No King, No Queen, No Lords, No Ladies

The end-result of any powerful bureaucracy with tons of rules and regulations is a neo-feudal state.

But, Sarah, you say, what if the rules and regulations are designed to protect the little guy from the big guys?  What if they’re designed to keep free competition and make the individual competitive?

Well, then the bureaucrats have got better at disguising their intent, but for the result, refer to the first line.

Let me explain – regardless of what the supposed intent of the rules and regulations: clean air, clean water, competitiveness, honesty, what all rules and regulations imposed by a government do is a) create a bureaucracy.  b) add to the cost of doing business/existing the cost of filling paperwork/jumping through hoops.

The result of a) is that bureaucracy’s are self perpetuating and self enlarging.  I.e. suppose you create a bureaucracy to make sure people don’t sell tainted meat to the public.  It’s a relatively simple mission and with some inspections and certifications, it is accomplished, to where the bureaucracy is pretty much stable.  Only the only way the heads of the bureaucracy are going to be promoted/get paid more is to enlarge their mission/empire.  So, soon the pressure comes to make sure people also don’t sell tainted fish.  Then there are a lot more people working there, and they all want to advance.  So after a while you have people measuring the salt content of restaurant food according to rather dubious science.

The result of b) is that if you find yourself unemployed and decide to start a business going to various offices and selling your prize chocolate chip cookies from that recipe your mom made up…  you can’t do it.  Or rather, to do it, you have to have substantial savings which allow you to rent a place to cook in that will pass inspection (which means out of the house, away from cats/kids.) and you have to have the time to fill all the paper work.  And the money to buy enormous levels of insurance.  Easier, really to shrug, stay on the dole and collect unemployment.  But even say you want to start a business that has nothing to do with food – say computer repair, or software writing.

Do you know the sheer load of paper work required for me to operate my “I make up crap, put it on paper and people buy it” business?  My husband probably loses three months of his own potential writing to keep all our accounting straight.  Indie publishing, if you publish anyone else, becomes a mind boggling maze.  I have friends who are publishing other friends under their indie imprint and who are in a very shaky situation in regards to regulations/law.  All fine so long as no one complains or the IRS has no reason to look into it.  At which point it will be an eye-crossing mess.  (I advise that if you want to publish other people, even occasionally, and/or collaborations you consider an LLC or another “collective ownership model” for the press. One that limits your liability.)

But Sarah, you say, do you favor selling tainted meat/fish/cat hair cookies?

Well, first I’m here to tell you Upton Sinclair was full of it and greatly exaggerated what was going on in the unregulated food market place.  And second that the “solution” of greater government regulation of the food market place is a crazy solution to a vanishingly small problem.

I’m going to tell you right now that I have no clue to what extent food was regulated in Portugal when I was little.  In Portugal, at least when I was growing up, (perhaps not now) regulations ranging from traffic codes to work law happened to other people, but not to any one individual.  The general consensus was that there ought to be a law, but each individual thought he or she, personally, should be exempt.  So, even though Portugal was the first country in Europe to ban child labor, by the time I finish fourth grade 90% of my classmates went into the textile mills to work.  How?  Well, there was a loophole, if your child was mentally deficient and couldn’t learn.  So…  I think doctors printed this by the case load, and signed them for a small consideration.  Girls who finished fourth grade with As and reading perfectly were certified too dumb to learn and went into the textile mills.  And even though I’m sure there was some milk regulation – one of my aunts by marriage was a milkmaid in her youth and was cited for watering the milk twice… according to my mom (which might or might not be true.  They didn’t get along) – we bought ours across the street from the farmer, and so did most of the village, and the village policemen didn’t care.  And street vendors were often unlicensed.  They weren’t supposed to be, mind.  But they ran when the police came.  And I doubt anyone looked very closely at where the food that people sold on the street was cooked.

Chaos, right?  People must have died left and right from food poisoning.  What about all that meat with maggots?

Okay… guys – there is one thing all this ignores…  People aren’t stupid.  Individual people aren’t stupid.  Yes, in times when food is really, really, really scarce someone might get away with selling food with maggots.  But that’s a different matter.  Most of the time, people aren’t dumb.

We had fishmongers who took the bus every morning to the beach then came BY BUS from village to village selling.  They were outsiders, but people would look-see.  The best way to build a big business?  Take the bite and throw away (or eat) yesterday’s unsold fish.  The best way to destroy your business?  Slip up, even once, and wash and deodorize old fish (a bleach solution) and sell it in the middle of the fresh.  Because sooner or later someone would taste the “off” or get ill.  And the word would go out, slowly but surely.  (And people still get ill.  Look at all the contamination in the exquisitely regulated EEC.  Two years ago it was Belgian cantelopes.)

Even in the big city, this happened.  There is this Portuguese sweet called Honey Cakes.  It would probably be illegal here (grin.)  It is made from the ground up remains of stale cake and a lot of honey, formed into little patties and sold.

I was crazy for this stuff.  For one, it was usually cheap, and when you’re a still-growing student with limited money working twelve hour days between school and job, I needed the quick energy.  (I was also stick thin.  Sigh.)

There was this deli that was known for them.  My earliest memory of the honey cakes came from my mom taking me there and getting me honey cakes and lemonade when I was maybe three.

Well, in my second year of college, on a freezing cold day, I stopped there and grabbed two honey cakes and an espresso, between my college and my French class at the French institute.  There I was walking under the drizzle (Porto is known as little London for a reason) juggling espresso, cake and umbrella, and I feel something tickle my lip.  I pull back… the honey cake was literally crawling with worms.  I think it was the last time I bought honey cake anywhere.  It was the last time I bought one at that deli.  To this day I don’t know what happened, except it was after the holidays, and I think someone young and stupid – it was a family business – forgot to toss the honeycakes they’d left on the shelf over the break.  Or perhaps thought “Hey, it’s made form stale stuff, so who cares?”

I didn’t tell anyone, because at the time I didn’t have any friends who did that route or went there.  But anytime I saw the honey cakes in the window, I felt that tickle on my lip and saw the worms, and the appetite was QUITE gone.  Over the next six months, the store slowly went out of business.

(Of course, the way to handle, if they figured it out, was to put a big sign up front saying “We apologize for” and “we guarantee it won’t happen again” and “Come in and try it free.”  BUT that’s what an American business would do.  For cultural reasons it would be very difficult in Portugal.)

Mind you, yes, a lot of us still got bad food to begin with – though I’m sure I could have got a refund, if I hadn’t been so shocked/disgusted I didn’t even want to think of it.  But the problem self-corrected.

Over the years, btw, that I bought from street vendors at fairs, and from farmers and from that lady down the street who does wonderful roast lamb, I never once had another experience like that.

So – am I saying we should leave it entirely to the free market?

I’m saying we should be aware of the trade off.  It is not “regulate food, nothing bad happens” “don’t regulate food, you get horrible things”  it’s more “regulate food and create a massive bureaucracy that might or might not cut down on the really bad incidences of tainted food, but which will do things like break into a picnic and destroy all the food because it was grown in a co-op and not inspected.”  Or “Regulate food and prevent people from bringing food to homeless shelters because it might not conform.”  Or “regulate food and prevent people consuming raw milk if they so choose, knowing the hazards of it.”  OR “regulate food and prevent someone selling their prize cookies, which they cook in a spotless kitchen, but not one that conforms to regulations”  (BTW, a friend who did micro-brewing called his beer Cat Hair Beer, one cat hair guaranteed per bottle.  We all wanted it.)

And this is with food regulations which have a (sort of) objective point and verification to them.  I.e. food is either tainted, or it isn’t.  It either contains x of fat and calories or it doesn’t.  It either…  You know what I mean.

When you start getting into the airy fairy realm of regulations that are supposed to do things like “give the little guy a chance to compete” you’re inviting the small god of unintended consequences (he looks like an ugly doll and laughs when you touch him) into your house and giving him the best seat.

For instance, under the assumption that anyone who doesn’t work for the government is in fact a crook and looking to cheat someone else, there are minimum wage regulations.  Yes, yes, look at that.  The small god is giggling.

What minimum wage regulations do is not make sure that everyone makes what is “fair” – whatever that is.  I never understood “fair” past distributing cookies in Kindergarten – it is rather to price labor away from many small employers.

Why?

Well, because no two employees are alike and to be blunt, there are jobs a blindfolded monkey could perform.  To pay (I don’t remember how much it is now.  Is it $10?) x dollars an hour for it is to price it out of what employers can pay for it.  This means the job either goes undone (if it’s something optional, like sweeping in front of the store, say) or … well, you hire illegally to do it.

And there’s absolutely NO point saying “But that’s illegal.”  Yes, so it is.  But ask the farmers who hire illegals to pay minimum wage, and they go out of business.  They simply don’t have that margin.  As for the “little guy” – usually a high school kid and totally unskilled – who’d be doing the job otherwise, he goes unemployed, living in mom’s basement and never learns that there are far worse things than chem. finals.  (For the record here, I’d like to point out my very first job in the US, a retail job, which familiarized me with cultural quirks like “eight am doesn’t mean eight thirty to nine” – I learned fast, so I kept it a while – and gave me a work history in the US paid less than two dollars per hour.  Yes, this was in 87.  It still was not princely.)

Then there’s the paperwork.  I’d be perfectly willing (the years I make more money.  Not right now) to pay someone $10 an hour to do some work for me: say come in and do a quick clean, and start dinner, or perhaps (depending on the day) proofread something and put it up.  (Yes, I could hire a cleaning service, but that’s different.  A cleaning service mostly does what I can do myself faster – sorry, but true – for way too much money.  What I mean is someone who comes in three hours a day and does whatever is driving me nuts that day.

The problem is I would need to file all sorts of paperwork, pay social security and disability and all that – and that I can’t do.  Either the money OR the sheer amount of work to fill all the papers needed.  In the end, it would be hiring someone to do the work needed to hire someone.  Uh.  So I do for myself, which keeps my work capped at a certain point.  I can only grow so much.

Mind you, at this point given the unemployment among the young, I probably could hire an unpaid “intern” to come in and “assist with” my work as an author.  These people then have the experience to apply for jobs people can’t afford to hire them for, even with experience.  I’ve heard too much about internships that lead nowhere to wish to exploit the young myself.  BUT people are doing it.  So, our regulation to prevent exploitation… yeah…  That small god has a belly ache from giggling.

The healthcare law adds a hellish level to this, so even medium size companies will have trouble complying with either the costs or the mind boggling level of paperwork to document compliance.

This is why big corporations donate to the candidates favoring more regulations.  And then people ask for more regulations to protect them from the corporations.  And then…  You see where this is headed?

The final stage of this system is a place where only massive entities and bureaucrats have nay power, and the rest of us are serfs.  The sheer amount of paperwork, regulations and hoops to jump through to prevent the evil, evil individuals from doing the nasty stuff they’d do without government supervision, means no one can strike out on their own.

