Libertarians United: Individual Rights

Everyone makes a joke now and again. In fact, I probably make way too many. Many of them cross them line of commonly socially acceptable topics. Joking is fine but I think there is something to be said for serious discussion. Often lost in the laughter is the actual points of my joke. I only use parody or satire because it gets the point across much quicker than frank discussion. You probably read title and thought you got rick-rolled? Don’t worry. I’m getting there. My last blog post was about the names that libertarians call themselves. Click here. I want libertarians, anarchists, ancaps to all unite. I believe that we can. I don’t mean in a collectivist way but in a united front. We are ALL natural allies. I think there is many things that we all agree on to some degree. But one of the things that we all agree on without much debate is individual rights.

Why Individual Rights?

If there is one thing the founders got right, it was individual rights. Thomas Jefferson wrote it in the declaration of independence, however, he meant white land owning men.  The constitution had it amended in the Bill of Rights which outline 10 specific individual rights. We all know that individual rights go much further than just the 10 in our constitution. Individuals are the smallest minority. Individuals make up groups. Individuals determine their own path in life. Of course, you have influences and different societal restrictions. But in the end, its the individual that decides who they want to be associated with and what they want to do. Individual rights isn’t divine. It stems from property.

Property Rights are the basis of individual freedom

The right to own property is the basis of individual rights. Why? The answer is simple its because when you own property it allows you to do whatever you want on that property. Its your own private island. Let’s face reality though, government today controls much of what we do on our private property. Its wrong. This is why when Anarcho-Communists argue for public property what they actually mean is, I want the government to own everything. If everything is owned by everybody, then taking whatever you please is not considered theft. But the reality is if you take somebody else’s things then its theft whether or not they actually own it or not. You didn’t ask permission. An-coms brings to another important point, the NAP.

Non-Aggression Principle

Whenever you try to argue with someone about a society with no government they always try to bring up some magical power void. My response is, well I see a giant power void in your brain. In a voluntary society, there won’t be government however, there will be one rule. NAP. The non-aggression principle basically means do whatever you want without violating the individual rights or freedoms of others. It means that you won’t do anything that could be a crime today. Many crimes like murder, burglary, extortion are crimes against others. Other victim-less crimes like selling drugs wouldn’t be a violation. The reason there won’t be a power void is because NAP doesn’t just say you have rights. You also have the right to enforce those rights with guns. This is why there is no power void because each individual is empowered.

OK Genius but I disagree.

Hold on, I got one point to make! Minarchists seem like a friendly ally but beware. I’ve recently learned that they actually tend to lean into statism more than I like. I can’t blame them it took me awhile to go full no government. But the more I look at the government in the US and UK fuck up everything, the more I think to myself imagine what life could be without it.  Minarchists believe in a limited government. Just the basic level services. But the problem with it is that government can’t help but grow itself. The problem is that human beings are self interested and greedy. Government is the avenue of power on the road to corruption. It masks itself in goodwill, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We can’t possibly trust government, it’s like trusting your spend-happy spouse with an American Express Black Card. You know your wife can’t help herself in a Louis Vutton store. Government is worse, 21 trillion dollars in national debt.

My Point: Lets rally around Individual rights

If there is one thing that we (Libertarians, Anarchists, Ancaps) can argue for as united front, it is individual rights. We don’t always have to agree on everything. In fact, I’m a big proponent of debate. I thrive on argument. Granted, changing my mind is hard but if you present a persuasive fact-based argument, then I’ll agree. Anyway, if libertarians want to be taken seriously unlike the LP then we have to present some form of consistency. Our ideologies are very similar. We have to give up our stubbornness and actually try work toward a common end. The means of getting there is up for debate. But the common goal is to achieve a voluntary society.  If you don’t believe in the ends then you might not belong, which is OK. We’re supposed to tolerate everyone except Communists. Be focused on principles of libertarianism and there is no disagreement that can separate us.

Taxation is Theft. Thanks for reading.

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A Name to Unite “Libertarians”?

As usual twitter hijinks has lead to an debate about confusion in libertarian circles. Nothing new to see here. The confusion comes in part from the fact that many “libertarians” have different names they like to go by. For example, I prefer to be known as a Libertarian. But I know others who like: Anarcho-Capitalist, Voluntaryist, Anarchist,..etc. The whole concept of naming your political affiliation is nothing new because everyone does it. The central question of this post is to figure if finding a common name for “Libertarians” would actually unite us or do we need to look deeper at our principles to unite us rather just a name.

