Sunday, March 28, 2010

Best Medicine for America

Capitalism with a the best medicine for America. And America had better go for major doses of that medicine if she wants to continue competing and surviving in these modern times.

Let me start with a quote from Ron Paul on his website:

"What the Federal Reserve still fails to realize is that intervention in the economy is always harmful. Unlike the late French economist, Frederic Bastiat, the Fed only sees what is seen, the superficial results of its policies, and not what is unseen, the effects of its monetary intervention throughout the economy. Monetary inflation leads to malinvestment and causes the boom phase of the business cycle. Once the malinvestment is realized the bust phase occurs, and these malinvested resources need to be liquidated in order for the economy to recover. But the Fed actively works to prevent this liquidation and does everything in its power to continue inflating in order to prolong the boom. The first act of intervention begets the second and subsequent interventions, each bigger than the first, as each economic bust gets larger and more severe.

The idea that a handful of brilliant minds can somehow steer the economy is fatal to economic growth and stability. The Soviet Union’s economy failed because of its central planning, and the United States economy will suffer the same fate if we continue down the path toward more centralized control. We need to return to sound money, bring back free markets, and rein in the Fed."

It doesn't take reading too many of my blogs to know I stand for liberty, small government, free markets and personal sovereignty as ideals to live by in this short lifetime.

We live in an age of "hardliners" versus the growing centrists or "moderates" within the masses. We live in an age where the masses yearn for more freedom and information while governments and other institutions strive to control the masses with more regulation and mis information. The extremism of the hardliners continues to elevate from all sides. These uncertain times encourage more religious fanaticism with fundamentalists of all persuasions fanning the flames of "holy" war. The "haves" are fleeing oppressive, authoritarian regimes with their brains and their bucks while the "have nots" continue to justify their "Robin Hood" mentalities of redistribution. None of this is adding up to a potential for peace in our times.

It is time for a fundamental change in the world. It is time to let markets and economic realities go where they must go. Prices must fall in the highly leveraged first world countries while inflation WILL rise in emerging economies. If governments and institutions will stop trying to manipulate markets, currencies and laying down unrealistic taxes on their people...the markets WILL bring reality to the situation in short order.

America can and should lead the charge towards this new agenda. Instead of the current government's attempts to grow a larger government requiring a larger budget (out of the taxpayers hides) to run their never ending thirst for power and control...the government should simply be governing the legalities of trade contracts and striving to assist private enterprises within their realm to be more competitive and innovative in the world marketplace. Subsidies and manipulations of markets that end up lining the pockets of a few and the politicians themselves should be curtailed. Even altruism should be left in the realm of private agencies who are enabled by their governments to help in global disaster relief without the political limitations and bureaucracies normally associated with such pursuits.

The main medicine we Americans must take is whatever medicine will put everyone back to work again. Whatever will make us profitable again. Whatever will make us debt free again. Whatever will once again allow us to hold our heads high as the most productive, innovative, moral and just nation on the face of the earth again. Our immoral level of consumerism, contamination of the environment, and manipulation at the end of a gun barrel must be replaced by thriftiness, discovery of cheaper and cleaner energy sources, and fighting our wars competing with money, not warships.

I understand that to undo many of these positions we have put ourselves in will take decades and generations. We can't disarm against our enemies TOMORROW. But we won't start until we have a renewed way of thinking. Unfortunately I don't hear many of these reformation voices in the media or in books. I only see more hype, sensationalism and tabloid journalism twisting the minds of the simplistic public. Instead of positive, constructive ideas on how to change the world, I only see extreme criticism and hate spewed in most of the emails and news I see online. Even on this blog, I challenge myself to examine the alternatives or answers to problems instead of just jumping in on the bandwagon of criticizing what is going on.

While these issues are much bigger than any one agenda item, a small example of how America has missed the boat on applying capitalistic principles to its problems is in the latest health reform bill the government has apparently gotten through the process. While I think SOME good may come from this new approach to healthcare in America (getting coverage for people who can't afford insurance), I think the cost and quality of healthcare overall will go down. I am just guessing, because I am not a professional in these fields. But in talking to a variety of the professionals who are, I find them quite conflicted or divided on this as well. While most educated, productive professionals at the core believe in capitalism and markets, not wanting to be dictated to what price they can charge for their time or services...they also struggle with the impossible costs of healthcare solutions and the growing demand for those services in a time when fewer can afford it. To that end, I think those with pure intent for improving access and relief to the poor and disenfranchised is a noble cause. Unfortunately, we are now going to see government "insiders" trying to siphon off as many huge contracts and revenues out of these huge budgets as they can. There will be shortages because government is going to try and control supply and demand. Many of the best products and practitioners will simply withdraw from the industry because they don't see it profitable to participate. Some Doctors will become real estate brokers...some real estate brokers will have to play doctor. I hope I am wrong, but I am afraid I am not.

