My I Hate Facebook – Facebook Post

FacebookA good friend of mine, and by that I mean a person I know and with whom I play Dungeons and Dragons on occasion recently told the world that he was kind of over the Facebook thing … with a Facebook post!

Is it possible for me to let that one go by without comment?

Even better, my friend’s wife, who is probably the most prolific poster of all my Facebook friends said she agreed, right before making eighth straight posts! Admittedly it was for something called Bubble Safari but still ….

Now, I don’t want to suggest that my friend and his wife aren’t actually tired of Facebook I’m just going to suggest that by posting on Facebook that you’re tired of Facebook is proving that Facebook is a great way to communicate with people you don’t see every day in your normal life. I’m not ashamed to say I like Facebook. I’m not even going to poke fun at my friends who play games and have a thousand friends. That’s cool. I love games. It’s great to meet people who have similar interests that you would otherwise never know. I don’t play games, I’m only friends with people I know in real life and people who have purchased my books and told me they liked them. Hopefully that group will grow as word of the awesome Hammer of Fire spreads.

I primarily use Facebook to keep up with friends who I don’t see regularly and to promote my blog and my fantasy novels. That’s cool also. It’s a volunteer service. People are on it who want to be on it and people who aren’t, are not. It’s become very popular to bash Facebook while using Facebook. I had to talk my niece of the ledge when the new Timeline came out. The ridiculous thing is that she didn’t even understand that it only effected her profile page which barely anyone looks at anyway.

When was the last time any of my Facebook friends looked at my profile page? Anyone? When was the last time anyone looked at anyone’s profile page? We all look at our walls and click the posts and pictures that our friends post there. But, complaining about the service we voluntarily use has become widespread.

So, I have this advice for my friend. If you’re tired of Facebook, stop using it. Don’t tell all your Facebook friends by posting on Facebook.

However, I say, please, Brad, keep using Facebook. I enjoy the pictures of California you post. I enjoy seeing how Nick is doing and how your job is going. I can’t say I’m a big fan of Alex’s Bubble Safari but I slid her into my acquaintances group and told it not to post on my wall anymore.

Facebook is what you make it, like life. Funny that.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire

Critical Thinking Fail – Hot Fry Attack

friesI read all sorts of stories these days that I would have skipped in the past as I look for fodder for my blog. I came across this one today and it makes me sad.

It’s hard for me to list all the critical thinking failures that go into this single story. I’ll recap and let you decide what was the biggest critical thinking failure of the bunch. It’s not an easy decision.

A husband along with his wife and step-daughter were in the car after visiting McDonald’s. The husband and wife were fighting and the daughter tried to intervene. The husband then threw his french fries and hit the daughter in the face and chest. The husband later left the home of the couple and the wife then reported the crime. The police arrested the husband and now plan to charge him with felony assault. In Massachusetts felony assault carries a maximum penalty of five years although if the victim was a minor, as in this case, it can be more.

Let’s recap all the failures in thinking.

  1. Having a screaming fight in front of your child and in the car
  2. Getting between two idiots fighting each other
  3. Throwing something potentially dangerous at a child (depending on how hot I can actually see fries as a dangerous weapon although I’m a bit suspect in this case)
  4. Calling the police and pressing charges for throwing fries at someone
  5. Actually bring felony assault charges, costing taxpayers serious money, and dragging this out for years

I’m willing to the give the little girl a pass on #2 as she doesn’t have a lot of experience in life but hopefully it’s a lesson well learned. Stay away from screaming idiots, they’ll turn on you in an instant. They’re idiots.

I’m also willing to give a partial pass to the District Attorney and Police because if the woman was insistent on pressing charges there might have been pressure from above. Still, this isn’t my vote, it’s yours.

So, my loyal friends. What was the biggest Critical Thinking Fail is this lovely story?

Tom Liberman

Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire

Great Movie Monday – Rollerball

RollerballI’m sometimes accused of being a bit of a downer and I can see how my relentless Libertarian, Randian opinion along with all my philosophical rhetoric might become a bit tiresome. I thought I’d break things up with Movie Mondays for a few weeks at least and list some of all-time favorite movies.

Of course, I can’t be completely frivolous and I’ll talk about why the movies I enjoy often have a Libertarian spirit. We’ll start with my absolutely favorite movie of all time and one that is right up the Randian alley of objectivism.

