Coming Soon: I opine on: the awful messages promoted by movies... how free markets and social programs can work well together, and how to properly tax the rich more heavily.
Confessions... I think moral duty was a concept invented to control people... I rarely feel common bonds with people based on geography... I have no moral obligation to obey anybody... I would defend the country if needed because I live here, but I would refuse to fight if drafted (really now, is there a more clear example of slavery than drafting people for war?).
December 3, 2013 - At first glance it seems that there might be too much chaos if soldiers were allowed to quit when the going got tough. On the other hand, those who glorify anything in a uniform as heroic should be fine with the idea. After all, all of these youngsters who are magically changed into heroes by the donning of a certain type of clothing and a few magic words certainly wouldn't cut and run when the fighting started, would they?
I want to point out a couple things here that will make some readers uncomfortable. The founders of the United States thought there are inalienable or natural rights which are part of being a human. Well okay, some part of the minds of those white, slave-holding, wealthy males was too stupid to recognize that... More: Soldiers Quit
November 13, 2013 - In the almost two years that we have been in our condo my wife and I have decided that we do not like condo living. The neighbors are fine, and it is nice to have a swimming pool a few steps away. It is also great to have someone else maintain the lawn and landscaping. Most of the rules are just fine with us as well. But the lack of control is what bothers us, and this is especially true in the financial areas. Recent changes by FEMA to the area flood maps are what prompted me to write about this. Consider it a warning if you are considering buying a condo. I will also have a few comments about the whole flood insurance scheme and the politics involved.
First, the change as it affected us: each owner in our association now has to pay an extra assessment of $600 per year in order to cover the cost of flood insurance. That's a significant addition to the dues we pay quarterly. In fact, the total cost is... More: Shallow Floods and Condo Life
October 17, 2013 - One country has a chemical weapons stockpile that's three times as large as another country, yet denounces the latter country for having any at all. Which countries are these? They are the United States and Syria, respectively. Politics as usual includes hypocritical pronouncements of "moral" outrage.
It might seem that there is a "red line" in warfare that must not be crossed or that, when crossed, should trigger a response. That is the premise of the mess in Syria and the Obama administration's talk of possible attacks. Certainly chemical weapons are nasty and brutal, although they have killed only a tiny fraction of the people killed in Syria's civil war -- the rest were killed in other ways, and none of those ways are pleasant either. But the idea that this is a moral and humanitarian response is a bit unbelievable. The United States has long been silent when... More: Weapons and Hypocrisy
October 7, 2013 - It is a common belief that the people of the United States are the wealthiest in the world. But how wealth is measured makes all the difference. While the country might be wealthy, are most of the people in it? How does the average person compare to an average person from other countries? In fact, the average adult in the U.S. has less wealth than those in 25 other countries.
In order to have a better understanding of wealth in the United States, you have to understand the difference between a mean and median, both of which are used as a synonym for "average." A mean is arrived at by simply adding all values and dividing by the number of values. Suppose, for example, four people live in a very small country, and the wealth (total assets minus debts) of each is $100,000, $24,000, $58,000, and $89,000. We add those numbers ($271,000) and divide by four to arrive at an average of $67,750. That is the mean measure of wealth of residents in our little town.
There is a problem with measuring things in this way. If a rich man moved to town with his $5 billion in assets, this "average" would be over $1 billion. Now, if you were to... More: Richest Country
September 11, 2013 - This morning I read an article about a new way some employers have been ripping off their employees in recent years. It was about the rise of private arbitration and employment contracts that demand this alternative to courts. In one example an employee had not been paid for all of the hours he worked, and he tried to sue, but the court would not hear his case, because he had signed away his right to sue when he was hired. His employment contract said he was agreeing to private arbitration in any dispute with his employer.
Now, this might seem okay to those who love free-market alternatives to what are normally government functions. Some might even argue that private arbitrators who specialize could be better than traditional judges at understanding a case and making a fair decision. But there is a problem with this, and it starts with the simple fact that arbitrators have to be hired by someone, and that someone is almost always -- by contract... More: Unethical Employers
August 23, 2013 - I want to suggest a set of rules that we can use when deciding who to vote for and what laws to support. We might call them strong guidelines, because I do not believe in absolute rules, but these ones make sense to me in most contexts. They start with the simple proposition that we should not support laws which require actions which we would feel were unethical if we did them ourselves. In other words, if it is wrong for me to do something, it is wrong for me to vote for others who will cause it to be done.
