All posts tagged libertarianism

I just stumbled on an excellent article in the New York Times, “Time to Reboot America.” The author couldn’t have said it better: “Landing at Kennedy Airport from Hong Kong was, as I’ve argued before, like going from the Jetsons to the Flintstones.” I didn’t have that impression landing in Philadephia sixteen years ago from Charles De Gaulle for my first time in the United States. However, I should have known America was in trouble when I saw my first American household appliances! Twenty years ago, my mother’s washing machine had a microprocessor in it. My credit card had an embedded chip; technology which took ten years to cross the Atlantic. I still need to tell my washing machine how much laundry is in it, and turn and old style knob to turn it on. Then, when the washing is finished, I must take the laundry, stuff it in a no less obsolescent dryer, and turn another 1960s style mechanical knob. Energy efficient? I doubt it.

My first American car was a Ford 1978 LTD. It was great, confortable, the AC worked, and I paid only $750 for it. It had a few little quirks, but all in all, it worked. The fuel consumption was appaling, but why care? Gas was less than a dollar a gallon, almost four times less than in France. We thought gas reserves would last forever, we still do.

Today, I still can’t take a high speed train (look 3:25 to 3:55) from Sarasota to Tampa or Orlando. I must drive on I4 to get to the East coast. I you have driven on I4, you understand.. No amount of money could get me to commute daily from Tampa to Orlando via I4.

The list goes on and on. I do have another list, with all the good things about America; it is longer than the bad one, that’s why I’m still here, for now. We have NASA, a top of the line computer industry, the Internet, medical research as good as in Europe, Universities like MIT. Then, why do I feel like I live in 1975 sometimes? We don’t produce much here anymore, everything is service based. Most of the stuff I owed says “Made in China” or Japan, Taiwan, etc. When I think of American products, I think “rugged,” “old fashion,” “reliable” (except for cars).. Certainly not “high-tech.”

America needs to look East, not at it’s own navel. I am affraid Obama will plunge us into a socialist/protectionist era that will be the last nail in the coffin. At least we might not spend billions in unecessary wars abroad. This is not the time however to close our borders to commerce. We need to produce so that my next cell phone says “Made In USA.” We will be in competition with Europe and Asia, whether we like it or not. We should be the ones selling them goods. American high schools produce students who are two years behind Europeans. When I went to college in Florida, to perfect my English, I thought it was a joke. The college level math was the same as when I was 12. Yes, I agree, time to Reboot America.

School reforms: We need to be more demanding on both students and schools. Schools should be held accountable for their results. The “everyone wins, you’re doing great” bullshit needs to stop. If you suck, someone has to tell you, so that you can correct your attitude. When I was in school, no student would ever dare to talk back to a teacher. Today, teachers get assaulted in class! Why? Simple: No consequences. Being suspended is not a punishment, it’s a gift. Parents don’t care anymore. When you’re 15, you don’t care about your future, you care about right now, maybe tomorrow. There should be immediate consequences to lazyness. Also, why do kids still have to learn how many ounces are in a pound, and a flurry of other stupid measurements when there is a metric system? Want to know how many litres are in a 3x3x3 meter tank? Simple: 3x3x3=27 x 1000 = 27000 litres. And guess what, it weights 27000Kg, 27 metric tons. I don’t need to spend fiften minutes on the problem, I can do it in my head in 5 seconds. Australia went metric in 1970. If they can do it, why not America? NASA uses metric, otherwise we’d probably never go back to the moon in our lifetimes.. As to schools teaching stupid theories like creationism, don’t even get me started on that…

Free markets: Why Ron Paul wasn’t elected is beyond my comprehension. Here is a politician who understands exactly what this country needs, and he doesn’t even make it to the last round. We need businesses, and we need them to be successful. Here is where Europe failed and America can prevail. Europeans have this funny idea that a business has social obligations beyond not causing harm to people. That’s not the purpose of a business. In France, money is seen as somewhat dirty. The European attitude is that the government and businesses must take care of the people who have the right to be fed, clothed, and pampered, given what they need. They just shot themselves in the foot, just not the same foot we shot ourselves in. Businesses are the life blood of the country. Nobody else can produce wealth, except maybe the Federal Reserve when they print money, which compounds the problem. Wee need to compete with Europe and Asia on the same footing, not with artificial tariffs to level the field in our favor. Opening the markets might hurt us for a while, but long term, it is our only salvation.

No bailouts: If a company fails, they ought to go out of business. Taking taxpayer’s money to save a business is stealing, clear and simple. Since when does a Republican government use socialist tactics to redistribute wealth? I think they do it because they want a quick fix, a patch that will hold for a bit before cracking wide open, but that will make them look godd right now, until retirement with a bit of luck..

