Friday, November 25, 2011

"Family Values" and the Crisis of the Welfare State

In 1995 I wrote a small book, Exploding Population Myths, the purpose of which was to debunk the very popular theory that the world was grossly overpopulated and headed toward disaster. I believe the evidence was compelling then, and now, 16 years later, the case is actually stronger than ever. If the book had a flaw, it was that I, considered an optimist, was too pessimistic.

The book debunked claims of catastrophists of the day, all predicting doom and gloom with spiraling birth rates, resource depletion, and population growing with no end in sight. I showed that the reality was that the world was not overpopulated in any meaningful sense of the word; that population concentrations are not the same thing as overpopulated; that birth rates were actually plummeting at great rates, and that it was only a matter of decades before world population would begin declining. The main force for growing populations, as I noted, wasn’t the birth rate, so much as the much applauded decline in death rates.
The political Left hated the book and the Right loved it. Now, oddly, I find some extremists on the Religious Right trying to whip up fear and doom over the very pattern I had shown: declining birth rates.
 Janice Crouse is a spokesman—I use the term intentionally as I’m sure she is offended by feminist values—for the Concerned Women of America, a fundamentalist political group. She lists a lot of political material about herself, but, while she touts herself as “Dr. Crouse,” leaves out exactly how she got a doctorate and in what field. The only credentials she mentions are her conservative credentials and writing for Right-wing organizations. Even her own website biography neglects to offer this information. She did work at a Christian college as a debate coach, but that doesn’t say very much. All I can find is she graduated from a Wesleyian-Holiness college in 1961, and then went on to another fundamentalist university.
What drew my attention to Crouse, was a recent piece she wrote in which she seemed to insinuate that population declines in Europe were do to the result of the much exaggerated “death of the family.” Crouse lamented:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Our Top Ten Columns at Huffington Post

The following are the top ten columns we have at Huffington Post as judged by the number of Facebook "likes" each column has received. We do not necessarily agree that these are the ten best columns. There are others which, in our judgment, should have been higher than they were. Here is each column by name, with a link and short description. These are in reverse order.

#10 The Artificial Imposition of Poverty: Deals with the reality of poverty in Africa and how the African people themselves are industrious and hard working but that corrupt governments impeded their economic progress and plunder their wealth.

#9 Baby Samuel Finally Comes Home: This was our first column. It told the story of Samuel Ghilain and how Belgian bureaucrats forced the child to stay in an orphanage for two years because he was born to a surrogate mother. His father's repeated requests were rejected because they had no "policy" to deal with the issue.

#8 Drug Warriors Gun Down Young Father: How a bad drug raid lead to the gunning down of an Iraqi War verteran in Tucson, Arizona.

#7 Gays, Lies and Videotape: Video of the Proposition 8 trial in California exists, but the advocates of Prop 8 are trying to keep the video under wraps. Why? The video will show how their campaign was a tissue of lies and how they couldn't substantiate their accusations in court.

#6 How Texas May Accidentally Legalize Same-Sex Marraige: Texas passed a new law refusing to recognize sex change operations. We argued the result would be that some same-sex marriages would be allowed provided one partner is transgendered. Some time later that actually happened.

#5 F.A. Hayek Against the Conservative: Hayek was not a conservative and outlined his precise problems with conservatives, something conservatives try to overlook.

#4 Why Atheists Aren't Afraid to Die: It is precisely because atheists do not believe in life after death that they do fear it.

#3 Gay Marriage Poll Touted by Mormons Seems Dubious: A poll that the Deseret News said showed a majority of Americans oppose marriage equality was, in simple terms, rigged through a selective polling process. The actual poll results showed how it was done.

#2 The Gay Marriage Revolution Started Centuries Ago: Discusses how the rise of classical liberalism changed how marriage is viewed for the better, setting the groundwork for today's debate about marriage equality.

#1 Can a Pro-Gay, Pot Legalizing, Fiscal Conservative Win the White House?: Discusses the unique, libertarian positions of Gov. Gary Johnson and his bid for the White House.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Two New Loans Through Storey Institute's Benevolent Fund

Charity is too important to be left up to government. Since its inception the Moorfield Storey Institute has operated the Adam Smith Benevolent Fund. Portions of all donations to the Storey Institute, and a portion of sales through our book distribution service, Fr33minds, go into the fund.

