Monday, March 21, 2005

Spring Equinox

Just want to wish a Blessed Ostara to all my pagan friends!

I stayed up late last night to try and balance an egg on end, but it wasn't cooperating so I scrambled it. Next year maybe it won't be so friggin' contrary! :)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Immigration and Xenophobia

In an article on the Foundation for Economic Education website, Thomas Lehman presents arguments in favor of open immigration. I don't have a whole lot to add to the article, but I thought the rest of you may find it interesting.

There are a few things about the article that I really like. First is the way he poses the question of immigration to a society whose very foundation is one of open immigration and wonders why we're so closed to it now. The article was written in 1995, so the terrorism concern wasn't nearly what it is now; however, I don't believe the tone of the article would change much even if it were one of the issues considered...which leads me to the second thing I really like about the article.

He points out that the domestic element is of greater concern than the foreign element in terms of loss of our freedom and economic superiority, which is true for so many of the problems we face today. After years of creating terrorists abroad, the state has turned its focus inward to protect us from those terrorists. We find our borders more closed today than ever, and anyone who goes in or out is automatically presumed a terrorist until proven otherwise. The fact that our foreign policy has created this threat in the first place is completely and utterly lost on those in positions of power. Thus grows the power of the state, reaching into every aspect of our lives more every day.

Likewise, the fact that so many are up in arms about the migration of IT jobs to foreign consulting firms is testament to how unwilling we are to understand our own role in creating an environment where such cost-cutting measures are necessary. I had to laugh when Kerry promised to "close the tax loophole" that businesses supposedly exploit in order to reduce costs.

In so many ways, we've been digging ourselves into a hole for 200 from which escape seems difficult, if not impossible. I'm always amazed how the answer to this is typically to keep digging, hoping we'll find the way out further down. Sometimes we dig sideways for a while, but anytime the going gets tough in that direction we turn our efforts once again downward. The solutions to these issues are simple in concept, but difficult and often painful in implementation. Will we ever be willing to endure the hardships that may come with undoing all the damage we've done to ourselves?

Monday, March 14, 2005

Crying in my beer

Got a bit of rotten news on Saturday. Turns out that the shiny new motorcycle I ordered from Yamaha won't be coming in until May. Originally, they were supposed to start delivering them this month, but since I ordered a model with ABS, it's gonna take a couple more months.

Boo Hoo...

On the bright gives me more time to get my garage ready for the new arrival. Who's up for descending on my garage with saws, hammers, drills, and other implements of destruction to get the thing cleaned out, insulated, and drywalled...followed by consumption of much beer and barbeque?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Just when I was getting warmed up...

So now, blogs are under attack by the FEC. A recent posting on the Free Market News Network website outlines action being taken by the Federal Elections Commission to regulate and censor internet activity.

Voice your opinion by visiting, and sending a letter to your representatives.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

New links on the Wombat blog...

Hey, Wombat fans...

I've added some new links to my blog, beneath my profile on the left side.

Particularly of note is the link to the Baghdad Burning blog. If you really want to get an idea of how Iraqis feel about Americans stomping around in their country, you MUST check out this blog. It's written by an Iraqi girl living in Baghdad, and it's an eye opener. Also, check out some of the blog links on her page...they're just as enlightening.

Now if you'll excuse me I must get back to looking for a DBA job in New Zealand...

The whole patent thing...

In a recent post on the Ludwig von Mises Institute website, Stephan Kinsella analyzes the US patent system and whether its supposed benefits outweigh its costs. Patent advocates have long held that the patent system encourages innovation by restricting the reuse of ideas, thereby forcing inventors an entrepeneurs to innovate.

I have a few questions about this...

1. Does innovation really need to be encouraged by artificial means? If there were no restrictions on using someone else's ideas to make a buck would we be stuck in the dark ages because no one ever invented anything new?

2. Is it valid for a company or individual to file suit against someone else on the basis of the possible but unquantifiable loss of potential sales that may occur due to patent infringement? Does that mean that outselling a competitor in a given market merely by providing a superior product is somehow unfair?

3. Would Microsoft Windows be more stable and secure if other companies could create a similar product without fear of litigation?

The topic of intellectual property in particular is hotly debated these days, and I'm interested in hearing what others have to say about it.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Insurance...and the ten-minute victory

I have this friend. We'll call him Mike...cuz his name happens to be Mike. Most of you know Mike...but for those that don't, Mike is an interesting character. His life experience has rendered him just a little bit cynical, so that invariably determines his position in our debates. He's one of the friends I was talking about in my first post, so you'll hear a lot about Mike. Maybe he won't like me callin' him out like that, but so's my blog.

Anyway...Mike made a comment the other day that the whole "threat of lawsuit" thing sometimes works out in our (the consumer's) favor. He went on to relate how his son was recently in a car accident (he's serious injuries), and his insurance company called a few days ago, offering him money. They told Mike they were sending him a certain amount to cover his son's medical bills, and an additional sum of equal amount to cover "hardship and suffering"...or something like that.