In this small illustration, I think what was missed was an opportunity for "market forces" to organize and communicate clearly to government entities a sustainable plan for staying competitive while yet helping to fill the gap/needs of those less fortunate. Capitalism doesn't HAVE to be greedy. Capitalism doesn't HAVE to be extreme or selfish in totality. Most "Capitalists" I know have a social conscience...a heart if you will. Its just that balanced Capitalists would rather teach fishing than just provide fish.

The Republicans truly missed the chance to come up with better solutions in this part of the battle. Instead of presenting reasonable, viable plans of their own and selling it to the masses...they basically just went extreme and nasty against anything and everything Obama and the Democrats were pushing forward. Even the "tea party" movement got nasty and divisive instead of sweet and inclusive. Anger often overcomes reason...which is why we should never allow ourselves to get pushed to such an angry extent where we lose our objectivity and rationale. Instead of REacting, we should be taking action.

When it comes to all our key challenges in America right now; jobs, security, debt, and good health...we must reverse the pyramid of support to swell from the ground up...not the top down. The more individuals take care of themselves and their own, the sooner governments and institutions are dis-empowered from having dominion over our sovereignty. The sooner we all realize and take responsibilities for ourselves, control our monies and take better care of our own health...the sooner we will be free and objective enough to even HAVE a conscience.

Somehow, the modern day Robin Hood story has gotten reversed. Instead of a leader stealing from "the State" to give to the poor, "the State" is robbing the leaders to then give SOME OF IT to the poor. This story has to change before the State and the poor find themselves completely destitute of brains and funds.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Self, Government, Money and Altruism

The quest for identity and meaning often starts whether consciously or subconsciously with the question "Who am I". Throughout the animal kingdom, including humans, most of that identification is wrapped up in reflecting and imitating the behaviors, thinking and sentimentality of the family and friends we grow up with. Whether from the genetic core or just from behavioral modification, most people ,whether they like it or not, act and talk very similar to others in their families.

The topic of self and government came back to the forefront today as I was listening to a political speech online. The speaker was quoting from the USA Declaration of Independence where it says:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

For some of you it may be a reach for tying this quote into my topic...but let me explain how it does.

The biggest trend in modern day life is to let governments and institutions take over in areas that used be very "localized". The world is becoming a "melting pot" while at the same time "extreme fundamentalism" is growing in direct relation to this phenomenon. While modern transportation and technology enables us to travel at much greater speeds and lower cost...a majority of the world is NOT free to travel outside of their own borders. Protectionism and socialism are the fastest growing ideals for attempting to resolve the world's ills. The problems appear so big that the majority of folks simply and with futility pass their sovereignty over to governments and institutions to solve the world's crisis.

Sensationalism is also running the mindset of the masses related to crisis management. While it seems positive to see so many fund-raising and awareness campaigns for helping in the recent devastation due to earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, these same forces seem blind to the continued plight of the poor and homeless in the USA. We have more homeless in many of the USA's largest cities than you have in many of these emerging market Latin cities I am currently involved with. Yet, our government pours billions into foreign causes but can't get a handle on its own homeless and disgruntled veterans of foreign wars. And when it comes to helping places like Haiti, there is apparently little rule of law managing their property rights and many other legal issues of their current plight. do you help a country where there is no true democracy or clear ownership rights on much of the country's land? Many people there are still homeless NOT because there isn't ready aid for them...but because there is no clear ownership of property or way to know who will really be the benefactor/owner of a given structure or housing. What has been going on in that country for the last century and with all the aid given heretofore? I think we have a pretty good idea...statism in it's truest corrupt form where the people are controlled by a elite "police state". Is this really so different from the rest of the world?

Unfortunately we now live in a world where Governments and dictatorships strive to limit the freedoms of their constituents and lord over the sovereign choices that individuals should be able to make for themselves. Increasingly governments are passing MORE laws and ordinances to control the movements of one's assets, expression of thoughts and even more importantly, our freedoms physically to roam in God's good earth. Unless you are part of the "elite" in most parts of the world, you are not free to come and go as you please. Even to get a passport...a requirement for international travel anymore...involves making certain oaths and declarations of "allegiance" that to me countermand the "God given" constitutional rights our forefathers in America envisioned for ALL...not just Americans.

It has now come down to...if you want to get along "peacefully" in this world, you'd better be identified with and in allegiance to a "democracy". And you had better have money, because money in reality is the ticket to freedom and independence. If you are "dependent" on your government or the society or family around you for your had better be ready to give up your "independence". The reality is, you can't have it both ways. You can't be "independent" and "dependent" at the same time. You are or you aren't...just by definition.