I call this my politics of personal responsibility. Ordinarily when people use that phrase, or similar ones, they are talking about laws that require people to be more responsible for their own lives. There is something to be said for that idea, but this essay is about the question of how responsible we are (or can be) for the effects of legislation that we support directly or indirectly, and what that suggests about how we should vote or what policies we should support. If we knowingly vote for men and women who are going to do bad things, we are... More: Politics and Responsibility
August 6, 2013 - The gap between the richest people and the rest of us grows year after year. This wouldn't necessarily be a problem if the rich just happened to be getting richer faster while we all did better. After all, if we all progress and/or are doing well, what harm is there in some doing far better? But the reality is that the poor and middle class in the United States seem to be progressing very little, and even losing ground in recent years. Some of this is due to the ways in which the wealthy are getting wealthier. There is no good reason to think there is any one simple cause of this growing divide, so let's look at a few possible contributing factors.
To start with I want to propose this simple principle, which I think almost any reader will agree with: To the extent which it's more difficult to make, save, and invest money, the income and net worth of the poor and middle class will suffer, either by going down or not rising as fast as they otherwise would. To state it another way; if there are... More: Widening Income Gap
July 11, 2013 - About a thousand people will die by the time you finish reading this page... Now that you can easily find almost any statistical measures you want online, it is possible to do all sorts of quick math in order to look at life and death in new ways. Of course, sometimes those new ways do not provide the most pleasant perspectives. It can be an entertaining pastime, however, so here we go. I have put together the following examples of morbid math.
About 55 million people die annually, which is an average of about 150,600 deaths daily. Now, if the distribution of deaths is relatively uniform, that means that there are about 150,600 deaths on any given date. About a third of the people in the world are married, and that percentage is likely to be about the same for those who die on any given day. Therefore, if we divide 150,600 by the 3, we get around 50,200 married people dying each day. Divide that number by... More: Morbid Math
June 1, 2013 - A local newspaper can often provide some insight into what a town is like. Years ago, when Ana and I were looking for a place to live (after we moved to Montana and back to Michigan) we used to start with newspapers. Fortunately this was when they were all beginning to put their content online, making it easy to check out the local scene. Before we moved to Cañon City, Colorado, for example, we saw this in the "Lost and Found" section of the classified ads of the Cañon City Daily Record: "Found $20 bill downtown." There was a number to call so the owner could verify where it was lost and claim the money. That reminded us that small-town-life has its advantages (we were living in Tucson, Arizona at the time). So what do we see in the local newspaper here in Naples, Florida? The Naples Daily News certainly contains reminders of the wealth that is concentrated here. In Sunday's paper, for example... More: Local Paper
May 12, 2013 - There is a simple game of imagination that most of us have played at some point. It starts with the question, "What would you do if you won the lottery?" Or the question might specify a million or ten million dollars. You may have traded answers to this type of question with friends at some point. It tells us a little about each person who answers it, even if what a person says he would do is not nearly as indicative of character as what he actually does. But more than an opportunity to share one's values with others, questions like these are a way to learn about oneself. They are also just a good way to give your imagination and reasoning skills a work out. With that in mind, here are a few questions to ponder... Read More: Ponder These Questions
April 10, 2013 - Today I am writing in part because I have not posted anything for a while. But I am also posting this because I occasionally have a short thought or two that do not warrant an essay or article. So here are some of the ones that have collected in my notes over the last few weeks... Overbooking of Flights - In virtually any other business if you sell something you don't actually have or can't provide it is considered fraud, a serious crime. Why is it that airlines are allowed to sell more seats than they have on their planes? Shouldn't someone be prosecuted for... Read More: Thoughts
Monkey Prostitution - A true story from the economics lab.
Context - How important it is in judging almost anything and anyone.
Prejudice in the U.S. - An encouraging report.
Taxing the Middle Class - An example of how the rich pay less.
Looking for Work - My personal experiences.
Why Vote - It's hard to find good reasons.
Why Do I Write? - Several good reasons are given.
What is the Value of Labor? - More questions than answers.
Thoughts About Money - Wages as profit and more...
Living Cheap in Naples - Part two; cheap meals and entertainment.
Are We Less Violent? - A look at the evidence of history.
The Stroop Test - Test your mental coordination!
Windows for President - Microsoft makes a presidential bid.
Radical Welfare Reform - Lower cost for a bigger safety net?
Do I Love This Country? - I don't hate it.
Can We Be Born Again? - My non-Christian answer.
The Spread of Pathogenic Ideas - A parallel with natural phenomena.
Bounty Hunting - An excerpt from 101 Weird Ways to Make Money.
Three Tips for Writers - When you get published...
Discrimination Against Atheists - It is common, to say the least.
Is It Arrogant to Think for Yourself? - An answer.
Marriage and Immigration - If we eliminate marriage, what about immigration?
Mountains I Have Climbed - A list and links to pages were I've written about my experiences.
First Television Interview - On FOX news.
I personally put each of these together every week.