve Act. The Federal Reverse Act created the Fed as its usually called. The Federal Reserve Act basically moderates the US dollar according to the economic conditions. It also prints and controls the US dollar. Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve is mostly privatized. You may have heard the phrase “Audit the Fed” from politicians like Rand and Ron Paul. The problem is essentially, the Fed is undermining the US dollar and devaluing it. The Fed has its own agenda and nobody except the Fed knows what that agenda is. (Another post, another day)

Now in 2016, after over 200 years running our government, we find ourselves in 19 trillion-dollar debt. What could have gone wrong since Hamilton? The answer is hard to pinpoint. However, my working theory is that after War World 2, during the cold war, we started to spend more and more on defense. Defense spending became out of control and the Department of Defense was not held accountable. The DoD was allowed to “cook the books” on their budget numbers. Some estimates that I’ve seen put our spending during the Cold War at 16 trillion dollars. I would encourage you to check the national debt clock that shows our debt in real-time. It breaks down the debt into categories. The national debt being so high is due to overzealous spending and lack of accountability in the government.

As for a breakdown in spending and what we spend our tax money on. I found a nice infographic that shows how we spend our federal budget. It focuses on how the debt is effected by certain factors like raising and lowering taxes. You should definitely check it out right now. It’s from the Congressional Budget Office, a government agency. I think that paying taxes is obviously important however, I believe that some of our tax dollars are wasted. One of things that needs to happen is for the federal government to cut spending. Unfortunately, we don’t hold our government accountable for the money that it spends. A good analogy is like when you take your parents credit card and go on shopping spree. Your parents may give you the credit card with a reasonable expectation of what you will be spending it on.  Instead though, you spend it without any kind regard for how much or on what. Imagine if your parents never held you accountable for spending all their money. They would probably go bankrupt in most cases because without restrictions, then what’s the point of spending less?

This is how the federal government and taxpayer relationship basically works. The federal government is you as teenager with a parent’s credit card. The taxpayers are the parents. As taxpayers we are pretty irresponsible parents. We don’t hold our government accountable for their actions in spending money. The tragedy is that the US is in big trouble because of reckless government spending. The 19 trillion-dollar deficit is almost an insurmountable sum of money. Rather than discussing who is to blame for the problem, I think its more productive to discuss how to remedy it. The blame can be distributed to many people and government agencies. The blame can be put on US foreign policy too. However, there is a relatively easy and pain-free way to help cut the deficit and still keep our standard of living intact without raising taxes sky-high.

There are two primary solutions that I feel would work to greatly reduce our debt. One of those is a simple cut in unecesary government programs and spending. One of our biggest expenses is the military budget as you can see below:2016-budget-chart-total-spending2

So just imagine if we pulled back most of military troops from abroad and cut most of the unecessary research and development budet. I would only cut about half of the military budget. At nearly 634 billion dollars, let’s cut it down to 300 billion. The 300 billion left for the military would go towards the salaries of personnel mostly and all the war material necessary. In the case of an attack on us or our allies, then obviously the money could be restored. So where would that 334 billion that I cut off go to?

Take a look at the pie chart again. 60 precent of our budget is spend on healthcare and social security. Social Security, by the way is going bankrupt. So let’s put 334 billion into both of those. Approximately 150 billion to each service. In addtion, lets cut off the foreign aid to other countries and add another 30 billion to the pot. So imagine over eight years during just one president for two terms, with approximately 165 billion dollars going to sinking welfare programs. So in 8 years, the US would put nearly 2.6 trillion dollars into those welfare programs. You could even take a step further, take about 2 billion or 3 billion out of the 364 billion and put that into higher education. You could pay off the loans of all students each year. Just think about all this, this is just cutting the military budget by half. Which by the way, is nearly 10 times as big as the next country’s military budget.

My other option, which I have written about before and have over time, really have come to like is Basic Income. You should definitely read my post on Basic Income. I will explain in short, that Basic Income is basically a replacement for welfare. You cut all social programs including medicare and medicaid. Cut minimum wage. Cut everything related to social security.  Instead you give everyone over the age of 18 a check from the government for a certain amount each month. Now just imagine if we did as I describe in my basic income post and we cut the military budget. I truly believe that the effect of both of these actions could lower taxes and help eliminate the deficit.

The taxation and government budget problems are ones of responsibility and accountability. This in part comes from the lack of education how the taxes and spending work within the government. I hope that my brief explanation can help clear up some of the confusion and misunderstanding about how taxes and government budgets work. I mentioned that this series post prefaces my next topic of Gross Domestic Product. Its important to note that GDP is calculated without the input and outputs of the government. The government spending money on military war material and other research does not count towards GDP. This is a very significant fact in that it strongly affects the GDP numbers. As you will find out in my next post that GDP only measures the input of labor and the output of production by the private sector.

I would encourage you to research more outside of my post. Its a very interesting topic. Thank you for reading! Have a great day!