Different Names for the Same thing

So I don’t  know the saying exactly, sue me. My example on twitter was this: If you call a flower, a “shit plant” it doesn’t change the fact that its a flower. On the other hand, if you call a piece of shit, a “flower” it doesn’t change the fact that its a piece of shit. With that being said, Do I think a common name could help unite us?  Maybe. Here is why I think it could: One of my twitter friends, suggested the name #Anarchasm. Which I thought was a pretty good one. I think a common name would better in terms of marketing. It would help cohesiveness among all libertarians. I think the arguments against are much stronger. Re-branding is something that collectivists do. Just because you rename your movement doesn’t necessarily translate into success. Also if you look at libertarian party which I do support in elections, they are a mess. The party markets itself wrong because it tries to equate itself as the middle of Democrats and Republicans. The reality is that libertarians are outsiders. We don’t believe in any government or any political parties. I would argue that each individual is a political party of one because individual rights are the only ones that matter.

Principles are too Important to be ignored

The most important aspect of this debate is whether the name we choose to go by, actually represents our common beliefs. If libertarians are to be successful in changing society to be more like our voluntary system then we need present the same goals and arguments. On twitter, its likely you will see debates about politics. Typically when multiple Libertarians get into a debate with a statist, they will disagree with the statist. However, some of them will disagree with each other, which doesn’t help the argument they are making. We have to follow our principles of voluntary exchange and voluntary action in marketing our beliefs. If we don’t follow our principles then we are no different than the statists. Don’t get me wrong: open debate about ideas is a good thing. However, debate in private, don’t present debate to the people whom you are trying to convert voluntarily. They will be LESS likely to join if they see we can’t even agree with each other.

What principles should we all have? 

I think its obvious that all we believe in capitalism as main economic engine. I think we all believe that the government is always evil. We all known that taxation is theft. We all believe that communism and socialism don’t work. Its important to note also, that principles are not just right and wrong. Principles of libertarians are merely guidelines for living your life. Your own morality is responsible for actual judgement what is right and wrong. If we all follow the same guidelines, then individual rights will flourish, and nobody will do wrong because as the Non-Aggression Principle states that you can’t deny or break anyone else’s rights. The individual rights are clearly defined by the Bill of Rights. However, its not a comprehensive list. Individuals have unlimited rights there is nothing that government or other individuals can take away legally.

The Debate will Continue: 

This blog post serves as an opinion of a debate that needs to take place within the libertarian circle. It is my firm belief that as libertarians we need to unite based on principles in order to successful launch our society of individualism. If we don’t, and if we try to re-brand under name with still fractured goals and arguments, we will fall into the collectivist mindset.

Keep pushing for liberty, keep debating, keep your mind focused on the goal of libertarianism which is total freedom. Drive the narrative, don’t let it drive you.

#Speakout

Thanks for reading. Comments and Criticism is appreciated and welcomed.

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Part 2: Monetary policy and Trump’s Tariff debacle

Before you start reading this post you should go to part 1 if you aren’t familiar with supply/demand curve and “dead weight loss”. 

In the first part of this post, I will be discussing Trump’s tariff debacle. It is a little misleading but enacting tariffs can only end in a debacle. In today’s world, we have globalization and free trade around the world. The world is much too interconnected to put protectionists policies in place is like moving backwards. I want to re-highlight these points even though I mentioned them in my other tariffs post here.  In the second part of this post, I will go over one or maybe two common monetary policies utilized by the Federal Reserve (Central Bank). The policies will be in relation to tariffs because they have to do with the actual money supply. I won’t go too far into detail, lets get right to Trump.

Globalization and Free Trade are the New Norm:

If you haven’t read the tariff post linked above then here is a brief recap about globalization and free trade. Globalization is spread of goods, people and cultures all over the world. In today’s world, if you look at how the internet let’s people access information instantly, and how you can literally go anywhere by plane, boat or car. This is globalization. The exchanging of information with people from all over world, it has us more interconnected than anytime in human history!

This connection has lead multiple free trade agreements. There are many more pending. My point is that Trump cannot possibly ignore this. Trump’s problem is, as I see it, he is thinking like the US is his business. So in order to get his business (USA) ahead he wants to cut off the competitors by pricing them out. However, there is a YUGE problem! The problem is that consumer markets are now worldwide. The USA has a population of only 320 million out of 7 billion people in the world! Clearly, the US is lucrative market but its not the only one!

Protectionism: Moving the Economy backwards:

This is painfully simple to explain. The US used to be a protectionist economy from its birth in 1776 to about 1913. The federal government collect the majority of its income from tariffs on imports and exports. In 1913, the federal income tax  started raking in more than tariffs. It has ever since. After the world wars, the world started to rapidly globalize. The US lead the way. Now the US is in a tedious position with countries like China chopping at the bit to take first place. The point is that if the US wants to go back to pre-1913, before we were considered the world’s number one economy then we should enact tariffs. Speaking of China, that brings me to my next point.