Rollerball (the 1975 version). I prefer to pretend the remake never happened. There was a remake? Really? Never knew that. Was it any good?

Rollerball tells the story of Jonathon E, played by James Caan. It is a dystopian future in which corporate entities have taken over the world and brought peace, health, and comfort to the masses at the expense of freedom. One thing about the movie I find interesting is while it promotes the ideas of Objectivism and Ayn Rand it is a world that is exactly the opposite of what she feared in 1950’s communist leery America. She feared communism not corporate corruption although she certainly recognized that thugs could take leadership roles in place of true people of achievement.

In any case, the point of the game of Rollerball is to show the futility of individual action. This is demonstrated by the sheer difficulty and violence of the game in which one man cannot excel long without being incapacitated by opponents. Jonathon E is the exception to this rule as he has become the one true superstar as he leads the Houston (Energy) team to victory. It is decided that Jonathon must be stopped and the movie is about the corporations trying to make that happen in various ways.

It is a raw film. In one scene a woman is sent to Jonathon as a lover but she is truly a spy and agent of the corporations. Before he leaves for the Tokyo game where the rules have been changed to promote more violence and hopefully the death of Jonathon this woman tells Jonathon that she is “supposed” to go with him. He throws her down and slashes her upper cheek with the spike on his Rollerball glove. This sort of violence against a woman is both shocking and telling about Jonathon. He is a man who will take enemies on without subtlety. Then, fearing that his private helicopter is sabotaged he flies with the team to Tokyo.

Eventually the corporations try to bribe Jonathon with his ex-wife and she pleads with him not to play in the final game because the rule changes have ensured that everyone will be maimed (no time limit to the game). She argues for the corporations with this line:

But comfort is freedom. It always has been. The whole history of civilization is a struggle against poverty and need.”

Jonathon replies:

No! No… that’s not it. That’s never been it! Them privileges just buy us off.”

Clearly a marker of the world we live in today.

Jonathon understands that individual achievement is what drives a society forward. One man or one woman with drive, spirit, and ideas. Sure, they form alliances and teams but it is the power of the individual that makes it all possible. Jonathon realizes that and so he goes on.

In the end Jonathon emerges triumphant by doing the one thing that can win the game. I’ll leave it to you to see the movie.

Tell me your favorite movie, and why, in the comments!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire

Egyptian Elections

Egyptian ElectionThere are some interesting happenings in Egypt with the latest elections and I think it’s critically important to the United States and the world how we interpret and react to events.

I’ll take a quick look historical events so as to provide perspective but it would be a good idea to look at a few wiki articles including Arab Spring, the Shah of Iran, and Muslim Brotherhood.

The incredibly important dividing line is the emergence of Arab nations seeking freedom. Some people think that nations such as Egypt are turning the corner from oppressive, authoritarian rule towards representative republics. Others think they are simply swapping totalitarian regimes for theocracy of an even more oppressive nature and ones more likely to act with terror tactics towards the western world.

I think it’s a vitally important issue because the last time something like this happened the results were catastrophic for the Arab world and unpleasant for the western, democratic world. The last opportunity of this nature came during the Iranian Revolution of 1979. In that uprising students ousted the Shah of Iran and established a theocratic government in its place. They took U.S. citizens at the embassy hostage and an antagonistic relationship between Iran and the United States continues to this day. Much of the ill-will that Arabs feel towards the western world stems from this relationship although unquestionably the Israel-Palestine situation is a major factor as well.

Since then hundreds of thousands of Arabs have died in terrible violence, oppressive regimes have become worse, children have grown up in an environment where terrorizing your foe was the objective, and Americans and westerners have learned to view Muslims as terrorists and with good reason.

This is not a winning environment for anyone.

I think that refusing to recognize the Muslim Brotherhood’s election leads us down the same path we’ve already traveled. I agree that the Muslim Brotherhood holds dangerous religious tenants and that theocracy are a very bad form of government. That being said if we had supported Mubarak until the end, if we refuse to deal with Egypt, if we continue to fight then the situation can only escalate into worse violence. More people will die. Americans will be killed by terrorists, Arabs will be killed by Arabs and Westerners. Children in Arab countries will grow up dreaming not of owning a house but of strapping bombs to themselves so they can kill other people they don’t even know.