And every time anyone protests, you get told “Do you want meat with maggots?”

(The funny thing is that once the system is ossified and there is no alternative to the big guys, you’ll have meat with maggots and like it.  Ask China and the insecticide in infant formula or the slippers that will burn your skin.)

This doesn’t last – not unless it’s a very small country and it has a history of totalitarianism (and even then, who knows how long Cuba will last?) – the blackmarket flourishes all along (people have to live) and eventually the whole thing crashes.

But people who think they’ll come out on top think this time it will be different.  Their techno-feudalism will be perfect and efficient, with well-groomed, healthy serfs who sing happy songs at the state mandated —  Sorry.  I’m getting nauseated.

So – do we go quietly into that good night?  I say no.  I say now is the time to start admitting that if regulations aren’t good for you, then they’re probably not good/needed for other people either.  It’s the time to say “No, there ought not to be a law.”  It’s also time to start subverting, escaping, inventing new ways to do things.  Use the technology you must to do things in ways that avoid regulations.  Study the regulations and find the loopholes.  Go around, go through, do what you can without dealing with the government, but keep trying.  Don’t give up.  Find a way.

And don’t be afraid of tainted meat.  The maggots all have jobs as government bureaucrats.

247 responses to “No King, No Queen, No Lords, No Ladies

  1. But ask the farmers who hire illegals to pay minimum wage, and they go out of business.

    Or the prices they’d have to charge for their produce would be so high that even those who are oh-so-worried about minimum wage earners would complain

    • Wayne Blackburn

      To be fair, farmers and minimum wage are not good comparisons. Even illegals usually won’t do farm work for that, but they will still do it for a lot less than someone who is having to pay taxes and such in addition to back-breaking labor.

      • Oh, yeah. Don’t get me started on THAT. JUST don’t. (The burden of tax paperwork, even if not really tax, and the withdrawals for SS etc on low-paid people.)
        And you can substitute “chicken packing plants” for farmers…

    • As a Canadian, I’ve often scratched my head over the American debate on illegal immigration. Most Americans don’t seem to understand the incredible competitive advantage you enjoy from having access to such a large, cheap and voluntary labor force. Every other developed country would kill to acquire such an asset.

      • Except — we are “importing” uneducated labor which costs us more in medicine, education, etc. The “illegal” part is the operational. If we’re going to import a labor force, prioritize people who apply and are qualified, whose kids will be less likely to need special assistance in school, etc.

        The problem is we’re an “attractive nuisance”, like an open swimming pool. Our laws force employers to employ illegals. And their country, well…

        Though I’ll note the current economy is reversing that trend — in terms of illegals going the other way.

      • Wayne Blackburn

        Oh, for crap’s sake. The problem is that these people come in, depress wages for citizens, and refuse to acculturate. Then, there are the large numbers who take their already illegal status as license to do any number of other illegal activities, because under current conditions, they will seldom be called to account for them, they drag in relatives who go on the dole and become a drag on the system. I’m sure I could go on, but should I really need to?.

        • Yes. But again, we are (were?) an attractive nuisance.

          We can have open immigration or a welfare state. BOTH is a bad idea. And any regs that encourage hiring under the table are a bad idea. At a guess, that’s 90% of current regulation. Maybe more.

        • Well, they’re illegal. Why provide welfare or education or health care? As for depressing wages, their labor also depresses prices. Come up to Canada and do a little shopping if you want to see how cheap everything is in the US, and don’t chalk up the difference to exchange rates. Our dollar has been trading on par with the US dollar for several years now.

          • Wayne Blackburn

            It doesn’t depress prices that much. I’ve heard that argument before, but the math doesn’t add up.

            As for the prices in Canada, that’s largely due to taxes and regulation, plus transportation costs and smaller overall markets.

            Why provide welfare, education, or health care? Because our Lords & Masters have decreed that it shall be so. Hell, in California, they pay to have Election Ballots translated into some unbelievable number of languages (I think I heard it was something like 17, but I may be wrong on the low side). Because no one is expected to learn English any more. It should DEFINITELY be a requirement to be allowed to vote, but that’s now called Racist!, instead of merely being common sense.

            • Transportation costs and economies of size are arguments I buy, taxation, not so much. We are frequently reminded both here and in the US, that Canada’s corporate tax rate is lower than in the US, a lot lower. We do have the Goods and Services Tax, but that is applied at the time of purchase, so it doesn’t figure into prices either. As for tariffs, we’re just crazy about the free-trade agreements up here. There’s NAFTA, of course, but it seems like every other month, we sign another bilateral deal with somebody. I concede some small difference in price is to be expected base on accidents of geography, but that’s not the whole story.

              • Don’t you have a VAT though? That’s a huge price multiplier.

                • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is like the British VAT. It is 5% (although most provinces have an additional tax on top of that). It doesn’t appear in the pricing of merchandise, but is added at the time of purchase. It represents a very small contribution to the total cost of doing business for most companies.

                  Of course, I should add that Canadian employers are not obligated to provide health insurance for their employees. I don’t have a really good feel for how that burden effects the bottom line for American companies.

                  • UM… if it’s like the VAT, it hits every step of the way. What I mean is it adds every time a product is transported, sold or processed, not just in final sales taxes. It is, therefore, much worse than you think. What you’re describing is actually “national sales tax” and that’s different.

                    As for healthcare — rolls eyes — it will be much more expensive now that it’s free…

                    • The best part of a VAT is that it also adds an incredible layer of additional paperwork, as companies can generally get exclusions for certain costs of doing business and not others, and I know that when I worked as a waiter in the Netherlands my boss was always swearing about how ridiculously complicated they made those payments. I think he spent more on accountants than on actual employee wages =/

                    • Most of our doctors do here. Most of “how expensive medical care has got” is how many employees they have to hire JUST for paperwork. Of course, Government control will only make this worse.

          • because we do provide welfare, education and healthcare, otherwise we’re “racist”

          • Leftists imagine they can stick it to the rich and still get the moral charge out of doing good without doing anything.

      • A lot of these people come here, work off the books, then go on welfare. That means that people like me are in fact subsidizing the corporations’ cheap labor. While my own kids can’t find summer jobs, and some TB-positive illegal is flipping burgers for McDonald’s.

      • You are an Idiotic Troll , who will follow us to oblivion because they target the strongest and dumbest and laziest first

    • We actually had fully functional migrant workers when my mom was teaching– so, about 30 years ago.

      The legal folks were driven out of the business by regulations on where they could live. Use to be, farms could offer bunk houses. Now, they’re trying to outlaw people’s kids playing on the side of field while mom and dad work, claiming they might be under-the-counter illegal workers.

      It’s not the pay, it’s the other regulations that cause problems.

      • When I was in high school I worked at a truck farm down the road. Almost all of the other employees were Mexican (read illegal). For certian jobs we got paid hourly ($.10 over minimum wage) and others we got paid piecework. A hard worker could make good money at the piecework jobs, so that is always what they wanted to hire new workers doing, if a prospective employee wanted paid hourly they knew he was lazy.

        Before I got sidetracked what I meant to point out was the illegals were much cheaper, not because they got paid less, but because they got paid under the table (piecework made this easy, hourly work needed a certian percentage of workers with SS numbers so the books looked right) and all the costs added by government for legal workers weren’t there. An employer pays as more for each minimum wage worker in taxes and other government mandated costs than they actually pay the worker.

  2. Off hand thought, find a friend/neighbor/fan who lives near you and ask them to do things for you three hours a day. work out something that will satisfy both parties. In the case of some of your fans I’m sure they would help out around the house for a chance to read the raw…never mind, that’s inviting a stalker, better stick to friends and neighbors

  3. Local. Local. Local. Most can’t “Go Galt” per se, to escape the bureaucratic nightmare we have, but we can “Galt In” by associating/trading with/helping/doing business with like-minded individuals.

    Entire communities of (illegal) immigrants form in this country and many can’t speak a lick of English. Let’s take a page from their playbook. Pull together. Hang together or Hang separate.

  4. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Besides the Bureaucrats as Nobility, there’s the long-term elected-officials who can be depended on giving the “little guys” a helping hand against the “evil bureaucrats” and thus keep getting re-elected. Oh, it appears that you can get “waivers” for some elements of Obamacare. Pelosi has helped get those waivers for some of her favorite restaurants. [Sad Smile]

  5. Funny how bureaucracy works, isn’t it? I thought allowing businesses to write the regulations under which they operate was something the Dems condemned the Bush Administration for doing:

    CULTURE OF CORRUPTION: The Sebelius Coverup. “It gets worse. HHS has contracted with a subsidiary of a private health care company to help build and police the very exchanges in which that company will be competing for business. The person who ran the government entity that awarded that contract has since accepted a position with a different subsidiary of that same company. An insurance industry insider (speaking on the condition of anonymity) says that HHS, in an attempt to hide this unseemly contract from public view until after the election, encouraged the company to hide the transaction from the Securities and Exchange Commission.”

    Plus this: “One critic familiar with the business rivalries of the insurance industry compared UnitedHealth Group’s purchase of QSSI to the New York Yankees hiring the American League’s umpires.”

    Posted at 8:27 am by Glenn Reynolds
    http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/159407/

  6. Regarding that loophole in the ban on child labor:

    Michael Barone: Soul-crushing dependency
    “This is painful for a liberal to admit,” writes liberal New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, “but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in soul-crushing dependency.”

    Kristof is writing from Breathitt County, Ky., deep in the Appalachian mountains, about mothers whose Supplemental Security Income benefits will decrease if their children learn to read. Kristof notes that 55% of children qualifying for SSI benefits do so because of “fuzzier intellectual disabilities short of mental retardation,” far more than four decades ago when SSI was just a new program.

    Evidently SSI administrators decided to be more generous to parents of such children. But, as Kristof notes, giving parents an incentive to keep children from learning to read works against the children’s long-term interest.

    Kristof’s column makes a point similar to that in my De. 2 Examiner column on the vast rise in people receiving Social Security Disability Insurance payments. As with SSI, one imagines that those responsible for extending benefits to those not previously eligible did so out of a sense of generosity. But as I noted, “there is also a human cost. Consider the plight of someone who at some level knows he can work but decides to collect disability payments instead. That person is not likely to ever seek work again, especially if the sluggish recovery turns out to be the new normal. He may be gleeful that he was able to game the system or just grimly determined to get what he can in a tough situation. But he will not be able to get the satisfaction of earned success from honest work that contributes something to society and the economy.” Generosity that produces “soul-crushing dependency” is not really generosity.

    Breathitt County, by the way, has long been a heavily Democratic county. Even in 1972 it voted 59% for Democrat George McGovern over Republican Richard Nixon. But it’s in coal country and it voted 53% for John McCain in 2008 and 66% for Mitt Romney in 2012. More proof that Romney’s 47% remark was not only hugely ill-advised but simply inaccurate.
    [MORE: http://washingtonexaminer.com/barone-soul-crushing-dependency/article/2515441 ]

  7. Did you know that when a human being reaches a gross weight of 500 pounds, he begins to slowly smother to death? It will take a few years for his heart and lungs to give out, but at such a weight he’s reached a condition that will soom become terminal. Leviathan as personified by government bureaucracy is no different, except that when Leviathan finally succumbs, he takes the entire society down with him.