Don't mistake my intent here. I am not saying we NEVER should depend on each other in the human family or help each other out when disaster strikes. But what I AM saying is that we should never take such help or association for granted, and we should never leave it the hands of institutions and governments to take from us and give to others. Third party morals are almost always the problem when it comes to waste and graft.

Pertaining to what I have previously written in other of my blogs...the pyramid of entitlements and redistribution of "societal wealth" has gone completely upside down. People in general do not take responsibility for their own and count on the "social good" to cover for their lack of productivity or wrong thinking. The whole world system teeters on the brink of oblivion because of this dynamic...too FEW doing for too MANY. It doesn't take a college education to read and deduce the coming macros of population booms and its drain on global resources. The poor and uneducated continue repopulating the earth while the educated and financial elite are actually too busy or stressed out by society to even have a sex life. Sure, I am over generalizing...but my point stands.

I am convinced that in order to change "the world", governments and institutions need to revamp their approach to providing security for the masses. Instead of money for bombs and armies...we need to spend more for armies of teachers and "producers". The world needs to wake up to the reality that there is no entitlement for entitlements sake. No one "owes us" anything just because we put ourselves in the position of owing or being owed. If someone gives to us, we should be ready and willing to return that which was given when we are able. Lets face it...if everyone was brought up to simply take care of THEMSELVES, there would be very little need for altruism in taking care of the masses.

Most religions actually preach a communal way of life and coexistence where EVERYONE is supposed to work and strive to take care of themselves and their families. It is wise in almost all religions to neither owe nor be owed a debt. Being just and fair in most of man's religions involve very strict codes of interactive conduct and a sense of "an eye for an eye...a tooth for a tooth". Its just the way it has been for thousands of years, whether you look at it from a Darwinian or religious point of view. Yet somehow in our "modern", "enlightened" age...we are now conditioned to think that we owe the world and the world owes us. Whether that is a "job", or international disaster relief...I think things have gotten out of hand as to the world's perspective on government's role in our lives.

Since most countries are NOT true democracies, how can we be assured that our support of one country or another is truly going to the proper place or need? it a person's or country's obligation to give freely to an others well being? I have no problem with helping others and giving loans, but I think historically CHARITY has proven to continue feeding off itself. The more one gives, the more others want. It seems the evil side of human nature is that this pattern perpetuates. I am more confident than ever that it is "better to teach a person to fish than to just give them fish".

So, is it "un-American" to question my government or reject some of the controls it is trying to usurp over me to meet its own impossible obligations it perceives in the rest of the world? From a constitutional standpoint I would have to argue "NO". Government is supposed to serve it's constituents, not the other way around. And it is supposed to uphold anyone's individual rights against any unconstitutional demands of a majority of other people. That is true of constitutional government in the USA at least. To the extent that my government makes demands on one's sovereign rights or freedoms, it is your constitutional obligation to reject and/or ignore its demands.

Unfortunately, in this day and age it is easier to exile oneself from their country than to try and initiate change. The world, including the USA, has become a huge example of the "Atlas Shrugged" phenomenon. The knowledgeable, hardworking, productive "good guys" are starting to escape the demands of the masses and institutions. As I told some friends the other day, "it is a sad day when the good guys have to hide". By "hiding" I mean...they have to hide their assets, their knowledge and their passion...lest the masses of the world system steal it all and waste it on the machinations of futility. Those who "take" begin with requesting a dime, then they want a dollar, then they want it all. And somehow they convince themselves they are justified in demanding it.

I close this blog with a quote from "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand...

Not an ocean of tears not all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor—your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money, Is this what you consider evil?…

Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent. …

Money is the product of virtue, but it will not give you virtue and it will not redeem your vices. …

Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another–their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun. …

When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket. And then that society vanishes, in a spread of ruins and slaughter.

“Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion—when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing—when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors—when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you—when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice—you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that is does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot. …

Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked, ‘Account overdrawn.’

“When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral. Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded. Do not ask, ‘Who is destroying the world? You are.

Friday, March 5, 2010

To Dare Mighty Things...

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat." --Theodore Roosevelt

This quote which I was recently reminded of during my reading of "The Path Between the Seas, The Creation of the Panama Canal" is probably the closest I can think of that depicts my desired approach to life.

Life as I have chosen to live it has seen its share of victories and defeats. I have rarely taken the "safest" route to get where I want in life...and I have a few scars and painful memories to show for it. Yet, when people ask me what it takes to be a "global citizen" or patriot who has lived a lot of places and done a wide range of things...I usually answer some form of "its not for the faint of heart or negative thinking".

This past 8 years living in Central America has brought many new challenges, experiences, joys and sorrows. I have lost or burned off a few former friends and acquaintances in the past decade. That is never pleasant but sometimes necessary for "moving on" and not accepting the limitations of others. It takes a while to really know people most of the time...and in exotic places like Central America you get a caste of characters unique to most any other contemporary time or space.

