Saturday, October 22, 2011

Listen to Mustn'ts

Listen to MUSTN'TS, child,
Listen to the DON'TS
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me -
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

- Shel Silverstein


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Good Advice for Debt Limit Increase

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies.

Over the past 5 years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion.That is “trillion” with a “T.” That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers. And over the next 5 years, between now and 2011, the President’s budget will increase the debt by almost another $3.5 trillion.

Numbers that large are sometimes hard to understand. Some people may wonder why they matter. Here is why: This year, the Federal Government will spend $220 billion on interest. That is more money to pay interest on our national debt than we’ll spend on Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. That is more money to pay interest on our debt this year than we will spend on education, homeland security, transportation, and veterans benefits combined. It is more money in one year than we are likely to spend to rebuild the devastated gulf coast in a way that honors the best of America.

And the cost of our debt is one of the fastest growing expenses in the Federal budget. This rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy, robbing our cities and States of critical investments in infrastructure like bridges, ports, and levees; robbing our families and our children of critical investments in education and health care reform; robbing our seniors of the retirement and health security they have counted on.

Every dollar we pay in interest is a dollar that is not going to investment in America’s priorities.

Sen. Barack Obama, Congressional Record, S.2237-8, 3/16/06


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stuff I Find in Books

I have started a new blog that chronicles my adventures in used bookselling. Basically, anytime I find anything funny or strange I will scan it and make a post about it. Check it out.

Stuff I Find in Books


Corn Sugar

As I was scanning an ingredient label recently (unfortunately, I can't recall the product), I noticed something that I'd never seen before - corn sugar. I did some googling, and it seems that it is merely a new name for high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). I've covered HFCS (here), and I'm not convinced of the extreme evils for which it is blamed. However, I would recommend limiting all simple carbohydrates and getting plenty of excercise. This is easier said than done, of course.

Here are two sources that explain more about corn sugar:

First is an NPR article, from 2010:
Would "high fructose corn syrup" sound so sweet by any other name? The Corn Refiners Association sure hopes so. Last week, the industry group applied to the federal government for permission to use a new name for the ingredient on food labels: "corn sugar."

Whether it's called high fructose corn syrup or corn sugar, the ingredient makes up a significant part of Americans' diets. According to the Agriculture Department, the average American ate 35.7 pounds of high fructose corn syrup last year. That's not such a surprise considering it's used as a sweetener in everything from fruit-flavored drinks and energy bars to jams, yogurts and breads.

The second,, is put on by the Corn Refiners of America, who say:

Health and nutrition experts—including doctors, dietitians, researchers and professional organizations — are in agreement that whether it’s corn sugar or cane sugar, your body can’t tell the difference. Sugar is sugar.

One issue I have concerns this statement, as it conveniently omits the large amounts of government subsidies to produce corn and tariffs that keep cane sugar less competitive:

If high fructose corn syrup is the same as sugar, then why don’t we just use sugar?
The introduction of high fructose corn syrup into the food supply was intended to overcome periodic shortages in sugar availability and resulting price increases (as is the case now). High fructose corn syrup also avoided the problems posed by sugar’s instability in acidic soft drinks and fruit preparations, bagged sugar’s handling difficulties, and sugar’s functional limitations in certain foods and beverages.

Much of the debate over the overuse of HFCS could be alleviated by allowing free market forces to determine the true prices of food.

It also appears that corn sugar is used in home beer brewing:

Other sugar posts:
Evaporated Cane Juice: Part I
Evaporated Cane Juice: Part II
Caramel Apples
Sugar and the Environment
Alternative Sugar Names
A Look at Agave
Where to Buy


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Justice Department Deals Ultimate Bad Beat

The federal government has frozen more than $30 million in the accounts of payment processors that handle the winnings of thousands of online poker players.

Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against—then you’ll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We’re after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted—and you create a nation of law-breakers—and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.

Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand, 1957


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Basketball Ides of March

The gym lights gleam like a beacon beam
And a million motors hum
In a good will flight on a Friday night;
For basketball beckons, "Come!"
A sharp-shooting mite is king tonight.
The Madness of March is running.
The winged feet fly, the ball sails high
And field goal hunters are gunning.