We put most of these funds into micro lending projects targeting worthy recipients in developing countries. We try to find individuals who have already shown a willingness to work and who are budding entrepreneurs. In the long term our hopes are that such entrepreneurs, through expansion, will reach the point that they are creating jobs for others, and not just for themselves.
We have two new recipients for our loans: Yony Vicente of Ica, Peru, and Rosemary Clementina, of La Paz, Bolivia.

Yony began a taxi service a year ago with a motorcycle taxi. He has been renting a motorcycle to conduct business but now wants to invest in the capital of having his own motorcycle instead. His goal is to eventually own a car for his taxi service to use instead. The repayment plan is to have all his loans repaid by December 2012.

Rosemary Clementina is a single mother with four children in school. Two of her children are now attending college.  She sells shoes to the public. Her plan is to use the loan to buy sneakers for the end-of-the-year season.  Loan repayment begins in February with the loan being paid in full by January 2013. Rosemary has been in the shoe business for sometime and has paid previous loans for inventory.

The policy of the Storey Institute is that as loans are repaid funds are rolled over into new loans. New funds are added but we do not intend to ever remove funds, just make additional loans to further economic development at the ground level.

Wilber Alexander, a photographer in El Salvador, used one of our early loans to expand his business. His loan is now fully back.  Nidia Pereira of Paraguay was a fish seller that we loaned to earlier. Her loan is now 90% paid. Temuujin Myagmar of Mongolia has a loan for his popcorn business that is now 54% repaid. Hamza Vahobov of Tajikistan had a loan for his business selling spare car parts. His loan is now 46% repaid. And Vafa Huseynova of Azerbaijan, borrowed money to expand the beauty salon she ran. Her loan is now 40% paid back.

So far 43% of our loans have gone to female entrepreneurs and 57% to males. Approximately 28% of loans are in the food sector, 28% in retail, 28% in services, and 14% in transportation.
 Your contributions to the Institute help us spread the libertarian message about individual rights and freedoms and supports economic development. Remember that at you will not only find excellent libertarian books, at discounted prices, but all profits further the goals of the Institute, including our Adam Smith Benevolent Fund.

Anti-Marriage Right Bets the Farm and They Can Lose It All

The hateful Prop 8 campaign has placed an all-or-nothing bet on their initiative. If they win, they win nothing more than what they already have. But they also have the potential of losing absolutely everything.

Prop 8 was challenged in the courts. During the trial the Prop 8 campaign had tried to defend their bigoted initiative but failed miserably. They had a couple of problems. One was that the rules of evidence exclude 99% of the claims they were making in public. They couldn’t come into court and make the same claims without having to prove them.
Given that the campaign was engaged in one “big lie” after another, this removed most of their claims. In court, they could be cross-examined if they made the same dishonest assertions.  Their campaign lies wouldn’t stand up to cross-examination. What the court saw, instead of the confident assertions made in TV commercials, was a lot of bumbling replies. When openly asked what harms would come from marriage equality their legal counsel couldn’t answer the question. He didn’t know.  Neither did the Prop 8 proponents, which is why they resorted to lying.
Prop 8 lost that round and the ruling went into great detail as to why they were wrong and why Prop 8 was a discriminatory piece of legislation. At this point the state of California said it did not want to pursue defense of Prop 8. Since it was a state law, under California’s ill-conceived initiative process, it would be their job to defend 8. But they did not want to do so. Neither the governor nor attorney general wanted to be associated with that law. The bigots behind the law demanded the right to step in, in place of the state, to defend their law. Today the California Supreme Court said they have the right to try to defend their legislation in the courts.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Artificial Imposition of Poverty

Most of the world's poverty is not self-inflicted, yet apparently many seem to think it is.

My experience, living in Africa, tells me otherwise. Much of global poverty is imposed and I don't mean by evil "multi-national corporations" or "globalization." Those myths are easily debunked. The real causes of poverty in these nations are not hard to find.

First, however, I'd like to start with what is not the cause of poverty. People in poor nations are not poor because they lack ambition or are lazy.

When I first moved to Africa, I lived in small apartment. Almost immediately upon moving in there was a knock on the door. A woman asked if she could have a job cleaning for me. The idea was foreign to me. I even had negative emotions about people "exploiting" the poor and hiring them at low wages. I declined, but she begged. She insisted she was a hard worker. My dilemma was that I didn't have a lot of money. I told her that. She named a wage that seemed ridiculously low.