Trump will eventually lose the trade war with China:

Recently I was able to acquire membership to the Wall Street Journal. (I got connections, kidding) I came across an article that caught my eye. Let me preface it with this: Trump has already approved 50 billion dollars worth of tariffs on Chinese goods. Now Trump is threatening to raise it to 100 billion dollars worth. The Chinese have responded that they will fight back if he does it. Here is the link to the article, its called Trump Weighs Tariffs on $100 Billion More of Chinese Goods by Bob Davis. (I believe they allow a few free reads if you haven’t gotten a subscription) Davis goes into detail about the possible effects of the tariffs. He also writes about Trump’s possible plans to protect industries like agriculture. I would encourage everyone to read since it gives a decent background on the situation.

My point here is that Trump cannot win against China. The Chinese hold a ton of our debt. In other words, they buy American dollar backed government bonds. (China also cheats on its exchange rate by basing it off these debt bonds) China holds leverage because of the holding of American debt and they import more to us than we export to them. Trump will lose because China doesn’t need US goods. The US is more dependent on China. Now you can how monetary policy plays a role in the contexts of tariffs and the economy.

Exchange Rate

One of the most important aspects that any government can control is the exchange rate. The exchange rate or currency exchange rate is the value of one currency in relation to another. For example: 1 US dollar is equal to .81 Euro. Currency exchanges can done in every currency. One of the ways that the exchange rate help with Trump’s trade war is through making our money more valuable or less valuable. Unfortunately, its a great tactic because it can backfire. In a circumstance, where Trump decides to have the US Treasury take money out of the money supply or circulation. A common used is called deflation. Which refers to increase of purchasing power of money.  This usually helps everyone because less money is worth more. However, in regard to China, it would probably strengthen the Chinese position.

make the dollar worth less, it would help devalue the debt held by the Chinese. Trump would simply tell the US Treasury to print more money. However, the drawback is that it would cost more to pay back debt. It would also decrease the buying power affecting nearly everyone except the super rich. Its also called Inflation which is my next topic.

Inflation

Inflation is often seen as a bad word. Its often used to describe the fall of prices and purchasing power. There is some controversy about how its calculating using CPI or Consumer Price Index, which is explained here. Now the important thing about inflation is that it can have serious consequences.  One consequence I mentioned was decreased purchasing power. Purchasing power is very important especially everyday people like me and you. Many of my anti-minimum wage arguments on center on this exact principle. Having money be worth less means that you have work harder to make more to buy less. For example, inflation might bring your regular grocery bill from 100 dollars  a week to 150 dollars a week even if the prices of food remain about the same. The reason is because each dollar may lose 10 cents in value. (The math is a little complex)

What does inflation mean for Trump’s trade war? There is good and bad news. The good news is that Trump could try to deflate the value of the Chinese held US debt. The consequences would be as mentioned above. This method would disallow the Chinese to sell off the debt without losing value. The bad news is that even if the Chinese are forced to keep it, America would have a harder time paying it back. Trump also has to be careful not to print too much money.  The problems that arise can be dangerous for the domestic economy. Money circulation works in a supply and demand curve. If the value of money is too high or too valuable than one can print more bills to help lower it. This is rarely a problem, except when considering exchange rates, imports and exports. If the value of money is too low than one could take money of the supply to help increase its value. So really its a supply/ value curve.

To conclude: Trump’s Trade War is not easily winnable. He obviously has some tools to work with. I also read recently that he is rethinking the Transpacific Trade partnership or TPP. I think its interesting because if the countries currently in the agreement allow Trump re-join and set the rules for trade than it will the US control over trade especially in regard to China. The TPP is a trade agreement that actually just regulates trade in certain industries. Trump withdrew because of global warming clauses and “unfair” regulations.

I can write more on TPP soon because I find it interesting. Also a Syrian Bombing post is coming soon.

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Part 1: Economics 101: Supply and Demand are Essential

I talk about politics and history on my blog quite a bit. These are my absolute favorite topics. I have in past posts talked about economics but it tends to be boring. One of my goals when starting this blog was to educate. So in this post, I intend to educate about some economic policies that relatively misunderstood by the general population. I won’t jump into the hardest concept first because in economics similar to math and science you have to understand the basics. First I want to talk about supply and demand. I know that I have talked about it before. Then I want to move into monetary policy. I might even touch on tariffs which I explained here. It occurred to me that President Trump’s recent tariffs have confused many people. You may or may not realize that tariffs can have very serious effects on our economy. They can also affect how other countries treat us. More on these topics later.