  8. When we first moved to Michigan I had previously worked as a plumber. I had no desire to do so again, but I had my tools and would have opened my own shop.
    The state test to get a plumbing license was administered in Lansing. You had a written test and then you had a skills test.
    The skills test involved wiping a lead joint. That is you had to join two pieces of lead pipe of a size for a sanitary drain. This is a method and materials that have not been in use since about 1910.
    The cost of two short pieces of lead pipe and a bar of tin/lead solder to melt and drizzle over the joint was about $200 at the time. Obviously if you didn’t buy extra and practice chances were you’d not be able to do this as it involved wiping the melted solder over the crack as it solidified. When you were done there should be a thicker area over the joint that blended smoothly both ways.
    The kicker was this. It was entirely subjective. If the person giving the test thought it looked like a nice job you were in. They didn’t even test it to see if it would hold water.
    It was so obvious that I would never make a good enough looking joint if I didn’t know the right people that I never tried. Which was exactly what they wanted.
    They were well beyond even trying to present it as protecting the public. It was a straight out control who can do business protection racket.

  9. Ouch. Only since I just happen to be one of those maggots, I guess.

    Sarah is most definitely correct in the general analogy. I’ve been a business owner and am now on the inside of the beast. When I got inside I found out many of the things I thought we’d done right with the business were, in fact, “wrong” (even though we had professional CPA advice).

    Since I’ve been inside, I’ve discovered even more truth to the idioms, “a fish rots from the head” and “rotten to the core”. The rot within my small division is odius. The rot within the department is breathtaking. The rot within the entire State Government is downright sickening. And I work within a SG which was recently rated among the top 5 best run on a fiscal basis. Consider that of the bottom 5 such as CA.

    This cannot stand long…

    • We might all end up inside the beast, just to WORK. I keep imagining they’ll recruit writers for “approved” “indie” publishing. To save people from that maggoty trash being published. Just a nightmare, right?

      • How dare the hoi polloi be able to choose what they want to read!

        (/sarc off)

      • Heh. You thought you had to hide your political leanings to get published before . . .

      • Unfortunately, I’m stuck now thanks to having MS. I either stay employed inside or I go on the dole and am subjected to other bureaucracies such as Obamacare. At least this way I still have SOME control over the care/treatment I’m able to receive…for now.

        I keep meeting such wonderful folks who have gone the disability route…who can walk, talk, think, etc just as well as they did before…but now get their cheese delivered courtesy of the beneficent government. That PA report about particular folks being better off staying in poor-paying positions versus climbing the ladder towards success should be a clarion call to action but, at least from what I’ve seen, has practically disappeared from the conversation.

        Couple the cheese-gobblers with the explosion of the ‘retired’ (baby-boomers) population and the bottom of the drain isn’t just visible, it’s within easy reach.

        • Of course, it’s hard to even argue much with someone who chooses that option. If our welfare system so clearly disincentivizes working more, then who can blame a poor person from staying on welfare?

          If I could barely stay afloat with my family while getting fairly generous government benefits, I certainly wouldn’t get a second job only to give up $5-10k / year and have my kids go hungry, or go without heat that winter. When government so corrupts the ascending slope of work versus reward, there’s really not much we can say to people who get forced into situations where they have few to no alternatives to taking the offered welfare.

          Basically, if we are to have a welfare system we need to get rid of these hard cutoffs, and make sure that you are ALWAYS better off working more hours. Even if the benefit is marginal and you only gain a net of 50 cents for every dollar in additional income, there should be SOME benefit, or people simply won’t do it.

          • Which is exactly the issue. My friend, CW who has posted within this thread, turned me on to David Weber’s Honorverse awhile back. (I’ve never been much of a fan of Space Opera but have had a change of heart since reading some of those :) ) I forget which book but it’s when the ‘evil’ empire is overthrown from within which sticks in my mind now. I believe it was the cheif instigator of the overthrow who lamented something like, “…but how do we get them off the dole?”. Perhaps it was in a Short Victorious War…someone (CW?) may be able to jog the memory :)

            • Sheesh, do you know how long it’s been since I last read those?

              Any other Honor fans here know which book contains the scene he’s referring to? I remember the scene very well, just can’t think of what book it’s in.

              • You seem to be under the mistaken impression I have a brain.

                • At least you’ll be safe from zombies.

                • After thoughtful and thought provoking posts like today’s?

                  Yes, I am under that impression. No, that impression is not mistaken.

                • Do you while away the hours Conferring with the flowers?

                  *Jasini

                  Facts are stubborn things, but not nearly as stubborn as fallacies.*

                  On Tue, Dec 11, 2012 at 3:25 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

                  > ** > accordingtohoyt commented: “You seem to be under the mistaken > impression I have a brain.” >

                • If you had one I expect you’d have named it Donovan. Or perhaps Curt?

                  • Wayne Blackburn

                    Who wrote the Donovan’s Brain stories? I can’t find them. I’ve only read one (There are more, right?), but I liked it.

                    • Curt Siodmak wrote the novel Donovan’s Brain and a few more, but AFAIK that was the only entry in that “series.”

                      You are probably familiar with other of his works, however, such as:

                      “Even a man who is pure in heart,
                      And says his prayers by night
                      May become a Wolf when the Wolfbane blooms
                      And the autumn Moon is bright”

                      from the film starring Lon Chaney, Jr.

                      From Wikipedia:
                      Siodmak acquired a degree in mathematics before beginning to write novels. He invested early royalties earned by his first books in the movie Menschen am Sonntag (1929) a documentary-style chronicle of the lives of four Berliners on a Sunday based on their own lives. The movie was co-directed by Curt Siodmak’s older brother Robert Siodmak and Edgar G. Ulmer, with a script by Billy Wilder in collaboration with Fred Zinneman and cameraman Eugen Schüfftan.
                      [SNIP]
                      Siodmak’s science-fiction novel Donovan’s Brain (1942) was a bestseller that was translated into many languages and was adapted for the cinema several times, beginning in 1943 with The Lady and the Monster, then 1953’s Donovan’s Brain and 1962’s The Brain. Other notable films he wrote include Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, I Walked With a Zombie and The Beast With Five Fingers.
                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curt_Siodmak

                      You can probably guess when & why Siodmak came to America.

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      Oh. What I remember is a reference, not a real identification.

                      The story I was thinking of was of a man who was in a spaceship visiting Venus, while his friend’s brain (which had either been saved from an accident, or was transplanted because he was a cripple) was controlling the ship itself. The ship suffered a control problem, which the MC had to solve by going outside with a bucket of ice, throw it through the maintenance hatch in the wing (on both sides), and then come back in, once while on the ground, and once while high in the atmosphere. They argued about the cause, and when the brain was proven right, the MC left the country because of shame or something (I never understood that part).

                      At the end of the story, the MC receives a letter which says, “Howie come home, all is forgiven.” And it’s signed, “Donovan’s Brain”.

                      I can’t seem to find it anywhere.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Can’t think of the title, but it was a Larry Niven short story.

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      Thanks. That helps, at least.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Wayne, it’s “Becalmed In Hell” and is in the e-version of the collection _All The Myriad Ways_. I got curious about it and the title came to me.

                    • Long out-of-print but excellent collection of early Niven. It is good to see that the book is available digitally.

                    • Very different story:

                      Yet another version of Curt Siodmak’s novel about an honest scientist who keeps the brain of a ruthless dead millionaire (Donovan) alive in a tank. Donovan manages to impose his powerful will on the scientist, and uses him to murder his enemies.
                      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045699/plotsummary

                      From the 1953 movie. Agrees with what I remember the novel being.

                      Apparently the character in the story you read was making a joking/threatening reference to the novel/movie.

              • Fine. I know right where to grab the approprate volumn…I’ll just have to answer my own query. (reprise: Sheesh, the things a cripple has to do for himself these days…)

                • Sooooooorrryy. In this house Baen books walk, so heaven knows where it might. If it’s in younger boy’s room, we’d NEVER find it. EVER.

                • Just be glad you don’t have to butcher your own steaks anymore, you bloody-meat lover.

                  (I ain’t kidding. He eats his steaks blood rare.)

                  • You mean there’s ANOTHER WAY?

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      Urp! Ugh!

                      Dark pink, almost red in the middle is the most rare I can go. No mooing from the dinner plate, please.

                    • You get the cow from the meadows where it’s pasturing. bring it to the kitchen. Show it the fire. Let it get scared. Cut the steak and serve it to me.

                      YUM.

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      Well, that’s certainly a description I haven’t heard before. I think Amy Alkon says, “Wipe its a**, knock the horns off, and put it on a plate.”

                      I’m seeing a lot of women who like their beef this way. Is this a new trend of female barbarians?

                    • I only got this way since I gave birth… I used to like it well done.

                    • One can only hope. I encourage barbaric tendencies, especially in womenfolk. My wife doesn’t have enough friends who shoot, eat red meat and talk SF/F.

                    • My dearest Sarah,

                      Why go to all the trouble bringing the cow to the kitchen?

                    • Well, as a rare-steak-loving friend of mine used to say, “You could put a bandaid on that, and nurse it back to health!”

                    • Do you remember when you could order them that way without an argument? Do you remember why they want to insist on burning them now (same reason you can’t buy raw milk or a Big Gulp in NY, NY, IIRC.)

                    • Oh yes. I rarely manage to get them as far as the frying pan. Just put a bit of salt on it… And same goes for salmon.

                      I do, however, prefer pork well done. As well as reindeer.

                    • Someday, when the world is better, we shall visit and try reindeer!

                    • Trichinosis. *turns green*

                      Pork can be heated up to high enough temp to kill that without drying it, but I sure wouldn’t trust Random Cook #12, any more than I’d trust ‘em to make that if-you-do-it-wrong-you’ll-die sushi!

                    • Huh. The difference between pasteurized milk and well-done meat — besides taste — is that pasteurization doesn’t introduce carcinogenic chemicals into the food.

                    • Welcome!

                      Reindeer meat can be good, although how good can sometimes be a bit up to luck since things like how they have been feeding depends on the cooperative the meat comes from, some use lots of extra feeding, others mostly just let them get by with grazing.

                    • “Wipe its a**, knock the horns off, and put it on a plate.”

                      I first heard that on a movie (can’t remember which one) what I remember is a couple guys were in high class restuarant and when the waiter asked how they would like their steak one guy gave that reply, and the other one said, “make mine like his.”

                    • Reindeer is basically just domesticated caribou, right? If so I had caribou years ago, and while it tasted good I seem to recall people saying that it is like rabbit, you can starve to death on diet of straight caribou because it doesn’t have enough nutrients.