Now...being the evil Capitalist that I am, I didn't see how this worked out in anyone's favor. Even Mike acknowledged that the extra money was merely a buy-off to help prevent the possibility of litigation effort to procure further payment for "hardship and suffering", which could potentially amount to a much higher sum. I pointed out that this sort of activity was just another line item that would push insurance rates even higher.

Mike's answer was that his rates were going to go up anyway, so why shouldn't he get some of his money back? After all, it was his money in the first place. He considered it a victory...albeit a small one.

Here's where I made my mistake in the debate. I asked Mike why his rates were going to go up. This had the effect of sparking Mike's usual response about business in general, which punches my Free Market button every time. His answer was, "...because they're greedy f***ers." (my own censoring added for the benefit those who may not appreciate our urban vernacular)

Now...I don't deny that many of the people who run insurance companies (or any other company, for that matter) are greedy f***ers. I'm sure it's true of many of them. The point that I (and I'm sure many other laissez-faire types) have been trying to make about this is that it wouldn't matter if every single last business owner in the world was a greedy f***er...The fact remains that a free market doesn't reward purely greedy behavior.

The factors that go into setting a price for a particular service or product are many and varied, but one thing is's never arbitrary or based solely on greed. An insurance company won't simply raise prices "because they can". To do so would risk pricing above what consumers are willing to pay, thereby driving customers to do business with its competitors. (At this point, Mike would probably invoke the danger of the ominous specter of collusion, but that's another post)

I'm intrigued by the overall attitude of the general public that business owners are greedy, heartless, and conniving. I've realized that it's basically an emotional outburst, and that this is what makes it so difficult to undo. The question is, who is to blame for this unreasonable position? Have we (consumers) done this to ourselves because we're unwilling to take responsibility for the decisions we make about the products we buy or services we pay for? Is it government's fault for demonizing some business owners in order to protect others? Is it the fault of business itself for being opportunistic and selling people whatever they'll buy?

Comments, please...

Thursday, March 03, 2005

A little bit about me and my intentions...

For the past year or so, I've been doing a lot more thinking than I did before. I used to be the type who was proud of not giving a shit about anything that went on outside my little sphere of existence. I saw my ambivalence as an asset...something that allowed me to float through life with nary a care or concern. Some of that attitude took a shot in the arm when I got married and realized that I was committing to being cognizant of the needs of another person, but my political, economic, and social views remained enshrined in blissful ignorance. That all changed over the summer of 2004...when I did the first bit of serious reading I've done in a very long time. I devoted several months to reading Ayn Rand's seminal work, Atlas Shrugged.

Yeah, yeah...I hear a lot of you out there groaning. You're thinking I've become one of them. I've gone over to the dark side of Capitalist exploitation of the down-trodden masses. Whatever your view of Ayn Rand or her philosophy happens to be, there is one thing that I learned from this book that I believe every person should know and understand...and that is that in order to live any kind of life at all we all have to think for ourselves. The only real choice you have in anything is the choice of whether to think or not think, and all too often we choose not to think but to react emotionally and irrationally. Thus began the formation of what some of my friends are calling "The New Ron"...and not always in a complimentary fashion. I've also realized that I'm a Libertarian at heart.

My best friend, Steve, has been of a Libertarian mindset for almost as long as I've known him, though I wasn't fully aware of what that meant until fairly recently. We'd had discussions about society, economics, and politics over the years, but through it all he remained carefully non-evangelistic because he finds those type of people annoying. So now I'm annoying. I bug the hell outta my friends constantly about all things political and economic. That's what's so great about having friends, though...they keep talking to you even after you've gotten on their last nerve.

I'm not sure any of them know how valuable they are to my learning process, though. The discussions we have force me to think...and I'm grateful for that. Interesting thing, eh? before I didn't want to think and now I look forward to every opportunity to do so. I also have to thank my wife, Alli, for putting up with the new me and being willing to discuss these things as well. Without her support, there really wouldn't be any point in this anyway.

Which brings me to the purpose of this blog. This is primarily an outlet for the unfinished discussions I have with my friends. I'm not very skilled at debate, so it's often difficult for me to get my point across effectively in the heat of discussion. Later, it's much easier to reflect on the conversation and figure out how I could have made my point. It also gives me time to consider the alternative viewpoint presented by the person with whom I had the discussion and determine whether or not I agree and why.

The problem is that by the time I figure all this out it's too late. The conversation is over, and I'm usually lying awake in bed or something. I don't want to call up my friends to rekindle a discussion in the middle of the night or while I'm sitting on the toilet. Better to post it here and let them read it if they wish. This way I get to say what I wish I had said before, and everyone is happy.

So here it is...The Wombat's View on Economics (and random other things). Enjoy, and please post comments whenever you can.