Supply and Demand: How it works?

main-qimg-7143dd32730266a174d9a0ffe02b2f3a-c

You might be familiar with a chart that looks like this. (Above) The way to read the chart is simple. First, you have to recognize a basic principle in economics that I call “push and pull”. Its very similar to Issac Newton’s “For every action there is a reaction” because for each transaction or movement of money or just action there is a reaction that also involves a transaction or movement of money.  Therefore if we look at the orange line labeled as supply and the purple line labeled as demand, you can see horizontal axis is labeled Quantity (increasing from left to right). The vertical axis is labeled Price which is increasing from up to down.

To put it simply:

As the supply goes up, the demand goes down. (Price and Quantity go up as well)

As the demand goes up, the supply goes down. (Price and Quantity go down as well)

This chart is the basis for literally everything in economics. Nearly everything can be put into terms of supply and demand. I will give a simple example of how supply and demand works:

Let’s say you own a winery in Napa Valley, California. Let’s say you have two main competitors that are approximately the same size winery as you. All three wineries make similar profits, have similar expenses and locations.

The going-market value for a 750ml bottle of wine is 25 dollars.

Your company price: 27 dollars, Competitor A: 27 dollars, Competitor B: 27 dollars

So right now every company is above value meaning that supply is meeting demand. Every company is able to charge more because of a high demand. Now Let’s say there is a massive drought. Shortage of grapes. Now you and your competitors can’t make as much wine. What do you think happens to the price?

Your company price: 30 dollars, Competitor A: 31 dollars, Competitor B: 32.

If you said that the price will increase because the supply has been depressed while the demand remained the same then you would be correct. Now let’s say the drought is over but a study comes out that says wine is bad for mental health. Suddenly everyone stops buying wine. What happens to your prices?

Your company price: 23 dollars, Competitor A: 20, Competitor B: 23 dollars.

If you said prices will decrease because of the drop in demand and the excess supply of wine then you would be correct. This is a very simplistic example and obviously running a winery is more complicated than I presented. I think that the concept is clear. For every action there is a reaction. For every push there is a pull.

I hope you got supply and demand down pat, because we are going to use it to help explain why President Trump’s tariffs are not as great as they sound. If you want to check out my post on tariffs then click here. In this next section, I will be focusing specifically on the economics.

The “Dead-weight” Tariffs– Tariffs in the context of supply and demand.

If you went to read my tariff post then you’ll have some idea what I’m about to explain here. For the purpose of this section, I’m going to assume you just learned about supply and demand. Let me explain that tariffs are a tax on an import or export (In this case President Trump is putting tariffs on imports) Tariffs actually used to be the US government’s biggest source of income up until the turn of the 20th century. The US approved an (16th) amendment to constitution that made income tax the primary source of government income. Now a days, tariffs only make up about 1-2 percent of income for the government.

An import is a good or product that is shipped or brought into the country. An export is a good or product that is shipped out or sold outside of the country. It’s good to know these terms. Let’s take a look at another chart, this represents tariffs on the supply and demand curve:

taxes

It may look confusing but it’s actually really simple. Keep in mind that as the supply goes up, the demand goes down. (Price and Quantity go up as well) Also as the demand goes up, the supply goes down. (Price and Quantity go down as well) Now if we at look chart let’s take the green line into account first. The green line is labeled “Supplier’s share of tax”. In order to explain the green line, I will give a brief example:

So let’s say there is a Steel Maker company and a Railroad Tie company. The Steel Company makes the steel that is needed for the Railroad Tie company. There is also a third foreign steel company located in China. So pre-tariff on the import of steel, the cost of steel for the Railroad company is .50 cents per pound from the foreign steel company. The Steel Maker company located in America has a price of .60 cents per pound. The green line represents that .50 cents that the Railroad company currently buys it steel at.