              • There are several with similar scenes, but the one you’re thinking about is “Flag In Exile”, Chapter 7.

            • If memory serves, it’s “Short, Victorious War.” Robb S. Pierre and company arrange to overthrow the Legislaturists. But I could be wrong. It’s been a while and my copies of the books are now in the local VA hospital lending library.

              • An honorable (no pun intended) place for them. :)

              • I believe you’re right. I’ll confirm tonight since my copy hasn’t been moved to the basement bookshelves yet.

                • Definitely Flag In Exile Chapter 7:

                  “They’d created a vast, permanently unemployed underclass, dependent upon the Republic’s stupendous welfare machine for its very existence, and in so doing, they’d sown the seeds of their own destruction. No one could place two-thirds of a world’s population on the Dole and keep them there forever without the entire system crashing . . . but how in hell did one get them off the Dole?
                  He sighed and walked over to the windows as darkness closed in on the capital and its lights blinked to life, and wondered yet again what had possessed the Dolist system’s creators to birth such a monster.”

                  • Well, I didn’t find the particular scene in the volumn I perused last night though it’s entirely possible I missed it. I’ll pull out FiE and see if it’s in there just to satisfy my curiosity.

            • Yes, #3 of the Honor Harrington series, “The short victorious war”.

          • Depressing fact of the day (one of several iterations that appeared a couple months back):

            In Entitlement America, The Head Of A Household Of Four Making Minimum Wage Has More Disposable Income Than A Family Making $60,000 A Year
            Tonight’s stunning financial piece de resistance comes from Wyatt Emerich of The Cleveland Current. In what is sure to inspire some serious ire among all those who once believed Ronald Reagan that it was the USSR that was the “Evil Empire”, Emmerich analyzes disposable income and economic benefits among several key income classes and comes to the stunning (and verifiable) conclusion that “a one-parent family of three making $14,500 a year (minimum wage) has more disposable income than a family making $60,000 a year.” And that excludes benefits from Supplemental Security Income disability checks. America is now a country which punishes those middle-class people who not only try to work hard, but avoid scamming the system.
            http://www.zerohedge.com/article/entitlement-america-head-household-making-minimum-wage-has-more-disposable-income-family-mak

            The important distinction is that the second case has a greater possibility of increased earnings, but at what cost? And that assumes the first case is not engaged in off-the-books income generation.

          • Heh, I earn about 1000 euros per month now, when we are talking about the only regular income I have. If I worked less, so my pay would be at most about 800 euros per month I’d be getting a 400 a month pension. So I’m losing about 200 euros per month working more.

            On the other hand if I was living partly on that pension I’d have to give regular reports not only to the insurance company but also to our social security bureau, especially if got more pay at any time. As it is I can earn any extras I can and I only need to deal with the tax people.

            On the third hand that pension is right now on ice, but if I don’t claim it in a couple of years I will lose the right to it.

            Ah, decisions, decisions… I have been on unemployment benefits for a couple of years, and I really hated all the paperwork, I would much, much prefer to deal only with the tax people (hassle enough in itself, that, but at least then it’s only one bureau), so mostly I just hope that I can find other sources of income. Government money here can be pretty good, but getting it requires a lot of work, especially since it usually comes in bits and pieces, you need to know what to ask for, where to ask it from, how to fill all the necessary forms, how often to ask, where to call when there are hitches (there are always hitches)… Kind of a full time job in itself.

            And I shudder to think what running all that bureaucracy costs.

    • You can try to fight from the inside– fraud, waste and abuse.

      I emphasize “Try.” Anybody who’s been in the military has an idea of what happens to most of the FW&A complaints.

      • No, you can’t. I have seen people who tried. Your name goes on the list and even if you change companies, contracting officers will not put you on the project. Of course, proving it’s another story.

        • This is where actual anonymous reporting comes in handy.

          • The problem there is that actual anonymous reporting has its’ downside too. 1. How do you square it with the right to confront your accuser in open court? 2. If it’s truly anonymous, it turns into a great opportunity for score settling since just being investigated often triggers legal bills, loss of job, etc.

            • Of course, if such a report is treated as evidence instead of a trigger to check the paperwork.

              It’s gov’t business, it’s supposed to be public. If actual FW&A is going on, then the investigators– with their paperwork evidence– are the accusers.

            • Shorter: you do not have a civil liberty for your boss not to check HIS BOOKS and see if you’ve been stealing from him.

        • I managed to get a half-dozen things changed in the Air Force during my career, but you’re right, it isn’t easy, and there ARE consequences. I’ve also found, both in the Air Force and in civilian employment, that you have a much better chance of getting what you want done if you don’t worry about who gets the credit.

  10. Having read a bit about feudal and aristocratic societies, I’ve seen that the official ethos of the ruling classes back then was one of selfless service. That was their theory of what made you an aristocrat: That you were above the greed and pettiness of the common folk. Hence you get ideas like working with your hands, or making money in trade, being a source of shame. It’s really even less different from the present day than you suggest.

    • THAT was the theory. And by the eighteenth century it was sort of like that. But depends on the time and place. Some of the Lords were right bastages, and just liked the power.

      Oh, wait. Yeah. Even less different.

      • Yes. Have you read Jane Austen’s Emma? It’s a brilliant satire on 21st century social attitudes, with the rich girl taking a poor girl as her protégée, and trying to get her married to someone the rich girl thinks is acceptable. In the meantime she can’t stand the young farmer who really likes the poor girl, and is actually a big step up the social scale for her as a suitor—because he earns his living by working, and because he has no culture, and reads only agricultural magazines that will help him run his farm more productively, and such people are contemptible to the rich girl.

    • What we have now is all the scorn and haughtiness without any of the noblesse oblige. Moe Lane pointed out recently that a functioning monarchy is an improvement on a Communist regime; I’m starting to think that it actually beats a socialist one as well.

      • One of my favorite novels actually has an interesting political system. It had a diarchy (i.e. two rulers that share executive power) and a nobility instead of a congress, but every noble(wo)man had an elected council of advisors which served as a significant check on their power and could overrule their decisions. Besides that, they had a constitution much like ours, and a well-armed populace that didn’t look kindly on would-be tyrants.

        I thought it was an interesting concept because 1) there is way more stability without constant elections, and much less opportunity for politicians to sell off the country just to get elected, and 2) there was an interesting way they did the advisory councils; people were only allowed to run for a position if they had a significant number of years of real-world experience in that field. So the agricultural advisor had to have been an actual farmer for 15 years, and the public safety advisor had to have been in security/law enforcement. Same for economics and all of that. 3) There’s some opportunity to build in a very strongly conservative tradition, since most of the titles were hereditary (though not automatic, if they had really bad heirs they would usually be overstepped for a better candidate) it was easier to make sure the future rulers knew what the hell they were doing, and at least shared a lot of the cultural values.

      • Those pining for the old days of enlightened aristocratic rule often remember noblesse oblige while forgetting droit du seigneur.

        And for those who contend that the latter is a myth, I would ask for their proof the former is not.

        • You don’t fix something you think is false with something you know is false.

          • Fair enough.

            My point is that, for values of ‘work’ that are more than the accrual of material wealth, comfortable and safe circumstances and social benefits solely to the rulers, there are lots of systems of government that can ‘work’ when the folks in charge are great or even good, some that even ‘work’ when the folks in charge are neutral or incompetent, but very few ‘work’ when the folks in charge are actively evil.

            I contend the concentration of power typical to hereditary feudal aristocratic rule is not such that feudalism ‘works’ for very long without angels in charge, and we all know how difficult those are to recruit and retain in this economy.

            • I quite agree– I like the Republic form, with measures to balance area-vs-population, because it balances adaptability and group action with being hobbled on how much you can do that is good– or BAD.

              Like that movie quote goes, I’m VERY concerned with where I’ll hide when I’ve cut all the laws of England down, and the Devil turns on me!

              I just also dislike spreading slanders against those who cannot answer, being a century dead and much lied against.

        • That folks were expected to display noblesse oblige is a fact; if they did or not just points to people not living up to ideals. (As the saying goes, more honored in the breech.)

          Droit du seigneur, on the other hand, is a made-up right to de-flower the bride that bears suspicious resemblance to some pagan customs of a bride having “sex” with the statute of a god before her wedding.

          One is basically a spiked club of Catholicism upside the noble’s heads, reminding them that the mighty must serve the weak; the other would require something absolutely opposed to it. Yet not a whisper of the custom being condemned by that ever-so-quiet Church? And everybody else was quiet, too?

  11. Yes, we do need a certain amount of regulations to keep businesses honest and people and products safe. There is probably some sweet spot where the rules are needed and don’t do any harm. But, we are so far past that point I’m not sure we can see the sweet spot any more.

    There was a story in the news earlier this year about a woman who wanted to open an ice-cream shop in San Francisco. It took her two years to get all the approvals from the city. If I remember right she had to pay the city over $30,000 for the licences, permits, and utility hook-ups. Plus she had to pay a lawer to navigate through the whole process. Then there was two years rent on an empty store. Two years of lost revenue. Two years where people who would have been hired to work in the shop not getting those jobs. And two years of people not being able to eat her ice-cream. So who benefited other than a few paper pushers at city hall? Somehow, she stuck it out and opened her shop. I think most folks would have said “screw it!” (I would).

    • That kind of capital investment just to open the doors would a) cripple most small business b) extend the time required to recoup the investment and start turning an actual profit to a point where ROI becomes a prohibitive barrier to opening.

      That also ignores the opportunity cost of investing two years of the owners’ time and energies during which each owner would probably earn (conservatively) 40 X 104 X $10 = $41,600.

  12. We haven’t been hit by maggoty Chinese food yet, but the poor American cats were. Some of the most famous US cat food brands were using poisoned Chinese gluten. By luck or intuition, I was using Purina cat food most of that time, and they didn’t use anything from China.

    • We were so shaken by those news reports about tainted animal foods that now we check very carefully when buying pet food and treats … human food as well. If it’s imported from China, I won’t touch it with a bargepole.

    • It’s not just cat food. Some people in Panama died from tainted syrup used in medicine. It was labeled glycerine or glucose and bought from Europe but it’s original source was China and it was really a glycol (that sweet, poisonous antifreeze).

      • Another problematic one is commercial honey. Unless it’s a local brand and specifies what kind of flowers provided the pollen/nectar, the likelihood is that it’s from China, and has been so thoroughly processed and adulterated that it shouldn’t qualify as honey. Many of them don’t, in the chemical sense.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          I don’t know – I saw an article that said that claim was kind of an urban legend. Maybe you have better sources of info, so I’m not going to say you’re wrong, but I’m not too worried about it myself.