I could not pay her what I thought to be a decent wage. Yet, by refusing her services I was sending her away with nothing. Clearly, she did not agree with my evaluation of the situation. I relented and hired her.

When I moved to a house, the same thing happened. A woman with a child appeared at my door looking for work. She had no home and was staying in a small "maid's quarters" with another women she knew. The child was a grandchild that she cared for. I agreed to hire her without a second thought and then she asked if I had a place for her to live. There was a small building behind the house, with storage on the ground level and two rooms above it. I thought it insufficient but it was all I had to offer. She thought it fantastic and started clapping her hands with joy when she looked at it. It was a huge improvement for her.

I regularly had people asking for work, while few asked for hand-outs. These people were willing to work. In the streets of the city, I would pass hundreds of hawkers, with blankets on the ground, or just cardboard. They would have paper plates of tomatoes or potatoes or some other vegetable. Some sold handicrafts. They would sit on the ground from early morning until it was dark, trying to earn what most Westerners would see as small change.

Outside the cities, the industriousness of the poor was more apparent. In rural areas, women would walk long distances for water. Their homes, sometimes barely shelters at all, were built by themselves, as best they could. There were villages I would drive by, with every home built by the people who lived in them. People would plant small gardens to grow food. Some just planted flowers to make the desolation a bit more bearable.

But here is what else I saw. Periodically, the police would sweep through the cities confiscating all the goods hawkers were trying to sell. Hundreds at a time would lose everything they had, because they didn't have permits to sell their goods. Nor did the legal system recognize their property rights. It was not unheard of for governments to send in bulldozers and level entire villages because no land titles were held.

Read the rest of this column at Huffington Post.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Who is Hated When Hate Crimes Are Committed?

The FBI has released its report on reported incidents of hate crimes in the United States. The report allows to determine who the victims are in these cases.

The largest category of hate crimes remains those that are racially motivated. They accounted for 47.3% of all such incidents in the country. Of those 69.8% of the victims were black, 18.2% were white, 5.7% were mixed race, 5.1% were Asian or Pacific Islander and 1.2% were Native Americans.

In spite of what conservatives may say the majority of hate crimes were not committed by blacks. Whites made up 58.6% of offenders in racially-motivate hate crimes.

Hate crimes based on sexual orientation and religion were neck-in-neck for second place with religious hate crimes barely taking the lead. They accounted for 20% of all hate crimes. Now, groups on the Religious Right have claimed that fundamentalists are frequently hate crime targets. The National Organization for Marriage has refused to reveal who is funding them on the basis that they will become targets of hate crimes. But the actually hate crime incidents don't support their hysteria.

Two-thirds of all hate crimes, 65.4% were directed against Jews. Another 13.2% were directed against Muslims. Just 4.3% were anti-Catholic and 3.3% were anti-Protestant. The rest were undefined or against non-beliebvers.

Attacks based on sexual orientation made up 19.3% of all incidents. The main victim were gay men, making up 57.9% of all cases. Anti-lesbian attacks made up 11.4% of the cases while 27.4% were directed at gay people in general.  Only 1.4% of cases indicated an anti-heterosexual bias and 1.9% were directed at bisexuals.

Two-thirds of these crimes were classified as crimes against persons and one-third were crimes against property. In 46% of the crimes against persons it was an act of intimidation, in 53% of the cases someone was the victim of assault. There were seven cases of murder and 4 cases of rape that were hate inspired.

In crimes against property the vast majority, 81% were incidents of vandalism or destruction of property. The rest were crimes involving robbery motivated by hate.

The report probably underestimates actual hate crimes in the United States. The classification of a crime, as a hate crime, requires the local police agency to cooperate. If they do not report it as a hate crime it is not included. Given the document racial biases, and anti-gay attitudes of law enforcement officials, they are more likely to exclude legitimate cases from the classification than they are to included incidents that don't belong there.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Catholicism and the "Intolerance" Hoax

The Washington Post says that Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput “painted a bleak picture of a nation increasingly intolerant of Christianity.” Chaput, who achieved an ecclesiastical position superior to Christ himself, says, “The America emerging in the next several decades is likely to be much less friendly to Christian faith than anything in our country’s past.”
Please note the bait-and-switch here. One may be unfriendly to a dogma without being intolerant. Merriam-Webster defines intolerant, in the religious sense, as “unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression especially in religious matters.”