Now lets look at the red line labeled Customer’s share of tax. Back to our example: President Trump has imposed a 15 cent per pound tariff on imported Steel from China. (Not real, just made it up)  How does this affect our three companies? First let me give one key detail: Railroad company sells rail ties for 25 dollars per tie. So here is the breakdown of before and after the tariff

Company:                    Pre-Tariff Price              Post Tariff Price              Net Change

Railroad company Ties      25 dollars                       30 dollars                   5 dollars

USA Steel Company:           .60 cents                         .60 cents                      No change

China Foreign Steel Co.     .50 cents                          .65 cents                     15 cents

What happened? Well the Railroad company rose it price by 5 dollars. They also switch suppliers since they don’t want to pay more than they have to for steel.  Now refer back to the chart. The distance from the green to red line is known as “dead-weight”. In the chart, the blue triangle in the middle represents the dead-weight. Remember that “customer value” represents the demand side. Also that the green and red lines both represent supply both before and after the tariff is applied. The term dead weight refers the money lost due to the tariff. The Railroad company had to pass its extra cost of 10 cents to its customers. The reason?  The tariff made the foreign steel more expensive, however the American made steel did not get any cheaper so therefore the Railroad company had to pass that 10 cent per pound difference to the customer.  Of course, depending on the well-being of the company it could have also led to job-cuts or reduction assets.

Conclusion:

To recap: Tariffs create dead-weight whereby the tax increases the cheaper foreign competitor above the already more expensive domestic price. The unnatural increase creates a dead-weight because instead of natural competition, the tariff forces  a company to spend more without getting any benefits.

I’m end it here because they will be a part 2. In Part 2 we will finish up with a discussion of President Trump’s policies and the impact it will have with China. Then I will continue to explain some monetary economics that are important to understand.

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NYC MTA: Transportation Off the Rails

New York City is home to nearly 8.6 million people. The largest city in the United States. If you have ever been to NYC then maybe you have experience the wonder that is the subway. As a lifetime New Yorker, I can say that the subways are horrendous. Its dirty, slow, frustrating, stressful, and many more colorful words. I’ve only been living in NYC for 3 years, my experience has been that subways are getting worse. I’ve talked to other people who have lived here for longer and say that in the past 4 or 5 years they have seen a dramatic drop-off in subway service. I want to say that I’m no expert in transportation or subway systems. However, the problems with MTA start with the management and go all way down to the actual rails themselves.

In this post, I will offer up a solution to the problems occurring with the subway system. I will also offer a possible solution to the management of the MTA, particularly its budgeting and structure. I don’t have a fancy name for my plan or anything. I’ve also never put into words on a screen or paper. So here goes nothing:

For reference, I will be using the MTA’s own budget calculations. (Click here) These the official numbers of the operational budget. Other than that, I have to assume a few things because its hard to know without a survey of actual repairs how much its going to cost. I want to start with the physical repairs that I would have done.

The replacement of all lines with brand new track:

The most obvious change I would make is the replacement of all current track with a new modern track system. Now I have no idea of the costs or even the type of system best suited. However, I believe that updating the tracks that were technologically superior in the year 1900 is an important step to improvement. I also realize that this is the most costly and ambitious portion of my plan.

The new tracks would eliminate the delays cause by signal failures, derailments, and power losses. It is purely an infrastructure project because it keeps the mechanical malfunctions to a minimum.  As for a time frame, my thinking takes into consideration the impact of taking subways off-line, the budget restrictions, and the ability to get it done within the time constraints. There are 25 subway lines. I would take two lines that would cause the least stress on the system if taken offline. Imagine 2 lines go offline, the company or companies putting in the track would have a maximum of 2 years to get the job done. Now I could be wrong about the time frame to get it done however, adjustments can be made. In my theoretical situation, it would be a 13 year project approximately. I’ll be honest, they can take off my 5 line first, no problem with me.

This leads to a problem, of course. The problem being how will the people that get stranded by their subway line being re-done get around? Its not simple but the city recently bought new buses. So those older buses will be pressed into service to replace the subway line. I would have the buses follow the schedule and locations as the subway did. The times would have to be adjusted for travel distance. Its only temporary and its better than nothing.

Budgeting the Repairs: 

We have to assume that the repairs and track replacement is going to be very expensive. I want to say its probably going to cost over a billion dollars. However, I think there is some reasonable ways to raise that money without bankrupting: New York State, New York City, Citizens.  The MTA had a total operating revenue of 8,608 million dollars in 2016. The MTA had total operating expenses of 9,238 million dollars in 2016. If you do some quick maths that means a deficit of 630 million dollars. Obviously, its going to be impossible to completely fund this ambitious plan without creating more debt. But consider that by 2021, the MTA will have 1,955 million dollars of deficit by 2021. (Page 16) The MTA is already going under. Here are 4 steps to help fix some of problems.