          • It’s best to eat local honey– because it helps immunize your for the allergies in your area– imho

            • Even if my info is bad, I’d prefer to support local apiarists, both for the health reasons (I’ve never had allergies, but I dunwantem!) as well as my distrust of China. Happy to go into it in another manner. This is too public *warily eyes the Internet*
              All the same, I’d be happy to find out that actually is an urban legend. I’d much rather think the best of people. I’ve just encountered too many of them . . .

              • Oh yea – anything with China on it is suspect imho. Which MEANS everything now. urg

                • Cultural thing.

                  Because they’ve been a bureaucracy for so long, their assumptions about what’s cheating on a contract are different than ours– if you don’t have someone watching, you don’t really mean it. (simplified. Vastly.)

                  That sounds horrible, and goes against the “Everyone is just like us!” idea, so it hasn’t gotten around much.

                  • I remember reading about the Chinese ambassador to … Indonesia(?) … lecturing a complaining minister to the effect that “you people just have to accept you can’t always get things your way.”

                    And we trust them to manufacture our processor chips. Anybody want to write the story about the built-in back door in every processor in America? Maybe the nation would be saved by one antiquarian hobbyist using a TRS-80?

                  • Something new I just learned– thank you Foxfier–

                  • Very interesting and makes sense Foxfier. Thanks for the new info–

              • The only sources I can find all lead back to this report.

                Looking at the report date, I can remember reading (doing research for a friend) about how annoying honey is because different countries have such different requirements. Found it!

                Can’t find the rest, but it was basically BS, and ignores that the pollen can trigger deadly allergic reactions. (That’s why the “local honey” thing works– if you’re not hugely allergic.)

            • I get my honey from at the farmers market from a local honey farm(apiarist? Learned a new word. Yippee!). It supports our local economy, and tastes great. If it helps with allergies, that’s a bonus.

              • My dad raised bees the last fifteen years of his life. It’s not an easy task, even in Louisiana. Some years the amount of honey you get is so minimal that you can’t harvest it without putting the hive at risk. He started out with a swarm he found in the back part of his home, and ended up with five hives. It never made a LOT of money for him, but it was a nice addition to his retirement income.

                I love honey, but as a diabetic, it’s something I haven’t eaten in almost 30 years…

    • The Chinese gluten was adulterated with melamine to make it appear to tests that the gluten was of high enough protein content to meet the specifications.

      Its not like China is an “unregulated” environment. And the adulterated wheat gluten product actually entered the market through a Canadian pet food manufacturer. It is that the regulators in China are entirely corrupt. Our regulators are corrupt too, but in more subtle ways. Regulatory capture – which as was pointed out above is bipartisan – affects all industries. Its why the large companies of an industry don’t usually fight regulation – they capture the regulators and make sure that the regulations become barriers to entry by potential competitors.

      • I meant to include the fact that China’s head of food and drug safety was convicted in 2007, of taking bribes from the Chinese pharmaceutical industry to approve unsafe drugs, supposedly unrelated to the pet food contamination scandal and sentenced to death.

  13. George McGovern thought he could run the USA. The Democratic Party agreed with them. So did a good number of voters — nowhere near enough, though.
    So then he thought he could run a B&B. He learned the truth about that one. And he really wished he had realized what a stranglehold regulations had on business when he was in politics.
    It had not improved since then.

  14. Perhaps there needs to be a new qualification for politics – each candidate must demonstrably have been involved with small business at a level where they can understand the impact of regulation. Possibly voters should be giving an entrance test of a classic Dilbert cartoon. Those that get it know how things work. Those who don’t get it need experience in business before they’re safe for politics.

    One regulatory body that needs both sharp teeth and independence (that is guaranteed funding plus an absolute ban on its members being politically affiliated) is the one that handles antitrust/monopoly. THAT needs to be able to squash regulatory capture before it reaches the toxic levels poisoning the country. Yes, this is closing the gate after the horse got away. The horse may even be dead.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      I like the Dilbert cartoon thing, but even those who get it need to react to whatever the pointy-haired boss is doing with the Fist of Death (TM)

    • We tried that with Mr. Romney.

      Didn’t seem to work too well.

      • Romney was a consolation pick for the Republicans — not too close to the older Republican establishment, not too close to the TEA Party, not too much of a conservative, not too much of a big spender, and not too close to Washington. His nomination didn’t work because he was too much of a compromise. “When you stand for everything, you stand for nothing” is very apropos in this case.

    • Eh — I think military service should work as well. And any for-profit business employment. Small businesses would be nice, as long as it was for real, but too easy to fake, and then declare a bankruptcy.

      • Swiftboat John Kerry claimed to have run a small business … a gourmet cookie shop or some such. I wouldn’t entrust him with managing a fruit stand, no matter his demonstrated skill at apple polishing.

      • Not really, Mary, especially those in the higher ranks — above colonel/Navy captain. From there, promotions are more based on politics and social standing than on military fitness.

        RES — I was in Vietnam in 1971 when John Kerry turned his back on the military and told a TON of lies. I think the best post for John Kerry in any government is hanging from a lamp post.

  15. I’d love to see someone try and quantify how much the sclerotic bureaucracy contributed to the demise of imperial China. I suspect it deserves a considerable amount of the credit for China’s inability to adapt to changing external realities. Not Confucian philosophy per se, but the system of management that had developed by the Qing Dynasty.

    • I am guessing it is almost forty years ago, but I vividly remember a Sydney J. Harris (‘When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?’) column about the fact that the Chinese had landed ships on the California coast well before Colombus arrived, but withdrew because the imperial bureaucracy wanted to spend the money domestically and saw no need to go off on wild flier explorations.

      • Kind of reminds me of the US involvement in Space, RES. We made it to the moon, then we turned our backs on our own achievement. The people making that decision have a special place in Hell – just below a Saturn-5 booster in full roar.

  16. Another aspect of the increasing regulatory regime that a lot of people miss is the freedom such a system gives to prosecutorial discretion. With so many regulations, it’s a given that everybody is in violation of *some* regulation, somewhere. That fact, all by itself, gives a huge amount of power to those tasked with enforcing those regulations. We all know that the enforcers can choose to help friends by giving them a pass, and that’s what we tend to focus on. But as (or more) serious is that they can also choose to target individuals or groups they don’t like and dig until they find an infraction they can prosecute. When everybody is a criminal, prosecutors become de facto dictators just by being able to choose who and when to enforce the already existing rules.

    • Andrew Drummond

      Jacob, your comment falls into the range of what I consider “government without mercy” – probably so many around this topic do. I tend to think of the idiotic zero tolerance policies in so many schools more than prosecutorial discretion, however, since the schools seem to be lacking that sort of discretion at all. I’m also willing to argue that abuse of discretion is, some ways, less bad than completely abandoning it. At least corruption in that regard is still, well, human, and you do still hear of prosecutors declining to pursue cases now and then.

  17. Yeah, the costs of tax and regulatory compliance are almost mind-boggling when you try to approximate them. And most of the costs we can’t even quantify because they’re invisible; all the businesses and investments that never happen because people decide it’s not worth it. It’s the broken window to end all broken windows, ever. Ugh.

    One of the single biggest boosts we could give the economy is scrapping a significant portion of useless regulations, and going to a simple tax system that people can do in 5 minutes per year.

  18. All this is true, AND . . .

    All of this nonsense provide excellent story material! Take some of the issues and work them with some characters, even if it’s just a writing prompt. Half of this stuff is pure Human Wave. A world of grinding bureaucracy where only the clever thrive. You have serfs (happy or not) and the elite (mostly happy, but with occasional significant outliers) and leavening of clever, unhappy people who want some kind of freedom. Shake thoroughly and express through a hose onto paper. See what sticks. Show your heroes evading (barely: there must be some tension) the Man. Present some of the gov’t stooges as decent human beings who are 1)ignorant, or 2) in an otherwise untenable situation (spouse/child has X disease, or is an unofficial hostage). Present some as inhuman, either through simple lack of compassion, or through outright malice. Some of the clever folk should be the same way. Also, an excellent means of researching all sorts of interesting techniques and methods for developing interesting skills. File the serial numbers off and mix in a modicum of scientific magic (*snort*) and set in a fantastic land. Cobble together ubiquitous FTL and unleash it on a stellar, interstellar or galactic scale. Make it about one lost soul finding another in any given milieu and call it romance. Seriously, I could whip up a dozen basic plots where the decent people come out on top through dint of effort and will (as well as some clever plot twisting, because, c’mon).

    Now I’m excited. Need to go write something.

    • There was a Gordon Dickson short story, circa 1963, about a guy whose book club was dunning him for failing to properly return the copy of Kidnapped they sent him, written in the form of an exchange of missives …

  19. I’d hate to confuse regulation with feudalism. Feudalism provided a real benefit to the serfs. Protection and order so that they could grow crops, be called by the lord to do direct duty for the state in service to all and belong to a state that operated on a human and not abstract level. De Tocqueville when he wrote about the French Revolution said that it was the bureaucratic, centralized state that followed feudalism that the peasants revolted against and not feudalism. He also said that the work of the revolution only centralized and bureaucratized France even more with poor results.

    • You’re right to some extent. I just meant “feudalism”‘s structured society, which is way worse than the bureaucracy of pre-revolutionary France.
      BUT if I’d had space (I write long, d*mn it) I meant to mention the reason the new attempt at feudalism would NOT work is that it’s not providing any real benefit.
      Feudalism initially provided protection from the barbarians AND the Vikings (those who weren’t time traveling — wait for tomorrow’s post.) When that protection stopped being needed, Feudalism crumbled. Right now, the would be Feudal lords would protect us from… Ourselves. It won’t fadge.

    • Ancien regime France had all the nobles hieing off to Versailles to be absentee landlords, and fishing through ancient records on the grounds that if they found any feudal customary duty and the tenants could not produce written evidence that it had been altered, it still applied. In real feudalism, these duties had often been altered to other ones by verbal contracts.

  20. One of the many things attributed to Thomas Jefferson is “The greatest amount of government a free people should tolerate is the minimum amount necessary to secure their rights.” Today no one even TALKS about securing the rights of free people.

    I think every law or regulation should have a “sunset” clause, not to exceed ten years. Two-thirds of the laws of this nation were written under circumstances that no longer exist, and are obsolete, yet no one wants to actually take them off the books. I also believe that no regulation that affects the ability of people “to be secure in their person, property, freedom or activity” should be imposed without first meeting the agreement of a majority of both houses of Congress. Technically, the President cannot issue an Executive Order that affects any person outside the Executive Branch. Our current “diety” doesn’t believe that applies to him.

  21. Pingback: Another reason there are fewer stay-at-home moms. « Head Noises

  22. Have we even mentioned Mad Cow Disease? It was the British government Agricultural poo-bahs who made it common practice to feed cows to cows. Any fool should have known the results of human cannibalism.

