Saturday, February 5, 2011

Should Pot Be Legal? Part II

My friends met with the RLC the other day and we will not be posting the question on the whiteboard. Instead, it will be posted on a big board in a common area. My free speech poster is back up on the door, and we can write anything on there until someone complains about it being offensive (harassing or demeaning). I would give more details, but I was not at the meeting. It's still a nice victory over the RA and for liberty.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Should Pot Be Legal?

Should pot be legal? It seems like a harmless question. This question was posted on my friends' whiteboard on their door in the university dorms. The answers were "hell yeah" and "hell no." The last time we saw it, there were four votes in favor of legalizing and none against. This was erased by an RA who left a message claiming that it was offensive and inappropriate. So we decided to write it again without using the word "hell." It was later erased. My friend had told me that I should put something on his door regarding freedom of speech. I put the question up again and printed off a sheet saying the following in large letters:

Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the first amendment to the United States Constitution and by many state constitutions and state and federal laws. Criticism of the government and advocacy of unpopular ideas that people may find distasteful or against public policy are permitted if they are not violent in nature.

Shortly after putting this up, the RA saw me and had a talk with me. After the talk, he made me take the stuff down (btw, there was another vote in favor and still none against). During the talk, he made a bunch of spurious arguments against the speech, including that it might have the impact of encouraging people so smoke pot in their rooms. As you can tell, it is a laughable suggestion. If we had put up a poll asking if the licensed age for driving should be 15, would we be suggesting that 15-year-olds should drive unlicensed? Another argument along these lines is that political speech is not allowed on doors. I doubt the driving example would provoke him, but since it is about drugs, all of a sudden it is inappropriate. Furthermore, its not as if the speech was encouraging support of a position, party, philosophy, or candidate.

After this, he claimed that it was not allowed in the housing contract. The contract says that you cannot display "harassing or demeaning material" on your door. It also says you cannot do door-to-door campaigning, "All forms of door-to-door canvassing and soliciting, whether for
commercial or informational purposes, are prohibited." It would take a loose interpretation to consider this door-to-door canvassing considering my friend did it to his own door. There is nothing else in the contract relating to what you can or cannot post on your door.

In addition to the arguments against our posting, he claimed we were disrespectful in disputing him and questioning his authority. He may have interpreted it that way, but I was just asserting our rights to free speech. I thought his actions were disrespectful. Why resort to "I am authority so you must obey now without question" (not his actual words, but my interpretation) instead of having a civil discussion and talking things out? At the same time, I think he was being disrespectful to everyone on the floor. I would find it disrespectful to have someone say that I cannot see speech like that because it had the potential to harm me. I'm an adult. I can make adult decisions, and I can engage in critical thinking.

We will be meeting with the Resident Life Coordinator later in the week, and I will post what comes of it.

PS I have seen a Democratic sign on his door, but it is no longer there. A little hypocritical for someone who thinks political speech shouldn't be on doors.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Death of the Dollar?

A lot of free market economists have been calling for the death of the dollar in the near future. The main reason for this of course has been the insensible expansion of the United States federal goverment debt, which is financed primarily through large inter-governmental loans and Ben Bernanke's printing presses at the Federal Reserve.

But will the dollar actually die, and if so how soon? According to a report from Robert Fisk late last year, several countries including China, Japan, Russia, and several in the Middle East, have already started planning to drop the dollar as the world reserve currency in a series of supposed secret talks. Robert Fisk is an English writer and journalist based out of the Middle East, a man with more international awards in journalism than any other foreign correspondant, according to the University of California at Berkeley. The plan, according to Fisk, is to slowly stop trading oil in dollars and move to a basket of more stable currencies.

As you may know, the U.S. dollar is the world reserve currency, meaning that all commodities throughout the world must be bought and sold with with American dollar. This supreme position gives the United States government the immense luxury of being able to print however much money it pleases in order to finance its extensive spending habits, knowing that there will always be a steady demand for more dollars. This of course is changing.