We must embrace any popular revolution that overthrows a dictator even if the ensuing government isn’t to our liking. Could it possibly have turned out worse if after the Iranian Revolution President Carter had said, “Well done. You were right. We should never have supported a brutal dictator because he was secular and allowed us access to his oil. We’re sorry. Welcome to the world of nations. We hope you choose freedom, religious freedom, representative government, but it’s your choice. If you need any help just let us know. We’re here.”

I don’t like the Muslim Brotherhood. I’m Jewish by heritage if Atheist by religion. I don’t like Sharia law. I think one of the absolutely most vital things for the world to realize its potential is for women to enjoy all the freedom that men do. I don’t like a lot about the Muslim Brotherhood but I do like that they stood up and threw out a totalitarian regime. Fewer regimes such is this are a good thing.

Let’s not make the same mistake again. Let’s at least make a different one and maybe it will turn out to be not a mistake at all. At least I hope so, for all our sakes.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire

Independence Day – July 4th = Synonyms?

Indpendence DayI pissed off a co-worker again. Not surprised, are you? I did hold back from making the full argument which would have really escalated the situation. It’s happened over a subject I’m a little passionate about and that is calling Independence Day the 4th of July. They are not synonyms! The 4th of July is a day of the year, like April 12th. Independence Day is a day that celebrates our independence from Britain.

I’ll recap the debate.

********************************

Co-worker: July 4th is coming up.

Me: Independence Day, you mean.

Co-worker: Same thing.

Me: No, actually not. Most countries have their own Independence Day and it is on different days of the year. The 4th of July is just a date.

Co-worker: What do they call the 4th of July in England?

Me: I’m not sure.

Co-worker: Ha, see, I told you so.

Me: I’m not sure you told me that. I suppose they call July 4th the 4th of July in England. But that’s not the question. What do they call Independence Day in France?

Co-worker: I don’t know.

Me: Bastille Day, it falls on July 14.

Co-worker: So, what do they call Independence Day in England.

Me: I’m not sure but not the 4th of July.

Co-worker: Ha, see, I’m right then.

Me: *Stunned silence*

Co-worker: Why are you being such a dick today, get out of here.

Me: *Leaves*

*******************************

So, what just happened there? My co-worker completely lost track of his argument and eventually took my original position and claimed it was his own. It’s a common tactic I see although I don’t really think it’s a tactic. I think it’s muddle-headed thinking combined with the inability to admit an argument is wrong, which is a hallmark of religious, faith-based thinking. Yes, my co-worker is a religious Republican. But, to be fair, I see it in religious Democrats well.

My co-worker, by arguing that everyone calls the date July 4, “the 4th of July”, but people have different names for independence day depending on their country of origin proves that the 4th of July and Independence Day are not synonymous. My original point. Yet, he believed he “won” the argument. I left without pointing this out, which save me from further alienating my co-worker, but rankles me. I don’t mind being wrong. I really don’t. When someone brings forth a fact or a thought I hadn’t considered I’m actually generally pretty happy. It’s like a shiny new toy for me. To think about, to analyze, to ponder. I like that.

The underlying issue is the inability to admit being wrong. I think it is general human nature to not want to admit to a mistake but I find that faith-based thinking leads to extreme levels of delusion when it comes to this principle. A faith-based thinker must somehow rationalize their argument as correct even when it is demonstrated as false.

The three ways I see this happening are 1) as above. The person changes his position to the correct one but claims that is what they said all along. 2) The person refuses to speak about it anymore generally at the same time calling the person or people on the other side idiots, or 3) The person sticks to their original, wrong arguments, but every more loudly and insultingly.

What it all means is that it’s difficult  to have a productive discussion with faith-based thinkers. They will not, cannot, accept being wrong about anything. Even one mistake might mean that their entire philosophical world could come tumbling down. interestingly this thinking rarely intrudes onto their business decisions but is paramount in political and philosophical questions.

What I want to say to faith-based thinkers, and rational thinkers who lock onto their positions is this. Relax, it’s ok to be wrong. Listen to the other point of view. Debate with logical arguments. The end result is worth it, even if it turns out you were wrong to begin with.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire

Roger Clemens – Steroids or Lies which is worse?

Sports DopingI’m happy to say that I’d all but forgotten the government’s misguided attempt to prosecute Roger Clemens for lying to Congress in their investigation of performance enhancing drugs. But, the news of his acquittal brought it back in full force and I thought I’d use my considerable blogging power to shed some light on the subject.