    • Yeah, and because of that damned policy anyone who has lived in most parts of western Europe can’t ever donate blood or organs. I mean, I can’t really blame the Red Cross for not wanting to take the risk as there’s no good test for the diseases, but it’s a damn shame nonetheless. Not to mention all the military who were stationed in those countries for longer than 6 months…

      • Yes. And let me tell you the chances of my having had British Beef in Portugal while I was there is close to bloody zero. For one, we could rarely afford steaks through most of that. For another most of the beef we ate was local grown. The good stuff came from… Argentina. No, not joking.

        • Exactly. I lived in the Netherlands for 22 years before moving to the US, and that excludes me from donating blood or tissues for life as far as I can determine. Which is a shame, because the Netherlands hasn’t had ANY cases of hCJ pop up last time I checked, and I used to donate blood all the time. It’s just sad to know there’s a great need for the blood, and that you’re perfectly willing to help other people, but the choice is taken out of your hands.

          • Maartje, I lived in England for 18 months in 1986-87, and now can’t give blood or make organ donations. The British and US over-reaction against the mad cow scare and Chernobyl has put me on several “do not use” lists.

      • I’m one of those former military who can’t donate now – we lived in Greece and Spain for almost about ten years. And the funny part is, I couldn’t afford to buy beef on the local economy. On those rare occassions that I could afford it, I bought from the commissary, which was American-sourced. Still can’t donate blood, though.

        • I’ve never actually looked into this in detail, but does anyone know what organization in the US is responsible for deciding that most of Europe is off-limits for blood? Is that the Red Cross’ own policy, or did some Federal regulator mandate this from above (like the FDA, or some other alphabet soup agency)?

          The only thing you can do, at least theoretically, is donate bone marrow. The travel exclusions for that aren’t automatic, and while it probably makes it less likely that someone gets matched to you, it’s still possible. Especially anyone who has lived in those areas themselves, or who knows better, may decide that yes, they’d rather have the bone marrow than die on a wait list. And most of the bone marrow donations these days are blood stem cells rather than actual bone marrow (although you do have to be prepared to do either). Just thought I’d mention that, in case anyone would consider it in lieu of blood donations :)

        • Yep. I had my gallon pin before that…

          • I was nearly at two gallens. (sob) I was a sucker for every sob story the Red Cross had about a poor liddle chile going in for life-saving surgery whom I was an exact match for.

            • Wayne Blackburn

              Not sure how much my wife was up to before the cancer, but of course she can’t donate now, either.

              I tried donating once, they wouldn’t let me close my eyes to keep my stomach calm, so I haven’t been back.

          • I gave a pint of blood every other month the entire two years I was in Panama. Between that and what I gave elsewhere while I was in the Air Force brought me to within three pints of my five-gallon pin from the Red Cross. Britain put an end to that.

            • I WAS inching towards two gallons when the RULE came in. (Sigh.)

              • I have to admit that I had a very BIG head start, Sarah. I gave my first pint of blood in 1964. I gave my last pint in 1984. Something for those who don’t really understand, a gallon of blood is a LOT! There are two pints to a quart, and four quarts to a gallon. I’d bet Sarah has given between 12 and 14 pints. I gave 11 pints during my two years in Panama. I’ve given a total of 38 pints altogether, over 20 years. That’s only a little less than two pints per year on average. The military made it easy to give blood, holding a blood drive at least once a year on its bases.

      • The reason I can’t donate blood is because I have been on chemo for over ten years and have a “disease.” My hubby was in Vietnam and because of the vaccinations and assorted meds he tests positive for TB even though he doesn’t have the disease. Oh well– it was a good run… ;-)

      • Donate blood? But I’m still using it …

  23. Speaking of bureaucracy and feudalism: I work tech support in the admin building of a city public school system and I am presently replacing old computer workstations. One of the admins complained about her place in the replacement schedule (which I did not create). Her issue? Secretaries were getting their new workstations before actual supervisors! This was “sending the wrong message.” Bit my tongue to keep from asking what the right message was supposed to be. “Know your place, peasants?” Given who does the bulk of the work there, replacing the secretaries’ workstations was merely logical.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      Are they getting new Office software? If so, tell her that if the Admins get their new systems first, they will be producing documents on a version of the Office software that the Secretaries won’t be able to read, so it makes sense to upgrade their systems first, because the newer software will be backward compatible.

    • Years ago when I worked as a secretary (after the retail job) my husband visited the office and noted with great amusement that all the secretaries’ computers were WAY higher power than those of the technicians and high muckety muck experts. He said “that’s how you can tell who does the real work.” :-P

      • Sarah, years ago we developers had the minimum systems because if it will run on that it will run anywhere. As hardware got cheaper, it became easier to just throw it at the problem than to spend the developer time tweaking the code for compactness and efficiency. Microsoft Office is the most egregious (heck, anything Microsoft is Egregious) example, but by no means the only one.

        • The amount of total c*ap Microsoft Office adds to a document it “converts” to HTML is absolutely mind-boggling. I did a comparison: I took one of my novels and converted it by hand to HTML, then I had Microsoft Office convert the same document to HTML. The Microsoft-generated document was almost TWICE the size of the one I did by hand, yet both worked equally well in a web browser.

  24. Pingback: No King, No Queen, No Lords, No Ladies | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  25. Maggots make great survival food — lots of protein (just have to be careful handling them, as like-as-not they’ve been in direct contact with rotten meat :) ; so wash up well)….

    As to societies: It is inevitable that a society which achieves the level of “success” where hoi polloi have time to think about matters beyond immediate line-of-sight is going to develop an excess of burro-cracy [sic], and eventually collapse — it’s all part-and-parcel of the reality of the human condition, which is: Humans are Pack Predators; in any pack, there is a pecking order, with a few (or one) leaders and a *whole lot* of followers; and the order of the day is “you die and we all move up in rank”.

    In this case: The natural tendency for the Few to Tell Others What To Do, and the Many to Do As They’re Told, means if the Few set up a body to say “do this”, the Many will instinctively obey; this repeats until every aspect of the many’s existence is circumscribed with regulations. Couple this to the Many’s innate supplication, manifested as “someone must do something” rather than “*I* should do something”, and the inevitable result is: Something happens; the Many demand “something be done”; the Few create Regulations, and Burro-cracy to mind them; the Many bend the knee; soon, none remember a time when the Regulations and Burro-cracy did not exist (it also helps if someone overstates the pre-Regulation time as one of Chaos; the Many, being naturally incapable of taking independent action, cannot handle such conditions, and in fear flock to a Few to lead them).

  26. Gee, thanks. I work for the federal government, so I must be a maggot and a bureaucrat. No, I don’t think you mean that, but you did say it.

    I have a friend who took her bachelor’s degree and managed to land a very junior job as a secretary at University of Alaska Fairbanks, so that she could afford the $1800 per month that was required to pay health insurance since one member of her family had a pre-existing condition – pre-Obamacare.

    These seem to be inconvenient facts you just don’t want to deal with. If you want to look at entrenched bureaucracies who drive people out of business, recognize that most of the time “government bureaucracy” is responsive to lobbying efforts, not so much unreasoned passion by unthinking bureaucrats.

    Microsoft bought out more software companies than the federal government ever terminated through thoughtless trade regulation, and the laundry list of small business pioneers in the computer industry who still bear grudges against IBM, Microsoft and Macintosh is impressive.

    Look, Mothers Against Drunk Driving displays all of the signs of bureaucracy you’ve mentioned in your anti-government rants over the last few weeks. The fact is, any organization tends to be self protective or it ceases to exist, and on the day when MADD successfully reestablishes teatotalling abolition, then MADD will seamlessly become Mothers against Dumb Drivers and recommend IQ tests prior to getting driver’s liscences, because that way they don’t have to change their published trade-marks.

    Government can be ameliorated with a vote. Medical fees that are not based on actual costs and pay for insurance at both ends, and absolutely don’t have any free market influences, simply don’t have any reason to remain within poor people’s means, and about 26,000 people in the US die every year, of treatable disease that they cannot pay for. That situation is getting worse, not better, and just insisting that it isn’t that bad, and isn’t getting more pronounced every year, simply isn’t following the statistics that are available to both of us.

    Government can be ameliorated with a vote. Government as a percentage of the U.S. population is about half the size it was in the 1950s, but the refrain of “government is bad” rings so loudly in your ears that you ignore everything that the federal and state governments do for their people, very efficiently, so that you can rail, very loudly, that government is by definition corrupt and unresponsive to people’s needs.

    You suggested a few blogs ago that civil rights of minorities wouldn’t be impacted if the government got out of that business. But a hundred years after the U.S. fought its most devastating war ever in order to free the slaves, black people were still in segregated schools and unable to vote in almost every state that rebelled in the 1860s. People in the south were still routinely lynched, and the people who conducted the lynchings were routinely not hunted down. Public protests and the federal government forced those laws to change in the deep south – a hundred years after the law of the land said that those people were supposed to be treated equally.

    Government can be ameliorated with a vote. True power structures flower in the dark, when nobody is there to regulate them, or people decide that turning a blind eye and just letting business be business is the best policy.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      Gee, thanks. I work for the federal government, so I must be a maggot and a bureaucrat. No, I don’t think you mean that, but you did say it.

      Incorrect analysis. Saying that all Beagles are dogs does not mean that all dogs are Beagles.

    • Bill, I think you’re misreading a lot of this. You’re not the only commenter who works for the government – a person has to live, and sometimes that’s the only job available – but a hell of a lot of bureaucrats are nothing more than petty tin gods.

      You’re also ignoring the role of regulatory capture. In the health “insurance” industry, that was completed a long time ago. Why is it that no-one questions employer-funded health coverage? The monopoly abuse in health coverage is atrocious, and most of it is driven by two things: the person who has the coverage has no choice about it – they either have their employer’s offering or nothing; and the person with the coverage has no idea what the actual costs are (neither does anyone else). And I grew up in a hybrid system – government health coverage for the basics plus optional private coverage (and in both cases the patient makes the claim and gets reimbursed after payment). In that system, private insurers can impose a waiting period of up to 1 year for reimbursement for pre-existing conditions. They can’t deny coverage. But coverage includes a large menu of choices which individuals can tailor to their budget.

      True power structures flower in the dark, when nobody is there to regulate them May I recommend “Yes, Minister” and “Yes, Prime Minister”? Politicians can be replaced. Sometimes even party officials can be replaced with enough of a push. Entrenched bureaucrats? Not in this country. They have less accountability than the unregulated businesses you’re decrying – those at least have a degree of financial accountability and if their products stink too much they lose money (see the publishing industry’s declining sales despite damn near absolute monopoly over traditional distribution channels. Too many books reek on ice, so people just stop buying books). Also note that the US legal code is now metastasized to a level where no-one is able to remain in compliance. Most of this is regulation from bureaucrats, not legislation (EPA rulings driving coal-fired power stations into extinction are a good example – there is no legislation behind this).

      The US now has a third-world government where everyone is guilty and only by staying unnoticed or making the right bribes do you stay out of trouble. This is blatantly unconstitutional (I don’t recall the specific parts but “unreasonable search and seizure” went out a long time ago – thank YOU “war on drugs”), but I challenge you to find anyone inside the system trying to roll the mess back.