According to economist Marc Faber, the United States has borrowed too much money, so much that it will either default on its sovereign debt or start printing even more money to monetize the debt. He says that it is most likely that Mr. Bernanke will keep his printing presses running untill we see a hyperinflationary environment in the U.S. Of course Dr. Faber also says that many other fiat currencies around the world aren't in much of a better position than the future of the dollar, including Japan and many countries in the European Union. When questioned about what happens after hyperinflation, Dr. Faber usually responds with an explanation that throughout history government's who have gotten themselves into this much trouble usually go to war. War has always been a great tool for distraction, and when tensions are running high between countries over the state of differing currencies and economies, it is definately a possibility that we will see an increase in our war efforts around the world.

So far nearly all the countries accused of having secret talks about dropping the dollar have denied all claims. Although, Fisk holds strong to his position, claiming that when he gathered the information he was told that, the fury of denials would prove his findings true. This of course has to do with the fact that most of these countries have large stakes in the current value of the U.S. dollar, with countries like China holding approximately 1 trillion dollars in reserves. Any shock to the price of the dollar, would be a shock to the value of China's savings.

So when can we expect the world to drop the dollar? Fisk reports that this is all very new, and probably as much as 9 years out, untill we see any major changes. Dr. Faber predicts the United States will have to start dealing with the real crisis sometime in the next 5-10 years. Fortunately some very brilliant people out there have come up with some very brilliant responses to this crisis. Look forward to my next post for an optimistic approach towards rebuilding the crumbling economic structure of the U.S.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On "I, Pencil"

Leonard Read's classic essay "I, Pencil" is deceptively simple. It exposes something that benefits us daily but that we rarely perceive: the power of the market to produce goods and services, not by demanding that they be produced, but by allowing people to act freely along every step of the way. Of course the example of a pencil is merely incidental. This could have been the story of a million other products that are readily available to us, thanks to the power of the free market to effectively allocate resources. The point is that the process is decentralized and spontaneous. Every worker in the making of a pencil is working for themselves, not for the goal of making a pencil. To them, the pay they receive is worth the labor they put in. Each party benefits, and nobody is coerced. Not only is voluntary action the most morally acceptable, but it provides the best incentives for people to produce the most at the lowest cost. If we zoom out from any one of these single transactions, we would see a growing web of interaction which, as a whole, creates our entire economy. The beauty of this system, and what makes it so easily taken for granted, is the fact that it arises naturally when people are simply allowed to trade with each other on their own terms and not according to any particular scheme or design.
This is not easily grasped by most casual observers of economics. In his essay, "Why I Am No Longer A 'Brain-Dead Liberal'," the playwright David Mamet explains that, like most government apologists, he once saw the state as the solution to society's problems. If only it could have a little more control of our affairs, it could set them in the right order for us. It took him 60 years of experience before he came to realize this simple truth: that people are self-interested and that "...the world in which I actually functioned day to day was made up of people, most of whom were reasonably trying to maximize their comfort by getting along with each other." Along with this realization, Mamet came to see the idealistic goals of most government schemes as naive and misguided since they only disrupt the spontaneous and voluntary system of free enterprise and result in unforeseen harm. From the increasingly statist flavor of modern politics, more and more government plans promise to correct the imperfections of our world (healthcare for all, affordable housing, protection of domestic markets). The truth is that the world in which we live is not perfect, but it is generally best served by getting out of the way and letting people handle their problems themselves.

by Brian Bisek

Monday, October 19, 2009

How to Destroy an Economy

If I were a congressman, this is the speech I would've given a little more than a year ago, as the economy collapse was just happening. I would've been dead-serious as I strode up to the podium:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we are no doubt living in perilous times. The economy has recently tanked, and the stock market is down greatly. But before we all panic and act hastily, let me read you something. It is entitled 'How to Destroy an Economy.'

If one were set on destroying an economy how would they do it? Here are a few of the ways I could see it happening:

1. Create a state of panic. Threaten martial law. Say how if we don't act now the sky will fall down. Do everything to over-exaggerate the severity of the crisis.

2. Double the money supply in a few short months. Do this by print trillions of dollars backed by nothing but their own paper.