The colors clash as silk suits flash
And race on a shimmering floor.
Repressions die, and partisans vie
In a goal acclaiming roar.
On a Championship Trail toward a holy grail,
All fans are birds of a feather.
It's fiesta night and cares lie light
When the air is full of leather.

Since time began, the instincts of man
Prove cave and current men kin.
On tournament night the sage and the wight
Are relatives under the skin.
It's festival time, sans reason or rhyme
But with nation-wide appeal.
In a cyclone of hate, our ship of state
Rides high on an even keel.

With war nerves tense, the final defense
Is the courage, strength and will
In a million lives where freedom thrives
And liberty lingers still.
Now eagles fly and heroes die
Beneath some foreign arch
Let their sons tread where hate is dead
In a happy Madness of March.

H.V. Porter - IHSA Magazine, 1942


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Excerpts from "The Law" - V

What is law? What ought it to be? What is its domain?
What are its limits? Where, in fact, does the prerogative
of the legislator stop?

I have no hesitation in answering, Law is common
force organized to prevent injustice;—in short, Law is Justice.

It is not true that the legislator has absolute power
over our persons and property, since they pre-exist, and
his work is only to secure them from injury.

It is not true that the mission of the law is to regulate
our consciences, our ideas, our will, our education, our
sentiments, our works, our exchanges, our gifts, our
enjoyments. Its mission is to prevent the rights of one
from interfering with those of another, in any one of these

Law, because it has force for its necessary sanction,
can only have the domain of force, which is justice.

And as every individual has a right to have recourse to
force only in cases of lawful defense, so collective force,
which is only the union of individual forces, cannot be
rationally used for any other end.

The law, then, is solely the organization of individual
rights that existed before law.

Law is justice.

So far from being able to oppress the people, or to
plunder their property, even for a philanthropic end, its
mission is to protect the people, and to secure to them the
possession of their property.

It must not be said, either, that it may be philanthropic,
so long as it abstains from all oppression; for this
is a contradiction. The law cannot avoid acting upon our
persons and property; if it does not secure them, then it
violates them if it touches them.

The law is justice.
Frederic Bastiat - The Law(1850)

Bastiat's The Law can be found for free here and here, or at Amazon .

Other excerpts linked here: I, II, III, IV, V


Monday, March 21, 2011

Excerpts from "The Law" - IV

Socialism, like the old policy from which it emanates,
confounds Government and society. And so, every time
we object to a thing being done by Government, it concludes
that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove
of education by the State—then we are against education
altogether. We object to a State religion—then we
would have no religion at all. We object to an equality
which is brought about by the State then we are against
equality, etc., etc. They might as well accuse us of wishing
men not to eat, because we object to the cultivation of
corn by the State.

Frederic Bastiat - The Law(1850)

Bastiat's The Law can be found for free here and here, or at Amazon .

Other excerpts linked here: I, II, III, IV, V


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Excerpts from "The Law" - III

You say, “There are men who have no money,” and
you apply to the law. But the law is not a self-supplied
fountain, whence every stream may obtain supplies independently
of society. Nothing can enter the public treasury,
in favor of one citizen or one class, but what other citizens
and other classes have been forced to send to it. If
everyone draws from it only the equivalent of what he has
contributed to it, your law, it is true, is no plunderer, but
it does nothing for men who want money—it does not
promote equality. It can only be an instrument of equalization
as far as it takes from one party to give to another,
and then it is an instrument of plunder. Examine, in this
light, the protection of tariffs, subsidies, right to profit,
right to labor, right to assistance, free public education,
progressive taxation, gratuitousness of credit, social
workshops, and you will always find at the bottom legal
plunder, organized injustice.

You say, “There are men who want knowledge,” and
you apply to the law. But the law is not a torch that sheds
light that originates within itself. It extends over a society
where there are men who have knowledge, and others
who have not; citizens who want to learn, and others who
are disposed to teach. It can only do one of two things:
either allow a free operation to this kind of transaction,
i.e., let this kind of want satisfy itself freely; or else preempt
the will of the people in the matter, and take from
some of them sufficient to pay professors commissioned
to instruct others for free. But, in this second case there
cannot fail to be a violation of liberty and property—legal

You say, “Here are men who are wanting in morality
or religion,” and you apply to the law; but law is force,
and need I say how far it is a violent and absurd enterprise
to introduce force in these matters?