    • Wayne Blackburn

      … everything that the federal and state governments do for their people, very efficiently…

      Just exactly what, that private industry couldn’t do better, cheaper, and more efficiently?

      • Military.

        Police.

        Roads.

        Um….

        Postal, sort of, unless you consider selling a monopoly that requires you hit places that don’t do ROI gov’t, which I would, but most folks look at the current mess without that qualifier….

        Usually folks throw in environmental regulation, but I’m familiar enough with that to laugh my tail off at the idea that bureaucratic jerks are “forced” by lobbyists/activists to make new regs, when they recruit and set up a system to pay for the folks to sue them and give them more work.

        The first three are far from efficient, but they’ve got too much power involved to be done better by private forces. They need more public control, for sure.

        • I think Police could potentially be done privately, if we had objective laws that actually protected people’s rights the way they were supposed to, and had much less room for interpretation as all our current subjective statutes require. If we had good laws and a great court system, I think the actual source of law enforcement would matter a great deal less. Considering some large organizations manage their own security in-house, it’s not entirely unrealistic to use that on a larger scale. But to prevent abuses of power (not that we never have them today, but yeah.), we would first need objective laws/courts. It’s certainly not a first step on the road to a free society.

          • If the reporting officer is willing to lie, no law on earth will fix it.

            • Unfortunately– as a friend of mine says who used to be a police officer “the police today are not trained well and have NO honor.”

            • Sure, but that’s just as much a problem with municipal/state police as it is with private ones. And there are ways around that problem, if you allow video/sound recordings to be done.

              Really the only convincing argument I’ve seen against private police is that it could be a nightmare to figure out what rules to follow, but if you still have one set of clearly established laws that they are enforcing, then that matters a great deal less. And you can seek redress in the courts if you feel mistreated.

              Obviously, it could be problematic if everyone hired their own bodyguards and tried to enforce their very own set of rules. But what’s wrong with a town deciding to contract their law enforcement out to a private security company instead of using government employees? They’re still people.

              • There’s also the VERY large problem of the appearance of bias.

              • Imagine every population treating the police the way the dumbest of the inner-city thugs do, where it doesn’t matter if you were caught red handed shooting a cop, they only hate you because you’re black. (Like the unspeakables defending the murderous scum that killed those cops in Lakewood two years back.)

                • Foxfier, I really don’t see where this attitude would come from. There’s no good reason why a person who wants to be a police officer is any more biased when working for a private company, than if they instead joined the municipal police department. Surely you’re not arguing that having a profit motive automatically makes them cheat and steal?

                  Maybe some people would fear bias from the police, but that is already (justifiably in some circumstances) the case today, and certainly was the case 50 years ago before the Supreme Court struck down the Jim Crow era laws. I really don’t understand why people would be hostile to private police any more than to public police. Most individuals I know behave quite courteously when dealing with private security officials.

                  Really, the key thing is to have objective, and knowable, laws that everyone must follow, and courts that can mediate between any conflicts that may arise where someone feels they have been unfairly treated. Ultimately, police officers are simply executing and enforcing established law; as long as they are not de-facto making up the law as they go along, there’s no obvious conflict of interest that WOULDN’T exist with today’s government police.

                  • The problem with private police is probably the historical associations carried by the term — think “company cops” and Weimar Germany. Most people are not thinking of a private contractor supplying trained personnel to a community police force. The area I live is a “market” comprising some eleven counties, three large (100,000+) cities and numerous smaller townships, altogether including several million people in a 100-mile radius.

                    Having each municipality contracting with a private police staffing company might provide more consistent and professional policing with fewer people and reduced territorial conflicts. A private agency might also be much better able to expand and contract as necessary for special events, such as a presidential visit, NCAA basketball tournament, arts fair or NASCAR race.

                    • In most of those historical situations that give people a bad taste in their mouth, either the law-making part of the equation blew, or there were significant other issues.

                      What I am talking about is much more like what you mention; simply contracting out the enforcement of the laws the state legislature writes. We can even use shorter-term contracts that need to be renewed every few years just to avoid abuses. If some company fucks up, then, the town/county/state simply fires their asses and they go bankrupt. Isn’t that a million times more beautiful a system than having a police force you can’t ever change? I mean, what recourse do I have if my town police is terrible at their work? They’re all unionized, mostly unaccountable. Even if the state wanted to reset the whole mess they probably couldn’t. Private contractors HAVE to constantly please their customers; the state and the people who live in that area. There’s a lot more incentives for them to work their butts off to do just that.

                  • We don’t have to know why people think it– which will have a huge range of answers– to know that they will.

                    Look at Blackwater, security guards or any study that someone doesn’t like. The initial assumption is that an action one doesn’t like is for the benefit of whoever paid for them, and that any benefit to someone is because they paid.

                    To change that, you would probably have to take over Hollywood until the current generation dies out.

                    • That was my point earlier; this certainly isn’t one of the things we should be doing first. It requires a culture that is not nearly as hostile towards private enterprise as ours seems to be at times. But our conversation here was simply about what essential government functions are, and a police force isn’t *necessarily* one of those. Maybe some states will keep their own police, others may go private, or use a mix of private/public. But these are all possibilities that as far as I can tell are perfectly compatible with a rights-respecting government.

                      The point remains, though, that there’s no good reason why people should suspect private law enforcers any more than public law enforcers. They’re the same people, and when they enforce the same laws what’s the difference?

                    • But our conversation here was simply about what essential government functions are, and a police force isn’t *necessarily* one of those.

                      No, it wasn’t; it was about what (quote) private industry couldn’t do better, cheaper, and more efficiently.

                      If the culture does not allow for private police forces to work due to assumption of bias, then private industry can’t do it better.

              • An advantage of private police could be they might insist on simplification of the laws to something that was actually enforceable, especially if the company (rather than the public) was legally liable for any abuses.

                Incentives would have to be carefully aligned, as we have seen in current efforts to privatize areas of law enforcement, i.e., traffic control. Red light cameras have proven somewhat … problematic … in many places.

                • I think there’s actually a fair bit of sense to make sure that the people who make the laws aren’t very closely working with the people who enforce the laws. There’s much more incentive for, let’s call it, revenue promoting activities when the police bringing in more revenue helps the state budget, making it more likely for the state to pass laws that increase that revenue/fee system. But if the state makes the laws, and a private contractor actually enforces them (and being paid, for example, a set fee making efficiency a great good for them), then you lose that conflict of interest as there’s really no reason to add all these revenue-raising fines and fees to the books.

            • What we really need is some actual method of lie-detection. Reading brain waves, perhaps. (Lying and telling the truth are different brain functions and use different areas of the brain.)

            • They are trained to lie. I’m not joking, I seen one actually state that while testifying under oath. (no I wasn’t the one on trial)

          • Murray Rothbard (if For a New Liberty) addressed how private police would work, as well as private courts. There is pretty much nothing done by government that can’t be done better in an open voluntary marketplace. Love of government is a learned bias.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          None of those would be done better, cheaper, more efficiently than private. However, those are examples of things that should be managed by Government to reduce the amount of prejudicial treatment of their function, but that’s not what I was talking about. I was talking about his assertion that there are things that government does “very efficiently”. I still don’t see any examples of that.

          • The only time I saw efficiency was the Panama Canal Commission. They received no money from the US– the money had to come from the ships transiting the canal. It was the only US Bureau that made money and worked efficiently. Of course it wasn’t actually under the government per se.

          • I quite agree that it’s not efficient, I just consider minimizing the prejudicial treatment of function to be more important than efficiency in those areas. (I love that phrase and am totally stealing it. *grin*)

          • I was talking about his assertion that there are things that government does “very efficiently”.

            I suspect it depends upon your definition of “very efficiently”.

          • I can’t say I know of a government agency that actually works efficiently, but I have run across a few people that were respectful, helpful, and willing to work, even “go that extra mile”, for someone. HOWEVER, never praise them (except in private), and certainly not to their boss, or they will be in deep, overripe kimchee very quickly.

            • Wayne Blackburn

              Oh, heck yeah. Individuals in any position can be helpful and pleasant to deal with. It’s the agencies themselves, which tend to primarily attract time-servers who want nothing to do with helping get the job done, that are the problem.

            • I’ve always been kind of amused when bloggers and commenters bring up their awful experiences at the DMV and the Post Office – sympathetic and amused because I have nothing to top theirs. I have done business and several different post offices here in San Antonio – and had nothing but courteous and professional treatment. And as for the DMV – once, when I had to salvage and re-register one of my vehicles (long story) the paperwork to do so seemed absolutely impervious. But the senior office supervisor went over the various applications and forms line by line with me, penciled in exactly what I should put on every line, told me exactly how to do it … and it all went through, exactly as she had said it would. Yes, some city and federal offices can do the job effeciently and well. I don’t know how I got so lucky that they are all in Texas, though.

              • I have had more problems with police than with government officials such as DMV. Of course since my husband is in the State government he knows a lot of people in different departments.
                Plus they remember me even though I don’t remember them.

                But the police here think they are the greatest and do not trust anyone who is outside their inner circle. If you are in their inner circle, then you can DO NO WRONG. So — I am very sad to see the destruction of the police– a private company would be much much better than some of the problems that are happening now. (In the last ten years or more– certain individuals in the police force have done drive by shoots, driving while drunk in official vehicles, beating people who video them, etc. These actions have tainted the entire police force– sadly.

                One of these individuals was a police chief –

                • Thus the logic underlying group punishment: when a group has the most effective ability to police their own members while outsiders are relatively powerless. It is up to a group to establish and enforce standards of behaviour because every member is harmed by the misdeeds of a few individuals. Andy is far better placed than Floyd or Goober to rein in an out of control Barney.

              • It’s just another reason I’m happy to live in Texas!

        • Read the Constitution. It specifically states 33 things that the Federal government is to take care of, with everything else the responsibility of the states, or the people. That went out the window with Andrew Jackson. It’s going to take a guns and blood revolution to return to that clean a document. Most people don’t have a clue as to how much pure theft the federal government is responsible for.

          One of the things that any administration could do that would slow the growth of the bureaucracy would be to pass a national “right-to-work” law. We’re seeing in Michigan how that is working out, with the unions threatening violence to overturn the legislature’s decision. Government labor unions are unconstitutional, but you don’t see anyone challenging them. EVERYONE, from the President to the lowliest intern, serves “at the convenience of the government”. Except, the labor unions won’t allow us to fire the 50% that aren’t needed, are too lazy, or who really don’t produce.

          When government gets too big, it takes too much to support, and the nation collapses. We have five years, maybe six, before that happens to the United States.

          • Read the Constitution

            Go bite yourself.

            The topic was what they can do “better, cheaper, and more efficiently.” If you meant “The founders figured this list of things could be best done by the Federal gov’t,” then try phrasing it in a way that doesn’t insult the person you’re, presumably, trying to communicate with. If your goal was not communication, see original sentence.