3. Bail out and rescue those whose bad decisions led to this collapse. Create a false impression that some companies are just too big to fail. Create a giant moral hazard for corporations to engage in more future risky adventures and then try to keep a straight face when you say you won't bail them out again. Don't tell the people that the corporations you bail out finance your reelection campaigns.

4. Print a trillion dollars to pass an economic stimulus package based on the dubious premise of what we need is more borrowing and spending. Don't tell people we got into this mess by too much borrowing and spending. Pass the stimulus by saying we don't have a day to spare, but then wait a few days to sign it.

5. Create a scapegoat for the collapse by demonizing capitalism. Tell the masses we got into this mess by having too much freedom. Create the impression that we need more government and more regulation and less freedom.

6. Say that the debate is over on economic policies. Phrase all sentences by saying "all economists agree" followed by your plan.

7. Run a projected $10 trillion deficit over the next ten years. Create excuses for it by childishly saying "but the other party did it when they were in office!"

8. Use the crisis for other opportunities. "Never let a crisis go to waste" some in the highest positions may say. Pass healthcare reform with money you don't have.

9. Give the government institutions who created this mess more power. Let the quasi-government institution that has been the source of all bubbles be the regulator of future bubbles.

10. Reappoint the Fed Chairmen whose nickname is "HELICOPTER Ben!"

Thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It's Time That the Congress Did its Job...its Real Job

There has been a lot of talk recently about the war in Afghanistan, and whether or not Barack Obama will send more troops (again) to continue it. I was watching an interview on Fox News last week with two Congresspersons, one Democrat and one Republican, weighing in on the war. By the end, I wasn’t stunned by the responses, just disappointed. Disappointed in the utter disregard for the legislature’s duty to provide a check and balance on the executive branch as ordered by the Constitution.

The Republican talked at great length about “supporting the troops”. This is a phrase that we’ve seen many times to justify the perpetuation of war. We often hear rhetoric about “supporting the troops,” and how cutting the funding for the war will put our troops in danger. Cutting the funding to the war is almost unthinkable by many in the congress, even those who don’t support the war. This “support our troops” rhetoric, as it is used by many on the right, deems such action as un-American. It is almost as if putting troops in harms way (un-Constitutionally, might I add) by the executive is less of a threat to their well being, than the Congress ending the funding of the war. This rhetoric has effectively neutralized the Congress’s “power of the purse,” which is an essential check on executive power.

The Democrat went on for a long time about supporting whatever decision the President comes to. Here, again, we see the disregard for the Constitutional powers granted to the Congress. It seems that no one remembers the idea that the Executive is supposed to enforce the laws (and wars) deemed necessary by the Congress—not the other way around. Our system of politics has strayed far from the framing of government provided in the constitution. It is a system of the party, by the party, and for the party; a system where the people, philosophy, and common sense play an insignificant role in the shaping of policy.

It is time that Congress starts doing its job—its real job. Stop blindly following your president and take a concrete stand on issues. The label “Democrat” or “Republican” should not take precedence over your philosophical ideals. If you oppose the war, oppose it. Don’t wait to see what your commander in chief thinks about it. Start providing a check on the authoritarian office that the Presidency has become. Stop undermining your own authority with your rhetoric! Most importantly, follow the Constitution and play your much-needed part in this government. It is your duty not only to this country, but to the people you represent.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Barack Obama: Nobel Prize Winner

The cult of personality that is Barack Obama has reached a still higher level of power and influence today. He was unanimously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by the Nobel Prize Committee for his vision and the work he has done around the world.

What work, I ask? What specifically has he done to make the world a more peaceful place? Iran is still making weekly threats against Israel, North Korean relations have crumbled further, and he has expanded the war in Afghanistan, encompassing parts of Pakistan and is considering expanding it further with another troop deployment.

This selection is like the last presidential election in miniature. The judges were clearly so won over by his flowery speech and promises of a better world that they paid no attention to his track record, which is essentially blank.

I honestly would rather have seen Bono get the Prize. I'm serious.

Brb, off to buy a commemorative T-Shirt!