Frederic Bastiat - The Law(1850)

Bastiat's The Law can be found for free here and here, or at Amazon .

Other excerpts linked here: I, II, III, IV


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Excerpts from "The Law" - II

It is in the nature of men to rise against the injustice
of which they are the victims. When, therefore, plunder is
organized by law, for the profit of those who perpetrate
it, all the plundered classes tend, either by peaceful or revolutionary
means, to enter in some way into the manufacturing
of laws. These classes, according to the degree of
enlightenment at which they have arrived, may propose to
themselves two very different ends, when they thus
attempt the attainment of their political rights; either they
may wish to put an end to lawful plunder, or they may desire to
take part in it.

Woe to the nation where this latter thought prevails
amongst the masses, at the moment when they, in their
turn, seize upon the legislative power!
Bastiat - The Law(1850)

Bastiat's The Law can be found for free here and here, or at Amazon .

Other excerpts linked here: I, II, III, IV


Friday, March 18, 2011

Excerpts from "The Law"

What is Law?

It is not because men have made laws, that personality,
liberty, and property exist. On the contrary, it is
because personality, liberty, and property exist beforehand,
that men make laws. What, then, is law? As I have
said elsewhere, it is the collective organization of the individual
right to lawful defense.

Nature, or rather God, has bestowed upon every one
of us the right to defend his person, his liberty, and his
property, since these are the three constituent or preserving
elements of life; elements, each of which is rendered
complete by the others, and that cannot be understood
without them. For what are our faculties, but the extension
of our personality? and what is property, but an
extension of our faculties?

If every man has the right of defending, even by force,
his person, his liberty, and his property, a number of men
have the right to combine together to extend, to organize
a common force to provide regularly for this defense.

Collective right, then, has its principle, its reason for
existing, its lawfulness, in individual right; and the common
force cannot rationally have any other end, or any
other mission, than that of the isolated forces for which it
is substituted. Thus, as the force of an individual cannot
lawfully touch the person, the liberty, or the property of
another individual—for the same reason, the common
force cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, the
liberty, or the property of individuals or of classes.
For this perversion of force would be, in one case as
in the other, in contradiction to our premises. For who
will dare to say that force has been given to us, not to
defend our rights, but to annihilate the equal rights of our
brethren? And if this be not true of every individual force,
acting independently, how can it be true of the collective
force, which is only the organized union of isolated

Nothing, therefore, can be more evident than this:
The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful
defense; it is the substitution of collective for individual
forces, for the purpose of acting in the sphere in which
they have a right to act, of doing what they have a right
to do, to secure persons, liberties, and properties, and to
maintain each in its right, so as to cause justice to reign
over all.
Frederic Bastiat - The Law(1850)

Bastiat's The Law can be found for free here and here, or at Amazon .


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Broken Windows and Japan

Lawrence Summers, president emeritus of Harvard University and former director of the White House National Economic Council, trots out the classic "broken window" fallacy, regarding Friday's horrendous tragedy in Japan:

"If you look, this is clearly going to add complexity to Japan's challenge of economic recovery," Summers said. "It may lead to some temporary increments, ironically, to GDP, as a process of rebuilding takes place."

After the Kobe earthquake in 1995 Japan actually gained some economic strength due to the process of reconstruction, he added.

When confronted with a contradiction, we should check our premises. If GDP does in fact rise due to tragedies such as these, perhaps we should question its validity as a measure of wealth, rather than assuming destruction leads to plenty.

Let's hear from Bastiat on the issue:

But if, by way of deduction, you conclude, as happens only too often, that it is good to break windows, that it helps to circulate money, that it results in encouraging industry in general, I am obliged to cry out: That will never do! Your theory stops at what is seen. It does not take account of what is not seen.

Frederic Bastiat - What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen; Selected Essays on Political Economy (1848)


Thursday, March 10, 2011



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Depression in Color

These images, by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, are some of the only color photographs taken of the effects of the Depression on America’s rural and small town populations. The photographs are the property of the Library of Congress and were included in a 2006 exhibit Bound for Glory: America in Color.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?