            We’re seeing in Michigan how that is working out, with the unions threatening violence to overturn the legislature’s decision.

            Nothing new, other than it hitting the news a bit more than usual. They did violence to get around laws when my grandfather opposed them, and they’ll do it as long as they exist.

            A possible alternative to national right-to-work would be adding to the existing right to work law a note that those not in a union do NOT HAVE TO BE REPRESENTED BY THE UNION. If the union in conjunction with management insists on representing them that way regardless, they do NOT have to pay a single penny.

            Another idea: unions, being representatives of the workers of a business to the owners/managers, are to be exclusive to that business. None of this “Union of Grocers representing Safeway, Albertson’s, Fred Meyer etc etc ect” hiring protesters to stand outside of WinCo. If a business is individually owned and operated, they shouldn’t be targetable by a union that draws money from thousands of businesses.

            Or, more simply, “union reps must actually work at the location they are dealing with.”

            • I didn’t see that “Read the constitution” as directed at you, but at B. S. I could, of course, be wrong.

              • It’s far from impossible that you are far more charitable than I am; when someone responds directly to a post I made, I take them to be talking primarily to me. (although secondarily to everyone, since it’s a public statement)

            • A possible alternative to national right-to-work would be adding to the existing right to work law a note that those not in a union do NOT HAVE TO BE REPRESENTED BY THE UNION. If the union in conjunction with management insists on representing them that way regardless, they do NOT have to pay a single penny.

              The SCOTUS ruled back in the Reagan era [Communications Workers v. Beck, 487 U.S. 735 (1988)] that non-member employees could not be charged dues for any activity beyond collective bargaining expenses — typically 10 – 12 % of dues. On his way out of office George H. W. Bush passed regulations requiring notice of this be posted in all workplaces (too little, too late.) One of Clinton’s first executive actions was to rescind that regulation.

              A major flaw in asserting these Beck rights is the lack of transparency in union accounting — George W Bush’s Labor Department had tightened reporting requirements but they were immediately relaxed upon the ascension of the Obama regime.

              • A major flaw in asserting these Beck rights is the lack of transparency in union accounting — George W Bush’s Labor Department had tightened reporting requirements but they were immediately relaxed upon the ascension of the Obama regime.

                Exactly why I had in mind, along with thoughts for those who don’t want to be represented by collective bargaining, but many businesses like it because it cuts down on their overhead.

                Basically, instead of unions collectively bargaining for all employees, they do it for their own– and if management wants to apply it across the board, fine.

                This, of course, would hurt union power and require that they actually strike bargains that are GOOD for the employees, rather than the union.

                • Another problem is the system whereby ALL employers are liable for the pension contributions of every employer, so that when one participant (say, Hostesss) goes bankrupt, all the other employers of that union become responsible for making up the shortfall.

                  The problems ought be apparent. Cascading bankruptcies coupled with an insulation against outrageous union demands actually affecting the union.

            • I think you missed my point, Foxfier. What I was trying to get across is that there are ONLY 33 enumerated activities the Federal Government is granted the responsibility to perform. Everything else they do is done in violation of the Constitution. The use of the “commerce” clause is perhaps the greatest insult to the people of the United States when it comes to the passage of excessive laws and the enactment of unnecessary and unconstitutional regulations. John Adams specifically laid out the extent to how the commerce clause could be abused, and the government has followed his words to the “T”. Unfortunately, John Adams was saying those things should NEVER be done, while our current government thinks they MUST be done.

          • That LONG, Mike? I think two on the OUTSIDE.

        • The military is one of the few duties required of the federal government by the US Constitution. Private armies have a bad history. If the USA would back down from being the world’s police force, the state militias/ National Guards could handle most of the defence roles. An offensive military force should only be needed in response to an attack on the US.
          Police? “The Enterprise of Law” is a fine book to get you started on the privatisation of the police and courts.
          Roads? I’m old enough to recall toll-bridges that were funded and built by private individuals on our interstate hiway system. Those same bridges are now owned by the states, after having paid for their construction and maintenance over 20 years ago. Their replacement is now an on-going battle between the various state and federal agencies that will are being asked to pay for the new bridges. I’ve also read about the toll-roads back east that are being administered by private firms (some with foreign backers) since they are more cost-efficient.

          The private enterprise solution should be the default, not the exception.

          • ranamacar – the problem is that today most of what the military does requires months, if not years, of training and exercise. You cannot do that AFTER an attack any more — you’d find yourself already conquered.

            I sat in on a conference in 1980 that ended up putting the tactical reconnaissance process as it was then employed on the slow track to termination. The way we did tactical reconnaissance then was to fly a mission against a set group of targets, return the exposed film to the interpretation facility where spooks like me would evaluate it and file a report. One-way flight time for an RF-4C was approximately 45 minutes. Time over target was approximately 30 seconds per target, and most aircraft were tasked with two to four targets in the same area, for about 10 minutes total. Add another 45 minutes for the trip home. It takes approximately 30 minutes to download and process the raw imagery, and approximately fifteen minutes to interpret it and prepare a report. Putting the report into electronic form takes another five to ten minutes. Getting the information to the ground commander responsible for responding to the threat may take anywhere from an hour to several DAYS. The Defense Department estimated that a Russian combined arms army could move at anywhere from 45 to 60 km/hour. At the LEAST, two and a half hours have elapsed since the imagery was taken, and it’s absolutely no value to the commander, because EVERYTHING has changed. The military responded by switching to TR-1 aircraft and unmanned drones that could provide the commander with live video of the target, without delay. For 30 years, however, tactical reconnaissance was done as I’ve described. For that system to work, the people doing the dozen or more different jobs that combined for success HAD to be trained to a very high degree. Some of the people employed required more than a year of training, especially the electronics people and the aircrews. It takes at least four months to train someone in my specialty, and then at least two years doing the job before they become proficient. The only way you can be prepared for modern warfare is to have a standing army that does realistic training frequently, with harsh evaluation of how that training is put into practice. It cannot be done by “weekend warriors” (no disparagement of our Guard and Reserve – I was a reservist myself for 4 years) or part-time soldiers.

            • I was Active Army in the early ’80s (worked in Europe on a NATO base), and spent my 5 years in the Reserves as an Interrogator, Prisoner of War. I know how slow the intel cycle can be- our unofficial motto in my unit was “We told you so”. I took part in exercises at Brigade and higher levels and the main problem we had was getting anyone over the rank of LTC to listen to us. I was not implying that we don’t need a full-time military, that’s why I stated that the militarty is one of the duties of the federal government.
              After seeing many of my freinds and family who are in the Guard and Reserves activated and sent to Iraq and Afganistan (and Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, etc.) I believe that our non-active troops are fully trained. According to the Army Times, the Guard and Reserves make of 51% of the military now. They are already taking care of a large part of our defense.

              • If you were active Army in the early 80’s, you’ve probably heard of the 497th RTG. I spent three tours with that group. Best outfit I ever belonged to. I still keep in touch with about 200 people I served with.

    • “Government can be ameliorated with a vote.”

      On what planet? If 50%+1 voters vote themselves money out of my pocket, I have no recourse. What will really kill the USA is not Obama. It’s an electorate willing to vote for him. We had a Constitution and a Bill of Rights to cope, but they’ve found ways around that.”

      “Medical fees that are not based on actual costs and pay for insurance at both ends, and absolutely don’t have any free market influences, simply don’t have any reason to remain within poor people’s means, ”

      The reason they don’t have free market influences is government insanity. Starting with the price controls that led companies to offer free insurance as a perk, and its tax advantaged status. In a free market, we would buy health insurance as we buy car insurance — for emergencies only — and our out-of-pocket expenses would act as a free market influence.

      Also, you keep on having governments demanding that insurance cover this and that because they are immune to consequences.

    • But a hundred years after the U.S. fought its most devastating war ever in order to free the slaves, black people were still in segregated schools and unable to vote in almost every state that rebelled in the 1860s.

      Because that was the law. The Montgomery bus boycott? The way the city had gotten bus companies to enforce the seating rules was to stop buses at random and arrest any driver whose passengers had violated it.

      So were the voting restrictions law. When the Supreme Court was finally force to strike down the “grandfather” provision, they disenfranchised poor whites rather than allow blacks because that was the only law they could pass.

      People in the south were still routinely lynched, and the people who conducted the lynchings were routinely not hunted down.

      In other words, the government was not performing its most basic duties. So why do we trust government to manage everything?

        • In Richmond Virginia the imposition of Jim Crow and back-of-the-bus regulations in … 1903? … resulted in the bankruptcy of the city bus system within a couple years. Told to ride in the back many Richmond Blacks said “Thanks, I’d rather walk.”

          Anybody interested in the role of government in American race relations really ought look into the Wilmington, NC race riots circa 1898. In that period the state government was overthrown, the state constitution rewritten and the whole mess papered over by the Feds.

      • Plessy vs Ferguson was a Supreme Court case that established that segregation was constitutional. Unfortunately, it was actually a put-up case – in that the railroad wanted to overturn segregation and found a sympathetic black who could pass for white (I’m sure Biden would have praised his grooming … ) and arranged for him to be “arrested” by a conductor for being in the “whites only” railroad car.

        The railroads hated segregation not out of any great sense of justice, but because it cost money to run segregated trains, with at least one extra car needed to maintain the segregation.

        • and this — the fact that most discrimination involves EXTRA cost — is why by and large, private muddles along better. Their motives are pure. They do it for the money.

    • “Government as a percentage of the U.S. population is about half the size it was in the 1950s,”

      Actually the percentage of jobs in the public sector went from 13.8% in 1955 to 17.3% in 2010. That’s according to the Congressional Research Service’s report “Selected Characteristics of Private and
      Public Sector Workers” from July 1, 2011. I doubt the percentage of government jobs has fallen in the 2 years since.

  27. Pingback: Let it fail. « Dio's Workshop

  28. How many readers here know that the railroads are unionized because of an Executive Order from the socialist czar, FDR? It can be removed just as easily if we had someone in the Oval Office that had the gumption to do it.

    I’ll vote for anyone who promises to clean up the regulatory burden imposed by more than 15,000 Executive Orders, most of which violate the separation of powers enumerated in the Constitution. Do you hear that, Glenn Reynolds? Sarah Palin? Anyone else?

  29. There is a French movie called “Queen to Play” in it there are scenes where a house keeper gets paid. The man paying her just hands her cash, makes no record or anything even when he increases her pay. I couldn’t help but think how dangerous that would be to do in the US these days. But as time goes on I’m seeing more “grey” and “black” hiring and services as people strive to shield themselves from the government.
    If the thought is the father to the deed, then given the level of firearm sales in the US if I was part of the government aristocracy, I’d be very afraid.

  30. Pingback: IMAO » Blog Archive » Link of the Day: Why We Could Get Rid of the FDA