Replacement Funds/Repairs: “Adopt a Subway”

The MTA currently spends 1,618 million dollars on the repairs, maintenance and related supplies. (Page 16) We have to assume that a new track replacement will add double or triple the amount. So we have options. We could raise taxes or steal money from other programs. But I feel that the best solution is a combination of charity and advertisement. Lets begin with advertisement. My idea is that each of the 25 lines of subways would auctioned off for baseline amount. Ideally the total amount would equal the approximate cost of the replacement. Let’s say that for a company OR person to adopt a subway, they have to donate a minimum of 20 million dollars. What do they get for that 20 million? They would get exclusive advertisements in subway cars. Exclusive meaning that no other company would be allow to advertise unless they allow it. They would get naming rights. They would get corporate perks for employees who ride the subway. For example, if let’s say Citi Bank wanted to adopt the 7 line, they might bid 40 million because of other bidders. The 7 line would be re-named The Citi Bank 7 Line.

I said that people could also adopt a subway line. That is called charity because they willingly giving their money for the improvement of society. It would work differently in that advertisements would be sold traditionally by MTA standards. However, that person would have the subway line named after them. It would work the same way in an auction, with a minimum donation. I believe this is the most viable and least intrusive form of raising money to pay for my expensive track replacement.

One last thing to note would be that the company or person would have the option to either re-up each year or opt-out. Now if they opt-out then it would be put up for auction again.

Transition from Public to Half Public/Private MTA

The MTA has been a victim, similar to social security of being stolen from by government. The MTA is a New York State owned, federally funded operation. The Governor has more say than the Mayor of NYC. Which leads to a lot of political infighting, given that both are democrats. One of my solutions involves changing the structure of the MTA. The budget problems will be somewhat alleviated with the continuation of the “adopt a subway” initiative. However, we have to go further. On page 16, the total labor expenses for 2018 was 9,238 million dollars. This means that employees are costing MTA a lot of money. In any business, the employees will be the costliest item. However, we don’t want cut employees just make them more productive.

The MTA has a board of trustees which has a CEO. I would take this board of trustees and make it a non-profit government contractor. The mid level management and lower level employees would remain public. Eventually, the new profits from a more efficient and cost effective subway system would help create a trust that would pay the board. The trust would essentially invest the money to the point where it could maintain itself. Once the trust can payout the salaries and benefits to the board, it would be cut off from the MTA profits.

As for the public employees, I wouldn’t change too much. The only change that might occur would be less need for maintenance because the system won’t need as intense care. This could mean a switch from full time maintenance into temporary. However, heavy use will mean the need for maintenance will still be quite strong.

Metrocard Fares

Depending on the “adopt a subway” success, the fares would stay at the $2.75 mark until significant progress is made. I would say that its fair to increase prices. In my personal view if a train typically takes an hour to get from point A to point B for 2.75, then if that same train took 30 minutes, I would be more than okay with an increase. The fare revenue for 2016 was 6,050 million dollars. I think the first increase would come in about year 7 of the project. Here is a chart of the increases and the revenue gained:

Year:   Fare:   Increase:   Revenue added:

7           4.25       1.50        263,550 million dollars

10         5.00        0.75       131,775 million dollars

13          8.00      3.00       527,100 million dollars

*All figures are in dollars and cents, its a 13 year project*

These figures are based numbers of ridership (1.757 billion) from 2016 and a fare of 2.75 at the base. The fares would increase by an overall of 5.25 dollars. I think this is more than fair given that a new modern track subway would increase efficiency and effectiveness. I think that benefits to businesses would be substantial. The amount of tardiness due to bad transit is ridiculous. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been late due to a subway problem. I’m sure other New Yorkers have similar horror stories.

“Adopt A Station” – Give back to your community!

To piggy back on my previous idea of “adopt a subway”, I would also install the same thing for subway stations. Again if you have ever experienced a subway station, you know its just rats, homeless people and piss. Its horrible. Now stations would relatively cheaper. The money would be split into two purposes, paying the workers who clean and operate the booth. The second portion would go towards the MTA’s overall budget. If a company adopts a station, they would get exclusive advertisement rights, naming rights and some input on renovation design (If work is needed to be done). Of course, this is all optional and some MTA advertising money would be used to push a “give back to your community” twist.

Conclusion: 

I believe that my 13 year track replacement in combination with my “adopt a subway” and “adopt a station” initiatives would revitalize the MTA and the subway system. It would forever change how the subway is run. I think that separating the management (Board) from the public sector would help because politics gets very messy. I think the increase profits from the investment in the new track could actually make the MTA break even. With some help from companies and generous individuals it might even have surplus. The surplus (if it happens) would be used to improve the train cars, upgrade them.

I think that most New Yorkers are tired of the politics that keep the MTA from doing its job in running an effective and efficient subway system is the driving force behind my idea. You would have to be delusional to not see the problems with the current system. If you like my plan or if you have improvements I could make then feel free to let me know. If enough people get behind it, I would think sharing with the necessary people to start getting into action.