Basically, there are very few admirable people in this entire mess. The fact that athletes used and continue to use performance enhancing drugs, illegal or not, is not arguable. It is currently taking place and was in the past as well.

Let’s trace the roots of this disaster and look at it from a Libertarian, critical thinking point of view.

As always, Wikipedia has an excellent article that traces performance enhancing drugs in sports. There is evidence of “doping” in antiquity using plant extracts and laudanum or opium were used in walking races, popular in England around the early 1800s. Bicycle racing has long been immersed in drugs. There is no question that performance enhancement drugs have been around for a long time.

The National Football League was dependent on anabolic steroids in the 1970’s and the Pittsburgh Steeler championship teams of that era are often referenced as the first truly organized steroid abusers.

I don’t want to get into a big debate who was using and who wasn’t because it’s my absolute belief that the vast majority of athletes used, and continue to use, performance enhancing drugs. The detection methods are far behind the masking techniques.

What I do want to talk about is both the government’s involvement in prosecuting athletes and the lies athletes tell. Not many winners in this conversation I’m afraid to say.

I have no idea why Congress is asking questions of athletes about their use of performance enhancing drugs. Well, that’s not true. I do know why. They are looking for publicity. Look at me! I took on those evil cheaters! Look, at me! Vote for me! I made football clean! Nonsense of course. The government and the legal system in general shouldn’t be involved in these prosecutions. The professional sports leagues can monitor themselves. If people don’t want to watch or pay for the games because of such performance enhancement then the league must address it. If the people keep paying then so be it. I sort of like what weight lifting has done with an Open Division where doping is accepted and a Free Division where athletes are tested.

Now, how about Roger Clemens, Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and the countless horde of others dragged before Congress. Most of them choose to lie. Nice. Their parents taught them well. Great example for their children. I hope you’re proud Roger, Lance, Barry, Sammy, and rest. Of course one other choice is to not lie but not tell the truth, I have some respect for Mark McGuire.

Finally, you can decide that coming clean is the most honorable strategy. Well done Marion Jones! Of them all, I respect you. Of course, they threw her jail. Great message. When they lie – prosecute, which is all but impossible, and fail. If they tell the truth, jail! Marion Jones tells the truth and her awards are taken from her. She goes to prison. The rest of them shine their trophies, smile and lie, tell their loyal fans lies, lie to their children. It makes me sick. Not that Marion Jones is squeaky clean in all of this. But compared to Clemons, Bonds, Sosa, Armstrong and the rest I save my respect for her.

And Congress, you’re no better than the Clemens and the rest. Hang your head in shame. Go home and don’t come out again. Blah. What a disaster.

Let’s all just be adults and face reality. Clemens cheated. Armstrong cheated. McGuire cheated. They all cheated. But, if they all were cheating wasn’t the playing field level? Wasn’t Clemens a great pitcher? Bonds a great hitter? Armstrong a great bicyclist? Of course they were. They did something everyone else was doing. Their bodies may well suffer long-term consequences but they chose their fate. Can’t we all just be honest about this? Forget about putting people in jail or keeping them out of the Hall of Fame. They were all doing it!

Grow up! Fans, grow up. You’re favorite player likely cheated.

Grow up! Players, grow up. Admit what happened and move on with your life in a way you can look your children in the eye.

Grow up! Congress. Stop trying to win elections and start trying to fix this country!

I’m done now.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire

Subjective v. Objective

Subjectivity versus ObjectivityThere is an endless and possibly age-old debate about the concepts of Objectivity versus Subjectivity and while I’ve had that conversation many times over the years I haven’t discussed it in my blog until … today! So, strap on the critical thinking hats and get ready for a rumble because this one brings out the raw emotions.

The reason this topic comes to mind today is a conversation I had a work this morning. We have a new fish tank and it is absurdly loud. The sound the tank makes spurred the debate. It sounds like a bathtub being filled with water but a co-worker said it sounded to her like the ocean. The ensuing debate became heated. That sort of things happens to me a lot, which, if you read this blog regularly, you won’t find surprising.

At question here is if my co-worker actually thinks it sounds like an ocean is she correct? That is the heart of subjectivity versus objectivity.

A subjectivist argues that reality is perception. If she thinks it sounds like the ocean then it does, in fact, sound like the ocean. An objectivist argues that we need to listen to the sound of the ocean and see if the sound waves create a similar pattern. The answer, from my perspective, is clearly they do not. It sounds nothing like the ocean and the fact that my co-worker thinks it does doesn’t change that objective fact.