This sort of “intolerance” is not actually an issue. What the Archbishop whines about is not any attempt to prevent representatives of the Vatican from expressing a viewpoint, or even from practicing their faith, within their churches, as they see fit. This simply is not happening. What the Catholic Church complains about something is quite different. The areas where they are most upset have to do with granting equality of rights to gay people. The Church is quite intolerant of men who have romantic/sexual relationships with other adult men, for instance. They desire that the law reflect their religious views.

That is an entirely different issue; they are the ones being intolerant. Tolerance implies the granting of equal freedom to others. It does not require that one be “friendly” to ideas that one finds distasteful, whatever the reason for the sour taste. Disliking gay marriage is not "friendly," wanting to ban it is intolerant.

The Catholic Bishops, are “feeling under siege: from a broader culture moving toward accepting gay marriage.” This is correct, but when they say that is “chipping away at religious liberty” they have engaged in semantics of Orwellian proportions. They have completely reversed the facts. The Church, when gay couples are given equal rights, can still practice its faith. No religious group has ever been forced to perform a marriage to which it is religiously opposed. The Church can also set its own policies for who may, or may not, hold ecclesiastical office—and one would think the Bishops would be looking at the choices they have made for the priesthood before worrying about the marriage contracts of others.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tea Party Group Tells Objectivists Where to Go

Some Tea Party "patriots" got bitchy about an Objectivist group that wanted to join their coalition. Surprise, surprise. A group of Minnesota Objectivists tried to join the coalition that made up the local Tea Party. The Christians that control the Tea Party had fits and eventually the Objectivists withrdrew. Had this "Objectivist" group had paid any attention to Rand they would know that the Tea Party is not a group that they should join and would not have the humiliation of retreating.
Rand thought multi-issue coalitions were unstable and bad ideas and that one would get dragged into the mud on the issues where one’s allies were bad. Second, she despised conservatives, especially religious conservatives. She referred to them as the "God-Family-Tradition swamp." Third, Rand thought that attempting to justify capitalism or individual rights on the basis of religion would backfire because it implied there is no rational justification for these ideas, only mystical inventions.
Now, one Tea Party writer, Walter Hudson, tries to defend Rand to the Tea Party. What a crock! He claims that the reason these advocates of irrationalism attacked the Objectivist group is because "attacks upon religious expression by a relentless secular minority have placed many religious people on the defensive.” For people on the defensive, they spend a lot of time being offensive, in every sense of the word. I would like to see a list of these attacks on religious expression.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Politics of the Clock: Daylight Saving Time is a Bad Idea

I am not a daylight saving time skeptic, but rather a full out atheist on the topic. That’s right, I don’t believe in daylight saving time. To paraphrase some dead hillbilly: “I’m agin it.”
I have lived in places that practice this ritual and places where the twice-yearly ritual of changing the clocks is not practiced. I preferred the latter.

Each Spring, the government has deemed we all go through the ritual of setting the clocks ahead. For most of us, that meant losing an hour of sleep, getting up the following day a bit more tired than usual and still driving around as normal, just with less sleep. I had to wonder if anyone has looked at the traffic accident rate for the day following the loss of one hour of sleep in order to placate the gods of time, also known as slime-sucking, pocket-picking, war-mongering politicians.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The High Cost of Government-Mandated Discrimination: DOMA and the Regulatory State

Conservatives frequently talk about the cost of regulations. For instance, Freedomworks, a well-known conservative organization, published a piece called The Hidden Cost of Regulation. It said: “Complying with regulations is not cheap,” noting that regulations aren’t paid for by just corporations, but by “the entire economy.” It notes that consumers pay higher prices as well, due to these regulations, and that they “act as a drag on economic growth.”

Allow me to add two other points Freedomworks did not mention, but which I believe they would agree with. 1) Motives of the regulators do not change costs imposed by the regulations. That is, costs are not lower if the motives of regulators are good. 2) Costs are not changed if regulations are imposed by one political party rather than the other. In other words, the cost of Republican-imposed regulations would be just the same if Democrats had been the guilty party.

With this in mind, let us turn to a set of regulations Republicans put into place, with the claimed motive of “protecting the family:” The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).