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Gulag Archipelago: Perception is Everything

Read the title again. If you aren’t thinking what the hell?!? Then you should probably check your pulse next. I have a little background story to explain where I’m taking Gulag Archipelago: Perception is Everything.

The other day I was waiting at Barnes and Noble. I typically go Barnes and Noble to either waste time or go to the bathroom. (Don’t tell anyone!) Anyway, in this particular situation I was waiting in there because I was going to see Waitress, the Broadway show. By the way, its amazing and you should go see it. I was browsing my favorite sections: History, Politics and Current Events. No surprise there! I came across few books I liked. But then, near the end of my wait I see this book called Gulag Archipelago by  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I immediately pick it up because I’m intrigued by the title.

I read the first few pages. I decided that I didn’t want to buy it yet. (I almost never buy anything myself, usually I ask for books for my birthday) Later that night, I’m laying in bed with my wife. We were about to go to sleep. I mention that I found an interesting book at Barnes and Noble. I tell her the name. Then the conversation gets really interesting:

Me: Gulag Archipelago is a really interesting concept because you don’t usually think of Siberia as an archipelago.

Wife: Thats true. 

Me: The Philippines (My wife is originally from there) is an archipelago.

Wife: No its not.

Me: Yes it is, its a group of islands. (I looked up on my phone after I said it.) 

I can’t remember what she said after this but I remember following it up with:

Me: Its interesting that you perceived the Philippines not to be an archipelago.  The concept of gulags in Siberia is also an interesting concept. I wonder if he meant something by it.

Later the next day, we exchange texts about the same topic which is basically the premise of this post. In those texts which aren’t anything special but I put into words what I find so interesting: Gulag Archipelago tests your perception of geography and history. I like the term Geo-Historical because it describes topic without having to say geography and history.

To be fair, I didn’t read Solzhenitsyn’s book but I read summaries. Apparently he takes firsthand testimony from actual prisoners plus his own personal experience as a prisoner and puts it together into a fiction character. He also explains how the gulag system works and how it functioned. Obviously eventually I will read this book. Solzhenitsyn may or may not explain his title in the book. I don’t want to comment on the content of book nor do I want give a history of gulags. I want talk about the perception.

Perception is one of the most important elements when considering what kinds of sources you use in an academic paper. In history, you have to consider that the author has a bias or a point of view that comes from a unique experience. Just like any source for any kind of research you have to be acutely aware of perception. Let’s start by breaking down each word in the title to see what they mean. We have to wonder if the meanings could have something to do with how its perceived.

Gulag: a prison labor camp in Russia dating from early 1930s to the 1950s, usually located in Siberia (Russia).

Archipelago: A group of Islands.

galapagos-islands-ecuador-lg

(Pictured above: Galapagos Archipelago, Credit: Galapagos Guide)

Simple enough right? What pops out to me right away is the contrast that each definition has. The contrast is particular to geography. Do you know where Siberia is? Do you know what the climate is? Let me give you a hint: its freezing cold and its located in western (from Moscow) part of Russia, to west of Alaska. Can you name an famous archipelago? Charles Darwin based his theory of Darwinism off this archipelago. Survival of fittest, evolution ring any bells? Galapagos Archipelago off the coast of Ecuador. To me these locations could not be more different!

map-articleLarge

(Pictured Above: Map of Russia, Siberia, Credit: New York Times)

For starters, Siberia contains no islands! Its a solid chunk of land with nothing on it. The Galapagos is full of life and hot on the equator. Siberia has limited wildlife and its freezing cold most of the time. So geographically speaking, gulags weren’t located on islands. I think what  Solzhenitsyn is trying to symbolize is that gulags were prison labor camps spread out in vast, freezing Siberia. Gulags themselves are the islands on a freezing cold wasteland.

It makes a lot of sense. I think part of the problem with his title, at least for people today is that archipelago is not a commonly used term. I remember hearing it in highschool during Earth Science. My wife is pretty smart and she either didn’t know or forgot what it meant. She knows that the Philippines is a group of islands, more than 7000 of them in fact. Her perception of an archipelago wasn’t the same as mine. I knew it was a group of islands.

I think that part of the reason this interest me so much is because the uncommon term makes it seem exotic and kind of unreal. It throws people off. It makes you think about it. Once you get the past the archipelago definition, then you start to see his symbolism. I can tell you from reading on my own and researching that gulags were worse than concentration camps set up by the Nazis. Russia killed more than 50 million of its own citizens from the early 1930s to the time of Stalin’s death in 1953.