“It’s my opinion,” is the argument often used by subjectivists. What the subjectivist fails to take into account is that no one is saying they aren’t entitled to their opinion, just that their opinion is, objectively, wrong.

Now, the debate usually continues with arguments similar to this

****************

dvdChair

The objectivist says, “So, f you think this chair looks like a DVD does that mean the chair looks like a DVD?”

The subjectivist replies, “To me, yes!”

The objectivist says, “That’s nonsense. Please come back when you decided to debate like an adult.”

The subjectivist says, “I am arguing like an adult. If I think the chair looks like a DVD then that’s what I think. You can’t say I’m wrong.”

The objectivist says, “I can say you’re wrong. It looks nothing like a chair. If I think it’s ok to kill you, (at this point the objectivist is getting a little heated) then is it ok to kill you?”

The subjectivist replies, “It’s ok for you, but I don’t think it’s ok, so it’s not ok for me.”

The objectivist replies, “It’s both ok and not ok at the same time!? What – what – what?”

The subjectivist nods his head sagely and says, “Yes, it’s both.”

The objectivist leaves the room before his head explodes and the subjectivist looks baffled. Argument over.

*******************

That’s the way it usually goes and everyone ends up angry.

You may have guessed that I’m a die-hard objectivist but I do think there is some wiggle room. There are certain levels of subjectivity when it comes to liking things, say food or movies. Some people hate fish. Many people hate Vanilla Sky. But, I do think even with food and movies we can objectively define some level of good. Chef’s learn what ingredients people like and these combined properly are good even if some people don’t like the particular flavors. Likewise, there is good writing, good cinematography, good acting and these things combined make good movies even if particular people don’t like the movie.

I think it’s largely dangerous to slip into subjectivity. There is truth, there is good, there is right. Likewise there are lies, bad, and wrong. When we try to suggest that truth is subjective we risk losing perspective on what will make us better people, what will make society better.

It’s important to be as objective as possible when it comes to our lives. The decision we make are important for ourselves and for others. We must objectively analyze and make the best possible decisions at all times. That being said, there is a certain level of subjectivity in our lives and we can’t end up in paralysis by analysis. Then nothing is accomplished.

Wrapping up, I think it’s ok to suggest that a particular sound reminds us of something even if it reminds other people of different things. That being said if we truly analyze the sound and determine the sound waves are dissimilar from what one person claims then we must come to a conclusion of objective truth. In this case, while entitled to her opinion, my co-worker was objectively wrong. I was objectively right.

Isn’t that what matters! 🙂

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire

Casualties of the War on Drugs

War on DrugsYet again I read an article spelling out the complete and utter failure of the war on drugs. Sigh.

First off I’m going to start using a new phrase. “The War on Drugs” simply doesn’t compute in any reasonable way. “The Drug Cartel”. Because that’s all it is. It’s an alliance between the United States, drug manufacturing, and drug dealers legal and illegal.

Now, let’s trace the roots of this Drug Cartel. The term “War on Drugs” was coined by President Nixon in 1971 and its goal was to reduce the production, distribution, and consumption of psychoactive drugs. I’ll spend one sentence on its failure. Has the production, distribution, and consumption been reduced? Done. Ok, a link with detailed explanations. Global Commission on Drug Policy. Read that and then follow the links to the various papers.

Ok, back to Nixon. While he may have coined the phrase “War on Drugs” the misguided policies in the United States date back to 1914 and the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act.

Another quick detour. Did you know that in the 1890’s before all this madness began that Sears & Roebuck offered a syringe and cocaine priced at $1.50 in their catalog?

The early attacks on drug distribution were the same ones we see today. That drugs fuel violence and crime. Good news then. The Drug Cartel is succeeding in ways that Sears & Roebuck could never have dreamed possible. Unless, of course, the idea was to reduce the violence and crime associated with drug use. Then, well, fail.

The next anti-drug (pro-crime) policy was Prohibition enacted in 1920. Again, easy to see the results.

The Federal Bureau of Narcotics, precursor to the Drug Enforcement Administration was created in 1930. Guess who expanded it greatly by establishing the DEA? President Nixon in 1973.