I have had a number of great adventures I could never have imagined 10-20 years ago...and I like to think the years and introspection I have achieved have wizened me somewhat to many of life's realities...both pleasant and harsh. Now in my 50s, I try to keep the perspective that "life begins at 50"...but truth be known, I also realize at this age that many of my former dreams or ambitions will never be realized. While I appreciate being in relatively good health (knock on wood), I realize I don't have the same stamina or physical energy that I had 20 years ago. Since 20 years ago seems like pains me psychologically to think of the irreversible effects of the clock on our physiology. More young people are starting to call me "sir" (at least the ones with manners), and most people my own age are looking and acting way too old for me. I must admit a growing aversion to dawdling too much looking in the mirror. I see less and less of what I want to see...though I suppose some minor corrections in lifestyle could somewhat enhance or prolong more youthful looks. 20-30 extra pounds is NOT attractive at this or any age.

Lest I focus too much on the tawdry and vain...lets turn this conversation around to the positive by saying most challenges in life are "mind over matter". I have always believed humans err to place so much emphasis on outer appearances and image. After all, many of the world's most "attractive" people are the most psychotic losers in our society. Intelligence is still the most attractive attribute of a person to me. A woman's external beauty gets her 2-5 minutes of my attention...but beyond that they better have some wit and charm about them or they suddenly become a waste of time. Sincerity and grace can sometimes seem like dying attributes in the human race. Thankfully, I move around and network enough to where I have found enough friends and family that fit that bill of being positive influences and challenge me to live up to their good examples.

So how does all this tie into what Teddy Roosevelt said? Well, I personally think we live in very difficult times. The world as we have known it the last 50+ years is changing very rapidly. There are huge paradigm shifts in wealth, governmental systems, and mass mind-share caused by the information age and an overload on all the cultural mores and icons in our world, forcing rapid change and challenging accommodation for differences. Populations are growing/shifting rapidly while supplies of clean water, air and food dwindle. Many religions have gone extreme in reaction to this or have "gone out the window" of relevance completely. The world is waking up to the death of many core institutions. There is a vacuum of true leadership and it is quickly becoming a world mindset of "every man/woman for themselves". We are finding there really was something to that Darwinian idea of "survival of the fittest".

As these reflections and observations kick in, I find Teddy's statement made over 100 years ago more relevant than ever before. We can no longer count on a return to life "as we knew it". There is no going back to "Mayberry", "Father Knows Best" or other TV icons of the life we once knew. We are in the middle of economic meltdowns, massive climate change and access to information and communications capabilities never imagined 50 years ago. It takes a whole new set of skills and adaptation to change in order to survive in the long term today.

In these 50+ "post world war" years we have gotten a bit complacent and "chubby" in body, mind and spirit. Many of us thought the gravy train would never end. The DOW would always continue to go up, and America and democracy would always be the standard bearer for world systems. We are now unfortunately seeing many of those presuppositions being chipped away by the realities of masses who have never learned to live or think independently. The few who "have" cannot keep up with the demands of those who don't. Political promises are even less likely to be kept...and you are going to see a lot more "dog eat dog" in the world at large at all levels of existence.

In the middle of all this change and lack of seems to me the perfect time to hitch up our pants and our minds...and start pushing the button of passion and ingenuity within ourselves. We need to spend less time watching the news, and more time trying to "make the news". Like never before, we need to move ourselves and those around us in a more positive and individualistic direction. Most of us who understand this do NOT want to go the way of the masses. We do NOT want to wait for someone to give us something or bring us the answers. We want to make our own ways...and have the satisfaction when all is said and done that we played the game of life to the best of our potential and ability. To sit back and do nothing, either because of age, infirmity or just general depression is really not an option if you want to survive and even more importantly LIVE.

I MAY live another 50 years in this age of quickly expanding science and technology. That means it is way too soon to rest on my laurels or past accomplishments. Like never before I need to apply all my strengths, experiences and life's lessons to a re-focused effort on answering the questions of 1) how can I best secure a successful balance of my life, and 2) how can I best influence others to help me build the life we want?

The reality is we cannot do much alone. We need other people in our lives. People to bounce ideas off and who will reflect back to us our reality. We need people to sell our skills or products to...and we need others to provide that which we cannot do ourselves. We can't necessarily count on others to provide easy answers to our many questions. We need to be demanding of ourselves and those we care about. We can't just tolerate hopelessness or negligence...and we can't assume people are going to "get it" eventually.

The bottom line of this day and age is we have to rediscover and then burn the path to success and happiness. We cannot leave that task to others. No person or institution is responsible for our health and well-being. If we don't, it won't. But if we DO...we will take great comfort in both our failures and successes, knowing that if we KEEP trying...if we STAY focused within the reality of our reason...we WILL do great and mighty things. It starts with the daring to do so...