I think the important lesson in perceptions is that words can paint a very different picture than reality. However, sometimes that picture can be useful for describing how something occurred and why it occurred. In this case, Solzhenitsyn is chronicling how the gulags were run and the life inside them. More importantly, he was dissenting against the tyrannical, communist government of Russia. He saw firsthand how brutal the gulags were.  Solzhenitsyn wrote many books but this is the one that survived. Originally it was written in Russian but eventually translated and widely read.

I want to come back to this book and this topic. I’ll read the book and write another post about its content. In the next post I will try to tie his content into the title to truly get his perception of the “Gulag Archipelago”.

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Guns: A Guide for Dummies

I am so tired of hearing the racket that is the gun control debate. Nothing could be such a echo chamber as people who probably haven’t shot a gun trying to elaborate policies that honest to god won’t work. Recent events like the Parkland Shooting and many others keep bringing gun control to forefront of national news. I’m not at all interested in going into every detail about what happened or didn’t happen. I want to talk about guns and the people that shoot them. You may not know it or like it but I’ve shot guns and I thoroughly enjoy guns of all types. I own a small set of Nerf guns proudly. More to the point though, I have shot two real guns in my life.

I definitely want to go shooting again but opportunities are rare especially in a city of 8.6 million people. I experienced my shooting at a Boy Scout camp. I shot a 12 gauge shotgun which was such a thrill. I also shot a little .22 rifle. It was your typical pigeon shot. As turns out I was a good shot. My love for guns began way before I shot them at 15 years old. If you didn’t know I received my bachelors degree in history. One of my favorite topics to study is war. One of the first guns to ever come to American soil was a flintlock. Flintlock rifles are ancient but are some of the coolest replicas you will see. To shoot a flintlock, first you load the lead ball with rod down the barrel similar to a musket. You have to cock the hammer an then you put the gunpowder on the pan.  Now you are ready to fire. When you fire, the hammer strikes the flint which creates a spark in turn igniting the gunpowder and propelling the bullet.

I always found the weapons of each decade of war to be interesting. Weapons have a tendency to evolve. Weapon development has contributed to many of today’s inventions for civilian life (a whole other post). Yet, here we are in 2018 with seeming rampage of school shootings. Many people believe that its because of the technologically advanced rifles and ease of access for buying them. To some degree, I will agree that access to buying them is a little bit looser than it should be. However, the simple fix is psychological evaluations along with background checks. As a rule someone who is on psychotropic drugs shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun. The problem that I see is not guns or the background checks or lack thereof.  Gun. Free. Zones.

The stupidest three words ever to put in a sequence. Gun Free Zones– there I fixed it. I have noticed a pattern that all the schools, colleges and places that tend to get shot up are in fact: Gun Free Zones. This is the one common denominator aside from guns in all shootings. Listen, guns are merely a tool like a hammer, knife, truck, or crowbar, these are objects that don’t commit any crime. Honestly, its the gun free zone is that the real killer. For a second just imagine you are a disturbed school shooter. You bought your guns illegal on the black market. Now you need a place to carry out the dirty deed. What place is going to let you spill the most blood without much resistance? Honestly if school or college isn’t in your top 3 then you might be a bad criminal. Needless to say, imagine that same scenario but all the schools have at least 20 people packing heat. If I’m the criminal I’d think twice.

Moving away from being demented human being lets consider my point about other tools that could be used a killing weapons. Gun Free Zone doesn’t cover them. So if you can honestly tell me that you would rather be unarmed than armed to defend yourself and others then wow you are brave. Congratulations. Guns are like nuclear weapons. There is a reason why Trump and Kim Jong Un haven’t already started the nuclear holocaust. Nash Equilibrium. I like to call it: game of outcomes.  The basic principle is that most of the time the best strategy is not to shoot until its absolutely necessary. Kim Jong Un understands that if he nukes the US, we will hit back 1000 fold. The game of outcomes can be used to understand why arming everyone that is not a psychopath would actually be effective in preventing shootings.

Just tell me what the chances that you would shoot between the following options:

  1. 100 people, unarmed
  2. 100 people, 50 armed, 50 unarmed

My guess is that you wouldn’t shoot in option number 2. Unless you had a death wish. Once again its a game of outcomes.

In summation, the point of my guide is rally against Gun Free Zones which are ridiculous. If you think a criminal would follow the rules than why does everyone speed or not turn on their blinker? Both laws and yet nobody seems to mind when they break them. Its not that crazy or insane to think that Gun Free Zones are the problem. Just please stop this insanity. Please!!!!

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