Next came the ridiculous Marijuana Transfer Tax Act in 1937. This act placed a tax on cannabis and was eventually replaced in 1969 with something far worse, The Controlled Substances Act.

But, let’s get back to the DEA. In 2010 there operating budget was over one billion dollars. A healthy sum. Guess what percentage of that was dedicated to reducing demands for drugs as opposed to prosecuting and catching offenders? .28%. So, 99.72% of the budget of the DEA was used to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the United States through interdiction in foreign countries and here. The numbers in 2005 suggest that the DEA seized about 2 billion worth of drugs and drug related assets of which about half a billion was actual drugs. The total amount of drugs sold in the US that year is estimated at 64 billion. Let’s do the math … .78% of all drugs were prevented. Really? .78%? In what world is that worthwhile?

Meanwhile there are any number of accusations that the United States works with drug providing nations to bring the material to the country. I’m willing to give the government the benefit of the doubt that they are simply doing this in order to catch drug dealers. But, they aren’t stopping the flow by any appreciable amount and they are actually contributing to it! This is insane.

Meanwhile the number of American citizens incarcerated has increased hugely since the Drug Cartel began. It was less than .2% of the population at the onset of the Drug Cartel and is now over .8%.

I’m now tired of finding reasons why the Drug Cartel is madness. I’m not out of reasons, I could go on .. and on … and on, but I’m just tired and discouraged.

It’s up to you, people of the United States. Write your Congressmen, ask them politely (don’t yell and scream like a five-year old who didn’t get his cookies) in Town Hall meetings. We must stop this insanity. Legalize drugs. Disband the DEA.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire

The Great Soda Wars

Big SodaMy post the other day about the dangers of idealism leads me to today’s topic, The Great Soda Wars.

There is a proposal in New York by the mayor, a former Republican now Independent, to curb the size of soda containers. The idea being to limit the large, single serving, soda containers which are now up to 64 oz. The medical dangers of being overweight are well established and soda seems to be one of the prime movers of that phenomenon. The article goes on to list other dangers of drinking too much of the sugary beverage.

The government does have a duty to protect its citizens and dangers come in many forms. However; I’m not sure that drinking myself to death classifies. There is an interesting correlation with Prohibition in which alcohol was banned because of its deleterious effects. This didn’t work out so well. However, in this case they are not banning soda but simply limiting a serving size. One argument against this is the Slippery Slope idea wherein if we allow one supposedly “good” law to pass it will lead to more drastic and “bad” laws. I’m not a big fan of the slippery slope argument, let us judge each piece of legislation on its own merits.

Let’s take a critical look at the legislation. The problem it hopes to solve is the imbibing of huge amounts of soda. The solution proposed is to limit the container size available. This would prevent someone from making a single purchase of a large soda but there doesn’t seem to be much to prevent them from going back for a second soda or even bringing their own, larger, container, purchasing two or three, and then filling said cup. Thirdly it artificial removes a purchase option for consumers and a sale item for retailers. One that the consumer wants and the retailer makes a profit from selling.

Again, the only real benefit I see is that some people might stick with the smaller single serving when they might have otherwise been tempted by pricing schemes to purchase the larger container. I just don’t see this as a big enough bonus to enact such legislation. I’m not totally opposed to government intervention to increase the health and safety of Americans but if there is going to be such legislation the benefits must be overwhelming and the danger clear.

On the whole I think the only real solution is to educate people as best as possible to the dangers of too much sugar or too much alcohol or too much heroine. Next, teach people how to think critically and make good decisions. Hooray, problem solved!

Ok, not really. We can’t force people to behave in a non-destructive manner and maybe we should give up trying. Instead give them information and the ability to think clearly.

This whole debate does make me think about Jamie Oliver and his quest to bring good food to schools. I think I’ll soon post about how a capitalistic strategy trumps legislative attempts. See you then!

Thanks to the guys at the lunch table for helping me think this post through!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire!

Idealism and its Dangers

Idealism versus PracticalityI found myself reading political stories this weekend as President Obama and Mr. Romney begin their campaign in earnest. It’s going to be an ugly few months, particularly for those of us with a Libertarian point of view and our candidate, Mr. Johnson of New Mexico all but shut out of consideration.

One of things I find most disturbing about politics in the United States these days is the over reliance on idealism and the relegation of pragmatism and practicality. Both main camps, and I include even Mr. Johnson although to a lesser degree, rely almost completely on rhetoric, dire predictions, outright threats, and simple-minded idealism.