Better news: American news on television is a dog and pony show. How can a nation be aware of it’s lagging behind if it doesn’t look at the countries that are a decade ahead of them technologically. I once had a flat tire on my old Ford near Alachua County Florida. A pickup truck stopped and a guy offered me help (after yelling to his wife “Get back in the fucking truck!”). Anyway, I guess he was nice to me. Hearing my accent he asked “Where you from?” I said “France.” “What state is that?” he replied. “It’s overseas..” “Ah” he said, “do you have power over there?” I’m not making this up! That’s an extreme of course, and I couldn’t resist mentioning the story. We never hear most of what goes on in the world here on TV, except when it affects us directly, and immediately. Did you know that France launches satellites in orbit for cheaper than NASA, and I think more often with it’s Arianne rocket? Stop watching “Desperate Housewives” go to BBC, and even then, I’m not sure their US programs are the same the rest of the world sees.. I have access to about 300 channels, but I can’t hardly ever find an interesting show. Get your news from foreign agencies on the web.

Promote reading books: In 1982, 60% of young adults engaged in literary reading, while in 2002, only 43% do*. I don’t have recent numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it went down even more. Understanding other cultures and philosophy by reading could probably save us a lot of grief with our foreign policies. Even our politicians sometimes lack basic knowledge of geography and foreign ideology. When was the last time you bought a book or went to the library?

Maybe next time we can also talk about getting rid of the Federal Reserve…

I have heard about the demise of America for decades, never paid too much attention to those predictions. The signs were there, it’s easy to see them now in retrospect. How low it will go is hard to tell, the depression is here. We just don’t want to see it. We refuse to imagine the consequences, and we don’t want to see the solutions. Americans need to get educated and take their heads out of the sand. The United States was a great nation, not so long ago. We have great minds, visionaries, we can do it again.

* US Census 2002.

I was appalled recently by a discussion with a guy who had a very weird idea.. He believes that an employee has the right to part of a product’s value, on top of his wages. So, let’s say someone is hired to manufacture gizmos for $20 an hour. He accepts the wage, because he values his time at $20 an hour. A contract is signed, he goes to work and makes ten gizmos per hour, gets $2 per gizmo. The company sells them for $199. How in hell is the employee entitled to any of those $197?! He accepted an hourly wage, and he gets paid what he wanted. The company could give him a raise if business is good, but they don’t have to. There is absolutely no entitlement here, nor ethical nor moral obligation to share any of the profits if it wasn’t agreed upon in the employment contract. And this brings us to profit sharing. Some businesses do share their profits, and do so to attract the best employees and encourage quality work. It is a fine tactic, but certainly not a moral obligation. Would an employee accept loss-sharing? The business loses money? No problem, someone will come to each employees’ house and take away their TV and stereo system to be sold on E-Bay.. Because if you share profits, why not share losses? No? Isn’t that totally unfair? The business owner takes all the risks, he invested his money, spent untold hours away from his family to get the business going, working seven days a week, fourteen hours a day, probably shortening his lifespan in the process, supporting the lives of many people around him, spending his hard-earned money that ends up as wages in someone’s pocket. The employee has none of these problems. He does not risk a penny, and gets a predictable income. If he isn’t happy with his employer, he can sell his services to someone else.
During that conversation, I heard of course the usual “They have no choice but to take the job.” Huh? What nonsense is that? Nobody has to take a job. I was never threatened to take a job. I was offered too little money before and refused. Sometimes I did take it, but kept looking, and found a better job later. That was before I decided to go freelance. Being employed was easier, I’ll tell you!
Then I heard “when people are starving, they are forced to take any job.” No! They are not. First, how long does it take to starve? More than a month for sure. How can you not find food in a month? If someone is not able to find some work, produce something to sell, gather, hunt or fish for some food in a month, there have a problem.. No friends willing to help, hum.. Why? Maybe that’s what we call natural selection. People are responsible to acquire survival skills; nobody else will do it for you. It may surprise some to know that years ago I ended-up on the street with absolutely nothing. It didn’t last long, and it wasn’t luck that I got back to my feet. I busted my ass and found someone who needed my skills, got some work and recovered. I know how it feels to shiver all night, cold and wet, sleeping on the ground outside. It is something I do not care to do again.
The beauty of free enterprise is that anyone can start a gizmo factory. Many large businesses started in a garage. Now they employ hundreds, sometimes thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people. I hear so many complain about Wal-Mart for example. Wal-Mart has approximately 1.39 million US employees. Those people accepted their salary, and make a living, if not a comfortable one. Without Wal-Mart, how many would be on the street? Do you want to tell those Chinese children they can’t eat now because you boycott Wal-Mart? You don’t care? Of course not, because those unskilled workers at Wal-Mart must get their $8.75 an hour instead of $8.23, and “free” health care, because of course, standing behind a cash register in an air-conditioned building is so hard compared to, let’s say, working construction in Florida in August.. Hum, I wonder why those guys get paid more.. And don’t tell me how hard it is to be a cashier, because I’ve done it! It’s frustrating, but it’s not hard. If Wal-Mart employees don’t like to work there, they can go somewhere else. The Wal-Mart secret police won’t be knocking on their door.. They can’t find a good job? Time to hit the library (it’s “free”), and learn something new to make money. Find someone with skills to teach them. There are many people around willing to share knowledge for free. I do it all the time.
I guess I get aggravated (again) when someone thinks they are entitled to things that do not belong to them, and unable to produce anything or help themselves, prey on society to fulfill their needs.