There are numerous examples of this idealism over pragmatism in our campaigns these days but today I’m going to take on one that is near to the hearts of my Libertarian friends and often seems to ally them with Republican candidates. The idea of personal responsibility or moral responsibility.

The topic in question is eating habits. Whenever I see an article about how Americans are becoming increasingly unhealthy the primary response of Libertarians and Republicans is that people need to take personal responsibility and stop eating. Democrats on the other hand offer legislation to prevent businesses from selling a product that is clearly desired. It’s an interesting case of idealism against practicality.

From an idealistic point of view I couldn’t agree more with my Libertarian and Republican friend in that we are ultimately in charge of our own bodies and that eating ourselves to death is our choice. From the pragmatic point of view I’ve come to the realization that this philosophy is not going to work until we teach Objectivism and Critical Thinking skills to all children and, importantly, this is not on the horizon anytime soon. Furthermore, the increasing unhealthiness of America has a direct and negative effect on me. I pay higher health insurance rates, I have to deal with huge people taking up all the seats, I have to do the work of people medically unable because I’m physically, relatively, fit. I’m not a professional athlete but I go to the gym, try to eat healthy, and am genetically predisposed towards a smaller body type.

So, does that leave me in the camp of Democrats who want to legislate healthiness? In a word, no. First off it doesn’t work and secondly it interferes with my freedom to purchase what I want when I want.

Now comes the problem. What is to be done to solve the general unhealthiness of Americans? Idealism doesn’t work. Legislation doesn’t work. My long-term goal of educating young people about how to think critically is great but no immediate solution and one that I suspect will never be implemented.

So I come to the conclusion of minimalist government intrusion. I see no reason to allow food manufacturers to be deceitful in their practices. I’ve talked about this before but there is nothing wrong with labeling a product to list its contents and the means by which it got to your table. If people want to eat products that result from humane treatment of animals then let that market flourish. Over-regulation kills this idea of course in that anything labeled “Organic” is hardly that thanks to lobbying efforts to change the definition of things.

It’s a difficult tight-rope between over-regulation and no regulation. Information is the key. Make accurate information available to the consumers and then let them drive the capitalistic forces. I’m convinced that people want to be healthy and if given legitimate choices, clearly labeled, they will purchase more expensive products that are healthy, energy-conserving, or otherwise “good”. There will always be a market but convoluted over-regulation muddies the definition of everything while no regulation leads to outright fraud.

Try to get out of the idealistic mode of thinking whether or not you are a Democrat or a Republican. Instead try to come up with practical solution to real problems. Then maybe we can change the world.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian twist
Just Released: The Hammer of Fire

Video and the Police Officer

Taking PicturesThere was an interesting article in the news the other day about police arresting people recording video of the officers in their regular duties. It seems to be making a big splash and the alarmist headline naturally drives people to the story.

While reading the comments on the article it struck me that, as usual, most of the commenters failed to read the article completely if at all. It’s one of those stories that is going to provoke a strong reaction from both sides of the political spectrum and likely eventually distill down to a game of name-calling with both sides blaming the other.

I find two things interesting about the article and the reaction to it.

Firstly, anyone who cared to read the item all the way through had to note that police officers and politicians were aware of the issue and passing laws and training officers in the appropriate way to handle the situation. This is a good thing! With new recording technology ubiquitously available not only in person but remotely there are clearly going to be more people recording public activity. So, as the police become accustomed to this it will expose officers who flaunt the law which in turn emboldens all the great officers out there who are already doing a fantastic job without prompting. I talked about the how letting people get away with bad deeds hurts everyone in this post. The idea is that good people are discouraged when bad people are allowed to go about their business.

The second thing that struck me was that people in total agreement about how police should behave towards law-abiding citizens recording their activity were in complete and total disagreement about the cause of the problem. The two camps, not surprisingly, were political opposites, Republicans and Democrats. I don’t have to tell you who each blamed for the problem. What distressed me is that both sides were in such lock-step agreement about the problem yet made no effort to join forces and find a solution.

I think that is endemic of the political situation in the U.S. I’m of the opinion that people really aren’t that far apart ideologically and that if they would focus on solving problems rather than blaming each other amazing things could happen. I suppose I’m a dreamer but I’ll continue to dream … and blog.

Who’s with me?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
The Hammer of Fire New Release!